On a recent shopping visit to Sainsburys I was disappointed with the number of empty shelves and lack of produce.
I was annoyed that quite a bit of gluten free produce wasn’t available.
It must be happening a lot as they had some specially printed shelf fillers.
Sainsburys put down the problem to “high demand”, so it’s the fault of the customer, panic buying and all that.
However the problem isn’t unique to Sainsburys and on Twitter there are photos of empty shelves in Tesco. I have also had issues with buying some gluten free produce at Asda.
Not everyone though thinks it is down to high demand, as seen on this sign in Waitrose that I saw yesterday. No shelf fillers, but a sign indicating that the lack of choice was down to “country-side supply issues”.
We know there are logistics issues down to a lack of HGV drivers, and combine that with Covid-19, Brexit supply issues we are approaching a perfect storm.
When we had the panic buying in March 2020, the retail industry assured us that supply wasn’t a problem and that if we only bought what we needed then they could supply everyone. The challenge we face now is that if there is an increase in panic buying now, the situation will only exacerbate as we have supply and logistics issues. The lack of pasta and toilet paper we experienced back then could become a lack of a much wider range of products.
I cook paella quite a bit, though I have been told what I cook usually isn’t paella, but a rice dish!
This time I wasn’t even trying, however the end result was rather good. I admit I cheated slightly and used a Waitrose Paella Paste jar, but I think I got the cooking right as the taste and texture was reminiscent of the excellent paella I had from Riceminster last week.
It was towards the end of the month, so the fridge needed restocking and there wasn’t too much in the cupboards. I had decided to cook some cod croquettes, salmon and serve it with rice. However we didn’t have any plain (well basmati) rice left, but I did have some paella rice. I also had a har of Waitrose Paella Paste.
I quite like the jar and when I have used it in the past it has worked well, never quite authentic, but still tasty.
As I said there wasn’t too much in the fridge, so in a large frying pan, I cooked some smoked bacon (pancetta) and a chopped red onion. I would usually use some peppers and mushrooms, but there was none in the fridge. I did check to see if I had a tin of beans I could use, but though I had tinned lentils and kidney beans, there was nothing else.
Once the onions were softened, I added the paella rice and stirred the rice around until mixed in with the onions and bacon. I then added the Waitrose Paella Paste and stirred that in.
I then added chicken stock, made using a Knorr Chicken Stock Pot, covering all the rice. I then stirred and then left alone. Well not quite, as I added some frozen peas about 10 minutes later.
I once got “told off” for stirring my paella, so now I just as advised leave it to cook.
I think what I did this time however, was not to add further stock and just let the paella cook turning down the heat slightly as the stock reduced. I did think I should add more stock, but left it alone.
I served it up and I did like how it came out. I had mine with cod croquettes and salad.
As for the taste and texture it was very similar to the paella I had from the Temple Quay market from Riceminster and those I have had in Spain. I think this was one of the best paella dishes I have cooked, certainly one of the most authentic tasting.
I have made my own gluten free pizza dough, but I was intrigued when I found the Davina Steel Pizza Base Mix in my local branch of Waitrose. I had tried their Focaccia mix and we had enjoyed eating that.
The process of using the mix is rather interesting in that you stir the mix, with yeast and water, into a batter and then “cook” the bases in a dry frying pan. Basically you spread the batter into the frying pan, cook on the hob, before removing. You then add your tomato base, cheese and toppings, before finishing off in a hot oven.
I was really impressed with the end result, these looked and tasted like pizza. I personally think the bases are better than others we have bought, both mixes and ready made bases.
For New Year’s Eve we decided to have a fish and seafood platter. It was an opportunity to cook and eat some great food. However one problem, as you may recall New Year’s Eve is not only part of Christmas, it’s also a Monday. As a result it was virtually impossible to find any fresh fish or seafood. Generally the fishing fleets don’t go out at weekends and I suspect that they certainly wouldn’t go out over a weekend during the festive season. As a result we went with frozen seafood, not my first choice, but with what we wanted it was better than nothing.
We got some frozen king prawns, scallops and squid from Sainsbury’s as part of their Taste the Difference range. One of the key things to do when using frozen seafood is to defrost and defrost safely. If you cook frozen seafood from frozen, generally what happens is that you overcook it and it becomes very rubbery. You need to take care when defrosting to avoid food poisoning. The best way to defost is in the fridge, but this takes time. If you do defrost at room temperature, make sure you move the seafood to the fridge once it has defrosted.
The prawns I cooked on my griddle, whilst the scallops were cooked very quickly on a hot flat frying pan, as were the squid rings.
The scallops were perfect and I was really pleased with how I cooked them. They were browned on each side, but were only just done on the inside. As a result they were melt in the mouth tender, and full of flavour. The prawns were very good, and served with some lemon were delicious. I was less impressed with the squid rings. In the past when I have cooked squid, I have bought frozen whole squid from Tesco and cut it into pieces of squid. I much prefer using this way of preparing squid, usually scoring one side to ensure even cooking and browing of the edges. The squid from Sainsbury’s comes ready sliced into rings. It cooked fine, but it lacked the depth of flavour I have had in the past with squid from Tesco. Why didn’t I get my squid from Tesco, well they’ve seemed to have stopped selling it.
Alongside this plate of seafood I also grilled some giant tiger prawns in their shells. These were placed under a really hot grill, after they were fully defrosted and brushed with some olive oil. The main reason for these prawns is twofold, one is the visual impact, secondly was flavour. They were delicious, though of course were quite messy to peel.
We also had some dressed crab, these were small crab shells filled with a crab pate and white crab meat. They looked really nice, but lacked the depth of flavour I would liked to have. This was served with some fresh crusty bread.
Another successful dish was some clams. I got a pack of frozen Big and Juicy clams from the Big Prawn Company which I mananged to buy at Waitrose.
Again the key was to ensue they were properly defrosted before cooking, well they’re cooked already, all they really needed was heating up. I did this in a pan with some freshly chopped garlic and parsley. I thought they were delicious and very good value at £3.29. I think they would also work with linguine if wanted pasta and seafood.
We also cooked some salmon, this was roasted in the oven with a little olive oil.
Overall this was a delicious meal, we served it with some fresh salad and I also made a paella.
British beef steaks with a creamy smooth peppercorn sauce made with roast shallots, brandy and pink peppercorns.
That did sound quite nice when I read the packet and at £4.49 wasn’t a bad price either.
Having cooked the steak according to the instructions I served it with some sautéed mushrooms, steamed vegetables and oven roasted tomatoes on the vine.
The instructions were quite simple, cook the steak, remove from the pan, add the sauce and pour the sauce over the steak.
So what were they like?
Well it certainly wasn’t horrible, it did taste okay.
However at £4.49 you can’t expect the steak to be top quality sirloin, fillet or ribeye, and it wasn’t. It was quite a tough piece of rump I think, maybe even a cheaper cut of steak! The sauce should have had a real kick with the shallots, brandy and peppercorns… but alas it was bland and lacked any depth of flavour.
I always like the ideas behind much of the food and dishes I buy at Waitrose, but looking back over the blog I realise I don’t really enjoy them. Time to rethink my shopping habits.
Oh the tomatoes were fantastic by the way, very simple, take some fresh tomatoes, dribble some olive oil on them, roast them in the oven for 15-20 minutes. Delicious.
The infamous quote from John F Kennedy was as any German will tell you translates as “I am a doughnut”.
So it was with this reminiscence in mind that I bought a Berliner doughnut from Waitrose that had been reduced.
It was the first Berliner I had ever had. Never had the chance to get to Germany for many years, and though through JFK I was aware of the Berliner it’s not something I had seen.
So what did I think?
Es ist ein schaler Berliner.
Yes it was stale.
So it was reduced and it was reduced because it had been out all day (maybe a couple of days) and as a result it was stale. Well I hope it was stale in some ways, as if that was how it was suppose to taste then I am disappointed.
So I didn’t finish it.
I will need to get to Germany sometime for a doughnut…
Most of the supermarkets now have a “cook at home” food, Waitrose is no exception and they have their “Easy to Cook” range.
We recently tried the pork leg steaks with a spiced apple stuffing.
Described as “succulent English pork leg steaks with a spiced apple stuffing, topped with apple butter and wrapped in English bacon” they looked really nice and sounded delicious.
It did sound tempting.
After cooking the pork according to the instructions, I sliced the steaks and they appeared to be quite tender.
The problem was the flavour or to be more specific the lack of flavour. Now most pork you buy doesn’t have much flavour, outdoor reared or free range generally does. These steaks lacked any depth of flavour. Not a problem, the spiced apple should enhance the pork as should the apple butter. Hmmm, well they didn’t the apple flavour was also missing and the spice though there, was so subtle you quite easily missed it.
It was a pity as this did some a really nice dish, but the lack of flavour and general blandness of the finished dish was very disappointing. Next time I think I will make it myself.
Sometimes speed and ease is what is needed in the kitchen. I do use tinned pulses and beans a fair bit in my cooking. Though I know I can buy dried, soak and cook them myself, I do find that using tinned is quick and easy. It also allows for last minute changes to recipes or what I am going to cook for dinner.
One problem I do have is that sometimes a regular sized tin of pulses or beans is too big. So I was pleased to find these small tins at my local Waitrose of Cannellini and Borlotti Beans.
What is also nice about these is that the beans are not in brine, so less salty.
So how did I make the salad?
Well it was literally thrown together very quickly. I cooked off the pancetta in a frying pan and then mixed it with the drained beans and sweetcorn. I then dressed the salad with olive oil, white wine vinegar and freshly ground black pepper.