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Thursday, 29 April 2010

Not so Hairy Biker

Si and Dave (TVs Hairy bikers) are on the road and have left the little known - not so hairy biker - Phil to look after the kitchen and cookery demos. In this video Phil shows how to make a decent cup of tea - or cuppa. The dialect is broad Geordie (sort of).

The real Hairy Bikers.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Healthier and wealthier

Times are a bit skintsville in Phil-land at the moment so I am watching the pennies even more and have decided to spend wisely and eat more healthy food. Inspired by Rick Stein and his Far Eastern Odyssey dvd I thought I'd give stir frys a go and so I trotted off to the Victoria Centre market in Nottingham and bought some king prawns and stir fry veg. I originally wanted crevettes but the fishmonger said he hadn't got any as they were too expensive. I was a bit shocked therefore to 'shell out' nearly a fiver (£5) for six of the little buggers. Would you believe that on the other fishmonger's stall they had the ellusive crevettes on display. I looked into their little black eyes and thought for a moment about returning to the original stall to get my money back but chickened out, or is that 'shellfished out'?

The veg market is next door to the fishmongers and butchers and I had in mind buying some bean sprouts and green beans. The bean sprouts were 48p so I got those, but turned down a paltry bag of mouldy looking french beans at 98p. I was sure I could get twice as many and fresher looking at my village grocer. I did however get tempted by some young asparagus shoots although the absorbed vendor was more interested in what was going on on his mobile phone than serving me.

Moving on, I went across town to Han's Chinese Supermarket in Hockley and got myself some fish sauce and pak choi leaves. Once back in my village I availed myself of a few cold beers to 'help' with the cooking and upon going into the local greengrocers on High Street for mushrooms I discovered all the veg I'd bought showing at two thirds the price!!!

The king prawns took about ten minutes to peel and covered my fingers in orangey gunk. There was almost more bits to discard than there were bits to eat. Next door's cat was watching me from the windowsill outside and was head butting the windowframe in a desperate attempt to eat the raw prawns. Her nose was pressed hard onto the glass and her eyes were as big as a plate.

I made the stir fry with chopped ginger and garlic and a de-seeded and finely chopped pepper as well as the bean sprouts, asparagus, button mushrooms and prawns. It took about half an hour to prepare and the cold beers certainly did help.

The following day I made another stir fry with egg riced rice and shared it with my neighbour. There are still cat nose prints on my window.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Playing with your food. Good or bad thing?

When I was a child and teenager living with my parents and subject to strict table manners, myself and my other siblings were often told off for 'playing' with our food.

This was often 'pea sharks swimming through the sea of gravy in the Yorkshire puddings' or making house shapes out of mashed potato and emulating Desperate Dan cow pies as we stuck the sausages into the mashed spuds. I'm sure that we did lots of similar things too and would love to hear of your own experiences and do you still play with your food before you eat it?

Me? Of course I don't play with food anymore... well, not often. Tee hee.

Die!!! Die!!! Gingerbread man!!!

Sunday, 11 April 2010

A good afternoon

I sometimes find it hard to relax and do nothing but today I enjoyed a good afternoon watching a moving film about the poet John Keats and his lover Miss Brown (Bright Star) and broke the time by doing some domestic clothes washing and I threw together a small salad from some camembert and saucisson sec and fresh bread. It was a nice afternoon and I had a little rest in bed for an hour before opening a bottle of Italian red wine and warming up a based tomato chorizo stew. It's been a nice day.

Next door's cat also came out for a fuss and cuddle.

Friday, 9 April 2010

Oh Sophie! I think I've fallen in love with Sophie Dahl.

Call me fickle in the kitchen fantasy department but Nigella is like soooo last week for me now. :0) She knows I don't mean it really. Don't you darling? Nigella? Ni-gella? Come back! But but but - you were my fridge goddess!

However,moving on, I have recently been catching up on the BBCiplayer with the culinary adventures of Sophie Dahl in her chintzy TV kitchen and soft focus adventures into finger sucking and cooing - sorry - cooking. I have watched her three programmes so far - titled , nostalgia, romance and selfish, and enjoyed them all in a very very English way. Ahem.

 How many men, I wonder, imagine being entrapted in her chintzy tv kök (unfortunate Swedish word for kitchen) while she cooks up something delish, yet simple, for two. Something fresh and sexy. In addition, those same poor souls have to imagine spending the time utterly enraptured by a combination of her 'voluptuous pale blonde beauty in a soft woolen cardi' and her feminine silken tones. She is just sooo luuuurvley. Well, maybe it's just my fantasy.  Jamie Cullum? Who? Wedding? What? Jazz singer? It's a lie!

Hmmmm. Tastes good.

Well, regardless of a certain Mr Cullum, I look forward to many more evenings in warmly cuddled up with the 'delicious Miss Dahl' as she will be forever known to me and thousands of lustees and cookery fans. Could you whip me up a sexy lemon meringue please Soph? Sophie darling, do that thing you do so well with peas and mint and can you mek us a cuppa duck? I'll share the ginger biscuits with you. Promise. Hmm, you smell nice ...

Dreaming of Phil no doubt.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Take a trip the Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem

Situated in historical Nottingham this is a unique pub which claims to be the oldest in Great Britain. It is full of atmosphere and I recently went back with some German friends during the theatre exchange last week and also a month or so ago with my friend Marian.

It is quite small inside and can get packed but where else can you discover that your watering hole is in the middle of sandstone caves and is reputedly haunted? The ranges of beer are worth revisiting for and the last time we went they had an offer where if you ordered five pints (to share of course) you would get a free tee shirt. The little room at the back tends to get a bit warm especially when you cram in thirty plus boisterous theatre folk. At times we had to open the back door to let in some cool air and watch the rain teem down outside.

When I went with my friend Marian we enjoyed a hot roast beef and Yorkshire pudding wrap served with nicely cooked chips and peas and a little jug of gravy. It was very good and served quickly at a decent price of £7.45. I downloaded a menu from their site at today and had another look at their fare. I counted sixteen main courses including a cheese and bacon burger with a 100% British beef burger and Chiltern cured ham and eggs . Reading about the traditional hand battered Fish and Chips served with mushy peas and tartare sauce today made me feel hungry even at 9am in the morning. In addition their Suffolk sausages sounded lip smackingly good and come with a choice of different mashed potatoes, traditional, cheese or chive . For those veggies amongst us the menu offered peppered mushroom suet pudding served with mashed potatoes, peas and Colman’s diane sauce. There was also a cauliflower and Irish Cheddar cheese tart served with mixed salad.

The little snug at the back

Some English and German friends enjoying a pint or two.

For those who aren’t bothered about a full meal they offer some very nice sandwiches, oven baked jacket potatoes and various side orders and yummy desserts such as the rhubarb and custard crumble cheesecake. As a food writer I found the actual text of the menu very appealing. It was in a clear and friendly typeface and the descriptions promoted the English nature of the food sources and were written to whet one’s appetite and not of the sort of flowery prose that some eating places use to make the dishes sound appealing.

There were a nice selection of beers ranging from Olde Trip, Green King IPA, Old Speckled Hen, Abbot Ale and Extra Pale Ale and they seemed to go down very well with our German visitors from Karlsruhe and myself.

My good friend Markus (left) from Karlsruhe is a bit of a fan of this pub and so I returned yesterday morning and asked the barman if I could take some pictures. Of course at eleven o’clock the pub was empty so I had a chance to get some good interior shots and a half pint of Olde Trip, of course!

Now I wonder if they do breakfasts?

Sunday, 4 April 2010

A great social time with our German friends from Karlsruhe

This last week, apart from one morning where I had to attend a family funeral, was a wonderful time working with the local theatre that I belong to hosting thirty Germans on a cultural exchange with Nottingham's twin city, Karlsruhe. The two groups, the Die Käuze theatre and the Jakobus theatre, brought two plays to perform at our theatre. One was called Die Hochmütigen and the other, Komödie im Dunkeln. Both were very professional offerings in their own right. I am planning to write more in depth in my other blog at about these experiences.

What I want to write about here is the social aspect and how, despite the weather being horrible outside, a shared love of the theatre and warm friendships and great food can make a potentially miserable week weatherwise, a very happy one.

The inside of our theatre bar space

I was drafted in to help organise the catering side of things which all went very well. We had a light lunch provided for the Die Käuze  group's arrival on Sunday lunch as well as a welcome tea or coffee. On Monday the other group arrived late in the morning and we all enjoyed some delicious shared food around one o'clock. On both arrival evenings each member of their casts would have been given a nice meal at their English hosts' house and made to feel very welcomed.

Throughout the week we enjoyed a chilli con carne and a lamb tagine with peppers and couscous and a wonderful chorizo and tender beef stew as well as the meals that the Germans went out for in the city of Nottingham. On the last night I saved the day by getting a table for twenty plus at  Nottingham's premier South Indian Kerali restuarant on Broad Street late on night after the last performance of Komödie im Dunkeln. It was only half past nine and everywhere else seemed to be shutting. My friend Alison told me that the Karlsruhe group told her that they really liked our Indian restuarants as they haven't got much like it at home.

On the Friday of the visit it is traditional that we all go in a coach for a visit to somewhere nice. This time we went to Woolsthorpe Manor, the birthplace of Issac Newton, near Grantham. This was a National Trust property and actually really interesting to look around and learn about the scientist and his discoveries. I particularly liked the house and the kitchens and had thoughts about finding out whether there was such a thing as a history of food and drink museum.

Straight after this we had a tea break at the NT venue and went into Stamford on the coach and enjoyed a light lunch together. There were about fifty people for this occasion and our theatre had organised a pleasant meal at a hotel where the options were a chicken based dish or red mullet plus a dessert of sticky chocolate pudding or a slice of lemon cake.

red mullet dish

Sticky toffee pudding with chocolate sauce.

Throughout the week there was plenty of drinking done at the theatre bar and also at the Trip to Jerusalem amongst others and despite the almost constant cold and rain we all enjoyed a good laugh with our German friends and we even invented a new language called Denglish, a combination of German (Deutsch) and English which made everyone giggle. Sorry, that's 'everyone zu lachen gemacht'.

sharing a joke about the wet weather

On the Friday night we had a farewell party with presentations and lovely food. It was all very convivial and on the Saturday morning we saw both groups off back home to Germany. I confess to getting a bit weepy as I always love these occasions and never want them to end.