Category Archives: Ethics

Several good reasons to support Local Businesses

We are extremely fortunate in Market Harborough to have many independent shops that are run by local people.  Clothes, shoes, housewares, cafes, bookshops, chemists, bakers, butchers – you name it.  There are some high street names but there really is the commercial space for them all as long as ‘the big boys’ are kept in check.  Of course, there are some things you can’t get, school uniform for example, but not many.

A Shop 100 years ago. We still have shops today.

One area where I absolutely insist on only using local bods is cafes.  Harborough is awash with places to eat and drink but without question, the best ones are the independents.  The Boys and I felt the need for a warming hot chocolate on Sunday afternoon, but, the Market Café being closed because of the weather (!) the only places open were Costa, Nero and Starbucks.  I occasionally go to Café Nero with friends because they have young children and it is big enough to hide the little ones in a corner and not upset anyone.  Fair enough, but I don’t like the place because a) it’s too noisy and b) you can waste half your allotted time queuing up to get your drink.  The same is true of Costa (albeit quieter) and I wouldn’t darken the door of Starbucks. 

So on Sunday we ended up in Costas.  I had to wait ages to actually get our three drinks and three cakes only to find that not a single spare table had been cleared.  We cleared out own table and the one next to it and settled down to enjoy our snack.  Boy the Elder’s frappe which we thought was a milkshake was an indistinguishable favour and my Victoria Sandwich, which had looked home made on the counter, was full of a synthetic tasting cream which I have not encountered since about 1975.  And it cost £12.  I will not be going back. 

But let me tell you this; when Wartime Housewife Cafes are appearing across the country, you will be served at your table, by smiling, uniformed waiting staff, with home made food, from local suppliers at proper prices.  Just you wait.

Without hesitation I will tell you the places in Harborough that I like – I’m sure there are others just as good, this is only my preference:
 
Aldin’s on the corner of Church Street is a proper old-fashioned tea room.  You are served at the table, the menu is simple and wholesome, the portions generous and the prices very reasonable.  The cakes are all home made and you can get spaghetti hoops on toast.

Joules just off the High Street has a reasonably priced and extensive menu, several different areas in which to eat, including outside in clement weather, you can get a cracking breakfast and they have theme nights and live music in the summer.  There is also a bric-a-brac/reclaim area at the back in which to rummage.

Webb’s Café in Bennett’s Yard is a little gem.  It has contemporary décor and a more adventurous menu including, what I call ‘brown food’.  Healthy stuff with rice and interesting salads as well as lovely cakes and good coffee.

There is also a café behind the Baptist Church which I can’t for the life of me remember the name of.  It is run by the church, is incredibly cheap and you can have a good feed (two courses and a drink) for under a fiver.  It also has the advantage of having a really odd selection of people who go in there. Avoid the coffee though.  And, despite being unexpectedly closed on Sunday, the cafe in the market does a great all day breakfast and good cakes as well, but obviously it’s only open on market days (Tues, Fri, Sat & Sun)

One other local business that I must mention is the wonderful Rural Trading company.  They run a mobile shop which visits loads of local villages on a regular schedule.  They provide fruit & veg, meat, poultry, home made ready meals, dairy, chemist and general groceries and all the fresh food comes from local suppliers.  I realise that this is very local to us, but there must be lots of these ventures all over the country and if there aren’t, there should be.  Maybe there’s an opportunity for you?

Most towns have independent shops and if you want them to stay you have to actually shop there.  It’s no good buying all your meat in Sainsburys and then lamenting the loss of your local butcher.  The same goes for pubs, churches and village halls.  If you want them, you have to support them, you have to go there, shop there, drink there.  Don’t let your town or village become indistinguishable from any other town or village in the country.

* Just in case you’re interested The Shop in the photo belonged to my Great Aunt and her husband and was taken in Flixton, Lancashire in 1910.

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Filed under Community and shopping, Ethics, Food, Product comparisons

A Word to The Elderly

The Wartime Housewife normally spurns The Sell By Date on food and laughs in the face of the Best Before, but today I wish to have a quiet word with The Elderly.

Although it is quite lovely of you all to always have some biscuits or a bit of cake in the house to offer should someone drop by (and I am as fond of a custard cream as the next man), I would suggest that if the packet in question has a sell by date of three or four weeks earlier, please keep them to yourselves.  They will not be Nice.

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Filed under Behaviour and Etiquette, Ethics, Family and Friends, Food

A pumpkin is for life not just for Halloween

Pumpkin 30.10.09

Food

I have been really distressed to see signs in most of the supermarkets advertising “Carving Pumpkins for Halloween”.  Apparently, around 90% of the pumpkins sold in the UK never see a knife and fork or a knob of butter.  This profligate waste of food makes me rage, so don’t do it.  Carve grotesque and wonderful pumpkin lanterns by all means, but eat the fruit as well.  What’s more, I can guide you through a three-course pumpkin dinner!  Scoop out all the flesh and chop  roughly for all of these.

May I be permitted to say a few words about Halloween?  This is the old festival of Samhain (pronounced Sow-in by the way); the time when the spirit world is closest to the living world, when the nights are dark and we have time to sit and contemplate, to think about our lives.  It is also a time to feast and frolic and have a good ghost story by the fire.  May I recommend that you have a look at the story on Hooting Yard which gives advice on what to do When Ghouls Attack. 

I state now, in a firm steady voice, that I heartily disapprove of Trick or Treating.  Sending children out in the dark knocking on people’s doors and demanding money or food with menaces, or worse, some feeble child standing silently in a rubbish costume with their sticky hand out, is not entertaining and should be discouraged.  It’s not an English tradition, it’s just another example of English children aping the customs of American children without the slightest idea why they’re doing it.   Stay indoors, dress up, play games and tricks together, scare the crap out of them with a good ghost story and share a feast.  And make sure you do it by candlelight.

Pumpkin Soup

Utensils:
1 x large saucepan
1 x stick blender
1 x grater

Ingredients:
2 lb pumpkin.
2 oz of butter
1 medium onion – finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic – finely chopped (to discourage vampyres)
1 pint of chicken stock.
½ tsp turmeric
1 tspn parsley
¼ pint double cream
1 tablespoon of grated cheese.

Method:
Melt the butter in the pan and add the onion and garlic.  Cook until translucent.
Add the pumpkin and garlic and sweat for a couple of minutes
Add the parsley and turmeric and toss around enthusiastically
Add the chicken stock
Cover and simmer for about twenty minutes until the pumpkin is soft
Puree with the blender
Add the cream
Serve sprinkled with grated cheese

Pumpkin Risotto

Do exactly what you did for Italian Risotto (click on this link to previous blog) except use pumpkin instead of chicken.

Norfolk Million Pie

This pie is an old Norfolk recipe which was taken to America by the Pilgrim Fathers.  ‘Million’ is the word for any member of the squash family.

Utensils:
1 x 10″ flan dish
1 x medium saucepan
1 x stick blender
1 x large mixing bowl
1 x rolling pin
1 x jar of baking beans
greaseproof paper

Ingredients:
1 packet of shortcrust pastry
1 lb / 480g pumpkin
6oz  / 180g dark brown sugar
3 eggs – beaten
2oz / 60g raisins
1 good pinch of nutmeg
2 tablespoons of apricot jam
Plain flour for rolling out

Method:
Pre-heat the oven to 200 / 400 / 6
Grease and flour the flan dish, roll out the pastry and line the dish
But out a circle of greaseproof paper to fit the dish and place on top of the pastry
Cover the greaseproof paper with baking beans and bake for about 15 minutes
Remove the beans and greaseproof paper and leave to cool
Turn the oven down to 180 / 350 / 4
Put the pumpkin into the saucepan with a couple of tablespoons of water.
Bring to the boil then simmer gently with the lid on until the pumpkin is really soft.
Transfer to a bowl, draining off any excess water and puree with the stick blender
Add the eggs, sugar, raisins and nutmeg and mix together well.  It will be quite runny.
Spread the apricot jam onto the cooked pastry case then pour on the pumpkin mixture.
Roll out the remaining pastry and cut into strips to make a lattice on the top.
Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes, it may take longer, but the top should be a rich brown and the pastry golden.
Serve with cream

Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin seeds are highly nutritious and should not be wasted either.  Wash all the stringy flesh off them and put in a bowl.  Warm a tablespoon of honey in a bowl and swish the seeds round in it.  Lay them out on a baking tray and bake on a low heat 140 / 275 / 1 for about an hour.  They should have browned a little.  Leave them to cool. They make great snacks or can be used  in lots of ways eg bread, meusli or flapjacks.

Halloween Cake 31.10.09

A Halloween Cake I made for a party

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Filed under Children, Ethics, Family and Friends, Food, Indoor Activities, Recipes, Seasonal

Re-use, Re-cycle, Re-fuse to waste

I am absolutely fed up with being told how important it is to recycle.  I groan when I hear about councils threatening to fine people for putting recyclable waste into their normal dustbins.  I mutter to myself about the vicissitudes of waste management from county to county.  I feel genuine pity for the people who live within half a mile of our local rubbish tip, for whom the constant smell must be utterly unbearable.

In Leicestershire we have a green bin for garden and a ‘limited amount’ of cardboard waste, a box for paper including junk mail and another box for glass and tins. We then have a black bin for everything else.  Recycling is collected weekly and the black and green bins are collected bi-weekly.  The refuse collectors have the right to refuse to empty your bins if the lids won’t close.  I have to drive to the nearest recycling centre.  But every county is different accordingly to which refuse company has been awarded the contract and how much the council is willing to spend.   My family in the south have a far greater range of recyclable rubbish collected from their houses than we do in the Midlands. 

I am not an expert environmental scientist and I am not a guru in the field of waste management.  I am simply a Housewife (Wartime variety, naturally)  who doesn’t want to see my country disappear under a mountain of rubbish.  Recycling is all very worthy, but it is not the answer to the massive refuse problem that we,  and the majority of the developed world, is facing.  In times of recession, many waste management companies are not buying this recyclable waste, so what happens to it then?  And let’s not forget the energy involved in producing recycled goods.

If we really want to ‘do our bit’ for the environment, we have to produce less waste in the first place.  We must consume less.  In some aspects of life this is easy; one excellent reason for cooking from scratch is that you don’t have to contend with all that packaging from pre-prepared food.  But I scream with rage when I am told, all too frequently, that it is cheaper to buy a new appliance than it is to repair the old one.  At one time, one assumed that if you bought an expensive brand of kettle, it would last you several times longer than a £4.95 one from Argos, but even that does not appear to be true any more.  Lady Marjorie recently had to throw away a £70 Dualit kettle after only 18 months and was told she had done well to have it last that long.  Apparently, she should have spent another £12 on an extended warranty.

So what can we do?  And how can we do it without completely disrupting our lives?  Here are a few tips (to reduce the tips!) that I follow when I can, with which most of you will already be familiar, but it doesn’t hurt to be reminded!:

  • Plan as many meals as you can in advance so that you can get the food you need, thereby potentially reducing waste
  • Cook from scratch to avoid packaging
  • Take tupperware boxes to the meat, fish and deli counters in the supermarket and ask them to put your food in those with the bar code stuck to the lid.  Some will refuse, but most won’t and if they do – make a fuss!  Independent shops are much more amenable to this idea.
  • Always have a couple of cotton shopping bags in your handbag or car
  • If you need to use carrier bags, keep them for use as bin liners
  • Sugar bags and flour bags are ideal for re-use as they are lightly waxed on the outside to keep the original contents dry.  Use them to wrap sandwiches and cake for packed lunches.
  • Keep some of your interesting rubbish for junk modelling as an activity for the children.
  • Keep some jam jars and small bottles with screw lids.  Next year they will be there when you have a go at jam, jellies and syrups!
  • Wash foil and use it again
  • Use the milkman if you can afford to.  If not, plastic milk cartons, cut in half, make very effective cloches for seedlings in your garden. You can adjust air flow through the lid.
  • Mend your  clothes and darn your socks.  I will do an item on darning if this will help! Just because you can buy a new pair of trousers in Primark for £2 doesn’t mean you should.  You can do mending while watching TV or listening to the radio.
  • If clothes are beyond the pale, cut them up for dusters and cleaning cloths.  Old pants make super dusters, shirts are non-linty for shiny surfaces. A man’s shirt will make a practical painting overall for a child.
  • Don’t buy separate cleaning fluids for every different job.  It’s a con.  A decent, all-purpose household cleaner will manage most things as will an own brand bleach and a packet of soda crystals.  Better still, invest in some eco cloths.  My sister bought me some four years ago and they’re still doing the job.
  • Lemon juice in the cleaning water will disinfect work surfaces as well as anything else
  • Essential oil, such as lavender or lemon, on a damp cloth, wiped over your radiators will fragrance your house as well as any air freshener, costs much less and can be tailored to your own taste.  Why does your house smell so bad anyway?
  • If you need odd bits of furniture for general use, see if your local tip has a shop and look there first.  You’ll be amazed at what you can find.
  • Auctions – the ultimate in re-use from expensive antiques to general houseware.  And it’s great fun.
  • Have a go at E-bay – you’d be amazed what people buy and if it doesn’t sell, it’s cost you nothing
  • Use charity shops – again you’ll be amazed and the benefits are two-fold; less waste plus a charity donation

Right, that’s enough to be going on with.  I would love to hear your own  tips for reducing waste or saving energy. 

I am now going to save my own energy by switching off the computer and going to bed.

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Filed under Cleaning, Ethics, Food, Household Hints, Re-use Recycle

The Basic Storecupboard

Storecupboard 17.08.09I have referred in several previous articles to the importance of storecupboard ingredients.  We are fortunate that nowadays we all have a fridge and most of us have a freezer of some description, whereas our parents probably didn’t have either when they were young.  These appliances give us much more scope for planning ahead and for always having something in if we haven’t had time to shop. In an ideal world, we would plan meals days in advance and shop appropriately for the week ahead, but this is not always possible when one is trying to keep track of several people and arrangements seem to change at the drop of a hat.  It is also vitally important not to over shop and end up throwing food away.  Wasting food is wicked, be under no illusion, and it serves only to increase the profits of those who already have too much of the nation’s wealth.  I read in the newspaper recently that the average family throws away nearly £400 worth of food a year.  Four hundred pounds.  That is what I spend on food shopping in ten weeks.  That would pay for the food, clothing, housing and education of a child in a Third World country for over a year.  Don’t waste food.  By the same token, there is no point in leaving 2 teaspoons of gravy in a cup at the back of the fridge unless you have a definite plan for it, as this simply arouses the ridicule and loathing of your peers.

A word about microwaves.  I know that many of you nuke everything that casts a shadow and an equal number believe it to be the Baby Belling of Beelzebub.  The Wartime Housewife uses a microwave for several limited tasks.  Defrosting.  Ovaltine.  Porridge.  Custard. Scrambled egg.  My reason is this: bowls in which the above have been microwaved are far less onorous to clean than a saucepan which will have to be left to soak in the sink for a year and a half and then scrubbed with the domestic equivalent of a sandblaster.  Controversial I know, but I am a modern woman and until I have staff, the microwave stays.

 So what do we need to have in the storecupboard that will reliably prevent you rushing to Macky D’s in an emergency.  Over time I will provide many recipes that rely on storecupboard ingredients, but for the time being just make sure you have these in, adjusting the quantities for the size of your family and always buy the best that you can afford, remembering that best doesn’t always mean the most expensive.  Also, things like herbs gradually accumulate, so don’t feel the need to run to the shops and buy the lot at once.

LARDER 
Tinned chopped tomatoes
Tinned kidney beans
Tinned sweetcorn
Tinned tuna
Tinned mackerel
Baked beans
Custard powder
Cocoa
Raspberry Jam
Worcestershire Sauce
Soy sauce
Porridge oats
Stock cubes – chicken, beef & veg
Tinned whole peaches
Tea and coffee
Red lentils
Green lentils
Rice – easy cook
Tomato puree
Sugar – white and dark brown
Flour – plain white, self raising white, plain wholemeal
Pasta – spaghetti and something else
Cooking oil – pref olive but sunflower is perfectly good
Lemon juice
Honey
Golden Syrup
Raisins
Condensed milk
Mustard powder
Assorted dried herbs esp. parsley, mixed herbs, sage, thyme, oregano, bay leaves  Spices: cumin, coriander, turmeric, paprika, ginger 
FREEZER  FRIDGE
Whole chicken
Fish fillets – coley or basa are cheap and as tasty as anything else
Fish fingers
Mince
Lamb’s Liver – very cheap, versatile and incredibly tasty
Vegetables – peas, whole green beans, spinach, corn on the cob
Bread (a few slices can be kept in the smallest freezer)
Sausages
Milk
Eggs
Butter
Bread
Onions
Garlic
Carrots
Cheddar – nice strong stuff
Long life double cream (fresh is always better but we’re talking emergency backup here)
Bananas
Apples
Potatoes
Leftover white wine – put it in a jam jar with a screw lid to save space

This may seem like a lot, but I bet if you were to rummage through your cupboards, freezer and fridge right now, you would find a lot more, of a lot less use, and several things that would arouse the ridicule of your peers. From this basic list, you can feed a family for a week, including cake, biscuits and ice cream lollies, perhaps only needing to top up with milk and bread. Remember also that you can buy fresh items such as onions, peppers and leeks when they’re cheap, chop them up and put them in bags in the freezer for use when you haven’t got or can’t get fresh.

Please let me know if there’s anything I’ve forgotten or anything you think is essential to your storecupboard.

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Filed under Ethics, Food, Storecupboard

Chickens and How to Use Them – Day 1: roast chicken, stuffing and stock

 
 
Happy Chickens

Happy Chickens

I love chickens.  They are very pleasant creatures, with a friendly calming disposition and can be kept for their utterly delicious eggs even in a relatively small garden.  Also one moderately sized bird (about 4lb / 1.9kg) can make several economical meals if it is used to its full potential.

I based the following on feeding a family of four.

DAY 1:  ROAST CHICKEN

1.     Pre-heat the oven to 200 / 400 / 6

2.     Stuff with Simple Stuffing detailed below

3.     Sprinkle the chicken with mixed herbs and a little paprika.

4.     If you hate cleaning your oven, wrap the chicken in foil and put it in a roasting tin

5.     Place in the oven for 20 minutes

6.     Turn the heat down to about 140 / 275 /1 and cook for about an hour

7a.   If you’re using foil, turn the heat up to 200 / 400 / 6 again and open up the foil on top and put the bird back in to crisp up for 10 minutes.  To test if the chicken is cooked, dig a fork deeply into the bit between the leg and the body.  If the juices run clear then it’s cooked.  If they are pink or have red bits in, give another 15 minutes and then test again.  Presuming the chicken is cooked, go to 7b.

7b.   If you’re not using foil, turn the oven off and leave to rest in a warm place for 15 minutes while you cook the vegetables.

8.     Carve all the meat off the chicken and set aside half of it for the next day.  Keep the bones, you’re going to need them.

9.     Remove all the stuffing and serve on a plate with the carved roast chicken.  Anything that isn’t eaten is gorgeous in a sandwich with jam or redcurrant jelly.  Really.

Serve with boiled or roast potatoes and at least two different kinds of lightly cooked vegetables and use the vegetable water for the gravy. 

If there are any leftover bones and skin add them to the other bones for stock. 

SIMPLE STUFFING  

1 onion – medium, finely chopped

1 good knob of butter

8oz (250g) sausagemeat

1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley or ½ tbsp dried parsley

1 tbsp chopped fresh sage or ½ tbsp dried sage

Juice of 1 lemon or 2 tbsp bottled lemon juice

Method

1.     Melt the butter in a saucepan over a medium heat and soften the onions until translucent.  Take the pan off the heat.

2.     Add all the other ingredients and mix well with your hands, really squishing it all together.

3.     Stuff it inside the cavity of the chicken.

NB:  If you’re feeling saucy, how about adding a small tin of chestnuts, chopped, to the mixture.  A couple of garlic cloves add a bit of zing as well.

Tomorrow, I’ll tell you how to use the remaining half of the chicken for a tasty peasant style Italian Risotto that is equally nice for vegetarians if you leave out the chicken.

STOCK

1.     Put all the remaining bones and skin into a large pan and cover with water.  Pop in a bay leaf and some 6 peppercorns. 

2.     For a light stock, simmer gently on a low heat for 3-4 hours with a few pieces of    chopped carrot, a bit of celery and a bit of onion.  Strain and use as required..

For a heavier stock follow step one, but keep it simmering for a couple of days, topping up the water, adding any vegetable water you have, and any other bones until the stock is quite dark.  Strain and use as required.

*   *   *

Before I sign off, there must be a Word about Welfare.  I know that it is very tempting to buy two chickens for £5 in the supermarket.  Before you do, have a look at the http://www.chickenout.tv website.  It is  impossible to produce a chicken for £2.50 if it has been cared for properly, with freedom to move, to peck, to roost, socialise and been fed a natural diet.    Chicken doesn’t necessarily have to be completely free range, although obviously that is what we should all be aiming for, but there are plenty of chickens available that have natural light and freedom to roam but which aren’t actually free range.  Yes, they cost more than £2.50 each but a decent chicken will last three meals and I truly believe that with a properly produced bird, who has had time to mature naturally, you don’t actually need to eat as much.  And one more thing.  Before anyone suggests that they can’t afford it, the Wartime Housewife lives on a lower income than most of you can possibly imagine but I would rather go without chicken than eat an animal who has had a miserable life. 

Look out for future blogs on meat buying and cooking with cheaper cuts.

May I extend my grateful thanks to Mr de Worde who kindly sent the photographs of his very beautiful and very happy chickens.
Inquisitive Chicken

Inquisitive Chicken

Three Happy Chickens

Three Happy Chickens

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Filed under Ethics, Food, Livestock, Recipes