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Spanish Summer with Brindisa

With the Covid pandemic meaning that many of us are staying home instead of going to Europe for our hols, I thought it would be nice to bring some Spanish summer sunshine by way of the food that we eat.  I wanted to highlight Spanish flavours and products at LHStores so I am bringing some lovely products in from the Spanish wholesaler, Brindisa. Founded in 1988 by Monika Linton, Brindisa provide hundreds of different Spanish products to many of the country’s finest restaurants, delis and food halls. And were one of the first retail outlets in Borough Market, Southwark, now regarded as being among the finest food markets in Britain.


To help get the most out of these lovely products I thought I'd share 2 quick and easy recipes, let me know if you like them and if you would like more.

Summer Salad with Butter Beans

Ingredients:
300g butterbeans
400g tomatoes
small cucumber or courgette - w
hichever cucurbits is going crazy in your garden at the moment!
onion - red is a good choice
fresh coriander - or if you have marjoram in your garden use that.
lemon juice
olive oil
salt
  • Soak the butterbeans overnight. (You could use a mixture of butter beans and haricot beans.)  Bring to the boil and simmer in salted water for about 30mins or until soft. Strain, let them stand in cold water so they stop cooking then strain again and let them sit drying in the colander.
  • Cut the tomatoes and cucumber into half-moons. You can cook the courgette if you prefer to use this and allow it to cool. slice the onion thinly, wash and chop the herbs.
  • Combine the ingredients and dress with lemon juice, olive oil and salt.
  • This salad is hearty enough on it's own but you can add the Ortiz sardines or tuna on the side, or serve with cooked or cured chorizo from our Spanish Summer range add Preserved Lemons for an extra zing.


Patatas Bravas

Ingredients:
onion
mixture of rapeseed & olive oil
potatoes
red pepper - optional.
Salsa Brava - available from our Spanish Summer Range.
  • Slice the onion finely and sautée in a mixture of rapeseed and olive oil in an oven proof pan, slowly allowing the onions to soften and start to caramelise. If you are using red peppers sautée them too.
  • Scrub the potatoes and dice. Place them in a saucepan of cold water and bring them to the boil. Drain and add them to the onions in the oven proof pan. Put the whole lot in the oven for about 30mins until the potatoes are just starting to crisp.
  • Add the Salsa Brava and return to the oven for 5 mins.
  • Serve straight from the pan with bread (our tordu is fantastic for wiping up the sauce) the tinned sardines or chorizo are wonderful on the side. Or add a Spanish cheese like Manchego and create your own tapas night.

A well stocked Larder



kilner jars dried goods

Establishing LHStores dried goods section for customers to "Weigh & Take Away" in their own containers meant I had to really think about what a well stocked larder looked like. 



My dried goods are all stored in 3L Kilner jars with clip top lids.  Set up took a while, washing, drying and filling each jar, but they look beautiful, I can see what I have at a glance and they keep the food fresh and safe from cross contamination.

In order to cook good, wholesome, food for your family every day, you need a well-stocked larder full of good-quality essentials.  So, I made a list, there have been several iterations, a fair bit of asking friends and family what they'd call “essentials", and I thought after that much work I should share it.

Dried goods
Dried Goods:
Rice
  • I choose organic basmati, brown wholegrain rice, full of fibre and slow-release energy,  and organic white basmati, for when brown just seems wrong, (in a jambalaya for example), an organic arborio rice (for risotto) and an organic red and black rice for salads, or to mixing with the other rices for colour and interest.
Lentils
  • Organic puy lentils and orange lentils. Great with slow fried onion as a substantial side dish, as a Dahl or thrown into soups and stews.
Quinoa
  • Great source of protein, a base for salad, a side dish, or thrown into soups and stews.
Corn Couscous or Polenta
  • Ours is a rougher grain than the classic polenta, but is just as good boiled in salted water.  As it thickens, and just before you take it off the heat, stir in cheese (a soft blue cheese is especially luxurious) for a simple, hearty Italian supper.  Tastes good with ratatouille too.
Wholegrain Couscous
  • Full of protein couscous is a beautiful accompaniment to a tagine, or stew, and makes the perfect base for a salad.  Add cinnamon, Z’atar, chopped dried apricots, preserved lemon & almonds for a North African flavour.
Chickpeas
  • Yes it’s good to soak them, but don’t let that put you off using this wonderfully versatile pulse in your stews, salads and in that tagine you are making.
Buckwheat - Unroasted
  • A new one for me, and not easy to find this organic.  Use it as you would cous cous,  for slightly denser, nuttier flavour.  Great in salads and with roasted veggies.
Beans
  • Kidney beans are obviously great in a chilli, refried beans or in rice with a curried goat or chicken. I love these and although, again, they should be soaked, it doesn't take as long as you might think to cook them.  I also like to have berlotti, butter and canalleni beans in my larder. 
Porridge oats
  • Perfect for a filling breakfast, porridge in the winter, granola, muesli or bircher in the summer. We sell a granola kit with our oats, seeds, nuts and dried fruit measured out for you.
Pasta
  • I’ve simply not found organic, or the quality I want for my “Weigh & Take Away” service.  So, I am selling it bagged from Bio Idea; penne, macaronni, spaghetti & wholemeal tagliteli.
Grains (bulgur wheat, pearl barley, split peas)
  • Great and relatively cheap bulkers for stews and soups. Cook a larger batch than you need and turn into delicious salads, warm or cooled.
Nuts and seeds*
  • So far I have gone for pumpkin and sunflower seeds and an Omega Seeds Mix.  Almonds and cashews are the only nuts I have, but I am thinking I need to add hazelnuts, pistachios, walnuts and peanuts. Great for snacking or toasting and sprinkling over salads, soups and stews, or onto yoghurt. Or mixing with some of our other dried goods to make your own museli.
Dried Fruit
  • I have organic dried apricots, raisins, cranberries and mango.  Great for snacking or that personalised museli I keep talking about.

Tins & Packets:
Whole & finely chopped tomatoes and passata
  • Essential for sauces, soups, stews, casseroles - we all agreed on the use of ESSENTIAL for this one!
Coconut milk, oil & water
  • Coconut water for our smoothies, and in the summer as a refreshing addition to juice it quenches your thirst like nothing else. Add coconut milk and oil to soups and curries for a mellow, creamy flavour - in my house these are essentials.
Good-quality tinned fish; tuna, sardines, anchovies
  • Great for simple pasta dishes, pizza, on toast for supper and as fishcakes. And anchovies are the perfect salty seasoning for sauces and stews. _ I hope to have 
Tea & Coffee
  • Good quality loose leaf tea is not always easy to find and coffee beans store better and a fresh ground coffee is worth the extra expense for your favourite cuppa.
Good-quality stock
  • The flavour base to loads of different dishes.
Plain flour, self-raising flour (wholemeal or white), bread flour
  • For thickening sauces, coating meat, fish and veggies for frying, and baking
Jars & Bottles:
Rapeseed oil
  • Good flavourless oil, with a high burn temperature for everyday cooking. Ours is grown and bottled locally in Sawbridgeworth and we will refill your empty bottle at a discount.
Olive oil
  • We have a lovely organic Italian oil from Suma.
Mustard
  • Add a bit of a kick to stews, sauces and marinades, or use as a condiment.
  • Tip: a tablespoon of grainy mustard and a tablespoon of honey make a great coating when roasting sausages.
Soy sauce
  • Seasoning for Asian dishes, marinades and sauces.
Vinegars (red wine, cider, balsamic)  
  • Lots of dishes benefit from a little vinegar – think dressings, marinades, sauces and stews.
Olives 
  • Again a bit of debate about these as an essential, but in our house they are.  A great snack, with cheese, on pizza, in pasta dishes add to salads.  Sometimes we just eat them out of the jar.  
Honey
  • Our honey is from local bee keepers in Wareside. Add a touch of sweetness to your life knowing that you are supporting local bee keepers.
Good-to-haves (extras but not essentials)
  • Capers
  • Tomato purée
  • Dried yeast
  • Cocoa powder
  • Sugar (golden and brown)
  • Maple syrup
  • Baking powder
  • Your favourite condiments (ketchup, brown sauce, mayonnaise, Tabasco – I have to admit we love em all)

And then of course there are your herbs & spices.  We have bundles of fresh garden herbs available in the Summer and have just started to stock dried herbs and spices.  But it's a whole new list, and so far it's as follows (please feel free to let me know if I've missed something)

Herbs & spices
Oregano
Smoked paprika
Chilli
Cinnamon
Cumin
Coriander
Curry powder
Five-spice
Sea salt
Black peppercorns
Tumeric
Garam Masala
Ground Ginger
Fennel Seeds
Z'atar spice mix
Sumac

So, what have I missed?  LHSTORES can provide you with most of these items for your larder, where we can't, you know that it is on my list to source and find the best quality version I can.


*Our dried nuts are kept completely separate from our other dried goods to prevent cross contamination.  As is our Omega seed mix, that includes sesame seeds.  I will be weighing all items in the shop to prevent cross contamination, that could have consequences for allergy sufferers.

Wet (Green) Garlic


wet green garlic








Old gardening wisdom says that you should plant garlic on the shortest day and harvest it on the longest. So, I have an abundance of wet garlic to sell in STORES at the moment. Wet, or green, garlic is freshly harvested garlic that hasn't been hung up to dry. It's milder in taste and less pungent in odour than the usual kind and so can be sliced straight into salads.

To be honest, I'm a bit of a garlic fanatic and will eat it raw anyway. I love to crush garlic into my vinaigrette and slaver my greens in it.


In the garden my garlic and onion bed this year makes me really happy.  Not only have I got good sized onions and loads of garlic, but I've allowed the poppies to grow as weeds between the alliums and it looks gorgeous.

For thousands of years diverse cultures have believed garlic to have beneficial medicinal properties, modern science seems to be confirming this. Scientist believe that most of garlic's health benefits are caused by the sulphur compounds formed when a garlic clove is chopped, crushed or chewed. The best known of these is allicin, however this is an unstable compound only briefly present in fresh garlic after it has been cut.

wet green garlic


Six Health Benefits of Garlic.

1.  Low in calories and rich in vitamin C, vitamin B6, manganese, selenium and decent amounts of calcium, copper, potassium, phosphorus, iron and vitamin B1

2.  Garlic has long been believed to help prevent and fight the common cold and flu.  Trials using garlic supplements suggest garlic boosts the function of the immune system and seem to support this.

3.  High doses of garlic appear to improve blood pressure for those with known hypertension. In some instances supplements may be as effective as regular medications.

4.  Garlic contains antioxidants that protect against cell damage and so it is believed has beneficial effects on Alzheimers, dementia and other chronic diseases.

5.  It appears garlic may have some benefits for bone health by increasing estrogen levels in females.

6.  Garlic supplements appear to reduce total and LDL cholesterol in those have high cholesterol. HDL cholesterol and triglycerides do not seem to be affected.


The Perfect Granola

Granola recipe

We don't really do cereal in our house*.  I like breakfast to have more protein and less sugar and additives than your typical store bought cereal contains.  We have hens so lots of our breakfast are using fresh eggs, otherwise our typical brekkie is porridge, with all kinds of stuff mixed in, added as toppings or even on the side.  The present favourite involves bananas, brown sugar and cocoa nibs.  However, everyone needs a break now and then at which point we like to repurpose our oats into muesli and, the kids favourite, granola.

I always thought of granola as fancy American muesli, until my son Louis got really into it and I bought the stuff a couple of times from the supermarket.  Only to realise that what it is is, EXPENSIVE posh museli.  And I am sick to death of buying a box only to get it home and find it's only half full and barely enough for one breakfast.  So, I started making it myself, which is really not so onerous and at least that way we get to have exactly what we like in it.

I've tried a fair few recipes and now have a pretty clear idea of the "dried stuff to sticky stuff ratio", - I think this is the key to good granola.  Well that and salt!  So, take a look at the recipe below, but explore using your own favourite seeds, nuts, grains and dried fruits and let me know how you do. 

how to make granola

Ingredients:
(makes 1 large Kilner jar)

40g coconut oil
150g Maple syrup - approx (120ml) or use honey, golden syrup, agave etc
a good pinch of sea salt

340g Grain - at least half is usually oats, but use the grain, or grains, of your choice, buckwheat, spelt, barley or rye flakes for example
200g mixed nuts, roughly chopped
50 - 100g mixed seeds, I use pumpkin, linseeds and sunflower seeds regularly in mine

1 large egg white, beaten

80-100g mixed chopped dried apricots, dates or dried fruit of your choice

Heat your oven to about 120 degrees and line a baking sheet with grease proof paper.
I've deliberately separated out the ingredients above as I think you need these basic proportions, but you can substitute whatever grains, nuts, seeds and dried fruit you prefer. 
how to make granola
The coconut oil, maple syrup and salt is the "sticky stuff" I was on about.  Combine them in a saucepan over a low heat, then remove from the heat and allow them to cool down while you put the dry ingredients, except the dried fruit, in a large bowl.
The 200 - 300g of nuts and seeds are entirely your own choice.  I like almonds and cashews, and use pumpkin seeds, linseeds and sunflower seeds regularly in mine.
Whip your egg white in a separate bowl until frothy.  The egg is supposed to make the mixture more crunchy, and I also like the addition of a bit more protein.
Then pour your cooled coconut oil, maple syrup mixture into the bowl of dried ingredients, mix well.  Add the egg white and mix well again.
Pour this mixture onto the baking sheet and press down a little, bake it for approximately 30 - 35 minutes, taking it out at least once to give it a bit of a stir, to make sure it is baked evenly.  Break up the mixture as much, or as little, as is your preference.  Don't over bake it; if your oven runs a little on the hot side, use a lower temperature and cook for longer.
While it's baking chop up the dried fruit - I use dried apricots, dates, figs and cranberries.  The reason you don't add this to the ingredients you are baking is that a bit of the fruit always seems to catch and burn.  There's nothing worse than a little burnt, sour bit of fruit in your granola.  It didn't occur to me until quite recently that the way round this is just don't add it until the end.
So after 30 minutes take your golden granola out of the oven, leave it to cool and then mix in the dried fruit.  Eat straight away and/ or store in an airtight tin or Kilner jar to get the most out of your efforts.  Not that mine has ever had to last fo r longer than a week; it gets poured over yoghurt and scoffed within a day or two.

granola recipe

*The one concession is to the Doves Farm Gluten Free Chocolate Stars.

Meet the Makers - Part One



At Little Hadham Stores I work with some wonderful suppliers.  I simply refer to them by their first names in the order email that goes out every week.  So, as we have many new customers I thought I should take the time to introduce them. 



Paola makes our Italian meals and is an amazing cook.  I do not know how she puts exactly the same ingredients into her sugo (passata) as me and yet hers tastes so much more complex.  I love Italian food; I lived in Bologna for 6 months, travelled throughout the country and have close friends that I have visited regularly in Florence, Venice and Sardinia.  Paola's food is still some of the best I have ever tasted.  And my children are massive fans of her cooking, I quote; "...anything Paola makes will be perfect" (Louis, aged 11) 


Paola grew up cooking with her Nonna (grandma), mother & aunts.  She loves the very simple thing of ingredients turning into something that is delicious. Very interested in regional Italian cooking, Paola has travelled extensively in Italy, trying all the regional foods, Emilia Romangna is one of her favourites.  Poala's Nonna was from Venafro a beautiful little town in between Rome & Naples.  On her paternal side she is Pugliese.  She hopes to gather her knowledge and pass it on to her customers with her cooking.  She is increasingly becoming more adventurous in her handmade pastas stuffed or otherwise! 



Fiona I secretly think is a magician. For me it all started with her soda bread, but Fiona's cooking is an adventure with seasonal, foraged and forgotten ingredients.  My weakness is the food of my childhood, I love sweet potatoes and coconut and Fiona can make them into muffins and macaroons to die for.  I had the absolute pleasure of going on my first fermentation course with Fiona and I love her kimchi and krauts. In fact if you tell me Fiona has made it I will eat it.


Her ingredients are always certified organic and she sources what is available in the UK & locally as a rule. The traceability of ingredients is hugely important to Fiona.



Fiona also forages in Bishop’s Stortford in order to appreciate nature’s pantry and the changing seasons. This also adds flavour & important nutrients to her selection of products so they can be at their best.
slow food uk
https://www.slowfood.org.uk/

Fiona is a member of the slow food movement, & believes in the sustainable food system and local food economy which they support; she wears her snail with pride.


Part of Fiona's interest in slow food is the cultivation of wild bacteria, to transform raw ingredients into products far more complex, flavourful and digestible to us, which give us the all important healthy gut we need right now to boost our immune system.

Ugly Veggies and Seasonal Eating

The Parsnip Baby
Along with environmental impacts on food production; organic verses intensive farming techniques and packaging for example, I am also very conscious of food miles and food waste.  I believe that seasonality is the key to mitigating many of these issues.  So, please understand that when I describe our veg boxes as fresh, local and seasonal this is not marketing speak.  

I work with a very committed and hard working farmer who believes in organic production and sustainable agriculture systems whole heartedly.  He leases his land in Sawbridgeworth and Stanstead Abbotts, which he has had organically certified, or is in conversion.  He lives and grows on the land and sells his produce to an organic wholesaler in Cambridge, COFCO.  Where he uses the produce from his and other organic farms, mostly in Hertfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Kent and Suffolk, for our veg boxes.  COFCO do also import organic produce, mostly crops that do not grow in the UK climate, ie lemons, ginger and tumeric.  A lot of the fruit in the boxes right now is from overseas.  Because we do not have fruit in season in the UK in April.

We are entering what used to be called the hungry gap. (A great description on the Riverford blog).  Our latitude and temperate climate puts us in this position in April, May & Early June.  It is when we are coming to the end of our winter stored veg, the over wintering crops are starting to bolt as the weather warms up, making them woody and inedible, and new spring crops are not yet ready to harvest.  


We now import produce to cover this period in the UK, and we also grow things under cover - but this can have real negative impacts on the environment.  (There is a great local exception to this; Guy & Wright Tomato Farm )  I'm not suggesting that this should change, I don't want people to starve.  But we are also, at times, unnecessarily picky about what our fruit and veg looks like and how it arrives with us, and this creates waste.  I'd suggest if we were a bit more tolerant, so that producers did not throw away these blemished or misshapen veg, we might need to import less.  Our veg boxes are therefore tolerant of "ugly veg".  It's no less fresh than the same washed British produce you buy in the supermarket, or even some of the imported "fresh" veg that may have taken weeks to get here from the other side of the world.

My bedtime reading at the moment is Mike Berners-Lee's How Bad are Bananas? - The Carbon Footprint of Everything (Bananas - not quite as bad as you might imagine actually, which is great cos I love bananas!)  A carrot's carbon footprint is about 2g of C02e (carbon dioxide equivalent) per calorie, carrots and other root veg are some of the most climate friendly foods available - and healthy too.  If you buy 1 kg of carrots you are looking at; 
0.25kg CO2e, local in season veg
0.3kg Co2e, on average
1kg co2e shipped baby carrots

I get one of our regular organic veg boxes most weeks.   Right now they are full of root vegetables.  These have been lifted (taken out of the soil) before Christmas and stored.  Studies comparing conventionally grown versus organic carrots show evidence for greater nutrient richness.  Levels or carotenoids, phenols and vitamin c were compared, with greater amounts observed in all three categories in the organic carrots.

organic veg box

If you spotted those plastic bags in the picture this is because of my issues around food waste.  The soft leaves of salad crops like rocket, winter purslane and spinach do not tolerate even the relatively short distances that they are transported to us.  The amount of food waste is not only shocking in itself, but you have to take into account the energy the organic farmer has put into growing the crop, water use and even the petrol/diesel used by farm machinery.  There is sometimes a genuine need for plastic bags and these ones can and should be reused. (Not only that, there is some debate on the carbon foot print of paper v. plastic bags.)

Anyway, back to our root veg:  Carrots and potatoes after harvest are stored still covered in mud in the dark.  You will not find UK grown carrots and potatoes in the ground at this time of year.  They are lifted because they are not frost resistant.  Our ancestors, or those of  us with veg gardens or allotments, will be eating the last of these stored winter potatoes now.   This is almost as fresh as your British Potatoes will be in April.  Jersey Royal potatoes, which now have a protected designated of origin, are the UK exception.  Available from around now, they are usually the first "fresh" new potatoes to come into the shops in the UK.  Possible only because of Jersey's more southern latitude and their development of the International kidney potato.

So, if you find blemishes in your veg box potatoes, cut them out, you only need to cut a small area around the blemish. You only need to be concerned if the skin is green. This is chlorophyll pigmentation, not in itself harmful but a sign that there is the toxin solaine in your spud. That said, toxic levels of solanine are 100th of an ounce for a 200 lb person, which translates to that person eating 20 lbs. of whole potatoes in a day! I mention whole potatoes, as the green skin on a potato is the area with the highest concentration of solanine and thus, the most toxic.

willow fencing garden

I'm getting my veg patches ready for a new year of growing and I also hope to have some herb and veg seedlings available to buy in LHStores.  I'd really recommend you try growing your own and enjoying not only the process of gardening but also preparing and eating your own produce.

The Roots of LHStores



Traditional rural grocers

We have a lot of new customers and it has made me really aware that maybe not everyone really knows what we are about.  So...


Little Hadham Stores is a tiny shop in rural Herts, we have been open since May 2018, (2 days a week since last September), our fresh food is all seasonal, local and cooked, baked, and delivered on a Thursday, to order.  We have mostly organic dried goods available to weigh and take away in customers’ own containers, artisan crafts and environmentally friendly body, lifestyle and household products.

When my husband and I bought our house in Little Hadham, it was mostly for the big, wild, over grown back garden.  The attached Victorian butcher’s shop was in a pretty poor state.  After much work (it has been a store room, our children's playroom and our kitchen) the shop has finally been returned to its’ original purpose, a traditional village store, selling fresh, local, seasonal food.

chez panisse inspiration

I lived for 8 years in the San Francisco Bay Area and volunteered with friends on amazing edible school yard and permaculture projects in Northern California.  Upon returning home to the UK, in 2000, I found the lack of environmental awareness amongst my friends and family amazing.  But, I think, like many people, it was having my first child (Una) that really opened my eyes to the toxicity of the environment that we are creating on our beautiful planet.  

organic lunch

I very much believe in sustainability as the key to solving so many problems.  As such, my business's sustainable ethos is based on the carefully curated and tested products we stock, it's support of small, local, ethical, businesses and in its’ evolution.  My business has to be sustainable too.  It has to fit into my family’s life and be a warm and welcoming place for my community, it’s growth can be as slow as it likes, as long as it is going in the right direction.

farmers market business cards

When I first moved from East London to Hertfordshire I assumed I would be connected into a wonderful network of local food growers and producers.  It’s the countryside right?  It’s where the food comes from.  But I actually found it quite hard to find good quality, ethically produced food.  In 2017 I took over the running of Little Hadham’s monthly farmers’ market.  Already a great way to reduce your food miles, I banned plastic bags and have been trying to improve it’s eco credentials ever since.  

veg outside grocers

In the process of trying to increase numbers at the farmers’ market, I surveyed our regulars and asked them what they would like to see more of.  The most typical response was simply; more market.  For the stallholders that attend the farmers’ market this wasn’t possible.  And so Little Hadham Stores was born in a very organic way; in an attempt to offer customers access to some of the market’s produce during the rest of the month.

organic veg box

But I also support an organic smaller holder based in Sawbridgeworth, not just by stocking their veg boxes, but also giving my time to help with their online presence and promotion.  Little Hadham Stores regularly changing, fresh, seasonal food includes foraged ingredients and tries to highlight great under-rated British crops; like winter purslane and medlars.   We sell beautiful British cut flowers from a local grower in her first year of business, another mum inspired to find work that fits with her children.


organic free range eggs

I like to think that when you come into Stores, you’re being welcomed into my home.  The eggs in the shop are from my own hens, herbs and some veggies, from my garden, beeswax products from my bees.  I know the story of and I’m passionate about everything in my shop, from the bread to the gluten free pasta, the rapeseed oil to the tinned tomatoes, everything has been chosen carefully by me. 
mutti tomatoes

But Stores has evolved so much since we opened, and we offer more than just food.   We have regular evening events, including talks, craft workshops and Supper Clubs.  Little Hadham Stores is all about a community of makers and growers supporting each other.  And trying to offer their community another way of consuming that is gentler on the planet.  The fact that Stores is also my home I think makes it all the more special, as we are literally welcoming our community in.


dogs outside vintage  grocers

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