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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!

Sunday, 7 November 2010

My first Saturday working at Tesco.

Yesterday was the first Saturday that the new Tesco store in Beeston was open to the public and boy was it busy! Very busy!

I arrived at work at 6am and was on my meat counter at 6.10am ready for action, albeit a bit sleepy. It was my responsibility to set out the meat counter for this day’s trading and this meant creating an attractive display to Tesco’s high standards using my knowledge from the excellent training we have all received three weeks prior to opening coupled with a good visual sense and fifteen years of butchery skills from working in the meat trade in the 1970s and 1980s.

As well as setting out the display and prepping up things like the minced steak and casserole steak pieces I was also engaged in creating attractive racks of lamb and decorating them with little paper hats and stringing up boneless loins of pork to cut up into lean little joints for sale. To make the three unit meat display look good there were approximately thirty separate sections to create and replenish ready for service at 8am.

Phil and Alan
Alongside of me was my mate Paul – the fishmonger – creating his own beautiful display of fresh fish and seafood on a sparkling bed of ice with help from our manager Natasha. All of the counters displays had to be ultra nice this Saturday as some major managers were visiting the store and the all the preparation areas had to be shown as sparkling clean at the end of our preparations. No pressure then!

Paul on his excellent fish counter.
Before my first break I had to visit the big industrial chiller room at the back of the store to replenish the counter fridges and make sure that I didn’t run out of things like Willow Farm fresh chickens that are on offer at only £2.50 and were flying out, sometimes being bought four at a time. When I opened the chiller room door the space had recently had a huge delivery and it took me quite a while to find anything connected to the counters area. The act of searching around the storage trays then made me perceive myself to be well behind with my work and chasing my tail, so to speak.

rack of lamb
Time working on the counters goes amazingly quickly and although I didn’t get a break until 10.50am I was astonished to discover that nearly four hours had flown by. My colleague Alan appeared on the meat counter about 10.30am to find me whizzing around serving customers and trying to replenish the counters and clean up at the same time. It was like the proverbial cavalry had arrived and I was very pleased to see him putting on his white coat, apron and paper hat. All through this process our manager Natasha and team leader Rebecca were there supporting us and guiding us with solid advice and encouragement as well as physically helping out when needed. You could describe the day as being a foodie baptism of fire. :0)

I had my break and then came back down to the shop floor to continue a very busy working day grafting alongside Alan and operating as a real two man team. Alan is a lovely bloke and has over thirty years experience in the meat trade having run his own business with his late father in Chilwell.

Those fresh chickens on offer were hardly out on the chiller, onto the counter and into the customers’ hands before you could turn around and repeat the process again and again. Alan and I agreed that all of Beeston and Broxtowe Borough Council would be having chicken for tea last night! Oh and half price sausages!

I worked until 4.30pm and we were constantly busy on the meat counter as were our counterparts Paul and Martin on the Fish counter. I hardly had a chance to notice what was happening on the deli and cooked chickens counters. I guess they were equally as busy.

Only once, when the mincing machine decided to chew up the steak pieces to mince, did I feel tense. This was more out of frustration at myself for not getting the machine parts assembly correctly alligned. The rest of the time I felt very energised and loved serving the customers and being knowledgeable and pleasant for them. I also enjoyed being there for Alan and supporting him by doing some prep after my official finishing time of 4pm and making sure he wasn’t left with a mess to clear up.

Confucius once said that: A man who is passionate about his job never has to work another day in his life. I think that I am one of the lucky ones who is in such a position. As I write this it is now Sunday and I may be tired and aching, but I am ‘appy.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Sausage overkill

I saw this sign outside a butcher's shop in a small town near to Nottingham. They certainly have a big and exotic range of sausages. Would you fancy any of them?