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Friday, 30 August 2013

Interview at BBC Radio Nottingham about my small role in the Love Every Mouthful campaign.

Yesterday took me on another adventure into the semi-familiar world of BBC radio broadcasting. I cannot pretend that radio interviews are new to me being a veteran of BBC radio interviews with the wonderful Alan Clifford of BBC Radio Nottingham in the past by promoting plays for the Lace Market Theatre. I have also been along, on various occasions, to Andy Whittaker's morning show to talk about my food blog.

So on this particularly sunny Thursday morning I took myself into Nottingham on the request of the Tesco press office to discuss with presenter Sarah Julian the excitement surrounding my direct and indirect achievements re: filming the Love Every Mouthful TV adverts.

I was early into town so I had a coffee at the Starbucks opposite the Nottingham railway station currently in the middle of a refurbishment.

I had been advised by the Tesco press office to be myself but talk up Tesco's vision around the Love Every Mouthful campaign.

If you weren't sure, the heart of 'Love Every Mouthful', is the start of a new dialectic between Tesco and its customers; it’s about relishing every mouthful of food and celebrating everyday food. And I am all for that!

So much care goes into the food we eat every day, from growing to picking, to choosing to packing and tasting and Tesco want to share this passion and care for food and I was very keen to promote this as something I truly believe in.

As this campaign has been growing and, the adverts have appeared on the telly, there has been quite a buzz at the Tesco store in Beeston with a big canteen wall display and our staff engaging the customers in food conversations. After all there are few people who don't like to talk about food. Tasters have certainly helped generate discussion as have the various special new store wide sections devoted to yummy store baked breads and fruit and vegetables with the fantastic corporate Love Every Mouthful displays through the store to really bring this message home.

On our meat and fish counters at Beeston Extra we always enjoy engaging the customers in conversations about the ultra fresh products and giving top class advice about cooking and enjoying the food to its best advantage. My other butcher, Alan, commands a lot of respect from his many many years experience and knowledge in previously owning his own butcher's business and Paul on the fish counter loves to give advice on the fish and makes a real quality job on the preparation of the whole fish and fillets as well as offering cooking advice. Cherie who works on both counters brings her character into every transaction and the customers love her energy. This isn't faceless supermarket shopping: this is about our passionate people on the counters and throughout the store in the fresh areas. The customers come back time and time again and all of us enjoy helping out our Nottingham University student population and the local folk around the small town of Beeston and beyond. There is also a lot of pride in doing the job to our best ability.These customer interactions often work in the opposite way as the students are from around the world and are keen to share cooking ideas with us too! And in this way you can say that we really are 'conversing about food' on an international scale.

Anyway I digress, I went on to Sarah Julian's breakfast radio show for a five minute airing and was able to entertain her with the events that led to my appearing on the TV adverts as the knife wielding Tesco butcher. I spoke about my passion for food and some of the technical happenings that occurred during the filming in Woolwich, London in early July this year.

Because it was the BBC I wasn't able/allowed to be too 'Tesco promotional' them being a non- commercially based enterprise with their own corporate and professional integrities to protect and this is the reason I wanted to share the beginning part of this blogpost because I feel inspired to promote the heart of the Love Every Mouthful campaign.

In the end I felt that I had put across my humour and serious opinions well on air and got around explaining events without resorting to saying 'Tesco' or 'Love Every Mouthful' to the point where, potentially, I could have been taken off air. All the staff at BBC Radio Nottingham from security man on the reception to Sarah Julian and Verity Cowley were all very professional and welcoming.

On the way back into the city centre I casually walked along the historic canal bank and, by pure chance, took several pictures of a goose flying and splashing down on the reflective waters. These actions echoed my feelings exactly during the interview: those of flying through the questions with ease and minimal flapping but making sure that I landed with grace on calm waters without too much excessive beak action and at the same time keeping my plumage in a good shape.


Thanks to Lizzie and Claire at the Tesco plc press office for arranging the interview and to all the staff at BBC Radio Nottingham.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

More front page news about myself in the Nottingham Post.

About three weeks ago I had an interview with Eric Petersen from the award winning newspaper - Nottingham Post - about my involvement in Tesco's Love Every Mouthful - steak advert. A day later a photographer came to the store in Beeston to take photos of myself for a proposed article. Time went on and every day I checked the paper to see if my interview had been published. By last weekend I had almost given up thinking that perhaps the interview would not, after all, be published at all.

Today I went into work at some ungodly hour to set up the fish counter due to other staff members being away on holiday and I thought to myself: "Well I'll just have a look at the Nottingham Post in my local newsagent to see if perhaps...

This was at 5.25am on a chilly Tuesday morning. As I looked blearily through the open shop door I was rather surprised (and delighted ) to see that I appeared to be appearing on the front page!!!! With three minutes to spare before the bus arrived I dashed in and bought a copy to read on the bus.

Inside the newspaper I found that not only did I have the front page but a nice article about my passions for food and my job at Tesco and my blog accompanied with some pictures. Apologies for the poor quality of these images but they are photos of the actual newspaper images, edited.

I have had some nice comments from supportive members of staff at Tesco especially my store manager Tammy Andrews and my counters manager Carol Pickering.

If you want to read the article please check out this link at Nottingham Post Butcher Phil.

Monday, 26 August 2013

Jamie Oliver's Search for a Food Tube star. My video entry plus 'the making of my video'.

After watching some Jamie Oliver Food Tube advice videos on Youtube I set about making my entry video for Jamie Oliver's Search for a Food Star video today. Although my tiny cottage kitchen isn't exactly a clutter zone I cleared away a space by the window and arranged some food items and props for my video. When I looked at the images on my laptop screen I thought that there was too much light streaming through giving the video a washed out look. So I decamped and moved my perspective across the other side of the kitchen and cleared away the de-cluttered clutter, leaving a few interesting items on show as reference and background.

As you can see from the top picture (and hear in the video) I used a cheap tray of roasting vegetables (£1.75) for the veg element of my lamb kebabs. The lamb came from a fillet of leg of lamb brought from Tesco for about £5 on a 50% off offer. The bbq sticks were dead cheap and cost less than £1 for a pack of one hundred. So that's good going really - five delicious lamb kebabs for less than eight pounds. The Uncle Ben's Pilau rice was £1, again from Tesco, on special offer.

I set up the laptop to film my video. I have no video camera as yet. The level wasn't quite high enough so I propped up the laptop on a thick French dictionary for the perfect height. All I had to do was wait for a quiet four minutes in order to do the filming. Amazing how one minute the communal path outside the house can be deadly silent and next (just as you want to start the shoot) a child decides to squeak or the postman bangs the gate. In the end, and after muttering to myself the things I wanted to get across, I gave it a go. I was delighted that I managed it in one take! The video is supposed to be no more than four minutes long and I don't have the facility for fancy effects or editing so I kept it simple - concentrating on the giving friendly advice about the meat and tips to save money and mentioning my part in the Love Every Mouthful campaign - of course.

I hope that my video gets a good look in for the competition and that something valuable comes from my efforts. The lamb kebabs and Uncle Ben's pilau rice were a yummy lunchtime treat!

My two books are now available as downloads. Why wait!

My two books published by are now available as downloads either to your ipads/ tablets or other media. I have set them at a very reasonable price of £7.49 each.

Tales from the Block is available from this link. Tales From The Block.

'Natalia Wieczorek' London. I bought this book as a hard copy and Phil's passion for food and his great humour shine through on every page. Brilliant. Love it.

'Dinah of Nottingham' Beautiful photos and an engrossing read. Laughed out loud in parts. Takes pride of place on my kitchen shelves.

'Gordon Beech' Loughborough. I can't believe this is your first book - extremely professional work. Well done. (bought for a present for his partner).

'Derek Hamilton' Derby. Your stories of your years in the butchery trade were very like mine. Hard work but great fun in the 1970s/80s. Glad that you still have the passion in you!

The second book is a photographic journal of four visits over a similar amount of years to the French city of Bordeaux. There is a text introduction in English and French. Over 120 photos fit to delight any Francophile.

Bordeaux - A Love Affair is available through this link. Bordeaux - a Love Affair.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

What our family ate in the 1960s and 1970s and strict table manners.

Going to the Jamie Oliver do the other night and enjoying some Colwick cheese has started me thinking about foodstuffs I would have eaten in my childhood and teenage years (1960s and 1970s).

I was brought up in Chaddesden ( a very large council estate near Derby in the East Midlands) and after my mother passed away (I was nine years old) my dad re-married and suddenly a father and son family became a five member family with my step mum and her two daughters and me and dad. Later on we had a baby brother join the family. So lots of mouths to feed with the family tightly packed round the dinner table. The council house kitchen was pretty small with a gas cooker and a pantry. After we moved in my industrious and ever practical dad knocked part of the kitchen wall out and installed a serving hatch with sliding doors! Misty the cat loved climbing through the new hole in the wall.

We always had a Sunday roast of beef or lamb and chicken was considered a luxury in our house and many other working class households during the 1960s. I think they were considered an expensive item of food. There was no starter and we all had to follow very strict table manners. For example, no talking at the table whilst eating, no elbows on the table, no eating with mouth open and food had to be chewed vigorously before swallowing (no bolting it down). None of us children were allowed to leave the table before everyone had finished and this caused some resentment if any brother or sister was slower in eating. It was deeply frowned upon if any of us kids accidentally slopped food or gravy on the linen table cloth. Invariably we did. And you had to eat EVERYTHING put in front of you because there were kids in Biafra starving. They were on the telly so it was true. We ate a lot of cabbage and greens. My dad was the only one who ate 'stinky' blue cheese though! He loved it.

The Sunday lunch would be about one o'clock and we all had to wash our hands before eating and we got inspected by my dad for any dirty hands or nails and had to go and wash them again if he thought they were grubby. Stomping up the stairs we would lather up again and rinse and run back down the stairs for another telling off for the noise we made on the stairs.

Dad always carved the Sunday joint after making a big show of sharpening the ever blunt carving knife on a steel with a finger guard for safety. My step mum had done all the prepping and the cooking. Most Sunday lunches came with roast potatoes, Brussel sprouts, diced carrots, home grown stringy broad beans and Yorkshire pudding with Bisto gravy. We often had a pudding with custard. Mostly it was in the form of a home made fruit tart but on occasion we would enjoy a volcanically hot baked Keswick cooking apple each. "No eating with your mouth open now!"

The puddings were often a big fruit pie that my step mum had made from shop bought or gathered fruit. It was quiet common for the family to go for country walks as far as Breadsall Village foraging apples, blackberries and damsons. Back home we would troop laden with plastic bags of purloined fruit. My step mum also made tons of jam – damson, strawberry, blackberry, raspberry etc. Raspberries and gooseberries were grown in the small back garden and were always had a glut of home grown tomatoes from the greenhouse and for a while we enjoyed new potatoes from a small patch of soil dug near the greenhouse for the cultivation of spuds. The space then got dug over for growing French beans on several wigwams of canes. Behind the greenhouse there were three big rhubarb plants and they supplied the fresh rhubarb for many a yummy rhubarb pie sweetened with golden brown cane sugar. We never had an allotment but my dad used to buy his fruit and veg growing ingredients like seeds and fertilisers from a local allotment association and wheel them home on the front of his bike. Some fruit and vegetables would have been brought from the greengrocer at the top of Scarborough Rise, though not many. We were relatively self sufficient.

I don't recall us eating that much fish at home but if we did it would have come from either a formerly great fish market at the covered Victorian Market in Derby or from a fish/meat counter at the Co-op store, again at the top of Scarborough Rise on the estate. We did eat a fair few fish fingers and home made chips cooked in a dangerous chip pan most weeks. The chip pan may have been dangerous but by God them home made real potato chips cooked in beef dripping were the best ever!

On occasion we would eat out as a family – fish and chips and mushy peas mostly – at a cafe in town. I don't recall us ever going to a restaurant except if we went on holiday – maybe a Berni Inn perhaps. There just wasn't the choice there is today. Eating out at a Wimpy bar was seen as exotic in our family!

Sunday tea was a selection of crab paste, salmon paste or beef paste sandwiches or maybe a Cheddar cheese or ham salad sandwich and sliced pork pie with Branston's pickle or Piccalilli and pickled onions. There may also have been a bowl of radishes to crunch on and there were always sticks of celery that were even crunchier to eat.There would be individual packets of Golden Wonder crisps to be enjoyed and I can't remember if these were the ones but there was a small blue packet of salt in the crisp packet for you to administer your own salt on the crisps. Hours of extra fun would be had trying to open those blessed Dairy Lea cheese triangles – a processed soft cheese tightly packed in individual bits of foil and arranged in a circular box as segments. There would be a simple salad bowl with Coss lettuce and sliced cucumber, tomatoes and spring onions and plenty of Saxa table salt to dip the spring onions and celery sticks into. Oh and a selection of meats. Don't be silly, I don't mean continental meats! I mean luncheon meat and Spam and corned beef and brawn.

Funnily enough we used to eat this fine repast from our laps ( a real treat) in the front room whilst we watched Cliff Mitchelmore present the Holiday Programme or watch Sunday Night at the London Palladium or Billy Smart's Circus or The Onedin Line. Regardless of whatever day the meals were cooked, myself and my step sisters always had to do the washing up. This caused endless arguments about who was on the unspoken rota to be the washer up, dryer up or the putter away! Funny now but we used to get so tense about the chores!

Breakfasts were a small affair with either a choice of  Kellogg's Cornflakes, Kellogg's Frosties, Rice Crispies, Shredded Wheat, Sugar Puffs, Weetabix or Sugar Pops. We normally ate these with cold milk but my dad preferred his with hot milk warmed through in a milk pan on the cooker. I can just see that white enamel milk pan boiling over on many an occasion with my dad getting tetchy as he tried to retrieve the scolding pan from the gas ring. Bless him.

We were allowed toast as well but, as with all children, we got into trouble for being greedy with the home made jam and fighting about how unfair it was that one sibling other had taken the biggest strawberry from the jam pot by digging to the bottom with the butter knife. We were also monitored by the parents about the amount of butter to spread on the toast. When we thought we could get away with it we'd slather it on! Otherwise it was proposed that we use as little as possible as it was expensive. It is quite possible we'd have a boiled egg too with little lion images printed on them.

On a Sunday we all had a full English fry up and I hated (and probably still would avoid eating) the fried bread element of the Sunday breakfast. Everything was fried in lard and although from memory it tasted good it was probably swimming in fat. To mop up the fat and sauces left on the plate we'd use sliced fluffy white bread and butter. To wash this down we would always drink fresh tea made with Brooke Bond tea leaves kept in the tea caddy. It got quite stewed but we still had to drink it. This probably explains why I prefer my tea weak these days.

Sometimes we would have an alternative Sunday breakfast and this was something we looked forward to very much. Mum would be kept busy supplying the family with plate after plate of fried egg sandwiches.

Saturday tea time in the slightly more affluent 1960s and 1970s was a big salad and a cream cake for afters brought from Birds the Confectioners in Derby city centre. Us kids drank a lot of sugary pop from the pop man who came round once a week. The drinks were mostly lemonade, dandelion and burdock and orangeade. On a rare occasion we'd get Lucozade in to drink. This came in bottles with some crinkly orange coloured wrapping paper over the neck of the bottle. Weird.

Earlier in my childhood (after my mum had died and I was looked after at lunchtime by neighbours and aunties) I got obsessed with strawberry flavoured Angel Delight  or Instant Whip style desserts given to me by my aunty Edith. First she cooked me a plate of chips and I was allowed to dip them in a generous blob of salad cream and then the chilled Angel Delight/Instant Whip appeared from her 'oh so mod' refrigerator. "Fab!" as they said in the 60s! My Auntie Dora used to look after me too and with her I had regular dinners of cold tripe, vinegar and pickled onions. I used to love the slithery texture of the tripe as I ate it and the sharp vinegar taste. She used to like pickled eggs too but I wasn't so keen.

The Mr Whippy or Mr Softy ice cream man used to appear every Sunday afternoon and we often got given an ice cream as a family treat. The Lowe family favourite was a wafer 'shell' full of creamy dairy ice cream. Other popular choices were: a Cornish Mivvi, Orange Maid ice lolly (9p) or a Zoom ice lolly shaped like a rocket. Once in a while we'd be treated to a Choc Ice or a block of ice cream called a Cornish Dairy brick that we'd cut up and eat with wafers. There was a similar 'brick' that I think was called a Neapolitan and was a sectioned mix of vanilla ice cream and strawberry and chocolate. Quite often we'd have the ice cream with tinned peaches or apricots.

For all these foodstuffs my step mum Marnie and my dad Bob worked very hard each in their own jobs. Marnie worked at a variety of places including Liptons Grocery store in the Cornmarket (sometimes returning home triumphant with cheap tins of broken biscuits to share) and Bob, my dad, worked mostly for Rolls Royce as a turner and cycled to work every day come hail or shine. With five hungry mouths to feed there was no way that my step mum could afford the luxury of being a stay at home housewife with just my dad bringing in an income. All credit to them for bringing us all up to be decent appreciative adults.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Here it is ... the Love Every Mouthful steak advert in which I appear for Tesco. PLUS short version of advert.

Readers will recall that I went down to London early July after winning a nationwide competition to be part of Tesco's new food campaign - Love Every Mouthful. I won on my passion for food and my love of being a Tesco butcher and sharing food advice on my meat counter and through this blog.

Without further ado... here is the advert. I am the butcher at the end.

PPS: If you are really interested in the process of my experience on the advert shoot. Click this link.

NEW!!!! The shorter version in which you can see my face. Just added 22nd August.

Friday, 16 August 2013

Sampling Colwick cheese in the company of Jamie Oliver.

Tonight I went, on special invite. to Jamie Oliver's restaurant on Low Pavement in central Nottingham in my capacity as a passionate food writer/blogger. Jamies' company – Fresh One TV are making a new series of food programmes for Channel Four which, each week, are looking at a variety of food produced in Great Britain. This was part of the second series of Jamie and Jimmy's Food Fight Club. As part of these programmes there will be a weekly strand featuring a forgotten food of England which the presenters will be encouraging a return of. The aim is to revive classic British dishes and drinks that have disappeared from the public awareness and championing great local food in the process. For the filming tonight in the beautiful garden behind Jamie's Italian in Nottingham the food being celebrated and tasted was the historically very popular and versatile, Colwick cheese.

A food historian called Matthew O'Callaghan brought back this historic cheese (historically made as far back as the 1600s) after reading about it in a recipe book. He has re-introduced the cheese and it is now being manufactured at Belvoir Ridge Creamery in Leicestershire. The creamy cheese was shown to great acclaim at the Artisan Cheese Fair in May this year. The Colwick cheese is now being sold in Nottingham and North Leicestershire. (source: Nottingham Post).

The staff at Jamies were very professional and welcoming and going through the restaurant to the rear garden I could see Jamie Oliver in the distance doing one of his many filming sessions. The foodie folk who'd been invited to meet Jamie and sample the lovely Colwick cheese inspired dishes were starting to arrive and the weather was nice and sunny for the filming. I spied Rosie from Aubrey's crêperie in town and a few well known faces from the food world. We were all advised to temporarily take some shade and a drink of water while Jamie finished his shoot.

Whilst waiting I met a very interesting and friendly lady called Hilary who runs a Nottinghamshire based food business called Lings Lane Larder and she make jams, jellies, marmalades, fruit curds, chutneys and pickles. She said that she always uses the very best ingredients - some responsibly foraged from the wild, others from her garden as well as top quality imported citrus fruits from independent local greengrocers. The sugar and spices used in her products are all fairly traded, and she uses Aspall's vinegars made to traditional recipes in the county of Suffolk. Hilary is proud to be a member of the Slow Food Movement and is passionate about great food.

We had a right old chinwag and a laugh and she was lovely company with a great sense of humour. She told me that she has her eye on a particular medlar tree, the fruit being perfect for medlar jam. Medlars are a hardy fruit that look like a cross between a small apple and a rosehip and do make wonderful jam and jellies to accompany meats and cheeses.

Eventually there was some more filming done at various locations around the sunlit and dappled garden with us mingling foodie folk in the background, Jamie seemed very relaxed and friendly. At one point all the assembled guests were invited to sit down at the outdoor tables and the food items made with Colwick cheese made a grand entrance. There was much excitement and a big round of applause for our local cheese made from the milk of Red Poll cows.

On our table we sampled the creamy soft cheese coated in local honey with fresh figs and grapes and also some delicious Italian brushetta breads with continental ham, ripe tomatoes, basil and the Colwick cheese. All were very moreish! The filming carried on around us as we continued to enjoy the food. The couple opposite myself and Hilary will have a starring role as the woman was encouraged to be filmed feeding her husband some of the Colwick cheese on the bruschetta in a way that implied Summer romance.

Thanks to Fresh One TV for inviting me to a super summer's evening television shoot with Jamie Oliver and Jimmy Doherty from Doherty's Farm.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Do more with your leg of lamb. Phil's simple butchery tip.

Traditionally a leg of lamb bought from the High Street butchers or supermarket butchery counter or pre-packed section can be used in three ways. Those are: Leg left whole and cooked bone in. Leg divided into two giving you the choice of the fillet or the bonier shank end. Most legs of lamb sold nowadays have the aitch bone removed already. What the buggery is the 'aitch bone' ? I hear you politely ask.

The 'aitch' bone is half a hip bone and fiddly to cut around so the High Street butcher takes it out for ease of carving when cooked. In a supermarket the legs of lamb arrive with the 'aitch' bone removed so that the sharp edges don't accidentally pierce the cryovac packaging and spoil the meat by letting air in and thus reducing the time in which the meat needs to be sold by or in the worse case, going off. There you go. You can all impress your friends with this choice bit of butchery knowledge now. Wanna learn more? Read on.

I'm going to show you how, with a sharp paring or boning knife, you can create a nice carvery leg and have some lean lamb steaks for another time. You need a bit of butcher's string as well. Smile nicely at your local butcher and he or she might give you some for free.

Righty ho. First we have a full leg of lamb. There it is in the picture below. It has bones in it otherwise it would fall down in the field. There are only three bits of bone and cartilage to know and when you are cutting/trimming always cut away from yourself otherwise a mischief to one's self could be done.

                                         This is a full leg of lamb. Don't be scared of it.

                                    This is a marvellous picture I drew earlier. Be impressed.

What we are going to do is remove the top muscle (the lamb version of topside) by cutting along the leg bone from the visible end keeping the edge of the knife close to the bone. The knife journey is from right to left. Muscles have seams and once you see the slightly grayer skin (the seam) inside the leg you can actually push the muscle away and then cut through the skin to remove the lamb topside.

Put the lamb topside to one side as we'll come back to that in a bit. You are doing well, by the way. You now need to remove the big leg bone (the one that I've drawn, labelled as leg bone and looks a bit like a penis on the picture). The drawing accident wasn't deliberate btw. Right, concentrate.

To find the knee joint pick up the leg of lamb and bend it like you are flexing its knee. You should see a bit of movement. That's where the top end of the knee joint is and where you should start. Jab the space with the end of your knife and push the knife in. Then cut out the knee joint. It looks like a reversed D shape. The leg bone is easy peasy. With the tip of your knife tease the meat away from the bone along its length, then underneath gradually freeing the bone and always cutting away from you. Both bones removed? Well done.

Trim off any fatty or grisly bits from the surface and interior of the leg. They are obvious and creamy white. There is a bit of deep fat containing a grey-green lymph node that needs to be taken out too. Have a look at the photo above and it is there, smack in the middle of the leg. You are doing very well so far. Nobody has fainted or stabbed themselves yet. Good.

Get your butchers string and if you know how to tie a slip knot (butcher's knot) fab. Otherwise any tight knot will do. Just turn the leg of lamb skin up. Tidy round any loose bits of flesh and tie up with just two knots. Voila! A carvery leg!

Now come back to your lamb topside. Trim any fatty or grisly bits from the joint surface and you can either steak it for luscious leg lamb steaks or keep it whole (freeze it maybe) for a smaller boneless lamb joint another time. If you look at the photo above I have butterflied the last steak as it was at the smaller end of the lamb topside and didn't look as sexy as the other leg lamb steaks.


Futuristic venue for a coffee in Nottingham

Any moment now I am expecting to see a flying car or Superman zip past on a super hero errand. I am sitting in a branch of Starbucks on the Nottingham University Jubilee campus. There are a few customers but it is out of season for the student population at the moment so things are delightfully quiet. The buildings and urban spaces remind me a little of the re-vamped former industrial landscape on the right bank of the river Garonne in Bordeaux. All is very modern with clean walking areas, a series of fountains that lead to a small lake, home to various wild fowl.

Outside the coffee shop itself the sun is shining, the sky is a 'just before lunchtime' blue with two vapour trails behind the impressive spiralling form of the Aspire installation. The odd bird goes past but no Superman as yet.

The shadows and furniture are inspiring me to take photos in between drinking my medium cappuccino in a cosy mug and I would be happy to sit here awhile but I need to get to Beeston to buy some Schwarzwaldrauch Black Forest Smoked Ham from Lidl. As Bernard, an amusing German friend of mine recently said "Every Lidl Helps."

As I am walking back through the Jubilee campus to Derby Road these buildings and another adjoining café space attract my attention and once again I feel that I am in another part of the world.

The trip to Lidl was pretty uneventful and I made my way back home on the two buses I need to reach my village. On my way to the bus station I did spy these two guys outside a café on the Beeston High Street playing an intense game of chess. I quite like Beeston - there is an interesting mix in the local population mainly due, I think, to the close proximity of the main Nottingham University site.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Roast shoulder of lamb with garlic and rosemary - butcher's version.

One of the things I learnt on the Gold Meat course in Wales recently was how to create cushions of lamb from a boned out shoulder of British lamb. So, this weekend I spent some time boning out a full shoulder of lamb (at work) and using the blade side as my 'cushion'  - so called because of the stringing method and resultant look.

The beautiful shoulder of lamb is by nature a joint with a larger element of fat than say, the leg. So the shoulder needs more trimming if you want to restrict the fat within the meat. Below is the full shoulder minus the neck muscle. This is how they arrive at my counter at Tesco once removed from the cryovac packaging.

First of all I removed the blade bone by trimming around the bone to release the meat and sinews. Then I place my two fingers around the top of the bone and pull towards myself. Amazingly, if you have trimmed well the whole thing comes clean away from the meat. The key is good trimming and fulcrum. Doing it this way means that you don't rip the shoulder skin by hacking at the thin join of bone and skin.

The next part is more labour-some. The two knuckle bones need to be tunnel boned which is done with careful pushing actions with the tip of the knife and a twisting motion as the bones come free of the meat. The outer knuckle bone is the more awkward to do because of its irregular shape. All the tougher bits of the joint now need to be removed so that when the meat is rolled and eventually eaten you aren't spitting out chewy bits of sinew. You then continue by removing any extraneous fat and the lymph node buried in a wedge of fat in the top right hand corner of the meat. It's all about working carefully with the tip of the boning knife and teasing away the unwanted element. Like any working in this way, a gradually learnt recognition of structure of the muscles and bones is key to a good clean job done.

Once all the fat and gristle has been trimmed you can then cut the shoulder in half in the same direction that the blade and knuckle end would naturally lay 'bone in' and pull the muscles into tight balls and string up across the meat creating a cross and then two more diagonal strings to create the cushion effect.

                                   Photo above shows the full shoulder in three cushions.

Now the exciting bit! The cooking of the shoulder. Shoulder needs a slower cooking to get the best result and the piece (top joint of the above photo) I cooked I did on gas mark 6 for two hours.

I decided to add rosemary and garlic to the lamb and trimmed some rosemary from a big bush in my cottage garden. I cut off little sprigs and sharpened the ends with a sharp knife. The garlic I cut into slithers and then cut slits in the meat to push the garlic/rosemary into.

As you can see I photographed each stage simply because I like to do this and get great pleasure in being able to share the images/text and ideas with you.

The meat went into a pre-heated oven for an hour covered with silver foil and then I took it out, removed the foil and basted the meat with the unctuous meat juices. The cooking oil was olive oil.

For the last half hour of cooking I chopped up some Tesco Cornish new potatoes and added fresh mint from my cottage garden. The house air was full of fantastic aromas of cooking lamb, garlic and rosemary.

These cooked on the oven top for about half an hour alongside some French beans I had in the freezer. Once cooked the lamb rested on the side for fifteen minutes even though it was very tempting to snaffle a slice or two. I removed the rosemary and added the cooked garlic to the gravy for added flavour.

                              I removed the strings once the cooked meat had rested on the side.

A lovely simple Sunday dinner, easily cooked with patience, love and respect for the meat.