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Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Dinner for One starring Freddie Frinton and May Warden. A comedy classic.

This seventeen minute comedy classic is presented by North German Television and is all in English with a short introduction in German. It was filmed in Hamburg and Frinton died five years after the filming. The chap introducing the piece explains that ninety year old Miss Sophie is celebrating her birthday and there are four imaginary guests at the table (the real characters have all passed away). They are; Admiral Von Schneider, Sir Toby, Mr Pomeroy and lastly Mr Winterbottom. All are impersonated/brought to life by veteran comedian Freddie Frinton who plays the butler James. The tiger rug also plays a principal part in the slapstick humour.

This piece started life as a music hall entertainment and nowadays no Sylvester Abend is complete without a viewing of this classic. Even on Lufthansa flights that span over the New Year they show the sketch on the flight screens so that no-one misses it.

As the action progresses and more dishes with accompanying drinks are brought to the table Miss Sophie and the butler James get more and more sloshed with hilarious results. It is so popular in Germany that even little children know the lines in English off by heart. Enjoy.

Dinner for One... or five?

Every New Year's Eve across Germany and other mainland European countries families sit down to enjoy a seventeen minute British comedy filmed in Hamburg. It stars Freddie Frinton as a butler called James and he is serving a meal and drinks to his ninety year old boss Miss Sophie and four imaginary guests. It is in black and white and the funniest seventeen minutes of pure comedy slapstick that you are ever likely to see. At each course he and Miss Sophie get progressively more drunk. And yet this masterpiece of comic timing is very little known in the UK despite its star being a British legend of Music Hall entertainment in his day. Rather than over burden this particular blogpost I will do a separate blogpost after this one.

I mention this having watched it the other night with some German guests to the Lace Market Theatre. They all know the script and actions off by heart and my friends Markus, Carsten and Hannah had cooked myself and their host Alison a terrific meal of Saltimbocca  alla Romana, preceded by a fresh lightly dressed salad and followed with home made Apfel Streudel and English custard. There are tempting but slightly blurred pictures at the end of this blogpost. I blame the copious white wine!

Previously in the week myself and members of the Jakobus Theatre in Karlsruhe had dined at various eateries in Nottingham including Annie's Burger Shack on Broadway (Nottingham) and Jamie's Italian in the centre of Nottingham. Both places offered very good food and excellent service at reasonable prices. I especially liked the Mussel Linguini at Jamie's Italian.

Dishes from Jamie's Italian in Nottingham.

Another time we went to Nottingham's best ever deli - the renowned Delilah for hot drinks and to soak up the ambiance. There wasn't really room or the facility for us all to sit around a single table so we arranged ourselves around the coffee bar area.

And finally to the meal prepared by our friends from Karlsruhe. This was at my friend Alison's house and while they cooked I got on with writing a script half in English and half in German (with help from Carsten and Markus for the authentic German)  as part of the official presentations we do at the farewell party on Friday night. The cooking smells coming from her kitchen as they made the Apfel Streudel and the Saltimbocca alla Romana were heavenly. The delicious veal was purchased at Waitrose and everything else at Tesco. The link for the Saltimbocca alla Romana is to Jamie's Italian Magazine and it offers a simple recipe to follow and enjoy.

uncooked apfel streudel

Unforgettable times with lovely people. I can't wait to visit them in Karlsruhe in December this year. More food based delights from this visit will follow shortly.

Monday, 31 March 2014

Fantastic evening with Johnny Pusztai and his master butchers at JTBeedham now on video.

A short while ago I wrote a blogpost about myself and a very enjoyable gathering of other foodies/meat lovers at Johnny Pusztai's shop JT Beedham's on Mansfield Road, Sherwood near Nottingham.

Here is a flavour of the evening as filmed by the BBC. What really comes across is Johnny's passion and the passion of his staff at the shop to provide the very best in honest meat products and keep those dedicated customers coming back for more and more and both the providers and the customers appreciating the dedication and fine artistry that goes into all they do. As one of the participants in the video says "All of the staff have the highest respect for the customer and a full knowledge of what they are selling."

I went to this after a day's work and having got up at 5am because I was honoured to be invited and determined to help them celebrate what they do so well at JT Beedham's. Naturally, I couldn't leave this blogpost without mentioning that I feature in this BBC quality video throughout. At the end you get to see the back of my head! Even I don't see that bit often!

Check out my blogpost about this fantastic evening HERE.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

But is it still a meat counter?

Tesco have brought in some new ranges (fourteen in all) to bring some colour and difference to the central display to their meat counters. For those Tesco butchers who want to exist in a purely faux butchery counter environment then the new ranges may have come as a bit of a shock to the system. But then the meat counter has never been a traditional butchers in miniature. For a start there are no quartered carcasses or sides of pork to portion up. Everything comes protected and dated in cryovac bags from the distribution centres who do the original real butchering if you want to be realistic about it.

Personally I think that the new ranges offer something exciting for the customers that want something that is truly 'ready to cook'. These new ranges compliment the other traditional butcher's products; British lamb and outdoor rearing British pork chops, British beef roasting joints, various pork and lamb cuts and popular cuts like beef skirt and various quality steaks we offer as well as the finest bacon and sausage products. What do you think?

Among these choices illustrated are chicken breast en croute with cheddar cheese and bacon, puff pastry parcel filled with lean minced beef and tomato and herb sauce, diced chicken breast in a tikka marinade, chicken breast paupiettes with cheese and minted pesto, classic stuffed chicken breast supreme, pork loin steaks with apple sauce, garlic pork loin steaks, Chinese pork loin steaks. Then we have some meaty smoky barbeque pork belly ribs, meaty sweet chilli pork belly ribs.

For those who like their stir fry we offer; oriental chicken breast stir fry, chill chicken breast stir fry, chilli beef rump steak stir fry. I have tried the chilli beef rump steak stir fry and really liked it. I like the heat of chilli but not searing hot and found this offering to have just the right balance. The most popular dishes seem to be the diced lamb leg in a Moroccan style marinade and the minted lamb leg steaks. My work colleague Cherie loves the Moroccan lamb and the oriental chicken breast stir fry as do her girls.

At each Tesco meat counter there is a helpful cooking advice leaflet.

chicken breast paupiettes with cheese and minted pesto


Tuesday, 18 March 2014

An evening with Johnny Pusztai and the butchers at Beedhams.

It isn't often you get the privilege of being invited to a top quality butcher's shop for an evening of sausage making and burger making so when Johnny Pusztai rang me I cancelled my other engagements and hot footed it across Nottingham to his shop on Mansfield Road in Sherwood after a full day at work on Tesco's fish and meat counters. Once the evening of learning, making and sampling got started their were over a dozen fellow foodies tightly packed in the preparation room of his small shop.

There was a camera man from the BBC called Steve who documented the whole evening so that Johnny could have the event showing on a television screen placed in the upper corner of his counter as a promotional tool for similar future events. Each participant was asked to sign a release form to indicate they were happy to be filmed and used in the end DVD.

It was a jolly crowd of foodies, made even jollier by Johnny and Steve's (the butcher) laid back and very informative/passionate presentations of how they work in preparing the top notch ingredients that form the pork base of their sausages and the natural casings the sausage mixture is fed into.

The group was split into two groups and one lot went upstairs to learn about making beef burgers through Steve and Joel's advice and through practical observation and individual application. We were allowed to chose our own flavourings and bindings and then were shown how to press the burgers. We had a ball of ground beef each and there was a great atmosphere as we all got to mixing the ingredients. Equally, we separated a small amount and made it into a sampling patty which Joel cooked off and we all got to taste our own work as well as making four big fat yummy burgers to take home. Downstairs the other group were having a wonderful time learning about making sausages and having a go themselves. A few glasses of wine or beer made the evening very convivial as we went along.

Throughout the evening we were treated to some super samples of various meat based products that Beedhams make. There was some belly pork prepared sous vide and marinated in a Marmite based marinade and cooked off on the griddle by Jake. Everyone was keen to try another portion and there were murmurings of the word 'delicious' as the happy participants wolfed down the very tasty and succulent pork. Johnny explained all about the origins of the pork meat and how the sous vide method worked. We also had the opportunity to try some of Beedham's speciality pork pie with black pudding layered or spliced into the finished product. Mouth watering. We were spoilt food wise and also had a choice to sample some spicy chicken wings and a gorgeous sausage cob with Johnny's wonderful pork sausage. There are pork sausages and there are Beedham's sausages! They are meaty and taste utterly wonderful and he has customers who come back again and again for his products that he is so passionate about making and promoting.

At half time each group swapped burger making for sausage making and our group had enormous fun making our own sausages. It was very hands on and a lot of saucy fun was had from the action of feeding the slippery natural sausage casings onto the tube where the sausage mix is forced through with a pressure pedal. The ladies among us all seemed to take the banter in their stride.

We all had a go at linking the sausage and a light-hearted judgement was had of our efforts. It had been years since I actually made sausage and linked and it was a super experience augmented by Johnny Pusztai and his passion team of butchers. And we got to take our sausages and burgers home after the event. It had been a long day for me getting up at 5am and coming here after work until 9.30pm but it was worth every second. Thoroughly enjoyable and highly recommended and it was very pleasant to be among such a group of like – minded people who appreciate really good, quality meat prepared with love.

                                                  I made these bangers and burgers!

Thanks to everyone at Beedhams.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

A current obsession with spinach and theatre reviewing.

I first want to apologise to my readers for not being more attendant to this, my food and drink blog. The recent lack of regular blog posts has been due to lack of time to devote to writing about food. Most of you will know that I have another blog about another of my passions; the theatre. Over the last year I have been honoured in getting some great opportunities to review plays in Derby and Nottingham at Derby Theatre and Nottingham Playhouse, plus Curve in Leicester. I have also been asked to attend some of Derby Playhouse's professional rehearsals for their very recent production of The Odyssey. How could I pass that up? I get two free press tickets for each gig and a glass of wine on press nights but no other pay generally.

All these things take up my spare time and often end up with me writing my reviews until one in the morning and then getting up again at five to go and do a day's work on the counters at Tesco. Thank goodness that the store isn't that busy at the moment. Then, I was offered (and took) a chance to appear on Kev Castle's hospital radio at The Queen's Medical Centre. That was great fun and I did talk about the Mug Of Strong Tea food blog as well as things theatrical, honest folks. Recently I got chosen by Nottingham Playhouse to be the paid writer for a review of their play, The Three Penny Opera for The Big Issue!

In the last couple of days I have written another 2000 words for a glossy amateur theatre magazine called Sardines and supplied photos for my article about the twinning events that happen every two years between Nottingham's Lace Market Theatre and two amateur theatres in the German city of Karlsruhe. Busy busy busy.

In between times I eat and learn/revise my German language skills for a visit in April by our friends from Karlsruhe. All of the above can be read on my other blog at

Spinach! Yes, I haven't been much of a spinach eater until about a month ago when I got some from work and steamed it to add a bit of greenery to my meal. It was delicious and only takes about ten minutes to steam. As well as being an accompaniment I have experimented with adding it to a curry. First steam, drain and squeeze out all the water, chop finely and stir into a curry at he last minute.

lamb rogan josh curry with spinach

Many people dislike the strong taste and soggy texture of cooked spinach so why not try experimenting with raw spinach leaves and adding a few to a salad. Young spinach leaves can be used as a substitute for lettuce; a warm salad with spinach leaves, grilled bacon, avocado and sliced mushrooms for example.

rack of lamb chops, new potatoes and spinach

So far I don't have muscles like Popeye. Interestingly, spinach has long been thought of as a particularly rich source of iron and back in the 1950s children were forced to eat it by their parents who thought it would make them fit and strong. A big influence was the cartoon character Popeye who gulped down tins of the stuff!

Monday, 24 February 2014

A heart warming video about dealing with food waste.

It is great to know that there is compassion out there when I witness a deal of pathetic greed daily. It is difficult to elaborate without risking my job but a big 'well done' to this guy and his supporters!

Phil Lowe