One Month and a Big Thank You

cocktail

I have just received an email informing me that it is now a month since I started this blog. Wow! That has gone fast. I just wanted to say a big thank you to everyone that has read my blog, commented, liked, shared and followed. The photo is me saying ‘Cheers everyone!’

I have plenty more to write about- reviews, recipes, lifestyle, and tips. However, what I have enjoyed the most is reading other people’s blogs.  There is such a diverse range of talents, knowledge, interests, and opinions.

I am looking forward to the rest of the year blogging on here. The mini-mes would also like to say a big thank you for supporting their mum in this new venture:

family pic

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Using Local Lancashire Ingredients

fruit and veg

I am a big believer in using locally sourced ingredients whenever possible. It is something that I try to do at home and is also something I look for when I am eating out at a restaurant. Not only does buying local ingredients support local businesses, the quality of the produce is so much better than buying processed and manufactured alternatives. The meats are fresher and the fruit and vegetables are in season and taste so much better.

lancs map

I am lucky in terms of the location where I live. I live in a semi-rural village in Lancashire, just across from the coastal towns of Fleetwood and Morecambe and at a mid-point between Blackpool and Lancaster. This means my village is surrounded on one side by the sea and on the other side by farmland. Both are fantastic sources of delicious ingredients.

The coastal location means there is a fresh supply of fish and seafood available and I usually shop at a seafood shop on the docks at Fleetwood.

Two of the best cheese manufacturers in the company are located within driving distance of my home; Dewlay and Butler’s. They both produce delicious ranges of cheese from their farm factories. These are sold directly from their own shops, local farm shops and many other retailers locally. My personal favourite is Lancashire crumbly.

Pork, beef, chicken and lamb are all available from local sources and sold in local butchers. There is also one of the biggest game hatcheries in the country, Hi-Fly, just one mile from my house and there are even ostrich farms in the surrounding area. 

The area in which I live is fantastic for anyone who enjoys farmers markets as these are held regularly in many locations in the local area. Not only are these a good place to buy the produce that is raised and grown locally, it is also a great place to sample foods created using locally sourced produce. This includes everything from pies to chutneys. Similarly, there are amazing farm shops in Lancashire and there are events that cater to food lovers throughout the year.

 

 

Waste Not, Want Not

ingredients

Many people are dubious about cooking with leftovers. However, there are many delicious things you can make and it makes economic sense for those on a budget to make the most out of the food they have paid for with their hard earned money. This is certainly the case in my house as I have to sit in front of the computer writing for many hours to earn the cash to put food on my children’s plates. Therefore, I quite often transform the leftovers into new and delicious meals for the children. The saying in my house is ‘waste not, want not’!

Something that I cook every week is a joint of meat and I usually serve this as a roast dinner. There are three reasons why I cook a joint of meat:

  • The whole family loves roast dinners
  • There is always enough meat left for a meal the next day
  • It saves both time and money

On the second day, there is a wide range of meals I make with the leftovers, depending on the type of meat I have cooked. Typical meals include stews, curries, and stir-frys. Even a novice in the kitchen can make a delicious sandwich or salad with the leftover meat. 

As my ethos is not to waste food, you will see several recipes and cooking suggestions for ways to use leftovers on this blog over the next few months. Hopefully, I can help to give others some ideas that will stop them wasting food while also saving them time and money. 

 

Not a Fan of Tasting Menus

tasting menu

The latest trend in high-end restaurants is to have a set tasting menu. This consists of around six or seven smaller plates of food that focus on using just a few quality ingredients and presenting them in a beautiful way. Although this is now fashionable, I have to say that I am not a fan.

The first reason is the way the menus are presented. They describe a dish as lamb * lentils* carrots, or lobster* fennel* tomatoes. Is this not simply a list of ingredients? I always want to ask what cut of lamb is it? How is it cooked? Is there a sauce? In what way are the vegetables served? These are the pieces of information I need to know before I order. I would much prefer to see a dish described as ‘Slow-cooked lamb shank on a bed of puy lentils served with julienne carrots and a red wine reduction’. Without having to ask further questions, I know exactly what to expect from my meal. 

The second issue I have is the set menu situation. A tasting menu is a list of dishes and you are given all of them in the order in which they are presented on a menu. There is not a choice of three appetizers or a selection of main dishes from which you can choose. You are simply given exactly what is listed on the menu. Part of the joy of eating out for me is perusing the menu and deciding what I fancy to eat that day. A tasting menu takes away that element of pleasure from me.

Another issue is the cost. It costs a small fortune for two people to try the tasting menu at a top restaurant. When I was looking into eating at one of the establishments that serve this type of menu recently, I calculated that for my partner and I to go out for the meal, it would cost a week and a half’s salary. Diners can also opt to have wines specially selected to accompany each course. To do this, you can expect to double the cost again. I would much rather choose one bottle of wine I liked and drink that. 

My final issue is more about the type of establishment that serves tasting menus rather than the tasting menus themselves. I find them a little pretentious and I feel uncomfortable. I would rather dine in a restaurant that is a little more relaxed and where I can feel free to be myself; talking and laughing with my dining companions. 

Of course, tasting menus are not all bad and I can see why they have become so popular. It is an opportunity to sample some of the finest dishes made by top chefs that are created using the highest quality ingredients and presented in a beautiful way. When you put it like that, a tasting menu is a very tempting dining option. However, this style of dining simply isn’t for me.

Why is Breakfast So Difficult?

breakfast

NOTE: This photograph is quite clearly not my kitchen as I cannot face the shame of putting up a picture of the scene of devastation left by my kids in the morning! This is a free pic from Google Images chosen simply to represent breakfast. 

With 20 years of parenting experience and plenty of practice making homemade meals every day, you would think I had the breakfast routine pretty much sorted. However, that is definitely not the case and it seems the most difficult meal of the day to organize.

In the evenings, we always sit down together as a family to a homemade meal I have prepared. This usually involves me cooking using a variety of ingredients for approximately an hour before sitting down at the table. To make the meal, I will often have both the hob and the oven on while using an array of pans, dishes, and utensils.

At the same time as cooking, I usually have the dog running around my ankles, my younger children racing through the house, my older son asking about going out with his mates and my daughter ringing me to ask all sorts of ridiculous questions (she has just moved into her own place and realized she needs to function like a normal person). 

Despite these complications and distractions, I am perfectly capable of serving a decent meal to the family, so why can I not function to serve breakfast?

Breakfast at my house is typically either cereal, porridge, toast or a yogurt for the children and a strong cup of coffee for me. To achieve these two ‘meals’, I simply need to chuck a couple of slices of bread into a toaster and pour some cereal and milk into a bowl. Simple enough?

It seems to verge on the impossible to do this some days. Nobody seems to make it to the dining table at breakfast and eats their breakfast wherever they are sitting, I serve the wrong food to the wrong child on a regular basis, I burn the toast and spill cereal all over the kitchen. The minute the food hits the bowls, the children change their mind about what they want and they refuse to eat what you serve. 

Yes, a food blogger and former catering professional is admitting she cannot cook toast and serving cereal is an impossibility. I guess I am just not a morning person! I am just thankful that my husband feeds himself in the morning.