Stop what you’re doing because I’m about to change your whole life.
If you’re after the most perfect summer side-dish or snack, then here’s what you need to do: get some really good, fresh vine tomatoes out of the fridge, and leave them for 15 minutes.
Next, slice them in half. Wait another 15 minutes.
Finally, sprinkle liberally with Steenbergs Organic Perfect Salt. Then – you’ve guessed it – wait 15 minutes more.
I assure you friends, you haven’t eaten tomatoes until you’ve tried this.
Best of Booths
I’d like to take credit for the tomato-related genius, but it’s not mine. Actually, it was shared with me by Colin Porter, the customer experience manager at Booths.
If you’re not Northern, you might not be familiar with Booths. It’s a supermarket chain with 28 stores across the North of England, from Penrith to Knutsford. In a world where supermarkets often feel like they’ve come off a production line, Booths prides itself on being a bit different.
For starters, there’s a strong focus on products from local, independent suppliers. Our local Booths stocks the cheese made at the farm just outside town, and we can easily buy salad and vegetables that are all Lancashire-grown.
This also means you’ll find different products in each store. It also means you get amazingly fresh produce. When your farmer is just up the road, you can sell ‘dug today potatoes’ and ‘picked today strawberries’. They’re harvested at 3am and delivered at dawn to stores across the region.
Earlier this month, I was invited to visit Booths in Penwortham. I got to have a tour of the store with the customer experience manager, Colin AKA Colin of the Tomatoes. This was an opportunity to find out more about Best of Booths, a series of events happening in Booths stores over the coming months. Every Booths store will have its own events, but you can expect to find cookery demonstrations from local farmers and suppliers, weekly tasting events, and help to create special recipes using local produce.
Colin explained to me that his role is to encourage customers to get involved with the store through community and supplier events, and hopefully inspire us to try something a bit different with every shop. Which is why he insisted on adding tomatoes and Perfect Salt to my basket and demanded that I Tweet him a photo after I’d tasted the tomatoes!
Across the region, the team have already held some brilliant events that you might not expect to see at your local supermarket, including a 1940s-themed gin evening complete with tasting tips, and a summer fete, complete with a local band on the car park. Other evenings, you might find a barbecue, or a cookery class being organised by one of the stores’ suppliers. There are also some wonderful community initiatives, like a scheme in Penwortham created in partnership with local churches, that gives shoppers a list of items currently needed by the local food bank.
All events are promoted on the community noticeboard, and Colin’s team also produce social media videos, which are shared on the company’s feed @BoothsCountry. There are regular events every weekend, and there will always be a weekly tasting in-store of a different product.
We’re lucky to have a Booths store just a couple of minutes from our house, and it’s a lovely place to shop. The checkout assistants know my daughter by name, and it’s the same for many of the staff and customers. The store really does feel like a part of our community. Last night we popped in after school and poor Flea got a good talking to from one of our favourite checkout assistants, who was instructing her to be very careful this weekend when the fair comes to town!
As part of my trip to Booths, I was challenged to try a recipe that was completely new to me, with some ingredients I’ve never cooked with before. Now, knowing me and cooking, this could have gone either way. But actually, the Orzo Pasta Salad was a success and, as a bonus, I now know how to make pickles for a salad and it’s WAY easier than you’d think. Check out the full recipe below, if you’re looking for a hearty summer salad, I can thoroughly recommend it! Although I will say the recipe below will easily feed 4 adults, so half the recipe if you’re cooking for two.
Orzo Pasta Salad, by Booths
- 500g Orzo Pasta
- 4tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 lemon
- 200g baby carrots
- 200g baby courgette
- 100g radishes
- 1 banana shallot
- 200ml white wine vinegar
- 1tsp black peppercorns
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 sprig thyme
- 4 tbsp ricotta
- 2 tbps blanched almonds
- 2 tbsp chopped mint
- Cook the pasta in boiling water for 8 minutes, then drain in a colander and rinse well with cold water
- Place the vinegar, peppercorns, bay leaf and thyme in a pan with the white wine. Bring to a simmer to create a pickling liquor
- Use a vegetable peeler to slice the carrot, courgette and radishes into ribbons and cut the shallot into thin rings
- Lay the vegetables into a shallow dish and pour over the hot liquor. Leave to pickle for 5 minutes, and drain
- In a large bowl, combine the pickles, pasta, olive oil, lemon juice and zest – mix well
- To serve, sprinkle with chopped mint and almonds, and top with dollops of fresh ricotta
Disclosure: I was paid for this post, but all views remain my own. Because Booths DOES have awesome food. And shopping bags.