Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Scratch Sunday lunch and going ethical

J and I went to see friends at the weekend - old housemates and assorted friends, girlfriends and boyfriends in Holloway. We turned up with wine at 1pm as requested only to find everyone very hungover and a fridge empty apart from a value chicken and some drumsticks... Miraculously not Sunday-morning hungover myself (too many Christmas parties in the week meant an early booze free-ish Saturday night) and with nine hungry people, there was only one thing for it. Armed with the roast chicken recipe from last week, I sent J to the shops for a few vital supplies (ready made yorkshire puddings, potatoes and a lemon) and started cooking. The afternoon was vastly improved by Jen's addition of mince-pie-loveliness for pudding... Jus-rol ready puff pastry, rolled out thin; spread mincemeat on top, sprinkle with lemon zest, roll into sausage shape, cut into inch-long pieces and bake at GM4 til it's done, served with custard or ice-cream (or both if you're J and greedy).

The meal itself was fine - veg, roast regular and sweet potatoes, yorkshire puds, roast chicken and gravy - but the meat really lacked the flavour and texture of the chicken from last weekend. And no wonder. Battery reared broilers with a horrible quality of life = unappetizing, fatty meat that no amount of butter, fresh herbs, lemon and garlic can save. The drumsticks were slightly better but I don't hold out much hope of the soup from the resulting stock. As I've been cooking a lot more lately, but buying fairly good quality ingredients, it really made me think again about how we eat.

Following on from last Sunday's revelation about food quality, late in the day by north London standards, I'm starting to think far more about the ethical dimension of what I put on my plate. I've already become one of those annoying people who asks whether the fish is farmed when eating out, and I've decided very literally to put my money where my mouth is from 2010. As of January 1st next year, we're eating seasonal, free range, organic food from small local suppliers as often as possible. That's not to say there won't be the occasional trip to Sainsbury's (particularly for that emergency bottle of wine). And no, I'm not starting with an organic veg box - mainly because I don't want to throw away box after box of turnips - there's only so much root veg soup one girl can eat, particularly when I can't heat it up in the office the next day. Some weeks we eat out most nights. But lots of the time I cook most nights, and I'm becoming more and more convinced that if enough of us at least try, then we can make a difference to supermarket buying patterns and farming techniques. This also extends to making meat an occasional treat rather than the centrepiece of every evening meal.

Now if someone just can tell me where I can buy a regular, tasty, good-for-the-enviroment-and-my-wallet lunch every day without swelling the ever-growing coffers of Pret a Manger, I'll be on to a winner.

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