October 10, 2009

Check out some of the weirdest shit they’ve ever made for kids: http://tinyurl.com/bafflingtoys

October 9, 2009

Clare at breakfast

You’re right, I don’t like my picture being taken in the morning and I intend to break you in to cereal sumission.  A meal at Murano will be mine…!

October 3, 2009
what cake is that?! WOWWWW!


what cake is that?! WOWWWW!

Frugal pie

What’s the filling of the pie shown below? Go on: take a good look and have a wild guess, you won’t get it.

It’s slices of juicy gammon knuckle, aka ham hock, potato, onion and dry cider. And that’s it.

The best part about this pie is going to the butchers and asking for a knuckle of gammon. First, he had to go into the back to get it, which always makes you feel that you are entering into a special meat-eaters’ pact, a la Leauge of Gentlemen. Second, it costs £2.70 for a kilo.

Rewind. Say what?

You heard me: £2.70. That pie comfortably feeds five. Ok, three if you’re having the Powells round. I don’t know about you, but if I’m buying meat for four or more, I expect to pay well over a tenner for lamb, nearly twice that for beef. This pie is frugal.

But’s it’s good, darn good, and very filling. Simple, effective, minimal, credit-crunch busting cooking at its best. It’s called fidget pie, which is an ace name, and its as English a recipe as you get. You can even use the hock bone afterwards in a black bean soup.

So there you have it. Proof that English cooking rocks.

Dang that’s good pie.

Dang that’s good pie.

Thursday Club 19/09/09. Curry nite!

The breakfast bet # 2: boiled eggs and soldiers. I don’t think Clare likes being snapped at breakfast time.

The breakfast bet # 1: ham and cheese croissant. Oo la la!

The first bet: breakfast

It’s officially on. I am beginning a non-cereal based diet.

We shook hands on it as we watched keep-fit fanatics drown in rivers of sweat past our balcony window overlooking the Cala Galdana bay in the south of Menorca. I was having a brace of boiled eggs with a warm crusty baguette, slices of cured jamon serano and plump, juicy tomato, and a wedge of moist tortilla, washed down with freshly boiled cafe con leche and iced gazpacho. Clare was having none of it.

Why can’t we live like this? I asked her, nonchalantly waving a free hand at another dog-tired jogger whilst stuffing my face with glistening ham. I meant the breakfast, rather than the extreme running, but the principle applied loosely to both. Why do we eat bowl upon bowl of Special K, and pump iron in dank, over-lit basements, when we could be enjoying the good-life, enjoying nature’s bounties on our roof-top terrace in N4, and running in God’s, er, clean air in Clissold Park? That’s it, I concluded forcefully, slapping my hand down hard on the table and splattering the egg-cup with gazpacho. I’m giving up cereal.

a) It’s not a roof-top terrace, Clare countered sharply, b) we don’t even have garden chairs for Pete’s sake and c) you love cereal. She narrowed her eyes. How long will you give up cereal?

It’s true, I love cereal. I want to wallpaper our flat in frosted shreddies and lie on a bed of Cheerios, balancing Crunchy Nuts on my nipples. I want to bathe in vats of Fruit ‘n’ Fibre and semi-skimmed milk, tossing blueberries into my mouth. And I am not alone: according to Felicity Lawrence, 95% of us have at least one packet of the dried stuff in our cupboards right now. We’re probably packing four family-sized options as I write. It is perfectly normal behaviour in this country to neck a bowlful (oh, and far more than the average 35-40g you are advised to consume) at every breakfast, every day of the week, with the option of another for tea if you’re feeling lazy at the end of a long shift. And that’s not enough – oh no. The cereal companies (mainly the Big Two) would like us to believe that it is normal – even healthy – behaviour to maintain a strict cereal-only diet for up to two weeks, in the vain belief that enough of their product will enable us to drop a dress-size.

Well let me tell you: I haven’t dropped a dress size in all the years I have been having cereal every day, and it is not normal behaviour to eat excessive amounts of it. Cereals are extruded, inefficiently-produced, de-nutrified, unnatural, anti-environmental, vastly overpriced and comically falsely advertised food-products. They’re not even the products of any normal food process. They are the by-products, the waste products, the non-products. Health-claims ascribed to them are spurious; sugar and salt levels are shocking. Vitamins claimed to be found in cereals are in fact stripped out in their production and sprayed back on afterwards, at extra cost, and the cost passed on to you. On top of the production overheads, advertising costs makes up a huge percentage of the retail price, because without plenty of ads you may well revert to ham and eggs and running in the open air, which is where we came in. Three months, I said. And we shook.

There are plenty of other breakfast options, I told Clare knowingly. Oh, and we agreed that a couple of exceptions to the no-cereal rule are porridge oats and no-sugar museli, both of which are not intensively milled and thus retain their original nutrients. But still, I wasn’t quite sure what I meant by ‘no-cereal breakfasts’ beyond the mouth-watering spread I alluded to earlier, less still where I would find the time to prepare these feasts every morning, so I am going to have to be inventive. I will prove both my willpower and ingenuity by posting photos of every different breakfast dish I create. (Toast excluded, obviously. You know what toast looks like.) The stakes are high: if I can hold out for three months and thus prove we don’t all need to live on mass produced cereal-based diets, Clare pays for a Michellin-starred restaurant meal of my choosing. And if I fail, I do. But I will not fail: I will remain true and strong and healthy and happy. And I will find new and interesting things to do with eggs. But I tell you this.

I’d give anything for a bowl of Coco Pops right now.

September 16, 2009

The death of good living

Keith Floyd has hung up his hat and departed the kitchen. He is an ex-chef.

I have idolised this man since I was a wee nipper, which is maybe where my love of the stong stuff hails. But I’ll tell what else he inspired in me: the need for total honesty and a sense of the ridiculous. If it’s all going tits up in an unremittingly harsh terrain, and your sole au beurre has a touch of bonfire night about it -  tell it like it is. And then help youself to a large glass of the red stuff.

This man stands head and shoulders above the likes of Ramsey, Martin, even St Jamie and especially Wozza, that squashed ginger-faced troll from hell who would selll his own grandmother if he could find a culinary application for her. He was right to call them a bunch of cunts in Keith Allen’s brilliantly funny but achingly honest portrayal of the man in his dying days on C4 (see below). And the reason is this.

Cooking, whether on TV or in real life, is an activity in which there is only one star: the food. Everything else; the pantomime of preparation, the illusion of presentation, the pretence of competition, is just a shabby warm-up act for the main turn. As Mark Hamill said to Homer Simpson, “That’s my face up there next to the peppered steak, and don’t you forget it”.

Floyd knew this, and that’s why - ever the gracious guest, glass always in hand - he stayed at the top of his trade ‘til the very end.