Wednesday, 31 August 2011

How do you shop?

So I've been writing this blog for a little while, telling you about how I buy my food, what inspires me about food and at a more basic level, what I've been eating. I haven't posted much over the last few weeks as I haven't felt that inspiration - could it be the summer ending, and the attendant slow slide in to winter (and let's face it, it's not been much of a summer)? I think that's part of it - it's easy to be inspired by abundance but even that loses its novelty after a while. What's more important is that I haven't felt that I've had the time to devote to what is, after all, a hobby. Anybody, and indeed everybody, feeds themselves everyday (Master Jay excepted, but he's working on that), but this blog is supposed to be about something more, about enjoying the act of feeding yourself and I have to admit I haven't been doing that.

When we get stuck in a rut - specifically with food here, people, we haven't got time enough to deal with metaphysics - how do we get ourselves out of it? More directly, how do you get yourself out of it? I mean on a very practical level. Do you buy a new recipe book? Do you cook with vegetables or spices you've never used before? How do you turn yourself from thinking "I have to eat tonight when I finish work, what shall I cook?" to "I want to finish work so that I can start cooking?".

I decided that I should make more use of the fact that I do (at least compared to my former South London residence) live in the country. Ok, I'm not in the country really but I only have to travel for 10 minutes and I can get there. I took a drive out to a farm shop that I'd heard about, a little further out of town than some of the more well known ones like this and this - both of which are very fine establishments, by the way, but I wanted something a little different. I managed to procure some fresh peas, still in the pod, along with some yellow courgettes, which are destined for a risotto later in the week, some rolled lamb breast at a very reasonable price, and a woodpigeon and a partidge, for which I'm looking for recipes.

I've also pre-ordered a jointed wild rabbit which I'll pick up at the weekend. Several times I bought farmed rabbits from Smithfields market but I've never found them to be terribly exciting - it's a very light meat when farmed, rather like chicken and the back legs in particular have an alarmingly similar build to those of my cat, which I found off-putting. But some of the best restaurant meals I've ever had, including at this place a few years back, have involved wild rabbit, so I'm looking forward to seeing what I can make of it.

As well as the farm shop I was originally headed for, I found several places where farmers were selling vegetables, eggs, and meat direct from their farms, and during the course of a 1-hour trip I've become fascinated by what's out there. If only I could persuade the farmers to stock nappies, toilet roll and the odd guilty bag of Haribo, I might never need to go to a supermarket again!


  1. Let me know if the rabbit is any good - and how I can get some!

    For rabbit recipes look for Trish Hilferty's stuff, she does an amazing rabbit pie!


    The other thing that occurs to me is that the guy who runs our local spanish restaurant is always telling me that paella should be made from rabbit, not seafood.

  3. My comment feels a bit flippant for this blog, which a lot more serious about food than I am (or more accurately, I'm a lot more lazy about food than la famille Jay) but just thinking about the stuck in a food rut issue -- we tend to make a giant stew or curry or something that we can heat up throughout the week so we only have to cook once. But I'm toying with getting my chef on, and Jamie Oliver's 30-Minute Meals book is selling like gangbusters down here in Oz so I'm thinking of buying it and giving it a whirl. Any thoughts on the oeuvre of Mr Oliver? Pukka or pants?

  4. Well, I'd have to give a large "Hurrah!" to anyone wanting to rediscover their inner chef and if Mr Oliver does it for you, then I say go for it. I haven't used his books since I created a Valentine's Day meal for an ex-girlfriend which included a lime sorbet only slightly less sour than the ex-girlfriend, but that's just me.

    I have also heard that none of the meals take 30 minutes and that they all use too much olive oil (is there such a thing?) But don't let that put you off - his popularity is well deserved and he's made cooking much more accessible through the work he's done.

    What is readily available in Oz are the little Australian Womens Weekly books, which I've always loved. They come in a variety of flavours, from "Quick Dinners" to "Lebanese", and only cost a few dollars each.

    Buy one. Cook. Eat. Buy another. Repeat to fade.

  5. Sean, thanks for the tip - it turns out Trisha Hilferty does some courses round here, so Mrs Jay might have to start thinking about Christmas presents already!

    Paella should indeed be cooked with rabbit, and maybe I'll use this excuse to buy myself one of those enormous paella pans that doesn't fit in the cupboard and you only use once...on the other hand, I could just use a frying pan.