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Saturday, 22 December 2012

Hope for somebody

I want to promote a Nottingham based charity that helps people in difficult circumstances and the homeless. As my blog is mainly about food then this is to say 'thank you' to all those individuals who are kind enough to offer up something edible to those in need through a foodbank and a food parcel.

Here is their website details for further information:

Phil x

For anyone wanting to learn more about foodbanks and charitable trusts click on this illuminating site.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Tentatively exploring the kitchen Narnia.

Times are financially hard and it has become cripplingly necessary to cautiously open the door of frozen delights and investigate exactly what lurks in the freezer compartment of my fridge freezer. Why spend money on more food when I probably have plenty to eat in the freezer? That's the idea anyway. I know that there is a block of ice at the back but that is hardly edible or cash saving. Like most people I squirrel things away in the freezer with the nutty intention of consuming the silver packaged and plastic bagged goodies, one day. Bless my bushy tail as I realise some of the goodies saved for a rainy day are circa 2009 and so therefore unadvisable to eat as being marginally older than the recommended three months habitation in kitchen Narnia. So, discarding the more geriatric foodstuffs I pulled out the packages and wrote down exactly what lay within and was advisable to eat and  therefore save money.

The list:

3 x home made spag bols
6 x sardines
2 x Yorkshire puds.
Bag of lambs liver
3 trout.
2 home made chicken curries
2 x home made chilli meals
1 chicken breast
3 x home made courgette tians
2 ciabatta breads
Bag of peas
Bag of green beans
Bag of sweet corn

At the time of writing the list I also realised that I had (around the kitchen) eggs, bead, brioche, a chicken, rice and pasta and a host of tinned items in the store cupboard plus herbs and spices and cooking oils. Enough, I figured for about 18 meals - 21 if frugal.

Since these initial investigations I have also started a small noting exercise which I have kept positive by noting food and drink things that I have not spent money on (thereby saving money) by making my own sarnies for lunch (save money on buying staff canteen meals) and by drastically cutting back on the booze I tend to buy out of habit to relax of an evening. I have found a cuppa just as relaxing and I spend less time trotting up to the loo for another pee!!

My old financial hero Alvin Hall's expression "Do you REALLY need that?" has once again become part of my life and though it may be slow work I am determined to sort out where it is I waste money. I predict that there may be more blog posts from me on this subject. Today I walked three miles to a butcher's shop in Clifton because I knew that he does a pork hand - shoulder and hock joint - for under a fiver and it will last me all week! Perfect. I got him to take the hock off and I did the major boning and rolling job back at home. Decent purchase plus exercise and money saved. I was in luck he had just one left from the weekend. As I type it is cooking in the oven spiked with cloves and star anise. Yum!


Sunday, 18 November 2012

21 butchers in one small town

I have been off work for a holiday period this last week and for the first five days I have rarely been out of the house due to recovering from a major cold. However on Friday I felt a little better and went on the bus from Nottingham to the Derbyshire town of Belper to do a little research for a writing project and on Saturday I forced myself to go out to a variety of places in and around Nottingham for an equal variety of reasons.

First of all Belper. I travelled on the Barton bus service which offers a £5 ZigZag ticket which allows one to travel all throughout their routes for a day pass of £5 which is quite a saver on individual bus travel prices. So I took the Ruddington Connection bus to Nottingham and then the Red Arrow to Derby and then changed to the Barton Sixes service that took me to Belper via Duffield. The reverse took me back home later in the day.

On dis-embarking near King Street in Belper the town had a slight smell of wood smoke in the air. Looking in the remaining three butchers' windows on King Street I was keen to observe a few interesting things i.e. a link of string round a bunch of oxtail plus in the same window the Friday display showed quite minimal amounts of meat: half a chicken on one tray, a scoop of mince on another a splash of lamb rump on another, several half empty silver trays and a faded pig object on the back shelf with one squinty eye looking up at the ceiling with a slightly pained expression on its face. The pig was dressed in a baggy shirt and blue overalls.

Considering my writing for a proposed book called "Tails from the Block" I visited St Peter's churchyard with the hope of collecting and perhaps bastardising some local names for characters in my book. I wanted real, albeit historically distorted Derbyshire names to play with and found some good names among the fading graves and crunchy leaves. My notes were as follows:

Local names

Sam Kiddy – asleep until the morning. Died 1875.

Ebenezer Colledge.

Samuel Froggatt (like Garrett  - double consonants prevail)

Robert and Ann Twyford 1897

Edwin Winsome.

John Garratt. Killed in 1915

John Cooper Topham.

Bullock and Beresford.

Peter  Alexander Thomas Greaves.

Brian Bacon.

Coming back into town via Long Row (an interesting row of former Mill Workers houses - some demolished to allow the railway access to Belper Town Centre in the late 1800s.) I was particularly taken with the flagstone road with big gaps in some of the semi rectangular stones which would be a bumpy ride regardless of transport style. All around Belper long standing limestone walls were in evidence, some blackened and green with age.

After a swift pint in an oddly characterless and tatty gastro-pub ( blaring TV in the bar and a lone femme terrible staring accusingly and darkly out of the window from her bar stool) on the main Matlock bound road I made my way across the busy road and on to King Street. At an award winning butchers there I brought a very tasty pork pie from Howarth butchers on the lower part of King Street. I digress momentarily as the thought strikes me.  The bar maid in the afore- said characterless pub was actually very pleasant and told me she that worked in another pub in Openwoodgate where they have a much better selection of bitters. Back to the pork pie selling butchers, Jerry Howarth's.

Jerry Howarth is a family run local butchers that for generations have been participating in since 1898. Exclusively a pork butcher, their gold medal award winning produce is entirely locally sourced with local pork home cured and prepared by the staff. Current manager Ray Montgomery also stocks some chicken and game as well as locally made pies and dairy products.

Whilst being served I spoke to a man in a blue striped coat with red striped apron. In his forties,  he sported a bald shaved head, rosy cheeks, bright eyes, a pleasant demeanour and had with a scratch mark on his left eyebrow. He knew of the late David Grimwade and his wife Janice. He described this former co-worker of mine as a 'nice' bloke. Apparently David once commented on the Howarth shop window display claiming“Good job someone knows how to put on a good display, youth.” I neglected to reflect vocally in how I viewed the this man I knew from the past. On reflection, I must say that their smoked bacon looked very nice. It was dry bacon full of colour and the type that wouldn't leave the pan full of water or blotchy white blobs of fat. In conversation with this man I discovered that in the 1970s and 1980s there were at least ten butchers shops in the town itself, three belonging to Edward Ryde and Sons, a former employer of mine in the past.

Later on, looking at an online reference about the history of Belper, I found a directory called White's Directory dating from 1857 there were butchers in and around the town: namely, John Ash ( Queen Street) George Beresford (Bridge Street) Thomas Brown (High Pavement) Thomas Gamble (Belper Lane) Samuel Garrett and Henry Gregory (Market place) Thomas Gregory (Market Road) Jabez and William Hall (Cow Hill) Benjamin Jackson (Long Row) Benjamin Mason (Bridge Street) John Redfearn (King Street) Jacob Smith (Bridge Street) Joseph Spencer (Gutter) Joseph Walker (Bridge Street) William Topley (Bridge Street) Johannes Watson (Market Place) Henry Harrison (Bridge Street) John Malin (Market Place) Alfred Parker (King Street) Samuel Taylor (Short Rows). Astounding!!! Twenty-one butchers!

My imagination was particularly struck with the names Gutter (once a colliery) and Cow Hill.

On Saturday I went over to the Lace Market Theatre to get some lunch at their Pub Grub bar and caught up with a few friends including Peter hillier who astounded m by telling he had some Black Forest Smoked ham on offer! When I enquired of the origin he told me that he had got it from Lidl. I love this ham from my May visit to Karlsruhe in Germany and took myself over the Beeston branch where I was delighted to be able to buy two packs for under £4.

Whilst in Beeston I popped into my work place and caught up on some of the news and laughs since I broke up for my holiday a week ago. It was good to see my work colleagues. En route I paused to see the new photo exhibition at the Djanogly Centre (Nottingham University). The exhibition was based on the black and white movie, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, filmed in and around Nottingham and the former Raleigh works. A walk through the University grounds allowed me to take some nice autumnal photos of my own.


Thursday, 15 November 2012

For those who have missed my cookery.

As I sip my glass of red wine tonight I'm thinking back over the last few weeks and the terrible head cold I've endured along with regular nose bleeds. I continued to go into work as I don't get paid when I am ill by my employer and on Saturday afternoon I finally went home early with blessings from my team leader and manager for my valiant work ethics. I slept for six hours solid Saturday afternoon and coupled with a visit to the doctor earlier in the week have started on the road to recovery. My step mum had also been admitted to the Derby City Hospital on the 20th of October for an unexpected emergency operation where he had a third of her intestine removed. She too is now on the road to recovery, Thank God! At 82 this is  major event for her and she could have died.

Thankfully, on personal note, the nosebleeds have stopped and the long periods of rest this week, so far, have done me good and I am feeling a bit more normal. I realise in this blog that I have drifted away from my cooking theme and want to show you some of the meals I have had, somewhat documented, through pictures.

My old Toshiba laptop finally gave up the ghost and I was forced to buy a new laptop so that I could continue my creative writing and the photography so dear to me. I am now using a Packard Bell with the all new Windows 8. I am working around (step by step) the fact that my old Office Suite won't work anymore and I had to download a new version of Norton. That's just the start. At least I can now write my blogposts and edit photos through Picasa.

Anyway, here are some pictures of recent meals: enjoy. I've also made a Chinese chicken soup chocker with garlic and ginger (to help my health get better) and a big tureen full of lamb tagine. I didn't manage to document these though.

Roast leg of lamb with rosemary and garlic
Roast duck legs in orange and ginger
Salmon in a dill sauce with haricot vert and new potatoes
Steamed sea bass in ginger


free plums from my friend Rebecca


Stuffed chicken breast, red cabbage, carrots and salad


Roast beef with pepper and cheese.


Monday, 5 November 2012

Aaah the joys of travelling by bus

A while ago I wrote about various fellow passengers on the buses I take to go to work each day - you may well remember the swearing man whose every second word was a version of fuck. Thank f*ck I haven't encountered him since but I now have a new collection to write about.

Most mornings a late middle aged lady gets on the bus in Nottingham and hums a sad and thankless ditty with four repeats on the same theme behind me. It turns out she is knitting what looks like a very long blue scarf. I call her 'Lady Knits The Blues'.

Then there is the man in the green top who coughs violently sending an arc of fine spittle over the heads of the passengers unlucky enough to sit in the front of him. He must have missed the lessons on holding one's hand afore the coughing mouth.

My journey's peace is often broken by the person who feels the need to 'snap' the newspaper instead of gently turning the pages. Remember those 'snappers' we used to get free in comics in 1960s, triangular shaped paper toys that make a surprisingly loud crack when the holder percussed the object away from them.

Of course there are also the loud mobile phone users, in particular the black cleaning lady who works at Nottingham University. She is called Dotty or Dorothy, dependent on who she is talking to. How do I know this? She phones her family and feels the need to bellow down the phone. Her unfortunate family must all be deaf cos Dotty has to tell them several times that is indeed she and each exclamation gets louder. She once the bellowed so loud that all the autumn leaves at the side of the bus shot up Wizard of Oz tornado style turning the landscape at blur of brown, red and gold and a passing cyclist lost his cloth cap in the tremendous gust. The bus destination  panel changed instantly to Kansas.

One Sunday, on my evening return journey home from Beeston the passengers were entertained by a  decidedly inebriated skinny man fluctuating between being asleep and cursing. The prune faced guy then began alternating between swigging the remains of his sherry, singing Maggie May and then throwing up. I got off at the Queens Medical Centre and joined another bus. The new driver told me and the other passengers not to venture towards the back of the bus as someone had had an 'accident'. God save us! |After that God forsaken journey I NEEDED a drink!

Yesterday a lady who seemed to know me sat aside me for the remaining ten minutes bus journey through The Meadows and the City Centre. In ten laboriously slow minutes she told me she was off to Sutton near Mansfield and that she loved Sutton and went most days to visit. I could tell she was passionate about this from her intense stare and twitching hands and her frquent need to touch my knee.

I encounter drunk young men and women on a regular basis in and around Nottingham and one 'couple' were actually having a running battle in the Broadmarsh bus station the other night. My thoughts were "Please don't get on my bus!" co-joined by some dis-belief that they were yelling abuse at each other in a public space.

Aaaah the joys of bus travel.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Hair today - gone tomorrow

Like a lot of men, over the years I have gradually lost the lustrous curly hirsute looks of my youth and now sport the sophisticated balding and slightly greying distinguished look that is very cheap to maintain with my 'BaByliss for men' hair strimming jobbie. I can't recall the last time I went to barber. No more do I get asked if I want 'anything for the weekend' or have to reply at length of where I am planning to go for my holidays. Once upon a time in the early 90s I got asked if I would like the bulk taken out of my eyebrows by the hairdresser in West Bridgford and this previously unheard of question actually came as a bit of a shock at the time.

Looking through a few old photo albums yesterday I scanned a selection that would document my changing hairstyles from the late 1950s to the present day. I hope that you enjoy them. I have already put a few of them on my facebook page. The most popular kind comment is that the smile is still the same.

This is me at one year old. Under that woollen garb I would have had a mass of unruly blond hair. When my step mum gave me this photo I actually thought is was my Dad at the same age. I wonder what the toy by me was called?

This smiley chap (aged nine) is quietly hiding the fact that his mum had passed away from a brain tumour. It is a school photo taken at the back of Roe Farm School in Chaddesden near Derby.

Taken in my first year at Darwin Secondary Modern School in the library. Love the combed over look now with side parting. I was twelve and its hard to believe looking at the vulnerable young man I was here that I left school three years later.

This is me in my late teens, a former Scout and keen walker. This was taken somewhere up in Derbyshire.
Aaaah, the Leo Sayer look! I was a big Leo fan during his 1970s beginnings - myself and some mates in Swadlincote used to spend hours playing our latest Leo LPs to death. When we'd worn them out Marc Bolan and TRex got a turn and then Bowie and that goddess Kate Bush. This photo was taken when I was with the Littleover Players, an amateur theatre group in Derby.

The smock top look was instigated by an arty friend in the Littleover Players. I thought this look was cool and very arty. I also went sailing to Cherbourg once with my mate Mike Leech and his lady friend Yvonne and then the fisherman's style smock really came into its proper use. I dressed like this for years and looking at this photo I can't help but to be impressed that I wasn't a bad looking fella yet I was terribly shy around women at the time.

The Val Doonigan look with a Christmas present jumper (one of a long list of jumpers, pulleys bought as a well intentioned gift at Christmas). Can't help but think I look a bit camp in this one!!
Both of these were taken whilst I worked for Rydes the Butchers. The first looking boyish in the back of Rydes (The Cornmarket) and the other of me looking poorly having suffered with bad back for thirteen weeks. I was twenty-seven at the time. Plus I seem to growing a bum fluff tash. I think it was for a play.

Leaping forward and many a curly hair having disappeared down the proverbial plughole of life I am now a Creative Arts student at Nottingham Trent University circa 1989/90. The ethnic look is in full force as well as a shaved head and stylish ethnic hat. I also had another hat with little mirrors  sewn in and colourful threads making up the design. I shaved my head one mad night with Bic razors cos all my arty male mates were doing it at the time. It stung for weeks afterwards.

Me in my fave ethnic hat purchased from Ice Nine in Nottingham. I think that it eventually fell to bits and got reluctantly thrown away.

Another student photo with longer hair and sideburns grown for a performance.

"All in the best possible taste!!" Slightly freaky photo of me willing to dress up daft for the TV soap Crossroads! The things I do for art.

The wig was for a the BBC Two drama 'Signs and Wonders'. On the broadcast of the show you got the privilege of seeing my elbow and the back of my head in a church.

The full beardy look. I grew this during my work at Capital One. I played a tramp called Ulik, in a play. I wonder what the customers I spoke to on the phone would've thought of this look - never mind me method acting and stinking of meths and cheap booze and fags. :0)

With my actress friend Alison and messing about backstage for the Lace Market Theatre production of Abigail's Party. 1970s style moustache and sideburns were grown for the part and worn out and about for two weeks prior to the show. I truly thought people would stare at this ridiculous 'look' but no-one batted an eyelid.

My mug shot as a professional actor circa 1998-2001.

Stubbly look on holiday in St Ives Cornwall in 2001. Just above my head was a kamikazi seagull about to dive bomb me.

Still the same smile. :0)

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Wot no mince? But I've come all this way!

Things can go terribly wrong if the expectation of fresh mince and sea bass are denied one. I arrived at my work place - on my day off  - of all things- to discover that there is no mince on offer and no sea bass. Out of stock! What is a boy to do?

So, with my collection of cheap canned goodies I head out to the High Street of  Beeston Town whereupon I come across rabbit - in the shop of Messrs George Hogg the Butchers Est. Hogg - what more perfect name for a butcher except for Hackett and Slashett the Master Butchers. The name Hogg has grace and dignity which Bull might not.

Anyroadup, I purchased a young rabbit carcass with the intention of creating something akin to Rick Stein's French Odyssey creation of Rabbit and Prunes. Alas and alack I do not have access to Agen prunes but I did gather together rabbit, prunes, celery, carrots, streaky bacon and shallots and put together this rustic dish of rabbit pieces and veg with red wine.
Veg was prepared and the rabbit seasons and a bouquet garni put together for the pot.
The meat was browned and the shallots, mushrooms and streaky bacon cooked through on the stove.
Finally all the ingredients were added to the stock pot and allowed to simmer for and hour with new potatoes added. The original recipe called for polenta but I felt like calling my own tune with this one.
As you can see (above) the meal turned out delicious and whilst in the creative mood I turned my attention to other things photographically around the house including new cushions and a jar of clothes pegs.


Monday, 8 October 2012

A day out in Sheffield

Last Tuesday , my best friend Janette and I went oop north on the train from Nottingham to the city of Sheffield for a fun day out. For the most part the weather was good with bright sunshine showing off the modernised city at its best. Apart from a recent trip in the summer for the presentation of my NVQ award, I hadn’t been to Sheffield for years and back then it was a mass of building sites and towering cranes. This visit Sheffield presented itself as a very modern city especially around the city centre Hallam University. The new student year had just started and the Hallam University was bustling with students. Like Birmingham, there was also a fascinating mix of the new old architecture. I particularly liked the area called The Winter Garden.
‘Sheffield's impressive multi award-winning Winter Garden is one of the largest temperate glasshouses to be built in the UK during the last hundred years and has created a stunning green world with more than 2,500 plants from around the world. With direct access from Millennium Galleries and Millennium Square, the Winter Garden is the perfect oasis in the heart of England's fourth largest city.’

We had some loose plans about what we would do to entertain ourselves and they included having a ride on their tramway system, find a Café Rouge for lunch and visit a second hand bookshop in the outskirts.


The Supertram took us to the Meadowhall shopping centre, a screaming toddlers Hades if ever there was one. As soon as we tentatively approached the hellish shopping centre entrance we steeled ourselves and forged a high speed mutual decision to do an 'about turn' and head back for the safety of the tram. I didn’t know I could run so fast! The return tram journey back into town wasn’t unlike a tame roller coaster ride and the pure novelty of travelling through unfamiliar places made the trip an interesting one.  The canal area (seen from the tram) looked an interesting historic area to discover another time.
Some nutcase went and sat next to Janette.
Lunch was had at a modern Café Rouge venue near to Millennium Square with its dancing fountains and newly married couples photographing each other and Janette and I reminisced about the newly closed Nottingham branch. This spacious branch in Sheffield was in modern glass walled building with typical Café Rouge stylisation in the décor.  There weren’t many customers this particular lunchtime and the food whilst ok wasn’t anything to get excited about. En effect I was rather hoping for a Pouding de Yorkshire to go with my sausage n' mash. Mais non.

The high street delighted us with some chappies in chaps on horseback and a chance to pose by a green police box. Could this be a Yorkshire Tardis?


Janette loves to haunt second hand bookshops so after lunch we enquired about buses to take us to the ‘The Rude Shipyard Bookshop and Café’. After getting slightly misdirected to Abbeydale Road we finally found the venue, a grubby little bookshop with local regulars eating dubious looking food at wobbly small tables very close to the cruelly limited amount of tatty second hand books. We walked in, accidently woke up a few dozing regulars and once upstairs Janette got a multiple double D eyeful of ladies in a side room all breast feeding their babies. Once again we scurried for the relative safety of the outside world and shaking our damp heads in gross disappointment we caught a bus back into the city as it started to rain. Plus,  by eck as like, I think I can officially say that the two  bus drivers we encountered were the grumpiest in Yorkshire.

Time for relaxing over a cup of Yorkshire tea and hot chocolate in the reasonably priced, contemporary Millennium Gallery café, connected to the city art gallery. The rain continued to stream down the café windows as we drank our hot drinks and contemplated going back home to Nottingham on t’ train. On the journey home we both agreed that it had been an interesting and fun day out in a great city in South Yorkshire

We would certainly go back to Sheffield one day as there seemed lots to do and see and of course it is very accessible to Derbyshire.