Slow Food London set a challenge: could regular Londoners go slow for an entire year? Would it be easy? Would it be hard? Would there be times when it would (slowly) start to go wrong?
Here, Susan Paul talks us through her twentysecond week:
I have wondered if, in these pages, you might be getting the impression that I spend a lot of time on the preparation of our food at home. I really don’t; in fact I spend less time (as well as less money) since starting the challenge. I think the reason is that the food we are buying is fresh and full of good flavours and needs very little time spent in terms of preparation. My husband is getting more involved too, which is great. As I am typing this, he is preparing some chicken roasted on finely sliced onion and anchovies (canned and MSC approved), lemon and parsley with some potatoes and spinach – I am looking forward to it.
This has been a very good week in terms of food and with the added treat of visits from children on three separate occasions. As a result we have had rather more food than usual: roast pork belly with Bramley apple sauce, roast parsnips and watercress; homemade tomato soup with parsley; a puff pastry tart with red onion jam, Stilton cheese and thyme; hake roasted with parsnips and carrots laced with mustard and thyme dressing and watercress; chocolate biscuit cake and chocolate mousse. Our children tease me about the challenge – “I hope this is local and seasonal” - but I know they appreciate the food nevertheless.
There are lots of good quality ready-made pastries available to buy but I like to make puff pastry as for the tart mentioned above. Like many things, if you make them often enough the whole process becomes less onerous and that is the case here. Also, I cut the amount of butter required in the recipe by half and it is still really good.
I baked some of the quinces from last week, with maple syrup. They took a long time to soften as they were rock hard and I added extra sugar so that they could supplement our breakfast apples and pears. I have kept some back to see if they will ripen and become softer and hopefully a bit easier to use.
The British cheese we have sampled this week is Wyfe of Bath, a “bendy” cheese rather like Dutch Edam in texture but with a distinct nutty and fresh flavour. I should say here that we have yet to be disappointed by any of the 22 British cheeses we have tried. I have decided to have only British cheese as part of our family Christmas meal so I will have the difficult task of choosing which ones.
Other good things have been: a sandwich of thinly sliced British ham from the butchers with English mustard, spelt bread and butter; a salad made with grated raw swede and carrot, finely sliced red onion, chopped parsley, and a dressing of rapeseed oil, wine vinegar, mustard and honey; and a simple boiled egg with a little bit of salt and some good bread and butter.
It is interesting to read that one of the reasons shoppers are shunning the supermarkets is that they offer too much choice. I can see why and remember a rare visit to a supermarket back in June when I was so overwhelmed by the number of different packets of spinach that I came away empty handed. In comparison, the vegetables at our Farmer’s market in Barnes are limited to what is in season and can be grown, in this case, on a farm in Kent. This week we bought cauliflower, potatoes, parsnips, spinach, parsley, Brussels sprouts and onions. Also, tomatoes, cucumber and red peppers, which they explained, were grown in tunnels so I hope this is an acceptable method in Slow Food terms.
Another week done and I am still enjoying it – now I am going to sit down and have a lovely glass of good London gin and tonic with ice and a slice of the cucumber from the Farmers market.