Totally Locally Challenge, day 31 – THE END, of the beginning

The last day of the TL challenge, the last day of the month, Halloween.

Abandoned by family who were visiting other family there was no opportunity to gather round the oaken dining table like some Yorkshire Walton’s family  to discuss the pros and cons of shopping Totally Locally.

Having just re-read the blog postings from the last month though,  it seems everything we might want to say has come out along the way.

I am always leery of making sweeping claims and statements or getting too dogmatic about anything because as sure as eggs is eggs, there will be evidence or experiences from other people to the contrary.

Did or does TL shopping work for us? Yes I think it does for all sorts of reasons. To sum up the last month and what it means to me and us as a family I think that a greater respect for the food we buy, prepare and eat is the outcome of the challenge.

As we suspected, individual items are often more expensive but taken as a whole we have spent no more this month on groceries than we normally would. However we have wasted NO food. We have radically reduced the amount of rubbish we produce. We have revisited forgotten favourite recipes and made other things for the first time. We have catered for three birthday celebrations and started to alter the kitchen to make it a place which is pleasurable to be in.

Watching a news article with stock footage shot in a supermarket, it surprised me just how anxious I felt looking upon row on row of items. All that choice of startlingly uniform produce. All the waste as a result of supermarket pricing policies. All so unnecessary.

There are films, video games and books around the zombie apocalypse genre. A virus from outer space or some laboratory which turns humanity into mindless consumers (usually of brains) intent on satiating its own desires. Looking around any shopping mall or supermarket I get the impression that the zombie apocalypse has arrived unnoticed and that we are all part of it. Not a comet born bug or bite from a rabid monkey but via insidious advertising  convincing us that more is best and better is necessary to be a happy and fulfilled individual.

On my last TL challenge day after my morning Babes in the Wood session I rushed home to get to another appointment in town. On such a tight time schedule, what to have for lunch?

Fridge raid!

As I pulled out containers of leftovers from the fridge, finding the tabouleh from the day before, the coleslaw from Tuesday, some crisp pickled beetroot from the weekend, it seemed that the quick grab had turned into something quite wonderful. Moving into slow time, I used up some of the leftover mix to make crispy falafels served with the mint sauce. There was herby fatayer bread to dip into olive oil and cover in the za’atar mix. Surely that last, but very generous slice of banana cake would be perfect with a generous spoonful of mango pulp on top.

In the middle of a busy day, in the midst of a hectic week, in a life too full of doing stuff, there was time to relax over delicious food.

For all the extra time it took, the world kept turning, despite the hoards of hollow eyed zombies.

Totally Locally Challenge 30 – kul ‘am wa antum bekheir

The penultimate day of our Totally Locally Challenge was marked as my mothers birthday. It always seemed slightly disappointing that she did not have the good grace to wait a day and be born on Halloween but that didn’t stop Sydney insisting on Halloween games after birthday lunch. Nor did it stop my mother pushing Evans head under water during “Ducking for apples”.

The starter was cheesy leeks stuffed into squashes and baked until the flesh was soft. EVERYONE enjoyed these treats which were about as “Winter Warmer”  as you can get without actually being on fire.

As a little reminder of the time my parents spent living in Qatar, we made some of their favourite foods from that time. Tabouleh, greener than green with a mass of flat leaved parsley and just a little bulgar wheat. Felafel served with a minty creamy dip and Fatayer bread filled with the za’atar mixture.

Maybe a little more cumin in the felafel and maybe the breads were a little on the large side but the gesture was warmly welcomed and we all ate to excess, barely leaving room for banana cake, strawberries, mango jelly and Turkish delight. (Apart from the children, who had room for everything).

This is the last party of the month and indeed with just me around tomorrow seems a fitting almost end to this month. Not however an end to the Totally Locally experience as we are determined to continue and plan to do our Christmas Totally Locally (Apart from the usual mound of doll/bear type things that Sydney will be requesting)

Thought for the day. When something is reduced in price we often say it is from “The bargain basement”, somewhere low down, out of site. When food is reduced at GVG it is there on the counter, raised up, offered up for consideration. Over the past few weeks, we have made good use of food from the counter and asking about what is on offer, how much it costs etc. (once a slightly embarrassing affair) is one of the highlights of  shopping. So “Countertop” has replaced “Bargain basement” in our lexicon, another positive swapped for a negative.

P.S. cooker still clean

Totally Locally Challenge, day 24 – 29 inclusive, Space race

Despite “Totally” failing to write anything for my blog over the past few days, I did take some pictures and from these images I will attempt to delve back in time to reconstruct the Totally Locally experience.

Last Thursday I seem to have been making a curry of sweet potatoes to serve with the smoked tofu kedgeree. On the side a fresh salsa of green tomatoes purchased from the bargain counter at GVG. In fact if memory serves, I returned for more of these beauties.

Friday’s shop was down to Lisa and Syd, purchasing items for the Brownies day trip to Blackpool zoo, hence the appearance of biscuits in the purchases! As if my dentally challenging fig rolls weren’t suitable. In fact as a travelling food, my fig rolls are excellent, nutritious, comforting and indestructible.

On Saturday I did a spot of shopping. In fact I remember Evan meeting me after the afternoon Babes in the Wood session to take some of the equipment home while I lugged various bags of shopping up the hill!

I appear to have impulse bought a large pale and extremely dense pumpkin which was roasted with its own seeds and a bit of thyme then got my pizza head on. The dough was a bit… lively but made enough pizza for us all to gorge on, me to snack on with a couple of bottles of Empires finest and to have as lunch the next day. I can heartily recommend the special pizza flour at GVG. Add to this a liberal coating of the “supercirio” tomato puree and you don’t need anything else. Apart from some delicious sweet basil. And maybe a drizzle of olive oil.

Gratuitous picture of a scoop carved at Babes in the Wood session by way of reminding everyone that there is one place left on Sunday’s spoon carving course J”

Total spend at GVG £ completely lost track-ish                                                                

Sunday’s cooking looks a bit odd in hindsight. There was the breakfast pie, a sort of pizza topped sweet cobbler of counter top nectarines, rescued and loved into a state of butterscotch coated loveliness. Then there was lunch for one, artisan fettuccine with mushroom tomato sauce and a brace of clay owls, cooked up for Monday’s session in Salford. As can be seen from one of the pictures, Sydney has attached a sheet of paper to the salad spinner possibly in the hope of hypnotising me into giving her larger portions of food.

Monday was another big shop in preparation for my mother’s birthday lunch on Wednesday. We sourced some presents at GVG and chose select squash for stuffing with leeks and baking in the oven. I also experimented with making falafel from scratch which we had for lunch with panzanella and tabouleh, as delicious as it was virtuous.

Evening meal combined two of Sydney’s favourite things, pastry and cauliflower cheese. Lisa almost took time off work to help out with the cooking but in the end gave in to multi tasking.

Please note the general tidiness of my workstation and the cluttered mayhem of Lisa’s. I would like to point out that glasses of wine were drunk at her suggestion and I only had a glass to stop her looking like a lush in the photos.

Today was another lunch time salad-fest with everyone joining in. (With the eating at least). Though big plans were afoot for the evening meal.. I decided to clean the oven. This became a mammoth undertaking as I removed the doors and anything else that would unscrew. The beast was pulled away from the wall for the first time in Sydney’s living memory. Obviously we were horrified at what we found there but managed to console ourselves with the absence of any rodent droppings!

At 5.30 this evening, I was still up to my elbows in Mr Muscle and soda crystals and it looked like the squash pilaf was a no goer. So fortified with local chips and mushy peas I returned the cooker to (almost) factory condition and fired up the unblocked wok ring with a roar akin to a Formula 1 racing car!

In an atmosphere of cleanliness and calmness I prepared the dough for tomorrows Fataya read and the za’atar mix to go on top. (Using real Thyme as oppose to the marjoram my mother is currently passing off as such!)

This week has been as much about the space in which we make food as the food itself. The frenzied attack on the cooker was part of a general recapturing of the kitchen for its purpose. Unfortunately Lisa has to use the kitchen for work but over the years unnecessary clutter has gathered in every cupboard and corner stifling any creativity or desire to use the space.

It will never be the perfect kitchen that I would like to cook in but it is the one we have got and with a little care and attention, it can be more than fit for purpose.

Totally Locally Challenge, day 23, The Holy Grail

Todays booty from GVG
Todays booty from GVG

It is the most heart wrenching feeling to be asked by your child for something that you just cannot provide.

So it was on the walk home from school today in the wind and the rain. “Daddy, I really want school dinners”

“What is it about school dinners that you really want?” I asked

“Yorkshire pudding”. My heart sank. Yorkshire pudding… the vegan holy grail. How many times over the past decade have I tried to make Yorkshire puddings?

Efforts have ranged from poor to appalling with most of the efforts tending towards appalling. While there are many  Googleable recipes, some with lovely images of fluffy golden Yorkshire puddings (clearly fake ahem) this is one of the recipes that never ceases to defeat me.

Still, what the princess wants, the princess gets so once again I attempted this most challenging dish.

I would like to tell you the through the power of Totally Locally I managed the impossible and the fluffy batter clouds were mine but no.

They were vile, or rather it was vile as I only had a big pan to make the monstrosity in. (Surely Yorkshire pudding shouldn’t fizz in the mouth!)

Rather bizarrely, my daughter liked it and managed to scoff a goodly proportion before I could get it into the bin. (Some of it with Agave syrup on!)

Total spend at GVG £15.00 ish*                                                                                                

For the grownups, Panzanella salad, falafel, freshly sliced and pickled beetroot and a tangy salsa made with green tomatoes and Russian roulette chillies (apparently one in twenty blows your head off!).

Muddy carrot and chick pea soup simmering in the background… do I risk dumplings?


Definitely NOT Yorkshire pudding
Definitely NOT Yorkshire pudding

*ish is the universally accepted unit of approximation brought about by the users inability/unwillingness to hunt out a receipt.

Totally Locally Challenge, day 22, Yoghurt-gate

Scrumped apples (don't tell Fiona!)
Scrumped apples (don’t tell Fiona!)

Breakfast and lunch for all was based around a HMB loaf I found lurking in the freezer.

After a weekend away I was so looking forward to picking up the victuals that I took my BIG rucksack down the road to the GVG. SO excited was I that I completely forgot the shopping list, but there you go!

Apart from the bits and pieces that I could remember (good that coconut oil!) I was picking up the Suma order placed by Lisa which comprised a lot of soya milk, some form of vegetable based sausage, cream cheese, hard cheese and yoghurt. And more yoghurt. So much yoghurt that I was forced to question (in my mind) why we had ordered so much yoghurt! And why was it all the same flavour?

A mystery of Scooby-doo proportions.

Total spend at GVG £44.00 ish                                                                                                  

Lisa maintains that she had not intended to order so much yoghurt. Sydney, I expect, will be overjoyed and will attempt to eat great swathes of it with everything and to experiment with turning it into ice lollies.

Ok it’s not Sydney it’s me. Frozen yoghurt lollies! Nice.

Durty carrots
Durty carrots

Easy dinner tonight, sausage and mash with some of the handsomest carrots I have seen in a while, fragrant, be-stalked and muddy just as Bugs Bunny likes them.

Totally Locally Challenge, day 21, Spoonageddon

Spoonageddon, go on, you know you want to!
Spoonageddon, go on, you know you want to!

All the way home we pondered whether we could make it back in time to call at GVG, pick up the Suma order and  some onions and get out to the various evening commitments.

In the end we followed the Brahmin way of preparing lentil dhal and did so without any onions (Thanks to Rick Stein and his voyage around India for this insight) As it happens there was garlic in the dhal so it wasn’t Brahmin at all but it just goes to show that sometimes the “essential” ingredient isn’t as essential as we first thought.

Total spend at GVG £0.00                                                                                                

Over the past three weeks a dozen*  people have enquired about the wooden spoons and scoops which appear in the photos. The making of such spoons, scoops, spatulas etc is an extremely rewarding past time and their use brings a lovely glow every day as we thing to ourselves “I made that” How many times a day do we say that about a plastic spatula or a metal spoon? This joy in the making of the implements with which we make food is inextricably tied up with the joy we can take in the food itself.

Brahminish Dhal
Brahminish Dhal

In a bid to share the joy, YOU could come along to a spoon carving workshop, like the one running at the Slaithwaite Community Centre on 3rd November. For more information YOU might like to download this flyer :

*As I am slightly numerically dyslexic, please be aware that dozens can mean anything between 0 and 12

Totally Locally Challenge, day 20, Party political broadcast on behalf of the Totally Locally party-“A local shop for local people”

Apart from the perishables brought with us, today was a day of freezer food and packaged salad.

But still the conversation goes on.

Somehow the Linda Mac sausages and pies, once greeted with amazement and joy, just don’t seem to cut it. Somehow the overly manufactured, excessively flavoured nature of today’s food offering has become off putting.

I am missing cooking in my own kitchen with food bought within walking distance from a shop which brings revenue into my village and employs local people. (Could it be that I am turning into Edward from The League of Gentlemen? “A local shop for local people”)

After only twenty days we are talking about post Totally Locally Challenge. Even with the best will in the world, the complexity of life allows big company advertising to ensnare us and convince us that more-for-your-money, more convenient, more exotic, more popular, more packaged groceries are better, will make us better. I hope that we can maintain the changes we have made as experiment changes into normality.

This blog was never intended to be a rant, just a collection of observations about a family trying something different. But food whether it is globally or locally considered is a political issue that affects us all.

Total spend at GVG £0.00        

I think we are realising that less is the new more.

Totally Locally Challenge, day 19, Totally Locally World Tour

After a start-from-scratch baked breakfast, or rather brunch by the time I got round to making it we packed up and set off to visit Lisa’s mum in St Annes for the weekend. We raided the Totally Locally shelves and took along our perishables.

“Maybe  we could try to shop locally when we get to St Annes” I said

“Oh yes there is a green grocers near to my mums, we could find out if they know the provenance of their fruit and veg”

Arriving late we headed for the Totally Locally fish bar for potato scallops and veggie burgers and a look at the local grocery shop.

“Well it used to be there…”

The genteel parade of shops sported a Wine shop, a party goods shop, a Chinese medicine shop, two take-aways but no grocery shop. No butchers, no bakers (if you count the party goods shop then technically there was a candle stick makers).

There was however a Coop store, selling fruit and veg, meat and bread amongst the all of the other things available in a locally situated supermarket.

It saddened both of us that we did not know where we might shop  locally without resorting using micro supermarkets. I suppose that if we were residents of St Annes we might know when the market was running or what truly local produce is available but none of this would be in walking distance.

Total spend at GVG £0.00        

Driving through St Annes town centre I spotted a hoarding proudly proclaiming the arrival of an Aldi superstore.

Currently St Annes is served by one of the biggest Tesco shops that I have ever seen, a large Sainsbury’s and a Morrison’s store a couple of miles away. There is a town centre Marks and Spencer and a host of other big name chains but I cannot say where there is a fruit and veg shop.


Totally Locally Challenge, day 17, Double leek and flatbread

The hallmark of Thursday morning is me barking at various members of the family as I try to herd cats into a state of readiness so that I can get out of the house and down to the woods for the Thursday Babes in the Woods session.

And yet as I lay in bed last night, pondering the dwindling supply of HMB bread and lack of oats for breakfast, I committed to making sushi from leftover rice for Syd’s packed lunch (not pack-up which is a Yorkshire ism which irritates Lisa for some reason) and butterscotch pear pancakes also for packed lunch (not pack-up) and everyone’s breakfast.

So Lisa and I found ourselves cooking together on a hurry-up-and-get-out-of-the-house morning and somehow no voices were raised. Hair was brushed, teeth cleaned, packed lunches (not pack-ups) were made and the world turned. Even more importantly I arrived in the woods (in the rain) in good time and got tarps up while the behemoth (actually wearing a coat!) set up the benches. Apart from the ritual exchange of cusses around doing half a job etc. The morning proceeded with a Zen calm. Maybe there is a book in there somewhere “Totally Locally cooking for a stress free life” or “Teenage tantrum taming through teatime treats”

Today’s shop was BIG leeks, proper ones with green bits on for me to make double leek soup (Interestingly, none of these dishes have names until one has to write about them!). The pale parts are cooked with potatoes and blended while the green parts are finely chopped and stir fried to be added later. That way everyone else in the family gets the baby food soup they enjoy and I get the lumps that I like. ( I even managed to fry up the potato skins and chuck them in too…shhhh).

Total spend at GVG £0.00 (Unknown at this point as Lisa is out, will update at some point)

I didn’t get to eat until after school parents evening and still  thinking about the lack of loafage in the bread bin, knocked up bread dough before going out. This was cooked on the pizza stone (apt as it was the reduced price pizza flour from GVG) and made enough to serve with the soup and some for hollow legs to take to school tomorrow.

The behemoth trimmed a mango for himself and Sydney, slightly bruised, I expect it was from the bargain box at GVG. Bargain box salvage is starting to give me a warm feeling inside, as though we are giving a home, a raison d’être to neglected fruit and veg.

You will note he is blurred in the image. This is on account of the only time he moves fast is when there is mango in the offing!

Coffee update, am finding Afro coffee to be the best so far but I think I will expand the odyssey to pastures new and see what Ashby’s has to offer next. This is particularly exciting as I have never actually been inside. How strange, there are not that many shops in Slaithwaite but there are several which I have never gone into. Maybe this ought to go on my Totally Locally to do list. Not sure what I could get in the  butchers though. Paxo maybe?

Totally Locally Challenge, day 16, Lemon Squash

Sometimes I have my best ideas while in the most unlikely places. So it was this morning while lying in the bath that the idea of lemon squash pilaf came to me.

Not, of course, rice cooked in Robinsons lemon barley water (though then again…) but combining some rather fetching squashes (acorn variety I believe) and lemon rind in a roasting  tin and cremating them until all of the caramelised sweetness came forth. Flavoured with mothers garden herbs, which she claims to be a type of thyme but I maintain is marjoram and a sprinkle of salt they were arranged on rice flavoured with onion, garlic, celery and sweet paprika.

The scooped out seeds were not wasted. Roasted in a pan and flavoured with garlic and a little salt they were sprinkled over the squash along with the crispy roast lemon rind (in a sort of sour fruity shrapnel stylie)

Personally I found the whole ensemble to be delicious. The seeds may have been slightly fibrous and husky, the rice slightly overdone, and yes Sydney was seen to gag on the crispy lemon crackling but you can’t please everyone all of the time.  Everyone did eat the squash and found it to be delicious, even if they did balk at eating the skins, the big babies.

Too busy today to make dessert but with an abundance of flour and pears from the reduced box, I may find it in me to do butterscotch pear pancakes for breakfast.

Total spend at GVG £0.00

With regard to the stale pita… torn, fried in garlic and fresh herbs. A bit of salt and presto, a nice salty snack to go with any beer or cider. Or indeed into an eight year olds lunch box in a twist of greaseproof paper. Technically it is not crisps so is allowed at school but even so, mum’s the word just in case. By contrast with the roast lemon, Sydney DID find these delicious.

Just to be clear, eight year old was not sent to school with beer or cider.

To my knowledge.