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Barbecued fish and chips it is then....

ACCORDING to my Twitter feed - which to be fair is normally a reasonably reliable source of information, more reliable than, say, 'the bloke down the pub' - it is National Fish and Chips Day today. I actually had to correct that, initially I wrote National Fish and Chip Day. Now fish and a single chip... that would be a disappointing supper. Anyway, it is National Fish and Chips Day.... but there's a problem.

The problem is that according to the aforementioned Twitter feed it is also National BBQ Week. Which leaves me in a quandry. The sun's out. It's a nice evening. A BBQ sounds a nice idea. But so does fish and chips. Who's idea was this, having them at the same time, forcing indecisive people like me to choose? To barbecue or not to barbecue, that is the question. (Little known fact, Shakespeare himself rejected that phrase as he thought the Danes didn't barbecue. How wrong he was...) 

You could, of course, BBQ the fish. It's possible, especially with one of our barbecue bags which are non-stick and great for seafood, allowing you to add sauces and vegetables etc in with the food. So you could have barbecued fish and chips. But you can't barbecue chips, they'd have to be cooked or bought separately.... so now it is becoming a hassle, to the point where I might just get a pizza instead.

And anyway, I assume the point of National Fish and Chip Week is that you support your local chippie and buy some. Battered cod and greasy chips. Not dover sole and home-made fries.

While we're on the subject of fish and chips, what's mushy peas all about? I mean seriously, does anyone actually like them?

We digress. National BBQ Week is, of course, a whole week, I could of course have my barbecue tomorrow. I'm being, to quote my mother, flippant again. If you're reading this there's probably not time to get your BBQ bags of us in time for National BBQ Week, but they're still worth getting in stock for the next time the sun comes out. Despite the British reputation for unreliable summers, it probably will come out again at some point. They're a great way of cooking on a BBQ, especially if you want to offer something other than burgers or burnt sausages. Chicken in a sauce, corn on the cob in butter, fish and vegetables, something for the vegetarians.... why not get creative?...

And we may, just may, have some exciting developments in the BBQ bag world to report in a few weeks/months. Might not be in time for this year's barbecue season, but it will most definitely be worth the wait if it happens.


Some interesting uses for our steam-cooking bags

Eggs cooked in one of our steam-cooking bags

SO our steam-cooking bags are big in America... our distributors across the Atlantic are selling via a cooking bag programme called Ready Chef Go! and it is selling well. The programme has seen retailers taking the bags along with ingredients and creating ready meals behind the counter, and vast swathes of the continent are falling in love with the concept. (More from Ready Chef Go if you're interested).

And the inevitable happened.... people using the bags suddenly began asking can I buy just the bags? And so a retail pack was added to the Ready Chef Go range...

It's always interesting to see and hear what people do with our cooking bags, the innovative uses that people find that we've just never thought of ourselves. And the bloggers of America are certainly giving our bags a good test. I mean the bags are brilliant for fish... we've known that for some time, and we've heard many fabulous success stories from people cooking weird and wonderful fish dishes. But scrambled egg? Who knew....

One blogger reported how she filled the bag with vegetables, tipped the beaten egg in the bag, sealed it, and cooked it in the microwave.... result, an easy scrambled egg dish with no mess. Could this be a new market? The Scrambled Egg Bag... more on this another week, but you can check out the full blog from 'Rocky Mountain Savings' by clicking here...

Others were cooking a variety of vegetables, including asparagus, broccoli, potatoes in a range of styles, brussels sprouts and more... so the question is what do you cook in your steam-cooking bags? 


Farm shops starting to look at Thinking-Cooking

We're getting a steady increase in inquiries from farm shops at the moment. For farm shops, Thinking-Cooking can be a great addition. Firstly, they could add the Thinking-Cooking range to their range, simple as that. A few great additions that will sit' next to the meat counter or by the veg as an 'extra' purchase.

With nylon roasting bags, oven-grill liners, shelf-life bags for fruit and veg, slow-cooker liners and steam-cooking bags, there is something for everyone and for every type of farm shop. However big or small your farm-shop is, the Thinking-Cooking range could be a perfect addition.

But some farm shops are now taking the steam-cooking bags and using them as their own way of adding value to their own over the counter sales. A piece of chicken is nicer with a glaze, and can be sold for a higher price. Asparagus in a bundle or in a cooking bag with chilli butter? Salmon or salmon in a steam-cooking bag ready to cook in the oven or microwave with a nice sauce. The same approach can be done using BBQ/Oven bags or nylon roasting bags.

After all, throwing extra ingredients in with your roast for flavour is all the rage. The clever farm shop can do it for their customers, and reap the rewards. We can also supply BBQ/Oven bags with 'smoking chips' for wood-smoked flavour. Get creative with your flavours and you can really enhance your sales.


Inspirational recipes for microwave/oven steamed fish

USING our steam-cooking bags for the oven or microwave it is easy to create a stunning fish dish. Steam-cooking in a bag is the easiest way of impressing your family... just find a great-sounding recipe, chuck the ingredients in the bag, and cook. Most seafood dishes will take a matter of minutes in microwave, and perhaps around 15 minutes in the oven.... it goes without saying this depends on the fish and the size of the portion.

And it is not hard to find amazing recipes, the internet is full of them. We've got some of our favourite recipes on this site, but here's some of our favourite sites... - this site has lots of amazing recipes, including some fabulous sounding steamed fish recipes
TheWoksOfLife - you won't be surprised to find out this is Oriental food. You also won't be disappointed
BBCGoodFood - where would we be in this country without the good old BBC...
AllRecipes - does what it says on the tin. And you don't get to be one of the most successful sites out there without some great recipes

If you find any others, be sure to let us know, and we'll pass the information on.


Seafood sales rocket... some good ideas to be had here!

Ready, Chef, Go! prepared seafood ready meals using a self-seal cooking bag

AT THINKING-COOKING and Sirane we've been saying for a while that cooking bags can increase sales of seafood. The proof of the pudding, as they say, is in the eating... or in this case the selling, and a recent store trial in the US delivered outstanding results. The trial at a store in Idaho showed a 48% increase in seafood sales over a one-week period – with more than 350 added-value packaged meals sold during the week.

That's a lot of extra fish sold... and bosses of the chain of stores in question were quick to realise that if even a proportion of that figure could be translated to seafood counter sales across the chain of stores it had huge potential... so much so that the group MD dropped in on the last day of the trial to see for himself what all the fuss was about. 

The store used Sirane self-seal steam-cooking bags – sold in the US under the Ready, Chef, Go! brand by Elkay Plastics – to package fresh seafood with flavoured butters as ready meals.

Meals such as Salmon & Asparagus with Brazilian Garlic Butter, Tilapia and Green Beans with Parmesan & Black Pepper Butter, and Peeled Shrimp with Garlic Scampi Butter were created and offered to shoppers as a ‘grab-and-go’ fresh seafood ready meal. Meals were also offered over-the counter at the seafood counter, where customers could choose combinations

Elkay Plastics – Sirane’s exclusive distributor in the US and Canada for self-seal steam cooking bags and oven/BBQ bags – devised the Ready, Chef, Go! programme in order to offer grocery stores a complete package which will allow them to grow sales. It is a very interesting concept, and Elkay has thrown a lot of time and resources behind it... as they know in the US and Canada it will work. Elkay is one of the largest distributors in North America into the food service sector, so it is fair to say they know and understand the North American market. And their Ready, Chef, Go! programme is really gathering momentum.

So what's this got to do with Thinking-Cooking I hear you ask? Well, if you're a retailer looking for ways to increase your seafood sales, or wondering whether offering cooking bags either as part of a ready-meal or as a retail product could work, well this might give you food for thought. It's always interesting to see how other people do it, especially when they do it very successfully. Or it could simply be their butter and sauce offer could give you inspiration.

To make the programme easy, a choice of compound sauce, butter and glaze selections devised by chef Eric Carre – a renowned culinary expert specialising in new product development – has been made available to stores using Ready, Chef, Go! This allows grocery stores to up-sell their fish. Instead of a simple fillet of fish sold at, for example, $2, they suddenly have a seafood ready meal that they can sell for $5. 

Butters offered are: garlic scampi; lemon dill; blackened cajun; lemon herb with sea salt and black pepper; parmesan black pepper; Asian BBQ (Kalbi); unami, garlic swiss; creamy bacon siracha; balsamic bacon; spicy soy and ginger; maple bourbon; Cuban mojo; Brazilian garlic; Thai coconut curry, and margarita citrus splash. Sauces offered are: smoked paprika tomato basil; teriyaki; mango teriyaki; pineapple teriyaki; Thai yellow curry; Thai red curry; tangerine orange, and scampi sauce.

The programme comes with a host of marketing materials – including badges, counter displays, floor pads, and large store banners – as well as training and support. And before anyone asks, I have genuinely no idea whether Ready, Steady, Cook!, Ainsley Harriott, or indeed the whole concept of turning a green pepper or a red tomato to show your favourite dish are known at all in the US? Ready, Steady, Cook!... Ready, Chef, Go!... maybe Elkay could look at daytime TV gold for further inspiration....

Ready, Chef, Go! is also offering oven/BBQ bags, sold in the US as grilling bags. For more information on the Ready, Chef, Go! programme,