Dedicated to Rich, who has always encouraged me …
Each weekend I plan what we’re going to eat for the following week. I aim to make 4 varied weekday meals (each to serve 4 people) with as much veg as I can fit in. For the other weekday, we either eat out, eat leftovers or have what my mum used to term “orange food” due to the similarity in colour; beans on toast, fish fingers and chips, pizza (all the good stuff) At the weekend I often try something a little more adventurous (and time consuming)
Regardless of what I cook, I try not to end up with any wastage, meaning that in any given week I may end up eating a lot of of a certain ingredient. I’ve done a lot of Googling of “recipes that use… mint” for example and so decided to collect my own (use the tags on the left hand side column)
To make life easier for future, I’ve collated a few weekly shopping lists together so that if time is tight, I can simply look back at past weeks and buy everything on that list without any thought required.
A few details:
I share the cooking with my husband (who admittedly is a better cook than I). When it’s my turn, I like to prep everything in advance. This includes chopping all veg, measuring any stock or wine, getting meat out of the fridge so it’s at room temperature. This does create more washing up (lots of bowls filled with different things) but means I can appear very chef like and just throw things in when needed.
Costs are estimated here as will ultimately depend on where you shop and when concerning fruit or veg how big or small the produce is. When I leave costs off it’s because I assume you have it. I’ve built up quite a good larder of cans, tins, rice and pasta etc., but if you don’t have the same the cost of the recipe will increase slightly.
Where I’ve included quantities / measurements of ingredients, I’ve also included how many the recipe is meant to serve. I typically cook generous portions for 4 people – me and my husband to eat that night, plus another 2 for lunch the next day.
There are some recipes which would not re-heat well (or that I wouldn’t want to risk tainting the communal work kitchen by doing so – no one likes micro waved fish) and so for these I’ve only cooked enough for our dinner
Where I shop…
Until recently, I lived in the centre of Brixton and was therefore surrounded by numerous fruit, veg and meat stalls, a fantastic cash and carry, a local deli and a weekly farmers market. There is also a massive Tesco and Lidl up the hill so I was very spoilt for choice.
Having recently moved to West Norwood, I have a similar selection of shops to hand, most notably a fab butchers, however I still regularly pop on the number 2 to use the large supermarket and local shops, or jump on the train to Balham. Once in a blue moon, I’ll head to the very expensive Borough Market and spend a small fortune on hams, cheese or a nice cut of meat from the Ginger Pig stall.
I love the idea of only shopping locally and avoiding the big chains, having bought into the belief that “supermarkets are evil”, but this is isn’t always doable – Tesco’s is open until 11pm each night and is definitely more convenient than having to visit several smaller shops 9am to 5pm during the week.
When I do have time to shop, I always head to the local cash and carry, Nour. Nour is literally a food tardis – There are two entrances, but both are sort of hidden (one is accessible from inside Market Row and the second from the outside market on Electric Avenue). Once you’ve found your way inside, you need to squeeze round the shop – not that it’s small but it is literally chock-a-block with produce and all of it is cheap. If you’re ever tempted to go to Whole Foods, Holland & Barrett or any other world food shops, try Nour first.
The cash & carry very nearly closed last year – a lot of shops are affected by recent price increases in rent – considerable price increases at that, this was meant to go up by 22% at in Jan 2013. Luckily, after a lot of campaigning and signature gathering, Nour has managed to continue. Sadly though, a lot of other local shops are going under. As the area becomes more popular (especially the food haven that is Brixton Village in the evening) the traditional shops are disappearing as owners simply can’t afford to compete.
Regardless of where I shop, I always try to buy good quality meat, always British if possible or at least with the red tractor symbol which guarantees high standards for animals.
What I cook…
I try and cook at least 1 or 2 vegetarian meals a week. Its cheaper, it’s better for you and the environment and it generally means more variety. For the remaining 4 meals per week, we eat chicken, lamb, beef, pork or fish. This poster hangs above the sink, offering inspiration for these days.
I have a good set of knives (a fantastic wedding present), a basic range of pans, pots and oven proof trays and a few specialist items, specifically:
- Potato ricer – My husband bought this last year and I initially thought that this was a waste of money, but this is undoubtedly the best way to make mash to serve alongside meat or as a topping.
- Food processor – My lovely Dad also bought me a great food processor, which I use this a LOT for general chopping and making pastry, salsas, sauces and marinades,
- Le Creuset griddle – another generous gift from the family. We use this mainly for meat allowing you to get that lovely charred taste (It’s a bugger to clean, but as long as you can convince yourself that the old bits of meat add flavour, you’re all good).
- Jam jars – the best way to make vinaigrettes.
- Pestle & mortar
The cleanest kitchen in London…
When cooking, I like to tidy as I go. Sometimes I’m so focused on the tidying that I forget about the cooking and this is usually why I burn something.
I also like to cook in comfy clothes I don’t mind getting dirty. I usually wear grey jogging bottoms, a grey t shirt or grey hoody. I often think I look like a roll of tin foil.
My herb garden…
I’m lucky enough to have ample outdoor space to grow herbs, chillies and tomatoes in pots. A lack of space can be an issue but there are many creative ways to grow the necessities even if you only have a balcony or a window box – In our Brixton flat, I used to grow an abundance of tomatoes in colanders hanging off of the balcony edge.
I do struggle to keep things alive. The main culprit of plant expiry is infestations, either green fly / black fly or other unidentified killing machines that sap the strength out of my little plants. I’m trying not to use pesticides as I’m conscious that I have to eat these things afterwards, but may be a bit more ruthless this year if I have the same problems.
I’ve been quite successful at growing cuttings. A lot of online sources called for hormone powder, but I found a few that suggested using honey. Simply take a clipping, remove the bottom leaves, dip in honey and plant. 50% of the time, the clipping will take and grow into a fully fledged plant. Using this method I’m managing to grow as much as I kill which I consider a success.