Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Some great news.

Times flies by when you are as busy as I appear to have been in the last six weeks. So firstly an apology to my readers for the lack of blog posts on this blog. I have been working full time as always and have been very busy reviewing plays and writing theatre based features and interviews for a number of other platforms. This has left me with little time and energy to devote to my writing about my food experiences and interests. Things are about to change.

During the soon to be upon us months of April and May I am taking a sabbatical from my job at Tesco. So that means nearly nine weeks of joyously concentrating on my writing and I mean to have to some great food adventures to tell you about possibly including a trip to France. Try imagining me dancing ecstatically around my kitchen at this point. I have not forgotten my promise to write more about German and Dutch food as well as French and I hope to be cooking some of the recipes myself as well as expounding upon them.

Last week I shifted my bookcases to different spaces in my house. Now they are all downstairs in the living room and kitchen (alright there are still a few language and WW1 based books hiding under the bed!). This change was so that I could easily get to my reference books for both my main passions - food and the theatre. What do you think of the new look? I love it.

Mostly food based books and magazines

Predominantly theatre books

Food books in the kitchen.
I normally recommend that meat is kept in the domestic fridge for a maximum of two days and last Tuesday I got a rack of lamb out of my fridge freezer with the intention of letting it thaw out and to eat it  early in the evening. Regrettably my laptop was messing about and very frustratingly I couldn't get on the internet. I spent three hours cursing because I was due to go out to the theatre that evening and knew that I would need my laptop to write and post three theatre reviews consecutively over the next three nights. I ended up refreshing the whole system and found myself back on the net seconds before I was due to rush out to Nottingham Playhouse to review a play called Mermaid. I never had a chance to cook the rack of lamb and it sat in the fridge in a glass topped casserole dish for four more days!

I was surprised that although it looked a bit greyer it smelt ok and looked alright once I had chopped it up into chops. I was tired Saturday evening so I cooked the rack in the oven and part boiled a few new potatoes which then got added to the roasting lamb chops with some pearly white cloves of garlic. In the meantime I sat down with a glass or two of wine and chilled whilst the unctuous cooking aromas drifted through the house. Two fresh rosemary sprigs from the big bush in my garden were added to the cooking lamb and I boiled a few broad beans (from frozen) to add to the final dish. It was very nice and just the thing to eat after a long day at work.

Monday, 2 February 2015

A trip to Ettlingen and a German butcher's shop.

Back in December 2014 I was in Germany for five days in order to perform a play that I had written called 'Greetings From The Trenches' and most of the time I stayed in and around Karlsruhe. On the Saturday (after the two performances were done) I took a trip out to the nearby town of Ettlingen. I got there by tram and spent a pleasant hour or so wandering the picturesque streets and took in some of the atmosphere of the Christmas market. The had been some rain earlier in the day and the streets were wet.

On one of the main narrow shopping streets I spied a butcher's shop - a very busy butcher's shop - and had a nose around. I wish now that I had written down the name of this establishment but I didn't. I did however take some photographs, not only of the interior of the Metzgerei but also the signs outside telling of the freshness of the meat and local animals used for produce.

Although I was doing nothing wrong by taking the photographs I felt slightly shy about doing so and was a bit nervous in case they thought I was a customer and wanted serving. My German language is ok but all the same!

The yellow coloured signs were situated out on the street and this business was clearly proud of its produce and I noticed several Gold award certificates on the wall and prize winning cups displayed. As you might imagine there were a lots of different kinds of sausage on offer and more calf meat than would be for sale in an English butchery. I will be writing more about these differences in my future blog posts.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Special offer on my 500th blogpost.

To celebrate my 500th blogpost I am offering an instant pdf file of my popular book Tales From The Block at only £4.99!!! This offer is open until 27th February (my birthday!)

This beautiful book is available through this link on the Blurb book publishers website. For those who haven't had a chance to read it, browse it or just lovingly adore it here is your opportunity to help me celebrate my 500th blog post and I look forward to your responses. The Blurb Book link above will take you to my publisher page and guide you through the simple purchasing procedure.

Many thanks to all my readers for reading and enjoying my foodie blog all these years.

Phil Lowe.

Tales From The Block

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Bit of human blood with your lamb?

Well I was going to write a piece about a butcher's shop I walked into in the southernmost town of Ettlingen in Germany (Early December 2014) as my next post but I had an accident at work on Friday evening and I'm choosing to put the German butcher's story on hold until next time.

Friday evening is my only late shift at Tesco (12pm - 9pm) but it can be rather boring if the store is quiet. Having done all my cleaning jobs and sorted out my reductions I was actually rather delighted when a middle aged couple came over and asked my advice on lamb for a tagine. Long story short - they agreed on my boning out a full leg of lamb for them. This is a job I could do with my eyes shut. Perhaps in hindsight it would have been beneficial if I had kept them shut.

boning knife in action
Instead, I took the very sharp boning knife and began to snick away at the meat around the bone at the very end of the leg. 'Snick snick snick' went the knife. Such a balletic sound. I was a meat craftsman at the height of his prowess. Now for the knee joint on the leg. Found it in one. They were going to be so pleased with my work. I found the gap for my knife's end quicker than you can say "cut above the others" then I freed the section from the main thigh bone. The knife suddenly slipped sideways and sliced deeply into my first finger on the left hand. The hand, incidentally, that was NOT sporting a chain mail glove. For a fraction of a second I hoped I had just nicked the fleshy top of my knuckle. I looked down and saw something gaping wide and bleeding profusely that possibly required stitches. Suddenly it hurt. Lots. I swore. I almost said a very bad word which would have meant instant dismissal, yes that word - "Sainsburys!!!"

I actually said the accusatory expletive "Bastard!!!!" and then ran to the hand sink to wash the wound under the stinging cold water tap. Elevating my injured finger I quickly wrapped it in an apron and sped towards the first aid box. Eliott on the deli helped me dress the wound with two blue plasters. The customers had gone white. I kept apologising for swearing and continued to finish off boning their leg off lamb - very cautiously. With each gingerly practised slice of the meat I checked for blood seepage. Some was leaking out of the bottom of the plasters. I got one of the lads to wrap the meat up in two plastic bags sans human blood. I hope they enjoyed their tagine.

Perhaps I should have gone to the hospital to see if it needed stitches but by this time it was almost time to take the ice of the fish counter, clean up and go home at nine o'clock. No way was I going to hang around the accident and emergency ward at the QMC for hours and then go home.

On the Saturday morning (before going to work)  I cautiously took off the plasters to reveal the injury. It was still a bit bloody and sore but didn't feel infected ie: warm and puffy. I took the photo above - as you do.  As I write this today (Tuesday 20th January) I will have changed the plasters three times and worn one of those blue condom finger jobbies with strings on to protect my finger and keep it clean at work. As my finger sticks out like a sore finger I have felt perfectly placed to point at things around the Tesco store. Eggs you want? Follow the blue finger. Anchovies? Aisle 8 in the direction of the blue finger. Now where's that chain mail glove?

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

"Sauerkraut anyone?"

"Fermented cabbage for dinner, anyone? Come on eat up!" Sauerkraut is exactly that - fermented cabbage and it is one of those 'love it or hate it or sorry never even tried it' kind of foods. However it has fans worldwide and although often associated with German cuisine the roots and action of fermentation of finely shredded cabbage actually goes back to ancient China.

Sauerkraut means 'sour cabbage' and it is made using a very simple procedure involving wild fermentation. In effect it requires no live starter to begin the process. Salt is added to the finely shredded cabbage and this draws out water from the vegetable. Naturally occurring bacteria present in the cabbage react with the resulting brine and this causes the cabbage to ferment and take on its sour flavour. Although it can be purchased in jars and cans, fresh sauerkraut has a superior flavour.

On our recent trip to Karlsruhe my friend Emma and I were keen to experience as much of the ordinary life of an average German as possible and we enjoyed browsing in some of the shops off the beaten track. Just off the main shopping thoroughfare we encountered a small independent supermarket with boxes of vegetables and fruits placed outside. It was the first time we had ever seen sauerkraut sold in bags before and amused ourselves with a daft photo opportunity. My grumpy face is supposed to be illustrated a 'sour' mood. We half expected the veg police to come to arrest us for messing with the sauerkraut.  For some interesting and simple sauerkraut recipes check this site.

'Sauerkraut has a clean but pleasantly sour/tart flavour that is good for cutting through the fattiness of some meats. It can make a refreshing side dish to sausages, ham and bacon and can be eaten cold in salads and sandwiches.' 1001 Foods you must try before you die.

The Karlsruhe Christmas Market or Christkindlmarkt.

I've been so busy since I came back from Germany in early December and then after Christmas I came down with this virus everyone seemed to be getting and so all my chronological plans of writing about the food in Germany, the butchers shop in Ettlingen and a variety of other cooking or food related blog posts up to this day seemed to have got all mixed up. I still have to tell you all about the open market in Leiden in Holland too!

Well, at least I am no longer coughing like a bad tempered walrus and on this rainy Tuesday in early January 2015 (Happy New Year readers!) I have been going through a few photographs of my relatively recent visit to Karlsruhe with my friend Emma Brown. We went to perform my play called Greetings From The Trenches. A lot of our time was spent doing last minute technical checks and rehearsing with our German sound and lighting guy - Lennart Strenztsch but we were also able to get out and about to the Christmas Market and enjoy some mulled wine and sweet and savoury pfannkuchen.

Whilst eating and drinking our way round the festive Christkindlmarkt  we spotted some smoked salmon in the whole side being smoked in front of a fire as well as plenty of  pretty stalls selling a variety of confectionary items and enough nougat to rot your teeth in seconds. The Germans certainly seemed to be a nation with a sweet tooth. As you might expect from such a market there were many stalls selling Lebkuchen and Magenbrot (both forms of soft gingerbread) and Gebrannte Mandeln (candied toasted almonds) as well as candles in all shapes and sizes and wooden toys. Although I kept saying that I was going to try a German sausage I never did get round to it.

During my time in Karlsruhe I came back to the Christkindlmarkt two more times. Those were on the Saturday to meet up with my friend Lena and her partner Sascha and on the Sunday to see my friend Thorsten (of whose Christmas dinner you can read about in the blog post before this.) On both occasions we had to try out the gluhwein just to make sure it was still ok. Thorsten took me to a tiny little kiosk where he claimed it was the best mulled wine made with good wine from his homeland - the Rheinland Pfalz.

A lot of the time in Germany seemed to be involving drinking German lager beer (weird that) and sitting in steamy cafes with a cup of strong coffee and an appetizing portion of delicious fruit based tart. A couple of times the too strong coffee upset  my stomach and caused me to make a swift visit to the loo! But that is another story. Happy days! Even as I am writing this I am recalling lots of stories and incidents/observations from my time in Karlsruhe regarding food and certain favourite cafes. I certainly won't be short of things to write about this year!

On the tram to Heide.

Friday, 26 December 2014

The wild boar story continues...

Well, it turns out that the Feldmann family opted for a leg of lamb with aioli, red cabbage and French beans for Christmas dinner. Today I have been receiving pictures of the boar stew as the preparation and cooking progresses.

I cooked myself a whole (yes whole) stuffed shoulder of lamb which I slow roasted in the oven for three hours and served it with roast spuds, spinach and mint sauce. It was originally £22 from Tesco but it seemed that nobody wanted to pay that much for it. So I got it at a reduced cost of £5.50 last Sunday and put it in the freezer. Whilst it was cooking  I had a merry time with the sherry bottle and a few glasses of red wine. Ho Ho Ho!!!

Here are some pictures from Germany via the internet of Thorsten's wild boar stew. Later on today I hope to add a picture of them all at their table. Such are the best joys of the internet! I can almost smell it cooking!

'Wild boar has a deep hue and an intense taste. The meat is aromatic without it being overly gamey. The flavour is full bodied with a sweet but piquant edge. The hunting season takes place during the Winter months and wild boar responds well to slow cooking preferably pre-marinated in gutsy red wines making rich, powerful stews and casseroles. It's meat has a wonderfully intense flavour that is helped by the boar's diet of naturally foraged roots, herbs, acorns and mushrooms, sometimes even truffles!' Copied in part from  (1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die)


And the finished meal. Lecker!!!