Archive for January, 2009

2009: A Local Food Odyssey

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009

What made you believe in being a local shopper?

I think it began because I’m generally passionate about food so I enjoy the experience  of going out and exploring and finding new shops. So it really grew from there, I found going to the local traders much more enjoyable than going to big supermarkets. Generally the people in the independent shops know the products better and get to know you as well, which is a touch I really like.

Why do you feel it’s important more students shop locally?

There are thousands of students moving into communities in cities across the country every year. All too often we just move into the area and live there for 3 years only going to the local supermarket. I think wouldn’t it give the local economy a huge boost if even half of those students decided to get most of their shopping from local butchers and green grocers that source from local farms? It really is sad to see in some areas all the closed down shops that were once part of a thriving community.

What do you think is stopping more students shopping locally?

Mostly I think knowledge – students don’t know where to find the shops, maybe don’t even know they’re even there. I also think in some cases there is a bit of fear in that lots of people don’t know what to ask for in a butchers so they don’t try. Hopefully they’ll see from the film it’s not daunting at all. On the other hand though I can see why some people stick to the security of the supermarket – because they source from all over the world they’re rarely out of stock and you can get things out of season, whereas shopping locally you do have to buy more seasonally.

Going, Going, Gone?: Shopping Locally In Liverpool

Tuesday, January 20th, 2009

When it comes to the battle between the independent food shop or the supermarket, it’s pretty obvious who’s got the upper hand.  While independent stores have more knowledgeable staff and generally fresher produce, they are often more expensive and have limited opening hours, not to mention their scattered locations across the town or city.  Supermarkets, on the other hand, are ironically now on every street corner, taking the place of the corner shop.  They’re open for longer, have more variety and now sell not only food, but books, TVs, petrol and insurance.  They truly are a one stop shop for everything you need in your modern life.

For every £10 spent on the high street, £7 is spent at a supermarket, so it’s no wonder that independent greengrocers, butchers and fishmongers are drastically on the decline.  But how did this all happen?

It started in the 50s when an idea from the States came across the ocean and spread in Britain.  Instead of going into a shop and being served by a shopkeeper, the idea was reversed and the customer became their own server, having more time to think about and choose the products they wanted.  Supermarkets became incredibly popular because they needed fewer staff (and therefore lower staff costs), allowed more products to be stored (meaning greater bargaining power with the suppliers), and ultimately created greater choice for the customer.

As this choice grew, naturally so did the size of the supermarkets, meaning many were set up out of the city centre.  Even though they were now out of town, they tempted customers from any independent stores left on the high street by staying open for longer and providing car park spaces.

As their success and profits grew, soon they became the only output for supplier’s products, and with this monopoly, were able to have more control over supplier’s prices.  Suppliers were left with a choice-sell large amounts of their products to supermarkets who wanted it at a low price, or sell a few boxes to a little store who were willing to pay a bit more but would sell far far less.

Supermarkets’ convenience in location and what they sold along with their competitive pricing quickly put an end to the popularity of independent shops.  But should we be that bothered that these little stores are closing down?  After all, isn’t it the independent shops’ inability to keep up with consumer change that’s part of their downfall?

The one thing that independent stores have and supermarkets sorely miss is their level of customer care and the roots that independent stores have with the local economy.  Greengrocers, fishmongers and butchers will all be experts in their trades, knowing how to prepare, cook and store all their products.  They’ll be able to advise you on the best way of cooking what you buy, are more likely to give you discounts or give you items for free, and generally take more care over the service you receive.  They have to do more to keep you as a customer.  Generally, they’ll also source their ingredients locally, putting more money back into the local economy, financially helping the people that produce the food you eat, and keeping down emissions by lowering travelling miles and costs.

But is there a place for these independent shops on today’s high street?  It’s difficult to see how they can survive under such strong competition from the big supermarket chains, especially when supermarkets are more conveniently located and have longer opening hours.  The irony now is that supermarkets are now moving back onto the high street and opening up ‘Metro’ versions of their stores, now replacing the independent corner shops that sell milk at 10 at night.  Independent shops have got a big fight ahead of them to keep their place on the high street.

If you want to find out more about the places Rachel visited on the film here are some links to their websites:

http://www.liverpool.gov.uk/Leisure_and_culture/Markets/index.asp

http://www.claremontfarm.co.uk/

A Recipe What Has Booze In It

Thursday, January 15th, 2009

A Boozy Recipe

Pork Chops with Cider and Apple

Serves: 2

Ingredients:

Olive oil

2 pork chops

1 red onion, peeled and chopped

100ml double cream

200ml of cider

1 red apple, sliced into wedges

salt and pepper

Steps:

1.  Grab a frying pan and heat a drop of the olive oil over a high heat.

2.  Once the oil is hot, place the pork chop in the pan and cook for around 5 minutes or until the side has turned brown.

3.  Flip the pork chop over and cook on the other side.

4.  When both sides have turned brown, remove from the pan and turn the heat down to about halfway.  Add the chopped onion (and a little more oil if the pan is too dry) and fry until the onion starts to soften-about 2 minutes.

5.  Now add the apples, pour in the cider and stir with the onions.  Leave this to bubble gently until about half of it evaporates.

6.  Now pour in the cream and stir it all together.

7.  Add the pork chops back in, then add some salt and pepper and continue cooking for about 10 minutes (you may need to flip the pork chops over again halfway through this last cooking time.)  Serve by putting the pork chop on a plate, then pouring over the apple, onion and cider sauce.  Serve with some mash potatoes or vegetables.

The Boys From the Band

Thursday, January 15th, 2009

Filming this video for studentcooking.tv was a pretty crazy experience for us  – the day was a very busy one for the band as we were coming straight from a different piece of filming in Buckinghamshire to our drummer Olly’s house in Acton where the studentcooking film was going to happen.

Once we were back and ready it was quickly decided that Tom and Fabio should be the spokespeople. The rest of us were more than happy to come up with and play bizaare little excerpts of songs to realistically mirror the emotions felt by Tom and Fabio at each stage of the tasting process.

The expert hands of the studentcooking staff knocked up some serious dishes for the boys to work with – the idea was to give people some tips on what kind of drinks would go with what kind of foods – red wine, white wine, different type of beer etc. Being as they are true gastronomic connoisseurs, Tom and Fabs had no trouble making the right choices, as you can see for yourself. We hope that this video will help you out a little bit next time you’re stuck on the food/drink dilemma, and therefore improve your life a bit.

www.something-simple.co.uk

www.myspace.com/somethingsimple

Guide To Booze

Thursday, January 15th, 2009

Picture the scene…’It’s a Tuesday and you’ve finally landed a date with the girl of your dreams and you’re taking her out to a fancy restaurant. It comes to ordering the wine and due to your ignorance you simply ask for the cheapest wine on the menu. In a fit of pompous anger she spits in you face, pushes over the table and leave!

To help avoid this here is a guide to wine.

Choosing The Right Wine

Wine isn’t just a cheap way to get drunk quickly-whenever your mates are round or if you’re eating out, choosing the right wine is an easy way to make a meal even better.

As a rule of thumb, white wine goes best with fish and white meat (chicken, turkey etc.) and red wine with meat dishes-steaks, burgers or even pasta that has meat such as spaghetti bolognaise.

Here’s a brief guide to the different kinds of red and white wine:

Varieties of Red Wine

Merlot

Not as strong as other red wines, it has quite a soft, mellow taste to it.  It is a great match for pasta dishes, like spag bol.

Rioja

(Pronounced ree-oka) Quite a strong taste, rioja is a Spanish wine and goes well with steak and other dishes that are full of flavour.

Cabernet Sauvignon

(Pronounced cabernay so-vinyon) Cabernets have a rich blackcurrant taste.  They are traditionally aged in oak, so can take on an aromatic woody flavour.  Cabernet goes well with beef, or lamb.

Varieties of White Wine

After something a little more refreshing?  Then white wine it is…

Pinot Grigio

(Pronounced peen-oh grijee-oh)  A very light and refreshing wine.  Usually a house wine in restaurants, goes very nicely with fish or chicken dishes, or cool salads in the summer.

Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc are typically very light wines, and tend to be crisp and acidic, making it ideal for more heavier foods such as risottos.

Chardonnay

Chardonnay can be one of the cheapest wines to buy, but still tastes great.  The taste varies depending on where the grapes have grown.  It goes best with poultry or seafood, like lobster or scallops.

The Carnivore and the Carrot

Tuesday, January 13th, 2009

When I first took on the vegan challenge I thought I was just not allowed to eat meat and fish, but when I found out that I couldn’t eat any type of food from an animal source, I realised it was going to be even tougher to go three days following a strict vegan diet. Even for foods you would assume to be vegan, like a bag of crisps, often contained some sort of animal product, and so I found myself having to check every food label. During the challenge I started having to eat foods I would not normally consider, such as soya milk, which I think would take a bit of getting used to! Being a footballer for Loughborough University and keen sportsman, I try to take in plenty of protein and carbohydrate in my diet and so have always thought that vegetarian and vegan diets were unhealthy because they lacked meat, which is high in protein. I realised from doing the challenge just how limiting a vegan diet is in what you can eat, but at the same time, although it is maybe more difficult and time consuming, it is still possible to eat a varied and balanced diet by making up for the vitamins and protein in meat and eggs by eating plenty of vegetables, nuts and soya. Although I can safely say that I won’t be becoming a vegan soon and am going to carry on eating meat!

Summer version of a vegan lasagne

Sunday, January 11th, 2009

Summer version of a vegan lasagne
Preparation time: approx 1.5 hrs + 45 minutes oven time
The list of ingredients is extensive, but most of them are optional, depending how you like your lasagne. Time-saving tips and ideas for seasonal variation are given at the end of the recipe below.
Serves 6 – 10, depending on hunger and what else is on the menu (see below for details).
Red sauce:
1/2 cup dried pulses or 1 can, drained
1 vegetable stock cube (double-check to make sure it doesn’t contain animal products)
oil for frying
1 large white onion, cubed
1 small red onion, cubed
4 cloves of garlic, well chopped
1 leek, sliced
2 carrots, quarted lengthwise and sliced
1 aubergine, quarted lengthwise and sliced
1 250 g packet of firm tofu, drained, squeezed dry and chopped in bite-size pieces
1 courgette, shredded
1 green pepper, chopped
1/2 packet of brown mushrooms (ca. 8 medium-sized), chopped
150 g tomato puree
1 bottle tomato passata (680 g) or 2 cans chopped tomatoes (800 g)
1 tbsp peanut butter
1 tsp Fairtrade cane sugar
2 tsp dried basil
4 tsp mixed herbs
salt + pepper to taste
White sauce:
4 tbsp vegan margarine or vegetable oil
10 tbsp white flour
500 ml soy milk
500 ml water or vegetable water
1 tsp nutmeg
salt + pepper to taste
Topping:
50 g breadcrumbs or stuffing
2 tbsp sunflower seeds
drizzle of olive oil
1 packet whole wheat lasagne (250 g)
Red sauce:
If using dried pulses (preferred), rinse, soak and pre-cook them with the vegetable stock cube according to the package instructions. Any can be used, though red lentils are not great. I prefer red kidney beans, green lentils (easy because they require no soaking), or chickpeas. Take them off the heat and pour off and save the cooking water when they’ve still got a bit of ‘bite’ left.
Prepare most of the vegetables beforehand to make putting the red sauce together easier.
Start by heating up a large saucepan (about 3 litres) with a few tbsp of vegetable oil. Fry the onion and garlic for a few minutes till they’re soft. Don’t be afraid to turn the heat up pretty high if you’re happy stirring very often. Add each of the vegetables and tofu in turn, giving them each a minute or so before adding the next, in approximately the order given above. Keep stirring happily. If needed, add a little more oil to avoid sticking, but don’t worry if it looks like it’s starting to burn. Just keep stirring and adding vegetables.
When all the vegetables have been added, pour in the tomato passata (like chopped tomatoes, just more blitzed). If you prefer chopped tomatoes, that’s fine too. Add tomato pureee, basil and herbs, peanut butter (optional), sugar (not optional. The sugar balances the acidity of the tomatoes and is key to a good red sauce), salt and pepper, and if canned pulses are used, a vegetable stock cube. You will probably need to add another 100-200 ml of water as well. The consistency should be like that of thick soup. Turn the heat down and let the sauce simmer, stirring occasionally, while you make the white sauce. Add the pulses at this point too.
White sauce:
Melt the margarine in a small saucepan or heat up the oil gently. It should not get hot to the point of excessive sizzling or boiling of the margarine. When all is melted, add the flour a few tbsp at a time, stirring well with a wooden spoon. It should sizzle a bit. When all the flour has been added, you should have a ball of doughlike consistency in the saucepan, about the size of a small fist. If it’s too dry, add more margarine, or add flour if it still seems ‘wet’. Start adding the liquid, alternating between soy milk and water. If there is pulse-water leftover from earlier, you can use this instead of the water, or if you’ve steamed or cooked any other vegetable, use the water from that. If you want a creamier sauce, just stick with soy milk, though I find it too heavy. Add only about 150 ml at a time and stir really well to get out all the lumps before adding the next lot. It’s time-consuming but worth it in the end. If it starts to boil, turn the heat down a bit. When all the liquid has been added, add salt, pepper and nutmeg and let the sauce simmer for a few minutes, while stirring. If there are lumps, you can use a whisk, but there shouldn’t really be any. The sauce will be thin at the top and thick at the bottom, so make sure you’re stirring all the way to the bottom of the sauce pan.
Putting the lasagne together:
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C. Use a large oven-proof dish of at least 5 cm depth. Mine is ceramic and about 25 by 30 cm and works a charm. Give the red sauce a good stir, and pour half of it into the bottom of the dish. Add half the lasagne, then half the white sauce. Follow on with the rest of the red sauce, lasagne and finish with the white. Sprinkle breadcrumbs or stuffing (I like sage and onion) and sunflower seeds on top and drizzle some olive oil on top. Bake in the middle of the oven for about 45 minutes. Stick a knife through the layers to test when it’s cooked. If the top looks like it’s starting to burn before the lasagne is done, cover it with tin foil.
Serves 8 when mixed with generous helpings of a nice fresh salad (lettuce, tomato, cucumber, pepper, shredded carrot, avocado etc) in a balsamic vinaigrette. If your guests are really hungry or you want to stretch the lasagne to 10 servings, add in a bread basket with vegan ciabatta or other italian style bread.
Tips + variations:
The vegetables above are for a summer lasagne, when all these vegetables can be locally sourced. In autumn and winter, finely chopped cabbage, spinach, and shredded root vegetables such as parsnip, swede, and beetroot, can be used instead. Pre-steamed cabbage and spinach can even be used in betweeen layers as a nice change of pace. Spread them out on top of the first white layer.
If all this sounds too time-consuming, it’s possible to substiute the entire vat of red sauce for a good-quality vegan pasta sauce, but it won’t be nearly as good! Alternatively, use more tofu and pulses as filler (or even soy crumbles!) and leave out many of the vegetables. Onion, garlic, chopped carrot and zucchini are all quick and easy to prepare and will still give variety in colour, taste and consistency and give you some of your 5 a day.
The whole recipe can also be scaled down, though it’s not really worth it to make it for less than 4 helpings.

Preparation time: approx 1.5 hrs + 45 minutes oven time

The list of ingredients is extensive, but most of them are optional, depending how you like your lasagne. Time-saving tips and ideas for seasonal variation are given at the end of the recipe below.

Serves 6 – 10, depending on hunger and what else is on the menu (see below for details).

Red sauce:

1/2 cup dried pulses or 1 can, drained

1 vegetable stock cube (double-check to make sure it doesn’t contain animal products)

oil for frying

1 large white onion, cubed

1 small red onion, cubed

4 cloves of garlic, well chopped

1 leek, sliced

2 carrots, quarted lengthwise and sliced

1 aubergine, quarted lengthwise and sliced

1 250 g packet of firm tofu, drained, squeezed dry and chopped in bite-size pieces

1 courgette, shredded

1 green pepper, chopped

1/2 packet of brown mushrooms (ca. 8 medium-sized), chopped

150 g tomato puree

1 bottle tomato passata (680 g) or 2 cans chopped tomatoes (800 g)

1 tbsp peanut butter

1 tsp Fairtrade cane sugar

2 tsp dried basil

4 tsp mixed herbs

salt + pepper to taste

White sauce:

4 tbsp vegan margarine or vegetable oil

10 tbsp white flour

500 ml soy milk

500 ml water or vegetable water

1 tsp nutmeg

salt + pepper to taste

Topping:

50 g breadcrumbs or stuffing

2 tbsp sunflower seeds

drizzle of olive oil

1 packet whole wheat lasagne (250 g)

Red sauce:

If using dried pulses (preferred), rinse, soak and pre-cook them with the vegetable stock cube according to the package instructions. Any can be used, though red lentils are not great. I prefer red kidney beans, green lentils (easy because they require no soaking), or chickpeas. Take them off the heat and pour off and save the cooking water when they’ve still got a bit of ‘bite’ left.

Prepare most of the vegetables beforehand to make putting the red sauce together easier.

Start by heating up a large saucepan (about 3 litres) with a few tbsp of vegetable oil. Fry the onion and garlic for a few minutes till they’re soft. Don’t be afraid to turn the heat up pretty high if you’re happy stirring very often. Add each of the vegetables and tofu in turn, giving them each a minute or so before adding the next, in approximately the order given above. Keep stirring happily. If needed, add a little more oil to avoid sticking, but don’t worry if it looks like it’s starting to burn. Just keep stirring and adding vegetables.

When all the vegetables have been added, pour in the tomato passata (like chopped tomatoes, just more blitzed). If you prefer chopped tomatoes, that’s fine too. Add tomato pureee, basil and herbs, peanut butter (optional), sugar (not optional. The sugar balances the acidity of the tomatoes and is key to a good red sauce), salt and pepper, and if canned pulses are used, a vegetable stock cube. You will probably need to add another 100-200 ml of water as well. The consistency should be like that of thick soup. Turn the heat down and let the sauce simmer, stirring occasionally, while you make the white sauce. Add the pulses at this point too.

White sauce:

Melt the margarine in a small saucepan or heat up the oil gently. It should not get hot to the point of excessive sizzling or boiling of the margarine. When all is melted, add the flour a few tbsp at a time, stirring well with a wooden spoon. It should sizzle a bit. When all the flour has been added, you should have a ball of doughlike consistency in the saucepan, about the size of a small fist. If it’s too dry, add more margarine, or add flour if it still seems ‘wet’. Start adding the liquid, alternating between soy milk and water. If there is pulse-water leftover from earlier, you can use this instead of the water, or if you’ve steamed or cooked any other vegetable, use the water from that. If you want a creamier sauce, just stick with soy milk, though I find it too heavy. Add only about 150 ml at a time and stir really well to get out all the lumps before adding the next lot. It’s time-consuming but worth it in the end. If it starts to boil, turn the heat down a bit. When all the liquid has been added, add salt, pepper and nutmeg and let the sauce simmer for a few minutes, while stirring. If there are lumps, you can use a whisk, but there shouldn’t really be any. The sauce will be thin at the top and thick at the bottom, so make sure you’re stirring all the way to the bottom of the sauce pan.

Putting the lasagne together:

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C. Use a large oven-proof dish of at least 5 cm depth. Mine is ceramic and about 25 by 30 cm and works a charm. Give the red sauce a good stir, and pour half of it into the bottom of the dish. Add half the lasagne, then half the white sauce. Follow on with the rest of the red sauce, lasagne and finish with the white. Sprinkle breadcrumbs or stuffing (I like sage and onion) and sunflower seeds on top and drizzle some olive oil on top. Bake in the middle of the oven for about 45 minutes. Stick a knife through the layers to test when it’s cooked. If the top looks like it’s starting to burn before the lasagne is done, cover it with tin foil.

Serves 8 when mixed with generous helpings of a nice fresh salad (lettuce, tomato, cucumber, pepper, shredded carrot, avocado etc) in a balsamic vinaigrette. If your guests are really hungry or you want to stretch the lasagne to 10 servings, add in a bread basket with vegan ciabatta or other italian style bread.

Tips + variations:

The vegetables above are for a summer lasagne, when all these vegetables can be locally sourced. In autumn and winter, finely chopped cabbage, spinach, and shredded root vegetables such as parsnip, swede, and beetroot, can be used instead. Pre-steamed cabbage and spinach can even be used in betweeen layers as a nice change of pace. Spread them out on top of the first white layer.

If all this sounds too time-consuming, it’s possible to substiute the entire vat of red sauce for a good-quality vegan pasta sauce, but it won’t be nearly as good! Alternatively, use more tofu and pulses as filler (or even soy crumbles!) and leave out many of the vegetables. Onion, garlic, chopped carrot and zucchini are all quick and easy to prepare and will still give variety in colour, taste and consistency and give you some of your 5 a day.

The whole recipe can also be scaled down, though it’s not really worth it to make it for less than 4 helpings.

Vegans Ahoy!

Saturday, January 10th, 2009

Veganism is a lifestyle choice by which a person decides to live without the use of ANY animal products. Like vegetarians, vegans obviously don’t eat meat but in addition to that they also don’t consume anything else that has come from an animal such as eggs, cheese or milk. It doesn’t just stop at food products however as there are lots of clothing items that a true vegan can’t wear because the way it’s made. Most commonly shoes and trainers are an issue due to them often been bound using glue made from horses hoofs.

Every individual has different reasonings for why they became vegan with many having issue with the morals surrounding animal rights. There is however a strong environmental argument in favour of people eating vegan. This argument is based around several points one of which being that the energy and supplies used to rear livestock heavily outweighs the resources it would take to simple grow the food we feed to the animals to feed us…if that makes sense?
Basically we grow corn to feed animals – the animals get fat – we transport them – kill them – transport them – eat them. The more environmentally and vegan solution is for us to simply eat the corn.

The other environmental issues is methane. Cow’s produce lots and lots of CO2 that does have a huge effect on climate change. And yes – we can’t stop cow’s farting however if there was less demand for livestock there would be less cow’s and therefore less smelly CO2 ridden cow farts.
A study in 2006 by the University of Chicago showed that on average an individual changing from a regular diet to that of a vegan would reduce their CO2 emission by 1, 485kg per year. Which is quite a lot.

Veganism does however have it’s drawbacks. Through eating plant products exclusively vegans do miss out on certain important nutrients. Studies show that vegan diets are  lacking in Vitamin B12, Vitamin D, calcium and iodine, all of which is severe can cause serious health problems. A distinct lack in vitamin B12 can result in anemia and neurodegenerative disease although it is rare for a B12 deficiency to become clinical in most vegans.

There are plenty supplements around for vegans to take on these vitamins in other ways such as vitamin tablets and fortified foods such as soymilk fortified with calcium. It’s highly recommended that anyone wishing to lead a vegan lifestyle regularly take on supplements.

Veganism is a lifestyle choice that is growing and becoming more popular with supermarkets catering for the needs of a vegan diet more and even lots of vegan specific clothes retailers producing clothes without the use of any animal products.

What do you think of veganism? We want to know! Maybe you’re thinking of becoming vegan or perhaps you think it’s a load of tosh either way we want to know why!