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Friday, 26 July 2013

A very special day, champagne and accolades.

Today I got given a special award for my efforts in the Tesco 'Love Every Mouthful' promotion. It is called a Values Award which thanked me for making a difference and it came with great praise from the store manager Tammy and her manager Paul Parsons. It made me feel very proud and that my passions for food were/are really recognised. I may be unusual in this but I do genuinely love my job and in particular helping the customers with their meat/fish choices and cooking advice. They also presented me with a wonderful bottle of Heidsieck and Co champagne which I have enjoyed drinking this Friday evening. Tea was a simple affair of a big wodge of penne pasta and drenched with a small bottle of pesto sauce and a little butter for some moisture. Easy to put together and very tasty. A great day with a simple finish.

Have a good evening all. x Phil x

Monday, 22 July 2013

The Making of Love Every Mouthful video and my contribution.

Well, I guess this is my readers first glimpse of seeing me in action during the 'Making of the Love Every Mouthful video' for Tesco and to hear about Tesco's tremendously inspiring notions about the food they supply and how it is enjoyed by the customers and vicariously promoted and embellished upon by the passionate staff UK wide. As I said in the previous 'enormously popular and over a thousand hits in two days' - blogpost; the day filming the advert was a fantastic experience. Sorry if that last statement sounded like blowing one's own trumpet overly loudly but I do check out the blogposts in terms of the stats and predictably perhaps, this one has exceeded well beyond my expectations. In the filming of my part of this video I actually spoke for a lot longer than the clips shown on the edited version above, but - in a nutshell- they have encapsulated my ramblings and made something coherent from it. Not that I talk a lot. Gosh no.

My belief is that there will be three or four Love Every Mouthful adverts and I will feature in one of them that concentrates on meat. In the last couple of days myself and three other folk involved in the advert from Tesco have appeared on the OurTesco website.

Personally, I am going to be profiled and featured in a Tesco in house magazine called The One and there is the potential for other promotions online and on video for the Love Every Mouthful campaign.

At work I am part of a poster for employees promoting the Love Every Mouthful campaign. I think this has come just at the right time because I genuinely do love sharing food ideas and passions with friends and customers and delight in the fact that they ask me for advice whether it be something I have practiced, have trained in over the years or just read with interest about and retained. I seem to constantly have my head in a book about food or watching  a telly programme live or on bbciplayer. Love it all! As my hero Raymond Blanc is very fond of saying - "Ooh la la! Food! Glorious food! So intense! Hmmm the flavours! The herbs and spices! The taste!"

Well, thank you for watching this short video and taking an interest in my foodie adventures. I'm off to Wales next week to do a Gold meat training course with Tesco - from the field to the table, apparently. So I will be getting down and dirty with the steers and heifers in mid Wales for a while. If the police come knocking Daisy the cow was the one that trampled me first! The rest just followed orders. Daisy will be the one with the mad look in her eyes and denial in her heart. I will be the one with the hoof print on my head!

Sunday, 21 July 2013

The new 'Love Every Mouthful' Tesco television advert with myself as the Butcher.

Recently, I got chosen to play the butcher in the latest Tesco 'Love Every Mouthful' tv advert from a nationwide Tesco employee competition centred around Passion for Food and was very proud to do so.

A little while ago a poster went up on the staff canteen door asking for staff members to submit a photo of themselves with their favourite Tesco food and submit that along with an explanation why they would like to be involved with the forthcoming television advert.

This text below is what I sent along with a picture of me and some lush sirloin steaks taken by my work colleague, fishmonger Paul.

"Hi there, my name is Phil Lowe and I work on the counters at Nottingham's Beeston Extra store mainly as a butcher but I also enjoy working on the fish counter and occasionally on the Deli. To say I love my food is a vast understatement. I proudly passed my NVQ on Meat and Fish last year and I write a regular and very popular food blog ( which often features and promotes the meat and fish I have bought at Tesco. Sharing my foodie knowledge is my greatest passion. I love to advise the customers directly, or through my blog, on all aspects of cooking meat and fish and love nothing more than a nice juicy sirloin steak (quite rare and bloody though) because I think it can be the tastiest steak and the fat element really does do wonders for the overall taste. Don't chop it off! Keep it in! Just add a teaspoon of Tesco horseradish sauce and it is heavenly! Salivating?
This passionate sharing of a love of cooking through life and work, to me, is really what Making Moments Matter is about. The customers go away with a positive confidence in the meal they are about to make because you have spent a few precious minutes simply and enthusiastically explaining the prep and cooking process. I love my job and I think that my passion definitely shows through as not only myself but the other experienced and keen to share members of our meat and fish department all enjoy demonstrating their various skills and knowledge. This practice brings customers back again and again and builds a trust in the products and staff. The same can be said across all our counters at Beeston.
In my working life, and as one of the more mature employees at our branch of Tesco, I have over twenty years experience as a former traditional master butcher. Plus I have a great passion and a degree in, and for, the performing arts having been involved in amateur and professional acting throughout my life as well as modelling in a similar promotion for Capital One the credit card company as their former employee. I also have experience in working in television as an extra therefore am used to that kind of creative/media working environment. I have a characterful personality and face and great sense of fun and so I sincerely hope that I can get involved in this promotion with Tesco."

Phil Lowe.

Well, over about a period of four weeks I had a series of phone calls about my application and a Skype interview with the production company. After all this I was very keen to know how I'd got on and I kept hearing that I was a 'very strong candidate'. Finally one night I returned home to find a message on my answer phone to tell me that I had been successful and had been chosen to be the butcher from hundreds of applications throughout Tesco in the UK. And the filming was three days away. Was I thrilled? Of course!

The advertising job took me down to London and specifically to a relatively new store in Woolwich and I stayed in a Mercure hotel in Greenwich overnight on the Sunday prior to the filming. I had to be up at 4am to start the filming at 5am. The hotel was lovely. Very smart with nice food in the restaurant (beef soup, grilled outdoor reared pork chop with apple puree and potatoes, and a crème brulee to finish). I had a clear view from my bedroom where I could see the London Eye as a small blue circle in the far distance and the red London Docklands trains arriving at the station to my left on a regular basis. There was a fabulous sunset. My only issue was that I couldn't work out how to turn the lights on. Apparently slipping one's card in the door slot did this. Ignorant of the simple task I took a shower in the dark and stumbled around my room trying to make sure I hadn't forgotten anything on the way out!

In the early morning myself and a young woman called Mercedes from a Braintree Tesco store were taken across south London to Woolwich to be ready for the day's filming. I was used first and poor Mercedes had quite a wait before she was used. I had my make up done - nails clipped square and my red nose powdered - and in my Tesco butcher's uniform I went down on to the shop floor to do my bit. Although lots of publicity photos were taken at the moment I don't have any to put on this blog post. The filming was of me (the butcher) putting my blue counters' hat on and then doing an isolated close up shot of me tying my red striped butcher's apron and then sharpening my steak knife with the steel. The last one was a full head and shoulders shot and we did a recording later on of the sound of the knife being sharpened. After that I did a filmed interview about my life as a Tesco butcher and my passion for food, my blog and my love of sharing ideas for the best usage and cooking of the meat products I sell. I got temporarily released back to the rest room and then did another interview with a lady called Katie from the Tesco magazine for real living - I wasn't alone in this and I believe that the September/October issue will be featuring several Tesco folk who were part of the Love Every Mouthful advert experience.

I spoke to Katie about the influence of the rustic French - especially Mediterranean and Gascony - ways of cooking on myself and about other influences in my life that have shaped my love of food and cooking. Amusingly this conversation included my late Dad's hate of anything he deemed non British and repellently exotic nosh like Chinese and Indian curries. This would all come under the intolerant heading of 'foreign muck' and often be spoken about with huge distain coupled with a contorted and disgruntled face to make it abundantly clear he was having 'no truck' with this stinking evilness living in an aluminium tub. As far as he was concerned the local missing cat and dog population were hanging in a Chaddesden takeaway fridge to cook and sell on to the gullible public. And they used garlic!!! Unbeknownst to him my mum put a small amount of the abhorrent garlic in his stew one day and he wolfed it down. Ignorance can be bliss after all. Misty the cat went missing and was never found, however. We always called him Chairman Meow. Anyway I digress...

During the morning's filming I was called back down to film a product being handed over the counter (it was actually a very small camera that was the viewpoint of the product from butcher to basket) and a stayed around to talk to some of the film crew and the Woolwich store manager.

I also got a chance to chat with Tony the butcher at Woolwich Tesco Extra and share stories with him. He had also gone through some training with Dewhurst in his thirty year butchery experience and was experienced in the slaughtering aspect of the job and keen to tell me of his own passions for 'his' meat counter. Nice guy.

The crew had spent the time with various others in differing departments filming for the advert and we finally wrapped just before lunch. Having got changed those employees involved who needed cabs back to stations of hotels were invited to join the film crew for lunch on the catering bus. It reminded me of fondly remembered days when I used to film as an extra for Peak Practice and Crossroads and a few films and television dramas back in the 1990s and early 2000's.

A cab came for me and I got taken back to St Pancras Station. It seemed along way but I enjoyed the experience and after travelling adjacent to, and passing under the Thames, I saw the O2 arena, Billingsgate Market, the Gherkin, several old and bordered up Victorian pubs, some parks and the Number Fifteen restaurant owned by Jamie Oliver. I would have loved to have stopped the cab from time to time and hopped out to take photos of some of the quirky London buildings and shops.

I arrived at St Pancras in plenty of time to have a celebratory beer at the Betjeman Pub in the station building and then waited for the 13.30pm train back to Nottingham. I was back home by 4pm and reflected on a fantastic opportunity to share my passions for food. Thank you Tesco and thanks especially to my store manager Tammy Andrews and team leader Rebecca for all their encouragement throughout the process. This is just the beginning...

The first television adverts  for 'Love Every Mouthful' start on July 22nd 2013 at approx. 9.15pm on ITV and Channel Four. From a preview it seems that there are more than one style of ad so if you don't see me in the first advert do keep an eye on the others.

Shortly to come on this blog will be a video about the making of the advert and Tesco's food promises. I do certainly feature in this and speak about my passion for food. I'll put it up in a few days time. Phil.


Wednesday, 17 July 2013

A simple rump steak cooked in butter

I actually cooked this a little while ago when rump steak was on a 'third off' special offer at Tesco and decided to fry the steak in butter rather than fat or oil. I have a particular fondness for salty butter and I like the delicate rounded taste it can give to the meat, fish or vegetable it is cooked in. Of course a shake or two of black pepper near the end of the cooking process gives it another level of flavour. My mouth was watering even before it went into the pan!

I had prepared and mostly cooked some new potatoes, carrots and green beans before I gently fried the steak (twelve minutes) with a few button mushrooms. A succulent and perfect simple evening meal. It melted in the mouth!

Monday, 15 July 2013

Getting messy with a cooked crab, two sea bream and some scallops.

When I got home from work on Saturday night I had a quick shower and then a bit of a mad fishy fest in the kitchen. That day I had purchased two beautiful sea bream, a cooked Orkney brown crab and half a dozen half shell scallops all at half price from offers at Tesco. When you work on the meat and fish counters it all gets a bit tempting.

First of all I had a go at dressing a crab with guidance from an article in the back of the BBC Good Food magazine. My attempt was a bit messier than the pretty pictures in the magazine but I did manage to get a decent amount of white and brown crab meat from the crab. As I like to document my cooking with photos I enjoyed taking these crab pictures but had to keep washing my hands between each stage so as not to get my camera smelling like a cooked crustacean. I used some tweezers to get the white meat from the legs and found pulling the body away from the shell surprisingly difficult. I used a rolling pin to break the claws. Overall it was a fun experience and may well make myself some delicious crab meat sandwiches today with cress and on olive bread. I can almost hear the proverbial sea gulls crying out and hovering above me as I type. The BBC Good Food website suggests maybe crab linguine with chilli and parsley, best ever crab sandwiches or crab mayonnaise with Melba toast and herb salad.

Next came the preparation for the fresh sea bream. I trimmed off the fins with a pair of strong kitchen scissors, removed the scales by brushing the fish under a cold tap with the back of a boning knife and then gutted the fish and pulled out the ruby red gills. I prepared two of these and then washed them clean under a cold tap. I was undecided whether to put the fish guts and gills pictures on here but then I thought that is actually what I had to do so why hide it. If you are shy of this kind of thing I am sure your friendly fishmonger will do the cleaning for you.

The fish only cost me £4 for the two on a Tesco offer and I had a tray of roasting vegetables in the fridge that I found for 50p in a sale at the local Co-op store so I decided to be thrifty and use these up adding a tin of chopped tomatoes, basil leaves and some lemon juice and lemon rind to the dish. Dressed with a small amount of sunflower oil the fish went into the oven (gas mark 7) for three quarters of an hour. I also boiled a few new potatoes and added a fresh mint from the garden.

The picture above is the finished meal. Not the best photo as the fish is buried but it tasted fantastic and there was enough to share with my neighbour Mick. Whilst the sea bream was cooking I made a simple starter by pan frying some scallops and rounds of black pudding in butter. The whole economic meal cost me about ten pounds. I always try to take advantage of any half price food offers that come my way and feel satisfied that I have made something creative that tastes so good. Alas I do not have a picture of the cooked scallops and black pudding with red currant jelly as I had wolfed them down before I thought to take a photo! Note to my friend Jean: I have run out now of your wonderful red currant jelly. Next time we meet I will buy some from you.

                                                            "Fish? Did he say fish?"

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Fish pie on the table tonight.

It may be hot outside but it's even hotter in my kitchen!

Phew - it's baking hot outside so I put the oven on for an hour just to make sure I was really hot. I hate flies and insects in the house so it is a rarity that the kitchen door remains open but tonight was the exception. Throwing caution to the wind I also put on my summer shorts and exposed my lily white legs - yes it really is , that hot.  Having fished some fish out of the freezer earlier today I made myself a delicious fish pie from boneless Atlantic cod loin, smoked salmon and salmon fillets. All this fish had been sat in various bags in my freezer for a while so I decided to defrost it all and chop it  up for a meal that would last a few days. The fish had all been purchased whilst on various special offers at Tesco so I felt good that I was using up food rather than purchasing new. Even the chives came out of the freezer.

I took the skin off the salmon pieces, cut all the pieces into bite sized chunks, popped them all into a big casserole dish and sprinkled over the chopped chives. To add a liquid base I simply added cold milk and a few generous butter chunks. The fish went into a gas oven on Mark 6  for three quarters of an hour. A few random brown mushrooms at the back of the fridge got cut up and added to the fish for variety. When the cooked fish came out of the oven it smelt great and looked very very colourful.

Half way through the cooking period I peeled, chopped and boiled two big spuds for the mash and used a ricer to apply the mashed potatoes to the top of the fish pie. There was far too much fluid so I emptied away a sensible proportion of the liquid from the cooked fish. I didn't want the poor thing to drown in juice but I did need to leave enough liquid in the dish for moisture.

With the riced mash on top I whacked the dish back in the oven for a further thirty minutes and the result was a fantastic fish pie with a crusty brown topped mash finish. Some peas with fresh wild mint from my bijou garden finished it off.

The cats next door relaxed on the warm path, my lavender bushes scented the summer air and after my meal I enjoyed a cold beer or two on the stairs by the open door. Summer appears to be here at last and I look forward to cooking and creating more simple dishes for the summer months ahead.

Fresh basil and sun drenched tomatoes... perfect summer accompaniments ... basking in the warmth of my kitchen windowsill.