Wednesday, 29 April 2009

SFC Crispy Dippers

I haven't been to a chicken shop for quite a while. I was partial to a bit of KFC every now and again in my youth and I would also try out some of the more ropey spin offs when the smell tempted me. It was probably a good thing I grew out of eating dodgy chicken shop chicken but I still hanker after it. There is some thing delicious about the crispy spiced batter and the tenderness of the chicken inside when the chicken shop gets it right.

I found these SFC Crispy Dippers in the frozen section of Sainsburys. I though it was a brilliant idea, selling frozen dodgy chicken shop chicken in the supermarket, genius.

I opened the box and the first disappointment was that there was no sauce pot like the one photographed on the box. Secondly the chicken looked like it was coated with dead grey sand. The box said cook at 180 for 8-10 mins and at this point I still had some hope of it coming out looking all crispy and chicken shop like as it is pictured on the box.

8-10 minutes in the oven and there was no change to the batter so I left it for 10 minutes more. Still no change after 20 minutes so I left it for another 15 minutes and got fed up of waiting and took the chicken out to eat.

If you look at the photo I've taken you can see that there is a hit of golden goodness on the very edges of only one dipper. That's the only bit that was crispy the rest of the dippers were still grey and Plasticine like. The meat inside the dipper smelt of dogs breath. It wasn't proper breast fillet either. It was a dark stomach inducing reconstituted rubbery chicken foam and to think I had such high hopes for this snack.

What even more scary is that when purchasing I almost bought the larger Family Feast box. It's £4.99 and you get as much chicken as in a KFC feast. I avoided the dark stomach on the small box by sharing the few dippers with Dom. Just imagine the dark stomach I would have if I ate a whole family feast.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Ottolenghi Style Baked Eggs

Mathilde asked me to cook these Turkish style baked eggs that she saw in Yotam Ottolenghi's New Vegetarian Guardian column. I like a baked egg normally and this looked interesting so I made it.

Mathilde asked for the dish to be served on Saturday morning. There was no rocket in the local Co-op and I have no Turkish shops near me so getting the kirmizi biber (a Turkish spice) was out of the question. I substituted the rocket with spinach and I used paprika, cumin and chilli flakes instead of the kirmizi biber (that's ok though cos Yotam says you can use those spices instead)

What I did was cook the spinach in olive oil in a pan. That was then put in a oven dish with four eggs broken over it. The eggs and the spinach were then put in the oven until the eggs cooked (180 for about 10-15 mins). While that was in the oven I mixed one crushed garlic clove with a decent amount of Greek yogurt and added some salt.

For the spice sauce I melted some butter and added the spices. I just kept it warm but not frying hot.

When the eggs had cooked you simply spoon over the yoghurt and pour over the sauce.

I served it with mini pitta breads from the corner shop.

I've got to say this was one of the best breakfasts I've had in a while. The eggs were delicious with yolks that were set on the surface but still gooey inside. The yoghurt made the dish seem light and the spice laced sauce consolidated what could have been a sloppy mess into a whole of proper decent fragrant flavours.

Ottelenghi's style of cooking really does seem to go with the sunshine. It was the first breakfast of the year eaten in the garden. It seemed to make me appear to be a much better chef than I actually am. Mathilde and also Dom want me to make the baked eggs again next week but this time I'll get some rocket in advance.

Jamie Oliver's Posh Bread Spread

What's a posh bread spread then?

Well according to Jamie Oliver it's a shit version of a tapenade.

It was the sun dried tomato and black olive type that I tried. It ruined some very good bread. There was too much sun dried tomato and not enough black olive. It was also missing anchovy that a proper tapenade should have but seeing as it was a posh bread spread and not a real tapenade Jamie sidesteps that omission with a technicality.

I wonder who this product is aimed at. The mythical underclass which Jamie patronises for the entertainment of food snobs in his television campaigns? He probably thinks their too blinkered to eat anchovies so that's why it's a posh bread spread and not a tapenade.

Anyway back to the taste. It tastes far too much of sun dried tomatoes. It's almost like a paste of sour Haribo sweets.

We stopped eating the spread and just ate the good bread with balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

Friday, 24 April 2009

Catherines Meat Monday on Wednesday

Catherine broke the rules by moving her turn at Meat Monday to Wednesday. I'll let her off though as it was a bit more spectacular than usual.

She had invited some French geezer round and wanted to show him that English food is edible.

Classic roast chicken was the meat and it was joined by roast potatoes, sausages wrapped in bacon and some veg.

Catherine roasted two birds to cater to a few more meat Monday guests than normal. She rubbed a mixture of garlic, lemon zest, herbs (sage, rosemary and thyme) and butter under the skin of the chickens making sure that she didn't break it. The chickens cavities were also stuffed with half a onion and lemon each.

They turned out good. A good roasting does impress a lot. The herby butter under the skin really does add to the flavour and improves the quality of the skin making it crispy in parts and flavoursome all over.

Catherine made the sausages wrapped in bacon herself using decent chipolatas and good quality streaky bacon. They were good. Before this I had only eaten the ready made frozen kind.

The potatoes were also another first for me as they were cooked in goose fat.

This is something I have always wanted to try but never actually got round to. They were roasted the standard way. Maris Piper variety par-boiled before being put into a roasting dish with the hot fat.

The goose fat makes the potatoes surprisingly light or at least a bit lighter than using vegetable oil. They also crisped up beautifully with lovely fluffy centres.

The veg was courgettes which were slowly sweated in garlic and butter until they became soft and tasty. We also had some steamed green beans.

Meat Cards

Found this via BoingBoing this morning:

We start with 100% beef jerky, and SEAR your contact information into it with a 150 WATT CO2 LASER.

Screw die-cutting. Forget about foil, popups, or UV spot lamination. THESE business cards have two ingredients:

Unlike other business cards, MEAT CARDS will retain value after the econopocalypse. Hoard and barter your calorie-rich, life-sustaining cards.
I'm secretly a fan of jerky and biltong but I have only ever eaten the nasty stuff they sometimes sell in Sainsbury's. To make it at home you would normally need an expensive dehydrator or, if you live in the wild west, the hot dessert sun.

However I have found some instructions that suggest you can use your oven on very low:

This recipe goes into some more detail on marinade:

If you are really keen there are even some guides on how to build your own food dehydrator.
This one looks quite involved:

And this is the more amateur option:

Finally, this guy has made a jerky oven out of an old monitor:

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Hestons's Feasts

Fran and I have been working our way through these on 40D catch up for the past few evenings.

Firstly Heston needs to go back to the BBC, the production qualities on this program are atrocious, maybe it's because I have been watching two episodes at a time but the reuse of footage is appalling.
Every episode has exactly the same shot of him browsing in the same library and don't get me started on the post advert recaps, is it really necessary to recap everything that happened in the last section when it was only 2 minutes ago?
I understand they might be trying to lure in viewers who missed the first part and joined during the adverts but as there are two advert breaks is gets repetitive very quickly.

Despite this, and despite the fact that Heston isn't a TV natural with none of the charisma of Gordon Ramsay or Jamie Oliver, this is a great show.

The series is broken down into 4 parts, each part focusing on a particular era that Heston takes as his inspiration for a feast: Roman, Medieval, Tudor and Victorian

Initially the episode focuses on the research and development that has gone in to the dishes that make up the meal:
He travels to America to meet a Turtle fisherman in order find out about Victorian favourite Turtle Soup - finding that Turtle isn't the tastiest of beasts he makes a Mock Turtle Soup.
We see some funny experiments with Jelly and Vibrators in Hoxton based ladies only sex shop Shh!
A trip to a the oldest pub in the UK where Heston cooks up a medieval recipe for Butterbeer to try out on the locals.

This is all very contrived but entertaining and interesting nonetheless.

Highlight dishes have been:
A bowl of fruit that is, in fact, made of meat.
An ejaculating pudding: A mousse with a small cavity in the top containing dry ice. When the diner pours a jug of sauce in to the hole it erupts.
An entirely edible garden, earth, rocks, vegetables, insects and all..
The aforementioned incredible and trippy, Alice in Wonderland inspired, 'Mock Turtle Soup'.
A five flavour 'drink me' drink.
Sausage and mash, complete with 'peas' and 'onion' gravy, as a pudding.

After we see the beginnings of the dish it is cooked up and served for a group of celebrities to oooh and ahhh over.

What carries this program is Heston's enthusiasm and inventiveness sometimes in the face of quite unforgiving ingredients (fermented fish gut sauce anyone?)

It has one day left on 40D catch up so get involved.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Mike's Pizza Masterclass

One of my crew Mike came over on Saturday and we decided to make Pizzas together. This is significant as when Mike was doing his first degree and for about a year and a half after he graduated, he was slogging his guts out working for Pizza Express and their upmarket spin off Gourmet Pizza. Now Mike works for a law firm during the day and in the evenings is doing a second degree to become a barrister himself. This seems to be the normal way to do things as I really don't understand the idiots who go on Masterchef who have good careers as Barristers, Designers, Architects etc but want to give up their social lives and work in a kitchen for tuppence.

Now the significant thing about all this is that Mike has rarely made pizzas since he stopped working for the chains and yesterday was one the few times he has actually showed off his virtuoso skill with the dough ball and the oven since I have known him.

I made the dough using my normal method and I was happy to learn from Mike that what I've been doing with dough was good enough for him.

I mixed and kneaded the dough and once it had proved it was ready for Mike to take over. Now when I make pizzas I just go in all cack handed with a rolling pin. Mike however uses his innate pizza skills and works the proven dough around the shape it wants to be. He managed to make some sympathetic cuts in the dough and worked it into four equal balls. Mike then worked the dough with his hands into the shape of the bases. He did this proper Italian style working in on the work surface first before throwing it around his hands.

Four pizzas were made with two different toppings. The first one was the most exciting.

First a little olive oil was spread over the base. Then a loosely chopped tomato and a load of shaved parmesan was put on top. Then the pizza was put in the oven to cook.

As soon as the pizza came out of the oven a mozzarella ball was torn and thrown over it with a decent amount of fresh basil.

This pizza was fucking amazing, one of the finest I have ever eaten. The way Mike worked the dough meant it was perfectly cooked (or as close to perfect you can get without a proper pizza oven). The topping was rich from the parmesan but light from the fresh mozzarella and the aromatic basil.

The second pizza topping was more conventional with a tomato sauce topped with mozzarella and black olives. The type of mozzarella was however different. On the pizza above we used the type that comes in balls packaged in brine which is soft, fresh and typically to be used in salads and eaten uncooked. On the pizza below we used the harder, denser mozzarella which comes in a block. It's melts much better than the mozzarella balls which is far too watery to go in the oven.

One of the old Pizza Express tricks did come into play with cutting the cheese into cubes so that it melted evenly.

As before this pizza cooked beautifully and it was good to have a bit of the traditional alongside the other pizza.

Here's some pizza on plates.

Here's Dom the other Bags of Flavour contributor stuffing his face

I went out after the pizzas were eaten but when I came back a bit drunk I made this pikey pizza using the left over toppings and a bit of brown bread.

I got a new digital SLR yesterday so I've got a bit carried away with the pictures.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Quiche it's not that hard

Quiche, the questions the odd word brings with it, such as how can I make one?

I can't, you think, I'll just buy a boring factory quiche from the bit next to the pork pies in the supermarket.

It's actually really easy to make a quiche. Essentially it's an omelet in a pastry base.

When I made this one I made some shortcrust pasty with self raising flour which made it a bit lighter than usual. You can buy your own pastry, and I normally do, but I couldn't find any on the way home.

I stuck the pastry in a ceramic quiche tray thing I found in the cupboard. You have to blind bake the pastry bit which means cook it with no filling, just on it's own for about fifteen minutes so it's par cooked. Five minutes before the blind baking was done I brushed some beaten egg on it ( that's a Delia tip there). That was the only effort in making a quiche.

While I was mucking around with pastry I was slowing sweating off some chopped courgettes and onions with butter in a pan. That would become the filling which you can change as you wish, just remember it's an eggy omlettey tasting thing and fillings should therefore stay within those flavour guide lines.

For the eggy stuff I beat three eggs with a decent amount of single cream and milk. You do want to make it a bit more creamy and or milky than you would an omelet mixture. I grated a little bit of cheddar over the filling and then poured in the egg and cream mixture until it covered everything. Here's another Delia tip; Don't pour all of the egg mixture in at once, pour half in and then move the quiche to the oven shelf and then pour the other half in. This way you wont spill any of it. Actually I poured it all in at once before I put the quiche in the oven and didn't spill anything but I'm bad ass.

It takes 30-40 minutes to cook at 180.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Bad Choices at the Albion

The Albion's a nice place. It's Terence Conran's take on the British Caff. It looks proper grown up and expensive but it's menu is surprisingly very well priced with good value food. I'm the one to blame for my bad choices there.

I could have just gone for an easy chicken pie with a side of broccoli or one of the other comforting combinations on the menu. Instead I went for three miss matching novelty pots that included a plate of pork crackling, a giant bowl of deep fried white bait and a portion of beef fat fried chips.

Now the crackling was cracking with pigs hair on top and bits of greasy soft flesh attached to the bottom. The white bait was perfect and the chips were some of the best I've ever had. My body however could not translate the food it saw before it into a meal. So after a bit of picking from each plate my once welcoming, once hungry stomach was reduced to a cement mixer that instead of mixing cement was mixing the sharp bits of greasy food, grease, salt and pain.

Double Drop

A quick post, I have been slack recently through a combination of laziness and work.

Ale seems to have been my alcoholic drink of choice recently.
I have been a bitter drinker since I started drinking really, back then it was due to cheapness, Younger's Scotch bitter was 89p a pint in my local.
These days if I want a good pint of beer I am always going to go for an ale over lager, much more satisfying. There are just more flavours to get your teeth into and so many different types that you can always find a drink to match your mood.

It was no different when we dropped in to an offie on the way to a BBQ on the Saturday of the Easter weekend and found this amusing bottle on sale. They should replace the current graphics with a big smiley and market this in the clubs and raves :-P

As I recall it was a nice light ale in the IPA style, a good quaffing beer as my Dad would say.

It is also worth noting the bottle in the background, Pitfield brewery 1792 Imperial Stout. Never drink it, at 9.5% it tastes like carnival favourite Dragon Stout with all the fun removed, extra headache added and left to go flat for 24 hours.

Friday, 10 April 2009

Double Yolk Eggs

A new Waitrose has opened near where I work in Angel and I was hoping to do a post on the large goose eggs that they sell. However when I went in there last night they had sold out. I got a pack of double yolkers instead.

I've not seen these eggs since I was a teenager working part time in a Sainsburys in the late nineties. I thought they done away with foods that were a bit Dr Moreau in the early 2000's anti GM scaremonger period but it seems that Waitrose can get away with selling these mutant eggs as they've got the good reputation and they're free range. I don't really think they're mutant as they shine a light through eggs when checking for chicken foetuses and I'm sure they can also spot a double yolker and put it aside for these packs.

I've cracked four open already and what I've discovered is that you either have an egg that has two smallish yolks that together make up the same amount of yolk as a single egg or if your lucky you'll have a cholesterol boosting egg that actually has two full size yolks and less of the boring white.

I fried these so you can see the double yolks.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Billingtons Natural Molasses Sugar

This stuff is good. Recommended by my friend Ben as something to put in my porridge.

It's Molasses sugar that's not refined. Most brown sugars are actually refined white sugar which has had an amount of colouring and molasses added to make it appear to be more primitive than it actually is. When you taste Billiningtons you can taste how strong the flavour of molasses should be. It's amazing it only has a mellow sugary sweetness but it's strong molasses flavour is very dark with a good tinge of liquorice.

It is actually quite tempting to eat it raw out the box and it goes very well with porridge. I'd actually go so far as to say as it's the best possible sugar to put in a porridge or a rice pudding.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Feaster's Microwaveable Burgers

I made a promise to myself a few months ago that I would only eat decent responsibly sourced meat. Before that decision were darker times. This is one of them.

The Feaster is a cheaper alternative to a Rustler the popular brand of microwavable burger. Where Rustlers taste like they're made with carpet Feasters taste like they are made with bitumen.

Never eat one they are vile things whose very smell can bring on a bout of dark stomach.

Monday, 6 April 2009

Heinz Salad Cream

Salad Cream is a delicious condiment made by the Heinz company, it is similar to, although not a replacement for, mayonnaise and consists of boiled egg yolks, mustard, vinegar, sugar and cream.

A recipe for Salad Cream appeared in Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management and it has been a classic of the British dining table since the 18th century but it was only in 1914 that the Heinz company brought their recipe to market.

I am constantly derided for my love of this classic British condiment, people say that it is 'chav' mayonnaise, I couldn't disagree more:

I love mayonnaise and I love Salad Cream and they both have their place and carry out quite different jobs where they are used.

Salad Cream has a sharper vinegar flavour and is therefore ideal when you want that acidity to really cut through.

Mayonnaise in a fish finger sandwich merely adds some lubrication but with Salad Cream you get a sharp counterpoint to the bland soothing flavour of the cod.

I would never make a potato salad with just Salad Cream, it has too strong a flavour, however make the same salad with just mayonnaise and it is far too bland and rich. A dollop of Salad Cream with a majority of mayonnaise means you get the creamy texture and eggy, olive oil flavour of the mayonnaise whilst the Salad cream cuts through some of the richness adding a much needed tartness to the dish.

Heinz used to market the sauce with the tag line "Everything tastes supreme with Heinz Salad Cream".
Each advert presented a different situation with the common theme being an un-savory meal of some kind. Cue a typical student digs, empty takeaway boxes everywhere and a two week old slice of pizza. Cue a little girl turning her nose up at the grey unappetizing meals her Granny serves her whilst she is staying for the weekend.

This does Salad Cream a disservice in my opinion linking it to cheap and nasty food in the consumers mind.

Heinz Tomato Ketchup can be found on the tables of the lowliest caff to the loftiest Michelin starred restaurant, it's criminal to serve chips with anything else. It is time for Salad Cream to step out from the shadows and take it's place next to it's more popular brother.