Friday 13 May 2011
By popular request, here is the recipe that I use for producing delicious home-made crème brûlée, lifted wholesale from Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halles Cookbook. Seriously, if you haven’t already got this book on your kitchen shelf, you need to get it. Now. It totally encompasses my approach to the kitchen – big flavours, big foods, big cookery, big swearing and big drinking – and is the most-used cookbook on our shelf. This dish, by the way, scores 10 on the impress-your-guests scale, as do many in the book. Most of the recipes are easy or require only moderate skills, but quite a few of them require a fair bit of time.
- 900ml double cream (we’re not calorie counting here, ok?)
- 1 vanilla pod, whole (no vanilla essence, or else you’ll be shot)
- 170g granulated sugar
- 10 egg yolks
- 85g brown sugar
You will also need 6 or 8 ramekins, a big deep baking pan (or some other ovenproof dish that is at least an inch deep – you’re going to make a bain-marie) and a propane torch. You’ll need an electric whisk, large mixing bowl, sharp knife and a saucepan. Pre-heat your oven to 150 Celsius/300F/gas mark a-bit-less-than-half-way.
First, put the cream into a large saucepan on the hob. Split the vanilla pod along its length using a very sharp knife. Scrape the insides of the pod into the cream and then dump the pod itself in as well. Add half the granulated sugar to the cream, stir thoroughly and bring the mixture to a gentle boil.
Whilst your mixture comes to the boil, place the egg yolks into a large mixing bowl and whisk in the remaining granulated sugar. Keep whisking until the mixture is pale yellow and slightly foamy.
Fish the vanilla pod out of the cream and throw the pod away. Remove the cream mixture from the heat and slowly, gradually whisk it into the yolk mixture. You must do it slowly and whisk constantly, otherwise the mixture will curdle.
Place the ramekins in the baking pan and fill the pan with cold water so that it comes half way up the sides of the ramekins. Divide the custard mixture evenly between the ramekins.
Bake in the oven for around 45 minutes (I sometimes find it takes a little longer – depends on your oven), until the top is set but still “jiggly”.
Remove the whole thing from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature (take the ramekins out of the bain-marie as soon as they are cool enough to handle). You can store them easily at this stage – I’ve found that, once cooled and covered in cling film, they keep in the fridge for a couple of days. If you are planning a dinner party, be canny and do everything up to this stage the day before.
Sprinkle a generous tablespoon of brown sugar over the top of each custard. Carefully run the propane torch flame over the top of each one, just enough to caramelize the sugar (I like to leave a little sugar un-torched around the edge). Allow to sit for a moment so that the sugar sets into a crunchy shell coating across the top and then serve to applause and hooplas from your guests.
Now, what do you do with ten egg whites?
Friday 6 November 2009
Pan-seared tuna with avocado
This recipe shamelessly stolen from Eat This Book: Cooking with Global Fresh Flavours by Tyler Florence – a book of recent discovery (by chance) in this house, with excellent recipes on just about every page. It’s quick to prepare (about 30-40 minutes), darned tasty and looks good too – so ideal for dinner parties or for impressing people, although I think it makes a pretty good Friday night dinner too.
For the sauce/dressing:
- 2 fl oz (60ml) extra virgin olive oil
- 2 fl oz (60ml) soy sauce
- Juice of 4 limes
- 2 good handfuls of fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped (use kitchen scissors unless you have amazing knife skills)
- 1 Jalapeno chilli (or other medium hot chilli), sliced complete with seeds (actually, I think this looks prettier with a red chilli, not a green Jalapeno)
- 1 crushed garlic clove
- 1 teaspoon crushed fresh ginger (I peeled a piece and then crushed it in a garlic press over the mixing bowl, so as to catch all the juice)
- Half teaspoon sugar
- Salt and pepper
For the main dish:
- good quality fresh tuna steaks (there is enough dressing/sauce for four steaks in this recipe or, do as we do, and use this quantity of dressing/sauce with just two steaks)
- 2 avocados, peeled, pitted and sliced
- extra virgin olive oil
- a bag of rocket (or fresh from the garden/allotment if you have it – how we miss summer! Our own rocket was miles better than any we have bought anywhere, ever. Period.)
- cherry tomatoes (allow around 6 per person)
First, make the sauce/dressing. This is easy. Shove everything in a bowl. Stir. Got it?
Next, scoot your tomatoes around a griddle pan in a little oil until they are slightly seared and split. Plate them up with a portion of the rocket on each plate.
Then, add a little more oil if necessary and, over a medium-high heat, sear the tuna for a minute or so on each side. Then spoon over roughly a quarter of the sauce and cook for another minute or two. Turn the steaks over and add another quarter of the sauce (or one-third of what remains, if you follow my maths).
Plate up the tuna. Arrange the avocado pieces artfully around the plate and then spoon over the rest of the dressing in a tasteful fashion. Serve with a long cold drink (gin and tonic, good Belgian beer, whatever – you need something long, as the sauce/dressing has quite a kick to it, particularly if (as we did) you make the dressing an hour or so in advance and let the chilli get to work on the other sauce ingredients).
Definitely the best new recipe I’ve tried for a while. Not that I’ve tried many new recipes lately. With everything else going on around here (I’ll write about it somewhen), the cooking mojo hasn’t been what it was. We need to get that back.
Old posts that live on
This post seems to live on, with good comments going on. Maybe I should write more food posts….
Thursday 1 October 2009
Very simple crab apple jelly
If you spend a lot of time hanging around farmers’ markets or fancy food shops, you will have seen that there are several companies now offering fruit jellies. In our neck of the woods, the market leader is Ouse Valley Foods who make excellent jellies (well, that was the case until they had a bad fire in the kitchens a few weeks ago – hopefully they’ll bounce back from that soon). They can be seen at food fairs cunningly displayed with a light behind them so that you can see the lovely colours of the jellies.
But at around £3 to £4 for a half pound jar, you might baulk at stocking your shelves with a wide array. Fear not! For I have a dead easy recipe for making crab apple jelly and, as the crab apples are in season at the moment, now is the time to make it.
- crab apples – as a guide, when I fill our 24cm diameter pan with apples, we get around four pounds of jelly.
- sugar – ordinary sugar, not fancy stuff with pectin added.
- things to add flavour (chilli, sage, garlic – use your imagination).
- you will also need some muslin or a jelly bag – available from any decent cookery store – as well as some jars.
- First, gather your crab apples. Befriend a neighbour with a tree. Check out family members who might have some. Generally these things just fall to the ground and rot, so if you tell the owner of the tree that you plan to put them to good use and perhaps promise a jar of the resulting product as payment, then I’m sure you can find some. It doesn’t really matter what variety of crab apple you use. I’m lucky that my parents have two large trees of the variety
John Downey John DownieDartmouth which has large (3cm diameter) red skinned fruits. Larger fruited varieties are certainly easier to deal with, but smaller ones can be used – you just need a bit more patience to prepare the fruit. Generally speaking, red skinned varieties give red jelly, yellow skinned varieties give amber coloured jelly. Windfalls are just fine so long as they are not too badly damaged. If you are short of crab apples, you can bulk them out with a little Bramley apple, peeled, cored and chopped.
- Sort your fruit. Give it a good wash and chuck away badly damaged fruit. Cut the fruit in half – you certainly don’t need to peel them and it is barely worth removing the stalks.
- Place the fruit in a large pan and add water so that it comes up to the same level as the top of the fruit. Simmer over a low heat, with a lid on the pan, until the fruit has turned to pulp. This will take at least half an hour, maybe twice that (depends on your particular apples).
- Happy that it is pulpy? Good. Remove the pan from the heat and let it cool a little. Then place your muslin or jelly bag over the top of a sieve and rest it on top of a large bowl. Ladle the apple pulp/juice mixture into the muslin-lined sieve and let the fluid drip through into the bowl. You’ll need to do this in batches to stop the sieve getting clogged. You will also need to be patient – this takes quite a while.
- Some recipes caution against getting behind the pulp with a wooden spoon and forcing it through the sieve – they say it makes your jelly cloudy. Not so, in my experience, but I may just be lucky in my choice of apple variety.
- When you have strained all the juice, discard the pulp. It almost seems a shame to waste it, so if anyone has a suggestion for uses for the pulp, let me know.
- Measure the volume of juice and place it in a clean pan. Add sugar at the ratio of (Imperial units alert!!) one pound of sugar to every pint of juice. (For those with only metric measuring equipment, that equates to 800g of sugar for every litre of juice). Yes, that is a lot of sugar. Trust me (and don’t tell your dentist).
- Stir the sugar into the juice until it is dissolved and then, over a low to medium heat, simmer the juice. This will take at least 45 minutes to an hour, perhaps more (again, this may vary according to your apple variety). If you get any scum on the surface of the mixture, just carefully skim it off with a soup spoon.
- Whilst this is going on, put two saucers in the freezer. You’ll need them in a bit. Also, sterilize your jars. You do this by washing them with hot soapy water and then, without drying them, placing them inside your oven at a low heat (80 Celsius is enough) for about five minutes. No hotter and no longer, or else the jars will break. I use the fancy jars with the metal clip-down seals and rubber seal rings when I’m giving jelly away as a gift – but for domestic consumption, recycled jam jars are just fine.
- Now you need to test if your juice has reached the setting point. When I first read about this, I was quite put off as it seemed so difficult to judge – the thought of un-set jelly in my jars was not encouraging. But a quick search online and a peek in old Delia Smith cookbooks gives some handy easy-to-follow tips. Take one of your (now really cold) saucers from the freezer. Put a spoonful of the juice onto the saucer and then put it in the fridge for two or three minutes. Then, take it out of the fridge and gently push at the mixture with your finger as if you are trying to push it across the surface of the saucer. If the surface of the jelly “crinkles” as you push it, then it is ready to put into jars. If it doesn’t, simmer your mixture for another ten minutes before having another go (I’d wash that saucer and shove it back in the freezer – some days, it seems to take an age to reach the setting point, and you’ll need to do this test several times). It’s hard to describe the crinkling – the surface sort of wrinkles up like skin as you push against it – more than just a “bow wave” in front of your finger. But once you see it, you’ll be in no doubt.
- Carefully ladle your mixture into your sterile jars – perhaps wait for it to cool a little so as to avoid shattering the jars. If the mixture is very eager to set and is setting in the pan (this happened to me once when making redcurrant jelly), then just keep the pan on a low heat and keep stirring it to stop it setting until you get the last bit into a jar (you might need an assistant to do that).
- Let the jelly cool in the jars. As it does so, it will begin to set, but you need to do the next bit before it completely sets – and that is to add your flavouring. The crab apple jelly is lovely on its own, but it is even better (in my view) if you add some flavouring. My favourites are chilli and sage, but you could use almost anything – garlic, rosemary, star anise – whatever takes your fancy. I tend to stick to savoury flavours (we use the jelly with cold meats, sausages and cheese) but it could be sweet too.
- Prepare your flavouring. Wash it. In the case of chilli, chop into thin rings. For sage, individual leaves. And then push it into the nearly-but-not-quite set jelly using the back of a tea spoon. This allows you to get the flavouring spread evenly through the jelly (if you add it when the jelly is runny, it sinks to the bottom; if you wait until the jelly is totally set, it either sits at the top of the jar or you spoil the beauty (not the flavour) of the jelly by pushing your spoon in).
- Leave overnight to cool and set completely. Label.
- Admire your handywork. Hold the jar up to the bright light and survey the lovely coloured jelly with the chilli/sage/whatever sitting in it.
Now head off to the local market and flog it. Alternatively, you’ve just got yourself a bunch of cheap Christmas gifts. It keeps really well – we’ve just finished last year’s chilli jelly having stored it in a dark, cool cupboard.
Monday 10 August 2009
Stamford, Lincolnshire. Historic market town. Beautiful stone architecture. Lots of old buildings. Peaceful atmosphere (but then it is Monday night). So why then can’t I find a half decent looking pub that might serve a decent pie and a pint after a hard day’s work? And what idiot converted that church into a Boots and Vision Express?
Tuesday 3 February 2009
Catalan-style chicken and chorizo casserole
I found this recipe on sausagelinks.co.uk, but their site has been up and down more often than a gigolo’s y-fronts lately, so I thought I’d reproduce it here with my comments and embellishments.
- 8 chicken thighs, skin removed. You could use a half and half mix of thighs and breasts, if you prefer, particularly if your spouse is squeamish about the fat content of thighs compared to breasts. Mind you, the fat content of the thighs is somewhat academic once you get to the next item on the ingredients list….
- 500g fresh, hot chorizo. Look, you need to get this right. This isn’t that horrible dried stuff that they sell thinly sliced in your local supermarket in thin plastic packets. Nor is it the long dried stuff that looks like a red meat horseshoe and has about the same consistency. This is the fresh stuff, which you will find in the fridge at your best local deli, labelled as chorizo picante or “cooking chorizo (spicy)”. And you want the spicy, not the mild, unless you are a total wuss who likes tasteless food. In London, try Brindisa. In Lewes, my good friends David and Eleanor at Say Cheese do a good version, although it is a bit fattier than the Brindisa variety. Cut the chorizo into lengths of about 25-30mm (about an inch or so).
- 2 or 3 slices of smoked bacon, rind removed and finely diced.
- half a bottle of good red wine, maybe a little more. This leaves the other half of the bottle (maybe a little less) for the chef to enjoy. Now you see why I like this recipe.
- 2 onions, finely diced.
- 2 carrots (quite large), finely diced. On the carrot and the onion, take time to make sure that they really are finely diced. Your reward will await you in the next world. If you leave them coarsely chopped, then your punishment will be upon you in this life. Trust me.
- 250g of shallots, peeled but otherwise whole. I think you can increase this quantity a little, if you like. You certainly want 250g peeled weight, not 250g before peeling. And be sure to use the round variety, not eschallion/banana shallots.
- 1 small tin of tomato purée (the supermarkets can’t seem to agree a standard on this – the tins vary between 125g and 150g).
- 1 tin of chopped tomatoes (400g) or thereabouts.
- pinch each of dry thyme and oregano (or a little more each of the fresh variety, if you have it in your garden).
- paprika (if you were silly, and didn’t get good quality chorizo).
- oil for frying.
- Put on an apron. What do you mean, that’s only for wusses? Well, take a look at the ingredient list again. Yes, stains from end to end. So, apron on, unless you like stains and think that they improve your rating as a real bona fide chef (to which you can add cuts and burns, I guess).
- Pre-heat the oven to about 150 Celsius. That’s gas mark somewhere-in-the-middle.
- Use a large casserole dish with a snug-fitting lid. Over a medium heat, sweat the chopped onions and carrots in a little oil for a few minutes before adding the chopped bacon. Scoot about the pan for four or five minutes until all nicely softened and perhaps a little browned. Remove from the pan and keep warm.
- Turn up the heat and replenish the oil in the pan. Brown the chicken and chorizo (and I mean brown it, don’t just show it the heat). Do this in batches so that the pan is never chock full.
- Return all the meat to the pan, along with the onion/carrot/bacon mixture. Add the half bottle of wine and simmer vigorously for a minute or two.
- Add the shallots, the herbs, the tinned tomatoes and tomato purée. Simmer for another minute or two, stirring so that it all gets mixed together.
- Taste. It shouldn’t need much seasoning, but this is where you might add your paprika.
- Bung on the tight-fitting lid and throw the whole thing into the oven. Retire to the comfort of your armchair for at least one and a half hours, preferably two hours. The longer you give it, the better.
- Whilst in your armchair, instruct your minions to prepare some good buttery mash and some green beans or some other nice green vegetable. Alternatively, get them to prepare some good quality rice.
- Check it. Does the chicken fall away from the bone easily? Are the shallots turning soft? Then it is done.
Well, you should be nicely warmed up by the time your dinner guests arrive as you will have dealt with the unpleasantness of the left-over half bottle of red. So, I recommend that you continue in a red theme, perhaps with a good tempranillo. Alternatively, try a strong flavoured Belgian beer. Or gin. Whatever is at hand, really.
Friday 30 May 2008
Graybo’s Yummy Tarragon Chicken
Really, it’s yummy.
INGREDIENTS (serves two):
- 1 small tub (200ml) of crème fraîche, reduced fat if you must.
- 2 chicken breasts, roughly cubed. For goodness sake, get decent chicken, not cheap water-filled, factory-farmed rubbish.
- 1 leek, trimmed and thinly sliced
- a little butter
- a little olive oil
- a good handful of tarragon, roughly chopped or torn, stems removed. You’ve got this growing outside the door, right?
- tagliatelli sufficient for two. Fresh stuff.
- black pepper
- a bottle of good red wine, maybe two
- open the wine. Have a glass for yourself and one for your dining partner.
- boil some water for doing the tag.
- in a large pan or, better still, a wok, melt a good dollop of butter over a medium to high heat.
- fry the leek until just beginning to soften. Remove from the pan and reserve.
- refill your glasses.
- add a little olive oil to the pan and get it hot.
- throw in the chicken and scoot around the pan until lightly browned.
- get the tag going (I assume you have decent fresh pasta, none of the dried stuff – if you have dried pasta, you should have started this a while ago).
- add the entire pot of crème fraîche to the chicken. Stir.
- return the leeks to the pan. Stir some more.
- mill in some black pepper (nice if you have one of those crusher-type mills, rather than a grinding-type). Stir it.
- throw in the tarragon. Yes, you guessed – stir.
- stir it all up some more.
- drain the pasta and get it on the plate.
- pour the chicken/tarragon/leek/crème fraîche mix over the top.
- blimey, those glasses look low. Top ‘em up.
- Eat. Drink. Relax. Candles. Good music. You know the deal.
Takes but ten minutes. Ideal for Friday night. We had it after a starter of fresh local asparagus with shaved parmesan, butter and apple balsamic vinegar. With gin. And tonic.
Sunday 6 April 2008
Runner bean pickle
This recipe is lifted almost unchanged from Delia Smith’s Summer Collection. She credits it to Kathleen Field’s recipe in the Food Aid Cookbook. I’ve added a couple of footnotes of my own and produce it here after promising to do so elsewhere.
INGREDIENTS (makes around 6lb of pickle):
900g/2lb runner beans (weighed after trimming and slicing)
700g/1½lb onion, chopped (or a mixure of onion and shallots)
850ml/1½pints malt vinegar (but see below)
1 heaped tbsp mustard powder
1 rounded tbsp turmeric
225g/8oz soft brown sugar
450g/1lb demerara sugar
You will also need suitable jars. You could use fancy jars if you wish, but we tend to re-use old coffee jars, olive jars, jam jars and, naturally, pickle jars – anything that is glass with a good airtight screw-on lid and a wide opening at the top. Your jars should be washed and sterilised by first scrubbing them in hot soapy water, then rinsing them and placing them in a cool oven to dry and be warmed through.
- Using a large saucepan, add the onions and 275ml/10 fl oz malt vinegar.
- Simmer for 20 minutes or until the onion is soft.
- Meanwhile, cook the beans in boiling salted water for 5 minutes. Drain and add to the onions.
- Mix the cornflour, mustard and turmeric with a little of the vinegar to make a smooth paste.
- Add this paste to the onion/bean mixture. BE WARNED – this stuff stains!
- Add the rest of the vinegar (but see below) and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Stir in both lots of sugar (best done in stages) and ensure it all dissolves.
- Simmer for a further 15 minutes (but see below).
- Fill your warmed jars and seal.
- Store for a month before eating. We usually manage to keep it stored for about a week before we succumb to temptation.
My experience is that you may not need the quanity of vinegar suggested, as it isn’t the only source of fluid in this recipe. Some fluid will comes from the beans – how much will depend on how much rain you’ve had and how watery your beans are. If the beans are fat and juicy, you’ll need less vinegar. I’ve not needed this quantity of vinegar when I’ve made it, perhaps 75% is enough.
I’ve also found that the last stage of simmering can be extended with very favourable results. It depends how you like your pickle, but I like it to be a little soft with the beans still nicely defined (not an amorphous gloop), but not under-done. So I tend to extend the last stage of the simmering to half an hour or more.
This pickle is good with cheese but absolutely wonderful with cold roast chicken or roast ham. Actually, it goes with more-or-less anything. It’s very moreish.
Edna’s boiled pineapple cake
My Mum was given this recipe years ago by Edna Thomas. Edna was a customer of the nursery that my parents own and was known for always coming in for a bit of a chat. She was Welsh and very proud of her heritage and always had a good story to tell. I’m not quite sure how she came to pass this recipe – probably as a result of a discussion with my Mum about the enormous quantities of fruit cake that were consumed on a daily basis in our household. We used to have a big Tupperware box that had a large made-to-measure fruit cake in it. This cake generally had to be replaced every two to three days.
Hels has been passed this recipe by Mum – I think Mum wanted to be sure that her son’s wife would amply provide for his needs and clearly chief amongst those needs is the need for cake. My Mum knows me well.
Edna’s boiled pineapple cake (as slightly amended by Hels)
This recipe is sufficient for two 2lb loaf tins, with liners.
330g/12oz dark soft brown sugar
660g/24oz mixed dried fruit or raisins (we prefer Waitrose Vine Fruits from their Wholesome range)
110g/4oz glacé cherries or soft dried apricots (we use apricots)
Large (435g) can of pineapple pieces in juice
440g/1lb self raising flour
2 tsp baking powder
4 large eggs, beaten
110g/4 oz chopped walnuts
walnut halves to decorate the top of the cakes
1½ tbsp sherry (optional)
- Using a large saucepan over a low heat, add the sugar, dried fruit, pineapple (complete with juice), butter and cherries/apricots.
- Bring to the boil (do not leave unattended or it will burn!), stirring thoroughly.
- Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
- Sieve the flour together with the baking powder.
- Add eggs, chopped walnuts and flour/baking powder to the saucepan. Mix thoroughly.
- Add the sherry and stir in.
- Divide the mixture equally between the two lined loaf tins.
- Bake at 140 – 150°C for 60 to 90 minutes (we have a fan oven – adjust accordingly for conventional ovens). Check with a skewer after 50 minutes (if the skewer comes out clean, then they are done or nearly done). If the cakes are going too brown on top, cover with tin foil before cooking for the remaining time.
Why two cakes at once? Well, experience has shown that these cakes are great for freezing and some (i.e. my Mum) would say that they actually improve if frozen. So we generally have one for immediate consumption and another “stashed”.
Pineapple pieces work best. Rings can be chopped up or that pineapple “crush” can be used, but both give less satisfactory results, probably because the fruit-to-juice ratio is different.
Thursday 20 March 2008
Graybo’s moules marinières
Ok, so actually this is Anthony Bourdain‘s moules marinières with a dollop of cream and some garlic added – but since I modified the recipe successfully, I claim it as my own and you can all send your money now.
Serves 2 as a main course, just. Would probably be enough for three as a starter.
- 1 kilogram lovely fresh mussels. We got ours from here. A bargain at three quid a kilo. For those that worry about this sort of thing, 1 kilo gave us 58 mussels. In hindsight, we could have used a little more, but that depends on what you serve it with. If you made some home-made frîtes, then this would be plenty. With just bread, then perhaps 1.2kg would be better.
- 300 ml dry white wine. We had a cheeky Sicilian in the fridge, so I used that. Incidentally, how can wines be cheeky? This is more wine than Bourdain suggests and I think is justified when adding cream.
- 2 shallots, finely sliced.
- 25g butter.
- 1 tbsp cream. I used extra thick single because we happened to have some, but normal single would do just as well.
- 3 small cloves of garlic, finely chopped.
- some parsley, finely chopped.
- salt and pepper.
This doesn’t take long. The time-consuming bit is the cleaning of the mussels – say 20 minutes. The cooking takes just 15 minutes.
- Firstly, clean those mussels. Bourdain gives a long examination of this subject in his Les Halles Cookbook (one of my bibles), but you can boil it down to this:
- buy fresh. Don’t buy pre-frozen or rubbish.
- use quickly and prepare just before you use them. Don’t store them if you can help it.
- wash them in a colander.
- pull the beards off – that fluffy bit that sticks out.
- as you go, check to see if any are open. If they are, tap them and see if they close. This is fun! They actually do close quite quickly if they are open. Unless they’re dead, in which case they don’t shut and you can bung them in the bin. Out of our 58, we chucked one.
- wash them again. And again. You can’t wash them too much, really. Leave them in the colander for the water to drain off.
Ok? Good. Have a glass of wine.
- Next, in a big pan with a good lid (not a loose one – we used an Ikea casserole which was perfect for bringing to the table and eating straight from), melt the butter.
- Add the shallots and scoot them around for a minute or two until soft and just beginning to brown.
- Add the wine, garlic and cream. Bring to the boil (turn your heat up all the way) and season.
- Throw in the mussels and put on the lid. Sit down and have another glass of wine for ten minutes (what did you think you do with the rest of the bottle?).
- Check in the pan. The mussels should now be nicely open. Take the pan off the heat and, holding the lid on, give it a bit of a shake. Then add the parsley and shake it again.
- Bring it to the table and serve with some good chunky bread to mop up the juices. Or frîtes.
Thursday 24 January 2008
Here are a couple of stories for people who like pro-biotic yogurts:
Activia maker to be sued for false advertising – no clinical proof that pro-biotics do you any good, according to the suit.
Meanwhile, in the Netherlands, Yakult should be investigated by the government health authorities because it could kill you.
Graybo says: Eat more mushy peas.
Monday 21 January 2008
Not that boring
Apparently, this blog has turned boring in 2008 (so says my wife). It seems that posts about my new laptop and bag are not exciting enough (my new phone will be delivered tomorrow, so there’ll be another subject to discuss! And my laptop case (along with the plants) have been delayed and will not arrive until Friday, which means I won’t get my hands on them until Monday).
So, in a probably futile attempt to change the subject and make reading more interesting, here’s a recipe (serves two):
- 1 whole fresh squid, cleaned and prepared into tentacles (separated), wings (cut into strips) and mantle (cut into rings). See here for a good step-by-step guide to cleaning and preparing squid if you haven’t done it before – it’s not that difficult. You should look for a squid that will yield around 225g/8oz of useable flesh. Our local Morrisons has an excellent fish counter and is our preferred source, but you might know a better place near to you.
- 1 pepper (capsicum for our overseas friends) – I used yellow, but red would do. Cut into small pieces.
- 1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
- 12 or so baby plum tomatoes, halved
- juice of half a lime
- 1 head of pak choi, divided to individual leaves
- 275g/10oz pack of fresh (not dried) fine egg noodles. If you only have dried, prepare them as normal but drain them from the water when they are not-quite done
- Olive oil, black pepper, salt
- Heat a wok over a high heat and add about two or three teaspoons of olive oil.
- Throw in the pepper and squid. Toss about until the squid is just beginning to “catch” on the pan.
- Add the chilli and lime juice. Toss for another minute or so.
- Add the tomatoes and noodles. Keep tossing in the pan or else the noodles will burn. Reduce the heat a little if necessary.
- For the last thirty seconds or so, place the pak choi on top of the pan just so that it wilts a little (not too much – you really just want it warmed through without becoming soggy).
- Season and serve.
Low fat, healthy, tasty. And not too expensive either (we got our squid for three, er, quid).
Tuesday 25 September 2007
On being busy and vodka
[..insert long post about being very busy here..]
Anyway, whilst you ponder how busy I am, rush out now and get some Wyborowa Exquisite vodka – if you thought all vodkas were the same, then this will open your eyes to a whole new world of drunkeness. It’s very smooth with a distinct hint of vanilla. And, apparently, it is made in a small bath. Hmm.
And it comes in a funky Gehry-designed bottle. Yay!
More content to come soon (yeah, right), possibly including posts on the following topics:
- tours and trips of the past year, possibly including photographic highlights
- on Polish motorists
- a rant on politics
- Tom update
- a post about food
- Ruralville news
You could even vote-me-up if there is one of these you particularly want to read.
Tuesday 26 June 2007
Anyone got any idea where I can buy Berggold Kokos Flocken in the UK? We bought some in Rostock and they’re addictive – waaaay better than Bounty or other chocolate-covered coconut things I’ve had.
Monday 19 March 2007
Spelt flour pizza
Hels has been trying to cut down, or even cut out, wheat consumption as it seems to have a funny effect on her.
However, we love bread and pizza and other wheaty things, so we have been casting around for a suitable substitute. I have to say that most wheat-free products are pretty awful. Exceptions that we have discovered include Waitrose German rye bread and Dr Karg’s spelt crackers – wheat-free they may be, but they are also tasty.
One piece of kitchen equipment which hasn’t been used so much lately is our lovely bread maker. Hels recently purchased a pack of wholemeal spelt flour and set me the task of making wheat-free pizzas. I searched numerous internet recipe databases (the bread maker recipe book offers no guidance on this) and eventually found a recipe which I modified as follows:
- 1 tsp dried yeast
- 4 cups spelt flour
- 9 and one third fl oz water
- two thirds tsp salt
- two thirds tsp sugar
- 1 tsp dried mixed herbs
- 1½ fl oz olive oil
Put the ingredients in the bread maker in the order suggested by the manufacturer (usually yeast first, then the other dry ingredients and finally the oil and water) and run the pizza dough programme. You could, or course, use a food processor or mix by hand, but I prefer the bread maker as it warms the dough as it goes and therefore accelerates the proving process. It must be said that this makes a heavy dough which was right at the upper limit of what our machine could cope with. Although our machine has a capacity of 600g (and four cups is roughly 450g), I don’t think it would be wise to put that much in for fear of damaging the motor.
The dough that comes out is not pretty and I really thought that it would turn out pretty bad when I looked at it. But once I tipped it out of the tin and got my hands to it, I was pleased to find that it had a lovely stretchy quality and was actually good to handle.
You definitely need to make a fairly thin base with this mixture. I spread it across our large roasting sheet (roughly 30 x 40cm) and then put it in a only-slightly-warm oven for fifteen minutes to prove. After that, and with an all-over pricking with a fork, I blind-baked it for ten minutes or so before topping it and cooking it through. The recipes I found online all suggested blind baking to ensure some crispiness and avoid sogginess.
It turned out pretty well. The base turned out to be quite flavoursome in its own right, so I recommend a good strongly-flavoured topping (we had tomato purée, basil, red pepper, chorizo, mozarella, thinly sliced shallots, grated strong cheddar – but I think it would be great with anchovies, capers, olives). It also seemed to stick to the pan more than our conventional wheat-based recipe, so be sure to thoroughly grease your pan before cooking (I’ll pay more attention to this next time so that Hels doesn’t need a hammer and chisel when washing up).
The next challenge is to find a spelt bread recipe that works. Watch this space.
Tuesday 13 February 2007
The Grauniad on Gillian McKeith and celebrity nutritionists
Wednesday 27 December 2006
I actually like sprouts…
…particularly if lightly steamed and then scooted around a pan with a drop of balsamic vinegar and some finely chopped smoky bacon. However, some people…
via LMG who got it from Simon who got it from…
Friday 1 December 2006
Wine tasting classes
The French governing party, the UMP, has suggested that children should be taught to appreciate wines when in school - which doesn’t strike me as half as daft as it might first appear. I’m not sure about wine alone, but there could be something in encouraging kids to learn more about art, literature, architecture, food and drink – to be able to critically appraise it and understand its origins. Of course, some of this sort of stuff is taught already as part of a wider education, but I know from my own industry that plenty of kids seem to come out of school with no idea where food comes from, what art is “about” and why architecture is important. Even my own wife can’t tell the difference between sage, marjoram and tarragon growing in our herb trough outside the door.
I have no doubt that having a greater understanding of these things helps you to look beyond yourself, understand the world around you and further appreciate the inter-relationships between so many things in life. That has to be no bad thing, in my view.
Anyway, in other news we have today found out that we will not be liable for Capital Gains Tax when Hels finally sells her flat in the spring, which means that we are tonight celebrating with gin and tonics, noting the subtlety of the fine gin, the delicate tang of the quinine and the sharp twist of lime (or getting drunk, you decide).
Wednesday 6 September 2006
Les Six Régals
Oh dear, it seems that I’m getting a reputation in my industry for always knowing where the very best restaurants are in the towns and cities around Europe that are centres for horticulture. Well, I suppose that there are worse things to have a reputation for.
So, note to self and to others – I’d like to publicly recommend Aux Six Régals (no website) as the finest eating establishment that I know in Angers. I’ve just eaten there and to say that the experience was both sublime and good value would be an understatement. The salade périgourdine is possibly one of the best dishes I know anywhere (this isn’t a bad recipe, but not as good as the restaurant’s version).
If you’re lucky, I may come up with a few more tips for other parts of Europe (it’s not a long list really).
Wednesday 9 August 2006
Tuesday 8 August 2006
Not quite full of beans
We’ve just had our first harvest from our runner beans in the garden. However, one bean does not a meal make.
Still, it was very fresh and tasty. And there are more coming.
Thursday 13 July 2006
Last night, we had good company in the form of my sister-in-law and her husband. Stepping off our diet for one evening (you knew that we are both dieting, didn’t you? Perhaps I haven’t mentioned that. In five-and-a-half weeks, I’ve lost 12lb and H has lost 10lb, about which we are very pleased.), I prepared poulet basquaise with a rice pilaf whilst H made a chocolate meringue and summer fruit dessert. If ever H gets a blog (incredibly unlikely), she can describe the making of the dessert for you, but I thought I’d share the poulet with you here.
The recipe was from Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halles Cookbook, which is one of my favourite cookbooks for meat recipes – lots of rustic French and Mediterranean style cooking with rich reduced sauces. I found I needed slightly more fluid than the recipe suggested, so here is my interpretation:
Ingredients (serves 4 generously):
- chicken (The recipe calls for a whole chicken cut into eight pieces. I found it simpler to use two breasts, halved; four drumsticks, skin-on; four thighs, skin-on – you need meat on the bone as the dark meat works best, and you want about 1.5kg in total);
- two red peppers, cut into long thin strips;
- two green peppers, similarly cut;
- one onion, thinly sliced;
- 450g tin of Italian tomatoes;
- salt and pepper;
- a pinch of cayenne;
- a little olive oil (about two tablespoons);
- a knob of butter (about 15g);
- 150ml white wine;
- 200ml chicken stock;
- fresh parsley, chopped (note: this is real parsley usage – for flavour, not for useless garnish).
- Heat the oil on a medium-high heat in a large heavy pan with a lid. When it is hot, add the butter. Wait for the butter to melt and foam.
- Meanwhile, thoroughly season the chicken with salt, pepper and cayenne.
- Add the chicken, skin side down and brown it on this side only. Remove it to a plate and set aside.
- Add the peppers and onion and cook on a medium heat for about ten minutes.
- Add the tomatoes and cook until the juices are reduced by about a third.
- Add the wine and cook for a further few minutes to reduce the wine by about half, being sure to scrape the bottom of your pan to get up that slightly burnt stuff from the peppers and onion.
- Add the stock and cook for a minute or two.
- Add the chicken, including any juices left on the plate. Cover the pan and leave on a low heat for at least 30 minutes, if not longer (mine was simmering for nearly an hour).
- Whilst this is going on, drink the rest of the bottle of wine and prepare the rice pilaf (I made mine with chicken stock, finely chopped shallots and peas – the peas give a good contrast to the poulet). Warm the oven to 75 Celsius.
- Remove the chicken from the pan and keep warm in the oven. (You might want to warm some plates too – I always forget that).
- Add salt and pepper to the sauce, as well as the chopped parsley. Crank up the heat to the max, remove the lid and reduce the sauce by half – this takes around ten minutes.
- Serve the chicken on a bed of rice pilaf, pouring over a generous amount of the pepper and onion sauce. Sit back, take the credit. Open another bottle of wine.
I would have taken photos, but we were too concerned with eating it! If you want photos of food, check out Fraser’s site.
Wednesday 28 June 2006
Just not cricket
Last night, we took Tom to his first ever cricket match, the Twenty20 fixture between Sussex and Hampshire at the gorgeously beautiful ground at Arundel. It looked like we (Sussex) were going to lose for most of our innings, but a late flurry of boundaries soon put paid to the opposition. Tom clearly is a lucky person to take along – maybe I should take him to a few Seagulls fixtures next season. He took the whole thing in his stride, as he tends to do, although he was a little alarmed by the shouts from the crowd and the loud music as Luke Wright and Yasir Arafat (insert joke about dishdash here) swiped umpteen boundaries in the last three overs to wrap it up.
One thing the BBC report doesn’t mention is the way in which Matt Prior was dismissed. Chris Adams was batting at the other end and was caught from a no-ball. He started to walk but then people in the crowd shouted that it was a no-ball. By this point, the Hampshire players were together celebrating and Matt Prior was still half way down the strip. Everyone looked to the umpire, who confirmed that the batsman was not out, at which point the Hampshire fielders realised that Prior was out of his crease and threw down the stumps. Prior briefly protested to the umpire (he clearly hadn’t realised that it was a no-ball) before walking. Is there a Law on how a no-ball should be called by the umpire? In any case, it was certainly pretty unsporting on the part of the Hampshire players.
We topped the night out with a cup of tea with the bikers at the Hikers café at Whiteways on the way home. Frankly, if ever you think that a bunch of bikers makes you feel threatened, you should go and see the bikers there – mostly middle-aged men (some women too), standing around drinking tea and discussing health issues and the correct daily fluid intake (presumably in the form of tea), as far as I could make out.
Monday 15 May 2006
- thanks to Charlie and The Peet for my excellent Neotropic CD.
- thanks also to the Uborka Two for Winter Chill 2.
- thanks to family for gifts of cash, clothing and olive oil – all appreciated.
- thanks to Hels for Gnarls Barkley, clothing and cake.
- spent Friday at Wakehurst Place – thoroughly enjoyable another opportunity to put the buggy through its paces (it passed with flying colours).
- Friday evening involved a fantastic meal out – if anyone needs a recommendation for a fabulous meal in East Sussex, drop me a line.
- Saturday was spent gardening, painting and erecting trellis for the most part.
- Sunday was spent at Pashley Manor Gardens for the Plant Fair – not one of the best that I’ve had there, but I think some lessons were learned that will lead to changes before August.
Friday 14 April 2006
Ways to spend Good Friday (number 35 in a series)
- get up early
- study BBC online weather forecast – observe white fluffy cloud symbol and yellow sun symbol and assume the day is set fair
- saw logs so as to make them more woodpile-friendly
- create new border in the garden
- go to nearby farm to purchase a sack of well rotted cow poo for said border for one of your fine English pounds
- apply poo to new border
- get changed from poo-ey clothes
- welcome brother-in-law to house
- drive to extremely nice nearby public house
- park car
- strap small child to chest in slightly bizarre harness device
- walk in opposite direction to public house wiuth a view to making a large circuit, returning to said public house with hearty appetite for fine ales
- observe rapidly deteriorating weather conditions
- wade through mud, fight brambles, attempt to pacify child – all in steady rain and a cool breeze – whilst cheerfully reassuring one another that the weather "will blow over in a minute and surely improve"
- reach a farm with a large barn
- take shelter in said barn
- change child’s nappy and then eat sandwiches whilst heavy rain continues, whilst regretting not bringing any sort of waterproof clothing for anyone other than small child – the same small child who, whilst being only 12 weeks old, has already developed the ability to laugh and point at his soaking wet father from within the warmth and dryness of his red waterproof
- decide that the rain is not going to stop
- run back through the mud and rain to the car, leaving brother-in-law, wife and child in barn
- drive back to collect rest of party and then home, to glorious sunshine
- head to the pub next door for a pint or two
- return home, eat pie
- search for hotel for stay in Budapest – realise that no hotel there has been renovated since 1967. Decide to seek advice from the only person I know with much experience of the Hungarian capital.
- read the best post in ages on Parallax View – end the day contented
Wednesday 12 April 2006
Whilst I don’t agree with Gordon’s erudite comment about the £85 sandwich (look at the ingredients – it would never be cheap, and you’re not likely to buy two – well, I might), I think even I would draw the line at a £50,000 easter egg. Mind you, Montezuma’s aren’t cheap, but they’re worth it.
Monday 10 April 2006
Two items of food-related news (I don’t post anything like enough food news items here):
- world’s most expensive sandwich goes on sale. I like the sound of this. Of course, it’s a splendid publicity stunt and well done to Selfridges for coming up with it, but I would like one. Or two.
- we’ve just booked to go to Preuvenemint, (one of?) the largest food fairs in the Netherlands. This strikes me as an excellent plan – food and Maastricht in one go – hurrah! Sadly, we can’t find a decent hotel in the city – it seems that they are either all booked up or have trebled their prices in anticipation of the crowds (or both) – so we’re staying at a lovely auberge across the border in Belgium.
Friday 7 April 2006
Stuff in the news
Well, EURid has put the .eu domain registration process into the LandRush phase. I made my application some weeks ago (on Valentine’s Day, in fact) for a domain for my company under the Sunrise procedures (having a prior right as being a registered limited company under UK law), but have had no acknowledgement and no news. Should I be panicking? I tried to look it up on the EU WHOIS site (which is where the EURid site suggests I should go in order to track my application), but the server that runs that is clearly melting in some office somewhere in Europe. (In this case, it’s Diegem in Belgium – did you know that there is great competition to host EU offices? The French will battle with the Germans and the Spanish and all the other nations to host EU offices – which is why I spend a lot of time in communication with an EU department that resides in a rather grand converted hotel in the French city of Angers. But do you ever hear of British towns and cities battling for these honours? No, because the British tend to be happier sniping at the EU from the sidelines rather than actively getting involved, thereby missing a great opportunity for prestige and employment. Ooops. Ranting. Sorry.)
Meanwhile, north of the border, the avian flu strain H5N1 has been found in a dead swan. The police are reminding citizens to report any dead swan, goose or duck, or any three dead birds in the same place, to DEFRA. What they forget to say is that DEFRA is woefully under-resourced (it’s not health or education, so HMG doesn’t throw money at it), so I forsee a situation very soon wherein the inspection services will be under immense strain (they are already) and will draft in support from every other department within DEFRA. So my local PHSI (Plant Health and Seeds Inspectorate) guys will be sent off to some dingy hotel somewhere, given a crash course in avian flu diagnosis, and sent out to farms. Of course, as plant health guys, they have no jurisdiction and no powers and can’t actually do an awful lot – they won’t even be able to impound birds. Sound implausible to you? Well, it is exactly what happened during foot and mouth a few years ago – PHSI was denuded of staff (they already are terribly under-staffed as it is) who will have to work very long hours achieving not an awful lot.
Whilst all this is going on, Mrs Housewife will stop buying chicken and eggs, spurred by horror stories in the Daily Mail, and agriculture (which is already struggling terribly – oh, sorry, that’s not newsworthy at the moment, is it? – you know, the fact that HMG has promised to pay grants to farmers who have made their business plans on that basis, but have yet to actually deliver money that was due months ago, leaving farmers with huge debts to the banks and no income) will become even more depressed. Gah.
So, this weekend – get a British chicken, have a roast with some British veg. You’ll enjoy it and you’ll help a farmer somewhere (particularly if you go to your local farmers’ market and buy direct).
UPDATE: I managed to get on to the .eu WHOIS, although it is mind-numbingly slow, and it shows my domain name as "application pending". The application and documents have been received, although they are yet to get beyond the "Initial" stage (i.e., the documents are in a filing cabinet and nobody has looked at them). The good news is that I am the only applicant for my requested name. Yay!
Monday 27 March 2006
For Mother’s Day, I made a chicken, bacon and leek pie with the word “MUM” on it, and fed it to the newest mum in the family. As a bonus, there’s enough left-over to feed to, um, the most experienced mum in the family later. Double result.
I should have taken a photo – it was a particularly handsome pie. Now it is just two-thirds of a particularly handsome pie (yes, Waitrose, I’m talking to you – the recipe says “serves 4″, but we reckon that it would easily serve six extremely hungry people with some to spare).
Saturday 18 February 2006
You’ve read articles about Italian olive farmers claiming EU subsidies for groves that have already been grubbed up. What you may not know is that there is a whole industry dedicated to putting these ancient trees into very small pots and then selling them at hugely inflated prices to idiotic northern Europeans like you and me. So it’s a win-win for the olive farmer.
A cheese store in Padua. A purchase was made.
Wednesday 15 February 2006
Griddled scallops and king prawns with tomatoes, followed by grilled duck breast with marmalade glaze, topped off by chocolate soufflé. We’re stuffed and the Valentine’s Day foodfest has passed for another year.
Thursday 1 December 2005
To bring you up to date, in the last seven days:
- Hels went to hospital, but everything was fine
- We started ante-natal classes – Hels now knows how to scream convincingly during labour
- We bought six pies at the farmers’ market
- The family came over and we did more work to upgrade the Global Headquarters building
- We watched Hels’s dad in a village panto (actually very funny)
…and I’ve been very busy with work and stuff, hence the continued quiet here.
Tuesday 4 October 2005
Pastéis de Belém. In English too if you scroll down.
Wednesday 28 September 2005
Dedicated followers of good coffee
See us? We’re so trendy that when we stop for coffee and croissants in Ilfracombe, the only place that we’re seen in is 11 The Quay, Damien Hirst’s uber-fashionable bar and restaurant by the harbour. Daaaahrlings!
Friday 2 September 2005
Seagulls sign Frutos.
Wednesday 31 August 2005
Bad statistics and binge drinking – as much a commentary on sloppy journalism as anything.
Follows on nicely from a discussion we had at the weekend over dinner when a friend revealed that his doctor now considers him a problem drinker just because he said that he’d had quite a bit to drink at a dinner party recently. We concluded that, as with estimates on spending by one’s spouse, doctors take your admitted level of alcohol consumption, add five and double it.
Example: a wife comes home with a new handbag and says "it only cost £20" – the true cost was £50 (20+5=25; 25×2=50)
Example: you tell the nurse that you usually drink 10 units per week. They write down "drinks 30 units per week" in your notes, thereby making you a problem drinker. (10+5=15; 15×2=30)
Wednesday 17 August 2005
Cheese, but with leather elbow patches on a tweed blazer
Have you noticed that the Open University is becoming more trendy these days? The OU is responsible for the Coast series on BBC2 which has been quite interesting. But I think they have trumped that with their Ever Wondered About Food? series that started last night on BBC2. It is lively, visually attractive, full of interesting facts, gorgeous food, a little bit of science and, best of all, good recipes. We’re going to have a go at their variation on macaroni cheese.
Thursday 28 July 2005
Thursday 21 July 2005
Chocolate store supplies film stars
…as well as providing wedding cake for a famous blogger and his wife.
Well, maybe not famous.
Tuesday 5 July 2005
B3ta’s definitive guide to poaching an egg. Genius. Of course, I’ll stick to using our poaching pan, which is a heck of a lot easier.
Thursday 30 June 2005
A Taste Of Freedom.
Purchased in Vlijmen, Netherlands, 21/6/05. Almost certainly nothing like Mecca Bingo or MechaGodzilla.
Tuesday 19 April 2005
Black and white
Apparently, the white ones are not white chocolate – swizz.
Monday 18 April 2005
I had great plans for all the things that I was going to achieve yesterday. Unfortunately, one job took far longer than I had anticipated, so I didn’t get through my entire list. Who knew that painting trellis was so arduous? I had it marked down as a two hour task, but instead it took nearly six!
Anyway, yesterday Hels and I
- painted the trellis and gate
- painted the shed door
- sanded down three of our new (old) garden chairs ready for painting
- mowed the lawn
- planted several plants – a Spiraea, Veronica, Veronicastrum, Eryngium and Anemone
- cleaned the house
- did the recycling
- cooked lovely duck in port, orange and green peppercorn marinade
- collapsed in a heap at the end of it all.
In other news, things have taken a step forward(ish) with regard to the sale of H’s flat. We now have a pile of paper. Yay.
Friday 8 April 2005
Mmmmmm deep fried maize
This company make very nice foods. I particularly recommend the Frutos Secos – deep fried maize. Yum. Available in Borough Market.
Tuesday 1 March 2005
This news article has left me craving a pie.
Tuesday 22 February 2005
Save Our Sauce
Lea and Perrins products not affected by food safety scare – so go buy a bottle!
Tuesday 15 February 2005
Pass the HP sauce
Did you know that it is National Chip Week? Well you do now. So, to celebrate, H and I are off to the pub tonight for a curry.
Or have we missed the point?
UPDATE: apparently we’re staying in and having cod. More updates as events warrant.
Monday 14 February 2005
In a reversal of the usual stereotypical rôles, I’ve spent much of the afternoon cleaning the house and preparing a (hopefully) wonderful meal for my spouse, whilst she slaves away over a hot keyboard in her office. Safe in the knowledge that she has now left work, I can reveal that I’m preparing a steak in ale casserole, with roasted shallots, mashed sweet potatoes, carrots and peas, which will be accompanied by one of the "special" bottles of wine from the rack. I’ve also baked a spicy fruit loaf.
I’m not a big one for buying ostentatious gifts or excessive cards for Valentine’s Day, but I think it is good to be extra romantic and make an extra effort every now and then. This is our first V Day as marrieds, so we both think it is a good thing to do something special. Such a shame that it falls on a weekday – which is why we’re scooting off to France for the weekend (tying the trip in with a visit to a trade show – so PFE can subsidise the trip).
Whether you are coupled or not, by choice or by circumstance, I reckon February 14th is the perfect opportunity to crack open a decent bottle of red – and that’s just what I’m about to do.
Wednesday 19 January 2005
Are you male, single and interested in going to a fabulous party in Brighton on 29th January with some lovely food and great (female) company? If so, email me and I’ll put you in the picture.
(Somehow, I feel slightly dirty posting this, but it is all genuine and above board and to do with our good friends at LITK).
Sunday 26 December 2004
I can’t eat any more.
Sunday 12 December 2004
Today, for the first time in my life, I made and baked a loaf of bread*. And very good it was too, even if I say so myself.
Wednesday 1 December 2004
As has just been pointed out in conversation between my wife and her sister, you can tell that Graybo has been very busy because he has written hardly anything at his website.
Thanks to the help already mentioned, the back of the decorating is definitely broken. Needless to say, we collective feel like our backs are broken too.
Top discovery of the week: the local pub (walking distance door-to-door: ninety seconds if you drag your feet, but not named here because Hels doesn’t want the whereabouts of our new abode revealed at the site) does a mean curry night on Tuesdays – two curries for £8.50 is not bad at all, and they are very tasty and generously proportioned.
Monday 22 November 2004
Hack! Cough! Wheeze!
Goodness! I seem to have suddenly developed a particularly bad cough!
Friday 19 November 2004
Only Fools and Pizza
I’ve just been down to the Italian market that is on this weekend in The Pantiles in Tunbridge Wells (mainly to go to the nearby cashpoint and also the greetings card shop). I purchased some bread for my lunch, handed over my £5 note and took the bag. The chap behind the stall said "That’ll be two quid mate! Luvvly jubbly!"
I want my money back. It said "Italian Market" on the flyer, not "East End Market".
Thursday 4 November 2004
You know, there was something about the markets in Sicily that set my pulses racing:
Off to Amsterdam for 24 hours. There will be more photos, I promise. And possibly more puns.
Monday 13 September 2004
Meat and two veg
Remember the BBC online picture comedy caption writer? I think he’s still at large.
Sunday 22 August 2004
Arundel Festival Fringe
Yesterday, we had a potter about the Gallery Trail that forms part of the Arundel Festival Fringe. enjoying the opportunity to see some good art (and some less-good art) as well as the chance to poke about inside other people’s homes. There will be pictures soon.
This was followed by a rather good meal in the Fox Goes Free at Charlton, a haunt from long ago that I haven’t visited in a fair while. Ham, egg ‘n’ chips – mmmmmm.
Today we’re going to saunter around West Dean.
Tuesday 15 June 2004
Food for tired people
- Lettuce (whichever variety you prefer)
- tomatoes (ditto)
- black olives
- baby sweetcorn
- mange tout, or sugar snaps
- feta cheese, cubed
- pine nuts
- fresh basil leaves, olive oil, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar and black pepper
Combine all ingedients. Eat.
Healthier than a late-night pizza. Quicker to prepare too.
Saturday 17 April 2004
Yay! I’ve converted Hels to the wonder that is a goose egg. We’ve just had some (well, one each – you don’t need any more) for brekkie with lovely bread soldiers. Heavenly.
Wednesday 17 March 2004
Excessive consumption may cause laxative effects
Tunes. Who knew?
Thursday 19 February 2004
I think I’ve just eaten the best dessert I’ve ever had. Actually, the whole meal was very good indeed, and excellent value – £20ish for four courses, a great salade landaise, a fish course, a wonderful cheese course and dessert. Mmmmmm dessert. Parfait de banane aux raisins avec chocolat chaud. Possibly the most perfect parfait I’ve ever had – "sublime" doesn’t do it justice.
You know, it’s funny how life changes. When I used to go on these jaunts, I’d get quite down and a bit lonely. These days I miss Hels. A lot. I wish she could travel with me. Saturday morning can’t come soon enough.
Tomorrow, I’ve got to go back to the trade show for a short period, then head back to Caen via some shops for …um… provisions. Yeh. Provisions. A.k.a. du vin et du fromage.
Thursday 20 November 2003
I had a three course meal last night – oxtail soup for starter, Irish stew for main course and sherry trifle for dessert. It cost me £9.45. Not in the hotel restaurant, mind you, where I reckon dinner would have been at least three times that. Instead I walked into Ely city centre, passed the cathedral (with the top of the tower illuminated) and on to a pleasant local pub, passing the boy racers in their stupid cars.
What is it about Ely and boy racers? There seemed to be dozens of them, driving up and down the main roads, in circles around the city centre, often on their own. I mean, showing off is one thing, but who exactly were they showing off to? And why are there so many Ford Capris here? I don’t think I’ve seen so many Capris in one town since Dagenham in 1976.
Monday 17 November 2003
This evening, as dessert to follow on from my grilled mackerel, olive pave and salad, I’ve had my first ever kiwano. It seems the kiwano is a fruit that’s been hijacked by the New Zealanders, much like the kiwi fruit. Actinidia chinensis, the plant that gives us kiwi fruit is, as the name suggests, a native of China, not New Zealand, and was originally known as Chinese Gooseberry. I guess the name was changed as gooseberries are not a popular fruit these days, more’s the pity.
The kiwano is actually a native of central and southern Africa, where it is called the Horned Cucumber or Horned Melon. It is the fruit of Cucumis metuliferus, which indicates that it is more closely related to cucumbers (Cucumis sativus) than melons (watermelon is a member of the more distantly related genus Citrullus).
If you cut it lengthways, the centre of it looks just like an odd-shaped cucumber cut along its length. It’s quite watery and juicy, but when you stick your spoon into it you see the difference. One of the names for this fruit is Jelly Melon, but I reckon Tapioca Melon or Frogspawn Melon might be more appropriate. Each seed is in a small cell of green jellyish flesh, and spooning it into your mouth is a decidedly sensual experience.
But this is much more of a textural food than a tasty food – the flavour is very subtle, milder and more tart than a cucumber, perhaps with a hint of melon or even lime as well. I don’t think you’d want to eat this with anything else as the flavour would be completely smothered by most other foods. It might be fun to add the pulp to a fruit salad though, purely for the texture.
More fruit reviews coming soon!
Friday 14 November 2003
Hels and I are on a mission – to get as many people as possible to go to her local Indian restaurant, the Kirthon, in The Pantiles in Tunbridge Wells. We’ve been there twice now, and had the best Indian food we have ever eaten – incredibly tender meat in the creamiest and most flavoursome sauces you could imagine. The sauces are laden with herbs and spices, but are not hot for heat’s sake, so you can actually taste the flavours and not run screaming for the nearest fire extinguisher.
The service is excellent, and there is a huge plasma screen at one end of the restaurant which is always showing a Bollywood film (or the S Club 7 video, depending on their mood!). Their prices are very fair too, and they also offer a takeaway service.
The only problem with the Kirthon is that it just does not seem to be busy enough to be a sustainable business. So we are on a mission to get more people to go there, as it would be almost criminal if ever it was to close for lack of trade. We’ll certainly be regular customers.