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This modern and funky restaurant on the Fulham Road, London, is instamntly recognised from the outside. As with The Oxo Tower, bibendum managed to get themselves into a great land-mark London building - The Michelin Building, hence there logo being a large white mummy-looking figure riding a bicycle (for those old enough to recognise the Michelin Man). It was for a recent birthday treat that my lovely (and now very pregnant) girlfriend took me to one of the few top London restaurants I wanted to eat at. The restaurant is set in the upstairs of the building (the downstairs is home to their famous oyster bar), and is an image of comfort and cleanliness that immediately makes you, the customer, feel comfortable and at home. Dressing up for me consists of a shirt and cords, I'm not one for jackets and ties, and although there were many people suited and booted, I didn?t feel at all ill at ease. From the receptionist through to the waiting staff and sommeliers friendliness was in abundance without being in your face. An Amuse Bouche arrived at the table to tease our appetites while we looked at the menu and sipped on my glass of birthday champers. The food ordered, the wine picked we waited with eager anticipation for the delivery of the our first course. The Starters For the lady: A stunning Fish soup with Rouille and Croutons. For the birthday boy: Seared Foie Gras on a Pancake with Redcurrants. First of all the fish soup. It is rare that I am at all jealous of anybody else's food. Especially starters, usually I can take or leave a starter. As is the agreement between us, I tried a spoonful of the soup and a nibble of crouton with some rouille. What can I say? I saw the light. This was a stunning and truly delicious soup with a full-flavour. The only time I ever had a fish soup as good was when sat in the south of France. The Foie Gras. Again, perfec
tly presented and absolutely delicious. I will always wish I'd gone for the soup though! The Main Course For Madame: A Canon of Lamb with Sage Polenta. For Sir: Scallops. Let's start with the scallops. Now, it really is unlike me to forget a meal, but I have done on this occasion. I had Scallops, that much I can be sure of, but I cannot for the life of me remember what else was on the plate. Not because it was bad, purely because I'm getting old and my memory is not what it once was (this visit was over a month ago!). I do remember however that the scallops, and there were many of them, were fantastic, perfectly cooked, melt ?in-the-mouth heaven! The Lamb too was succulent, beautifully presented, and the polenta was soft and edible - which is more than can usually be said for polenta. Desserts For the baby-bearing one: Sorbets ? Mango & Lemon For the Glutton: Chocolate Pithivier The highlight of the evening for me came here. Now, I'm not going to talk about the sorbets as we all know what they are (though these were damn fine sorbets!) For the chocolate lovers amongst you, the Pithivier was pure unadulterated evilness. People would kill others for a pudding of this magnitude and sheer malevolence. On the outside, a puff pastry crust dusted lightly with icing sugar. The dome looks innocent enough to start with, but the moment you put your spoon through the outer shield the trouble begins. Molten chocolate simply oozes out onto the plate to be wiped up with the pastry. It takes 20 minutes to be cooked, but God is it worth it. For most people it would be a struggle to finish, for the serious chocaholic it would surely be a crime to have left any. So I didn't. As you can tell, I cannot fault this food at all. Service, Presentation, Style and Flavour were all sublime. One thing I particularly like about the service is that the waiters
never leave the room. They have runners who deliver the food to one of two points in the room where the waiters take it from to give to the customer, and then collection points at the side of the room for dirty crockery etc where the runners again collect from. This ensures that your waiter is always there when you want them to be. Fantastic idea! My only real gripe is the wine list, though fantastic, is fairly costly. There is nothing much in there for anyone not wanting to spend less than £19.50 on a bottle of wine. In fact, as I was only one drinking we had a half bottle of white wine at around £23.00. The amazing food did come with an amazing price tag. I don?t mind spending money on good food ? good ingredients and good waiters and good chefs cost a lot of money to use, therefore it is only right that if you want really good food you pay for it. Our main courses cost £28.00 and £24.00 each, the total bill came in at just over £160.00. The drinks part of the bill was around £45.50 not including the bottle of water. So you decide, was the cost of about £60.00 a head too much for the food? Were we paying the designers at the Conran Group their wages for designing the restaurant? Or was this a fair price to pay for outstanding quality of food and service and a very memorable meal? To be honest, I'm torn. Though it was an amazing night out we both wonder whether the food and service warrants the price tag.
Who the hell is Jeffrey Bernard? I hear you shout. A fair question. Jeffrey Bernard was a columnist for the Spectator who died in 1997, and yes, he was a real person. He was a well-known alcoholic who spent the majority of his life in the coach of horses pub, an address he apparently once gave out as his own. Whilst trying to find out some information about him for this I found a fantastic tale of how he never owned a car and was too tight to pay for taxi. Instead, he would post himself a letter at the cost of 17p. When the post van came to deliver the letter he would scrounge a lift back into the village from the postman. On arrival to the village he would post himself another letter to guarantee a lift back in to the town the following day. Anyway, I'm here to talk about the DVD, not the man himself. This fantastic comedy/drama is the filming of a live theatre production. It was the brainchild of playwright Keith Waterhouse and stars the amazing Peter O'Toole as Bernard himself, and a talented cast of four more actors filling in all other characters as necessary. Five o'clock in the morning and Jeffrey comes round from another nights drinking to discover that he has been locked in the pub. A hacking cough ceased only by lighting another cigarette, and a pathetic cry for hello only loud enough to be heard by him whilst pouring another drink, and we know he is settling in for the rest of the night. So begins the life story of Jeffrey Bernard, his jobs, his friends and his loves. Peter O'Toole is without doubt a highly rated film actor and one of this country's greatest, yet it is here on stage that he shows his true skill and knowledge of his craft. His understanding of his subject and his marvellous timing and use of language is truly amazing to watch. He builds from a loud, vile, obnoxious, almost self pitying man? "I could die here. It
39;s a good thing I can hold this stuff tolerably well if I were a yob or a Hooray Henry. By the time the pub opens again I could be one of those cases described by the coroner "Choked on their own vomit." Disgusting phrase, since when did you hear of someone choking on someone else?s vomit.? ? to a sad, lonely, heart-broken old man. This however is not a depressing journey. The comedy in the play is constant and you find yourself laughing out loud throughout, mainly because of O'Toole?s genius comic sense. This is a truly colourful and outstanding performance. One of the best drunks ever to be seen on stage. Support comes from Royce Mills, Timothy Ackroyd, Sarah Berger and Annabel Leventon and was directed by the Mr Theatre himself, Ned Sherrin. As for the DVD there isn't really much to say. There are no special features, no interviews with the cast, or featurettes on designers. There is directors commentary, but I don't really count that as a feature. It's just the play and that's it. 123 minutes of fantastic script and fantastic acting. This is one of the few theatrical productions to screen-things that holds up really well to being watched on the small screen. For lovers of theatre, lovers of English eccentrics, lovers of good acting, and obviously, fans of Peter O'Toole, this is a must see. As you would expect from a character that drinks and chain-smokes there is a lot of bad language in this so it's not one to watch with the kids. It is worth watching though.
Always on the lookout for somewhere new to eat, my girlfriend and I finally succumbed to the all the ravings by friends and family and visited Chutney Mary's. It wasn't that we didn't want to go, it's just that we wanted to be the ones who discovered it and foolishly that meant that we waited for a long time before going. Now, if you have heard of this Kings Road restaurant you probably know that it's not cheap. I can back that statement up, it really isn't the kind of place you go if you only want to spend £50.00 on a three course meal for two including wine. We booked our table on a Friday night in the off chance that they would have something on the Saturday night, as it happens they did. However, when we arrived at the restaurant it soon became obvious that they had no record of our booking. Was there a scene? Did we cause a fracas? No need, within five minutes the manager was called, a table was found and we were shown to our seats. Chutney Mary is set over two floors of a large building. We didn't get to see the upstairs as it's hidden behind large sliding doors that look like a secret entrance. Downstairs was dim lighting, lots of candles, a large conservatory area and a lower level of tables. The waiter explained the workings of the restaurant to us. They have a number of chefs from different areas of India who each have their own specialities and create dishes using their skills and knowledge of the regions of their country. Oooh, it was all sounding very exciting so far. He told us to sit back and relax, took our orders for aperitifs, and gave us the food and wine menus. Two glasses of Kir Royal were delivered swiftly and discreetly to the table and we were left alone to choose the food and wine. The food menu had so many choices that sounded irresistible. How on earth do you decide what to have when all the food sounds that good? The win
e list was really well laid out with clear explanations and descriptions. It was well selected with lots of choice for differing tastes. My only comment would be that it was quite a highly priced list (that is from memory and I could be wrong, but I think the cheapest bottle was about £15.00-£16.00) Our bottle of Chablis cost £34.00, so the price of your evening would easily be bumped up a price bracket including wine. When it came to ordering we were advised of the special dishes on offer and talked through them. The waiter who served us for the evening was incredibly informed and able to offer advise on both the food and wine. He did admit to having only just done a wine tasting course organised through the restaurant and was still very keen to tell everyone his new found interest. The starters: Crab Cakes on one side, and lobster on the other. Crab Cakes don't sound very exciting maybe, but this one was amazing. White meat stacked high with a thin layer of crisp potato on top, nicely spiced, not mouth-burning. Lobster ? well, maybe a bit indulgent, but when you know you're going to spend a lot of money anyway why the hell not do it in style? A whole lobster tail sectioned and marinated with spices. It was quite hot but such great flavours. The Mains: Lamb Knuckles for the lady, and for sir the Cod. Lamb Knuckles may sound disgusting, but to anyone who's eaten slow-cooked, succulent Lamb Shanks, well this piece of meat has the same juiceness and falling off the bone thing when given the same treatment, a fantastic curry. Cod. How dull is that. Well, let me tell you how dull that was. A thick cod steak coated with a thin spicy layer. When cut into it flaked beautifully and was still succulent, moist and tender. It just dissolved in the mouth. Stunning! This was served up with rice, bread and two portions of side vegetables: potatoes and okra. Desserts: This is my
favourite part of the meal. I usually choose my main courses around what I want for dessert. However, the dessert menu didn't appear until the main course was gone. For her a bowl of three sorbets: Mango, Rose & Lemon. Each of them was distinctive in flavour and yet worked well together as a trio. Beautifully presented. For me, a hot chocolate fondant cake with orange fondant sauce. The cake was beautifully light and the inside gloriously runny and rich. The orange fondant was served in a shot glass on the plate, the idea being that you pour the contents over your cake. Stunningly executed and wonderfully indulgent, all washed down with a glass of dessert wine, Muscat Beaume de Venise at £4.60 a glass. The restaurant has a wonderful atmosphere and the waiting staff are efficient but more importantly, not intrusive. The toilets were spotlessly clean, the staff welcoming and the food absolutely delicious. As for the total cost, well, the bill came in at £155.00. Is that too much to spend on food? Was it worth every penny or just another over-priced London restaurant? Taking in to account the problem with the booking, the speed with which it was sorted, and all of the other information given above, yes, it was definitely value for money. It was a perfect evening, with perfect company and we were spoilt rotten by the top class service and food provided by Chutney Mary's. I would not hesitate in saving up again and going back. Yes it may be out of peoples price range, it may be too expensive to take the family for a night out, but it's well worth saving up and going if you want to treat someone, or yourself, to a fantastic meal. And to be honest, £75.00 per head including a large bottle of water, 2 Kir Royals, 1 Bottle of Chablis and a Dessert Wine, is not that different to many other London and out-of-town restaurants. Infact if you didn?t have champagne, lobster, a dessert wine and went f
or a £20.00 bottle of wine, you could easily get that down to £50.00 per head, if not less. I've spent the same amount of money before on a meal that was terrible. Chutney Mary?s 55 Kings Road Chelsea London 020 7351 3113 or visit their website for more information: www.chutneymary.com Go, eat, drink and be very merry.
Okay, here we go. For those who have read my opinion of Stephen Sondheim you will know my feelings towards Mr Webber. For those who may well have read my opinion on The Phantom of The Opera, you too will know my feelings towards Andy W. For those of you who haven't read either of these, you are yet to learn my feelings of Mr Webber. Andrew Lloyd Webber was destined to be one of the countries most respected composers after having his first piece of music published at the age of 9. By the age of 40 he had written seven major musicals, most of which had his name in lights on both sides of the Atlantic. He was the first British composer to have three shows running simultaneously in the West End and on Broadway, which is, or was, a huge thing to achieve. So what has he written? The question is, what hasn't he? Well, he wasn't behind West Side Story, Chicago, Carousel, Kiss of The Spider Woman, South Pacific, A Little Night Music, Sweeney Todd. He was however behind Joseph & The Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat; Jesus Christ, Superstar; Evita; Cats; Song & Dance; Requiem; Starlight Express, Phantom of The Opera; Sunset Boulevard; Aspects of Love; Whistle Down The Wind; and The Beautiful Game. There are no doubt more than I have listed, but to be honest, I got bored just thinking about them. Now, I've been singing professionally for about 12 years now, and believe me when I say I've sung a lot of his music. From Phantom to Cats, Joseph to Evita. It is incredibly popular and an evening of music is almost not complete unless you include atleast one of his songs. As showstopping numbers for a singer to show off their voice, they're good fun to do. As great pieces of writing they don't stand up. The lyrics are often banal and the melodies hummable but insipid and lazy. His music often contradicts the emotion of the song but is written that way to make it m ore be
autiful. He seems to be scared of writing something truthful that may not be comfortable to listen to. Sondheim, Kander & Ebb are both spot on when it comes to writing music which tells us the truth behind the words being sung. This is genius writing. Neither of the above particularly write show stopping numbers, Sondheim uses his big numbers to make a point, not purely to give the singer a moment to show us how great they are at hitting big notes. I remember seeing Aspects of Love with the god-awful Michael Ball. He was directed to stand forward away from the action to sing Love Changes Everything. What was that all about? Awful show, awful music. Phantom of The Opera is based around two or three songs which keep getting repeated, I fell asleep. Cats ? good poems that should be left in a book, bad music. Starlight Express is a great show for kids, and the probably his best, however this is not around any longer, but I have heard talk that it may come back in it's own purpose-built theatre. Sunset Boulevard, what was that. I remember laughing a lot. Terrible, terrible. A couple of good tunes wrapped up in tosh. Jesus Christ, Superstar. Hmm, maybe this is better than Starlight. It's probably his only good adult musical. It does have some great songs. Evita, take or leave, leave the Madonna version - what were they thinking of. Mind you if it was a choice of Madonna or Elaine Page, it would have to be Madonna, but that?s a different opinion for another time. I know this review may upset a few people. Andrew Lloyd Webber's musicals are loved by the masses. They should be, Andrew Lloyd Webber writes simple music that appeals, it is easy listening and accessible. What it is not is challenging, demanding, or well written. It is pap on a plate served up for general public to sup on. I haven't seen beautiful game, and I didn't bother with whistle down the wind, but heard the music a
nd it sounded the same as most of his others with equally bland lyrics. There was talk a long time that one of his musicals (I can't remember which one now) was written around the notes of West Side Story, some great musician deconstructed it and discovered this. I don't know whether that?s true or not. So, if writing great music means taking it up an octave after every chorus until you reach the highest possible note to finish on, then yes, Andrew Lloyd Webber is a great composer. However, if music should be intelligent, clever, versatile, challenging, truthful and moving, he is not, and should not be compared to the likes of Mozart, Bach et al. If you want to know great music for the stage, see Chicago, see A Little Night Music, See Carousel, see Sweeney Todd, see West Side Story, see Kiss Of The Spider Woman. None of these had to rely on stunning special effects to keep you interested. Listen to George Gershwin, Sondheim, Bernstein, Kander & Ebb, Cole Porter, Verdi, Mozart, Puccini etc. But please, don't think Webber is wonderful. He's good, but he's not great and there's a big difference. I'm sorry if any one is upset, this is my opinion, but hey, if he was a genius this would have been a much nicer review. Still he does get two stars purely for doing something I can't.
And so the time of year is here when we should all be jolly and merry. Christmas Trees are out on the street for sale, garden centres are full of decorations and men with large beards are already shouting Ho Ho Ho! at the top of their voices. As one of the biggest Bah Humbugs around I always get the same feeling of dread when it comes to deciding what to buy who and how much to spend. This year will be different. This year I'm a full time student and funds are not exactly flowing, so the need to find a way of keeping all those I love happy and not spend an absolute fortune is of all importance. I know I've said it before, but I shall say it again ? as a student chef there are great expectations for good food this year, already down to do Christmas lunch for two families, and provide desserts on Boxing day for another. However, cooking dinner doesn't seem like a present, so I've decided on something foody that won?t break the bank. For five people I am putting together a little Christmas Hamper of my very own. That's where the joy of preserves comes in to play. As a child I remember the smell of my Grandma's house. Every day there was something in her large steel pot on the hob, either Chutney, Jam, Marmalade, Lemon Curd or some kind of Jelly. I hated the smells even more than I hated the end results. Now I'm 30 I have learnt to appreciate the tastes that can be created and the way they can liven up the most boring of dishes. This year I've made 3 different Chutneys, a Lemon Curd and some flavoured oils, some herbed salts, biscotti and shortbread, and of course truffles. So, here are the three chutney recipes I've decided on and the lemon curd recipe. 1. Colonel Hilary Hook's Hot Safari Chutney ? makes about 1.1kg This was made for us at school. They replaced the whole chillies with 4 teaspoons of dried flaked chillies.
This gave it a bit of a kick, but not as much as the fresh. I made with 8 fresh red chillies and it?s got an amazing kick. 12 may be too many depending on the strength of the chilli. 3.5kg Slightly under ripe tomatoes, peeled and sliced 12 fresh or dried red chillies 450g Onion, sliced 900g Granulated Sugar 570ml Red Wine Vinegar Put all ingredients except the vinegar in a large pan. Dissolve the sugar and bring to the boil. Simmer for 1 1/2 hours. Add the vinegar and simmer for another 2 hours, or until no excess liquid and the chutney is quite thick. Pour into warm jars and seal. 2. Dried Fruit Chutney ? Makes about 2.2kg This one and the next one come from a book called Sensational Preserves by Hilaire Walden. I found this book really useful when I first started making preserves as it some really simple recipes and some unusual ones too. It also lists by main ingredient which is quite helpful if you happen to have 3kg of oranges lying about and have no idea what to do with them. Anyway, you will need: 225g Dried Peaches, Chopped 225g Dried Apricots, Chopped 225g Dried Pears, Chopped 570ml White Wine Vinegar 450g Cooking Apples 225g Onions, finely chopped 2 Garlic Cloves, chopped 115g Raisins 1/2 tsp ground coriander 1/2 tsp ground cloves 1 tsp English mustard powder good pinch of cayenne pepper 1 tsp sea salt 675g soft light brown sugar, warmed. This takes 2 days to do. Day 1, Soak the dried fruit in the vinegar overnight. Day 2. Place the dried fruit and vinegar into a large pan and bring to the boil. Add the remaining ingredients, except the sugar, reduce the heat and simmer until the fruits are tender. Warm the sugar in a heatproof bowl in the oven at it's lowest setting for about 20 minutes ? this will help it dissolve. Add the sugar and stir through to dissolve. Bring all ba
ck to the boil, stirring constantly, until there is no free liquid and the chutney has thickened. Pour into hot jars and seal. How easy is all this? 3. Cranberry Chutney ? Makes about 1.1 kg 450g cranberries 450g dessert apples, peeled, cored and chopped 115g raisins 25g fresh ginger, peeled and grated Grated zest of 1 orange 1/2 cinnamon stick Pinch of ground cloves Tsp sea salt 275g granulated sugar 425ml white wine or cider vinegar Put all in ingredients into a large pan and dissolve the sugar. Raise the heat and bring to the boil. The cranberries will explode and release their juices. Mmmm! Simmer until there are no free juices and the chutney has thickened. Took me about 40 minutes. Spoon into hot jars and seal. I can't believe how simple these things are to make. And so cheap. The chutneys will last for months unopened in their jars, and once opened for 2 ? 3 months in the fridge. And finally, the best lemon curd I have ever tasted. This is from the Leith's Cookery Bible. 4. Lemon Curd ? Makes about 450g 2 Large Lemons 85g Butter 225g Granulated Sugar 3 Eggs, Lightly Beaten Finally grate the zest of the lemons and extract all of the juice. Place the juice, butter, sugar and eggs into a pan and gently heat, stirring constantly, until thickened. Strain into jug and stir through the zest, pour the mix into warm jars. The acidity should stop eggs from scrambling, so technically it should be impossible, however the second time I made this, they did scramble a bit. Also, I used golden sugar and ended up with Lemon Curd that looked more like mustard. Not attractive. And for those who want it, it's not a preserve, but here's my Shortbread recipe. 55g Sugar 110g Butter 110g Plain Flour 55g Rice Flour. Cream the butter. Stir through the
sugar to mix, don?t add too much air or it will become spongy. Sift in the flours * and mix to a paste. * You can add extra ingredients at this point, like chocolate chips or stem ginger. Use to make two 6 inch rounds, mark portions, prick with a fork, and chill until absolutely solid. Bake on bottom shelf at 170C/gas 6, until cooked. It won't be set when it's cooked, but it will firm up. The chilling is really important. If it goes into the oven without chilling the butter will melt too quickly and the shortbread will lose it's shape. It should take about 25 minutes to bake. So, to finish ? I brought 5 Seagrass baskets for £3.50 each, each one big enough to take 2 Jars of Chutney, 1 Pack of Shortbread, 1 Jar of Lemon Curd, 1 Bag of Chocolate Truffles and something extra like a bottle of wine or a small personal gift if I want to. I reckon each gift has cost me about £10.00, if that. I don't think that's bad. I hope this may help others in the same situation as me. Oh, I got my jam jars from Lakeland Plastics - I can't remember how much they were now but they came in boxes of 12. The parfait jars with the rubber seal came from John Lewis and cost from £1.55 each up to about £4.00. The small one's are perfect though. Oh, and if anyone has any interesting Chutney recipes I would be delighted to receive them. Merry Christmas! PJS
Okay I now feel that the time has come where I can confidently give you some secrets of making a good stock along with the rules. I have literally, just learnt to make these, and I can assure you that they are absolutely stunning. Now, there are many different stocks and probably many methods that people use. My granny used to boil here vegetables constantly for about 40 minutes and then use it as a stock. The first rule of a good stock is - do not constantly boil your stock. When making a meat or fish stock particularly, you need to bring it to the boil only once and then you simmer it for the rest of the time. You bring meats to the boil initially to kill all bacteria, if you continue to boil you will disrupt the fat and protein more and this will make your stock go cloudy ? basically homogenising your stock. You need it on a very low heat, not even bubbling for the remainder of the cooking time. For the same reason you never stir your stock either. There, that's two rules and you hardly even noticed them. We'll start with a vegetable stock, it's probably the easiest and the one most people will use. I'll write up 4 in total, these are: vegetable, white chicken, brown chicken and fish. VEGETABLE STOCK For a 10 litre stockpot you will need: 2 Celeriac 2 Leeks 2 Onions half Fennel Bulb 2 Sticks of Celery 1 Carrot half Savoy Cabbage black peppercorns 3 bay leaves small handful of parsley small handful of thyme Cut your vegetables into chunks, about roast potato size, and sweat all except the cabbage in your stockpot for about 3 minutes with a little oil, about half a tablespoon. Put plenty of cold water into the pot, more than enough to cover the vegetables. Put this onto a high heat and bring to the boil. As soon as boiling point is reached, reduce the temperature so tha
t there is no movement, skim any scum from the surface and add you cabbage, peppercorns, bay leaf, parsley and thyme. You are now basically poaching your vegetables. Poach for 30 minutes. When cooked, strain into a clean pan. Your stock should be completely clear. It is now ready to use. Phew, one down, only three more to go. Now, a few more rules for you: Never add salt to season or flour to thicken, they simply are not needed. Never cover with a lid, this will only help your stock boil. When using bones, the usual rule is raw is best, this doesn't count on the brown stock. Only top up with cold water. If you use hot water you will essentially start cooking the fats and protein too early and this will affect your stock. You need to cook them through slowly to release the fats at the correct speed. So, here's number two. WHITE CHICKEN STOCK 6 Chicken Carcasses (ask your butcher for these) 2 sticks of celery quarter medium celeriac 2 medium onions 2 leeks 2 carrots 3 bay leaves small handful parsley small handful thyme 200g mushrooms Firstly, make sure your carcasses are clean of fat, as much as possible, and also that there is no blood. Blood will make your stock bitter. When happy, put in the bottom of your stockpot and cover with water. Allow at least 3 inches of water above your chicken. Put this on a high heat and bring to the boil. As soon as it boils pour in another saucepan full of cold water, about 1.5 to 2 pints, and reduce the heat. The cold water will make all of the fat rise to the surface so that you can skim it all off. Once skimmed add all of your vegetables, peppercorns, bay leave and herbs. Now leave uncovered for 2 - 3 hours skimming when necessary. Again, do not boil again, do not stir. When it's ready strain into a clean pan. Your stock should be clear and rea
dy to use. Okay, so not every one is going to make this one, but it is the standard stock for a lot of soups and is incredibly useful. Another rule - no starchy vegetables should be used. They will only thicken the stock and the starch will cloud it. Next on the list is... BROWN CHICKEN STOCK 8 Chicken Carcasses 2 Sticks of Celery quarter medium celeriac 2 medium onions 2 leeks 2 carrots 3 bay leaves black peppercorns small handful parsley small handful thyme 200g mushrooms - these are not browned in the oven! half tablespoon tomato puree Again, clean the carcasses and then in a large pan roast them in the oven at 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6 until brown. Do the same with the chunks of vegetables. Once these are brown remove from the oven, mix in the tomato puree and stir to cover. Put this back into the oven for about 8 minutes to caramelise. Put the chicken and the vegetables into the stockpot. Pour some cold water into the roasting pans and scrape away any juices and remnants and pour into a bowl. Any fat will rise to the top, so using a baster draw out the clear liquid from the bottom and put into the stockpot. Top this up with cold water to cover. Put onto a high heat and bring to the boil. Because you've roasted most of the fat off and then left it in the bowl you should find that less fat comes to the surface when heating this one. When boiling point is reached, add a pan of cold water and reduce the heat. Skim away and fat and scum and then add the herbs, peppercorns, bay leaves and mushrooms. Leave this poach for 3 - 4 hours, skimming when necessary. When finished, strain into clean pan. This should be a beautiful dark brown colour, but still very clear and not cloudy. Final rules Skim frequently. The more you skim away, the clearer your stock will be. Use a ladle or a large spoon. The skimming you do
when you've boiled it at the beginning is the most important. Don't be afraid of losing liquid, at this point there will be no flavour to your stock, that comes later, just get rid of all the fat and scum you can. Depouiller. Just thought I'd throw that in. That's the French term for adding cold water when boiling point is reached. This encourage the fat to rise to the surface so that you can skim it off. This also tops up your liquid and reduces the temperature to help prevent boiling again. Okay, now for the final stock. Who cheered? FISH STOCK 6 - 8 fish frames (lemon sole, dover sole, plaice ? non oily bottom dwellers) 2 stalks of celery quarter medium celeriac 2 medium onions 2 leeks half bulb of fennel 2 carrots black peppercorns 200g mushrooms Clean the fish frames of any roe and blood, and clean the head of brains ? blood and brains will make you stock bitter. Cut the frames in half and place in the bottom of the stockpot. You will only need to use two heads, discard the rest. Top this up with cold water to cover completely and bring to the boil. At boiling point - depouiller (tee hee), reduce the heat and skim of fat and scum. Add all of the vegetables and herbs. Poach this stock for 20 ? 30 minutes. If you over cook this it will become bitter and cloudy. Strain into a clean pan. So there you have it. That's your basic stocks. All of these stocks, once strained will last in your fridge for about 1 week. If you have the room you can freeze this as it is, or... Boil the strained liquid until reduced. The meat and fish stocks will become quite gelatinous and tacky. The vegetable stock will remain watery. Depending on the size of the pan you use the time will vary to reduce. The larger the surface area, the quicker it will evaporate. The final products will be intensely flavoured. You can fr
eeze these in ic e cube trays and use like a stock cube, diluting with water to taste. For soups you will not want the stocks too strong, but if you want to use the brown stock as a sauce or gravy you may want it quite intense. They will last for about 3 - 4 months in your freezer. It wasn't until I actually tasted the brown stock today in it's reduced form that I realised the true benefits of making your own stocks. There are no preservatives, no colours, no salt and no flavourings. It is natural, it is pure and it is so cram-packed with flavour. You will notice the difference in your food immediately. Make friends with your local butcher and fishmonger and you will probably find that they will either give you the carcasses you need or charge you a pittance. Going back in history they would use the whole chicken to make a stock, or a whole leg of lamb for a lamb stock. Which reminds me. You can make lamb stock, beef stock in the same way as the brown chicken stock but it will need to cook for 4 - 6 hours. Now go, get the biggest pot you can and make stock. Still here? I can't believe you're still here.
This opinion is written especially for Jill. Having just read a comment from you that not enough people write about children's books, here's one for your collection. "Until he was four years old, James Henry Trotter had a happy life. He lived peacefully with his mother and father in a beautiful house beside the sea. There were always plenty of other children for him to play with, and there was a sandy beach for him to run about on, and the ocean to paddle in. it was the perfect life for a small boy." The first time I ever heard that opening paragraph I was five years old. The year was 1977 and I was curled up in bed as my Grandma read to me from the book she had bought me earlier that day. I still own the same paperback copy now. We all know how the story progresses from that opening and how Jame's life is turned upside-down by the events that take place. To be honest, if you don't know what happens next, then I suggest you read the book as you won't find out from me. James is soon shipped to the south of England to live in "a queer little ramshackle house on the top of a high hill" with his two Aunts, Spiker and Sponge. These are two of the nastiest characters in children's literature and my Nan would scare me senseless with her creepy voices as she read: "I look and smell," Aunt Sponge declared, "as lovely as a rose! Just feast your eyes upon my face, observe my shapely nose! Behold my heavenly silky socks You'll see my dainty toes." "But don't forget," Aunt Spiker cried, "how much your tummy shows." It is at the end of the garden that James meets a mysterious old man who gives him a bag of crocodile tongues, and this is when the adventure truly begins. When the tongues escape a giant peach grows in the garden and James' finds himself on the most magical of journeys with some of the
strangest of friends a boy could possibly imagine, including a worm, a spider, a cricket, a centipede and a ladybird. As a huge fan of Roald Dahl's writing I find it hard to criticise his works, and this is no exception. The world created in Dahl's imagination transfers to the page superbly. From the opening page to the final word the smells, fears, tension, laughs and scenery are laid out for us to read, or be read to, with such skill and such precision you find yourself lost in the story instantly. Dahl's understanding of the child?s mind and imagination are completely evident in all of his stories from BFG to Matilda, Fantastic Mr Fox to Danny, Champion of the World. James and the Giant Peach follows the format where the children are the heroes and the adults are the baddies. The sketches in the book by Nancy Ekholm Burkert compliment the style of the writing and fit perfectly with the story being told. Each has lovely detail and sits beautifully within the text. It is easy to see where Tim Burton got his inspiration for the scenery of his animation (which is one of the best Roald Dahl adaptations to the big screen) and the style of his characters. This book has long remained a favourite of mine and it is one I shall one day read to my children (or someone elses if I don't have any!). Back in 1973, when this book is dated, it cost £1.99, it was picked up at a jumble sale by my Grandma for £1.25 in 1977. I couldn?t tell you what it costs now. This book is pure magic and adventure suitable for children of all ages. "And thus the journey ended." (All quotes taken from the book - James & The Giant Peach by Roald Dahl)
I have never really had any dealings with Habitat, no major purchases anyway. It's always been the place I get my tea towels but that's pretty much it. I wouldn't touch their kitchenware section – always a believer in buying quality pots and pans from a recognised manufacturer as opposed to a company who makes them to fill a section in the shop. For about four months now we've been looking for a dining table. Now, you may think that should be easy, I certainly did when the venture started out, but let me tell you otherwise. I had no idea quite how many dining tables there were out there, how much they all cost, let alone the cost of the chairs to go with, and to be honest if I liked one then my lovely other half didn't and vice versa. It was quite by chance that I popped into Habitat to look at shelving when a table caught my eye. Excited I phoned my girlfriend to tell her to go Habitat and take a look. She'd already been that same morning, she didn’t like the shelves I had found, but she too had seen a dining table that she really liked. And guess what? Yes, it was the same table. Hooray. We had finally found a table we both liked. Several times we walked through Habitats around London looking at our table. There it was, solid oak and large enough to seat ten people for dinner. We sorted the flat out and went back two weeks ago to pay for and order the table. It took a few minutes to put the order through, the lady who dealt with us had some of the best customer service skills I have ever come across in a high street shop. She was relaxed, charming, funny, friendly and above all – highly efficient. We were given a choice of delivery dates, and went for a weekend at the same cost as a weekday delivery as it was the only day we could do for several weeks and they were keen to make the sale. It took precisely s
ix days for the table to arrive. We ordered on a Sunday and received it the following Saturday, having rejected both a Wednesday and Thursday delivery. A five day turn-a-round from any shop is impressive, but we could have had it within three working days. That’s pretty damn good. We also ordered benches and not chairs to go with table, this made it cheaper and also saved a lot of space as the benches are designed to go perfectly and neatly under the table. We have a big room for it, but not that big! Along with these we also ordered two bookcases. We were advised that they now came in an oak finish so would match the table. As we hadn't seen this in the catalogue or in the shop we were pleased to have this pointed out to us. Again, good product knowledge from the member of staff. We were contacted on the Thursday by Habitat to confirm the delivery and make sure that there were no problems, or anything that may prevent the delivery from happening, i.e No parking for the van, No access to the flat from the road etc. Were contacted again on the day of delivery by the driver of the van giving us a two hour window for delivery. Obviously they were later than they said but only by five or ten minutes, and the traffic was really bad on our road, so they did quite well. The furniture was brought in for us and we were given the forms to sign "Unchecked" so that we could report any damage when we inspected them later. All of the furniture arrived flat-packed and very well protected. The dining table took us about ten minutes to put together – it's a bit of a brute and very, very heavy. The benches took about the same, and the bookshelves took me about twenty-five to thirty minutes per case. So within two hours were now fully furnished. The quality of the furniture is outstanding, especially the dining table and benches. They are solid oak, not veneered, and have the most
beautiful grain. The bookcases are real oak veneer over chip board. They are thick and sturdy and will easily hold up to the weight of my cookbooks, unlike the cheaper Argos bookcase I had previously purchased for this job which is now a heap in the basement after two shelves snapped. I had always thought Habitat to over-priced, and they are on many of their items. However, I do not feel that the price we paid for the goods we received one week after ordering was too much for them. The table was £649.00, the benches £185.00 each, and the bookcases, I think, were about £180.00. It was a big spend for us, and a big decision, but Habitat have come up trumps and I cannot fault the service or the goods we received. I walked out of two shops beforehand when trying to buy bookcases because of bad customer service. One shop asked me to join another queue after I had been queuing already for ten minutes and they wanted to close the customer service desk, and at another I was completely ignored whilst the two girls behind the counter chatted about their Saturday nights. The cases from Habitat were more than we wanted to pay, but we were won over buy the knowledge and friendliness of the staff member. So, for all it’s faults, and I’m sure it has many, Habitat came up trumps this time and proved to be one of the better High Street furniture shops. I will not hesitate in going back there again. It does seem that you do get what you pay for after all. The branch we purchased from was Habitat, Kingston Upon Thames. They website www.habitat.co.uk is very good for pictures of their furniture, but you can't get a real feel for the stuff until you see it. They're very good at making some of their more "unusual" designs look very good on the internet, when you see them however, it's sometimes a bit of a shock. They do have a catalogue which costs £2.00, or
free if you spend over £10.00 in the shop. I know a lot of people don't like habitat and think it's overpriced, but when you've spent finve months looking at dining table costing from £89.00 to £9,000 - yes that's right, you see that some of their stuff is actually really good quality at a very reasonable price. And to be honest, it's not like we buy a dining table every two months - I expect atleast 10 years out of this one, but hopefully a lot more.
For many years I have found myself becoming riled by the small things in life. You know the ones: Battenberg cake with no apricot jam to hold the marzipan on; Toothpaste being squeezed from the wrong end; No desserts on a menu. Maybe the latter isn't a small one!? At the age of fourteen we were asked by a teacher to write down 10 things we hated. With the teacher stood directly behind me peering at my work, I calmly jotted down "I hate people who read over my shoulder." I was an angry child who then received detention for insolence. Now, having finally made it to my 30th year of age (some unbelievers used to state I'd be lucky to make it this far the way I was going!) I am in proud possession of a list for my very own Room 101. They are a complete mix and stem from things that have niggled me over the years, and probably always will. 1. Four Wheel Drivers You know the one's I’m going to talk about. I've been driving for 12 years now and I've always hated them. It would be unfair to say that I hate them all, but it is not far off the truth. Four wheel drive cars were invented for off-road and rough terrain. Why then do people find them necessary in small villages and busy towns? Why are they needed to run the children to school, to not be parked properly on streets and in car parks all over the country? I bet that 95% of the off-road vehicles in this country have never been used for the purpose for which they were designed. I watch people regularly around where I live struggle to get their large jeep through the gap twice the size of their vehicle. I watch them as they reverse into a parking space big enough for a bus and have to manoeuvre back and forth several times before finally parking at a 45 degree angle and nipping into the grocers. When all is said and done, I have no problem with the vehicles themselves, merely with the people who choose
to drive them in an area where they are blatantly unnecessary modes of transport. If you lived in the outback, or somewhere where you had dirt tracks for access, fine, but the majority live at number 47 Acacia Drive. The only rough terrain encountered is when they've accidentally gone up the kerb when turning a corner. I implore these drivers to buy a vehicle more suitable to their surroundings. No, I implore you to allow me these drivers to put into Room 101 where they are ever condemned to drive over rough ground and through swamps in a Nissan Micra. 2) Bad Customer Service Both my girlfriend and I have a huge problem with this. It is one thing that really gets our feathers ruffled. I have found myself standing at a check out staring at the cashier who hasn't told me the total cost and asked for it, just held their hand out. In these occasions I refuse to look at the LCD screen on the till, hold their gaze and wait for them to speak to me. I have been known to shout at people who are too busy having a personal conversation to be bothered to serve. To me it is of great importance in Restaurants. Staff should always be friendly and efficient. The best staff will move around you without you really noticing them. Yet when you want them they just appear. I have received excellent service recently in two restaurants – Mon Plasir in Covent Garden, and Sonny's in my home town of Barnes. The staff were fantastic, the service superb and we left having had a wonderful experience. Yet only one week ago I went to ASK for a pizza with my family. First we were moved from one table to another, then one of the waitresses had no idea of how to serve and constantly lent across the table forcing one of my friends to bend backwards to make room. She did this twice during the meal itself when she came to collect empty glasses. And the worst sin of all – clearing plates from the table while others are
still eating. Good customer service skills are not hard to implement, though obviously not every person is good at it. Having worked in Customer Service for several years and having trained people in good service skills, I find it appalling when big companies are let down by bad management and bad customer service skills. They are doing themselves so much harm when they could so easily give themselves a top reputation. So, as there are no excuses for bad service, I would like this to be my next thing into Room 101. 3) Rudeness This is a very short one. I grew up in the knowledge that manners cost nothing and nearly all sentences should begin with Please and end with Thank You. I would like to commit those who do not follow this simple rule to a life in Room 101. Enough Said. 4) Religion I grew up with Jesus. Not literally, obviously. Though I once knew a man who looked like all the pictures in my copy of the bible. I was a regular at church and attended Sunday school from a very young age. At the age of 17 a very close friend of mine was murdered, she was 15. At the funeral service the priest said “God decided that she should be taken away from this awful place, away from the bad and the evil.” Those words have always stuck in my mind. God once sent a flood to destroy all of the bad things that were happening on his earth and he was unhappy about it. Now, according to the church, he was removing the good amongst us instead. What’s that all about? I have never been once for hypocrites and something that I had once believed in now turned out to be something different. Rules were changed to justify the situation in hand. There was no justification in the case of my friend. There never will be. And if God is so great, where was he/she at the time? On a bigger point religion has been the cause of many rows, wars and d
eaths around the world. While I understand that to believe is important to many people, it is ignorant and foolish to respect an unfounded belief more than it is another human life, surely? So, for these reasons, amongst many, I would like to send religion, the bringer of war, death and misery to Room 101. 5) Menus without Desserts. That’s surely enough to convince you? 6) Eating Disorders For everyone who has ever suffered, or still does. 7) Clowns I have no problems with Clowns, I've always seen them as a bit strange, but have never had a huge hatred for them. So this is for the people in my life who find them scary. There was once a film called Killer Clowns from Outer Space, in which very big clowns would suck the blood of their prey through large stripy straws. Ridiculous. Well, is it? I though the first person I met who screamed at a clown instead of laughing was just a bit mad. I was wrong. This is a phobia as big as mine for Spiders – although spiders do have too many legs, clowns still only have the two. The reason I think is behind it isthe fact that the painted smile hides what is going on beneath, it is highly deceptive and a little creepy. We like to read peoples faces in order to judge what is really being said. With clowns this is not possible. Besides, if someone is going to drink your blood through a large straw, I'm not sure I’d want to see that big red mouth grinning back at me as I fade away. 8) Wasps and Mosquitoes. I’m not a great lover of insects. There's something about them that gives me the shivers, but I can understand that some do have their uses. Spiders, with all those legs, catch and eat flys. Good for them. Bees, which I love and try to save when I find one, make honey. But wasps, what do they do? They kill bees. They sting for no reason what so ever, just
for the sheer hell of it. They are the thugs of the insect world, out for a fight and with no other purpose in life. They do not make honey, or any sweet product. If they produced custard I may be a little more forgiving, but they do not. They just want trouble and it's trouble I could do without. For exactly the same reason, I join Mosquitoes to the Wasps. They do nothing for anyone. They wait, out of sight, until the bedroom light goes off and then they buzz around your ear, teasing you. When you switch the light back on again they have disappeared from sight. You wake up in the morning with a large red lump somewhere on your person that itches and irritates. Again, if they were to produce a sweet treat to go with my toast, or over my apple pie, I would give them a second chance. Instead I send them both to live an eternity in Room 101, where they can annoy the hell out of the Four Wheel Drivers and all the rest. 9) George W Bush Do I really need to explain that choice? So there you have it. In thirty years I have managed to whittle my ever increasing list down to only nine things I could happily live without. That's not bad going. Maybe in another ten years it will be slightly different. But I doubt it - Only Number 9 may have come true in the time ahead. I am sure though that it can be easily replaced with another choice when the time comes. Now, with that spleen vented somewhat I feel so much more relaxed. <big sigh> What was that? That buzzing sound?
Okay, here we go. In exactly 28 days I will be starting a brand new life. Well, not brand new, but a new exciting time will begin and you can expect me to share some of this with you in the form of recipes. For five hours a day I will be let loose in kitchens and made to work my little socks off training as a chef in one of the country?s top Schools for food and wine. Yay! So, before I start my course and learn new fancy techniques, here are my three current favourite fish dishes for your pleasure. The first one is incredibly simple, the second a little trickier, and the third is very special, very expensive to make, but very much worth it. Fish has got to be one of my favourite food types, coming second only to chocolate. There are so many different types and it's so good for you. We should all eat more or the stuff! Recipe One Oven-Poached Trout or Seabass. Trout is readily available from any supermarket, or if you're lucky enough to have on, fishmongers. The same goes for seabass, but it is generally a lot more expensive. Two whole rainbow trout will cost you somewhere around £2.50 - £3.50 depending on size and where you buy them from. What you need: (for two) Two rainbow trout, gutted and cleaned, heads on! 2 Salad Onions, chopped 1 Courgette, sliced Unsalted butter Fresh Parsley, chopped 1 Lemon, sliced Olive oil 1 Pepper (colour of your choice, but I use yellow or red as they are slightly sweeter), chopped or sliced 1 small green chilli, chopped and seeds removed Lashings of dry white wine. Kitchen Foil Salt and Pepper Tear off two large pieces of foil and lay flat. Place one trout in the middle of each piece of foil and turn the edges up to prevent any of the ingredients from seeping out. Slice your lemon in half lengthways and cut the halves into slices. Place three or four slices inside the fi
sh with some of the chopped onion. Place two or three, up to you, knobs of butter along the top of each fish, drizzle some olive oil over them and sprinkle on the remaining vegetables, dividing fairly equally between the two. Now, bring the edges of the foil right up and pour in the white wine. Not too much, probably about half a centimetre deep, maybe a little more if you feel adventurous! Now seal the foil like a Cornish pasty so that none of the ingredients are able to leak out. The foil shouldn't be tight around the fish, you need room for steam. Now comes the cooking part. During the winter and those rainy day we use the oven, call me old fashioned, but I find this works really well for cooking my food. You need it at about 180C, I can't tell you what that is in gas as I don't use a gas oven, but I'm sure someone out there knows, is around Gas Mark 5, possibly? Alternatively, these parcels are fantastic for shoving on the BBQ in the summer. Check after 15 minutes to see how they're doing, bigger fish will need longer, obviously, but it shouldn?t take more than about 20 minutes for an average sized trout. Once the eyes have clouded over that's a pretty good sign that it's done. If you remove them from the heat and leave them wrapped for a couple of minutes they will continue to cook anyway. Serve it in it's foil parcel on the plate. The reason the head is kept on fish is because it holds most of the flavour, if you remove this before cooking you will lose this. So if you?re not squeamish, leave it on. Do the sea bass in exactly the same way, only you will only want one bass between two, as they tend to be a lot bigger than trout. Recipe Two St Peter's Fish with Yellow Mash St Peter?s Fish has fast become one of my favourite fishes. It's really called John Dory, and it is sweet, succulent and very very tasty.
You will need: For the sauce 100ml of dry white wine (this alcohol is becoming a habit!) 45ml soy sauce 300ml fish stock 175ml beef stock 15ml olive oil salt and pepper for the fish 350g John Dory, cut into 12 fingers (2 large fish should be enough) salt and pepper 15g unsalted pepper 0.6kg old potatoes 50ml olive oil 75ml whipping cream 25g unsalted butter 5g saffron, or a good pinch of turmeric to colour In a saucepan boil the white wine, soy sauce and fish stock, reduce this until about 100ml of fluid remains, then add the beef stock and reduce again until it thickens slightly. In a frying pan, heat the oil. Season the fingers of fish and when the oil is smoking add the butter and quickly fry the fish in the hot fat. This should take about 1 minute (30 seconds a side), remove from the pan and drain. To make the mash, boil your potatoes to soften, mash slightly and add 25ml of the oil, continue to mash. In another pan add the cream and saffron and heat gently for a few minutes, then add the remaining oil and butter. Heat this gently for a further minute or two and then add the mashed potato. Mash this all together until smooth and silky. Divide the mash between four plates, place three fingers of the fish onto the potato and pour over the fish and potato. Warning: John Dory is fairly expensive to buy. Two large fish cost me about £18.00. Get your fishmonger to fillet them for you if you're not confident to do this. Recipe Three Okay, the final recipe for now. This is from a recently tried and tested recipe for a dinner of 10 people, it went down a storm, but took a while, and costs a lot of money to do. I think the fish cost me around £90.00 for the lot, my fishmonger gave me a load of heads and bones to make my own fish stock, but you can use those Knorr tablets, they're pretty good.
Bouillabaisse This is real Fish soup made the way it should be. This was originally a recipe used by the fisherman to use up the damaged fish from the catches, now it is made of prime fish and will set you back quite a bit to make, so it?s worth saving for those big dinner parties when you really want to impress. You will need: One large fish, I used a Red Fish, which I think is also called Deep Sea Haddock, Scorpion Fish is also good. 1 John Dory 2 Seabass 1 Large Monkfish Tail 2 Large Crabs 12 Langoustine 2 Red Mullet 4 Sardines 1 large cod fillet 3 large onions 18 tbsp olive oil 6 large ripe tomatoes 1 bouquet garni 1 large strip of orange zest 6 cloves of garlic, crushed 1.5g saffron threads salt and pepper 2.5 litres of fish stock French bread, sliced to serve. Clean the fish and crabs, leave heads on all fish, and separate the fish with firm flesh from the fish with light flesh: Firm: Scorpion Fish, Monkfish, Crabs, Langoustine Light: Dory, Sea Bass, Mullet, Sardines, Cod Peel and finely chop the onions and fry in 12tbsp of the oil to soften, do not let them brown. Peel and dice the tomatoes and add to the onions with the bouquet garni, orange zest, garlic and saffron, season with salt and pepper. Start laying the firm fish on top of the vegetables, staring with the crab, and pour over the remaining olive oil. Leave this to infuse for about 10 minutes. Add enough of the fish stock to cover the fish and bring this quickly to the boil, then simmer for 5 minutes. Now add the soft textured fish and boil vigorously for a further 5 to 8 minutes. Place a slice of bread in the centre of each bowl. Remove the fish from the soup and place on a large platter, keep them warm by covering with foil. Stir your soup, if you prefer it less lumpy, you can strain it thro
ugh a mouli, or use a hand blender to mix it, and pour the soup around the bread. Serve the bowls of soup to the people and place the platter of the fish in the middle for everyone to help themselves too. This recipe was a winner when I served it up, it was also a good way to break the ice as people had to take from the same plate. However, I think that something is still missing, and I shall experiment again one day and re-write this with the improvements made. Remember, if you use crab you will need the necessary tools to get into it. Lobster crackers are available in most cookshops. There, that was my little bit for fish recipes. I hope someone out there is brave enough to try them. Let me know how you get on.
*********Important Update********* It saddens me to say that the Pukkabar has ceased to be in Barnes <pjs sobs> They have been foreclosed. There is a sign on the door saying that they have reopened in Fulham and hope to return to Barnes in the future. I shall announce should it return at any point! *********Original Op*************** Now, you may be surprised to hear this, but eating is a major part of my life. Oh yeah, I kid you not! Eating out is one of my favourite pastimes, that way I don't get lumbered with clearing it all up as well as cooking it, and finding new places to eat is always a worthwhile experiment. I moved to Barnes two months ago with my girlfriend and we were very excited about the restaurants on offer in this little village. Now, I had heard of the Pukkabar's reputation long before I came here, I had been told that the likes of Albert Finney and Trevor MacDonald had been known to frequent. So, who was I to argue with the taste buds of Albie and Trev? I have been to the restaurant a total of three times and have had them deliver about 6 times in the last two months. It's so damn costly living near good take-aways and restaurants! Maybe I should move again? The Pukkabar restaurant is situated on Barnes High Street, number 21 to be exact. It is medium sized but the tables are fairly close together in places. However, this doesn't remove any enjoyment you may experience from the food. The menu changes very slightly each month though most of their most popular dishes hang on in there from month to month. The menu is very simple to understand and good descriptions are given below each one. Starters comprise of the usual Onion bhaji's Gulabi kebabs, Susliks etc, but they make possibly the nicest crab cakes I have ever tried, white crab meat with a sprinkling of spices encased in crispy potato ? heaven. You only get two
to a portion which may seem a little stingy, but they are quite filling and with a huge choice of main dishes to choose from you will need to leave room. Starters start at around £3.95. Curries Wow, what a selection of curries they have on offer for your tummies. There is really something for everyone here. For the hard curry fanatic to the vegetarian to the hardly worth having a curry kinda guy. Word of warning ? they do one dish called Chicken tackatac. Oh, it sounds innocent enough but I have now renamed it Chicken Heartattack. It's very very very hot. You have been warned. On the menu for July was: Chicken Karai, cooked in a traditional iron skillet in a tomato, green pepper and onion curry. Tawe jhinge, big prawns with tails cooked in the karai in a sauce spiced with onion seeds. Masaledar fish, marinated cod fillet fried with garam masala, miced peppers and tomato (this is without doubt our favourite dish) Mixed tandoori ? exactly what it says it is Pancha Kol, a good and saucy curry of five seasonal vegetables Chicken Tikka Masala There are 15 curries in total to choose from, my favourite description is this one: Goan Prawns, king prawns served in a coconut curry with onion seeds and sunshine. To go alongside your main curry you have the choice of 10 side dishes and number of rices and breads ? their Peshwari naan is the finest I have ever had. For the smaller people amongst us they offer a Pukkakids menu too, which is a fantastic idea. In July they had a choice of Little chicken Kebabs, Creamy chicken Curry ( a mild introduction to the institution), Fish Goujons and Pukkakids Thali. The first thing you will notice about your curry when it served to the table is that there are no bright colours. There are none of the vibrant reds and yellows that we are used to from the local take away. The balance of the spices is perfect,
the majority of the dishes we have tried do not lose flavour because they are too hot to taste, they all well seasoned and spiced and the "heat" adds to this. They don't make hot curries for the sake of it. As well as evening meals they also offer a lunch menu. You choose two dishes from a list of around 16, plus bread or rice for £6.95. Now th at?s a bargain if ever I saw one. They have a nice wine list, small but well chosen, and also large bottles of Cobra beer (yay!). It is a good idea to allow yourself time for a meal, it's not quick. All the dishes are made in small batches to prevent anything from sitting on the hob, as it were. All the ingredients are fresh and all the meat is halal. They can cater for special dietary needs but you need to either tell them in advance or let your waiter know when you arrive. I've never been there for lunch so I'm not sure of the opening/closing times, but in the evenings they open at 6.30pm and close at 11.00. They are also open Sundays from 12.30pm to 10.30pm. This restaurant will go down as one of my favourites and I shall use it as long and as often as I possibly can. And incase you're wondering, the reason they only get four stars and not five - they don't do desserts. This is very dissapointing. Even an icecream would be nice. Oh, I almost forgot. They do deliver. You can pay over the phone by card if you haven?t got enough cash in the house or have lost your cheque book again. The vans they use to deliver are the cutest three-wheel things you?ve ever seen too. Great staff, service and most importantly, great food.
Right, first things first... I was saving myself for a nice little op on Alessi in General, but as that category hasn't yet appeared I thought I may as well write something for a category that already exists, making Dooyoo's life a little easier and giving me a little more time to finish the actual op I want to post. There, with that out of the way here is my op on the Alessi cutlery collection. Who, you may well ask, is Alessi? And a fair question it is too. Not everyone has heard of them and I doubt that everyone cares. For those who do, here is a brief description (full description when correct cat. appears!) Alessi are an Italian company founded very early in the 20th Century who became renowned worldwide for not only the quality of their work but also for the design. They major in kitchenware but also have a large range of tableware and general household objects. They are most famous for their stainless steel items. Their range of cutlery is beautifully crafted and as far as I'm aware, it's all fully forged where as most cutlery is stamped, unless you pay an arm and a leg for it. The difference is that stamped cutlery is literally that, a large piece of metal has the items stamped out of it, where as forged cutlery is moulded from on piece of metal, this will give you a much stronger piece and better shape to the item. The most obvious item to look at is the spoon. Most stamped spoons are almost flat where as forged spoons take on a much deeper bowl shape at the end. Anyhoo, that's the technical stuff, here's a list of the collections. I'll only talk about my two favourite sets and then give a brief listing of the others they do. "Caccia" which I understand is pronounced Chachia is probably my favourite. It's the one pictured on Dooyoo so that helps. Originally designed back in 1938 by Gio Ponti with only t
he main pieces going into production. Alessi began to make the cutlery in Nickel Silver in 1990 and then in stainless steel with the new pieces being having been designed in 1988 by the same designer. The handles are solid and comfortable to hold. The knives are long bladed and cut incredibly well, the dinner forks come in either 3 or 4 prongs and the full set is truly beautiful to look at and use. The cost of this set will vary from shop to shop but you should be looking at anything from £6.50 for a fork, £6.00 for a spoon and £14.00 for a dinner knife. Or a 24 piece set of 6 each of the following: Dinner Forks, Dinner Knives, Dinner Spoons and Teaspoons will set you back around £199.00. And a 36 piece, which includes the above along with 6 Dessert Knives and Forks, is about £299.00. The full set includes: All of the above plus: Dessert Spoon; Cake Fork; Ice Cream Spoon; Coffee Spoon; Serving Spoon; Serving Fork; Fish Knives and Forks; Fish Serving Knife; Fish Serving Forks; Meat Knife and Fork, Ladle; Soup Ladle and Salad Servers. These range in price from said £6.00 upto about £55.00 for each of the fish serving pieces and £155.00 for the salad servers. Definitely a set that's worth having for those special occasions. Next is Nuovo Milano, probably their most popular range of cutlery. Designed in 1987 by Ettore Sottsass this was the second range of cutlery to be produced by Alessi and winner of the 16th Golden Compass Award (whatever the hell that is!) Again, fully forged cutlery with beautiful form. Unlike the slim handles of Caccia the handles of Nuovo Milano are wide and rounded so that they fit into the centre of your palm when holding them. Again the shapes are incredibly pleasing to look at and the bowl of the spoon curves like, well, like a very pleasing curvy thing. The balance is incredible and the stainless steel is so smooth to the touch. Sotsass said that he want
ed it to be as smooth as a stone rounded by the sea. I think they may have succeeded. Again there is a vast range of items in this collection but it is slightly cheaper. A dinner knife will set you back £9.50, teaspoons about £6.00, dinner forks £6.00, and the salad servers from this range are a bargain at only £29.00 a pair. The most expensive item I have found is the ladle at £40.00. A 24-piece set of Nuovo Milano is around £159.00 and a 36-piece set will cost you £229.00. This is really an incredible price for such good quality. I know that I spent about £100 on a 24-piece set that is nowhere near the quality of Alessi and I am now rueing the day I didn't spend an extra £50 or so. <PJS pauses to pull himself together> Okay, so there you have my two favourites from the range. To be honest, they're the two I know the most about and there's no point rambling on about the rest, it would simply be made up nonsense. Other collections to look out for are: Dry, designed Achille Castiglioni in 1982, this was Alessi's first range of cutlery, it has brushed steel handles with polished ends. Very square in design and the blades seem to be slightly offset from the handles which makes them quite unique looking. Not my taste particularly, but probably someone's? Somewhere? Grand Prix designed originally in 1960 but never made it to manufacturing until 1997 due to technical difficulties with producing the dinner knife. They are almost dolphin-like to look at as the tail of the handle curves round at the tip. Not as big a collection as some of the others but very stylish and would look good on the right table. I don't know the costs of this set but if Alessi say "We eventually found a way of manufacturing them, at a high, but reasonable price." Then they will probably be up a few price brackets from Caccia! Valle was designed by one of Alessi's mo
st popular designers, Michael Graves. He's the man behind the kettle with the blue handle and the bird whistle, which is their biggest selling single item of all time. Valle is incredibly simple in design with the handles running seamlessly into the tops of the utensils. Rso1 comes from another Alessi renowned designer, Richard Sapper, His range was inspired by a set of cutlery his aunt had in his youth. They are flat at the handle, becoming thicker in the centre and then flattening out again to the prong of the forks, bowl of spoon etc. The handles are wide, square ended and flat, apparently they have the perfect balance. Faitoo. What can I say about these? Designed in 1995 by one of the world's most eccentric designers, Phillipe Starck. This is a range of hanging cutlery and utensils for the kitchen, including dinner plates, which I can only describe as disgusting. Phillipe Starck is one of those people whose work you love or hate. He designed the famous Alessi Citrus Juicer, the one that looks like a space rocket. I like some of his stuff, but even for open-minded little old me, this range is a little too strange. Oh, and you also need to like garish green if you buy this range as that's the colour of the hanging racks and handles on the utensils. The only other two ranges I know of are Duna, designed by Marco Zanuso and Yong by Guido Venturini. Yong is small range with blue transparent coated handles, looks like an expensive version of the Ikea cutlery, and Duna is another classic looking set with brushed handles. There. Well done if you got this far. So, my final verdict on Alessi Cutlery is this. If you're looking for something a little more special and don't want spend thousands in Dickens and Jones, Debenhams, Selfridges and other department stores on boxed cutlery that's not really anything special in the end, hunt down an Alessi stockist and take a look. Caccia
is the one I'll be getting for those posh dinner parties; it's relatively inexpensive and looks a class above any other cutlery I've found. "Fact" It takes, on average, 3 years for a person to find their ideal cutlery. PJS Fact Those people didn't know about Alessi. Selfridges and Harrods stock Alessi, and for those near Richmond there?s a little cookware shop called "The Kitchenware Company" who stock a huge range of Alessi products including both Caccia, Nuovo Milano, Yong and Faitoo. Selfridges is quite over-priced on most of their Alessi range. Who's that snoring at the back?
Okay, so there are many foods I like. No, I mean love. When I plan a meal, or go out for a meal I always do the same thing. I look at the desserts on offer first and then decide on my starter and main course. I've always been the same and I doubt that I will ever change. Although I try to vary my desserts from time to time I always find myself coming back to same old thing - that one magic ingredient - CHOCOLATE. I've done my share of Creme Brulee, Creme Caramels, Crepes, Trifles, Sorbets, Ice Creams etc, but they all lack the beautiful, luxurious velvet flavour that Cocoa. I can't say I'm a fan of white chocolate, after all, it's not really chocolate. And if I'm going to cook with chocolate I have to use chocolate with a content of atleast 70% cocoa, or a mix of luxury milk and 70% dark chocolate. So here for you all, and especially Jill, are some of my favourite chocolate recipes. Each of these I have tried and tested on friends and family and each of them has gone down a storm. The first one is perfect to share in a small gathering of friends. Inhibitions are broken and fun is had. For complete indulgence and for those special friendships this is one of my favourite things, and it couldn't be easier. 1. Chocolate Fondue 200g 70% dark chocolate 100g good quality milk chocolate 1/2 pint of double cream 1 - 2 tablespoons of brandy Break the chocolate into pieces and put into your fondue. Melt slowly, stirring constantly. When the chocolates are combined and melted add the cream a bit at a time, stirring in well. When all the cream is in add the brandy, this will stop the chocolate mix from setting too quick. Turn the fondue burner to a low heat and start dipping. My favourite things to dip are: Grapes, Cherries, Strawberries, Banana's and thin biscuits like ginger snaps or Russe. I did a fondue
in the garden last weekend for 8 people, it was just before midnight and we sat over the pot dipping cherries and biscuits and telling ghost stories, it was one of those great moments that I will never forget. 2. Chocolate Mousse Cake This a Nigella Lawson recipe, and one of my favourite cakes. 300g dark chocolate 50g good quality milk chocolate 175g unsalted butter 8 large eggs, seperated 100g light muscavado sugar 100g caster sugar 1 tbsp vanilla extract Preheat oven to 180C, Gas 4 and boil the kettle! Line the inside of a 23cm springform tin with silver foil, make sure that the foil is pressed well to the sides to form a smooth surface. Melt the chocolate and butter together and allow to cool. In another bowl, beat the eggs yolks and sugar until very thick and pale, they should form ribbons when lifted with the whisk. Stir in the vanilla and salt and then the cooled chocolate mix. Whisk the egg whites in a large bowl until they form soft peaks, lighten the chocolate mix with a beaten in dollop of the whites before folding in the rest of them. Pour the cake batter into the foiled cake tin and place the whole thing into a larger roasting dish. Add hot water from the boiled kettle into the roasting tin until it comes about 2.5cm up the side of tin. Cook for about 50 mins - 1 hour. When the cake has cooled, slowly peel off the foil. The outside of the cake will be cooked and dry and the inside will be soft and moussy. Dust with icing sugar and serve with creme fraiche and rasperries. Yummmmmm!!! If you're still standing there's still one more, that's right, one more for all you hardcore chocoholics. 3. Chocolate Creme Brulee This one is a from good old Delia. It's a compromise - if you can't decide between Creme Brulee or Chocolate Mousse, then have a combination. 150g dark chocolate 570ml dou
ble cream 6 large egg yolks 50g golden caster sugar 1 tsp cornflour for the topping 175g granulated sugar 6 ramekins, 5cm deep, 6cm diameter As with nearly all chocolate recipes... Melt the chocolate with 150ml of cream, mixing well, and allow to cool for a couple of minutes. Whisk the egg yolks, caster sugar and corn flour together in a seperate bowl until thick and creamy. In a saucepan heat the remaining cream to simmering point and add the egg yollk mix, whisk constantly as you pour. Return to a gentle heat and stir until it thickens, this should take a couple of minutes. Add the chocolate mix and continue to stir until smooth. Add a bit of the egg yolk mix and whisk it in, then add the remaining custard mixture and whisk all together until really smooth. Divide between the 6 ramekins and allow to cool. Chill for atleast 6 hours in the fridge, or overnight. To brulee, sprinkle some granulated over the top of each pot to cover the chocolate mix and either under a grill or using a kitchen blowtorch, melt the sugar until it caramelises. Leave to set and go hard. Warning, if using glass ramekins do not put them straight under the grill from the fridge as the temperature may make them shatter. Once caramelised you can either return them to the fridge or serve them immediatly. So there you have it. One of my favourite things in three different guises. Chocolate makes so many people happy and it's not hard to understand why. It's one of the pure indulgences in life that doesn't cost an absolute fortune. It can give us many happy times and is one of the biggest aids through some of those blue moments. Each of these recipes are easy to make, the fondue in particular. So get melting and start eating. Enjoy. "Jill Murphy asked me to write about one of my favourite things to help her celebrate her fourth a
nniversary of cancer-free living and to remind ourselves of all the nice things in the world. It takes more muscles to make a frown than a smile you know. If you'd like to join in, whether you've only just joined dooyoo, or you've been here ages, you're more than welcome. Just write about one of YOUR favourite things, make your title "A Favourite Thing: [your choice]" and include this paragraph at the foot of your opinion. And post before Friday, 9th August."
Okay, so this is in the wrong category, but they know it and it should be moved. For those who want to know about the Rose, read on, for those who came here looking for the wine listed, sorry! ---------------------------------------- Okay, so after a small break, I return with yet another wine op, this one is especially for you Jill. Being a huge lover of red wine for most of the year, I find myself strangely drawn to Rose throughout the summer, and also a few choice whites. This review however is about the latest Rose. Goats Do Roam, a nice little play on words of Cotes du Rhone, was recommended to us by our local Oddbin man (not an odd Binman!), as we were looking for a dry Rose. Having just thrown away a bottle of Ernst and Gallow Rose which was sickeningly sweet and flowery, we were desperate to find something new that was dry. We have found several others that we like though some of the Rose Rioja?s are incredibly hard to track down. So we came home with two bottles of Goats Do Roam. (pjs chuckles to himself again at the title ? will this ever stop!) I'll start with the information on the wine. This is directly from the Fairview website, these are not my words apart from the %'s, they were taken from the back of the bottle. Winemakers comments The grapes were harvested from vineyard Paarl, Pikenerskloof, Pedeberg and Malmesbury. The grapes are mostly sourced from are dry farmed old bush vines. These are mostly vinyards with small cropping levels. The resulting wine has considerable concentration. The 2001 Goats do Roam Rose is a blend of Pinotage (29%), Cinsault (12%), Carignan (5%), Grenache (23%), Gamay Noir (20%), Pinot Noir (4%), Shiraz (3%) and Muscat Frontignan (4%). Produced in the Saignee method whereby juice was drawn off the fermenting red must. Colour Deep vibrant pink. Palate Juicy ripe fruit. Aroma Ripe summer berries. How the wi
ne was made The different grape varieties were harvested ripe and crushed. Juice being drawn off the red grapes and cold fermented at 14 degrees Celsius. The wine was very lightly oaked before being carefully blended and bottled. Wine Analysis Alcohol 13.17% Residual sugar 2.6 g\l Acidity 5.3g/l pH 3.29 Press & Awards Goats do Roam Rose 2000 has been awarded the trophy for the best dry rose at the Sydney International Wine Competition. Are we all clear on that? Then I?ll proceed. Containing two of my favourite grapes, Pinot Noir and Shiraz, I thought it was off to a good start. Shiraz has a nice peppery kick to it that often packs wine with great flavour, and Pinot Noir is a lovely and dense flavour, though only grows well in France, and bad Pinot Noir, really is BAD Pinot Noir. But still, as one of 7 grapes used in this wine it wouldn't really come through that much. It really is a mix of the two types of Rose, Lively-Fruity, as they describe it, will mainly contain grapes such as Cabernet Franc, Carignan, Cinsault, Gamay, Grenache, Poulsard and Tibouren, while Full-bodied Roses will use Carignan, Grenache, Merlot, Mouvedre, Negrette, Pinot Noir and Syrah (Shiraz). Goats Do Roam uses a mix of the two with only Carignan and Grenache being a common factor, this may well have something to do with the uncertainty of this wine. It is neither Lively/Fruity nor Full-Bodied, it's just pink. As for taste, well, I guess it has one. It is dry, which is good, but to be honest I found it all rather bland and insipid. Like most Rose wines, this will not improve with age, it is made to be drunk within 2 ? 3 months of purchase, so there really is no hope for a more defined flavour with time. However, this is purely my opinion, and it has after all won awards, so people out there must like it, a lot. If you are going to try it, drink it nicely chilled with a goo
d salad or pasta dish. Otherwise look out for Rioja Rose, I can't remember the name, but try any you find, Chateau Tour de Mirambeau 2001 and Hardy?s also make a good Rose, wjich I think is the Stamp Grenache Shiraz. Well, what are you waiting for, go buy it now!
It's been awhile since I've written an opinion about something I didn't think was very good, but occasionally an item comes along that just doesn't cut the mustard with me. This book is one of those very occasional items! Now, every week I bake cakes, five or six cakes at that, and no, they're not even for me, they're for other people. I sometimes get to try a piece, but never get to keep a whole cake. And believe me, when you make that many cakes the last thing you want to do is eat one. Anyhoo, I digress... Muffins, Fast and Fantastic 3rd Edition by Susan Reimer, seemed to be the perfect answer to my dilemma of needing more than a handful of muffin recipes. The book contains a whopping 38 muffin recipes, including Gluten-Free, and there is a full-colour photo of pretty much every muffin in there. Now you see why I got excited? The first 11 pages are dedicated to a list of ingredients and information regarding how they change the taste or consistency of your muffin, and also to the equipment you will need. All of this and all of the recipes are very basic and very simply written, even my father could follow them. Some of the delicious sounding recipes included are; Banana Muffins Apricot Almond Muffins Chocolate Muffins Butterscotch Raisin Muffins Cinnamon Crunch Muffins (I hear somebody drooling! Jill is that you?) Orange-Carrot Spice Muffins Pear Ginger Muffins Savoury Cheese Muffins As I say, they all sound lovely, so what's the problem? Well. They don't work. I've now tried nine of the recipes in this book and have sobbed as I throw 12 large muffins away. "Maybe you're making them wrong!" I heard that! Now, as I said at the top, I make a lot of cakes, and every week I make muffins. Banana, Blueberry, Jam-Doughnut Muffins, Honey, Lemo
n, Orange, Triple Chocolate and Raspberry, and they've all worked. I've used recipes found in magazines as well as those from the fantastic Nigella Lawson, and they've all worked too. The perfect muffin every time - light, moist and delicious. The problem with these recipes is that they just don't cook properly, I mean they cook thoroughly, they just don?t have the correct texture at the end, they just end up like large fairy cakes. The sponge is too dense and more often than not it's far too dry, but if it was to come out any earlier it would be undercooked. Usually this would happen if you over beat your muffin mixture, the idea being that you mix your wet and your dry ingredients separately, and then mix them together at the end until the flour is covered, but the batter is still very lumpy. If you mix it smooth you?ll just end up with a light sponge, not a muffin. Now I've tried everything to save them, added vegetable oil to try and make them moist, replaced sugar for honey, everything I can think of and they still don?t work. So, to conclude, if it's a book of Muffin recipes you're looking for, then look elsewhere. Take the £4.95 and go and buy yourself a large muffin to eat from somewhere instead. Or do what I do, buy How to be a Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson, bake her three doughnut recipes and then adapt them to make up your own flavours, but here's a little warning ? for 12 large muffins double the quantities, her quantities only give you enough for 6 large and not 12 as stated. Anyway, bake muffins and grow large. Happy eating.