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There is always something happening in supermarkets - new products, product demonstrations, shelves reorganised so you can't find anything. Not always interesting, quite often boring and sometimes a chore but just occasionally something catches your eye, something is interesting . . .

Salad Days

When I first set up home back in the mid 70s doing the weekly shop was a very different proposition to what it is today. Because of work commitments, and of course no late night shopping (everything closed at 5.30pm), the weekly shop was done on a Saturday morning. It had to be the morning or all the decent fresh produce would be gone by the afternoon.

Living in a small Welsh market town (population 7,000 and that was the biggest town in the county) meant that getting in and out of town, and even parking on the main street, was fairly easy. It needed to be, as the weekly shop had to be done and it was not going to be a one-stop job like a visit to one of today's supermarkets. Lists had to be written and meals for the whole week planned if everything was going to be done as fast and efficiently as possible, if visits to the butcher, the greengrocer, the baker and the small supermarket were going to go smoothly. You might even want to visit more than one butcher and greengrocer depending on what you were after.

I have not mentioned the fishmonger. There was one but fresh fish inland back then was not what you would call appetising. The best fish used to come into town during the week. A local fisherman would arrive on a Tuesday (market day) in a converted ice cream van with fresh fish caught that morning but sadly not for the weekend shop. So for fish we tended to rely on the local frozen food shop, a local forerunner to today's Iceland stores.

How well a weekly shopping trip was going to go was also dependant on whether grandparents had the children and also how many people you stopped to chat to. In a small town everyone knew everyone!

"Fresh tasting
new potatoes"

The big advantage back then was how fresh everything was although with the exception of the butcher, choice of products was very limited to what we get in today's supermarkets. So what was the trigger for this trip down memory lane?

It was something I spotted in Tesco's veg section, British Freshly Dug New Potatoes. “These British potatoes are harvested daily to bring you that 'fresh from the field' taste”. Back when I used to grow my own, or buy them from the greengrocer, new potatoes had a wonderful fresh taste which you would not get at any other time. This product brought the memories flooding back and the potatoes were part of a very enjoyable meal. It made me realise how easy it is to eat well at this time of the year without having to do much cooking or spending hours in the kitchen.

One of the improvements the big supermarkets have brought to our tables is the amount and variety of cold foods available, especially salads. No longer do we have to put up with one variety of lettuce served with a few slices of cucumber and a tomato. The range of lettuce is outstanding and it is easy for anyone to put together not only a tasty salad but also one that looks appetising and is bursting with a variety of colours. This is the time of year to take advantage as much of the salad produce is UK grown and at its tastiest. Even better if followed by some English strawberries and cream for dessert.

I “cooked” a great evening meal the other night. I say cooked because all I actually cooked was some of the Freshly Dug New Potatoes, and they were delicious. Just like those fresh out of the garden and what is more they were locally grown!

I bought two fillets of lightly smoked salmon cooked with herbs and wild garlic, a few King Prawns marinaded in garlic and oil and a selection of salad stuff (bought too much as usual but it kept for the next day). A lump of salty butter on the potatoes and a first class meal was served.

From the time the potatoes came to the boil the meal took roughly 15 minutes to prepare and serve. Who says they haven't got the time to cook?

So why not take advantage and give yourself an easy time in the kitchen. Great salads are to be enjoyed . . . even if summer seems a bit elusive!

Editorial note: This site is not paid to promote any of the products or places featured in this newsletter.



Spanish paprikaSpanish paprika or ‘pimenton’ is one of those ingredients that can be found in every Spanish kitchen. Paprika is used in dozens of Spanish recipes and also by butcheries (carnicerias) as paprika is a vital ingredient in the most famous of Spanish sausages - the chorizo. It is paprika that gives the chorizo as well as salsas and other dishes their deep red colour and of course flavour.

Paprika is made from dried chili peppers which are ground into a fine powder, the strength and flavour of the end product depends on the type of pepper used with hot peppers being used for ‘picante’ paprika and sweet peppers being used for the ‘dulce’ or mild/sweet version. You can also find a smoked variety, again in hot and sweet versions as well as an ‘agri-dulce’ strength which typically has a spicy flavour in between the two. Smoked paprika is made by hanging the peppers in large drying sheds where they are smoked dried for two to three weeks using oak.

Some paprika’s, especially the smoked variety even carry the ‘denomancion de Origen’ stamp (D.O) which guarantees the products quality, the most famous region is ‘La Vera’ so if your paprika tin has this stamp on it you can rest assured that you have some of the finest paprika money can buy.

Smoked Spanish paprika is a spice that compliments many dishes, its smell quite potent and used sparingly (you never need very much) adds a lovely depth to cream based dishes, casseroles and even soups. Paprika of all varieties is commonly used as a garnish due to its deep red colour and is popular for sprinkling over mayonnaise, soups and even salads.

With a long shelf life of well over a year your paprika will happily sit in a cool dry place, typically sold in 75g tins this is more than enough to last in the family kitchen for a good few months.

Spanish Paprika and Spices >>>


This recipe from Natoora for Cherry Cake is ideal to make at this time of year with cherries now on sale in all the fresh fruit outlets.



200g butter
350g fresh cherries
250g plain flour
125ml pot vanilla yoghurt
1.5 tsp. baking powder
a pinch of salt
3 eggs
180g caster sugar

How to make:

  • Preheat the oven to 160°C.

  • Wash the cherries and remove the stones.

  • Mix the butter with the sugar with a whisk until you have a smooth cream, then add the eggs, yoghurt and salt, mixing until all the ingredients are blended together.

  • Now slowly sieve in the flour and the baking powder.

  • Line and grease a cake tin.

  • Cover the base of the cake tin with half of the pitted cherries and pour the cake mixture over them.

  • Then, add the remaining cherries on top.

  • Cook the cake for about 1 hour until a skewer comes out clean.

  • Once ready, leave you cherry cake to cool in the tin.

  • Serve with whipped cream and cherries.



ParsleyA great soup idea for using up spare herbs rather than letting them go to waste . . . adjust this soup, by either thinning it down or leaving out the flour altogether, chill it and it is also a great summer soup!


1 lt milk
1 lt chicken stock
5 garlic cloves
1 small onion
150gm cheddar cheese
150gm butter
100gm flour
1 tbs chives
50gm parsley
50 gm coriander
50 gm dill
100gm spinach leaves


  • Combine the milk and stock and add the sliced garlic and finely chopped onion.

  • Place over a low heat and allow the flavours to infuse for 15 minutes.

  • Melt the butter in a large saucepan over a low to medium heat, add the flour and stir continuously for 5 minutes to cook the flour.

  • Slowly add the milk / stock mixture (approximately 200 mls at a time), stirring thoroughly each time to remove any flour lumps and achieve a smooth finish.

  • When all combined bring to a boil and allow to simmer very gently for 1 hour.

  • Stir through the cheddar, taste, and add more cheese or season if required - it should have a light cheese flavour only.

Chef's Tip:

This soup should not be left standing on the heat too long once the herb purée has been added or it will turn from a fresh, bright green to an unappetising dull, grey / green colour.

Serves 6





12 ozs Sugarpaste
8 tsp cherry jam
5 ozs unsalted butter
6 ozs caster sugar
3 eggs
2 1/2 ozs ground almonds
5 ozs self raising flour
12 ozs prepared fondant icing
1 1/2 ozs flaked toasted almonds


  • Preheat oven to 200°C / Gas mark 6

  • Roll out the sugarpaste and spread with 6 teaspoons of jam.

  • Cream the sugar and butter.

  • Stir in eggs, almonds and flour.

  • Spoon over the sugarpaste and level the surface.

  • Cook for 15 minutes and then reduce temperature to 180°C / Gas mark 4 and cook for a further 30 minutes.

  • Remove from tin and fit the rolled out fondant icing to the top.

  • Spread the remaining jam over the fondant icing and sprinkle the almonds over the top.

  • To serve cut into 16 squares.

Makes 16


Making Sauces

Thickening sauces can be a lengthy and troublesome process if you allow it to be. The tips I give here are aimed more at the home cook than the professional chef, who will know these already.

There are many thickening agents for sauces, but lets just look at the more common ones you might come across:

  1. Flour
    This can be used in three ways: as a roux, beurre manié or mixed with water.

  • A roux : made by melting butter or oil, mixing in flour and cooking it over a medium heat for 5 minutes. Most classic recipes call for equal quantities of fat to flour, I much prefer more fat than flour. Why? Well for one thing it allows for a much richer flavour, but also allows the roux to combine into the liquid easier. On average use 75 gm butter to 60 gm of flour per litre of liquid….most recipes state 100 gm, 100gm and 1 litre; this will cause a thick, stodgy, 19th century style sauce more akin to porridge and not the lighter ones we prefer today.

  • Beurre manié : basically as above but used to add to sauces, should they need extra thickening once made. A French term : Beurre = butter, manié = handled, so named as it is normally made by kneading the4 flour and cold butter together to form a paste.

  • With water : flour and water combined to form a slurry. Mainly used to thicken gravies for roast meats.

  1. Cornflour
    Mixed with water or other liquid to a slurry, this may be used for thickening most sauces, but normally reserved for reduction sauces: sauces where the liquid (stock, wine etc) is simmered until reduced to taste. Once the liquid is ready and has boiled, removed from heat and add the slurry in slowly, while whisking quickly; it will thicken almost instantly so take care not to add to much. The downside of cornflour is that it will dilute the sauce's colour
  1. Arrowroot
    Used as for cornflour with the advantage of the fact that it will not dilute the sauce's colour, but will give it a nice sheen (more expensive to purchase though). It is really difficult, if not impossible to thin sauces down after they have been over thickened with arrowroot or cornflour, so please take care!

Finally if you want to make seafood or fish sauces but cannot buy the stock, do what a lot of professional chefs do, use a light chicken stock. Many chefs do not use fish stocks as they will sour quickly and for food hygiene reasons are very unstable. However, please, please use a good quality stock whether it is fresh, powdered or cubed . . . a dish is only as good as its sauce which is only as good as its stock.


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