Saturday, 24 October 2009

Half a lamb

You may have noticed I'm a dedicated carnivore. At the farm shop today they had autumn lambs. £ 65 for half or £ 120 for an entire lamb.

What I hadn't realised and I have no idea why not was that the lamb would be butchered there & then. I'd assumed they'd have halves in the meat locker ready. If I'd known better I'd have consulted the textbooks to see what I could best use. As it was I had to go with what I know. (at this point I ought to say the half is being shared out, I was just charged with buying). Anyway I've got one of my favourite joints, a whole shoulder. That'll get roasted a party, it'll take several hours but it'll be rather fine. I quite fancy one of the leg joints & the belly, I'm happy to let most of the chops go though.

Anyway I must go and sort through the cuts & refridgerate/freeze as appropriate.

-- Posted from my iPhone

Sunday, 18 October 2009


 Sometimes seen as the ultimate luxury food (along with caviar & truffles). It's practically the job of a sybarite to like them. Disappointingly I found I couldn't choke a single one down. Until I went to Vegas, where a dozen were order without a moments hesitation by a dear friend. With some trepidation I awaited their arrival.

 What was this, they were delicious, a splash of lemon juice, or a drop (5 in reality) of Tobasco and wow, so this is what the fuss is about, but why are these so different from the ones before ?

 Experiment & reading threw up something unsuspected, Oysters in the us are usually rinsed, where as here in the uk they are just shucked (opened) and swallowed. The problem was the highly saline liquor, which was really causing all the vileness. With simply pouring the liquor away I could scoff oysters to my hearts content.

 Having made that simple discovery, I've been eating oysters at the slightest excuse since.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Free Food

   In my youth summer and autumn usually meant free food on offer. It started at the end of June early July with Pick Your Own (PYO) whilst somebody had to pay for the full baskets, the rule as a child was generally 1 for me, 1 for the basket. This haul would then be turned into fresh strawberry cake & pots of jam.

  Next up came blackberries, this frequently meant a bike ride down the canal or out into Cheshire or some other spot where particularly overgrown bramble tangles were known to be. On arrival there would be a small picnic before the devastation commenced (I used to wonder how these patches survived). Again it was a case of 1 for me, 1 for the bag. Meeting other blackberryers was fairly common, and had its own etiquette. What usually followed was apple & blackberry pie and Bramble jam.

  About the same time it was apples, these we didn't have to forage far for, as we had a couple of trees & the old lady nextdoor had a small orchard (about 10 trees).

  Then it was time for sweet chestnuts, getting these was a real joy, you had to wear gloves, due to the spines, and it always involved launching bits of stick up into the tree to dislodge more.

  On Sunday evening, the weather was glorious, so I blew off my chores and went to the forest. There was a group of people by the entrance having a good go at a large sweet chestnut. About 50m from the carpark we were all alone as usual. Having come out on pretty much a whim, we had 1 bag and no gloves. Still it was fun.

Its not the greatest haul, but for 15 minutes work, wasn't too bad, especially as I have a large plate more ripening on the window sill. Since I now have an open fire

It was time to roast, Normally I do chestnuts in the oven, gas 5-6 for half an hour, job done. I'd forgotten to make allowance for the rather ferocious heat of the fire, so was a little shocked when the first one popped after about 5 minutes. Jolly tasty they were too. I suspect that Saturday might include a more organized raid on the sweet chestnuts of Sherwood forest

Sunday, 11 October 2009


      In a change to Friday's usual schedule, I went to the beer festival.
My taste in beer tends towards the chunkier brews, I don't really like the taste of hops, so that rules out most bitters, and I tend to drink larger on the mainland.

Last year they had my all time favourite beer. J.W.Lees' Moonraker, a brutal barley wine that is best described as vodka infused molasses. It was a hard job to go sample other beers.This year in a bid to make my life easier they only appeared to have Hydes in. Also I had a spy in the camp, my compadre had worked the Thursday evening opening shift & spied out some good stuff.

First up was a damson stout, a very palatable number, with sweetness up front and a damson ending. Unfortunately our next target a blueberry ale had just run out, and I fell for the old trick of a punny name. It was fortunately a very tasty mild, thick dark & sweet. After that I found a strong stout, nice enough, but not very memorable.

Moving down to the second tent, a wheat beer evangelist cornered me. After serving me several tasters and finding my stance somewhat unassailable he launched a coup de gras with an orange wheat beer, which was bloody lovely.

The band started up and they were very much pub rock, until a BSL interpreter joined them at which point they suddenly became RAWK. As the orange wheat beer was fading fast I ventured back in to find a strong imperial stout. Another pun turned up in the shape of "raisin to live". I think it was the evening's strongest brew (at a disappointing 7.9%) but had a great chocolate finish.

Beedhams the butcher (see Iberico) provided some lovely catering, in the shape of sausages & steak baps, ok not haute cuisine but ideal with a mug of beer on a gusty October eve.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009


I'm a big fan of floral flavours. I suspect that this is due to believing that Fry's chocolate & particularly their Turkish Delight were the summit of available chocolate. The turkish delight with it's rose flavour being an unbelievably exotic treat.
As time marched on  I found other turkish delights, with better rose flavours, but that small purple wrapped rectangle, still holds a place. Rose however much I love the flower & the flavour has been displaced by violet.
The ultimate being Heston Blumenthal's violet tartlets, that though is a story for a different time. As is my long list of violet creams (Charbonnel et Walker's dark enrobed are up at the top). I'm going to talk about drink (I know) as I have amongst my odd alcohols creme de violette, its a beautiful colour and a fine taste.
There are a number of cafe pousse that use it with cream, and whilst they look stunning & are quite tricky to make. It seems to play very nicely with pastis, which I usually use paraisian absinthe, only occasionally swapping out for Pernod as I prefer the formers dryness.

So when I spotted "Arsenic & Old Lace" I had to dive right in. It looks stunning too as you can see.

Here is the recipe as usual the numbers represent parts
6 Gin
2 Pastis (as I said I use la Fee parisian)
2 Creme de violette
1 vermouth
Stir with ice and serve straight up.

It's a very complex taste, with huge anise notes up front, then softening through the herbals into the florals at the end. Its not going to be a drink for everyone, but its a strong drink with complex flavours, if you can track down the violette its worth a go.

Monday, 5 October 2009


I had some sorry looking pears that needed eating, they looked a bit too battered for poaching, then I found this.

Butterscotch pears.

Melt soft brown sugar in a non-stick frying man with a couple of tbsp of cream.
once its melted chuck in the pears & cook for 5 mins, put in a large nob of butter and once its stirred in, add brandy & flambe for 30s (watch out, that can get VERY INTERESTING in an A&E kind of way(*)) remove from the heat & stir in cream.

I poured it over ice cream & smashed up ginger biscuits.

I still have a half jug of butterscotch, I might get some more ice-cream on the way home.

* Molten sugar is hot (very hot) and sticky, you do not want it on you in any way at all. Some years ago I bought a Christmas gingerbread house in holland. At the top of every page (and the bottom too) was soemthing like

Let op ! gesmotlen zuicker ist hel hett

Which a mad stab at european language suggests

Watch OUT ! Molten sugar is very hot.
It is, they weren't kidding. Hopefully I'll be building another house this year, there ought to be photos & step by steps

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Street food

Most chefs when abroad wax lyrical about street-food, but not here at home, why ?
Is it because we are too rich & our street food is just junk, a bunch of calories smothered in cheap sauce with onions. Or is it the regulation that food vendors have to deal with ?

It's goose fair time here in Nottingham, the origins of which are all about food, Christmas geese and cheese mainly, of course this century has seen it change to mainly rides and attractions, with the usual burger vans, chips and candy floss. However it still retains some interesting food foibles.

First off is the tradition of coconuts & pomegranates. My guess is that this is just the generation before mine's main exposure to such exotic fruits. There also seems to be a much wider selection of dishes than normally found at such events, including Chinese,Indian,Carribean(*),German and some new sensation (this year it seemed to be a spiral crisp made from half a potato). However there are a couple of things that seem to be unique to the Goose fair.

First off is mushy peas, at least one stall cooks them in a giant bubbling vat over a coal fire, giving a mesmerizing smell as the warm coal notes cut through the usually chilly October air. They are served in cups mostly splattered with a generous helping of mint sauce. It isn't a hand food I've come across elsewhere.

Then there is the Cock on a stick. This is a boiled sugar confection, that has been pulled into a kind of S-shape and then turned into a reasonable resembelance of a rooster, of course they are sold by the double entendre, they come in 3 sizes small, medium & large, though the small ones are a bit less popular. Fortunately the BBC interviewed their maker and he can explain it better than me. 

My weakness is for pig in a bun, preferably with a bit of crackling and both stuffing & apple sauce, this year I was spoilt by a man with an entire pig on a spit which seemed to have been cooked very slowly, it was a pleasure to sit on the bank above the fair, sauce dribbling down my chin the cacophony of the rides drifting upto me. It may sound like a humble, dodgy van snack, but it was the very essence of enjoyable food & drink.

(*) The jerk chicken though is better at the Carribean carnival, that takes place in July.

Friday, 2 October 2009

Peach Melba

So it's Friday, cocktails. James Joyce as well as being a top notch author is also a very well balanced whiskey cocktail. The edge is taken off the lemon juice with a good amount triple sec. We followed it up with consolation cocktails at the neighbours since Marcus came off his bike. Peach Melbas a fantastic double cream concoction it even looks peach coloured. It might be possible to swap the cream out for ice cream to make an interesting dessert. I'll have to give it a go next time fresh peaches come around.

-- Posted from my iPhone