Calais – Day Three

I am a couple of days late in rounding off my fleeting Calais trip for you – apologies! I was rather too exhausted on Saturday evening plus incredibly frustrated at how slow the internet was in the hostel, and my plan of writing while I was on the ferry was foiled by… sleep.

Day Three followed much the same pattern as the previous two; preparing salad to be taken out to the camp along with the curry and rice, then preparing vegetables for the next day. I also spent time slicing bread to be dipped in the curry – ten big sacks in all if I remember correctly (although not on my own of course!).

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The Refugee Community Kitchen in Calais benefit from the recent change in French law which requires all large food retailers to give their surplus fresh food to charity. Feeding approximately 2500 people a day means that bread and vegetables which the supermarkets won’t sell because it wouldn’t last long enough in peoples fridges can be used straight away to feed some very hungry people. Other ingredients are either donated or purchased in bulk with donated money.

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As promised, I did manage to leave the vegetable prep area for a short while on Saturday to talk to the cooks and chef about what they were making. I will share a curry recipe with you soon, but I want to have a go at scaling it down first because I don’t think that you will need to feed quite so many people as we were feeding in Calais!

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Over and out!

Kitty

Calais – Day Two

… today I have mostly been crying oniony tears…

Lots of chopping and peeling again today – carrots, onions, potatoes, chicory, lettuce and MUCH garlic. Lesson of the day – many hands make light work! The garlic took at least five people most of the afternoon. It’s a good job that there are lots of jobs to be done, so that we can swap around when either our minds or our bodies have had enough of being in one place. 

I expect that you are wondering what is done with all these vegetables?  Each day some variation on vegetable curry, rice and salad is made for thousands of people – all in one pretty small (all things considered) kitchen. The volunteers also get the same for their lunch so I have been able to sample it for the last couple of days – delicious and both days rather different. The kitchen depends on donations of food, so the recipe of the day really depends on what is to hand.

I had a chat with the head chef this afternoon, and we have arranged to spend a few minutes together tomorrow putting down on paper a typical ‘Calais Kitchen’ curry recipe to share with you. 

Until then it’s rest time for me. 

Over and out! 

Kitty

p.s. follow the kitchen on Twitter @RefugeeCKitchen

Calais – Day One

Today I have mostly been peeling carrots and garlic…

This post is a bit of a departure from the usual here at Kitty’s Storecupboard; still food related but written from a kitchen in Calais, France where I am helping to feed the thousands of migrants camped out at the Calais ‘Jungle’. I have brought three people with me – my friend Sarah and two lovely ladies from Stroud called Claudia and Frances who have been asked to spend a few days at the youth centre in the Jungle teaching circus skills to some rather traumatised and bored young people.

Sarah and I are based at the warehouse where lots of hard work goes on behind the scenes – sorting dontations of food and clothes, cooking hot food to be served at the camps, packing bags of dry food to distribute (a bit like Foodbank bags). 

Morning

I have been helping in the kitchens this morning – although most of my vegetable peeling was outside, which was nice given the weather. I have also unloaded the donations from the lovely people of Stroud – food, vitimins and first-aid supplies for the women and childrens centre and a computer for the school.

Sarah’s job this morning was in a production line packing the food bags to be distributed and Claudia and Frances were sorting tents in the warehouse. I have now dropped Claudia and Frances off are  at the youth centre so that they can get started with their circus skills workshop.

Next  – to head to a supermarket and spend the cash given to me by the wonderful Rasmachaz shop, the congregtion of Trinity Church Stroud, and friends and neighbours who were really keen to give knowing that it will go to directly stock the rather empty warehouse. I will be much happier when I have parted with the cash, I don’t like walking around with lots of Euros!

…afternoon

We didn’t need to go shopping in the end – the people of Stroud were so generous that the lady in charge of stocking the warehouse decided that it would be better spent on bulk buying a pallet-load of food, such as milk or tinned tomatoes. I will let you know exactly what it was spent on later in the week.

I have mostly carried on with vegetable preparation and general dogs-body in the kitchen. Sarah carried on with packing food for distribution; they packed 5000 bags – so literally feeding the 5000! Claudia and Frances survived their trip into the Jungle – but I think it is up to them to tell there own story. 

That’s all for now – time for a well earned sleep. 

Kitty 

P.s – I do have a few photos  to add,  but the internet at the hostel is being so slow that I can’t upload them. I will add them another time.

Lent 2016

Hi ladies and gents,

It is a week since pancake day and I have yet to share my Lent Challenge with you which is rather remiss of me, sorry. I was a bit torn as to what to do this year, not least because in some ways fasting for Lent is quite a personal thing, and I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t choosing something just because it would be interesting to write about!

In the past I have given up various things; I have had a dairy-free Lent, gluten-free, vegetarian  (much to my mother’s annoyance when I was living at home and she was cooking!), caffeine free and last year I gave up coffee and wine. These have all been challenging in different ways, in some cases forcing me to broaden my repertoire of recipes and giving me an appreciation of other people’s food allergies and intolerances.

So, back to 2016. As some of you will know I am pretty passionate about sharing food, not wasting food and about being mindful about where food has come from. I wanted my Lent challenge to build on the discipline which my £5 a week challenge had instilled in me, and in addition to heighten my awareness as to the origin of  the food that I eat. I had a few ideas and a few suggestions from people including a vegan diet, something food-miles related, abstaining from alcohol, following the strict Greek Orthodox Lenten fast (effectively vegan plus wine-free with a couple of full fast days thrown in for good measure), cooking without the contents of my storecupboard, a zero food-waste Lent, cooking something new every day, and a complaining-free Lent (I like that idea and might try to do it anyway!).

I really liked the idea of having a ‘Local Lent’ based around food-miles, however, I found it rather difficult to get my head around what food-mile parameters I should set myself. Would it be just Gloucestershire, England, the UK, Europe? Or should I set myself a number of miles per week, so that if I had a cup of coffee I would be restricted in what else I could have?  If things weren’t labelled with country of origin would I have to make the assumption that I couldn’t have it? All a bit complicated!  Given all of the above what I finally decided upon is to have a Supermarket-Free Lent; so still a ‘Local Lent’ but with less maths! In addition I want to continue to be mindful about the quantity of food that I buy, making sure that I only have as much as I need, so I am giving myself the slightly less ridiculous budget of £10 a week for food and drink.

So what can you expect in the next few weeks? Probably lots of drooling over the delicious Pippin Doughnuts at the wonderful and award-winning Stroud Farmers Market – it’s a good job that I have given myself the £10 budget! There will also be some pretty amazing recipes coming your way; I have no idea yet what they well be, we will all have to wait and see what inspiration my local shopping gives me!

Ta’ra for now!

Kitty

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Stroud Farmer's Market

January Challenge ‘de-brief’

I am almost exactly a month into my life as a food blogger, and I have to say that this is definitely the most difficult post that I have written so far. Those of you who have been following me for the last month will know that I set myself a challenge at the beginning of January to ‘cook using only what I already have in my cupboards and freezer, plus what I can buy for £5 a week’;  you will also know that I like to communicate what I have been cooking with minimal ‘waffle’. Now that February has arrived it is time to reflect on my January Challenge and I really hope that I can do so in a concise and interesting way. Please leave me a message if you make it all the way to bottom!

Most importantly, I must say that I have really enjoyed giving myself a ridiculous budget for a month; it reminded me of how much fun it is to be creative with my cooking, and in addition it ‘reset’ my shopping habits and prevented me from producing any food waste.

What I would really like to get across to you is how well you can eat on a small weekly budget if you keep a few ‘core’ things in your storecupboard. If you are not used to this style of food shopping and cooking then there will be some upfront expenditure (but not much, see below how much I spent on topping-up my cupboards at the end of the month); but once you have initially stocked up there will just be a small ‘rolling cost’ as you replace things.

So here goes a short retrospective on my January Challenge:

What did I buy with my £5 a week?

My first £5 was spent on onions, carrots, mushrooms, some good British sausages, a lime & soda from my local pub, and some reduced bread for my freezer.

Lesson #1 – lime & soda is totally pointless and a waste of money!

During the second week I spent the princely sum of £4.88 on free range eggs, carrots, new potatoes, frozen peas and a British lamb shank.

Lesson #2 – a box of mixed-sized eggs is considerably cheaper than buying a box of identical eggs, and unless you are doing high-precision baking they are just as good.

For the last couple of weeks of the challenge I was more ‘bitty’ in my shopping (I didn’t have time for a ‘big’ £5 shopping trip!) and I was not quite so disciplined in writing up what I had bought; in summary I topped up the onions, potatoes, mushrooms and carrots, and I had a cup of tea at a church coffee morning for a whole 80p – decadent!

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What are my new favourite recipes?

As I mentioned above, one of the best things about giving myself a ridiculous budget was re-discovering my creative ‘make-it-up-as-you-go-along’ cooking flair! I think that my favourite was probably the Roasties with Garlic & Coconut Dip – this was a very spur of the moment ‘snack’ using some coconut yoghurt that a friend had left in my fridge, I will certainly be making it again.

If I had to choose another top creation it would be a difficult choice between the vegetable curry and spaghetti with tomatoes and poached egg.

Lesson #3 – if you don’t allow yourself to ‘pop to the shops’ for additional ingredients you will discover new and exciting (or sometimes just ‘interesting’) recipes!

Please do let me know what your favourite recipe has been so far, and do do do give them a try and let me know how easy or otherwise they are to follow!

What did I run out of?

Early Grey tea – disaster! Tonic water – disaster! Garlic – disaster! Cheese, milk, almond milk, vegetable stock, pasta…

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… and, as the observant amongst you will note, cheap gin! Don’t worry, I haven’t yet stooped to cheap gin; the reason I require it is to make Cranberry Gin… a recipe for another day. (Retrospectively, here is the Cranberry Gin recipe)

Despite making a show of being organised, I actually managed to forget the shopping list when I went for my ‘top-up shop’ – so in the end I forgot a few things, got a few extra things, and spent about £30 (including the gin). Not bad.

What is in Kitty’s Storecupboard?

Having set myself a ridiculous budget for a month I have concluded that the following constitute the ‘core’ storecupoard ingredients which I would be hard-pressed to do without (although I’m sure I’d cope!); I hope that I have demonstrated over the last month that very little is needed in addition to these things to cook some rather delicious meals.

‘Dry Goods’

  • Lentils (Puy and Red-split lentils)
  • Rice (brown and white)
  • Pasta
  • Couscous
  • Oats

Tins / jars / cartons

  • Tinned tomatoes
  • Tomato purée
  • Chickpeas
  • Butter beans
  • Pesto
  • Milk (‘cow’ or otherwise – I am rather fond of Almond Milk)

Baking ingredients

  • Plain flour
  • Self-raising flour
  • Margarine
  • Sugar
  • Golden syrup
  • Baking powder
  • Bicarbonate of Soda
  • A selection of nuts and dried fruit

Freezer

  • Peas
  • Stock
  • Cooked vegetables for soup (from when I got portion sizes wrong!)
  • a bit of meat and/or fish, usually from the reduced section of the supermarket

Spices

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What can I say? A picture says a thousand words!

However, I would say that the ‘core’ herbs and spices for me are:

  • black pepper;
  • chilli flakes;
  • mustard seeds;
  • cumin seeds;
  • ground coriander;
  • mustard powder;
  • cayenne pepper; and
  • oregano, or some kind of mixed green herbs.

Garlic and onions are also very important!

and for my next challenge? I’ll keep you posted. In the mean time I have a number of January recipes to share with you which I ran out of time to write last month.

Well done for getting to the bottom of the page!

‘over and out!

Kitty

£4.88 well spent

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It’s that time again already – my weekly trip to Sainsbury’s (other supermarkets are available!) to spend my allotted £5 on food.

I went shopping and I bought…

  • 6 free range eggs (mixed sizes);
  • a big bag of carrots (reduced);
  • some new potatoes (reduced);
  • a British lamb shank (also reduced!); and
  • frozen peas

… all for the princely sum of £4.88.

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Buying mixed-sized eggs is a lot cheaper than buying either medium or large eggs; in the same way, cheaper vegetables tend to only differ from the more expensive ones because they are not in perfect uniformity. Who needs perfect uniformity?!

The lamb shank had today’s sell-by-date. It is already in my slow-cooker along with some onions, miss-shaped carrots (of course!), more frozen cider, frozen redcurrants from my mum’s garden, a little bit of ham stock from my freezer, pink pepper corns, a bay leaf and a little bit of wholegrain mustard. My kitchen is going to smell fabulous in the morning!

Finally, it is probably worth mentioning what I have left over from my £5 shop last week which will ‘carry over’ into this week. As you have probably noticed I still have onions; there will be enough to last me another week. I still have quite a few mushrooms which look as good as the day I bought them, so I must have done something right with how I stored them! There are also still two of the sausages and most of the loaf of bread in the freezer.

I hope I am beginning to convince you that, with a well stocked storecupboard, it is possible to eat rather well with a small weekly expenditure. I will write a post before long on what I have in my storecupboard and what the ‘upfront cost’ would be to stock the core things; once those magic ingredients are in your cupboards it won’t cost you much each week to keep your kitchen well stocked with the ingredients for some fantastic meals.

Happy cooking! If you have a go at any of my recipes please please do send me some feedback on how easy (or otherwise) they are to follow, and do send me pictures of your creations!

ta ‘ra for now,

Kitty x

just for clarity…

My January Challenge… to cook all month with only the contents of my store cupboard and freezer and what I can buy with £5 a week.”

Over the last couple of days I have been asking people for feedback on Week One of my blog. A few people have said that it isn’t obvious from my posts that my £5 a week includes breakfast, lunch and dinner and everything in between for a whole week; some people thought that it included only evening meals, and one person thought it was £5 a day!

So, for clarity, my £5 a week includes:

  • all meals: breakfast, lunch and dinner;
  • all snacks;
  • all drinks (so no cups of coffee in town or pints at my local); and
  • feeding not only myself but any visitors that I have over for supper or for tea and cake (despite living on my own, in the last week I have had people over for dinner 3 times and for a cuppa about 4 times and this is pretty normal for me).

My £5 a week does not include:

  • dog food and cat food;
  • cleaning materials and ‘sundries’ (I love that word!).

In my posts next week I will try my best to include a good variety of meals including a rather yummy and very quick breakfast, a family meal, some yummy healthy(ish) snacks and a girly evening meal in with a friend.

Keep reading, keep cooking, and please keep giving me feedback!

Kitty x

p.s. see below a picture of today’s yummy cooking; roasted carrots, onions, garlic and butter beans. yum! It’s very simple: roast the carrots, onion and garlic with some spices and salt (I’m fond of using mustard seeds and cumin seeds), when the veg are nearly done add the butter beans for the final 10 minutes. Sprinkle with chilli flakes when it comes out of the oven. I had it as a meal in itself with rice (with some spare for lunch tomorrow), but it is also rather yummy as a side dish to roast lamb or roast chicken.

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My first £5

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So I have finally got around to spending  (most of) my first  £5. I had already parted with 50p whilst pursuing my other New Year’s resolution of joining the knitting group at my local pub – since when has lime & soda been 50p?! I’m sure that it used to be no more than 20p but what would I know, I’m not very good at soft drinks.

‘I went shopping and I bought’:

  • 400g Mushrooms, £0.85
  • 1kg Carrots, £0.60
  • 1.5kg Onions, £0.90
  • 6 sausages, £1.69

£4.05 well spent I reckon!  The sausages were from the reduced section and are made from British outdoor-bred pork – yum!

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So what next?
First, and this may be stating the obvious, deal with the reduced meat. I have just put three of the sausages (two for tonight and one for my lunch tomorrow) in the oven with garlic, onions, carrots & herbs from the garden and the rest are in the freezer for another week.
The onions will last me a good couple of weeks – so I’ll be able to buy something more interesting next week :).
I find that carrots go nasty quite quickly if I’m not careful; make sure that they are out of the plastic bag so that they don’t ‘sweat’ and keep them in a cool, dry place. Mushrooms can also sweat and get damp if they are kept in plastic so I always pierce the plastic film.
If you get towards the end of the week and think that the veg aren’t going to last much longer, cook them up and freeze them for soup later.
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And finally…

The beady eyed amongst you will notice that I have some additional fresh stuff in my veg basket; this is still left from Christmas – don’t worry, I’m not cheating! Also left are some eggs and some cheese, so if you catch me cooking with them you’ll know that I haven’t been doing some cheeky shopping on the side.

Over and out,

Kitty

Day one…

So begins my entry in to the food blogging world. I am not very good at this internet thing (I suppose I will have to join Twitter?) so any (polite!) feedback you have would be much appreciated. I quite often look up recipes on-line and get directed to someone’s blog – I tend to like the recipe but often find the paragraphs and paragraphs of waffle I have to skim through first somewhat irritating, so I will try and be short and to the point!

My January Challenge (apart from getting my head around the ‘tinternet) – to cook all month with only the contents of my store cupboard and freezer and what I can buy with £5 a week. This includes cooking for visitors, so if you know me and live locally please do invite yourself over for supper!

No recipes today I’m afraid – I currently have a baked potato in the oven and I’m sure that you can cope with that (if not, drop me a line!). It’s time for me to go and make an inventory of my cupboards and plan what to spend this weeks £5 on.

ta’ra for now.

Kitty