Shop Watch with Rose Lloyd
We are very proud to announce a new monthly service for our regular Delia Online visitors.
Rose Lloyd, who is an accomplished cookery writer and friend of our website, has agreed to be out and about on our behalf and then inform us what are really good quality items to go for.
This means a great deal to me personally as over the years I have witnessed some truly wonderful ingredients that get delisted because not enough people know about them. Smaller suppliers are often ousted by the big guys who have the marketing match clout but often inferior products.
Her ‘watch’ though is not only going to include food but anything at all anywhere. There is so much mediocre and rubbish stuff out there so hopefully Rose can help by drawing our attention to what stands out as being quality and value.
There are lots of hidden gems and we all need to know about them particularly when there’s so much there and we all have so little time.
Don’t you wish that someone would let you know where to find some of the best products that are around at the moment?
I love it when someone confides in me where to get the best ingredients: a dried stock that tastes like it has been homemade; the best spaghetti which will cook al dente; parmesan of a quality bought in Italy. A look not only at ingredients but at other great products in our stores now; garden plants that are not only cheap but of fabulous quality; kitchen utensils that are indispensable; cookware that is chosen for its performance; packaging that is unique.
My column will be a very personal look at what I think are the best things around and may be very eccentric. But it is my little black book of things I would recommend to friends. My Shop Watch.
Most major supermarkets
A ready spiced tomato juice.
Virgin Marys are my salvation during January. If I am cutting down, or cutting out alcohol in the gloomy first month of the year, then I need something to keep my spirits up, although, ironically, the point of this drink is the lack of spirit. I can’t tell the difference between a Virgin and a Bloody Mary – I can’t taste the vodka in it. So I can look forward to an evening cocktail with no guilt whatsoever. And because the drink is quite substantial, I find I can make it last ages, and, at only around 36 calories a large glass (200ml), I can indulge when trying to lose weight.
Big Tom is my favourite brand of tomato juice for making Virgin (and Bloody) Marys. It even has a Royal Warrant so maybe the Queen enjoys a drink named after her ancestor! It is a spiced tomato juice, which contains a celery and mustard spice blend and Worcestershire sauce. You can drink as it is, since it already contains most of the ingredients of a Virgin Mary, but I like to pep it up even more with some horseradish, and Tabasco and I always like some lemon juice too (but there is enough celery salt!). Serve with ice and pretend.
It gets you through January!
Price may vary - around £2.50 for a 750ml bottle
Clare Valley Riesling Wine and Specially Selected Applewood and Oak Smoked Salmon
Two of your Christmas essentials sorted.
I like to buy my Christmas wine early, so there is one less thing to do. With wine, I want something a bit special that will go with the Christmas meal and any entertaining I do. The easy option is a Chablis for my white wine choice, but it is a bit predictable, so I am recommending this Australian Riesling wine from the Clare Valley, which is THE region for Riesling in Australia.
I am lucky enough to have visited Clare Valley for a magazine article some ten years ago, which began “If you want to be at the cutting edge of wine, serve a screw top bottle of Australian Riesling at your next dinner party”. At the time, this was a rather startling statement on two counts: screw top was virtually unavailable and associated with wines that were cheap and nasty; whilst Riesling was widely perceived as sweet and floral. However the Clare Valley wine was a revelation : dry, subtle, elegant, delicious. Aldi are stocking it and, even better, it comes at a modest £6.99.
It is also worth a return trip to Aldi after the 19th to buy your smoked salmon, especially if you are having lots of friends round. Their Specially Selected Scottish Smoked Salmon has been cured with salt and Demerara sugar and then smoked over applewood and oak. It is beautifully cut to be paper thin and I found it needed neither lemon or black pepper to enhance its flavour. A snip at £2.49.
A double whammy from Aldi.
The Exquisite Collection: Clare Valley Riesling 2014 75cl 12%abv
Price £6.99 (nationwide, excluding Scotland)
Specially Selected Applewood and Oak Smoked Salmon
Price: £2.49, 100g pack
(available nationwide from 19th December until stock lasts)
Aldi Customer Service
Tel: 0800 042 0800
Burford Brown eggs
Waitrose, Sainsbury's, Morrisons, HG Walter, the family butcher, and online at Ocado
“A good egg.”
How would you describe your perfect egg? A rich brown colour; a little bit speckly; a little bit shiny; and with a deep golden yellow yolk when you crack it open? This is a Burford Brown free range egg – everything an egg should be.
In fact the hens that produce these eggs are from a heritage British breed and are free to roam from dawn to dusk. The sort of eggs you expect to buy from a farm.
They are really tasty when eaten simply, but also work wonderfully well in baking. Since this is the time of year to think about making your Christmas pudding and Christmas cake then you will be buying lots more eggs. And I think it is worth using the best ingredients in these labours of love. Because every box of Burford Browns has eggs of slightly different sizes, which is part of their charm, use the bigger ones in the box if the recipe calls for large eggs.
If you are going to put all your eggs in one basket, make sure they are Burford Browns.
Burford Brown eggs from Clarence Court
£2.00 for 6
Web: Clarence Court - Where to Buy
To follow recipes on your iPad.
Using an iPad in the kitchen is a hazardous business. Your hands are usually wet, or covered with flour or smell pungently of chopped garlic, which does no good at all to the iPad screen. So if you need to scroll down a recipe, or rewind a section of one of Delia’s online lessons, then you are in trouble. By the time you have washed and dried your hands you have forgotten where you are up to.
But no more! The iSpoon (clever name and shape) has a rubberised base which effortlessly moves the screen up and down or can be used to rewind a video. You do need to hold it low down at an angle and press firmly, but then it does everything your finger would do (if it weren’t covered in flour).
Every kitchen needs one.
iSpoon Kitchen Stylus by Umbra
Telma Chicken Soup Mix
Tesco and Sainsbury's - Stores
Ocado and Amazon - Online
The best store cupboard chicken stock.
Although I keep home-made stock in the freezer, I find I always need a standby stock in the store cupboard. There are times when the home-made runs out and there are also times when I need only a little stock in a dish, so its not worth defrosting a large quantity.
A friend of mine told me of a chicken soup mix that makes fantastic stock called Telma which comes from Israel. And, when you think about it, it makes sense that the flavour is very good given the renowned therapeutic properties of chicken noodle soup! The stock is a little salty so remember this for your seasoning when cooking with it.
You have to hunt it out in the World Food bit of Tesco (or ask at customer service) and I have also seen it in a large branch of Sainsburys. I have found Telma stock cubes in Waitrose too, which are very good, but I find the large resealable tub called Chicken Soup Mix is a better store cupboard bet as it lasts for ages. If you can’t find it in your local store, you can get it online from Ocado or Amazon.
A definite store cupboard essential.
Telma Chicken Soup Mix
£3.05 - £5.99
Tesco Stores Customer Service Team (Tel): 0800 50 5555
Sainsbury's Customer Service (Tel): 0800 328 1700
Check stock is available before visiting your local store, to avoid a wasted journey.
Marks and Spencer
The best Parmesan.
A true Parmesan cheese is called Parmigiano Reggiano as other cheeses masquerading as Parmesan are officially known as “grana,” but they do not have the unique coarse, crunchy yet buttery quality of the real thing.
The Parmigiano Reggiano sold in a wedge at M&S has been made in the Canossa Valley in Reggio Emilia - one of the most important Italian provinces for the production of the famous cheese. It has been matured for over 24 months, and carries the highest quality standard “Extra” which is an accolade given to few Parmesan cheeses.
You must buy the wedge - but try to find the bigger one, which has a weight that is over 300g, as the texture and taste is better. Grate it freshly every time you use it, unless you are simply tempted to eat chunks of it with a glass of wine!
Always use this for Italian cooking.
More than 24 months matured from the Canossa Valley.
300g pack, price by weight
(or 200g pack, £6)
The freshest bunches of herbs.
Can you imagine buying big fat bunches of fresh herbs, as if they had just been picked from the garden? Morrisons sell their herbs in bunches, and they are kept like fresh flowers in water with a gentle cool mist being sprayed over them to keep them from wilting. The choice is fantastic: dill, sage, flat leaf and curly parsley, thyme, coriander, mint, chives, basil, rosemary, tarragon, oregano, as well as fresh herb mixes to use as a bouquet garni, and even more surprisingly, samphire. Picking up a really generous bunch of oregano I could smell Italy.
This means you can use them as you should: by pulling off a handful at a time and chopping them. No more silly cellophane bags where you can’t tell if some of the herbs inside are past their best; no more buying parsley where all the stalks and leaves are jumbled up so it takes five minutes to reassemble them as a bunch.
It would be worth going to Morrisons for the herbs alone.
99p average per bunch.
A great selection of flowers.
Tesco always has a really good selection of fresh flowers all year round at very reasonable prices. Last week I stopped to count the selection at my local store (which is quite a small branch) and there were lilies in white and pink; roses in 8 colours (pink; red; apricot; orange; yellow; white; cream; deep pink;) phlox in single colours and mixed bunches; pinks; peonies; rainbow tulips (still); huge bunches of sweet williams for £3; freesias in 4 colours; alstroemeria in 3 colours; irises; and chrysanthemums in lots of lovely shades of mauve.
Then there are mixed bunches. Now I normally prefer flowers to be as natural as possible - as if they had just been picked from the garden, or I go for single colours, so I tend not to consider the mixed bunches. However, on closer inspection, they tend to be quite elegant combinations of roses and lisianthus; roses and freesias; and chrysanthemums with roses and agapanthus. And they come wrapped in “handkerchief” tissue paper as if they have come from a florists. There is the odd lapse into rather luminous colours but these are few and far between.
Your house can be full of flowers every week.
Most flower bouquets from £3-£5
Most mixed flower bouquets £5-£10 (Finest bouquets £15)
It makes the best roast potatoes.
The Waitrose Cook’s Ingredients Beef Dripping is in a screwtop jar and comes from Aberdeen Angus cattle. It is of the best quality, tastes fantastic, and makes the very best roast potatoes. I love the packaging, and storing it in a resealable jar means it keeps well and is really easy to scoop out. It is also extremely elegant which some people may think overpackaged for such a humble ingredient, but which I find irresistible.
Essential for the Sunday roast.
Rose Lloyd is a food writer who has written for many years for Sainsbury’s Magazine, including a series based on entertaining in the south of France “A Year on the Riviera” as well as another monthly feature “Food for Friends”. She has also written articles for both delicious and Waitrose magazines
Try Delia's Yorkshire Pudding made with beef dripping:
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