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Sunday, 28 June 2009

Withnail and Chicken (I want something's flesh!)

Once upon a time, I read somewhere that there exists a drinking game whereupon the drinkers match every drink drunk during the film ‘Withnail and I’ which I (for the sake of my liver and to avoid ‘a bastard behind the eyes’) shall not partake in to create this light- hearted foodie blog post based on this cult film.

My great friend Stephen and I have recently re-discovered an enjoyment of the film script text and I thought it would be fun to consider how I could recreate the live chicken dish that the film’s duo enjoyed at the Crow’s Crag Cottage, in my own kitchen.

Firstly I did not kill a chicken but hunted the f*cker down at the local Co-op store. Then I placed it upon a brick and photographed it in the cold oven like the image in the film. This I hasten to add is not a recommended way of cooking any chicken. See picture above.

Putting together Uncle Monty’s seasoning selection of rosemary, garlic and salt I appointed the prepared chicken, less festooned with feathers than in the film, (‘shouldn’t it be more bald than that?’) and liberally dressed it in a light cooking oil as it sat naked in a proper casserole dish. Covering it in silver foil for moistness I placed it in the pre-heated oven on gas mark 6 for two hours – removing the foil after one hour. Towards the end of the cooking period I did some boiled new potatoes and green beans. Sherry anyone? Sherry?

I may not be getting them all here but there are an amazing amount of references to food, drinking and dining in the film Withnail and I and here are a few random examples from the script.

Withnail: You must. You must. That shit’ll bore through the glaze. We may never be able to use the dinner service again.


Withnail: Two large gins. Two pints of cider – ice in the cider.


Withnail: All right, this is the plan. We’ll get in there and get wrecked. Then we’ll eat a pork pie…


There is the classic scene with the woman attempting to eat a fried egg sandwich in the London Caff and running egg yolk grossly dripping out of her sandwich and another scene of Marwood eating a saveloy and chips in the bath.

Danny: You’re looking very beautiful man. St Peter preached the epistles to the apostles looking like that. Have you got any food?

Marwood: I’ve got a saveloy.

Danny: How much is it?

Marwood: You can have it for nothing.

Later, when Withnail and Marwood (I) go to Withnail’s Uncle Monty’s house Monty says:

Monty: Do you like vegetables? I’ve always been fond of root crops, but I only started to grow last summer … I happen to think the cauliflower more beautiful than the rose. Do you grow?

Withnail: Geraniums.

Monty: You little traitors. I think the carrot infinitely more fascinating than the geranium. The carrot has mystery. Flowers are essentially tarts. Prostitutes for the bees!

Once established at the Crow Crag cottage the two heroes go to a local farmer (Issac Parkin) to ask for wood and something to eat.

Withnail: Listen, we’re bone fide. We don’t come from London. Can we have some fuel and wood?

Issac Parkin: I could bring you some logs up later. I gotta feed the cows and that first.

Withnail: When?

Marwood: Shut up! That would be very nice of you. Do you think you could sell us something to eat?

Issac Parkin: I could bring you a chicken, but you’d have to go into the village really.

Marwood: That would be very nice of you…

When they eventually get the chicken they discover it to be an alive and kickin’ chicken and have to kill it, gut it and clean it up for the oven. A very funny scene that inspired this posting.

Further into the film Uncle Monty arrives unexpectedly and causes homophobic chaos as well as trying to get the young men to cook a few meals in between drinking to excess.

Monty: Rosemary, garlic and salt.

He plunges into a grocery sack. A tablecloth and napkins and a pair of aprons. Slips into one. Goes for Marwood with the other.

Monty: I brought two in case either of you was any good in the kitchen.

Marwood: I’m not.

Monty: Of course you are. Cooking’s one of the natural instincts.

Marwood: Listen Monty. This is all very kind of you, but I really think I ought to get out of here and get some work done on the car.

Monty: Nonsense, you haven’t time. We’ll be having a late luncheon at three…

One of the funniest scenes in set in gentile a tea room in Penrith where Withnail and Marwood arrive totally ‘ off their faces’ demanding tea and cake to soak up the booze they have imbibed not an hour before.

Old woman: You’re drunk!

Marwood: Just bring out the cakes.

Withnail: Cake and fine wines.

Old woman: If you don’t leave we’ll call the police!

Withnail: Balls. We want the finest wines available to humanity. And we want them here. And we want them now.

Old woman: Miss Blenehassitt. Telephone the police.

On that note I am now going to eat my roast chicken. White wine anyone? I do keep a sensational cellar!

If you haven’t seen the film – please do. It’s hilarious and this post will make a lot more sense.

“I demand more booze!!!”

Thursday, 18 June 2009

What's in season?

Having purchased some beautifully sweet and ripe English cherries early this week it gave me the inspiration to investigate what other food items might be in season over June and July in the UK. I found among these listing some nutty baby turnips and soft green gooseberries as well as some superb salad leaves.

What’s in season?


Early carrots
Chanterelle mushrooms
Lettuces: Batavia: Cos: Little Gem:Iceberg: Lollo Rosso: Oakleaf.
New Potatoes
Pea shoots
Peas: garden, mangetout: sugarsnaps
Spring Onions
Turnips (baby)
Fruits, nuts and honey.

Fish and Seafood
River trout – wild brown – rainbow
Sea bream – wild
Sea trout – wild

Meat, Game and Poultry

Wild rabbit
Turkey – free range
Wood pigeon

Broad beans
Carrots (main crop)
Courgettes (long and ball)
Courgette flowers.
French beans
Globe artichokes
Kohl rabi
Potatoes (main crop)
Patty pan squash
Purple kidney beans
Rocket lettuce
Spring Onions
Swiss chard
Waxpod beans


Wild fennel

Fruits, nuts and honey.


Fish and seafood

Brown shrimp
Cornish sardines
Dover sole

Meat, game and poultry

Wild rabbit
Free range turkey
Wood pigeons.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Tame replica of an Italian Market

After attending the real thing and seeing Rick Stein's representations of Italian and Sicilian markets on DVD recently I found the 'Italian Market' somewhat tame over this weekend in Nottingham. The market was accompanying the One World music festival and the stalls had all the right ingredients; cheeses, cured meats, bread and pastries, authentic veg and fruits, wines, olive oils and vinegars etc but there was one thing lacking - the exuberance; the noise, the banter. This can really make the difference from somewhere vaguely interesting in Nottingham to queue for your novel experience of a Sicilian hot dog to going home with a feel for Italian life and Italian passion. Enjoy the pictures without the sounds.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Fantasy Cafe game.

I've always loved the Frasier series on the telly and particularly liked the scenes in Cafe Nervosa and wished that I could be there in the background listening and watching the antics of Frasier and his brother Niles and all the other characters. There must be lots of other TV programmes that feature a regular cafe scene and I thought that it would be fun to ask you, my readers, to say what your fave fictional (or real) cafe or restaurant might be and why you would like to be a proverbial fly in the wall. Have fun.

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Yo Sushi.

Some years ago, during a period when I was working for Capital One and feeling drastic need to escape the office at lunch I would take a stroll up the path by the new tram lines and sit for half an hour with a coffee in a then, new deli, called Stones Deli. They had a small restaurant upstairs and on the street level an open plan coffee shop and a deli counter with the usual culprits of cheeses, cured meats and olives alongside squid and pickled fish dishes to take away. In the corner Mr Antonio Carluccio and his phenomenally expensive Italian style goodies were for sale.

In the winter they sold home-made soups and offered a good line in gluten free options at the counter. I always enjoyed watching the world go by with a chance to relax over a coffee and some casual people watching. I think I always dreamt of one day being able to linger longer and do some writing and not be beholden to the unforgiving Capital One clock as the seconds of my dinner hour ticked wickedly away. Then one iniquitous day I was shocked to see that Stones Deli was closed – forever! It had gone into receivership. What about my trusty coffee stop!? What about the squid for a quid!?

Time went by and nothing seemed to be happening with the empty premises until I happened to notice that many weeks later builders were in and ripping up the concrete floor. The conversion seemed take months and after time I even forgot that anything at all was happening. Typically, when you turn your back, a caterpillar turns into a butterfly and the business became a brand new branch of Yo Sushi!

This was about eighteen months ago (rough guess) and I gave it a try back then in the early days. Obviously it wasn’t available for me now to get my coffee fix at lunch but I put my adventurous hat on and sampled some of their coloured bowls of Japanese food on a conveyor belt. Each bowl is price coded and you present your empty bowls at the conclusion of your meal to pay the bill. I particularly liked the raw fish and wasami sauce but didn’t especially warm to the miso soup. I felt back then that it was a ‘food experience’ rather than somewhere you would go when you were hungry and want a filling meal. My two or three bowls cost me something in the region of £10 and I still wanted to eat something more substantial afterwards. Saying that I did enjoy the novel experience.

Today I went back to try it again. The staff were still as friendly and helpful. I disguised myself as a Yo Virgin to get the full experience. Yo Virgin, that’s so funny! Everything was patiently explained to me and one of the cooking staff recommended a particular dish (Marinated Salmon & Dill) with lemon, dill and sesame oil marinade. I made my own choices by sight and variety just to try some new tastes. Outside it was throwing it down with rain with torrents of water were pouring down the street towards Weekday Cross. All of my choices came from ‘off the belt’ (conveyor belt). In no particular order I had the salmon – finely sliced raw salmon with wasabi, the crispy tofu salad and a sashimi tuna dish of sesame crusted tuna loin. I also chose a dish of thin sushi rolls (hosomaki) and dipped them in the hot green wasabi sauce. I would have loved to have given the Sapporo beer a try but at £6.00 a 650ml bottle I stuck with the unlimited fizzy water for a £1. The four dishes cost me just over £10.

The rain was still pouring down and after giving one of the female staff my ‘mugofstrongtea’ blog card I made my way across town to an Asian music and dance festival on the Market Square. There were a few people on the Market Square braving the torrential rain as the MELA event started. Along the side of the square were some Asian food stands equipped for the thousands of people expected to attend. I felt very sorry for them that the weather was so rubbish and the attendees so few.

On my way home I called in to the Nero coffee shop for a quick cup of tea before my bus home. I cajoled this female stranger into having her picture taken as I thought that she had the perfect idea – to be curled up in a nice leather armchair with a good book on a rainy day. Thanks again, to you Miss. Or is that – thanks to, Yo?

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Italian baked potatoes

Once again out on the streets of Nottingham with Stephen in our 'street photographer' guises we both confessed to feeling tired and worn out from the hot weather over the weekend and early this week. We had a coffee and ambled about a bit with the cameras primed and by 12 o'clock we we were both feeling hungry. Neither of us have much money at the moment - being unemployed as we are - and so we were on the look out for something nice to eat without that something costing us too much. Stephen knew exactly the place - an Italian street vendor just up from Angel Row. Jaime Balageuro (80 + years old) sells fabulous baked potatoes with a variety of filling and they are a mere £1.50! At another vendor in the city centre they are twice that price.

The owner was the politest chap I have ever met - real old school politeness - and I would recommend his baked spuds to anyone. You may have to queue a while and he gets very busy when the offices let loose their staff at lunchtime.

I had the spud with hot chili con carne filling and Steve went for the cheese filling. Both were super and the cheap street food kept a couple of street photographers energised for and afternoon's photography. One thing we both agreed on however was how annoying it can be when someone ahead in the queue has arrived with an order the the whole darned office and you are stood there waiting for ten minutes or more. Lol.