Food news: Support your food troops
I remember moving back to Dublin from London in the 1990s and fretting about where I would be able to find all the ingredients that I had become accustomed to cooking with in the UK.
At that time, the only herb that you'd find in an Irish supermarket (and only if you were lucky) was curly parsley; fresh basil and coriander were hard to come by.
The discovery of Roy Fox in Dublin's Donnybrook was a relief. We made a regular trip there every Saturday morning to pick up the ingredients that we'd need to cook whatever we were making for that evening's dinner party, and the week ahead. In those pre-Ottolenghi days, the shop was repository of exoticism, high-quality fruit and vegetables, gourmet products, grains and pulses. And every fresh and dried herb that you could wish for. If Roy Fox didn't stock an ingredient you were looking for, they would order it in.
Just around the corner was Richard Douglas' excellent traiteur, The Douglas Food Shop, and between the two we were very well fed.
A couple of weeks before Christmas, Roy Fox closed down. The supermarkets are better stocked these days than they were 20 years ago, and of course doing all one's shopping in the same place is an attractive prospect for busy people.
But if we don't use shops such as Roy Fox, then we will lose them. Small specialist shops need our custom if they are to survive, and offer us an alternative to the behemoths that are the supermarkets. And there is something about getting to know the people who sell us our food on a personal basis that is good for our quality of life. Developing a relationship with our butcher is the way to learn about different cuts of meat and to have access to a selection of products that is far greater than any supermarket can offer. Likewise our fishmonger, who will introduce us to species of fish that we may not have encountered before and can advise on seasonality and sustainability.
I'm not suggesting that we abandon the supermarkets completely, but it's well documented that the psychology behind them persuades us to buy things that we don't need, and contributes to food waste, which is a problem that's growing rather than abating.
Supporting the independent food retailers in our communities by spending at least some of our food budget with them will ensure their continued existence and a diverse retail offering in our towns and villages.
Organic foods delivered
The Organic Supermarket has fruit, vegetable and salad boxes available for delivery nationwide from €12.50 per week. For those who find it difficult to make it to a weekly farmers’ market or don’t have access to good organic fruit and vegetables, it’s a great solution, organicsupermarket.ie
Tapas at Home
Jose Pizarro runs a couple of excellent Spanish restaurants in London, and his latest book, Basque, is crammed with tapas recipes from San Sebastian and beyond. Just the thing for re-creating that authentic Spanish experience at home in dark and gloomy January. (Hardie Grant, €24.08)
Soupologie: Plant-based, gluten-free soups to heal, cleanse and energise is a collection of recipes from Stephen Argent. Soup is exactly the kind of wholesome food that we all want to be eating right now; celeriac and walnut and roasted carrot with za’atar sound delicious. (Vermilion, €18.19 at Eason)