Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Out to Dinner

So, last Saturday D and I, along with my brother (D2) and his wife (V) kept a longstanding date with one Mr Heston Blumenthal. Or rather, Heston Blumenthal’s former right-hand man at The Fat Duck and now head chef at Dinner. Not that we saw either of them. But to be fair, if Heston had happened to pop in for lunch that day he would have probably have popped right out again when presented with a squealing fan girl (I have a tendency to get as excited around famous chefs as pre-pubescent girls get around JLS).

The outing didn’t get off to the very best of starts; D2 and V got stuck on the Underground which meant they were late meeting us which meant that we were late getting to our table. Both D and I, but especially D, are pathologically punctual. Well, actually, I’d say that I am punctual, D is early. He started getting agitated at about quarter to twelve (admittedly, we had made tentative plans to meet them in the hotel bar at half past eleven, but equally, they had to convey a six month old baby and all the luggage that said small child generates to his grandparents’ house before setting off, and so I was unsurprised that they were running slightly behind schedule). By five to twelve I was also getting a little twitchy, although getting stuck into an appletini of mammoth proportions was taking the edge off. D had stopped hoovering up the Kettle Chips at this point – when D stops eating snacks then you know that the balance of his mind is seriously disturbed.

But they arrived and disaster was averted and the very charming staff, with nary a reference to the fact that we were nearly quarter of an hour late sitting down, offered us a seat on the terrace, with pashminas for the ladies if the slightly brisk July (!) weather became uncomfortable. And D calmed down and we all had a glass of champagne, at which point he probably regretted not smuggling the bar snacks in with him.

The menu at Dinner is rather exciting. The dishes are all “inspired by historic British gastronomy” and so often peculiarly named with unexpected ingredients, with the sources of origin listed on the back of the menu (which we snaffled). Personally, I felt a little adrift. Usually when I go to a fancy restaurant, I order a tasting menu. Not only because I am extraordinarily bad at decision making but because I want to get a feel for the restaurant and the cooking. Actually, the second half of that sentence makes me sound terribly poncey…let’s face it, it’s probably because I had a deep seated need to be told what to do rather than have to decide for myself. Here, not only did I have to decide for myself, but the language of the food was not what I was used to. There was a starter on there called “Rice and Flesh” for goodness sake (of which more in a second).

We kicked off with a pre starter, the “Meat fruit” which was a chicken liver parfait presented like an orange. Look at the picture – you’ll see what I mean. We got two of these for the table so as not to ruin our appetites. I wish we had ordered one each. This was amazing. Seriously, the best chicken liver parfait I have ever eaten and probably ever will eat. Silky, rich, that deeply savoury tang of iron that you get from liver, but overlaid with a delicate sweetness and the fragrance of citrus. We were back in plate licking territory here.

Best.  Chicken liver.  Ever.
I must credit my photographer at this point.  I had (for once) remembered to bring along my nifty little pink Nikon but unfortunately had not remembered to check that the battery was charged.  So these pictures come to you courtesy of D's mobile phone and with his apologies if they are not as clear as they could be (he informs me that the camera on his current phone is not as good as the one on his previous handset).  Considering I manage to make everything I photograph look awful, I don't think he has anything to worry about.

Both the boys, being boys, had ordered Rice and Flesh for their starters. The name put me off – I’ll hold my hands up to that. But lordy. This was probably the best risotto I’d ever eaten (on the basis of the spoonful D allowed me to try). D and D2 suggested that larger lumps of meat would have improved the dish. I think serving it up in a bucket big enough to stick your head in is the only way it could have been bettered. I mean, wow. My salamagundy was fine, don’t get me wrong, but I think I mainly ordered it because I like the word and it didn’t cause rampaging flavour fireworks to go off in my mouth – if anything I would have liked more of a horseradish kick. And I think V was a wee bit underwhelmed by her scallops.
Best.  Risotto.  Ever.
Onto the mains – and again one stand out dish. The pork chop, served with pointy cabbage (I ate it and I’m still not sure what the difference between pointy and normal cabbage really is) was the best. Pork. Chop. Ever. That’s three best evers in one meal! I don’t know what the hell this pig had been doing throughout its life (perhaps strumming a celestial harp on a cloud?) or how the kitchen had coaxed such extraordinary flavour out of the meat (fairy dust???) but it was amazing. Amazing. I will never eat a piece of pork again without thinking, a little sadly, it’s not the angel-fairy pig that I had at Dinner. On the other side of the table, the powdered duck (no, we couldn’t work out what the powdered bit referred to) was not provoking similar raptures. I mean it was fine, it tasted good and gamey. The accompanying pomme puree had more butter in it than pommes, which is always a good thing, but it was not…special enough.

Best.  Pork.  Ever.
We moved onto puddings and the two Ds went for the dish which is apparently becoming a bit of a Dinner signature – the roasted pineapple with tipsy cake. It was good – cake and cream and brandy cannot fail but to be good. The two girls, on the other hand, went for a dessert called a Chocolate Bar (I think I’ve mentioned my feelings on desserts before; if it isn’t chocolatey then I am generally a little disappointed, no matter how lovely it is). Which was scrummy – accompanied by a tangy layer of passion fruit (chocolate and passion fruit – a revelatory combination for me and one I must experiment with at home) and a scoop of ginger ice cream which worked very well, bringing a spicy note to the dish. No best evers in this course though. Nice puddings, great puddings in fact, but they didn’t reach the lofty bar set by some of their savoury compatriots. I was rather impressed by a complimentary little post dessert though – a white chocolate and Earl Grey ganache with a caraway biscuit. Again, a very interesting new chocolate/flavour combination which made me wonder about experimenting with some sort of white chocolate studded tea loaf.

So, great food including three best evers, friendly staff, good location – what’s the final verdict?  I actually think I liked it more than the others.  My brother said (while leaning back sipping his dessert wine – if he had a moustache he probably would have been twiddling it) that he didn’t feel that he had been taken on a “journey”.  I told him he was a pompous git, but I kind of get what he means.  Because the menu takes dishes from a variety of eras it overall lacks a little cohesion and, to be brutally honest, some of the dishes are a little humdrum (sometimes there is a reason as to why a dish has gone out of fashion).  Others are superlative.  But when you’re paying that sort of money for a meal you expect consistency.  Overall, it’s a solid seven. 

Monday, 25 July 2011

Recipe corner -Creamy butternutsquash and red pepper soup

Just for you, Starfish!!

Anyone who has ever followed the Weight Watchers plan with any degree of seriousness will have been indoctrinated into the Cult of the Butternut Squash. Or BNS as it is commonly referred to on the messageboards.

For those of you not au fait with the intricacies of pro points – butternut squash is what is called a free food, zero points, eat with impunity. Because of its sweetness and velvety texture when pureed, it features in many a soup recipe. Indeed, it features in a soup recipe that I’ve already posted on here. As well as a risotto recipe and a baked gnocchi recipe. What can I say…I’m clearly a member of the cult!

I’m surprised, however, that I’ve never blogged this recipe because I’ve been making it for years and it never fails to satisfy. I like the way the sweetness of the squash interacts with the pepper – it somehow becomes less sickly than when the squash flies solo. A judicious amount of reduced fat soft cheese makes for a luxurious, velvety texture which tastes far more indulgent than it has any right to. And, as per usual with soup recipes, there isn’t an awful lot to it at all.


Small butternut squash, peeled and cubed
Red pepper, chopped
Onion, chopped
Litre of chicken or veg stock
100g soft reduced fat cheese
Salt and pepper to season

Serves 4, 1 pro point per serving*

*In my earlier meal planning post, I said that this was 2 pro points…but I forgot that I don’t add milk or a swirl of yoghurt as per the original recipe. So it’s an even more bargainous 1 – I would recommend some good crusty bread to go on the side.

Firstly I would recommend that you roast your squash which really enhances the flavour (although you can skip this step if you’re in a hurry). Toss the pieces in a little salt and pepper and roast in a hot oven for around 30 minutes until soft.

About five minutes before your squash is ready, gently soften the onion and pepper in a pan. You could use Fry Light here, or even a little splash of water to prevent the vegetables from catching. A good pinch of salt at this stage will help those vegetables get their sweat on.

Now add your roasted squash to the pan and cover the lot with stock. Simmer for 5-10 minutes.

Reduce the heat and stir through the soft cheese. Then, once cooled slightly, remove everything to the blender and give it a good whizz up. Check the seasoning and adjust before serving. If the soup is a little thick for your taste, you could let it down with a little milk, but you may need to adjust the points upwards in that case.

Meal Planning Monday 11

This week we will mostly be eating down the cupboards and the freezer. It’s the end of the month, the credit cards are groaning and next weekend we decamp to my parents’ house for a few weeks of cat sitting – which I for one am treating as a bit of a summer holiday in the absence of an actual summer holiday. So to save having to take across bags of produce, this week we’ll be doing a bit of strategic eating.

So the meal plan looks a bit like this:

  • Tuesday – The last of our Scottish venison burgers – I’ve yet to calculate the points in these but venison is a lean meat so they should be quite light. Obviously, I’ll also need to factor in the ketchup and plastic cheese.

  • Wednesday – Macaroni cheese, perfect storecupboard food at 14 pro points a serving.

  • Thursday – Chilli con carne with rice made with lean mince – again, 14 pro points a serving.

The weekend I am leaving blank – for the very exciting reason that I am travelling down to London for my hen do! I would tell you which parts of the city to avoid, but all the arrangements are being kept a mystery to me. I’m hoping I do not get made to wear a sash or a tiara or (the horror!) a custom made T-shirt. Given that I picked my classiest friend to be chief bridesmaid and hen-do organiser, I am relatively optimistic.

Don’t forget to pop over to Mrs M’s blog for more meal planning fun.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Recipe corner – Spinach, ricotta and roasted tomato gnocchi bake

Catchy title, eh?

It struck me that a lot of the recipes listed in this blog are of the ooey-gooey, stodgy variety, often featuring some sort of cheese, and this bake is no different. I wonder if it is reflective of the way I eat – I don’t think so. Our daily diet is pretty varied. I suppose one of the reasons I started this blog is that I wanted to prove to myself as well as other people that following a healthy eating plan didn’t mean permanently going down the steamedchickenorfishandveg or stir fry route, so I like to share recipes that tick both the WW appropriate and the indulgence box. Which is not to say that I do not eat stir fries. I don’t generally eat steamedchickenorfishandveg though. It doesn’t sound overly interesting.

Anyway, back to the bake. I cooked this for tea last night and thought it was scrummy. Ricotta and spinach are an absolutely classic combination but it wouldn’t have occurred to me to use them with gnocchi had it not been for this recipe here. Ricotta is significantly lower in fat than mascarpone, but a good substitute to my mind.

I added the roasted tomatoes partly because I wanted to give this rich, creamy dish a bit of acidity and partly as a nod to one of the most popular (judging by page visits) recipes on this blog, the ricotta and roasted tomato risotto. I’m glad I did – the little bursts of freshness really worked well.

Incidentally, this recipe (which serves two) calls for half a tub of ricotta – I’ve found that it freezes perfectly well so the other half needn’t go to waste. OR you could make risotto the next day should you feel so inclined…


250g potato gnocchi (one day I will make my own, but shop bought sufficed here)
Handful of cherry tomatoes
Balsamic vinegar
Onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
125g ricotta cheese
Several large handfuls of fresh spinach
Lemon zest
20g Parmesan
125g ball reduced fat mozzarella, sliced

Serves 2, 11 pro points each

The first thing you want to do is roast your tomatoes. Cut them in half and sit them, seed side up, on a baking sheet. Season well, drizzle with balsamic and put in a medium oven (say, 150) for an hour to an hour and a half, depending on how dehydrated you want them (the longer they are in, the more intense the flavour).

To prepare your spinach and ricotta sauce, soften the onion and the garlic over a low heat (I used a small splash of water to save points, but you could use a little oil if you feel so inclined) then add the spinach and cover. Allow to wilt for a couple of minutes. Then stir in the ricotta. Add lemon zest to taste (I used about a third of a large lemon) and good grating of nutmeg, black pepper, half the Parmesan cheese and salt if required. Simples.

Cook the gnocchi in boiling, salted water – they will float to the top of the pan when ready. Combine the gnocchi with the sauce (gently, to avoid breaking up the dumplings). Add the roasted tomatoes to the pan and crush them lightly with the back of the spoon so they bleed a little of their juice into the creamy ricotta.

Tip the gnocchi into a baking dish and cover with the sliced mozzarella. Bake in a hot oven (180) for about 15-20 minutes until the cheese is melted and bubbling.  Serve topped with the remaining Parmesan.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Curry Night (2)

In which we are introduced to a York institution and cook a delicious (Miss) dahl.

Sometimes, only a curry will do. But long time WWers, and indeed anyone who takes so much as a passing interest in the calorific content of their scran, will know that those fragrant foil trays from their local curry house are drenched in oil and ghee and all manner of fattening things. An Indian takeaway consisting of curry, pilau rice and half a naan will easily set you back over a day’s worth of points.

I don’t know an awful lot about genuine Indian cookery, but I have started in recent years to dip my toe in the water. There are few things more satisfying than making a curry from scratch – toasting and blending up all the spices…if I could just get over my bread baking phobia I’d be well on the way to calling myself an official Earth Mother. But for those days where one just can’t be bothered, there is always Rafi’s.

Rafi’s is a modest looking little shop, tucked away behind the York Minster. The premise is simple – you request a curry and they make up, fresh, before your eyes, a pack of spices that will form the basis of it. Just add water, simmer for a few minutes, then tip in raw ingredients to suit and pow – curry in a hurry and no need to wash out the pestle and mortar. They recommend that you make it up the day before you wish to eat it to allow the flavours to develop, which is no great hardship. The results are delicious – the curries have the depth and complexity of flavour that one would expect to find in the very best curry houses, but without the gleaming slick of oil on top. Having closely examined the content of last week’s bhuna pack I decided to point it at 1 tbsp of oil per portion (assuming 4 portions) which I suspect is slightly on the high side. I added king prawns, onion, celery and a diced red pepper and cursed myself for not having any mushrooms. The result was a gorgeous, medium hot king prawn bhuna for 5 pro points.

Rafi’s do mail order, so if you are a curry fan, I would urge you to check out their website. And if you’re ever in York do go for a browse around – they sell all manner of yummy looking pickles and sauces.

Meanwhile, I would also like to commend to your attention this rather delicious split pea dahl recipe, which I served on the side. It came from a blog and is presented here with only the minorest of tweaks – but unfortunately I can’t remember which one, so if it was yours then I apologise for not giving credit where it is due. If it is any consolation, I thought it was delicious. I’m eating leftovers for lunch today.


2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 piece of ginger, about 1 inch long, grated
Small onion, finely chopped
1 tsp black mustard seeds
1 tsp turmeric
1-2 tsp dried chillies
1 tbsp garam masala
200g yellow split peas
1 tomato, diced roughly
Large handful of fresh spinach
Tbsp vegetable oil
Lemon juice
Fresh coriander, to garnish

Serves 4, 5 pro points per serving

Heat the oil in a pan and when it is hot and shimmering, add the mustard seeds. When these start to pop (expect a few to come flying across your kitchen) add the onion and cook until starting to soften and then add the garlic and ginger and cook for a further couple of minutes, being careful that nothing starts to stick or burn.

Next, add the garam masala, chillies, chopped tomatoes and turmeric and stir fry for another minutes or so, until the spices are deeply aromatic. Now is the time to tip in your split peas and a good pinch of salt. Stir the peas around to get them well coated in spice and then add enough water to cover and simmer on a low heat, with a lid on for about 45 minutes. Check regularly and top up the water as necessary. At the end of cooking the peas should still retain some bite – you’re not looking for mush here.

Cook’s Note: As with any curry the flavours will develop on sitting, so I would recommend doing up to this stage a few hours before you intend to serve and then cover and let the peas sit and ponder their existence for a while.

Just before serving, chuck in your spinach (it will reduce down dramatically, so use slightly more than you think you need) cover, and put over a low heat for about 5 minutes to allow the spinach to wilt. Finish with a squeeze of lemon juice and some fresh chopped coriander.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Meal Planning Monday 10

What, Monday already??

My last couple of meal plans have been a little on the vague side. But a sudden resurgence of my WW mojo means that this week I am feeling smugly on top of things.

Who knows why some weeks it is easy to eat well and others it seems like an impossible task? What I do know - planning, for me at least, is essential, as is ensuring that what I eat isn't too worthy.

So, what's happening this week? Well, Saturday sees us in London having a long anticipated lunch at Dinner, Heston Blumenthal's new(ish) venture. We'll be driving down Friday afternoon and spending the evening with my brother, so no planning required there.

Here's the outlook for Monday to Thursday:

Monday - pesto pasta and salmon
Tuesday - a North African style chicken and squash tagine with couscous
Wednesday - gnocchi, spinach and roasted pepper bake
Thursday - jerk pork with rice and peas and mango salsa

I'm going to be a divil and wing Sunday. After a rich meal the day before, I may very well want nothing more than scrambled eggs.

As always, pop over to Mrs M's blog for more meal planning fun.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Friday, 15 July 2011

Recipe corner - Three cheese pasta

Yet again, my photo makes this incredibly tasty dish look pale and anything but interesting. You'll just have to take my word that this delivers on flavour.

I was trying to recreate a meal my Mum used to cook when I was younger; I believe her recipe came from an Antonio Carluccio book, and I'm pretty sure that he did not recommend Philadelphia Light as an essential ingredient in Italian cooking. More likely it was marscapone that was used as the creamy base - and if you fancied trying that then I am sure it would be absolutely wonderful.  Certainly, three cheese pasta was regarded as a special treat in our household - something to be eaten off our knees on a Saturday night in front of Gladiators and Noel's House Party.

Still, I was pleased with how my slightly lighter version turned out. It's tasty, rich and very quick to cook. In terms of points, at 15 it will count for about half a day's allowance - but for a pasta loving cheese monster like me, that's not too great a hardship.


140g dried pasta
Tsp butter
65g pancetta, cubed
1 fat garlic clove, peeled
25ml white wine
60g low fat cream cheese
30g strong blue cheese
20g Parmesan

Serves 2, 15 pro points per portion

Put a pan of heavily salted water on to boil and have your pasta weighed out and ready to go.

While you're waiting, prepare your other ingredients: in a bowl weight out your cream cheese, blue cheese and half the Parmesan. Season this heavily with black pepper and a good grind of nutmeg.

Using the back of a knife, or the heel of your palm, squish the peeled garlic.

With the pasta on to cook, put the butter into a large pan and melt over a medium high heat. Add the pancetta and garlic and fry until the meat is golden brown.

Tip in the white wine and let it fiercely bubble down to almost nothing.

Now turn your heat down low and throw in your cheese. Slowly allow them to melt into a gooey mass.

When the pasta is ready reserve a couple of ladles of cooking water - this will transfer your goo into a clinging sauce. Drain the pasta and add to the cheese pan, stirring well and splashing in enough water to allow the sauce to lightly coat the pasta.

Serve, sprinkled with the remaining Parmesan.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Meal Planning Monday 9

The last menu planning post I did was two weeks ago, and I still haven’t managed to cook all of the dishes from it. It seems to have had some sort of magical, bottomless property – like a pot of soup in a fairytale.

Actually, I think it more likely it has something to do with the relentless, muggy heat we have been experiencing recently. It turns me into something akin to a Victorian Miss – all languid and droopy and not inclined to cook. A good job I live in a country that tends towards the chilly end of the scale really, or else I’d actually start to look like a piece of toast.

So, what’s on the menu this week? Well, I still want to cook the three cheese and bacon pasta I mentioned a couple of weeks ago (think we’ll have this tonight) and a yummy looking fish stew with fennel which was also first mooted a while back (that takes care of tomorrow).

Saturday, I’m thinking curry – something seriously spicy with naan breads, carrot salad and some sort of pulse accompaniment – I’ve got some yellow split peas in the cupboard which might make a tasty dhal (dahl? Daal?)

We’ve also got a couple of spice packs to use up that we were given as a gift from this website a while back (NB: the particular ones we have don’t appear to be on there any longer). This means at some point we shall be having jerk pork with rice and peas and mango salsa, and also a Portuguese layered fish and potato dish called Caldeirada, which sounds rather intriguing.

As ever, if you are looking for meal planning inspiration, pop over to Mrs M’s blog.

Monday, 11 July 2011

You know you’re middle aged….(Part 2)

…When your hangover lasts the whole of Sunday.

It’s very distressing. Admittedly, we did hit the pub at about noon on Saturday and kept going until…well, I vaguely remember D and I watching Wallander on BBC4 which is on between nine and ten thirty, although I couldn’t tell you whodunnit. And we were definitely drinking a bottle of wine while we did so.

But I am not a sufferer of hangovers in general. A cup of tea, something with butter on it and I’m sorted out. Not so this weekend. I spent most of Sunday slumped in a pathetic heap either on the bed or the sofa. I didn’t get dressed. I couldn’t face much by way of food (this is generally the prime indication that all is not well. Most illnesses and traumas in my life, I eat my way through.)

I hate to say it, but perhaps my body is telling me that it is time to quit the binge drinking. A pint or two of cider in a sunny pub garden, or a tinkling gin and tonic as the clock strikes six, or even a glass of wine or three with a meal – all of these things are fine, but just not in rapid succession throughout the course of a single day.

This, of course, can only be good news for both my liver and my waistline.

But, oh. It’s yet another nail in the coffin of my fast receding youth. Along with the grey hairs I keep stumbling across and the fact that I can’t bear to listen to Radio 1 anymore. And, and, (I’ve just re-read my opening paragraph) the fact that on a Saturday night, in an advanced state of inebriation, I chose to go home, watch a subtitled Scandanavian police drama and eat a toasted teacake.

Friday, 8 July 2011

Classic recipe corner - chicken Caesar salad

I love chicken Caesar salad. It’s become a bit of a cliché, hasn’t it, a stalwart of a certain type of restaurant menu. I don’t care. I think it’s scrummy.

I did some research when I came to write this (by which I mean I looked at Wikipedia. God bless the Internet) and was surprised to discover that this dish supposedly dates back to the 1920s. Also, that the original does not contain actual anchovies (which I always assumed were a given) – but that a faint anchovy flavour was bestowed by a splash of Worcestershire sauce.

As with most recipes, there are potentially endless variations of the Caesar salad – and here is mine. Plonking a chicken breast on top makes it a more substantial meal, but of course, if you are less carniverous or less greedy than me then leaving it off will reduce the total pro points in the recipe to 6.

I don’t know where I originally found this particular method of making the dressing, but it works very well. The combination of the soft boiled egg and the yoghurt give a good silken texture while the other components pack the requisite Caesar punch. The addition of the chilli flakes, by the way, is a new one on me and comes following a recent post on one of my very favourite food blogs, Jenny Eatwell’s. Jenny suggests that the hint of heat adds a je ne sais quoi to the dressing and I really liked how it worked – especially since it picked up on the slight chilli note in the Cajunated chicken.


For the dressing:
1 medium egg
2 tbsp 0% fat Greek yoghurt
3-4 fat garlic cloves
1 anchovy fillet, rinsed and patted dry
Tsp Dijon mustard
Pinch of chilli flakes
Squeeze of lemon juice
15g Parmesan cheese, grated

For the croutons:
2 slices of bread from a medium white loaf, crusts removed
1 tbsp olive oil

2 heads of Little Gem lettuce
2 medium chicken breasts
Cajun seasoning (optional)

Serves 2, 10 pro points per serving

First of all, prepare the ingredients for your dressing. Wrap the garlic cloves, skin and all, up in a little foil package and roast in a hot oven for around 45 minutes, at which point the sweet flesh will slip easily from the papery skins.

Put the egg in a medium saucepan, cover with cold water and bring up to simmering point. Simmer for 2 minutes.

Place your peeled egg, the roasted garlic and all the other constituent parts, along with a good scrunch of black pepper, in a mini processor and whizz until smooth. Reserve until ready to serve (dressing the lettuce to early will make it soggy).

To make the croutons, cut your bread into squares, toss with olive oil, salt and pepper, and bake in a hot (180 – 200) oven for 15 minutes until crisp and golden.

If using, rub Cajun seasoning to taste into your chicken breasts, and then bake in a hot oven for about 20 minutes until cooked through and juicy. Allow the chicken to rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Assemble: tear your lettuce up, anoint with dressing and top with your crunchy croutons and your warm chicken.

Monday, 4 July 2011

You know you're middle aged when...

…Pretty much the highlight of your weekend was a trip to Waitrose.

I love Waitrose. Usually, I refuse to set foot in any supermarkets, preferring instead to stump up a fiver a week for a man in a van to bring my shopping to my front door. I have stopped even attempting to justify this to myself – it is a luxury that I point blank refuse to give up.

Waitrose, though. That’s another thing entirely. We had originally gone over there because I was craving roasted belly pork and we wanted to check out their meat counter. And we not only scored a beautiful 2 kilo slab of the stuff (bargainous at £12 – it will easily do 6 if not 8 meals) but the seemingly pre-pubescent butcher offered us a hefty discount to relieve him of three slightly tired looking pieces of pork fillet. So now we have rather a lot of pig in our freezer – if anyone has a particularly good piggy recipe to volunteer it would be most welcome!

And I finally realised why paying out for shopping delivery is a good idea. D and I wandered the aisles quite happily for a good long while (engaging in particularly earnest debate in the substantial gin section before we came away with a bottle of Tanqueray Rangpur) but on the whole were reasonably restrained. It therefore took an awful lot of willpower to keep my jaw from dropping open when the final tally came to over £75. I mean, that’s a week and a half’s shopping budget for me normally. And it doesn’t matter how many times I try and remember that I’ve got the basis of around twelve portions of porcine based suppers now, it’s still painful.

Fortunately, I was able to sooth my troubled spirit with gin (tasting notes: very fresh and citrusy. Nice.)