Nearly everyday in the press there’s news of another shop closure or department store facing economic difficulties.
There has been a steady decline in the high street as shoppers turn to the internet in increasing numbers.
It’s all too easy to click on something you want on an online shopping site, pay by credit card and more often than not it’ll be with you the next day.
But this convenience comes at a cost. Imagine a world without bookshops and never having the joy of spending time browsing through books? That handbag that looks so good in the photo on line but doesn’t quite match your anticipation. And for me the thought of never being in a kitchen shop again is too tough to imagine! Nothing gets my pulse racing like shiny glasses, rustic wooden boards, gleaming knives and multi-coloured Le Creuset cast iron pots. I’ve had my late granny’s classic orange coloured Le Creuset casserole pot for years now. Like me it’s been round the block a bit, seen some abuse, is a bit battered but at its heart is still doing the job ok. But why I love it so much is the memories attached to this vessel. I can remember Granny making broth and stew in it and eating it at her kitchen table. Since I inherited it I’ve lost count of the pot roast chickens, casseroles, lamb shoulders and bubbling golden dauphinoise potatoes that I’ve served from it. It’s a timeless piece that evokes memories and makes everything taste great to boot.
Last Thursday night I was in Warden’s shop in Newtownards demonstrating dishes using Le Creuset cookware. It’s a department store that sells everything from up to the moment trendy fabrics to a wallpaper pasting table.
It was established in 1877 by James Warden and has remained in the family ever since. It has gone from a single room shop back then to the emporium it is today.
Shops like Wardens survive not just because of what they sell but how they sell it. They have good old fashioned customer service and are a destination shop in the busy market town. Like Le Creuset, they’ve moved with the times but not forgotten what made them successful in the first place.
I now have a shiny new Marseille Blue casserole to match Granny’s classic orange one and look forward to making new food memories, without forgetting the original of course.
My recipes this week are one pot dishes – perfect to make and serve in the same pot with accompaniments on the side.
The first is for lamb koftas -spiced minced lamb and spices formed into balls and cooked in a spiced sauce with ginger rice on the side. The other recipe is for Persian chicken – the meat spiced with cinnamon and paprika cooked with Pomegranate molasses and finished with ground walnuts and almonds to thicken the sauce. Pomegranate molasses is a thick sweet sour confection made from the exotic fruit that’s now readily available. It’s served with some couscous with fresh pomegranate, mint and lemon
If you want a good day out call into Wardens on a Saturday – it’s also the day of the weekly market in the town. Thriving towns like Newtownards and Cookstown realise the benefit of retail and markets working in harmony. The Krazi Baker, Mark Douglas is there every week making his griddle breads. The trip alone from anywhere in the province would be worth it for one of his treacle farls never mind the shopping!