Life without supermarkets #2: Kettles & shallots
I fretted a lot today because I had to cook for 6, and you know that you can rely on supermarkets to just provide stuff that you can knock up in minutes. In only 48 hours of living without supermarkets I’ve realised that they let you live without planning. Without them, you need to think a bit harder.
I decided to make coq au vin, since it’s easy and I know that there is no shortage of places to find chicken in Tooting. I got 5lb of chicken legs, for £3.50 at John Manson near Tooting Broadway. No bacon, but at the butchers in Tooting market, I got 908g (i.e. nearly a kilo) of bacon offcuts for £2. The shallots were £1.20 for 300g at the greengrocers over the road, mushrooms must have been 97p from the same shop. Enough for 6.
The big surprise of the day was that the shop in the market that sold me the new kettle I needed (a Frigidaire FLC-1713, if you want to know) for £12 had pretty much the best price, better than most online prices if you include p&p. Once I’d bought the bacon offcuts & kettle, I got a delicious chicken & fried rice for £4 on the way out. I bought a bottle of cheap red (£3.49) from the newsagents to cook the chicken in. Yeah, ok, it’s not a cheap meal, but it was a special occasion.
The recipe for coq au vin came from the Larousse Gastronomique that has been in my family since the early 60s, and which I have never used until recently to actually cook from. Unlike the kind of recipe that you’ll find on the net, it’s easy, and quick. I’ve adapted a little – bacon instead of pork, no livers or chicken blood, or setting brandy alight.
Cook shallots and bacon in some butter. When they’re browned, add chicken pieces, mushrooms & herbs (the recipe says bouquet garni, but I used fresh sage, rosemary, bay leaves, thyme & tarragon from the garden), and sauté with the lid on the pan. Drain off fat and add a bottle of wine. Cook for about 20-25 mins. Thicken with a roux.
Clearly, I couldn’t have done this had I not been working from home in the morning, and able to run round the shops at lunchtime before going back in to work.
But I was surprised that it was much quicker to go to four different shops than make one trip to the supermarket. I was also surprised that so far everything I have bought has been cheaper than the supermarket version, and that even buying a kettle is cheaper on the high street here than online. Also, not shopping in the supermarkets made me realise what an enormously rich variety of shops there are in Tooting apart from them, and how pleasant it is to shop there.
It forced me into a bit of welcome variety. I got a marrow from Daily Fresh, because it was the thing that looked healthiest today. Probably only the second time I’ve eaten marrow in the last 20 years. I don’t miss the trip to Sainsbury’s and their ‘unexpected item in the bagging area’ automata, the painful ‘how are you today sir?’ dialogue, the nectar card routine, the vouchers, the receipts, the crowds, the stupefying ‘offers’. It feels good to support local shops. And now that I’ve written this blog, I’m somewhat ashamed that I don’t know the names of many of the shops that I’ve passed for years because I only ever head off to Sainsbury’s. A good day, but the next challenge is to work out how to do this on a normal day.