Sunday, 16 November 2014

Front Room Art Trail 2014

No photos of the art but here are some of the gardens!

Friday, 14 November 2014

30-Day Goodbye Supermarkets Challenge (The Bristol Pound)

One of the benefits of going supermarket-free is being able to make greater use of Bristol's local currency.  Launched just over two years ago the £B supports local independent traders by ensuring that every £B spent continues to circulate within the local economy, creating jobs and fostering links between local businesses, long after its sterling equivalent has flown the city.

There are now over 750 traders accepting £B in paper or digital form, including cafes, chimney sweeps, brewers, photographers, web designers, health food shops, publishers, plumbers, accountants, cycle couriers, buses ... but no supermarkets!

To find out more log on to, open an account and see where it takes you.  I promise you will not be disappointed.

Oh, and look out for the brand new Official Bristol Pound Directory 2015 hitting the streets as you read this.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

30-Day Goodbye Supermarkets Challenge (The Butcher ...)

I've mentioned North Street, my local high street, without which this challenge would have been extremely difficult, if not altogether impossible.

One of the stars of North Street is Rare, the butcher.  Chris runs a traditional shop but with a modern twist.  You'll find all the normal cuts, but there are surprises tucked in among them, such as the Southville sausage delicately flavoured with lemongrass, spicy lamb koftas and French onglet steaks.

I shop at Rare for quality and local provenance, but also for the friendliness of the staff, the helpful advice on what to buy and how to cook it and the cheery conversations in the inevitable queue.  When I leave it's not just with 500g of diced pork, but with a smile on my face and a new recipe to try out.

One of my favourite memories dates from the days of the previous owner whose wife, when I asked for a pound of ordinary sausages, gently corrected me, saying that there was nothing ordinary on her counter.  She was right!

Thursday, 6 November 2014

30-Day Goodbye Supermarkets Challenge (Homemade Alternatives)

I've been using up opened items of supermarket foods but a few of these are coming to an end and I'm going to have to find alternatives - or make them myself.

Pesto: As well as stirring this through pasta and chucking in a handful of pine nuts, half a dozen olives or crumbled feta, I've also been known to use it to to add flavour to sauces or a zing to a weekday sandwich.  Pesto is traditionally made with basil.  Now I don't know about you but I've never been very successful in growing basil, however we have kale in our back garden, and I'm told it is a reasonable substitute.

Mayonnaise: Mayo is the essential partner for tuna in sandwiches and baked potatoes as well as my favourite potato salad (along with crispy bacon, spring onions and mustard).  However, despite following various recipes to the letter, I invariably end up with a curdled mess at the bottom of my bowl and enough egg whites to make a dozen pavlovas.

Yoghurt: Yoghurt is something I have made quite successfully, using a a spoonful of live yoghurt, warm milk and a thermos flask.  The consistency differs from shop bought varieties but I prefer it.  I've also strained it to produce a soft cheese.

So I've got a bit of experimenting to do.

Have you any tried and tested recipes to share?

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

30-Day Goodbye Supermarkets Challenge (Cooking in Bulk)

One of the occasions I find myself popping in to a supermarket is when I've a quick turn around between coming home from work and going out for the evening.  I hurriedly scan the shelves for a pizza or a pie to pop in the oven or a sauce to stir through a bowl of pasta, either option easier than cooking a meal from scratch.

Tonight was a point in case.  This time, however, I was better prepared than usual and we dined, as we had the evening before, on Jamie Oliver's aubergine dal with rice and lime pickle.  A dollop of yoghurt wouldn't have gone amiss had I remembered to add a pot to my shopping list.

Bulk cooking makes sense in so many ways. There are economic savings to be made in buying larger quantities of ingredients, energy savings in cooking two or more portions at the same time and time savings in not having to prepare a meal every night.

The aubergine dal was so delicious I didn't mind eating it two days in a row, but I could have frozen it to eat it next week.  The trick, of course, is to remember to label it clearly!

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

30-Day Goodbye Supermarkets Challenge (Local High Street)

I didn't do much in preparation for this challenge, apart from making a trip to Bristol Sweet Mart, a veritable Aladdin's cave, to stock up on flours, pulses and spices.

I'm lucky to live within walking distance of that increasing rare phenomenon, a thriving high street, boasting two butchers, three bakers, a greengrocer and a deli.  We also have a weekly Sunday market.

So I've been able to buy croissants, liver, eggs, cheese, fruit, vegetables, split peas, dried fruit and nuts without darkening the door of a supermarket.

I've used up a few odds and ends from the freezer, clearing a space for stocks of sauces and soups.  Having the basis of a meal in stock should save me from an emergency visit to a supermarket after a long day at work.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

30-day Goodbye Supermarkets Challenge

Today is the first day of my 30-day Goodbye Supermarkets Challenge.

Three and half years ago, following a couple of (ultimately successful) campaigns to prevent the construction of a megastore in our area, I vowed never to darken the doors of the Big Four (Asda, Tesco, Sainsburys & Morrisons) again.  With a handful of exceptions I have managed to do so (or should that be 'not to do so'?).  I have, however, continued to do some of my shopping in other supermarkets (Waitrose, Co-op, Lidl & Aldi).  But from today onward, at least until the end of November, I will be avoiding even these.

That's the history, but I'm anxious that this should be a positive, rather than a negative challenge.
  • I see this as an opportunity to explore the growing number of options to the supermarkets - local independents, fruit and vegetable box schemes, buying groups ...
  • I'm going to take a closer look at what I eat, how much I eat and how I prepare it.
  • I'd like to try and grow some of my own food.  November is not the obvious time to be out and about in the garden but I'm going to investigate winter salads and windowsill herbs.
  • I'm hoping to learn new skills.  If I'm unable to source an item from the supermarket, can I make it myself?  Will I be able to break my jinx on homemade mayonnaise?
  • And finally, at a time when (almost) everyone is tightening their belts, I'd like to  see whether I spend more or less money on food.  Can I bust the myth that supermarkets are cheaper than their alternatives?
For the avoidance of doubt (and waste!), I'm going to use up any opened packets of supermarket food and the contents of my freezer, which I'd like to clear ready to receive tubs of batch cooked sauces etc.

That's it for now.  I'll keep you posted on my progress.  And it goes without saying that any advice you wish to give me will be gratefully received.

Walking and thinking ... and taking photographs

Hannah Broadway's delightful harbourside mural
Yesterday afternoon I had to go in to town to buy a new pair of trousers.  As it was such a fine day I decided to take the scenic route around the harbourside.

These are some of the things I saw along the way: