Tuesday, 9 September 2014

The Bull and Last, Kentish Town


Despite taking a keen interest in geography when I was younger, I have to say that my sense of direction is notoriously bad. If you ever find yourself lost on the streets of London, don't ever ask me which way to head. Because I will almost certainly send you down the wrong street to the wrong side of town. Once, around lunchtime near my office, a poor soul anxiously approached me wishing to get to St Pauls and I sent them on their way with a series of left/right gesticulations, smiling confidently as I did so. However as I soon as I turned tail, I realised that I had actually sent them in the opposite direction so I hastily blended into the crowd and waltzed off myself. I spotted the same person about 10 minutes later and the look on his face suggested to me that he was very angry. And quite possibly late. But hey, he must got directions off the right person because as he surged down the street, I could see St Christopher's dome rising magnificently in the background. I was just glad that he didn't see me.

With that in mind, my inner GPS went all shonky again this weekend. For an anniversary treat I booked a table at The Bull and Last, an esteemed gastropub favoured by Chris Pople and some bloke called Coren. And when I say I booked it, I mean just that. "Hello? Can I have a table? Thank you. Goodbye." I didn't think much more of it afterwards. So when the time came around, after a night in Hammersmith, watching some strange witch-like woman wail and float around the stage, when Mrs FU asked me if I knew where we were going, I naturally said yes. 

When we got off the tube at Highgate Station she asked me the question again.

"Yes, the pub is around here somewhere," I replied as we trotted off down the hill. "It's on Highgate Road. This is Highgate Hill. Look see the road sign. Let's just keep walking, we'll find it soon enough."

Mrs FU gave it the magic 10 minutes before she asked me one more time.

"Are you sure it's around here?"

"Um, yes.....no....... I don't really know."

After a quick peruse on Google maps on the phone, it soon turned out we were quite a fair distance from the pub. In roughly the right area, I hastily tried to defend but oooh, it was still a bit of trek wasn't it. The silence was deafening as we started to sprint, apart from the occasional pant of breath and "Mind that dog shit" (the streets of North London are caked I tell you). Luckily we managed to get to the pub, bang on the nose for our reservation.

I don't think I have ever seen my wife down a pint so quickly before but as she wiped the sweat away from her brow and judging by the look in her eyes, I don't think I'll be in charge of booking restaurants for much longer.


The great thing about The Bull and Last, or where we were sat upstairs at least, is that the place is large and airy and when asked, the waiters will gladly open a window for you. So we managed to cool down and get nice and comfortable quite quickly. The decor of old paintings, stuffed animals wearing jaunty napkins, bashed up tables and chairs was fairly de rigueur for a gastropub; which does makes wonder whether everyone goes to the same taxidermist-come-antiques dealer (who must be making a fortune). But still, the ambiance was relaxed, with only the occasional "Rah!" to puncture the air and the aforementioned beer was very good. A pint of Five Points Pale Ale and a pint of Redemption..... something or the other. I think.


The menu was seasonal and British, leaning towards to the more gutsy side of proceedings, which suited me down the ground. I did ponder for a little while about some delicate sounding English beetroot with cow's curd and roasted walnuts, but I was starving after that walk so I ordered the braised pig cheek with watermelon pickle and sesame. Followed by the pork belly, black pudding, crackling and all the trimmings. Yes, double pork. Or triple in fact.

  

Now I love a pig cheek or two and the idea of pairing them with watermelon seemed very fanciful. It certainly looked exotic when the plate arrived at the table and as I pressed my fork into the teriyaki oyster of pork, it collapsed wonderfully under the weight. Coupled with chunks of pickled yet still crisp watermelon and peppery herbs, each mouthful was unusual, quirky and perhaps one of the best things I have eaten all year. My praises for this dish would have gone superlative if the waiter had put two cheeks in front of me. But alas, I only got one and half cheeks. Which seemed a touch stingy when you consider how cheap they are. Nevertheless, it got me first points on the score board which is oh so important when you eat out with your partner.

Not that Mrs FU's choice misfired. Her wild game terrine with damsons, pickles and toast also hit the spot and there is always something to admire in a well constructed slice. We played quite the guessing game as to what game was in the meat loaf and I am adamant that they stuck a prune into the mix. Not that my wife listened to me. She was too busy licking the damson jelly off the plate. Also, fantastic radishes but still, 1-0.


My mains could on face value be described as regular Sunday lunch fare but it was head and shoulders above the usual offering from our local pub. Sweet belly that again melted at the touch of a fork, nuggets of blood pudding, soft baked pear and crunchy spuds all made for very happy eating indeed. The crackling snapped with delight and the sprouting broccoli offered virtue but the best part of this dish for me, surprisingly, was the celeriac. God, I've missed that ugly son of gun and this was a timely reminder that root veg is firmly back on the agenda. I think I might just buy a few gnarly boulders on the next shopping trip actually. In short, for me, this plate heralded the start of Autumn.


However, even though I thought my mains was really good, Mrs FU (in her humble opinion) decided that her fish platter evened up the scores, citing that her wooden board filled with gravalax, brown crab, mackerel pate, chipirones, haddock croquettes, fennel salad and *sharp intake of breath* treacle bread beat my Sunday standard well into submission. And sure, it looked pleasing but there was no way that it whipped my nutty celeriac mash. Apart from the potted crab. That did taste amazing and rich. And the fresh mackerel. The beetroot cured salmon wasn't bad either. But the rest was raaaahbish. Except for the croquette. The fennel, the fennel was shit. I am done with that aniseed claptrap. Until next week maybe. 

OK.

1-1

In hindsight, we should have left desserts well alone but as this was a special meal, we ploughed on regardless, deciding on a just light bite and digestif to finish things off. Namely cheese and port. From the small selection available we went for Stichelton, Keen's Cheddar and Reblochon, all of which were delightful. Although I felt the French cheese could have been just a touch more gooey. I am only nit-picking though, trying to proportion some element of blame. For by the time we'd finished, we felt thoroughly turgid. Joyful but definitely swollen.

2-2

A draw.

As far as the actual cost of Sunday lunch, a bill of just over a hundred squids did edge things towards the expensive end, especially since we didn't have that much to drink. Honest, we really didn't (a few more pints and half a carafe of Picpoul). And I have to been mulling it over in my head ever since as to whether The Bull and Last represented value for money. I think they just about pulled it off. Their menu wouldn't look out of place in most decent boozers up and down the land but in the cooking and presentation, I would say that they do deliver that extra bit of care and attention. That fish platter was certainly a labour of love with all its elements and the service was charming and friendly. We had quite a giggle with our waiter at the end, belying some reports that the staff can be po-faced. And I really did like those pig cheeks with the watermelon. All one and half of them. No, I was more than satisfied with the meal we had there and you only live once and all that. Next year we are going to IKEA for meatballs.

BUT! If I did have to complain about one thing, it would be the fish eye mirror that hangs in their toilet upstairs. Jesus, it very nearly knock me for six when I stared into it after conducting my ablutions. I was so disorientated by the thing that after leaving, I started to wonder back up towards Hampstead Heath. 

Thankfully Mrs FU was on hand to direct me down the hill, towards Kentish Town tube station. The stop that we should have gotten off at in the first place.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Lobster, Fish and Happy Shopper Camp Chowder

Bliss (kinda)
 Yes, that is me on the left, basking in the warm glow of a not-quite-Autumn-yet sun. As you can see, the soft grass beneath my feet dips downwards, masking primal granite underneath. And just beyond that tent in the middle, just beyond a hedge of bracken, jagged rocks pierce the Atlantic; like old man's teeth gnashing and foaming in the brine. The mysterious island of Lundy sits squat on the horizon and after that, well, who knows. This is Mortehoe in North Devon, an undeniably beautiful place. However, do not let this serene, wistful photo fool you. It may convey a sense of wonder, a frame of a man at peace with the world, soaking up the best that nature can offer. But the reality is, or was rather, when this photo was taken, I was getting smashed by winds of up to 90 miles an hour. Nature was farting in my face and laughing and giggling with glee and to be honest, it wasn't pleasant. The whole time we were there, it was like nature was bellowing:

"You've come camping? Here? On one of the most exposed parts of the British coast? HA! You fool! Can you feel my windy buttocks buffeting your face? Watch then, as I sit on your tent and squash it with them! Hahahahaha! Can you hear that snapping? That's your tent poles that is! That will learn you for using a cheap tent! Whoops, there goes your hat! AND YOUR EVENT SHELTER! Ha! Oh joy! Oh joy, joy, joy!"

Needless to say our first camping holiday with the twins was a bit of a trial. Not an unmitigated disaster mind. In the company of very good friends and with the aid of copious alcohol, bags and bags of 2p coins for the arcade and stereotypically English stiff upper lips, we did manage to have a most excellent time. And the children certainly loved it. They even went into the sea, the nutters. Personally though, when we finally left Devon, I was just a little bit disappointed that I didn't get to do as much cooking in the Great Outdoors as I would have liked. I had plenty of ideas and I had even bought a copy of Josh Sutton's Guyrope Gourmet to try out some of his recipes. But trying to read the damn thing out in the open, with pages whipping from left to right was nigh on impossible. In the end, I just popped it back in tent and took to standing in the gale, whilst sipping stupidly strong scrumpy and flicking V's back at the sky.

We did have a couple of breakthroughs at breakfast time, which came in the shape of bacon and black pudding butties and some eggy bread. And we also managed to rustle up one meal in the evening, namely my mate John's infamous chowder. I was pretty insistent that we made this actually. Largely because John has been bleating on about this fabulous seafood stew he makes whenever he goes camping, for like, forever. And largely because I have always been intrigued by the juxtaposition of the ingredients within, which mainly consists of very expensive and luxurious lobster, coupled with dirt cheap tinned potatoes. By all accounts, this recipe was borne out of sourcing what is available in Mortehoe and as you might guess, there isn't much. A pretty well-stocked fishmonger, come fish and chip shop. And an efficiently stocked camp shop. Oh, plus three pubs. I did wonder if I should point out to John that the camp shop sold fresh spuds but after seeing him gamble up to the till with a silly grin on his face and an armful of Happy Shopper tinned new potatoes (59p), I felt it was a risk worth taking.

And it was. Given that in reality, we used very little to pep everything up - this meal basically consists of lobster, fish, water, wine, onion and cream - it tasted bloody amazing and was testimony to the simple approach when cooking. Served up in a mess-tin for authenticity, it was rich, indulgent and life-affirming; a cor-blimey smack on the lips to be mopped up with bread slathered with butter. My only addition when preparing and helping to finish at the end was to issue a small smattering of capers over the top, which gave just enough spike to help cut through the silky broth.

After licking the remains of the sauce out of the mess tin using my stubby digits, I threw the lightweight vessel into that ferocious wind, roared at the top of my lungs and turned my back to it victorious. Moments later, the mess-tin returned and hit me on top of my delicate head. So in the end, nature won. But if you do ever go like to camping yourself and have access to a decent fishmonger, and some Happy Shopper spuds, you really should try this recipe. It will blow you away....he he geddit? Ha ha ha.......ah fack it.....

Lobster, Fish and Happy Shopper Camp Chowder - serves 4 adults and 2 children

Chowder
Ingredients (fish is fairly approximate as we bought everything by pointing)

2 lobsters, cooked
750gms of cod fillet, sliced into goujons
250gms of gurnard fillet, sliced into goujons
2 tins of Happy Shopper New Potatoes, drained and cut in half
1 onion, finely chopped
300mls double cream
1 large glass of white wine, possibly 2
Olive oil
Black pepper
Water
Capers (optional)

Bread and butter to serve

Method

If cooking this outside, first make a perimeter around your cooking area to shield you from the wind. Use cars, trailers, windbreaks, jackets and chopping boards to ensure that your Campingaz single burning stoves work efficiently. Keep a flagon of strong Devonshire cider handy to keep you sane when everything blows off the table.

Now, break up your cooked lobster and remove as much meat as possible from the claws, legs and head. Crack the tail and peel and cut the flesh into chunky medallions. Reserve the meat in a pot of some description. Then place all the lobster shell into another pot and filled with approximately 2 litres of water. Bring to the boil on your gaz burner and simmer and reduce for about 45 minutes. This will form the main part of your stock.

When done, place a frying pan on the burner, add a splash of olive oil, then the onion and gently fry until translucent. Add the wine and reduce by half and then add some of the stock. John was the master of ceremonies at this point and carefully adding the shellfish stock by the ladle, taking his time. Whereas I would have dumped the lot in but I expect this was to gain maximum efficiency from the gaz or gas or whatever.

Then add your Happy Shopper spuds and the cream and begin to reduce further.  As the stock thickens, pop the lobster in to warm through and then add the fish. Cook for about another 5 minutes.

When ready, serve in mess-tins or bowls, add a crack of black pepper and a scattering of capers if you so wish. Add a slice or two or bread and butter and off you go.

Enjoy whilst the sun goes down and eat quickly. As the wind tends to turn things cold very soon.

Happy Shopper Spuds
Lobster and Cidre
Lobster Meat
Lobster Stock
Essential for camping

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Sub Cult and Sun Hats

Rodeo-Sub
I don't normally do this. I don't normally eat something for lunch and then race back to my computer to eulogize and slobber all over the keyboard. I am normally far too lazy to do anything like that. And besides, I find the whole deal of rutting at the desk, fingers hammering a go-go, chair shifting back and forth a bit... well, a bit seedy. I have read some blog posts in the past; on new, hip and happening openings and have got the distinct impression afterwards that the writer has just spent 5 minutes of their lives, grunting and gurning away behind a screen; before spilling forth with that final sentence of "Oh my god it was soo good, and I got there first, I was there maaanandIgottherefirstandahmagaaaditwassoosoogood!!!"

I can see the said writer right now, all sweaty after triumphantly reviewing. Head slumped forward, lolling lasciviously about the place, genitals quite possibly out on display.

I never do that sort of thing.

BUT I have eaten a sandwich today that has made me want to do just that! So please, let me tell you all about it!

(Don't worry Mum, I am not typing this with my winky out.)

Yes, I visited Bishopsgate Market for the first time today, yet another street food shebang that has set up on the clean streets of the City of London. I say clean, Bishopsgate Market is set up on a gravel base building site. Anyway, they are popping up all over the place now and I must admit, I have spent some time cynically mulling that this explosion is simply the consequence of a 'trend' and the rush to make a quick buck. Perhaps it is for some. But the more and more I eat from various trucks, tents and wagons, the more and more I become convinced that this ever growing movement is, in the immortal words of John Torode, a good thing. For instance, the variety of what is available these days for lunch is breathtaking and definitely gives hungry punters a break from the banality of what the chains and supermarkets can offer.

Back to that sandwich though, namely a Rodeo-Sub from Sub Cult. Now when making decisions at these markets, I don't normally believe in choosing the longest one because far too many prats will join a queue on the simple basis that it is a very long queue and today Sub Cult had a very long queue. However, having sneaked a peek at the menu, there was enough on the board to pique my interest and make me want to stand in the blazing sun, like a prat. For about, ooh 20 farking minutes. Still, I thought a combination such as sweet scallop, free range pulled pork, calamari and lemon and parsley mayo would make the wait worth it.

Of course, when I finally made it to the relief of the shade of the van's side hatch, I was told by a man with unfeasibly large sideburns that they had sold out of their Sub-Marines. So, masking quite anger, my cohort and I plumped for the Rodeo-Sub instead, which cost £6.50 of our English pounds. And I am so glad we did, because it was gorgeous. Resplendent with 28 day (well?) hung beef, Provolone cheese, pickled chillies, baby onions and black truffle mayo, and a few spinach leaves to feign a healthy approach, this sandwich was amazing. Coupled with the soft brioche sub that contained the filling, each bite was a savoury, tangy, meaty delight. The back note of the truffle was particularly good, tying everything together with a pleasant hit of ommmaaaaamee.

Now if I had a penny for every time a sandwich or burger elicited an expressive "hmmmm" from my gobby mouth, I would have about 28p by now. But I have to say, this Rodeo-Sub definitely made me sit up more than usual. After taking my fill, I walked back up to the van to say thanks to the hirsute couple responsible and to commend them on a really fantastic sandwich and naturally they responded with cheers and fist bumps. I also inquired as to whether they towed their camper van everywhere because the interior of the driving compartment looked as ancient as my favourite lucky pants. Torn, ragged, dusty and nearly 23 years old. They assured me that the engine did work and that they drove everywhere, which made me think "Yeah right, jokers." But maybe they are telling the truth though, their sandwiches are certainly righteous enough.

Oh god, and now I am turning into Guy Fieri.

On one last note, if they wanted to take things just that little bit further, I would suggest this for the chaps at Sub Cult. On hot, sunny days when everyone comes traipsing in, braying in single file to form an orderly queue, try handing out some of your paper bags to your customers to use as hats. Some of them don't mind waiting but some of them, especially the paler specimens, do not fare well under the August sun.

Hairy blokes in front of a van that surely can't work
Sunhat

Thursday, 31 July 2014

What would YOU cook with Lurpak's Clarified Butter?


I know. It's a million dollar question isn't it. What the flippin' heck would you cook with Lurpak's Clarified Butter? Do you even know what clarified butter is? Do you need me to *ahem* clarify the whole concept for you?

Well, if you aren't au fait with the notion, clarified butter is butter but with all the milky shite taken out. Thus leaving a beautiful golden fat that you can use in a variety of different ways, cooking at high temperatures and most importantly perhaps, it keeps for weeks.

You can make your own clarified butter at home. Take a saucepan and place it on a gentle heat on the hob and then put a block of solid gold inside. Watch it slowly and very gently melt and then take notice as it begins to separate, with chalky solids falling to the bottom and a light froth appearing on top. The stuff in the middle? That is clarified butter my friend. And that stuff can be an absolute bugger to syphon off. The times I've spent oh so carefully pouring this melted elixir into a Pyrex jar and have ended up having to fish out a lump of calcium with my stumpy fingers, I tell you.......

But I suppose if you have ever come over to my house to eat, you really don't want to know about that.

I digress, as per usual. The important thing to discuss here is that you can now buy, yes buy, clarified butter from the supermarch├ę and don't have to worry about the whole palaver. Lurpak, the Danish Butter Barons, have a whole new Cook's Range to play with and clarified butter is part of the arsenal. I've already tested out their Cooking Mist and tackled crackling and was very impressed with the results (mind you, anything to do with cracking normally impresses me). In all honesty, I have yet to try out the Lurpak clarified butter though and here is the rub, how would I use it? Make hollandaise maybe? Dunking fresh lobster or crab meat into bowl of warmed clarified butter mixed with herbs is a sexy option. Smearing it on my nipples is an even hornier suggestion. But even I am now starting to run of ideas here and I don't think I am alone.

As part of their campaign to spread the word and from intensive market research, Lurpak have cottoned onto this, gathering that the public at large still need edumicating about clarified butter so they have brought on board Chef Tom Sellers, he with the fantastical ginger beard and behind Michelin starred restaurant Story. Now Tom has filmed a selection of very, very short videos which can be found here and although very, very short, I believe they are quite inspiring. He certainly shows off a multitude of ideas so do check them out. Especially his 16 second splurging of clarified butter on steak. Ooof. Nurse!

The best part is that Lurpak have launched a competition to get everyone's noggins working about clarified butter. The prize being a Masterclass with Tom Sellers, the man himself. Imagine that eh? A day in a professional kitchen, hanging around with a super cool chef, flicking each other with tea towels, eating steak and drinking gallons and gallons of clarified butter. And then..AND THEN you get to eat some more food from Tom's seductive tasting menu and drink even more clarified butter/wine afterwards!

That is one humdinger of a prize if you ask me.

To enter just leave your entry on Lurpak's Facebook page. But don't dilly dally for too long, the competition closes next week on August 8th.

So get thinking folks, what would YOU cook with Lurpak's Clarified Butter?


Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Triple D Bingo with Guy Fieri


On paper, I shouldn't get on with Guy Fieri. He is exactly the sort of brash, loud, over-bearing American caricature that I just simply cannot abide. What with my stiff British upper lip and all that.  Guy's penchant for bleaching facial hair, wearing sunglasses on the back of his head and a sweatband to cover up a nobbly elbow should get me all edgy and irritable. Throw into the mix a vocabulary that knows no boundary when it comes to the inane, the bizarre and the inconsequential; well I should grimace, spit and shout every time his gurning face appears on my screen.

Whenever Diners, Drive-ins and Dives comes on, I should scream at the tellybox - "WHAT THE HELL AM I DOING WATCHING THIS TERRIBLE, TERRIBLE MAN? DARLING, FETCH ME THE MELON BALLER SO THAT I MAY PLUCK OUT MY EYES!"

But I don't.

Because I love Guy Fieri. I don't know why but his cartoon enthusiasm and random batshit is very infectious. Like a big puppy Labrador, he bounds all over the place, hugging, fist-bumping and slapping line chefs aplenty and he is over-brimming with positivity. Even when a plate of greased smoked hog's arse, drizzled with molten cheese, grits and pickled jalape├▒os is shoved under his nose, he is always more than happy to shovel a spoonful in his cakehole. It all amounts to a very strange yet totally compelling viewing experience. So yes, I am a fan of Guy Fieri and I am a fan of Triple D.

As I have already mentioned, the best part about Guy is his notable use of the random word or catchphrase here and there. Time after time he reels them off and in the past I have looked at my wife next to me and said "Did he really just say 'you must have a PhD in Deliciousness'? Did he??" Which is all part of the game when watching.

So for a laugh, I have whipped up a bingo card for people to use whenever they watch Guy Fiery. I shall be watching Diners, Drive-ins and Dives in my Beamly TV chat room tonight so if you fancy joining me, do pop along. It's on the Food Network and starts at 9PM.

The first one to scream HOUSE wins a can of Cheez Whiz.

Check this website out by the way for all things Fieri related, it's brilliant.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Invasion of the Courgettes

Gronda! Gronda!
At present there is a glorious 'climbing' courgette plant sat on my patio, doing exactly what it says on the tin, climbing upwards towards the sun, spilling huge green leaves and popping fragrant yellow flowers of joy. It is quite a sight to behold and now that we have steady supply of lolloping green truncheons, nothing could be better. Cos I do love a courgette. Yet the speed at which the plant is growing is starting to alarm me. We are not talking 'Jack and the Beanstalk' progress here but the way things are going, I'd say that the plant will soon be over-taking the height of our garden fence. "Hooray! More courgettes!" you might cheer but the other thing that is worrying me is that I am sure, nay certain, that the plant is moving about the place. Terracotta pot and all.

Lots of people ascribe to the notion that plants are sentient beings, Prince Charlie boy being one of them, and if this is the case with our courgette plant, if it has become self-aware then fine. I dig that man - pulls on a drag but does not inhale - that's just groovy baby. There is no reason to dismiss that notion that plants are conscious creatures. Just as much there is no reason to dismiss Gwyneth Paltrow for reasoning that water has feelings*. I just hope that it has a soul whose intentions are good because oh Lord, imagine if it ever felt misunderstood? 

Imagine for instance, if the plant started to suffer from delusions of grandeur, knowing the value of the bounty it provides? Imagine if every time I went to pluck a ripe beauty, having to deal with an uppity Prima Donna that roared and shook until you placated it with a bow and a low whispering of "Gronda, Gronda!"**

Imagine during duty of care, when watering and feeding, taking a stinging slap from a spiky branch and all because you got carried away with snipping some of those lovely blooms the day before, have stuffed them with cheese and gently fried for tea. "Stop un-sexing me, you are effectively slashing BOTH sets of my genitals off, you bastard!" would be the unspoken word.

Imagine if this life force was all down to some extra-terrestrial intervention, malevolent and dark. The idea of a 'Day of the Courgette' is quite terrifying if you think about it. But not quite as terrifying as the thought of being beamed up and whisked off for experimentation by a gang of evil, alien squash-related scientists. I really couldn't face the anal probing. Not with them bulbous fingers anyway.

Perhaps the courgette plant isn't moving. Perhaps it's all in my mind. I haven't been getting much sleep lately and as a result, have been mainlining caffeine by injecting espresso into my eyeballs in the morning before going to check on the plant. That might have something to do with it. But today I am going to nip into Wilkinson's to buy some chalk and when I get home, I am going to trace the outline of the pot. Just to make sure that I am imagining things and not going crazy. I shall let you know the outcome.

In the meantime, here is a quick recipe for a courgette, mangetout, lemon and mint salad, very healthy!

*No, actually, there are lots of reasons.
** Only people of a certain age will get the 'Gronda, Gronda!' joke.

Courgette, mangetout, lemon and mint salad - serves 6 

The majority of recipes for courgette call for them to be cooked but I rather like them raw, especially when they've had time to ripen and become slightly creamy. Paired up with some mangetout, also raw, this salad has great texture and smacks of summer with its citrus and mint flavour. For this salad, I used purple mangetout that I got from Wholegood, an organic fruit and vegetable wholesaler that will also supply weekly boxes to your door, and you may want to blanch your mangetout briefly. But I prefer the crunch and I hate to lose the purple with purple veg. You could also add courgette flowers stuffed with ricotta and mint, briefly flash-fried in the pan but they don't seem to go down well with the kids

ingredients

2 big, fat, portentous courgettes, sliced into ribbons using a peeler or mandolin (watch those fingers)

250gms mangetout, topped and rinsed

1 lemon, zested and juiced

1 large bunch of mint, leaves roughly torn

2 tsps of rapeseed oil (I used Mellow Yellow from Farringtons)

Salt and pepper

Method

Take a bowl and place your courgette ribbons, mangetout and mint and mix thoroughly to combine. Using a small glass or jam jar, pour in the oil and juice and mix to emulsify and then season well. Pour the dressing over the salad and mix and then present on a pretty platter. Scatter over the lemon zest and drizzle some more oil across if necessary. Enjoy in the garden, in the presence of your courgette plant. If you have one.

That's a whopper!
Purple Mange Tut
A bowl of salad
A platter of salad
Close up

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Polenta Brisket Peperonata


Polenta Brisket Peperonata
I went out for a drink last Friday in Borough Market with one of my oldest and best buddies and needless to say, I got very drunk. I should have had something to eat beforehand, on the advice of my better half who always, always advises me to do so but I never listen. So as usual, I found myself floundering around the streets of SE1 around midnight, arms windmilling, legs moving one step forward, three steps back. A terrible epitome of car crash TV and the bane of A&E's up and down the land. Not that I ended up there mind. I don't ever get that bad. Although it was bad when Mrs FU rang me, asking where I was and I said that I seemed to be in the middle of a very busy road; which I can only presume was London Bridge. When I finally got home, my worried and somewhat angry wife said she could hear screaming horns and screaming apoplexy echoing in the background. One day I will grow up.

But hey, I don't get like that that often and I don't get to see my best mate much these days and it's good to let your hair down once in a while (he says, whistling). And we did have share some very big giggles, so there you go. One topic that came up amongst many was beer. We do like to talk about beer. About it's inherent, sulfurous nature, the way that some particularly 'hoppy' ones can taste like soap and whether we've made the full transition into old CAMRA farts yet, complete with ridiculous t-shirts, socks, sandals and moobs. I brought up Innis & Gunn, brewers of unique, cask flavoured beers based in Edinburgh, Scotchland, as I've been drinking a lot of their stuff lately and we both raised an eyebrow and a wry smile.

"Bloody nice aren't they. Quite.... vanilla-ry"

"Yep, I tried a limited edition one the other day. Very smokey, lovely it was."

"But very strong."

"Yes, very strong. Reminds me of some Belgian beers."

"Jerry loves Innis & Gunn but he always has to have a slice of orange in his pint."

Jerry is a friend of ours. Well, more of a friend of my best mate who knows Jerry from university but I also know him well. I am sure Jerry won't mind me saying this but he is a Tory poster boy on the Alan B'stard scale, notoriously smug and looks like a German. We both pondered whether this preference for a citrus tang came from the proliferation of shite lagers out there that are 'radlerising' themselves up. Or if it came down to the simple fact that Jerry enjoys stuffing his mouth with oranges, like all good Conservative MP's do. Which is a bit harsh on Jerry because he is a decent bloke really with a warm, albeit disillusioned heart. Still it made us larf.

Yeah, I am not too down with the whole adding fruit to my beer these days. I've sunk my fair share of Sol and Coronas with a slice of lime, don't get me wrong; but as I've got older, I prefer drinking it unadulterated. I don't mind using it as an ingredient though, and boom, there is the tenuous link that leads us from a tale of weekend binge drinking to this rather smashing recipe that I came up with for last night's dinner. From the title of this post, you can see that lovely brisket is on the agenda and you might be getting prepared for a 48 hour method of dry curing and marinating but I cheated and bought my brisket already slow cooked from Waitrose.

"E's got a bloody cheek knocking his true blue mate when he's orf shorping in Waitrose, ain't he?" you might well be saying in your head right now but I do like to shop in Waitrose from time to time, especially when I can get my hands on brisket that is half price (I do love a Waitrose red and white sticker me).

So yes, this recipe calls for pre-cooked beef but if you want to try the whole seven day, slow cook in the woods thing, go knock yourself out. The great trick though is to add a bottle of Innis & Gunn to the pot after cooking the joint through, scraping the bottom of your casserole with a wooden spoon to get all that flavour out of the remaining grubbings. If you can get hold of some of the limited addition 'Malt Whiskey Trail' then even better. After reducing by half, the gravy was fantastic. Throw some tangy peperonata and cheesy polenta into the equation and before you know it, you'll have a dish fit for a King.

He says, patting himself on the back.

Polenta, Brisket, Peperonata - serves 4

1 Waitrose Slow Cooked Beef Brisket (750gm)

2 red peppers, 1 yellow pepper, de-seeded and sliced into strips

2 red onions, finely sliced (1 for the brisket, 1 for the peperonata)

2 garlic gloves, crushed

Small bunch of parsley, finely chopped

1 tbs of red wine vinegar

1 bottle of Innis and Gunn beer

Olive oil

1 packet of polenta, (375gms)

250gms of Parmesan cheese, grated

500ml water

Salt and pepper

Method

First, heat your oven to 140C. Then take a casserole pot and scatter the red onion slices on the bottom and place the brisket on top and then drizzle over the accompanying sauce along with a healthy splash of beer. Cover and braise for an hour, according to instructions (I left it in for 2 hour to make sure it was extra flaky).

Whilst that is cooking, make your peperonata by placing a frying pan on the hob over a medium heat, add a splash of olive oil and once hot, throw in the peppers. Stir through, season with salt and pepper, reduce the heat and then cover with a lid. Leave to gently cook for 15 minutes, stirring halfway through. Then add the second red onion and garlic, stir through, cover and again, leave to gently cook for 20 minutes. Once everything is nice and soft, bring the heat up and add the vinegar and reduce. Stir through the parsley, check for seasoning and cook through for another minute or so and then set aside.

When the beef is ready, take the meat out and pull apart in bowl with forks and keep warm. Strain the remaining liquor into a saucepan with a sieve, pushing down on the onions to release the juice. Deglaze the casserole pot with another splash of beer, scraping around the place and pour into the saucepan. Add the remaining beer and place on the heat and reduce by half.

For the polenta, again cook according to instructions on the packet i.e. bring 500ml of water to the boil, dump the polenta in, stir like crazy for 8 minutes, dump the Parmesan cheese in, stir like crazy again, season and then breathe.

To plate up, take a bowl and add a generous spoonful of polenta and then place some of the ribboned brisket on top and drizzle over a nice ladle of gravy. Finish with a generous helping of peperonata on top of the beef.

Eat.

Pretty peperonata
Ribbons
Food styling advertising beer
Innis & Gunn Beer....................burp