Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Bank Holiday Heaven

A couple of weeks ago I answered a shout out from BritMums, Britain’s largest collective of lifestyle bloggers, who were looking for bloggers to undertake a project in partnership with Morrison’s Supermarkets. The chain was giving out £80 of vouchers to each Mum chosen and in return our brief was very simple. Go to your local Morrison’s branch over the May Bank Holiday weekend, spend the vouchers, Tweet it, Facebook it, Instagram it and write about your shopping experience and recipes. 

This was manna from heaven to me so I quickly applied. I genuinely like Morrison’s and I am a very keen cook. I have been a Morrison’s shopper for about 25 years. Over the years, I have strayed to other supermarket brands but I've always come back to Morrison’s. I like the layout of the stores, the quality on offer and the prices. The High Street counters that purvey deli products, cheese, fish, meat and pies are always a feast for the eyes. The greengrocery sections are always displayed so pleasingly. Like the greengrocers of my youth. Although, since the credit crisis descended on us, the cost of my weekly shop has shot up. Even though I always cook from scratch, which I find the most economical way to eat, I have had to be even more creative to be able to eke out my meagre food budget.

The news that Morrison’s were slashing their prices in order to take on the budget chains was music to my ears but would the reality live up to the hype? Armed with my vouchers and the meal planning list I had written…yes, I really am that organised…I set off for my local store.

As the weather report for the Saturday was fine and sunny, I decided to fire up the BBQ for the first time this year. I had already been online and seen that there was a half price offer on rump steak. I found a lovely big piece, nicely marbled and with a good layer of fat and added to that a pack of four Scotch Beef Quarter Pounder Burgers from the chiller. There were three of us to feed so the steak worked out at £1.61 per person and the burgers at £1.33 per person. Bargain!

A good piece of steak, simply barbequed is a joy for your taste buds to behold but I decided to add another flavour dimension and marinaded it in my own combination of olive oil, lemon juice, Worcestershire Sauce, crushed garlic and finely chopped red chilli. To accompany the meat I made a potato salad with garlic mayo, a green salad and a tomato and feta salad with balsamic vinegar dressing.

I wasn’t going to have time to make a dessert and as Morrison’s in-store bakery is so good at cakes I picked out a Lemon Bombe. A creamy confection of light sponge, lemon curd, whipped cream and white chocolate shavings. Naughty but nice.

When I finished the shop I treated myself, with the money I had saved…yes the prices have genuinely been reduced… to a bottle of Tanqueray Gin and a bottle of Limoncello liqueur, in order to create lovely, sunny cocktails. 1 shot of gin, 1 shot Limoncello shaken with a sprig of fresh mint poured over crushed ice and topped up with soda water. Perfect and at approx. £1.60 per glass far cheaper than the chichi cocktail bars of Manchester. Here’s the disclaimer: Always drink sensibly.

Sunday was going to be the big family meal day and I spent all week pouring over the recipe books. Should I go for a traditional roast or something more exotic? We love the exotic in our house and I regularly cook Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Far Eastern, North African and Asian dishes. The final vote was for tapas with a traditional Spanish dessert.

The menu was thus:

·          Gambas Al Ajillo – Garlic Prawns - £1.16 per person
·          Alitas De Pollo Al Vino Dulce – Chicken Wings with Sweet Wine - £1.23 per person
·          Albondigas En Salso – Meatballs - £1.03 per person
·          Patatas Bravas - £0.46 per person
·          Crema Catalana -£1.48 per person

Total cost for the meal - £5.58 per person

Because I love Crema Catalana so much I thought I’d share my recipe with you.

Crema Catalana – Serves 4

120ml double cream
360ml Jersey milk
Zest of one orange – cut long wide strips of just the zest, no pith
1 stick of cinnamon – snapped in half to release more flavour
1 vanilla pod – split and scrape the seeds out
5 medium egg yolks – freeze the whites if not required or make meringues
80g granulated sugar – plus extra for the caramelised tops

Preheat oven to 150C or 130C for a fan oven/Gas Mark 2.  Put the cream, milk, orange zest, cinnamon, and vanilla pod and seeds into a pan. Bring almost to the boil, then turn off the heat and set aside to infuse for 30 minutes to an hour. Strain through a sieve and dispose of the ingredients left in the sieve. Lightly whisk the egg yolks and sugar in a bowl. Carry on whisking whilst slowly pouring on the milk and cream mixture. Decant the mixture into four ramekins or small ovenproof bowls. Place the ramekins into a roasting tin and pour boiling water in to the tin VERY carefully so the water comes about halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Place in the oven and cook for 30/40 minutes. The custards should still have a slight wobble and the tops should not be cracked. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 20 minutes before placing in the fridge for 2/3 hours at least. When ready to serve sprinkle a light layer of sugar over the tops of each of the custards and use a cook’s blowtorch to caramelise. Alternatively place under a hot grill until golden and bubbling.

Bank Holiday Monday was to be a chilling out kind of day. A lie in, a long walk with the dogs, then flopping on the sofa with some DVDs. I wanted to chill out in the kitchen too. My solution on days like this is to cook Nigella Lawson’s Coca Cola Ham. Served with peas and cheesy mash, this is the ultimate comfort food and there’s usually enough left over for lunch boxes or tea the following day.

Overall, this has been a very interesting project for me. I have been able to combine my love of cooking 
with my writing skills whilst looking at my favourite supermarket with a fresh pair of eyes. I’m really glad I 
volunteered and I’d be happy to do again.

I was sent £80 of Morrisons vouchers to spend as I wished. All views and opinions are entirely my own.

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  1. Really enjoyed reading about your experience as a Morrisons Mum and what you got up to over the Bank Holiday. Great post. Commenting for myself and on behalf of BritMums and thanking you for taking part

    1. Thank you Kate. Over 300 views in 24 hours. Most in the UK but also as far away as Indonesia and Australia. Exciting times.