Monday 30 June 2008

Supermarket price wars - good news or bad news?

Being slightly out of the loop over in France the latest round of supermarket price cuts had passed me by so thanks to regular contributor career misfit for dropping me a line to point them out.

At one level it's obviously good news that the big four are reacting to the low prices being charged by Lidl and Aldi but canny shoppers will need to be careful. In my experience what supermarkets offer with one hand (usually at the expense of their suppliers) they take with another so for every bargain you spot watch out for a price rise. As I pointed out recently it wasn't so long ago that Tesco, to take one example, was charging over £1 for a single red pepper. Of course any 'reduction' looks brilliant by comparison.

We've been here before with 20p loaves and 9p cans of beans, attention-grabbing offers on which supermarkets are happy to take a loss to entice you through their doors. Fine if you just snap up the bargain. Less good if you meander through the aisles randomly picking up other bits and pieces without keeping a sharp eye open as to whether you're being overcharged for them. If grapes are just 50p for 500g for example as they were at the weekend at Asda what price are they charging for raspberries? (Actually I've just checked that. £1.98 for 170g or £11.65 a kilo which proves my point . . .)

It's also worth remembering (at the risk of teaching my grandmother to suck eggs) that supermarkets don't automatically have the best prices. I'm sure I could beat the £1.88 that Morrisons is apparently asking for 454g of strawberries according to the Daily Record and if you're seriously trying to cut back why buy rump steak even if they're only charging £8.98 a kilo for it?

It's getting to the stage where you need a degree in maths to go shopping.

Thursday 26 June 2008

Mineral vs tap water

I know anyone frugally-minded would opt for tap over mineral water but I do have 'issues', as they say, with tap water. Common sense tells you that however much you process and filter it it must have picked up a fair amount of baggage on the way to your glass, most worryingly traces of prescription drugs.

But the cynicism of British retailers and restaurants when it comes to exploiting this unease is just breathtaking. Today we stopped twice en route to France, once at an English service station, once at a French one. At the English one they were selling 75cl sports bottles of Evian for £1.99 or £2.65 a litre. At the French one equivalent sized bottles were €1.20 (95p) which works out at £1.27 a litre, less than half the price. And you could buy Evian by the litre for €1.30 or £1.03.

What justifies this rip-off? And why do we put up with it? You can buy perfectly cheap mineral water in supermarkets so how come service stations get away with charging so much? I reckon you should buy your own small bottles, fill them with chilled mineral water and keep them in a cool bag. Which is what we should have done if we hadn't been in quite such a rush setting off.

Away now till the week beginning July 14th. My elderly mother-in-law has had a bad fall so we're off to try and work out what happens next - whether she can stay in her house or will have to go to a home. (It's not a lot of fun getting old . . .) Posting is likely to be a bit more spasmodic but will pass on any great finds.

Wednesday 25 June 2008

Toast water: the new green tea?

I’ve just been experimenting with what must be the most frugal drink of all: toast water which is, exactly as described, water infused with a slice of toast. It’s actually rather nicer than it sounds - it has a faint caramelly flavour which I think I’d want to accentuate by infusing two slices of toast in the recommended amount of water but that would obviously be rather less thrifty.

I found out about it from my son Will's business partner Huw Gott who masterminds the menus at their four bars and restaurants which include Hawksmoor, The Marquess Tavern and Green and Red (quick opportunity for a family plug!) They’ve just acted as consultants to a new restaurant opening, The Vyse Room at Stoke Place in Stoke Poges, which features toast water as a sorbet.

Huw is a great one for scouring old cookery books and discovered the recipe in Mrs Black's 'Household Cookery and Laundry Work' from the late 1880s (Mrs Black being a teacher at the 'West-End Training School of Cookery' in Glasgow).

Here’s the recipes with my comments in italics.

"Toast the quarter of a slice of bread (wasn’t sure how big a slice so used a whole slice from a small white loaf) till it is quite brown in every part wthout being in the least burned.
Have a jug, with three breakfast-cupfuls of cold water in it (I reckoned this was about 450ml in total) in which put the bread, and allow it to stand for a few hours.
Hot water is frequently used instead of cold, but the water is scarcely so clear and nice. In this case it must cool before being used.
The water is put in the jug first and the bread put in, otherwise the bread gets crumbled.
It is a most refreshing drink."(Huw says, and I agree, that it needs to be served well chilled).

Apparently the recipe was designed for invalids and in the proportions given I can imagine it being just the thing if you had a virulent attack of gastro-enteritis and couldn’t keep anything down. But I think if you tweaked it, possibly using wholemeal bread, a second slice and a spoonful of honey to sweeten it it would be the perfect drink for a sweltering summer afternoon. Non-alcoholic drinks are apparently the Next Big Thing. Perhaps it will take off as the new green tea ;-)

Monday 23 June 2008

Three cheers for chipolatas!

Frantically trying to finish the book before I go away so just a quick tip. Buy chipolatas instead of standard-sized sausages and buy them loose so you can calculate exactly how many you need.

Last week, on the infamous Waitrose expedition I'm still trying to justify, I bought four decent-sized lamb and herb chipolatas for £1.22 which we had with couscous forked through with stir-fried grated courgette and a green salad. They weren't particularly nice with that unpleasant flavour of dried mint but that's another issue. (Far better to stick to plain ones)

For some reason you feel that you're getting more for your money with chipolatas than with bigger sausages even though they're thinner. They're better for children. And they're also much quicker to cook . . .

For more money-saving tips on meat take a look at the post I've just put up on Beyond Baked Beans.

Saturday 21 June 2008

A gorgeous cheese

When it comes to frugal eating cheese is my achilles heel. I already mentioned I'd gone a bit mad in Waitrose this week. Now I've bought a whole cheese in the Whiteladies Road farmers' market.

The thing is this. The cheesemaker, who was there in person, was selling these big beautiful goats cheeses off for £5 each because he had too many of them. You can see from the picture above it had some pretty scary mould on it which would put a lot of people off.

But if cheesaholics like me don't buy them there's a danger that small cheesemakers like him will go out of business.

We had some for lunch (along with the leftover soused mackerel and potatoes which I managed to turn into quite a tasty salad) and it was just gorgeous.

I'll get the neighbours downstairs to buy the other half off me to salve my conscience . . .

Incidentally if you want to support this lovely cheesemaker who trades as White Lake Cheeses you can apparently buy his cheeses from The Cheese Gig and find out which farmers' markets he attends here.

Thursday 19 June 2008

Spiced mackerel in cider

Since I've finished the recipe sections of the book I have the luxury of delving into my cookery books to decide what to cook. I was looking for some ideas of what to do with yesterday's mackerel haul and came up with this recipe from Rick Stein's Taste of the Sea which was first published in 1995 - 13 years ago!

I didn’t have any pickling spice so just substituted a few ingredients from the storecupboard and it worked out fine. Not hugely popular with my other half though who wasn't terribly taken with the idea of cold fish.

Stein remarks how cheap the recipe is but I suppose had the luxury of being able to pick up mackerel for next to nothing where he lived (still does, I think) in Padstow. In those days mackerel was dirt cheap. It's still a reasonably thrifty recipe though.

Spiced mackerel in cider
Serves 4

500 ml cider
1 carrot, peeled and thinly sliced
3 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 tsp black peppercorns
Sprig of thyme
1 bay leaf
1/2 stick of celery or a couple of fennel stalks cut into 2 or 3 pieces
1 tsp whole coriander seeds
1/4 tsp crushed chillies
2.5 cm cube of peeled fresh ginger, sliced
4 large mackerel fillets
A few chopped fennel or dill leaves

Put all the ingredients except the mackerel in a saucepan, add 100ml of water, bring to the boil, turn the heat down and simmer very gently for 30 minutes. Put the fish, skin side upwards in a shallow pan, pour over the infused cider and bring back to the boil. As soon as the surface starts to bubble take the pan off the heat, leave to cool and refrigerate overnight. Remove the fillets from the pan and place in a serving dish. Strain the liquid through a sieve into a bowl or jug. Pick out a few of the carrot and shallot slices and arrange them over the fish then pour over the strained liquid. Serve each fillet of fish with a little of the liquid spooned over the top and sprinkled with a few snipped fennel or dill leaves This goes well with a cucumber and herb salad and new potatoes.

Wednesday 18 June 2008

You can put stuff back . . .

Strayed temporarily from the path of righteousness by visiting Waitrose this afternoon, not a store I would normally look for bargains but my neighbour had told me they were selling packs of frozen mackerel fillets for £4.99 which sounded a good deal. Needless to say it wasn't the only thing I bought . . .

On the credit side I picked up a couple of pork chops for tonight's supper for just £2.12 and a fresh fruit salad reduced from £3.36 to £1.39, enough for two meals.

On the debit side I couldn't resist two gorgeous cheeses including an interesting Cornish Brie I hadn't seen before which came to £5.77 (ouch!) and a special offer on Fudge's flatbreads on the slender pretext that they would be 'useful research' for my next book which is on cheese.

The total bill with various other bits and pieces (mostly justified) was £39.20 which is EIGHT times the price of the mackerel 'bargain'. In Waitrose terms I suppose that's not bad - there are so many utterly tempting foods in there that it would be easy to spend at least twice that amount but I can't say I feel particularly proud of myself.

Except for this. It would have been £8 more expensive if I hadn't put back on the shelf a bunch of asparagus, two packs of rhubarb (on special offer but overpriced) and a large pot of parsley which we almost certainly wouldn't have used before we go away next week.

So a 'eureka moment'. Even if the goods are in your basket you haven't spent that money until you've passed through the checkout. You can put stuff back . . .

Tuesday 17 June 2008

Four days eating from one chicken

Our local butcher was selling organic chickens at half price at the end of last week so we’ve had a real chicken fest over the weekend. I bought a 2.2kg (roughly 4 3/4 lb) bird for just £7.82 instead of £15.64 which has so far yielded a generous 10 servings. And there’s still some superb stock left for a soup.

On Friday I roasted it with garlic and herbs and served it with a salad and broad beans in parsley sauce

On Saturday we had a salad of chicken, asparagus and crispy bacon with tarragon mayo.

On Sunday I stripped the carcass and made stock with it. I used the remaining meat, along with some more asparagus, broad beans, peas and tarragon to make a creamy pie filling using some of the stock and some added crème fraîche. I used roughly two thirds to make free form ‘pies’ for friends in the evening, baking puff pastry lids in the oven and using them to top the filling. (See above. Much quicker and more economical than making a pie as you don’t have to have the oven on for as long.)

Last night I used the last of the asparagus and tarragon to make a risotto for the two of us and stirred in the final portion of chicken pie filling. This worked really well, giving the risotto a really rich, creamy consistency. I also added a little grated pecorino which I’ve discovered is cheaper than parmesan.

I suppose the flavours of all these dishes was in a similar register but just different enough to make us feel we weren’t living off leftovers. It certainly didn’t feel remotely like frugal food.

Monday 16 June 2008

Viva la frugalista!

Goodness, it’s getting so hip to be frugal. You could hardly open a paper over the weekend without getting a pageful of budgeting advice. The Guardian and Observer are running a pull-out series on How to Save Money (which mentioned Beyond Baked Beans). The Times Cook Jill Dupleix offered some cheap fish recipes in the Sunday Times (delicious, but not that cheap. The recipes came in at roughly a tenner for four which isn’t frugal in my book) And the Indy ran a big feature on the new ‘frugalistas’ which inevitably included celebs wittering on about how fabulous it is growing vegetables and rearing pigs. There’s even a blog called Frugal Fashionista which tells you how to look like Sarah Jessica Parker without a Hollywood paycheck. And a frugal version of Wikipedia called . . . (I’ll be putting up links to some of these sites later this week)

The most entertaining site I think though is a blog called The Frugalista Files which is published by the Miami Herald and features the self-styled Frugalista Natalie McNeal who apparently tries to spend one month a year (February) spending practically nothing. I think I’d chose a different month - February is depressing enough anyway - but it’s not such a bad idea . . .

How long do you reckon you could live off the contents of your storecupboard, fridge and freezer without topping up?

Friday 13 June 2008

Why skin broad beans?

Broad beans (fava beans in the US), in season right now, are one of my favourite vegetables. They're also one of the most wasteful since chefs collectively decided that we must not only pod them but skin them.

It's true that the greyish, wrinkly skin doesn't look particularly attractive. But it's tasty and not too tough unless you're dealing with the last beans of the season. True, too, that the tiny jewel-like emerald green beans inside are prettier in salads and dishes like risotto. But there are many dishes such as the rustic one below, from my book Meat and Two Veg, where they're absolutely fine.

I never used to skin broad beans and when I first heard of the idea I thought that no-one would want to faff about popping them out of their skins. But it seems we do - odd when so many people can't even be bothered to wash a lettuce these days.

So are you a bean-skinner or do you leave them on?

Boiled bacon with broad beans and parsley sauce
Serves 4-6
1.5kg piece smoked collar of bacon or gammon, soaked overnight in cold water*
1 small onion, peeled and quartered
2 carrots, peeled and cut into 3 or 4 pieces
1 stick of celery, washed, trimmed and cut into 3 pieces (optional)
a few peppercorns
For the sauce
1 small onion, peeled and halved
1 bayleaf
350ml whole or semi-skimmed milk
25g butter
25g plain flour
400g fresh or frozen broad beans (podded weight)
A small bunch or pack of parsley (about 20g), destalked and finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Drain the bacon, put in a large saucepan and cover with fresh, cold water. Bring slowly to the boil and skim off any froth. Tuck the vegetables round the sides, add the peppercorns bring back to the boil then turn down the heat and simmer very slowly so that bubbles just break on the surface for about 2 hours. About an hour before the bacon is due to be ready put an onion and bayleaf in a small pan and pour over the milk. Heat slowly until the milk is almost boiling then take off the heat, cover and set aside for half an hour. Cook the broad beans lightly (about 5 minutes) and drain. Pass the milk through a sieve into a jug. Heat the butter gently in a non-stick pan, stir in the flour and cook for a few seconds. Pour in the warm milk in one go whisking as you pour. Replace over a low heat, bring up to the boil, then turn the heat down and simmer for a few minutes until the sauce thickens, adding a couple of tablespoons of the ham cooking liquid to get a nice light texture. Tip in the drained broad beans and stir in the parsley. Check the seasoning adding salt and pepper to taste. Carve the ham in thick slices and serve with the broad beans and parsley sauce and some new potatoes.
* If you don’t remember to soak the bacon just cover it with cold water, bring to the boil and discard the water.

Wednesday 11 June 2008

Half price but how good a saving is it?

There's a full page ad in the Guardian (and probably other papers) today showing the massive savings that Sainsbury's is offering on fresh fruit. Save £2, it trumpets, on strawberries which are down from £3.99 to £1.99 this week or £1.69 on nectarines down from £3.39 to £1.69.

Now don't get me wrong, Sainsbury's if you're reading this. I'm sure these fruits have been on sale at the higher price over the last few weeks. In fact the small print at the bottom of the page tells you exactly when those prices were charged. The question is was that a reasonable amount to charge at the time for fruit that was only just coming into season and, probably in the case of stone fruits like plums and apricots, as hard as a rock? As I pointed out yesterday you can buy a can of apricots that taste as good for just 24p.

If you look more carefully at the cherry offer you'll also spot that the not-so-special offer of £1.99 is for only 300g of cherries. I paid 68p a quarter pound (110g) in my local greengrocer the other day which works out at £1.85 for 300g and I'm sure he hasn't got a fraction of the buying power of Sainsbury's

Oh, and if you're looking for these products in a Sainsbury's Central or Local you may not find these reductions anyway. Not all stores stock these lines at these prices, the company is careful to state (again in the small print).

Sainsbury's of course is not the only supermarket which does this kind of promotion. As I remarked yesterday on Beyond Baked Beans Tesco is currently offering fresh peppers for 32p each which looks like a fantastic reduction from the 88p they were charging a couple of weeks ago (or indeed for the £1 plus I saw them charging back in April or May) but in effect amounts to no more than that we're finally being asked to pay a reasonable price for produce for which we've previously been charged well over the odds. About time, but no great cause for celebration.

Tuesday 10 June 2008

A lovely fruit salad

This really simple idea came to me the other day when I was wondering what to do with a tin of apricots - a real bargain in Somerfield at 24p. Perhaps, I thought, they could be combined with strawberries which would make them taste fresher and more delicious but cut down the cost of the dish. And maybe you could add a bit of orange juice and mint.

It worked. Here it is!

Strawberry and apricot fruit salad with orange and mint

Serves 4

250g fresh strawberries with the stalks removed
1 tsp caster sugar
1 x 400g apricot halves in apple juice
1 orange
4-6 mint leaves (optional)

Slice the strawberries into a glass bowl and sprinkle over the sugar, stir and leave for 5 minutes. Drain the apricots, reserving the juice for another use (like a smoothie). Halve the apricot halves and add them to the bowl. Squeeze the orange juice and strain over the fruit and gently mix together. Chill for an hour if possible.Tear or shred the mint leaves and scatter them over the salad.

Monday 9 June 2008

Spam, Spam, Spam . . .

No, not the endless stream of emails about cut-price Viagra, making yourself utterly irresistible in bed or requests for donations to dodgy Nigerian banks but the luncheon meat variety which is apparently undergoing a massive boom as a result of the economic downturn.

According to the Independent on Sunday yesterday sales are up 10% in the States which is a lot of extra Spam.

Actually Spam isn't that cheap. I checked in Somerfield yesterday and it was £1.86 for a 340g can compared to only £1.47 for 340g of corned beef. You can buy a pound of sausages for that which are rather nicer to eat cold.

Is there anything tasty you can make with Spam? Well, there are certainly plenty of suggestions on the Spam website including (eeeurgh) Spam fritters, Spam Rogan Josh, Spam Tempura, deep Spam pizza and the Spambalaya recipe submitted to the Official Spam Cook of the Year competition by Phil of Oxon.

My own suggestion would be to cut it into thin strips (rather than cubes) and toss it in a mustardy vinaigrette together with some finely chopped onion, gherkins and parsley - a bit like the French salade de museau (which rather unattractively translates as muzzle salad)

Do you - would you - eat Spam? And if so how do/would you prepare it?

Sunday 8 June 2008

Are recipes redundant?

Unwelcome news from a publisher's press release. A book's coming out this autumn called Recipes to Know by Heart. I discussed a book with almost exactly the same title a couple years ago with a journalist friend. The idea was that I'd come up with the master recipes and he, as an amateur cook, would test them. We got as far as floating it informally with a publisher but because I was working on another book at the time I let it drift. So my fault entirely but it's maddening to find we've now been pipped at the post.

In fact cooking without recipes, or at least exact measurements, has become a bit of a mini-trend, started by Nigel Slater a few years ago with Appetite. (Actually it started even further back with Elizabeth David - recipes didn't use to be nearly as prescriptive as they are now.)

Since then there has been Nicholas Clee's Don't Sweat the Aubergine which I mentioned the other day, a couple of others whose names I can't remember and most recently veteran cookery writer Glynn Christian's How to Cook without Recipes which I'm reading with great enjoyment at the moment.

Obviously there must be a demand for these books otherwise publishers wouldn't keep coming up with copycat versions but, despite having thought of it myself, I wonder who buys them? Even as an experienced cook I quite like to read a recipe to see how a writer achieves the end result, even if I stray off-piste and do my own thing with it. When I first started to cook I followed recipes to the letter and I would say that people are less confident in the kitchen these days.

So what do you think? Does this type of book appeal or do you prefer a conventional cookery book? If so which ones do you refer to most often? Or do you ignore cook books altogether and do your own thing?

Thursday 5 June 2008

Chocolate rice pudding

More puddings. Not having a terribly sweet tooth I do struggle with them but I found this recipe in the Guardian last Saturday and thought that it looked a great way to make rice pudding.

According to its creator, Dan Lepard, you bring the milk and rice to the boil then take it off the heat, put a lid on the pan and let it rest for an hour then it should only take 15 minutes to cook. But mine took a full hour, like it normally does.

I also varied the recipe by replacing the cocoa with 25g of milk chocolate I had left over from making an icing the other day (yes, I'm that disinterested in chocolate!). When I first started to stir it in it looked fabulous - with great chocolatey streaks running through it - then it went the rather unattractive pinky brown colour as shown above.

It was also a bit sweet even though I'd reduced the sugar from 75g to 40g so I stirred in a tablespoon of cocoa powder and sifted a little more over the top with a tea strainer which made it look quite pretty. I think if you put some of those luscious Polish cherries at the bottom of the dish it would be even nicer.

Actually I think the best rice pudding of all is just rice, milk and sugar with a few lightly crushed cardamom pods added to the milk. It turns out like one of those exotic rice puddings you sometimes find in Indian restaurants. Now there's a thought - maybe add cardamom to the chocolate rice. That does sound good . . .

Wednesday 4 June 2008

Queen of Puddings

One of the stranger things about writing a cookbook is having to test recipes at odd times of day or year. Like making Christmas pudding in July. (Well, odd for us in the UK anyway. Obviously not for Australians though they have to road test barbecue recipes in the middle of winter)

So it was at six o'clock on a Tuesday evening - not a time of the week I think of eating puddings, let alone making them - that I found myself baking this traditional British recipe Queen of Puddings. Based on breadcrumbs, eggs and jam it's thriftiness personified but unexpectedly airy and delicious. I thought it might be improved by adding a few frozen berries to the jam. (From the frozen food cabinet in Tesco. Great bargain) It is but jam will do just fine.

Serves 4

400ml whole milk
Finely grated rind of 1 small unwaxed lemon
15g butter
25g caster sugar
80g fresh breadcrumbs
2 large egg yolks
3 tbsp raspberry jam
125g fresh or frozen raspberries or mixed small berries
For the meringue
2 large egg whites
110g caster sugar

You will need a lightly greased small to medium-sized shallow oven-proof dish about 850ml (1 1/2 pints) in capacity

Pour the milk in a saucepan, add the lemon rind and stir then place over a low heat until the milk is hot but not boiling. Add the butter and caster sugar and leave a couple of minutes until melted then strain the milk over the breadcrumbs. Stir and leave for 20 minutes. Meanwhile heat the oven to 160°C/325°F/Gas 3. Beat the soaked breadcrumbs then beat in the egg yolks and tip the mixture into the greased pie dish. Place the dish in a roasting tin of water and bake for about 45 minutes until the top is lightly set. Take out of the oven. Put the jam in a small saucepan with the frozen fruit, warm through and spread gently over the pudding without breaking the surface. Whip the egg whites until stiff then whisk in half the sugar until the mixture is thick and shiny. Fold in the remaining sugar and spread evenly over the pudding. Put the pudding back in the oven and cook for a further 15-20 minutes until the meringue is golden brown. Serve straightaway.

A tip. Look out for old fashioned Pyrex dishes in charity shops. They’re perfect for cooking a dish like this.

A warning. This technique creates a soft meringue that is only part-cooked and may therefore not be suitable for pregnant friends or grannies

Tuesday 3 June 2008

Food blogging is better than Facebook!

Having been a food writer for some 18 years now I've got to know a lot of my fellow professionals. Very nice people they are too. I belong to a couple of good forums which are incredibly useful if you want to find out, for instance, in what respect English flour differs from American flour and the impact that will have on a recipe. People are more than generous with their advice

But frankly it doesn't compare with the heady sensation of joining the blogging community and finding out what people are cooking and eating on a daily basis. There's a joyous lack of inhibition about blogging, a manic enthusiasm, a total obsessiveness about ingredients and techniques, however off the wall, that's hugely liberating. Recipes don't have to be perfect, in fact it's better if they aren't. Everyone is on a voyage of discovery.

Every week, sometimes every day, I find out something new. Such as that Nicolas Clee, the author of the excellent and thought-provoking Don't Sweat the Aubergine has a blog called Sceptical Cook. Through Nicolas I find there's a terrific blog called Baking for Britain which not only gives recipes for forgotten treasures such as Deddington Pudding-Pie but meticulously charts their origin

Yesterday I got invited to join an American group of bloggers called The Foodie Blogroll (right) by a blogger who calls herself The Leftover Queen. A fellow spirit! This is much better than Facebook where you have to keep your food-related obsessions within reasonable bounds

At a time when you can't open a magazine without being told how to cook a perfect dinner party by yet another celebrity chef an army of bloggers is quietly (or sometimes not so quietly) creating the kind of food that they want to eat.

Writers can become photographers, photographers writers. There are no rules in the blogosphere.

Monday 2 June 2008

Cut-price cheese/basil plants

I have to confess I'm a bit of a cheese snob so I wouldn't normally buy a supermarket's cheapest range of cheeses. But in the interests of research into how much you can save on cheese I bought a couple from the Sainsbury's Basics range - a ball of mozzarella for 57p rather than 75p for the standard mozzarella and a wedge of brie for 74p for 200g instead of 95p for 135g (i.e. £3.70 a kg instead of £7.04)

And you know what? They were perfectly fine. Only by paying quite a bit more for the premium lines would you get a better product.

Having some left-over tomatoes and olives, I made a tomato, mozzarella and olive salad with the mozzarella, using the herby oil from the olives to dress the salad and boost the flavour of the cheese.

You'll also spot a few basil leaves. I bought a pot to see how long I could get it to survive (not long if past experience is anything to go by but I'm trying to cosset it)

And I made a bacon and Brie toastie with 50g of the Brie. Rather more cheese, apparently than you're supposed to eat but quite restrained for me. The recommended portion size on most sites is 30g which would make the Brie stretch theoretically to 6 1/2 helpings. I reckon I'll get four out of it.

What's key with these milder (or, to be totally honest, bland) cheeses is to take them out of the fridge in plenty of time before you eat them. If you serve them at room temperature you get twice the flavour.