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Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Too much coffee and two cafes named after me

Think that I've been drinking too much coffee of late. Must cut down.

As well as this I was amused to see yet another cafe has decided to name itself after me. Firstly we have Philowe's (Phil Lowe's yes?) in Ruddington and now in the town of Beeston another cafe has called itself after my nickname Frenchyphil on When I took the photo below the new and quite large modern cafe was teeming with young children and their parents so to me (as bloke with a camera around young kids) it did not seem a good idea to be lurking around taking pictures, however innocently on my part.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Meeting Rick Stein and an evening with my best friend.

Today I was accompanied to Waterstones' bookshop in central Nottingham by my best friend Janette to meet the chef and author Rick Stein on his whirlwind tour of Britain doing a book signing in connection with his new book and TV series, Rick Stein's Spain. I was a bit excited (under statement of the year) as Rick is one of my big heroes and I follow his TV series and DVDs with huge enthusiasm.

The signing was at 5.30pm and I was in the ever growing queue at 4.30pm, joined shortly afterward by Janette. We chatted amicably as we waited and eventually Rick arrived outside the shop and was ushered upstairs to be interviewed by Richard Spurr of BBC Radio Nottingham. Richard, it's me who taught you to speak like David Essex on the Radio the other week!

About 5.45pm J and I reached the table that Rick was sat at and I asked him to sign my Spain book "For Frenchyphil, who's always hungry." I told Rick that I was enjoying the new series on Spanish cooking and he seemed to be amused by my request as he says in his programmes that he would always employ a chef that claimed that he was always hungry. My mate Janette took a couple of photos and I wished Mr Stein 'all the best' at his next venue in Spalding, Lincolnshire tomorrow. I guess that he was probably tired as he had already been book signing in Cheltenham that morning. He also signed the sleeve in my fave DVD, French Odyssey. I was a happy bunny.

If you would like a copy of this book you can order through this link.

me and my hero Rick Stein

Janette and I retired to the nearby Cafe Rouge and enjoyed each other's company over a meal. The food was OK but the service was very slow considering that there was hardly anyone in the bistro really. Janette was however very impressed with the amount of vegetarian dishes on offer.

When I got home I uploaded my photos and wrote this short blogpost, whilst listening to the soundtrack to French Odyssey. Good to meet you Rick and thanks for a nice evening Janette.

"You're welcome Frenchyphil"

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Roast shoulder of lamb and an improvised patatas bravas dish.

I am on holiday from work and fancied cooking myself a good meal and have some fun in the kitchen too. I went food shopping in the morning and came back with a heavy bag load of goodies including a full shoulder of lamb. I wanted to make patatas bravas after seeing them being made on Rick Stein's new show about cooking in Spain. I couldn't find any pimenton during my shopping trip so I had to improvise with what I had at home and bought on the shopping trip. Afternote: If only I had realised it was hot smoked paprika I could have been more authenitc in my dish.

First, and most importantly, I opened a bottle of Fitou red wine to breathe and ate a tomato pie for a late breakfast. As I went along I photographed most of the process in boning and rolling the shoulder of lamb to further document the dish.

So, as you can see, I took out the three bones and some of the excess fat and strung up the joint using a slip knot method. Then, I took five bulbs of garlic, peeled off the papery skins and cut the bulbs into slithers. I used several of the slithers as shown in the next picture and put the rest aside. The fresh rosemary came from the bush in my garden and I trimmed several pieces off and made the stalks into points with my knife (always cut away from yourself), pierced  the lamb across the top and inserted the garlic and rosemary. My hands smelt great after doing this!

The oven had already been pre-heated to gas mark four and with a generous covering of olive oil (Filippo Berio) I popped the lamb joint in the oven to slowly cook for three hours. For the first hour I covered the joint in silver foil as a lid, in effect. To celebrate this important stage I had a glass of wine. Salut!

While the lamb was starting to cook for the first hour I prepped up the rest of my dinner for cooking later on. I wanted a hot tomato based sauce for the roast potatoes and so I chopped up a small onion, the rest of the garlic and a hot red pepper (de-seeded). This was for a paste to quickly cook through in the frying pan. The mixture then got a good blunging in the wooden mortar after adding a little olive oil for moisture. I had to do this in two goes as there was a fair amount.

Drawn by the delicious smells, my neighbour Mick came round and I taught him how to do a butcher's knot and we had a few glasses of wine and a chat together. His wife Jo also appeared later on and admired my cooking.

About an hour had gone by so I took the lamb out of the oven, removed the silver foil and gave it a basting with the juices. Once returned to the oven I got on and prepared half a dozen small potatoes for the roasting process further down the line. Meanwhile they sat in a saucepan with salted cold water.

Mick and I retired to the garden and the sunshine and chatted away for some time, with me dashing in and out to check on the cooking and put on some music. The lamb got basted a final time on the second time of being removed from the oven and after basting I spooned a couple of dessert spoon's worth of clear honey over the lamb. You must be hungry now from reading this. I certainly was!

The potatoes got roasted on the top shelf of the oven (now turned up a notch or two to gas mark six) and the lamb was placed at the bottom of the oven so as not to burn. In the last half hour the now beautifully cooked lamb was taken out and put aside to rest whilst I pan fried some courgette slices and did the same (in another frying pan) to the paste in more olive oil. When both were cooked through I drained the oil from both, opened a can of chopped tomatoes and butter beans, and added the tomatoes to the paste and courgettes. On inspection, the roast potatoes were cooked and so I drained those of the oil and put aside for a few seconds. I added in some flakes of chilli for extra heat and cooked through the paste, tomatoes and courgettes for a few minutes. Next I added the potatoes and butter beans and gently stirred the mixture in the frying pan. No more oil was used as the juice from the chopped tomatoes was sufficient. Funnily enough next door's cats didn't hassle me for food as they had already been fed, bless 'em.

NOT cat food

I sliced off a generous amount of the cooked and fragrantly steaming lamb and added in my improvised patatas bravas and butter beans, poured another glass of wine and settled down to a well deserved and scrummy late lunch. Although I did share some with Mick, the neighbour, there is plenty left for today's dinner as well. Yummy.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Lovely day, lovely day, a luuurvely daaaay!

I've had a splendid day today. I've broken up for two weeks holiday and spent some of this morning working on my NVQ on meat and fish Tescos style and had a trip into the city of Nottingham to get some printing paper and plastic folders. On the return journey I popped into the food hall at M&S and purchased some Madagascan prawns at a discount, a jar of Thai curry sauce and a chicken. Once back home I got hold of some brown mushrooms and a slim red pepper and set about making a chicken and prawns curry with flagrant Thai rice and fresh garden mint.

As I am putting together a book of meat and fish products for my NVQ I chopped the chicken up into various parts and photographed them. First I spatchcocked the bird, then quartered it and then broke the parts down into wings, thighs, drumsticks and boneless breasts. Most of this went into the freezer and I kept the breasts for the curry.

I made a simple paste from the chopped pepper and four or five garlic bulbs, a shake of ground pepper and a dollop of sunflower oil and after cutting into the chicken flesh rubbed the paste in to the point of poulet submission.

In the meantime I had stripped the prawns of their heads and tails and crusty golden shells and laid their sweet meats in a bowl for cooking at the last minute. I had also cleaned up a carton of brown mushrooms and chopped them up ready for a quick fry in the wok. The sauce came from a jar and was a (gets jar out of recycling bag to check)Marks and Spencer Green Thai Curry Sauce - an aromatic coconut sauce made with green pepper pieces, lemongrass and lime leaves.

Naturally, I put the chicken in the wok to cook first, adding a few chopped spring onions and once cooked through set aside to drain off the oil. Then the mushrooms got a quick cook through in the wok along with one piece of star anise to infuse a bit of oriental flavour. Again these got put aside to drain off the excess oil. Somewhere along the way I drank a few chilled beers and cooked up enough Thai flavoured rice for three hungry people. I had the intention of sharing this aromatic dish with my neighbours Jo and Mick.

Outside, au jardin, I noticed that the bees were having a wonderful time buzzing about my massive lavender bush and I took a few moments out to photograph them.

Once all this was coming together I quickly cooked through the prawns (three minutes at the outside) and with some fresh mint from the garden brought the dish together and served it up. It was sublime!

Later in the evening I had the pleasure of speaking with Dom of 'Dom at Belleau' blog and then I had a few more beers and typed this blogpost up. Voila!

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Nottingham Food and Drink Festival .. some images

I had to dash through the market on Thursday as I was on the way to work and managed to grab some French cheese for my friend Rebecca and take a few snaps. I hope the last three days have been profitable for the Festival Market. Please enjoy these images and if you get a chance do go on Sunday 3rd July (last day of Festival Market.)