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.
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!
300g pack, price by weight
(or 200g pack, £6)
More than 24 months matured from the Canossa Valley.
Always use this for Italian cooking.
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.
99p average per bunch.
It would be worth going to Morrisons for the herbs alone.
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.
Most flower bouquets from £3-£5
Most mixed flower bouquets £5-£10 (Finest bouquets £15)
Your house can be full of flowers every week.
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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