Saturday, 26 January 2013

What a way to start the weekend?

My weekend normally starts off in much the same way: a trip to the gym, followed by coffee and brunch in front of Saturday Kitchen. Just recently this has changed with the launch of the Guardian's new Cook supplement.

One regular feature is the Readers' recipe swap. Each week a particular theme or ingredient is chosen and readers are asked to submit their best recipe. Felicity Cloake (of the "How to cook the perfect..." series) then cooks the most promising and selects a shortlist and winner which are published two week later.

Today my recipe for Sausage Crumble got published! HUZZAH! 

The only thing is that this is only the beginning, The ultimate goal of the series is to find the Guardian's home cook of the year, which means I'm gonna have to submit a recipe every week now having started so well!

That's a pretty good way to start the weekend, don't you think?

Wednesday, 23 January 2013


There really isn't much to say about Jose other than to tell you to stop reading, gather some mates and go. Go there now.

Jose Pizzaro has transformed a humble little corner of Bermondsey Street into a tapas bar that transports you to Barcelona. If you enjoy good food and good wine you will love Jose.

We ate our way through practically the whole menu, with a few bottles of wine along the way. All of a sudden it was three hours later and time to think about leaving.

Just make sure that you take some cash to tip the waiting staff as you can't do it electronically and they definitely deserve it.

José on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 20 January 2013


Went for dinner at Tramshed tonight. I nearly didn't make it as it's actually quite difficult to find with a street level sign on the wrong side of the road the only sign of its existence. I guess having to "hunt" for your dinner is all part of the experience in uber-trendy Shoreditch. It's the Mark Hix joint that only serves roast chicken or steak; so not for the non-meat eaters.

The dining room is impressive. A vast cavernous space with exposed metal and white walls filled with plenty of gun-metal and wooden furniture all presided over by Damien Hirst's "Cock and Bull" - a huge tank of formaldehyde preserving a cockerel piggy-backed on a bull. It's actually a welcoming space to eat in, once there are a few people to give a little background ambiance.

The sparse menu is easily accessible, but it does mean everything has to be spot-on. We had all three of the starters on offer. There has been some hubbub about the whipped livers served with Yorkshire pudding. The livers are lighter than a pate but not as substantial as a parfait more of a mousse. It's actually very tasty, definitely the pick of the bunch: the Yorkshire pudding, crisp exterior hiding a billowy inside, the perfect foil to the light livers.

There was a chorizo and butter bean dish which was good more due to the ingredients than a high level of creativity on the kitchen. Who doesn't like chorizo? The artichoke and Cox’s apple salad with celery and walnuts was nothing more than that: the ingredients simply assembled on the plate.

The choice for mains was pretty simple "Roast Swainson House Farm chicken and chips" or "Mighty Marbled sirloin steak and chips". We had both.

The chicken came whole up-ended in a pool of chips with its feet still on (I really don't understand the need for that although it did add some "theatre"). The best thing about it was the chips: thin, crispy and salty. The chicken was pale and nothing special. Far from the greatest chicken I've had. As for the steak, much is made of the dry-ageing in the only Himalayan Salt Chamber in Europe. But I'm not sure I could tell what a difference it made. Again, the steak was OK, not the best I've had. So benign were the mains that I really can't find anything more to say. My over-whelming reaction was "Meh".

My pudding of rhubarb and apple pie with custard ended the meal on a high. Delightful crispy pastry encasing a filling of sour fruit. Lovely.

This place was voted Best Meat Restaurant in the Time Out Eating and Drinking Awards 2012 and I have no idea why. Perhaps I haven't got the taste of other critics, but there's simply nothing special about it part from the imposing surroundings and the art (which do give it some appeal). However, as a gastronomic destination I simply don't get it.

Do yourself a favour book a table at Hawksmoor, dig into a porterhouse and then tell me that The Tram Shed is better. I dare you.

Tramshed on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Sausage crumble

With some "proper" winter now under way, it's definitely time for some comfort food so I made a rather tasty savoury crumble.

This is a dish that can be quite divisive, I've had people flat-out refuse a sausage crumble before. I think that it does work, but it's much harder to get it right than a traditional fruit crumble. The proportions of crumble to filling is completely different and the flavours have to be BIG!

(Yeah I know it's not a very sexy picture, but just how do you make a crumble look good?)

The crumble was like getting an umami hug, perfect when it's snowing outside. The sausage and mushrooms were supported by the rich flavour of caramelised onions, occasionally punctuated by a burst of fruitiness from chunk of apple. Sage leaves gave an underlying fresh herby dimension. The cheese and mushroom crumble itself gave a lovely crunch and the same kind of comforting feeling as a plate of mash. Give it a go.

Sausage crumble

1lb best pork sausages
2 red onions, thinly sliced
1 red eating apple, cored and cubed (~1cm)
8oz button mushrooms
2tbsp sage, chopped
150ml dry cider
2tbsp parsley, chopped
2 sprigs of thyme
For the crumble:
4oz plain flour
3oz butter, cubed
2oz cheddar cheese, grated
1dsp English mustard powder
A big handful of parley, chopped

1. Firstly get the onions going. Add a dash of oil to a frying pan and pop it on the lowest heat. Add the onions, thyme leaves and a pinch of salt. Leave until they achieve beautiful soft caramelised perfection. Low and slow is the name of the game here, it could take about 45min. Stir occasionally to make sure nothing catches.
2. In a large pan brown the sausages all over and leave to drain. Once cool cut each sausage on the angle into four pieces.
3. In the same pan quickly fry the mushrooms, just to get a little colour on them.
4. Deglaze the plan with cider, add the sausages, apples, onions, parsley and sage to the pan and allow to reduce, slightly. Season to taste.
5. Spoon the sausage mix into an oven-proof dish.
6. To make the crumble topping, rub the butter and flour together until they resemble breadcrumbs. Mix in the mustard powder, cheese and parsley. Season.
7. Distribute the crumble topping evenly over the sausage mix.
8. Bake at 190°C for about 30mins. The top should be golden and the savoury sausagey goodness should just starting to bubble up around the sides.

Friday, 11 January 2013

Friday night dinner

Friday night dinner to me has always meant something that's a bit of a end-of-week tasty treat (or guilty pleasure, if you will) in my head that essentially means "something" 'n' chips. So, not something that I'd particularly write about but tonight I made a ridiculously tasty Italian pork burger and polenta chips.

The burger was a big juicy meaty mouthful with the herbs and spices coming through perfectly. The lettuce added a fresh crunch and the tomato a sweet and fruity touch with a mild tang. The bun has been coated with a little balsamic vinegar dressing before toasting. The tomato and lettuce had been lightly tossed with the same dressing which really helped pull the whole burger together.

As for the polenta chips: what a revelation! The griddled hunks of cornmeal were ridiculously crisp on the outside with stripes of charred goodness covering rich, smooth, cheesy innards. PHEN. OM. EN. AL.

I just wanted to take bite after bite without stopping, juices dripping down my chin and over my fingers; so incredibly satisfying. How could any fast food experience ever compete with this?

For the pork burgers:
1lb pork mince
1 aubergine
2 cloves garlic
3tbsp parsley, chopped
1/2tbsp sage, chopped
Pinch crushed dried chillies
1tbsp Parmesan, grated
Zest 1/2 lemon
1/2tbsp plain flour
1tbsp polenta
For the dressing:
2tbsp Extra virgin olive oil
1tsp Balsamic vinegar
To serve: 
Salad leaves
Slices of ripe tomato
Parmesan shavings
For the polenta chips:
100g easy-cook polenta
250ml water
125ml milk
2oz Parmesan, grated
2oz butter

1. Start with the polenta as it needs to time to set.
2. Cook the polenta according to the pack instructions using the milk and water as the liquid. Stir in the Parmesan and butter. Add touch more water to give a very thick but smooth pouring consistency.
3. Pour into a container that will enable the polenta to set to at least a 1cm/1/2" slab. Refrigerate and allow to set.
4. For the burger start by pricking the aubergine all over with a fork and bake at 200°C for about 30min or until the aubergine is soft and has collapsed. Once cool, remove the flesh from the aubergine and roughly chop.
5. Put the flesh in a sieve and push out any moisture.
6. Fry the garlic in olive oil over a low heat lightly until soft and golden.
7. Gently mix the aubergine, parsley, mince, garlic, sage, chilli, Parmesan and lemon zest. Season with salt and pepper..
8. Fry a tablespoon of the mix to check the seasoning. Adjust as required.
9. Form the mince into four burger patties (quarter-pounders) and refrigerate for at least 30min.
10. Mix the polenta and flour with salt and pepper and lightly coat the patties.
11. Fry in a searingly hot pan for about 4min each side.
12. Unmould the polenta and cut into big chips. Brush with oil and season. Griddle for about 1min on two sides.
13. Mix together the balsamic vinegar and olive oil and brush over the bap. Toast for about 1min.
14. Just before serving brush the dressing on thick slices of tomato and add fry for a few seconds each side on the griddle pan.
15. Lightly dress the lettuce leaves.
16. Build the burger: bun, lettuce, tomato, burger, Parmesan shavings, bun. Serve with the chips and enjoy.

Monday, 7 January 2013

50 Idioms About Meat and Dairy Products

Expressions that figuratively to livestock and other animals and animal products abound in English idiom. Here are many such morsels.

1–2. To “bring home the bacon” is to earn money at a job, but to “save (someone’s) bacon” is to help or rescue someone when they are in trouble or risking failure.
3–5. To “beef about (someone)” is to complain or criticise, but “have a beef” with someone is to hold a grudge, while to “beef up” something is to strengthen it.
6. “Where’s the beef?” is a challenge or claim indicating that an idea is without sufficient substance.
7–8. A “chicken” is a fearful person, and to “chicken out” is to opt, out of fear, not to do something.
9. A “chicken-and-egg argument” is a circuitous one.
10–12. “Chicken feed” is an insubstantial amount of money, and “chicken scratch” is illegible writing, while to “play chicken” is to engage in a stand-off to determine who will back down first.
13. To say that “the chickens have come home to roost” means that consequences are imminent.
14. The exhortation “Don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched” cautions one not to act as if a hoped-for outcome has already occurred.
15. One who is “no spring chicken” is not young any more.
16. To “run around like a headless chicken” (or “like a chicken with its head cut off”) is to panic or worry aimlessly.
17–19. To have “bigger fish to fry” is to have more important things to do, but a “fine kettle of fish” is an unfortunate situation, while “a different kettle of fish” suggests something is unrelated to the topic
20–21. To “make hamburger” or “make mincemeat” of someone or something is to defeat or destroy the person or the thing.
22. To be a “meat-and-potatoes” person is to like simple things.
23. A “meat market” is a venue people frequent to seek sex partners.
24. Something that is “meat and drink” to someone is a skill or pastime that they enjoy and that is very easy for them.
25. One who is “dead meat” is a target for harm or punishment.
26. To say that “one man’s meat is another man’s poison” is to say that what one person may like, another may dislike.
27. The “meat of the matter” is the essence of an issue or problem.
28. Something that is “pork barrel” is a government spending project cynically designed to garner support.
29. To “pork out” is to eat too much.
30. To stop “cold turkey” is to do so abruptly.
31. To “butter (someone) up” is to flatter that person.
32. To say that “butter wouldn’t melt in (one’s) mouth” is to imply that they are feigning innocence by looking calm and cool.
33. To “cheese (someone) off” is to anger or disgust someone.
34. A “big cheese” is a leader or somewhat important (sometimes jocularly rendered in French: le grande fromage).
35. To “cut the cheese” is vulgar slang meaning “produce flatulence.”
36. “Say, ‘Cheese!’” is an exhortation to smile for a photograph.
37–38. The “cream of the crop” is the best in its class; the “crème de la crème” is the best of the best.
39–40. A “good egg” is a good person, and a “bad egg” is a bad person.
41–45. To “put all (one’s) eggs in one basket” is to risk everything at once, but to “lay an egg” is to perform poorly, and to have “egg on (one’s) face” is to be left embarrassed or humiliated, while to “egg (someone) on” is to goad someone to something that is generally ill advised. A “nest egg” is a savings fund.
46. To say that one “can’t make an omelette without breaking some (or the) eggs” means that nothing can be accomplished without some difficulty.
47. To “cry over spilled milk” is to dwell over something that cannot be undone.
48. To be “full of the milk of human kindness” is to generously display kindness and/or sympathy.
49–50. To “milk (someone) for (something)” is to pressure the person, but to “milk (something) for all it’s worth” is to exploit something to the greatest extent possible.

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