Monday, 13 July 2009

Breast of Lamb

Fired up by all the frugality that abounds at the moment, I was delighted to come across breast of lamb in my local Sainsburys at the weekend. It is a cut of meat that I remember from my childhood. My mother would cook it coccasionally rolled and stuffed with a sage and onion stuffing. I have not eaten it since.

The joint was priced at £1.99 and was already rolled. As I was partaking of a pub lunch yesterday, I rubbed some oil, lemon juice and mint into the lamb and popped it into a very low oven (about 100 degrees) before I left for lunch. Upon returning home I found a slightly shrivelled roll sitting in a large amount of fat. I was not encouraged. However, I removed it from the oven and let it cool.
The following evening I sliced the lamb very thinly. It looked like a meat doily - with small gaps where the fat had been rendered away. It also looked slightly dry I have to say although it tasted like the best crunchy bits of a roast leg of lamb. I therefore made a cucumber, mint and yoghurt dressing and piled the whole lot into a pitta with some coriander and tomato salad - almost a fat free doner kebab substitute !

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Here comes the sun!

In fact by the time I have got around to finalising this post it is more like "There went the sun". However, we Brits are well used to the phenomenon of the three day summer and making the most of what little sun Mother Nature throws at us.

So, on the second of three consecutive sunny days last weekend, the barbecue was dusted off and I set about collecting some of my favourite summer(ish) foods. Amongst my favourite barbecue items is the (shell and head on) king prawn. I usually just marinade the raw prawns for a short while in some oil and lemon juice but on this occasion, as I had a bunch of coriander on the verge of wilting in the fridge, I chopped this up too and added it to the marinade. Prawns cooked like this are a full on sensory experience - you get the crackling spit of the barbecue and the sizzle of the prawns, you get the sight of the prawns turning from dull shiny grey to a papery pink,  you get the amazing smell as the prawns singe here and there, you get the tactile delight (or chore in the view of my son) of peeling the shells and pulling the heads off the hot, cooked prawns and the delight of licking your sticky, lemony, oily fingers (enhanced on this occasion by the coriander) - and all this before you even get to the main event of tasting the prawns themselves!  Whilst they are not cheap, you get a lot of bang for your buck in my view.

Usually I eat these prawns just with some nice, crusty bread (torn not cut), a green salad and some garlicky mayonnaise. However on this occasion I had also bought some Jersey Royal new potatoes. I don't know what it is about these potatoes but they always remind me of what new potatoes used to taste like when I was a child. When they are in season I find myself eating them several times a week, whereas at other times of the year I can resist the lure of a new potato with little difficulty and seldom, if ever, find myself blown away by them when I do eat them - give me a chip, a roast potato, potato dauphinoise (or practically any other form of potato) any time. Not so, however, with the Jersey Royal. I can, and often do, eat vast quantities of these little beauties, so it is probably as well that the season for them is rather short. By far the best way to enjoy them, in my book, is simply boiled for about 15 minutes and then drizzled with (ok, I admit it, "drowned in" is often a better description) melted butter and some chopped mint. With the butter, I tend to avoid the usual spreadable Lurpak I keep in the fridge as there seems to be too much water in it - what you want is the potatoes bathing their bottoms in a golden oily layer at the bottom of the saucepan rather than paddling in a watery oil slick!

Monday, 18 May 2009

A Useful Find

Recently, on my way home from the train station after a long day in the office, I called into my local corner shop (think mostly fags, newspapers and tinned food rather than some amazing NY style Korean deli). I was looking for something quick and easy to eat when I got in as I was not in the mood for major cooking. On the shelves I came across this bottle:

At only £1.09 I thought it was worth a go and, with no great expectations, bought a bottle together with a tin of coconut milk and a pack of chapatis. At home I had some raw prawns, a bag of Chinese stirfry vegetables from the supermarket and some basil and coriander in the fridge. Being slightly unsure of how successful this sauce would be, I firstly sweated some chopped ginger, garlic and red chilli in some sunflower oil to ensure some kind of fresh flavour. I then quickly stirfried the vegetables for a few minutes and added the prawns for the last two minutes. When the prawns were turning pink I added a good glug of the Thai ketchup, gave the whole lot a good stir and added about a third of a can of the coconut milk. I then let this simmer for a minute or two whilst I drained some plain boiled rice and chopped up the basil and coriander together.

The whole thing took no more than 20 minutes and the results were, quite frankly, amazing. The ketchup gave a really authentic, fresh Thai red curry taste without any sense of "cook-in saucery". I am sure the fresh basil and coriander sprinkled over the top helped in this regard but, from subsequent experimentation, the sweating of ginger, garlic and chilli, was completely unnecessary - the magic bottle has got all of those fresh flavours aplenty.

This bottle, and the two others I subsequently bought, have resulted in me eating delicious home cooked food on evenings when, after a long day at work, I might otherwise have been tempted by the delights (sic) of one of my local takeaways. Regrettably my local shop has run out of the sauce but, if anybody else out there comes across it, I would recommend picking up a bottle or two and giving it a go.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Therapeutic Cooking

After many weeks of posting absolutely nothing on this blog I have today decided to get my a*se into gear and do some writing. On opening up the blog I found this part-written post dating from the beginning of April- the opening words sum up my reasons for not posting of late!

Work at the moment is a complete nightmare. I have been in the same job for nine years now ("time to move on", the voice in my head says - "yeah brilliant, pick a recession to come up with that idea voice!!" I reply) and I have never known it so busy (and irritating) - hence the absence of recent posts on here. So, last weekend (when I was not reading documents) I felt the need to cook. What I had in mind was some kind of cooking that was gentle and comforting. Something that bubbled and simmered and that needed the odd poke or stir every now and again - something, in short, that would counterbalance the frenetic pace of work. I originally thought of something like pasta e fagioli and so made a simmering, bubbling (tick) chicken stock on Saturday evening in readiness for the main event on Sunday. I also soaked several handfuls of dried Borlotti beans in water overnight. The beans had been picked up in a Co-op supermarket in a little town in Italy which I visited last autumn (the town you understand - even I am not deranged enough to travel that far specifically to visit a supermarket - well, not a Co-op one anyway). For some reason I took great pleasure in the fact that the beans had been bought whilst on holiday in Italy (tick) - that is my kind of holiday shopping.

The following day, after a busy morning and early afternoon out and about, I returned home to begin cooking. The afternoon did not get off to the best start when Manchester United came back from a goal down to beat Aston Villa 3-2 thereby leapfrogging my team Liverpool to the top of the Premier League - there is a reason why that team are called the Red Devils! (The previous sentences are about football, not cooking, in case anybody from overseas is confused).

Putting the football behind me, I headed for the kitchen for the usual survey of the fridge and storecupboard. My friend Louise had bought me three fat tomato and basil Italian sausages from her favourite Italian deli - Gazzano's in Clerkenwell - and so I decided to skin and crumble them and use them as the base of a sausage and bean stew - a dish that, for me, ticks all the boxes.

I set the beans to boil for an hour and, while they were cooking, I made a sofritto of onions, carrots and celery (see the favourite chicken soup posting earlier on this blog) to which, after about an hour of combining TV viewing and the odd stir (tick), I added the raw sausagemeat and cooked it for a further 15 minutes or so. I then added the cooked beans, a tin of chopped tomatoes and several ladles of the chicken stock. A further hour of simmering (tick), with the lid off the pan, and the addition of some black pepper and broken up penne pasta about 15 minutes from the end, resulted in a thick stew with a pronounced flavour of the (rather small amounts of) Italian sausage.

I served the stew with some sea salt, chopped basil and grated parmesan sprinkled over the top and let the flavours carry me away from the pressures of work and back to Tuscany.

The stew was even better the next day - which was fortunate given that it was Monday and time to head back to the office!

Wednesday, 25 March 2009


I recently went for lunch to an Argentinian restaurant with my son. The restaurant is one of a chain called Gaucho and the particular branch has an amazing view of London's Tower Bridge.

Steak is clearly the mainstay of the menu at Gaucho and very excellent it is too. The waiter brings you a wooden board with all of the various cuts of steak on offer and then you choose your cut, the weight you want and how you would like it cooked - as simple as that. I usually just head straight into the main course when I go to Gaucho as the steaks are so huge. However, my son (whose middle name should be A la Carte) looked aghast when I suggested this route and so we settled on a selection of empanadas to set us on our way.

The empanadas were filled with cheese and ham, beef or corn. We had some of each and, in particular, the corn ones were unexpectedly delicious with lovely chewy pieces of corn in a rich sauce. They were served with a tomato sauce on the side.

The very next day on my way in to work I was reading the free London paper "The Metro" and I came across an article on Argentinian food which included, to my delight, the following recipe for the Gaucho Grill's empanadas (makes 10) :


450g plain flour
2tsp baking powder
70g butter
50g vegetable shortening
pinch of salt

Rub the butter and shortening into the salt, flour and baking powder. Then sprinkle water in slowly and mix with your hands until the dough forms a ball. Rest for 30 mins and then roll out fairly thinly and cut out 10cm rounds.


50ml corn oil
50g diced shallots
1 chopped garlic clove
50g corn off the cob
100g tinned corn
100g mozzarella diced
50g cream cheese
50g diced red pepper
1/2 bunch of chopped chives
Salt and pepper
1 egg yolk for glazing.

Heat the oil in a pan and add the shallots and garlic. Sauté gently for 5 minutes then add the two kinds of corn and sauté for a further 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and add the two cheeses, peppers and chives to the pan, then mix well and season.

Place a dessert spoon of the filling in the centre of each pastry disc then wet the edges of the disc and fold it over to make a small pasty shape, pinching the edges closed. Brush the empanadas with the egg yolk and place on a non stick baking tray in an oven at 175 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes until they are golden. Serve them hot with the sauce.


Peel and grate five plum tomatoes and mix with a little olive oil, salt and pepper.

If anybody has any other favourite fillings that are good in these little golden parcels it would be great to hear from you.

Monday, 16 March 2009

A Chip Off The Old Block - Not!

I know I resolved to cook meat at the end of my last post but the Whitstable Mackerel from a few posts back have been burning a hole in my pocket (metaphorically of course as they have literally been frozen solid in the freezer). So, on Saturday I decided to cook two of them and very delicous (and huge) they turned out to be.

I defrosted the fish and then made some deep incisions into the flesh and marinated them for a while with a mixture of fresh herbs and lemon juice. Then I baked them in a fairly hot oven for 25 minutes wrapped loosely in foil parcels which I opened for the last 5 minutes of the cooking time.

Mackerel being an oily fish, I decided to serve it with a fennel and blood orange salad (nothing more than finely sliced fennel and segments of blood orange with a little olive oil, blood orange juice, salt and pepper as a dressing). The aniseedy sharpness of the salad worked very well with the fish.

To accompany the fish and the salad I wanted to make some fat chips. Now, I have to confess that I cannot remember the last time that I tried to deep fry food - that kind of thing is reserved very much for treats whilst eating out. I, therefore, had absolutely no idea how to cook a fat chip.

This is doubly shocking when I think back to the omnipresent chip pan that was a major part of my childhood and adolescence. It would be kept ready charged in the pantry with its milky contents of solidified lard (no poncey vegetable oil for us hardy Valleys folk) and would be brought into use at least two or three times per week. I have happy memories of chips being cooked by my mother on Summer evenings and then handed out to me and my friends (who would inevitably be playing on the street somewhere nearby) wrapped in newspaper and liberally sprinkled with biting salt and stinging vinegar to create the authentic chip shop experience (at presumably a fraction of the price).

Notwithstanding this impeccable pedigree on the chip front, I have lapsed I regret to say. These days I take my (well diluted) chippy pleasure at home from oven chips or microwave chips. In relation to this last category I limit myself to the thin chips that come individually packaged in a little grid within a box. My standards have not slipped so low as to countenance the microchips that come in a box with a lid you have to leave ajar whilst a series of microwave blasts, interspersed with frantic shaking of the box, result in a soggy pallid excuse for a chip.

I was not therefore wildly optimistic about my fat chip experiment. This pessimism was well founded I regret to say. I opted for the twice cooked method (which I assumed would give me the crispy, crunchy exterior and fluffy interior of a good, home cooked chip). I peeled the potaoes and cut the chips, which I then let soak for 10 minutes or so in cold water. I then drained the chips and heated about 3" of vegetable oil to 170 degrees and cooked the chips for 10 minutes or so. Then I drained them and let them cool. When the fish and salad were ready I put the (now cold) chips back into very hot oil (200 degrees) for about another 3 minutes. They browned very quickly and my hopes were high! The end result, whilst being cooked and looking not too bad, had nothing of the crispy exterior to it that is the hallmark of a fine chip.

If anybody out there can spot my (no doubt obvious) error in preparing and cooking these chips I would be grateful to hear from you because, if I am going to the trouble of cooking real chips (with the resultant cost in terms of calories and fat intake), they need to be perfect. Any suggestions gratefully received.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Spicy Ricey Herby Prawny Thingy

When clearing out my freezer recently I came across a sorry looking plastic bag containing about 6 medium sized peeled raw prawns. They were hardly medium sized enough to constitute a single portion on their own so I decided to make them into a starter for two people.

A further root around in the fridge and storecupboard came up with a bunch of fresh herbs, a tomato, some basmati rice and some chilli infused olive oil (part of a hamper from Carluccios that I received as a Christmas present a few years back(!) as I recall).

I cooked the rice in my customary way (twice the volume of water to rice, a little salt, bring to the boil then reduce to the lowest heat for 15 minutes with the lid on). Whilst the rice was cooking I chopped each of the defrosted raw prawns into about 5 pieces then quickly stir fried them in a combination of the chilli oil and sunflower oil. To this I added a very generous amount of finely chopped mint and coriander and the cooked rice and continued to fry for a couple of minutes. Tasting it showed that the chilli oil had lost little, if any, of its kick and so I made a tomato and basil salad to sit it on. The cool tomatoes worked really well with the spicy rice and prawns.

I think I need to go searching in the furthest reaches of my freezer more often, although it does occur to me that this dish bears more than a passing resemblance to an inverted version of the post stomach bug cod loin dish in an earlier post. Note to self: cook some meat!

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Cherry and Almond Pudding

In the wake of the stomach bug referred to in an earlier post, I found that my fridge was more or less completely empty (if you don't count beer) on Saturday. So, as my son was spending the afternoon with me, we called into a local independent supermarket on the way home to pick up a few supplies. As I was perusing the shelves my eye was caught by a tin of Epicure stoned black cherries in syrup. I don't know what it is about Epicure, but their products and packaging put me in mind of food from the Fifties. Needless to say, the tin found its way into my shopping basket even though, at the time, I had no firm idea to what use I would put the cherries. It is not just cookbooks and kitchen equipment to which I am addicted - I am also something of a storecupboard food hoarder.

Once back home I had a quick flick through some cookbooks and happened upon a recipe in a Delia Smith book (and there is a whiff of the Fifties about Delia too in my opinion) for an Almond and Apple pudding. Almonds and Cherries being a fine combination too as far as I am concerned, I decided to adapt the pudding to incorporate the cherries. I drained them of their syrup and then let them sit for 30 minutes or so in a little kirsch.

Whilst they were drinking up the kirsch I made the almond sponge by creaming 4oz of softened butter with 4oz of caster sugar. To this I gradually added 2 large beaten eggs and finally folded in 4oz of ground almonds. I then put about a third of the sponge mixture in an ovenproof pudding bowl. On top of this I put the cherries (with a little sugar and lemon juice) and then the remaining pudding mix. Is it just me or do other people also think that uncoooked pudding or cake mix tastes even better than the cooked pudding/cake?.

Delia states that you then put the pudding into a preheated fan oven at 180 degrees for exactly one hour (she can be quite masterful at times!). However, being the brave, rebellious type (and having tried a similar pudding before) I reduced the temperature to 140 degrees and it was fine.

The resulting pudding, which I served with double cream, was delicious and the kirsch somehow seemed to bring out the egginess of the pudding mix. However, for me, it fell someway short of the sublime combination of almond sponge and tart damsons which truly is, in my book, a combination made in heaven.

Monday, 9 March 2009

I'm just an occasional user

My name is Tony and I am an addict - there, it is out!

According to the AA (and I don't mean the Automobile Association) website the first step to recovery from addiction is:

"We admitted we were powerless over alcohol (for me read all things foody) - that our lives had become unmanageable".

I am struggling a little with the "unmanageable" bit, but if I could substitute bloody expensive I pretty much fit the bill for Step 1.

This realisation dawned upon me after my recent visit to Leiths School of Food and Wine. I have to confess that this was not the first time I had visited such an establishment, but up until now I was very happy to characterise myself as an occasional user. OK, I did go overboard a bit when I did the week long course in Tuscany (get over it - it was a holiday!) but, apart from the odd occasional lapse since then, such as a Borough Market Saturday cooking course at the Enrica Rocca school , I have left the Class A stuff pedalled by the cookery schools to those that were powerless to resist them and kept myself happy with the more socially acceptable addiction to cookery books and cooking implements. You know the kind of thing - innocuous looking brown parcels from delivered to the office and the occasional furtive visit to the kind of places that social users like me call into for a fix when they have told everybody they are off to town to get their hair cut. I am not proud to admit that my kitchen is littered with the paraphernalia of this clandestine world.

However, after the knife skills lesson, I have found myself unable to stop thinking about the sordid delights that these pushers of cooking skills offer those people not strong enough to resist them. The pull of these dealers in culinary knowledge is almost overwhelming. Indeed, I am not sure that Leiths alone will now be able to satisfy the cravings that have surfaced. I am ashamed to admit that I found myself looking at really hardcore stuff on the website of Le Manoir Aux Quat' Saisons cookery school when nobody was around at work recently. So far I have succeeded in remaining just a voyeur of these top end dealers' seductive blandishments (I hope the Government moves swiftly to nip them in the bud before we end up with the Pru Leith World Darts Tournament or Cordon Bleu McClaren F1 teams) but am not sure that I will be able to resist for much longer. The re-runs of Masterchef are just not hitting the spot any longer.

There is a day long course on sauces coming up at Leiths soon - I might just go to that one and then stop - what harm can that do?

Stomach Bugs and Knife Skills

Well, as they say, the best laid plans......

Following on from my Borough Market trip, my plans for kedgeree (and indeed anything else of an edible nature) were put on hold for over a week by the onset of the stomach bug from hell. I awoke on Monday morning (after a friend's birthday lunch party on Sunday) feeling decidedly dodgy. I initially put this down to a certain level of over consumption on the Bouillabaisse (delicious!) front or, more realistically, the red, white and pudding wine fronts at lunch on Sunday. However, over the coming hours and days, I realised it clearly had nothing to do with any of that and was indeed a virus or bug of some kind. The end result, when coupled with possibly my busiest week of the year at work, was a week when, for once, food did not appear anywhere near the top of my priorities.

By the following Monday I was beginning to feel a little more human again and on the Tuesday I had a morning off work to attend a knife skills course, at Leiths School of Food and Wine, that I had been bought as a Christmas present. The course was the first in a series of three that aims to teach students how to choose, sharpen, store and use knives of various sorts. The morning was very enjoyable and, whilst nothing we were shown was rocket science, it was useful to be reminded of the correct way to handle the various different knives and, most importantly, the need to keep them sharpened - something I am very bad at remembering to do. The first part of the three session course focused on vegetables and fruit, so by the end of the morning the 16 or so students had generated an impressive pile of chopped vegetables, herbs and fruit. The staff prepared some of the vegetables as a soup which the class ate before leaving and they also prepared a caramel sauce which the students were at liberty to pour over their segmented oranges to take away with them. I took them up on this kind offer!

Inspired by all the chopping, and with the first real appetite I had encountered in over a week, I set about looking for an idea that would allow me to cook something using some of my newly practised skills but that would not reverse the gastric progress that I had achieved over the last seven days. A dash to Marks & Spencer (which made a pleasant change to the dashes I had more customarily been making in the preceding few days) on the way home resulted in roasted cod loin (marinated in lemon juice and olive oil) with brown rice and a tomato and basil salsa. Whilst it was hardly the deconstructed kedgeree I had been planning the week before it was at least food that I could fancy eating and that, I am pleased to report, had no dire consequences!

And that salsa contains diamond shaped pieces of tomato I will have you know!

Sunday, 22 February 2009


I don't know about you, but I often fail to appreciate the place in which I live. It is all too easy, in dealing with the everyday drudgery of getting to and from work and the demands of everyday life, to forget that I live in one of the greatest cities in the world. Yesterday was one of those days that reminded me of how great my home town really is.

After a quiet morning I set off with my son and one of his mates on the train to London Bridge. Our destination was to be Tate Modern where there was an exhibition entitled "Rodchenko & Popova - Defining Constructivism". Now, I am no Art buff but my son is studying Art as one of his GCSE subjects and so I was doing the dutiful father thing. It was not exactly a selfless gesture however for, as those of you familiar with London will know, to get from London Bridge to Tate Modern involves passing through one of my favourite London landmarks - Borough Market. Borough Market is a foodie nirvana with a host of fantastic retailers and producers selling everything from ostrich eggs and burgers to smoked tomatoes, from Bottarga to the finest acorn fed pata negra ham. You do need a fat wallet (and, on a Saturday early afternoon, ideally a large club to beat off the hordes of tourists) to take full advantage of the market but to me it is one of the places I am happiest in London. There is an excellent post on the Larder Lout blog - here - which details his culinary and alcoholic adventures in the area. I am in awe of his stamina!

I picked up some smoked haddock and some free range eggs as we passed through the market as I was planning on making a kedgeree like dish which I had concocted whilst watching an episode of Masterchef on TV during the week. Unfortunately I got home too late to do that last night - otherwise you would be hearing about that rather than generic ramblings about London. I hope the deconstructed kedgeree will make it into a posting soon.

Anyway, back to London. After the market and a quick souvlaki in a restaurant called "The Real Greek" we headed off to Tate Modern. It is renowned for its bizarre installations in the Turbine Hall (it is a former power station). Yesterday did not disappoint with a giant plastic spider and a series of yellow and blue metal bunkbeds (about 60 of them) each with a paperback book tied to the metal bedstead. Crazy but kind of fun. As we were passing through one of the galleries I caught sight of the first of the above two views and (without wishing to be too poetic about this) my spirits soared. It is views such as this that remind me that I am so lucky to live in London - after all where else can you find bottarga and bunk beds in such close proximity and with a view like the above to add the cherry to the cake. It is good to be reminded how fortunate we are from time to time.

Any art lovers out there would be better searching for a blog with more expert views when it comes to the exhibition. As with so much Art, I know what I like when I see it and really liked the soviet trade union posters but the rest was a little over my head. Still, if it involves passing through the market on a regular basis, I shall be encouraging my son to undertake regular research at Tate Modern as any dutiful parent would!

Friday, 20 February 2009

The Omnivore's Hundred

I spotted the following post on the Very Good Taste Blog and thought that I would give it a go. I have therefore cut and pasted it from the blog (together with instructions) as requested and completed it below. Where I have no immediate idea of what the item is I have just assumed I have never eaten it. Feel free to cut, paste or comment as the mood takes you.

"Here’s what I want you to do:

1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.
4) Optional extra: Post a comment at linking to your results. "

The VGT Omnivore’s Hundred:

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare

5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho

13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart

16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream

21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheesepepper

26. Raw Scotch Bonnet
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava

30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl

33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects
43. Phaal

44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut

50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV

59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini

73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict

83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant.
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers

89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa

94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta

99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Oh I do like to be beside the seaside ...

Well the snow finally disappeared but last weekend was bitingly cold with bright clear skies and a sharp wind. What better time for a trip to the seaside? I was not after a bucket and spade experience however but, rather an oyster and seafood pick me up. I had never previously been to Whitstable which, for those of you unfamiliar with UK geography, is a small fishing town on the Kent coast, not too far from Canterbury. It has apparently been famed from Roman times (according to the information in the car park) for its oysters.

I set off from the outskirts of London at around 11am on Saturday with my son in tow. He was not madly keen on the trip but the other option was rowing on a practically freezing Thames – Whitstable was definitely the lesser of two evils. Driving there was a little like driving through a Dutch winter landscape – the sun was low and bright and the leafless trees were silhouetted black against the horizon like some survivors of a forest fire. It really was lovely (save in those moments when I was driving blind because of the glare).

It took about 75 minutes to get to Whitstable. It is clearly a town where food is important. Whilst I am sure they are lurking somewhere, I did not see one supermarket. Instead, the high street of Whitstable appears to contain a selection of independent shops with butchers and greengrocers well represented. Also there is a lovely old fish and chip shop (V.C. Jones) with a sign advertising “Fish Luncheons and Suppers”. Whilst I didn’t eat there it looked fantastic and as if you could step back in time simply by crossing the threshold.

Having parked the car we headed for the harbour and the fish market. The inner harbour is very compact and sheltered about three or four fishing boats. Not that the boats looked like they were in need of much shelter. They were small but stocky and reminded you of boxing gloves that would have little difficulty punching through any waves that the English Channel could throw at them.

The fish market was relatively small and housed, on the harbour side, in a black painted, two storey wooden building. The market itself was on the ground floor and above it was the Crab and Winkle restaurant. Fortunately, as we did not have a booking, the restaurant was not busy on a freezing February Saturday and so we easily secured a table near the window overlooking the punchy little fishing boats. The restaurant serves both a set and à la carte menu comprised almost entirely of seafood. There were also one or two specials on the board and a separate blackboard of shellfish options. We ordered some Whitstable native oysters (both raw with shallot vinaigrette and battered) to get us in the mood. They were small but perfectly formed – possibly the best oysters I have tasted and definitely best when eaten raw.

Next we were brought some delicious home made breads with butter and a smoked fish paté. Again, delicious and the paté was a lovely touch. I was by this point half way through a glass of St. Veran and rapidly beginning to regret having driven!

After the bread the first courses arrived. I had ordered a shellfish bisque with rouille, croutons and gruyere cheese. It was warm, salty and reviving but I don’t think the French or the Belgians need worry too much about the competition from Whitstable on this course. My son had a salmon mousse wrapped in smoked salmon which was rich and light at the same time – a good choice by him. For my main course I had grilled mackerel served with braised puy lentils and tiny roasted carrots. The fish was absolutely delicious and the lentils were perfect as an accompaniment to the oily fish. My son ordered the battered Coley fillet. This had seemed a bit safe to me but when it arrived I realised he had again hit the jackpot. The batter on the fish, which took up most of a large serving plate, was perfectly crisp and golden and the fish inside was pure white, flaky and moist. This was served with a small bowl of fries, mushy peas, tartare sauce and a piece of home pickled cucumber. However the fish was the definite star of the show and the accompaniments, though each individually delicious, were only ever going to be, at best, in a supporting role. I can confirm that the pickled cucumber was delicious. It was the only thing that my son did not eat in its entirety.

To end the meal I had a plate of three farmhouse cheeses (chosen from a list of about six) with oatcakes. Whilst delicious and from interesting smaller producers, I am afraid that I did not do them justice after the large main course, and the bread, and the oysters …. My son had a white chocolate pannatone bread and butter pudding which he declared to be delicious. Again, I have to take his word and contented smile for this.

All in all the meal was delicious and a treat for an otherwise boring, freezing cold February Saturday. We ended our stay in Whitstable with a quick visit to the fish market to pick up some mackerel for freezing at home and a brisk trot along the high street before fashionable, but hardly warm, youth clothing dictated we return to the car and home.

I shall be visiting Whitstable again very soon (possibly without a car or overnight!) and commend you to do so too.

Monday, 2 February 2009

It really is freezing in London

Well, for once the weathermen got it right! No trains, no buses - no work!! Weather like this calls for some comfort food methinks!

And still the snow comes down! The back garden is a complete no go area for the cats save in extremis.

I have perused the contents of the fridge and freezer and have found the following ingredients:
- two onions
- 6 Cumberland sausages (again courtesy of Moens Clapham)
- A Swede
- Some Maris Piper potatoes
- Savoy cabbage

I also have some eggs and was contemplating making a toad in the hole with onion gravy but have decided instead to roast the sausages with some onions and thyme and then make the onion gravy in the roasting pan (tricky if you are doing toad in the hole unless you want to wash up another roasting pan - which I do not). I will have the sausages with some buttered savoy cabbage and a mix of mashed potato and mashed swede or, as my mother used to call it, "potch".

I read somewhere recently that eating even one sausage can increase your risk of cancer by X%. When sausages are as good as these bad boys I will take that risk! Happiness is clearly the key to a long life and these are little packets of happiness on a day like today!

Sunday, 1 February 2009

A late lazy sunday lunch

After some months of inactivity I have decided to get back into this blog It is freezing here in London and a battle is raging between my need for food, which is slightly hangover induced,

and the need to watch Liverpool v. Chelsea live on the TV. As a compromise I have put two porchetta chops, some onions and par boiled potatoes in to to roast with a tray of butternut squash with sage and butter. The chops have been in the freezer for a few weeks since I last visited Moens butchers in Clapham - just off the Common and well worth a visit. I noticed, on unwrapping them, that the chops had been labelled Porketta - which for some reason raises thoughts of an overweight Southern Belle! I am sure they will taste good whatever!

I am also cooking some smoked bacon lardons which I will then stir fry quickly with some green beans and savoy cabbage that I have already blanched.

Well, for minimal effort, very delicious and just what was called for - as indeed was the sending off of Frank Lampard!