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Monday, 30 May 2011

cafe life and a celebration of over three hundred blogposts.

I was sitting having a coffee in Caffe Nero (Beeston-Notts) last week and was inspired by all the convivial banter and cafe noises to make a sound recording and began thoughts on how I could demonstrate my love of sitting with a coffee in nice surroundings and watching the world go by. Like many people I have sat in plenty of cafes and bistros, my faves being Caffe Nero, Cafe Rouge and a few in Bordeaux like the Utopia cinema cafe and an unpretentious cafe brasserie in the main shopping street, rue Ste Catherine. The Broadway cinema cafe in Nottingham is also a fave and I often pop in for a cheap mug of filter coffee.

cafe on Rue Ste Catherine. Bordeaux

I hope that you enjoy the short video and celebrate with me just passing my three hundredth blog post. All the images have been taken lovingly by myself and took two days to sort out and download and upload. A labour of love you might call it.

Phil in the Cafe Utopia

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Chicken liver pâté on toast. Hmmm!

Chicken liver pâté, I hadn't had any of this since 1983 when I first left home and lived with an actor friend called Mike Leech. I was a butcher at the time and I brought home regular collections of chicken livers from my job and Mike made the delicious spread. So, last Monday I ventured out to the Victoria Market in Nottingham and got myself a block of frozen chicken livers which I de-frosted and made the dish in my kitchen.

You don't need a great deal of ingredients: chicken livers, an onion, some freshly chopped parsley or coriander, freshly crushed garlic, a couple of slices of lean bacon, a handful of button mushrooms, bay leaves, salt and pepper, unsalted butter and half a glass of sherry or red wine. Voila! The only issue is waiting until the next day to try it!

bacon and crushed garlic frying with onion

washed chicken livers and chopped coriander

half cooked chicken livers
add two bay leaves

pour in some melted butter

stir in chopped coriander or parsley and add mushrooms
pour in sherry or red wine
cook through and bask in delicious buttery, garlicky aromas

enjoy a glass or two yourself
add mixture to food processor and blunge
place in bowls, add more bay leaves and butter on top
Now here is the really difficult bit. After all that cooking and the delicious smells you have to wait until the butter sets on top. In my case it was the next day when I could taste my dish with some toast. I had cooked enough for three shallow pie dishes so I gave away two to my neighbours who both pronounced it mouth wateringly delicious! I have to concur.

spread on toast and eat

oh yes! oh yes!

Monday, 23 May 2011

Fun and danger on the fish counter.

As part of my job I often cover for the fresh fish counter and enjoy working with the fish and shellfish. See earlier blogpost for more details about me working on the fish counter. A Fishy tale blogpost. November 2010

As I say, I enjoy working there as I am learning more about handling and advising about fish every day. My work mates are fun to work with but some of the dead fish can be surprisingly aggressive. Oh yeah those sea bass might look cute and shiny as they bathe in the ice waiting to be snapped up by an eager buyer but they are as evil as Titan and his Terror Fish from  the 1960's tv programme, Stingray.

The fins on the Bass fish fold flat when they are dead and blend in with the rest of the fish. Then when you are filleting the fish or even picking it up to weigh, the blighters jab their needle sharp fin bones into your soft fingers. Oh how the customers laugh as you emit a loud  "ow!" Some of the customers even look shocked as you view your stinging and bloody finger, whilst running for the first aid box for a blue plaster. Sometimes we have to fillet a dozen or more at a time for the oriental customers (often restaurant owners) and the exercise can turn into a fishy Russian roulette. Five done and still not stabbed, six done and still not stabbed, seven done and still not "ow! you bass -tard!" The last word being muttered under your breath, of course. De-scaling can be hazardous too with silvery scales flirting right, left and centre with the possibility of one or two in your eye.

evil bass
There are other beasties to be wary of such as the bony red tilapia fish, the scratchy bodies and claws of the langoustines and the scary horror film teeth of the hake. At least on the Tesco fish counter we don't have to deal with the crazy crustaceans like razor clams,  live crabs, live crayfish and live lobsters that appear on the 'traditional'  independent fishmongers counters.

hake and a very nervous mackerel
Then there are the dangers that can happen all the time like slipping on a patch of ice water, banging your vulnerable hands on the metal counter, cutting open your hands on very sharp knives (wearing chain mail gloves help prevent this from happening) or having random fish bones take a unexpected trip down your finger nail and probably the worse of the lot... I even shudder as I think about this one...

What can be the worst thing then Philip? Do tell us. Do you really wanna know? Yes! Yes! Stop teasing! The worst thing is getting drenched with a groin full of pongy cod water as you open a box of fresh fish where the ice has partially melted. One: it looks like you have pissed yourself, two: you stink and three it is wet and uncomfortable until you get a chance to get changed. In my case you also have the potential embarrassment of travelling home whiffing strongly of cod juice on a hot bus later in the day.

The job can be fun too but we are not really able to get up to the extremes of fun like the Pike Place fish stall in Seattle where they shout, banter, engage the customers and throw the large fish around.

Pike Place fishmongers in Seattle

Catch that pike!!
So, as you are eating your lovely fillets of fish please consider the potential dangers that brought this creature to your plate. Then of course there are the real dangers of catching the fish in the first place on the high seas. That's another level of danger completely and makes a poorly finger look I would be a complete wimp for complaining.

'Commercial fishing is one of the top ten most hazardous jobs. The Coast Guard estimates that 80% of accidents are caused by human error, and few sailors survive a commercial fishing accident on the open water. There are the risks of working on very slippery and oily surfaces in adverse weather; the chances of dismemberment or death from getting trapped by heavy machinery and being miles out at sea. There are  also wires zipping about the surface of the ship’s deck as the fish are brought aboard and sometimes visibility can be very poor. These, among many other potential dangers can lead to loss of life or serious injury’.

I think that I'll stick behind my counter thanks. "Pass the bass please. No!!! Don't throw it!" I said "Don't throw it!" OW!!

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Nothing in the house to eat...

Please tell me I'm not alone in this confession!

In an effort to spend less and use up what I do already have I dragged all my foodstuffs kicking and screaming into the daylight and a photo session. Thanks to Karen for showing me how to create mosaics otherwise this blog post would have been full of about thirty pictures of groups of food. I even made a list of the items to alert myself that I DO have plenty to eat in the house without necessarily trotting off to the shops.  I am determined to use some of this collection up and save myself some cash. I’ve already started by making the slightly dry ciabatta bread into garlic bread rather than binning the bread because it has become inedible in a day or two. Last night I cooked the tomato sausages and ate some of them cold for supper. Today I will make myself sandwiches  for dinner rather than buying lunch at work. Well, that’s a start anyway.

Here’s the list from my own kitchen. I was actually quite shocked at what I had in already and have never used. A lot of things I will have bought on a whim during a shopping trip.
The List.

Short crust pastry mix. Aromatic black bean sauce. Colman’s sausage casserole mix. Puy lentils. Bonne Maman blackberry jam. Marmalade from my neighbour, Jo. Sharwood’s Mango Chutney.
Hot horseradish sauce. French mustard. Tomato sauce. HP brown sauce. Ground nutmeg. Hot chilli powder. Dried oregano. Cinnamon. More nutmeg. Fennel seeds. Olive oil. Soy sauce. Light soy sauce. Balsamic vinegar. Fish sauce. Bonne Maman apricot conserve. Creamed horseradish sauce. Jalfrezi paste. Merchant sun dried tomatoes. Gherkins. Sweet pickled red cabbage.Runny honey.

Tomato soup. Marrow fat processed peas. Mushroom soup. Butter beans. Ratatouille. Chopped tomatoes.Fresh tomatoes and mushrooms. Dried sausages and tomato sausages. Brown and white sugar.Eggs, rice and pasta. Teas and coffee. Lots of herbs and spices. Chocolate buttons and mint chocolate.

In the fridge there is also milk, two bottles of beer, olive spread, a slab of slightly past its eat by date Ardennes  pâte, a bag of parmesan cheese, butter and loose new potatoes. In the freezer I found two bags of sweet corn, a new bag of petites pois (wonder why I bought them?), two containers of courgette tian, a chicken curry, some trays of chilli con carne and a tray of vegetables. At the back of the freezer I found a lonely mackerel that entered the frozen depths in October 2010 as well as a single pork chop and a beef burger and some scraps of vegetables  all of which would surely come in useful one day.

That’s not forgetting the items that didn’t get photographed like bread sticks, a bag of Mediterranean lentils, Co-op sardines in tomato sauce, Dr Oetker  baking powder and corn flower ,  Co-op flour for making cakes and almond oil.

It’s a shame I’ve nothing in the cupboards to eat then!?

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Chinese take-away treat.

It was Sunday night that I treated myself to a Chinese take-away. This is a very rare occasion for me because I find it difficult to justify the cost and end up going to the supermarket or local greengrocer to make something myself for a fraction of the price.

The village I live in is blessed with two Indian restaurants, two Chinese take-aways, an Italian restaurant and a whole host of other food based shops and cafés so I’m not exactly short of choices.

However, I had been working hard all week and had just been paid so I splashed out on some chicken and sweet corn soup (so yummy that it could develop into an MSG addiction), a carton of egg fried rice and some tasty sounding king prawns in garlic, ginger and spring onion. To this I ordered a portion of salty crispy seaweed for a bit of green crunch. Of course I went for the banana fritters too, one simply has to. It’s not a Chinese take-away without nana fritters, so sweet they make your teeth itch. The soup was very nice in a piping hot way and I ate about half the free bag of prawn crackers that came with it. The Happy Garden  take-away place I go to in the village always go a bit mad with the onions so the ‘king prawns in garlic and spring onion’ should have had the warning ‘bulked out with lots of onions’ added to the listing. The bill came to about thirteen pounds and as a little reward for my hard work I felt it was worth it.

After my meal there was quite a lot of rice left and an equal amount of crispy seaweed and I was determined not to just throw them away. I also intended to use a cooked crab that I had purchased from Tesco the following day and thought that the three items would go well together.

Monday is one of my days off and after spending the day shopping in Nottingham city centre I came home late afternoon and got cracking on preparing the meal by pulling the crab apart. This was a first for me and I checked out a few videos on the internet to get an idea what to do. I was surprised that the crab meat was mostly an orangey brown colour with the white meat in the claws.

Inspired by a glass of red wine from my neighbour I decided to make crab fish cakes with some mashed potato. Never made them before so I improvised by mashing the potatoes and mixing in the crab meat. Foolishly I thought that would suffice in binding the mixture together and after shaping the mix I heated some oil in the pan and set the two fishcakes to brown either side. Previously I re-heated the egg fried rice in some hot water. When I went to turn the fishcakes they just fell apart and ended up a mushy mess in the bottom of the frying pan. Retrospectively I should perhaps have bound them with an egg.

Inspired by two more glasses of  Côtes du Rhône 2006 wine of my own, I made the decision to make the best of my error and having drained the egg fried rice I added it to the pan, warmed the mixture through and served it to myself as ‘ egg fried rice and buttery crab mash’. As a garnish I sprinkled the crispy seaweed over the substantial dish. Actually, it tasted really nice and, inspired by my efforts, I enjoyed another glass of red wine and settled down to watch Rick Stein on dvd.

‘Dear Rick, as you are a seafood lover I wondered if you would like my recipe for fall apart crab fishcakes? I call it ‘egg fried rice, buttery crab mash and crispy seaweed’. My fee is...

Friday, 13 May 2011

The crab invasion and trussing up pork

Paul and myself
Although my work routines, on no one day, can be said to be predictable at Tesco, as well as setting up my meat display from early this Friday morning I dedicted some of the work time, early morning, to photographically documenting the counters at the Beeston branch by taking photos of the quality displays so that we can see that excellence is being maintained week-on-week.

fish counter display
My mate Paul, the fishmonger, created a very special display today including a veritable invasion of cooked brown crabs, lobsters and crevettes as well as some delicately buttered mackerel surrounded by a fan of scallops in their shells and a piscine plethora of other fish and shellfish.

buttered mackerel

My own meat counter was full to bursting and featured freshly strung loin of pork at half price and some fabulously juicy lamb cuts, half price quality beef burgers and some choice sirloin steaks. All of which was laid out with care and attention to detail.

The deli was as top quality as ever with a tempting display of cheeses from around the World and the British Isles as well as freshly cut cooked meats and a super savouries section to draw in the ravenous. All the cheeses are hand cut and wrapped by the dedicated staff. I know as I often help to cut and wrap the cheeses.

succulent ham on the bone

olive selection

savouries section

Down at the far end the hot chickens cabinet was glowing with the moist golden colours of roasted chicken items, delectable racks of ribs, sizzling sausages and roast potatoes. Whilst these were being snapped up by the customers, even more chickens were rotating in the ovens.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Why do you take photos of your food?

That’s a good one. Historically I remember taking a grainy picture on film of my Sunday dinner when I lived at home with my parents (late 1970s) in order to get it developed by Truprint (used to use them all the time and got very excited whenever a bunch of pictures I had been waiting for plopped through the letter box). The Truprint pictures always had curved edges to them. 

I would send a copy of the dinner picture to my pen friend in Germany. This was in addition to a long letter boring her silly with my excitable wannabe actor life as a twenty something English chappie from a big housing estate near to Derby and a pre-email way of showing her something of the English way of life. This is assuming that she had any interest in the first place given the random nature of my letters in the 1970s. Below is a rough version of what they might have been like.

eating many a boiled egg with the Jaumann family

Liebe Simone, here’s my Sunday dinner – the wet circular things are called Yorkshire puddings. I don’t live in Yorkshire and they are not a dessert but we still call them puddings. In England we like our vegetables mushy. As an English family we have no choice. It’s traditional to overcook things here.  I don’t know why. Do you know about mushy peas? They are very popular in England. Also, I adore roast potatoes, do you?  Sometimes we have Toad in the Hole but there is no actual toad involved in the cooking and to our English culture a chicken is a luxury. By the way, the ‘toad’ is sausages. I hope you understand. As a family we always have proper mashed potatoes and Smash is frowned upon. Do you have Smash in Germany? Perhaps it is spelt Schmash? It involves aliens on televsion that laugh a lot. I would be interested to know.

Our family collect berries from the bushes and also damsons from trees. Meine Step Muttter (Marnie) likes to make jam from blackberries, strawberries, damsons und goosegogs. She is a good cook. Here (nach oben) is a picture of mein Vater (Bob) with some blackberries in a bag. He is happy. He likes nature.

At home we have very strict table manners and are not allowed to put our elbows on the table, slurp our food, speak whilst eating or at all for that matter und wir suffer all manner of Victoriana aka dining. Mein Vater (Bob) sehr strict ist. Sorry I don’t know this in German. (Followed by a rather rushed - Heute das wetter sonnig ist. Ich lerne gerne Deutsch mit Linguaphone. Und so weiter.  Geht’s dir gut? Alles gute, Phil x)’ The responses were always on checked graph type 'recycleable' paper.

collage of letters and photos of my German friends
As possible revenge for my Anglo-Deutsch über confusing and un-interesting letters to Germany I got invited over in early 1980s to stay with the family Jaumann in Baden-Württemberg  for a fortnight during their Easter celebrations and my bowels have a terrible memory of eating about thirty boiled eggs per week. The German for constipation is die Verstopung and farting terribly on a grand scale is furchtbar furzen. Moving on… Parp!

Apart from learning to cook and taking a few pictures at my, long time ago, former employer ‘Rydes the butchers’ in the 1980s (prior to, and after I left home) I don’t recall any photographic endeavours by myself to document my culinary skills until I started to write this blog a few years ago. Suddenly after my separation and divorce and an introduction to by my ex-neighbour Allison I started to actively authenticate my life through writing and pictures and a love of cooking for myself truly developed. I also started to collate written material that referenced my own life story and times I lived through like the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s cultures in the UK. Some of this work was published in the Derby Evening Telegraph Bygones newspapers.

Me circa 1980 in my fisherman's smock top.
These days it is a regular digital habit for me to take images of my food and the process of food making to help document my writing and really because I love cooking and creating memories of the meal. The fact that the ingredients are colourful, full of textures and vibrancy encourages me in my picture taking and I will often go to great lengths to compose a good picture for my blog and collection of foodie pictures.  From this habit I am now used to eating eventually tepid food that looks great in a picture!
It seems almost in another world that I inhabited, not so long ago,  when I would take the picture, then take the film out from the camera and then send it off in the post or go down town to the nearest Boots shop to get it developed and printed (at a cost) and eagerly await the results.

Gott Sei Dank that the digital age now enables us to embellish our stories and documentation with quality pictures. Maybe future generations will be able to look back and benefit from this.