Saturday, August 22, 2009

On cheap shopping and cheating at bread-baking

A few weekends ago I baked some delicious yeast bread. Nothing unusual in that, except that I felt a bit of a fraud as there was an element of cheating involved. I am not beating myself up over it, rather I felt a bit chuffed at how tasty it was given that this should be the nemesis of true home-bakers everywhere - Bread Mix! This was bread mix with a difference though, as it turned out closer to home-baked bread than I'd expected.

My (potentially!) guilty secret is out - the breadmix came from Lidl, that ubiquitous German store that has, as I told Lynda in a comment on her post, revolutionised shopping in Ireland in the past decade.

Lidl and its rival, fellow-German chain Aldi have hit the Irish multiples where it hurts - on their bottom line. The good news for the hapless consumer who was previously held to ransom by the cartel-like inflated prices of the Irish multiples was that their entry to the marketplace led to real price wars, and drove down prices across all food and non-food goods. Tesco upped the ante with a huge discounting campaign but they are coming under fire for cutting Irish suppliers in favour of cheaper imported products from the UK. Of course with the recession in full swing there is fierce competition for our dwindling paypackets at the checkout, and we are certainly voting with our feet.

There was a terrific price war in the border towns last Christmas, when there was a mass exodus from the Irish Republic (our Official Title) to Northern Ireland (where, being part of the UK, everything is cheaper) and a number of retailers south of the border went bust. Suddenly loyalty was being touted as a virtue and we were being guilt-tripped by the government to shop local and buy Irish. As this was seen as rich coming from a government mired in corruption and scandal on a daily basis, it was greeted with due derision, and rightly ignored.

The protection of Irish jobs, workers and businesses suddenly became a patriotic priority and a civic duty, but as the government were at that moment bailing out banks and developers with our taxes and doing nothing to look after the small businesses , the cynics and sceptics among us became even more despairing.

In the case of Lidl, there was huge snobbery about its potential impact on the Irish "housewife" who was patronised in the media as someone needing protection from herself should she be tempted into the dens of iniquity that these cheeky interlopers represented. Luckily most people aren't fools and could spot a bargain at 100 miles, so flocked in droves to the newcomers. Result- Irish tastes expanded to accommodate the exotic smoked meats and cheese that we could previously get in expensive chi-chi delis or smuggle back from our annual sun holiday.

Nowadays there's a certain perverse cachet to shopping in these stores, and many a yummy mummy is seen loading up the still-ubiquitous SUV in the car park with her purchases. Hard to credit that it's only a couple of years since the chattering classes wouldn't be seen dead in these shops, seeing them as the preserve of some underclass who actually had to watch the pennies. Now that conspicuous consumption - and even the SUV is disparaged as an "Axle of Evil" - is becoming increasingly vulgar in these frugal and recessionary times, the discount supermarket's day has finally arrived. Those of us who always shopped there are having the last laugh at the discomfort of those who make excuses when spotted on the premises, e.g. I'm only here for the marvellous extra virgin olive oil, darling!

In case all this sounds like the death-knell for the small shopkeeper, the corner shop still has its place in every village and suburb, and it is great that there are Farmers' Markets springing up all over the country. Ireland's cookbook industry is thriving, and cookery programmes are being syndicated globally, so all is not utilitarian drabness and a throwback to wartime rationing.

Back to the bread - this wasn't meant to be a polemic anti-government rant (did enough of them earlier in the year and nothing has improved since) - I hasten to add that bread mix does not equate to short cuts.


1. The yeast, flour and salt are pre-mixed but the warm water must be added and the mix kneaded with dough hooks in the food mixer (or a bread maker if you have one - I don't so can't speak with authoritiy here).
2. Then the dough is left to rise in a warm place for 3-40 minutes, and again kneaded down, and put in oiled bread tins to rise for another 30-40 minutes.
3. I use bread tins instead of making rolls or a shaped bread, as it is a wetter mixture than my own home made bread, which is much easier to hand knead after mixing, and it holds the finished shape better in a tin.
4. Baked for about 40 minutes at 200 degrees Centigrade, then turned out and cooled on a rack, it is delicious warm with butter and jam, as toast with your breakfast boiled egg, or whatever takes your fancy.

Top Tip

To really get the best from this bread, a nice cuppa tea is essential. I have some funky Gaudí-inspired mugs from Barcelona - the triangular one was a gift for my son, which I secretly covet - and they are guaranteed to cheer up anyone, even on the most miserable Irish summer's day.

As those of you in the know will agree, that's no mean feat this year.


Rudee said...

We have an Aldi here, but I've not tried them. Perhaps I will. Now can we back up to the middle photo? That piece of pottery holding your tea? It's beautiful!

Irene said...

That bread sounds delicious and I would make it if I didn't live on my own. I am also quite a klutz in the kitchen and it wouldn't turn out probably. Here's happy eating to you!

La Tea Dah said...

Catherine --- a lovely post. I love those funky teacups!!!

Catherine said...

Thanks for the responses! Rudee - try Aldi as it's supposed to be as good as Lidl; I don't have Aldi nearby and so stick with Lidl till they open a shop in Dungarvan, where I work. As for the pottery mug with the tea - that is stamped Antoni Gaudí but I doubt very much he had anything to do with it as he was too busy crazily building the Sagrada Familia and other wonderfully weird buildings in Barcelona. However, his wacky designs are keeping souvenir makers and sellers in business these days, there are Gaudí-esque mugs and cups and plates and condiment sets everywhere in Barcelona and environs. The tiled theme is taken from the dragon/lizard water feature in Parc Guell. If you look at my Barcelona and the Bus Turistic post there are some references to it. I have another mug to photograph which I will share with you later - in fact all my weird mugs will feature in a future post!

Catherine said...

Irene - thanks and I am sure you're not a total klutz in the keuken, at least not more than I am! If I got it to work, then so could you. You could divide up the mix to use one-quarter a pack - these two loaves were made with half a pack. so there are 4 loaves like this in one pack, not bad for €1.50 or so.
Hope all is good with you, thanks for your email.

Catherine said...

Lah Tea Dah - thanks and they are lovely cups aren't they? I love them and like I said, I covet my son's one, gave it as a present for him, and am delighted he is using it all the time. That's his tea I photographed!
I thought of you with the pottery as you have such lovely pieces - bone china probably, not heavy stuff like these.
All the best, Catherine.

talesfromagarden said...

hi catherine,
just to add my liking for that quirky mug too looks like mosaic its lovely, my son is going to barcelona in sept.guess whats on the gift list!
i too shop in aldi my local here and at the moment they have 8 lovely red apples in a basket for 59cent!the exact same are next door in super valu for 2.29 euros!and where else will you buy a sliced pan for 55 cent!

Catherine said...

Hi Kathleen - thanks for comment, you should go to Barcelona with your son! It is a great city to go around and lots of interesting places to see and things to do. Never a dull moment. There's lots of mosaicy stuff there, Gaudi was big into mosaic and tiling with broken crockery I think, specially in Parc Guell.
Agree about the prices, Aldi seem to be better than Lidl in some things, I don't have Aldi in Dungarvan where I shop mostly, but I just don't buy dear stuff any more! Bread in Lidl is prob. 60cent or so. Have to go visit your blog - have been bad about that lately, commenting sporadically but too busy going here and there - lots of taxi duty!

Babaloo said...

Oh, those cups are gorgeous! I'm getting really envious here. :-)

I've got 2 Lidls and one Aldi in driving distance and my grocery bill reduced massively thanks to that. It might have helped that I'm so used to those two stores from back in Germany... :-) But, I didn't flock there straight away, I did actually do my comparisons. And, believe it or not, the deli meats and cheeses are not only cheaper than equivalents from Irish retailers (won't name names here) but they're also a lot tastier!

Debbie said...

I love that triangular mug.
We recently got an Aldi about 40 minutes from my house and it is worth the trip every few weeks. I love it.

Catherine said...

Babaloo - have a great time in Germany!

I tried to follow your blog but I don't see a follower's listing - help! Otherwise I don't get a reminder of your posts in my dashboard.

Agree about the discount stores reducing the bills, I have a good friend in Berlin (former East) and she told me when Lidl came to Ireland first and was getting dissed by the "Irish" supermarkets that Lidl and Aldi are pretty normal good quality value stores.

I agree about the quality as the deli produce is fantastic - cheese and ham and things like the bacon bits are terrific in Caesar salad and as a base for Nasi Goreng, and so many other dishes. So it's been a welcome change.
Keep in touch,

Catherine said...

Hi Debbie,
Yes, the triangular mug is lovely isn't it? Have a few more to photograph as well and will post them when they are ready and I have a minute. I don't have an Aldi nearby but do have Lidl so that is good too, as I said to Babaloo above they are both considered quality shops by most Germans. It is good to have a bit of competition in shopping as in Ireland we have been ripped off for years.
Thanks for commenting,

Eileen L said...

Hi Catherine,enjoyed that! The bread sounds great,but yeast still sounds like a bit too much bother for me!I'll have to tell you about my little habit when I'm away...I love a cup of tea out of a decent mug in my room, so I always buy a mug asap,use it while away,and bring it home as a souvenir.A mug,and fridge magnets,they're my types of souvenirs!

Catherine said...

Hi Eileen - found my way back to the post to reply to your comment - I wasn't sure which post I had sent you that you'd commented on when we met today - glad you enjoyed it - I hadn't read it in a while and thought it was maybe the other mugs post I did - I'll send you the link - or the teapot one!
Yeast is a hassle as you need time - the great thing is we recently got a bread machine from Lidl and Jan has become an expert bread maker with it - something about men and machinery! Great results though. Look out for it next time Lidl have it, as it takes all the headache out of breadmaking and you get excellent results.
I love your mug souvenir habit - I think I've begun to emulate it as I have a lot of mugs from different places and plan to keep it up. I like things I can be reminded of a place by, little glazed terracotta tapas bowls from Costa Brava are great for everything, olive bowls, or oil and vinegar sets, coasters, have the lot - light enough for hand luggage too!
Have a good foodie weekend!

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