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Tuesday, 28 December 2010

a small act of kindness

I was on the way home from work last night and arrived in Nottingham city centre about 6.45pm. I had a bit of time to kill before my bus connection at 7.30pm and the remainder of my journey to my warm and comfortable home and food and drink. As I walked down one of the side streets on the way to the busy Market Square I saw a guy in his thirties laying on cardboard on the street. It was a very cold night and my legs were cold enough just walking through town. I couldn't imagine what a life would be like living on the streets especially in this extremely cold weather. I continued on my way...

The look on the fella's face as I handed him a cup of hot coffee and a cookie from a local cafe a few minutes later was very rewarding. As I wished him well I realised how lucky I am to be in work and have the security of a roof over my head.

image from the internet.

PS: It was shocking enough to witness this homeless man but even more shocking was the fact that several people were queuing at the cash machine a yard away from the supine man and I got the impression he was almost invisible to them.

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Merry Fishmas

smoked salmon with lemon
It was a bit of a last minute decision but I decided to have a fishy Christmas this year. Smoked salmon with lemon and a dusting of ground pepper for breakfast (and two boiled eggs) and a salmon en croute for Christmas lunch with roast potatoes cooked in goose fat accompanied with mashed carrots and potatoes with garden peas and a chiffonard of fresh basil. Just kinda made it up as I went along. Somewhere along the way two bottles of French red wine have been imbibed and I watched Rick Stein's Cornish Christmas on bbc iplayer as I cooked. This afternoon I watched Patrick Stewart as Scrooge in a channel four film of A Christmas Carol and then went for a doze before catching up with the Christmas edition of Doctor Who tonight. A cool Yule so far. The cats from next door have been in and out for treats and Christmas cuddles.

My Christmas dinner 

Cosy Christmas

Friday, 24 December 2010

some news from the past and Happy Christmas

Yesterday I heard from former work colleagues that the cafe that I worked as a kitchen porter is to close due to the  improvements to the Broadmarsh Shopping Centre in early January 2011. I am so pleased that I made the efforts to get out of there and start my journey in getting work with Tesco. It cost me two thousand pounds plus of  my savings to exist off the dole for a few months and with some trepidation but all along I was convinced that I would work with Tesco as a butcher and lo it came to pass. What follows are a series of pictures showing my parts of my journey.

The kitchen.
my kitchen porter corner
some of my work friends

my poorly hands

cafe cup cakes

the cafe in July 2010

I have now been employed by the much more secure firm of Tesco for over two months and I look forward to starting 2011 by studying for a meat counter diploma. In the meantime I am relaxing for two days for the Christmas holidays and want to wish all my readers a Very Happy Christmas and Happy New Year.

Phil xx

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

garlic and rosemary leg of lamb with cous cous

After taking out the two leg bones out of the leg of English lamb recently bought half price from Tesco I punctured the lamb flesh with a sharp knife about twenty times over it's surface. I inserted slithers of pre-cut fresh garlic bulbs and fresh rosemary leaves from my garden and trussed up the leg with some butcher's string. With the remainder of the rosemary and garlic I made a paste by adding some mustard seeds and ground the combination with my wooden mortar in my wooden pestle. I bathed the lamb in plain olive oil and cooked in the oven at gas mark 5. The lamb got cooked for two and half hours and for the last half hour I added a knob of butter to the roast. Two or three times during the cooking I basted the lamb to keep the flesh succulent.

trussed lamb and annointments
Meanwhile I used some Moroccan style cous cous from a packet (Co-op) and some haricot vertes for a simple yet very tasty meal. The joint itself will last at least three days. I am considering buying another leg and making a tagine style dinner for Christmas.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

message from planet cat

The handsome Mr Harris
Hi, we are the cats. My name is Mr Harris (named after the former capital of the volcanic isle of Montserrat in the West Indies) and my sister is Miss Soufie (named after the Soufrir hills - the actual, still active, volcanic range). We is da catz from next door to Phil and we were very privileged to be rescued a few years ago from the torrid, hellish lava flows of Montserrat. Well actually, life for us, was somewhat less dramatic in reality but, we have suffered getting grey volcanic ash in our fur and paws and have killed rats for our keep in our kittenhood. Nowadays we love having loving owners who adore us and who like to travel. A lot.

We know that we have been mentioned in this blog. Blog- now that sounds like the word dog, non? Not happy about that. That - now that is a word that sounds like cat - much better. We cats are ace at abstract thinking.

Anyway, moving on, Phil and friends, Anna, Jon and Sue are looking after us whilst our real owners (Jo and Mick) are away sunning it up in New Zealand and Papua New Guinea. Envious us? Not a bit of it. Hiss! Spit!

Note to Jo and Mick: You'd better bring us something decent back or the furniture gets it bigtime and we would consider multiple peeing in the bath in order to express our ill feelings. Think on. And ... btw litter trays are for wussy kittens!!! Yeah!! Even in the snow! We is hard moggies who, nevertheless, like soft soil for our soiling not compact ice and savagely cold minus temperatures. Numbingly cold cat bums do not make us happy pussies.Ok, keep the litter tray situation for a bit please. It may be like an English Summer in NZ cobbers, but not here in below zero land.

The inquisitive Miss Soufie

So anyway readers,  we are  now getting used to titbits from our kindly neighbour Phil (neighbor- for those with English spelling difficulties in  the USA). Unca Phil  is unconditionally generous with food and gives us beaten raw egg and sumptous scraps from his roast pork joint plus warm chicken treats. We love it!

Sadly, the other day, in an unusually random moment, he 'tried us out' with cold Vietnamese river cobbler fish bits. Urgh!!!! Frankly we felt that packets of Sheba are much more preferable. Incidently, Philip, the tuna chunks  you keep 'treating us with' are sooooo last year, don't ya know? Tuna is for losers.

When we come to visit Unca Phil and drag ourselves reluctantly away from our fab cat tv system with suround sound ( the new cat flap, next door) we love to cover Phil with our spare hairs and hang around his house looking cosmically trendy and interesting. He seems to like this, even when he drags himself  home from work at 11pm on Thursday night. He may be knackered, can barely lift a beer bottle to his parched lips. but he still gives us a fuss and plays with us. One night he even let Harris stay over and sleep on his bed. Is there no end to his love and patience?

This morning we turned up, a deux.  musically caterwauling and growling outside his front door at 5am. Well, no problem there as Phil was planning to go to work at 6am anyway and was just aching to stroke us as he woke up with his brandy and beer induced hangover. He is a star. Occasionally we cats like to scrap with each other for no particular reason. It's great to be vocally noisy, tussle and be a nuisance - purely in a festive feline way.

Tonight we have been chilling on his cat distressed furniture and taunting him with our 'not been fed for weeks' looks. We are both very accomplished at the wide eyed and pitiful gaze. All we really want is a firm chuckie under the chin and a roaring log fire to relax in front off. Both of us are really looking forward to Christmas and unexpectedly attacking Phil's bare feet in bed as a token of Festive joy.

Happy Catmuss and here's hoping for no fleas from Santa.
Love and dribbles from Mr Harris and Miss Soufie.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

something a bit different

Lately, and whilst I have been off for two days with my poorly heel I have been expanding my cooking with some simple dishes. Both of them took only fifteen minutes to prepare and cook.

  • Vietnamese river cobbler fish with a  tangy lime and coriander sauce (one of the Schwartz range) with new season new potatoes and sugarsnap peas.

  • Spicy pork and chilli sausages (from the Co-op) and mashed potatoes made from sweet potatoes (a first for me) with a drizzle of hand made quince sauce by my friend Lisa. This was a previous Christmas present and I just added it to finish off the jar.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Ouch that hurt. I mean really hurt.

He took me into his private room and asked me to take my left shoe and sock off. Then he smiled and explained exactly what he was going do to me – step by step. I got all hot and sweaty. I had never done this kind of thing before. Then I had to stand up, bend over his table with one knee on the table, my bare foot facing toward him. He chuckled in a sado- avuncular sort of way.

“This may hurt – a lot.” He said. He started to massage my heel. What had I let myself into? An Asian uncle foot fetishist? “Just a small prick,” he warned, and then the deeply throbbing pain started. He stayed there behind me for three or four minutes comforting me in my discomfort. I was advised to stand still and it wouldn’t last long. This was my first time and hopefully my last. A short, eye watering time later he pulled it out and asked me to get dressed. He said that he’d done this many times before and promised to call me next week.

“Thank you doctor,” said I. He seemed to like that.

I was expecting another painful needle injection but he said he had done them both – the local anaesthetic and the steroid injection in my heel to help the discomfort I have put up with ~ in varying degrees ~ with plantar fasciitis for months.

Hang on. What did you think I was talking about?

I’m not needle phobic but it blummin’ well hurt and hopefully I won’t have to go back ever again. As I type the local anaesthetic hasn’t worn off. Gee, am I looking forward to that. Time to cook something nice whilst I can still stand. Have a good day.

comfort food, roast pork and spuds

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

a relaxed and chilly day, but then ...

Sunday lunch. Roast beef with and onion gravy and veg
All started OK with the promise of re-heating some boneless rib beef I cooked on Sunday and an easy warm winter meal. Today started with a lovely walk enjoying the natural beauties of a hoare frost and some life enhancing photography around my village and Nottingham.

blocked kitchen sink

lagged pipe

brute force and ice particles

Then I discovered that the kitchen outflow pipe that had frozen on Sunday and had been lagged by yours truly had decided to freeze again. Reluctantly I took it all to bits, banged out the ice and re-assembled the piping in my amateur way. Now it drips both ends and I think that I may have broken the seal. Bugger. Meanwhile the cats from next door (oblivious of the tension) are constantly mooching bits of beef from me. I have phoned the plumber and await his call.

Harris and Soufie begging for food. bless 'em.
Ah well more medium dry Amontillado sherry and hot mince pies for me then. I look forward to the ice flow feature outside my kitchen tomorrow morning.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

A bit of skirt and something off the shoulder

beef stew made from skirt of beef

shoulder of lamb dinner
Just recently the weather has turned rather icy and cold, so much so that my outflow pipe froze on Sunday and I had to dismantle it and knock out the cylindrical blocks of ice so that water could again flow freely from my kitchen sink to the drainage system. So, it's been the weather where one wants warm nourishing food whilst the snow flurries descend. So far I have cooked a wonderful beef skirt stew with simple mashed spuds and basic veg and today I cooked a boneless shoulder of lamb for two hours in my Aga (ahem, knackered 1970s oven) and ate it with new season potatoes and carrots and green beans with a gravy from the cooking juices. As I type Mr Harris the cat from next door is watching the snow fall rather heavily outside.

rolled shoulder of lamb with rosemary

cooked, boned and rolled shoulder of lamb joint

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

It started in the kitchen and ended in the bedroom. Phew!

Not quite the steamy adventure you might be lusting for but certainly since I had my kitchen and stairwell decorated I have felt the need to tart up the rest of the house, starting with the bedroom. I have decided to stay at my rented house in Ruddington rather than move to Beeston.

From off-white walls and a grubby white ceiling I ventured to refresh my decor by utilising Dulux's 'Wellbeing' green and a cream colour from the excess paint from the kitchen for the ceiling. My poor old muscles aren't used to that much excerise and the Sunday (first day of decorating) was very hard work and I muscled on from 9am to 6pm in order to get the majority of the ceiling and a first coat on the walls and alcoves done. On Monday (feeling very creaky) I gave the end of the bedroom a second coat and then ran out of paint. Darn, next stop Wilko's.

Tuesday saw me devoting three hours to finishing off and looking back in admiration.

Of late I have been looking at my book shelves and organising them as well as giving the bedroom a good clean and hoover. Next stop the bathroom!
the newly finished bedroom and Monka the monkey happy on his bed.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

My Sunday dinner: Spiced brisket of beef.

Brisket joint and butcher's string.
Slow broil Brisket joint in oven for three hours on gas mark 4 or 160 on electric. Pre-cooking, spike the brisket joint with three or four cloves and add three bay leaves and a sprinkling of garden fresh thyme to the cooking water. Cover with foil and place in lower part of oven.  Add peeled onions after an hour and peel carrots and scrub new potatoes. Cook new potatoes for the last half hour along with carrots and frozen peas.

the halfway process

 Half way through the cooking add a generous amount of red wine to cooking liquor. Baste beef joint regularly throughout cooking process, For the last ten minutes pop the shop bought Yorkshire puddings into the oven to cook through. I know 'shop bought'. I heard you shudder yet so easy and more time for wine drinking. Who could argue with that?

Add some butter to drained potatoes and a liberal shake of ground pepper. Once on the plate dress the plate with a generous amount of horseradish sauce to accentuate the delicious beef. Use the rich and sumptuous cooking juices as a gravy. Enjoy!

A Merlot of French Fitou is a good choice to go with this dish.

ready to eat

A fishy tale

Every so often in my working day I have to help out on the fish counter next to the meat counter that is my main place to work and in which subject I am the most experienced. So, come breaks and my colleagues visits to the chiller and walk in freezer for stock replenishment I cover the fish counter as well as my own. I have have no proper experience of filleting fish or of offering good cooking advice (as yet) but I hope to quickly learn these skills. Last night I purchased a whole sea bass on offer at £2.50 and cooked it with a peppered butter and some new potatoes and haricot vertes.

Somehow you just have to have some wine and so I picked up a very nice South African Fish Hoek 2009 Shiraz from Tesco to go with it. It was all rather scrummy and the free peppered butter melted over the dish was sublime. Just what I needed after a hard day working since 6am. I was in bed by 10am and slept for twelve hours solid.

I have a long way to go before I am as experienced in offering cooking advice as the current fishmongers Paul, Martin and Cherie but I hope to catch up soon and be filleting like the best of 'em.

The other day I took some time to compile a rough list of what the fish counter in the Beeston branch have on offer. I'm assuming that the list is similar to Tescos around the country.

Smoked fish: Dyed whole kippers, Boneless smoked salmon fillets, Smoked haddock fillets, Scottish smoked boned kippers, Smoked Vietnamese river cobbler,Smoked un-dyed haddock fillets, Smoked cod loin.

Also: Atlantic cod fillets, Rainbow trout, Tilapia fillets, Whole sea bass, Whole mackerel, Sea bass fillets, Skinless, boneless haddock loin, Boneless salmon fillets, Skinless, boneless, Atlantic cod loin, Live sketland isle mussels, Whole squid, Whole salmon, Whole haddock, Cornish Monkfish tails, Coley fillets, Ray wings, Red Tilapia, Salmon fillets, Tuna steak, Haddock fillets, Boneless Salmon fillets, Whole Herring, Seafood cocktail, Whole raw langoustines, Haddock fishcakes, Fish pie mix, Garlic and herb salmon, Hot smoked mackerel fillets, Cooked and dressed brown crabs, Cooked whole lobsters, Jellied eels (now discontinued).

I occasionally get drafted over to the deli section to serve and this means a change of apron and a thorough hand washing as I am moving from raw produce to cooked. I enjoy this too and look forward to being more informed about the ranges of cheeses and cooked meats. Altogether I am loving my new job and the daily challenges it offers. Never bored and the time just zipps by.

Friday, 12 November 2010

long hours and langoustines

Waiting in the cold and wet at some ungodly hour.

The 5.35am bus to Nottingham
This post could really be described as a photo blog with added words. At Tesco,  I currently work about thirty-nine hours a week and yesterday, (Thursday night), I finished at 9.40pm and started work again at 6.30am the next day. Nothing about the 'times worked' bothers me, but it was a case of me getting home at 11pm on Thursday evening, crawling into bed and then getting up again at 4.45am on Friday to catch the 5.35am bus into Nottingham in order to start setting up my meat counter at 6.30am to be ready for the public at 8.30am. All good fun, and tranquil bus journeys with fellow early starters including some Asda workers.

There is a man who gets on the bus in his summer shirt sleeves on freezing mornings but, who I am to judge? Early morning traveller viewing today, included a man in a silver stetson staggering up Derby Road, a homeless person still begging on a chilly morning outside the Angel Row branch of  McDonalds', and a facially challenged dwarf leaning enigmatically against a lamppost, amidst the half light, by the practically deserted city market place.

Half asleep on the way to work.
Back to my bus journeys to work. I catch two buses to get me to Beeston on time. Firstly I get the No 10 bus to town, and then the Indigo bus to Beeston  from the yellow-lit, slightly dodgy- Broadmarsh bus station. The Indigo bus's final destination is Derby. If I ever get there I am am in real trouble!

Tesco Beeston store at 6.22am

(one minute earlier)  Beeston bus station at 6.21am
Once in work and through security, it takes me ten to fifteen minutes to get myself organised so that I can start setting up my meat counter. Give or take a 'wee' appointment prior to entering the shop floor. And Yes, I do wash my hands.

Alongside me, working in relative concentrated silence is - my mate Paul.  This Friday morning, Paul is compacting the ice for his fish counter and arranging the fish attractively. Myself, I am arranging my own meat display according to what offers are currently on offer. Presently we have half price top beef roasting joints and rolled loin of pork joints, plus' some smaller offers. I spent two hours plus on Thursday night stringing up many a loin pork joint ready for the offers deluge over the weekend. My hands have a remembrance of the callousing from my original butchery experience from many years ago.

Rolled loins of pork (strung by the author!)
Both Paul and I,  finish our displays about 8.30am and take a well deserved break namely: a refreshing cuppa and an English breakfast in the staff canteen. I'm pleased to have found my missing glasses on top of the mincer machine but, concerned that my Tesco badge is still not to be found after my dashed departure from work last night to connect with my various buses home.
smoked fish selection
The day today, was reasonably busy, and I felt confident enough to explain to a couple what the Chateaubriand was on the beef fillet joint. She had had Chateaubriand in France. It was the lady's birthday and they bought a decent amount of fillet steak and other products. Of course there were lots of other customers, but I don't feel that this is the forum to discuss customers, good or bad.

The topside joints seemed particularly visually and culinarilly attractive and I was constantly engaged in filling that item up and pricing the replenished joints. The day previous, I had made some THIS JOINT tickets on my home computer and in their laminated state they proved very valuable to the business on the meat counter, as Tesco continue to settle into Beeston. Without them I would estimate that we would have sold only half of the joints that that we did eventually sell. Customers are sometimes nervous to ask how much something is and the actual price shown on the ticket eases their concern of overspending or embarrassment at possible affordability.

During today I enjoyed helping the various customers including a Chinese man who wanted a lot of pork items. Yesterday, I saw several friends from places I have worked in the past and it was good to see them and connect with them again and for them to see that I am happy in my new role.

Similarly I am getting to know my workmates more including Martin who works on the fish counter. He  a fun character who is passionate about customer service and building his knowledge about fish and shellfish.

As a final note I would like to say that I am still very happy in my role and am enjoying every aspect of the work challenge.

Phil at Tesco's.
The missing Tesco's badge appeared tonight from the depths of my rucksack and even though I swear that I have searched my rucksack several times I am still at a loss how it could have possibly have appeared out of the blue. Hey ho!