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Monday, 26 October 2009

A bit of road kill anyone?

Feeling a bit poorly today and sitting listening to the local radio. They have been talking about eating road kill, dead badger and the like. Think I'm gonna be sick. Yuck!

"Where's the bathroom?"

Friday, 23 October 2009

I've got crabs... help me!

Well crabs on my mind at any rate. I recall that my dear long departed Dad liked boiled crab meat and was quite skilled in tearing a crab apart to extract the meat. This isn't something that has been passed down through the family genes so when I saw some boiled crabs on display in the Victoria Centre Market today I began to wonder how I would go about taking a crab apart in order to extract the best of the white and brown crab meat. Does anyone know the best way to tackle such a project?

boiled crabs

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Mint sauce, mustard and horseradish sauce

Whenever I cook a meat based dish I love to add some mustard, horseradish or mint sauce where appropriate and even though the mustard or horseradish invariably makes me sneeze I still love them.

English and Dijon mustard

As I child I remember making mint sauce and adding vinegar and a spoon of sugar and we would serve it in it's own little bowl not straight from the jar. Mustard in my childhood household was Colman's English mustard and came in a tube like toothpaste. Dijon mustard would have been unheard of!

Horseradish sauce and mint sauce

Today I cooked a simple dish of new potatoes, french beans and two lamb chops cooked in olive oil and a sprig of rosemary from the garden with mint sauce of course.

today's lunch

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Real markets - I love 'em.

When I was a child in the 1960s the big event of the week for me, was the Saturday morning visit to Derby open market on a place called The Morledge - now a County Court - then next to the Art Deco Derby City  & County bus station - now a Hotel & Casino complex presently in the making.

Morledge market on last day of trading 1975

As a child I would have had no learned adult foodie concept to read from, just being being a small child at the time. However, I was a willing small visitor to the vibrant market scene that would have graced most towns of that era. My mum and my auntie or granny Hanson (Mum's mum) would have taken me to the market and I would have had a waist high view of the local characters and colourful goings on in and around the fruit, veg and fish stalls and would have heard all the rough and friendly banter from the stall holders and customers. No doubt I would have been expected to carry a few bags too. The adults didn't pay my bus fare for nothing you know!!

A character from Bordeaux Sunday market.

As an adult I love to peruse the local markets. Sadly there aren't as many of them as there used to be. I expect that my faves are now the organic and farmer's markets that have sprung up over the last ten years. I also love to go to France for the vibrancy of their markets and most of the pictures here are from the quai side market in the Chartons area of Bordeaux.

A mushroom and cepes stall on the Farmer's Market in West Bridgford, Nottingham.

Fish stall at Bordeaux market

Olives stall at The Green Festival. Nottingham

I recently noticed that  Emily ( has illustrated through her blog, that the Ludlow Food Festival is alive and well and we in the fair city of Nottingham have just had a big Festival of local heroes and cooks in the Old Market Square. Like language, food and culinary habits change and evolve all the time. Perhaps one day British markets will once again be a place to go and experience the real life and colour of our culinary heritage in action.

Bread stall (with amazing varieties of bread) at Bordeaux
#Bordeaux #BordeauxFrance

Friday, 16 October 2009

Up at 4am!

I've a had a busy few days lately but have had a chance to eat some nice food too. Over two days I made the most of some uncooked prawns and did myself a prawn, noodles and salad dish one day followed by a prawn omelette the following day with a side salad. I used quite a lot of chopped fresh ginger to fight a cold that seems to be persisting.

I went to bed really early last night and lay reading until I fell asleep. We are talking 8 o'clock in the evening. Being a huge Francophile I lost myself in the amusing pages of Karen Wheeler's book Tout Sweet borrowed from the library. Previous to that I had listened to BBC Radio online (listen again) on their piece about the French singer song writer Serge Gainsbourg.

I must have nodded off quite early and awoke at about 4am and, not being able to get back to sleep, got up and baked a loaf of bread (with fennel seeds) and a bulk load of French madeleine cakes, like you do. It was pitch black outside at 6am as the baking stint came to a close. I had a cup of Carte Noire coffee and dipped my cake into the hot coffee!!! Well worth getting up early for to get that almond essence rush! Yummy.

As I was about to go this morning to meet up with my friend Stephen my neighbour and sweet friend Jo invited me for a coffee at Delilah in Nottingham. It was a quick visit but as always, Jo was super company.

Tonight I am hitting my cold with lots of garlic, black pepper and onions in a pork stew. Mange bien!

Thursday, 15 October 2009

A service charge? What service charge?

On the Tuesday after the play has finished The Lace Market Theatre hold what is known as The Crit – an opportunity to discuss the merits and themes of the play that was on the week before. It is a great chance for cast and crew to get back together and it is traditional that we go out for a meal that evening to celebrate the performance.

This time there were a fair smattering of vegetarians in the group so we pre-booked the Kayal restaurant on Broad Street in central Nottingham. It is not like your average Indian restaurant. They specialise in Kerala Cuisine. Their own description sums the place up nicely.

‘Kayal, the Kerala backwater Cuisine Restaurant, offers a cuisine that is very unusual and different from the rest of the others. Cuisine at Kayal is mildly flavoured, spicy and gently cooked, offers several gastronomic opportunities for those willing to experiment with the local cuisine of Kerala. Be it seafood, rice or other meat dishes, the emphasis is on ‘Healthy Food’.

Our big group of eleven were made very welcome and ushered through to the back of the restaurant to a long table. It was all nice and atmospheric but the lighting was so low and dim that several of us had to borrow a mobile phone to shine a light on the menu to see what to order. A lot of the dishes I had never heard of and so choosing was quite an adventure.

A lot of the group went for the Masala dosa – one of the most famous of the South Indian Brahmin dishes. It is a large rolled rice and lentil pancake with a filling of seasoned potatoes, onions and peas. This came with a small selection of dips and was a starter course.

For my main course I chose the Njandu curry – a seafood based curry with crab meat and spices cooked in a coconut sauce. It tasted delicious but I was surprised to find that the crabmeat was still in the shell and very difficult to eat properly in the gloom. I didn’t want to splash curry all over me by fiddling with the bits of ‘still in shell' crab. The coconut based curry sauce was slightly spiced with paprika and cumin and I liked the lemon rice that I chose to accompany the curry.

The general mood at the table was jolly and we enjoyed some laughs mis-quoting lines from Abigail’s Party and having chat about “What’re you planning to do next?” Michelle who played Sue had already auditioned for The Accrington Pals that very night!!!

The restaurant closes at 11pm so by about 10.50pm we had all finished eating and drinking and asked for the bill. It came in a wooden little box and once we had sorted our individual monies out we were short by about £16. It turned out that the restaurant had added a service charge on (?). There was a general consensus that we weren’t paying such a large charge (that we weren't told about in advance) and ended up paying about half after a discussion with the waiter. His attitude was a bit off and he clearly wasn’t happy about our decision. I don’t go out to restaurants with big groups often but I thought it was cheeky to just slap this charge on when they were getting about £250 plus from us anyway.

Other than that incident the meal was a pleasant night out with good friends from the theatre and in general the food and service at the restuarant was very good. They also have a branch on Granby Street in Leicester.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Coffee with Billy Ivory

On my way home today I went to the Broadway Cinema for a coffee and who should I bump into but the acclaimed Nottingham screen writer William (Billy) Ivory. Billy used to be a near neighbour of mine when I lived on Henry Road West Bridgford in the early 1990s and at the time he was writing the popular TV drama, Common as Muck. I recall him telling me about the stresses of re-writes at the time. Today, I was sitting in the foyer, avoiding the school run on the bus home and I spotted him coming in the front entrance. I said 'hello' and shook his hand and he was kind enough to stop for ten minutes for a chat and even remembered some little writing project I was involved with at a period when I had graduated as a Performance Arts student nearly twenty years ago. Whilst chatting he told me about a film that is post production and he mentions this in this recent short video filmed by Nottingham University when he was given an honoury degree. I really like his natural approach to writing and if I hadn't have decided to pop in for a coffee I would have missed this opportunity. Phil xxx

Monday, 12 October 2009

Lunch at the Country Cottage: Ruddington. Nottinghamshire.

My neighbour Anna told me recently of a great deal lunch-wise at the Country Cottage Hotel and Courtyard Restuarant on Eastthorpe Street in Ruddington. I live within staggering distance from the venue (memory half gleaned from my friend's wedding a couple of years ago when I returned home a tinsy bit tiddly) and today I thought I would give my credit card a airing and try out the carvery luncheon. I was not disapointed.

Prior to popping across the road I had had a nice haircut, shaved off the sideburns and 1970s moustache from playing in Abigail's Party, put some washing on the line and had a bath. If I may say so myself, I looked very presentable in my lilac shirt, olive green jacket, black leather shoes and moleskin trousers.

I had a glass of chilled dry white wine pre-lunch in their bar and was ushered into the dining room. I loved the 'no mobile phone allowed' sign by the bar! I like to relax when I'm eating not have some idiot discussing their business or private affairs within earshot of all and sundry. "Hello! I'm eating some peas!"

I went for the roast lamb carvery option and was served by the amiable thai chef. Additonally I went for the roast potatoes and red cabbage and carrots and mint sauce. The lamb was beautifully cooked and the roasties were to die for - nothing fancy just traditional roast potatoes -f luffy insde with a hint of saltiness. I also liked the red cabbage - sweet and slightly crunchy.

This meal was a bit of an indulgence for me as I can't really afford restuarants being unemployed. In this regard I declined the sweet/dessert menu and the whole meal and wine cost just £8. I would certainly go back again. The service was professional and unintrusive. The main course was only £5 and they also offered two courses for £7.50. That would be a main and a starter, for example.

The 12 to 2pm lunchtime menu is currently as follows:

Monday and Wednesday; Traditional carvery.

Thursday: Homemade traditonal pies.

Friday: A variety of tradional fish.

Sunday: Traditional English Sunday lunch.

On Friday evenings they offer a East meets West night. Traditional British cuisine meets authenic thai cuisine. Served from 7pm until 9pm. Two courses only £10.

This is the 'new look' me after lunch.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

A big suprise

I am blessed with some great people who contribute to this blog through their comments and I was stunned when  I recieved a hand-written note after last night's production of Abigail's Party that turned out to be from my good friend Marian. I think of Marian as a super warm-hearted friend who hails originally from Yorkshire and currently lives in the South West of France an hour's drive away from Bordeaux. I had the pleasure of  staying with her for a long weekend in France back in May this year. You couldn't ask for a better friend or a more generous woman.

Marian made the long journey across mainland Europe to the UK this week in special effort to see me in The Lace Market Theatre's production of Mike Leigh's Abigail's Party. I had no idea that she had planned this visit in secret and was astonished to see her in person in the theatre bar after Thursday's production, over a thousand miles away from her French home in the countryside in South West of France! What a wonderful person!

Thankyou so much Marian and enjoy the rest of your break in the UK with your other blogging friends and family. I am truly blessed to have you as a friend.

PS: Marian has written her own blog about her visit. See:

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

A small frozen pizza anyone?

I thought that those who are aware that I act as well as write would be interested in reading the local paper's review of the production of Abigail's Party that I am in and is running at The Lace Market Theatre Nottingham throughout this week. 5th to 10th October.

Abigail's Party, a stage then TV hit in its day, doesn't have massive universal significance so it isn't a classic. But, in the hands of director Robert Stevens, a fairly inconsequential play becomes a fine evening's theatre.

Set in the seventies, this is a period piece about suburban lower middle-class social aspirations colliding with the culture of the next lot up, the "middle middle class". It starts with a stilted gathering of neighbours at one of their houses but ends in outrageous chaos.

The period set from Carole Philip is superb; so is that ghastly suite of furniture - plastic and bright orange.

Casting is outstanding: the five contrasting characters are played with subtlety. There's boring workaholic estate agent Laurence (Phil Lowe) and his sexually frustrated wife Beverley (Alison Hope), with their pooterish accents. There's the garrulous Angela (Holly Gillanders) and her husband Tony (John Parker), a glowering, monosyllabic ex-footballer who looks like a boxer. And there's Susan (Michelle Smith), who's suffering on two fronts: she's not only putting up with the other four; her teenage daughter, the unseen Abigail, is having a house-wrecking party next door.

The social embarrassment and awkwardness, the intra-marital tensions, the flirting between Beverley and Tony, the faux pas from Angela; all these and more are beautifully done.

It's amazing how times have changed. What was once quite go-getting, for instance frozen pizza, is now a bit chav, and people smoke fags as if they're good for you.

Go see, if you can get a seat.

Alan Geary

Thursday, 1 October 2009

I am NOT getting a cold! Not now.

Five days to go before our opening night of Abigail's Party and I come down with a stinky cold! Grrr! I refuse to have a cold for the run of the play. So far I have concocted a delicious fruity drink of fresh oranges, blueberries and ground cloves to top up on the vit C. To relieve the catarrhal symptoms I have been out and got some real licorish and ginger root and camomile tea and peppermint essential oil for a steam inhalation.

Also been adding lots of garlic to my food too. Feeling healthier already - even if I do stink of garlic.