Well, we are now in week two of ‘CoronaLockdown’ – how are you bearing up?
We are trying to avoid any unnecessary shopping and I thought it might be interesting to try out a couple of home delivery services – one for meals and one for fruit and veg. Staying local and supporting our lovely independent businesses is crucial at the moment, but many readers will be precluded from going out. Our own lovely local greengrocer, Paul Cooper, is open for business and following all the correct procedures for social distancing, as are Browns the Artisan Butcher and Sandys. Some of them will also deliver locally to customers who are housebound so do check their websites or call them. It is so important to support our local independent shopkeepers who are working even harder than normal to ensure we get our essential supplies.
But for those who can’t go out – for any number of reasons – there are some alternatives. I see that Petersham Nurseries is now doing a range of groceries for collection – at a price! But if you have the wherewithal, do check it out online – they have a fabulous range of products and are looking to add new lines.
Many off licences will do home delivery now, so even though you might be paying a bit more than you would at the supermarket, you are buying a quality product, avoiding the scrum and a need for social distancing. People like Ricardo, Premier Wines, and Noble Green should make your life easier, also ensuring these companies are still around when we all come through this nightmare situation. Some, I hear, now even stock additional produce like eggs.
If you can’t go out to our local shops and aren’t already on one of the subscriber lists for fruit and veg deliveries, don’t panic, although most established ones aren’t taking new customers. One of the few silver linings of this crisis is the fact that new businesses are springing up, and there are some new companies doing a sterling job. I had a delivery (pictured here) from a company called Nova Blooms (previously – and still – an online florist) that is taking advantage of its proximity to the International Markets at Heathrow and doing a great home delivery scheme. I spoke to them and suggested that they look at doing some smaller boxes for people living alone and they are working on this, so watch this space! A neighbour of mine has used and recommends Orchard Wholesale that is also doing home deliveries. These companies are evolving, adding new products such as eggs, if they are able to source adequate supplies. Another in the Isleworth area is Kind Juices
I also checked out a company called Love Yourself that has a range of different meal subscriptions, ideal for anyone who has a restricted diet and the budget to indulge. It caters to specific dietary requirements: vegetarian; gluten free; keto or pescatarian. All food is prepared in a clean, sanitized facility with strict hygiene procedures in place. It’s packaged in compostable containers (handy for starting off seeds for the garden!), and the food I tried was absolutely delicious. No cooking is required – simply place in the microwave to heat following instructions provided. I had lovely porridge for breakfast, a fabulous salad for lunch, and the most delicious Middle Eastern style lamb dish for dinner. My delivery also included a portion of soup that was yummy and a vegan chocolate dessert. From £21, but watch this space as the company is looking at doing a trial offer.
With all this time on our hands, I’ve been experimenting with new recipes. I’m not one for making pastry – too much of a faff rolling it out! But there was a recipe in last Saturday’s Times, which caught my eye, and I tried it on Monday. Reader, it was so delicious and very easy indeed. You don’t need to roll out the pastry, you just press it into the baking tin and it uses oatmeal as well as flour, giving the pastry a nutty taste and extra texture. I will use the pastry as a base now for all sorts of other tarts to use up those annoying leftovers in the fridge and turn them into tasty lunch or supper dishes. It is apparently based on an old Jane Grigson recipe, and I would urge you to try it. You can halve the ingredients for the pastry to make smaller or individual tarts for a range of different fillings – and add herbs, grated cheese or spices to it. By substituting half the flour with oatmeal in the pastry crust it doesn’t need to be blind baked before you add the filling. Excuse the picture of my rather rough looking attempt – but it was so tasty!
Easy Tomato Tart Serves 6-8
Ingredients For the base 150g plain flour 150g porridge oats 150g butter, softened
For the filling 50g butter 1 large onion, chopped 1 clove garlic, crushed 2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes 1 large pinch chilli flakes or 2 tsp chilli sauce 2 eggs, beaten 100ml double cream 120g grated cheddar 2 tbsp grated parmesan Breadcrumbs, halved cherry tomatoes and extra grated cheese to garnish (optional)
Method 1 To make the base, rub the butter into the flour and oats (by hand or with a food processor). Bring it together to form a sticky dough, adding a splash of beaten egg if necessary to help it to bind.
2 Press into a 28cm fluted flan tin (I find it easiest to divide the dough into golf-ball-sized spheres and start at the edges; the dough doesn’t have to be thick and you can plug gaps at the end). Place in the fridge to chill.
3 To make the filling, melt the butter in a heavy-based pan. Cook the onion and garlic over a low heat for 10 min, until softened. Add the tomatoes and chilli, season and simmer until the liquid has boiled off (about 20 min).
4 Remove from the heat and allow to cool for 5 min. Add the cheese, cream and beaten egg, and pour into the chilled tart base.
5 Top with the breadcrumbs, halved tomatoes and extra cheese, if using. Bake at 190C/gas 5 for 40 min, or until the crust is turning brown.