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Wordblog revived

incorporating New Life


Why is Waitrose adopting pricing habits that gave Tesco a bad name?

Waitrose charges £3.65 for a pack of Percol Colombian ground coffee but has a “special offer” of two packs for £5. Just up the road in Ipswich, Lidl is selling Percol Colombian ground coffee for £2.49 a pack.

On the face of it Lidl is cheaper by a tiny margin but look at the packs more carefully. Waitrose has reduced the size of its packs to 200g while you get 227g for your money in Lidl.

Why is Waitress adopting the pricing tactics which make shopping an exercise in constant mental gymnastics and turned so many people off Tesco?

Note for those who don’t like doing mental arithmetic in every supermarket aisle: Waitrose £12.50 a kilo. Lidl £10.97 a kilo.

A local food revolution in East Anglia

For lunch yesterday we ate some of the best brie I have tasted, made from unpasteurised milk at Fen Farm Dairy, with sourdough bread from a small bakery. In the evening there was wonderful turbot (Maximus sustainably caught fish), fresh from the North Sea.

Shopping was fun too, at the Kenton Hall Estate Food Fair which focussed on young producers. Kenton Hall, on the edge of Debenham, has what it calls “the food hub” with a cookery school and a butcher who cuts meat for small producers set amid fields where longhorn cattle are pastured.

In East Anglia artisan food production has been transformed from a small niche market into an important and growing part of the economy. Kenton Hall is a part of this revolution.

Some miles to the south, the Suffolk Food Hall with its large food shop and a glass-walled restaurant looking out over the Orwell estuary was named as the champion of champions it a in a national food awards event in the Houses of Parliament this year. It also has small units for production and a demonstration kitchen.

Debenham has played a crucial part in the development of local food businesses throughout East Anglia. At the turn of the century, the Henry Abbott business, founded in 1707, decided to sell its supermarkets in Debenham and Eye to the East of England Co-operative Society. It retained the hardware store and has since opened a kitchen shop.

The co-op agreed to continue to stock the local produce Abbott’s has been selling. Ian Whitehead, of Lane Farm in nearby Brandish, explained to the East Anglian Daily Times in a story about a new C0-op store:

I think we were probably one of the very first local suppliers. We began trading with the Co-op back in 1998. They took over local grocery stores called Henry Abbott’s in Eye [and] Debenham… and kept us on as a supplier. That’s where it all started from and we have grown with the Co-op over the years really – they have been good to work with. It’s a very exciting initiative. I think it also demonstrates the strength there is in local food in Suffolk.

Lane Farm produces very good sausages together with salami and chorizo which you buy because they are excellent as well as local.

From the Co-op’s decision to retain local suppliers has grown its Locally Sourced policy which this week is having a further promotional push. They now have 2,400 products on their shelves from 140 producers across Suffolk, Norfolk and Essex alongside national Co-op brands. This part of the business is growing as they explain on their website:

Our customers are also increasingly buying local, with a 31% increase in Sourced Locally sales and a £12m turnover in the last financial year. This means that since the scheme launched, we’ve ploughed more than £25 million back into the regional economy and supported the creation of around 400 new jobs in the region.

What we have seen in East Anglia, over the last ten years, is the development of the infrastructure needed to enable small specialist food producers grow their own businesses.  Small producers can rent kitchens, have their meat cut and packaged, and get the food they make distributed.



Heston Blumenthal ‘stole’ my mother’s recipe!

Until this morning I never, in my wildest dreams, thought I could write the headline above. The evidence might not convince a jury but the similarities between Heston’s method of boiling an egg to which the Guardian’s Do Something magazine devoted a whole page and my mother’s are remarkable.

The defining characteristic of both Heston’s and my mother’s method is that you do not boil the egg at all.

You put the eggs in a pan and just cover with water then place the pan on a ring turned up to full heat. As soon as the water comes to the boil you take the pan off the heat and leave it to stand for several minutes. Then eat an egg with a white that has not turned rubbery and has a perfect soft yolk.

There are some slight differences. Heston insists on a glass lid on the pan so that you can see when the water is coming to the boil. I don’t think glass lids were available when my mother was cooking (she died when Heston was a toddler) so she left the pan un-lidded.

His very precise standing time of 6 minutes also seemed a tad long to me. But I decided to follow his recipe exactly with the slight variation of having to lift the lid a few times so that I could see when the water was coming to the boil. Otherwise I respected the formula for “the perfect boiled egg” which he tells us was arrived at after “relentless trials”.

The result was overcooked yolks, starting to go hard. The whites were excellent. Like the curate’s egg they were good in parts.

Something must be missing from the article in Do Something. Perhaps an essential point was removed by a sub to make the piece fit. For a start we do not know if Heston stores his egg in the fridge or a traditional larder. Nor do we know the size of the egg or its freshness (ours were laid between ten and 14 days ago).

I can’t include a link to the article because the Guardian’s website content for the November edition of Do Something ends on page 38. The How to… boil an egg piece is on page 42.

Eco note: this method of cooking eggs uses less energy than the tradition approach of boiling the water, adding eggs and continuing to boil.

Tuesday, November 11: The Guardian has put the column on the web. What happened to their web first policy?