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Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Take a look at my expert advice on the best stewing beef to buy.

Brr, it's kinda stewing steak weather at the moment and I get a lot of unsure people come to my meat counter asking for advice on the best beef stewing steak and my advice is simple. From the fore quarter of the heifer you will get a variety of stew types each with their own subtle flavour. The main parts are the neck, the shoulder and shin of beef. There are three other types I'd recommend and I'll come to those later. They are blade, chuck and skirt.

The trimmed neck and shoulder are your standard stewing meat. You can't really go wrong with them. The shin (fore leg) of beef is different as it is slightly sinewy and a darker red colour. It has a more beefy taste which some prefer and if cooked slightly longer, perhaps a third longer than the neck or shoulder the sinews will break down and melt into the meat. If not it can be very chewy. Have a look at the picture below and  can see the sinews running through the muscles.

                                                                     Shin of beef
Now we come to another part of the beef carcass called skirt. This has become so popular it's almost trending. Skirt can come from two places on the animal, either the diaphragm or a thick long muscle on the flank. It is trimmed of most of its fat and is very lean. the reason is it is so popular is because, as I often explain to my customers, the meat is very open textured and this means it will be great at taking on any flavours that you wish to add to it and will melt down quickly in a stewing environment. It makes for fantastic gravy and the skirt meat will also be great for beef curries. The French even slice it diagonally across the muscle for bavette steaks. It is also known as 'plate' in the USA.

Skirt in chunks with the muscle in the piece (above)
Now let us have a look at the braising or casserole steak, traditionally called chuck steak. Chuck steak in the piece looks letter box in shape and can be seen sliced as you might see a rump steak sliced (about a finger thick). It needs a slow cooking method because of the abundance of collagen within the muscle that breaks down when slow cooked otherwise it can be quite chewy. For those of you who have slow cookers or are just very patient as the kitchen fills with the scent of a divine stew cooking up, this is perfect. There are other muscles on the beef fore than can be used for braising or broiling as a joint but we'll keep it simple and I will cover those another time. If you are looking to make a classic beef bourguignon I suggest that you visit a traditional butcher and ideally ask for blade of beef (it is a thick muscle that sits on top of the animal's shoulder blade.) Otherwise a good chuck steak will do at a push. I can also recommend this recipe I found today to make the beef bourguignon. It is written by US cooking expert, Madeleine Kamman. Beef Bourguignon recipe.

                                                                       braising steak

So enjoy making a warming stew on these increasingly chilly days and see you next time. Phil

Monday, 28 October 2013

What is it like to shop at a French butchery shop?

Whilst I have gone by a few Boucherie in my times in France and looked through the windows eager to see the difference between the French style of butchery and display but alas I have never been inside one of these meat emporiums. There are a couple of reasons why not and those are 'lack of French language skills' and 'lack of anywhere to cook the meat' due to staying in a hotel whilst in France. In my travels over the years I have passed by Halal butchers, traditional French butchers, witnessed pre-packed meats in the Intermarché and Monoprix supermarkets and have been intrigued by whole massive freezer cabinets stuffed to the brim with duck products. The nearest I ever got to going into a butchers was in Paris (2006) when I asked permission to take a photo of a rotisserie of cooking chickens cooking in thyme. The smell was to die for! So, cher readers I recently phoned my friends, Jean and Nick who have a property in Le Grand Pressigny and are regular visitors to France and, like me, are big Francophiles. I thought that if anyone would know it would be them.

We had a lovely conversation and the outcome was that their experience of going to a French butcher was based on visits to a village butchers and they both said that it was like going back to the 1950s. I spoke mostly to Nick and Jean has forwarded me some links to HER BLOG that have proved very good in writing this blogpost. Many thanks for your encouragement Jean and Nick. I hope that you like what I have written.

So here is a slice of Nick and Jean's experience of shopping at the village butcher owned by M & Mme Poupeau.

Jean: "One thing I do like about the French butchers there is the way they give old fashioned personal attention to each customer regardless of how many people are waiting in the queue. And those waiting always seem perfectly happy to wait their turn. They exchange pleasantries, wrap meat beautifully, often in two layers of paper tied with string, almost as if the person they are serving is the only one in the shop! The couple in LGP never rush a customer because people are waiting, so different to over here."

                                                               image supplied by Jean
Nick: "Well, this is how it is Phil, one day we plucked up courage to enter the village butchers. I say this because, even now, a trip to the butcher is a slightly unnerving experience. Personally I find it makes a huge difference how many people are in the shop already when I enter. Look at it this way, let's say there are just one or two customers waiting therefore I have enough time to scan the produce on offer, decide what to have, configure actually how to ask for it in French, buy it and leave before I lose my nerve. If there are too many people in front of me I lose track of what I want because I'm busy  listening to the locals who buy all kinds of scary looking stuff and know exactly what to do with it. Then I realise that it is finally my turn and I'm forced to speak French. I try not to appear nervous and the reality is that the proprietors, M. and Mme. Poupeau are immensely patient, helpful and kind to us and have never ever said a single word that was intended to make us feel uncomfortable or inadequate in any way."
                                                           image supplied by Jean
Jean: " One day we were in luck. There was just one person in front of us Phil, so we checked out the meat in the display and also spotted some quiche and taboulé we would have for lunch plus some paté we could serve as a starter for our little dinner party. This was quite an order and we were feeling confident. Nick was at the helm and he asked Mme for "un pièce de boeuf à rôtir pour quatre personnes" (in his best Crabtree accent). Lydie Poupeau smiled, disappeared in the back and re-emerged with the biggest and most fabulous piece of meat I have ever seen in my life. She sliced a piece off and took the rest back to the fridge, re-emerging with a large parcel. This turned out to be thin slices of fat, some of which she wrapped around the meat and tied in place with string from a ball nailed to the ceiling. We marvelled at the whole performance. Next our joint was wrapped and weighed, hitting the mark at 800 grams exactly! With a sweet smile, she lifted it up and as she was about to hand it to Nick she seemed to have second thoughts and quickly drew it back towards her, just out of his grasp! Then she said, in a stern voice. "quinze minutes, Monsieur". About two seconds passed as their eyes met and she said, leaning forwards ever so slightly, "quinze minutes......vingt minutes, maximum !"

Quick thinking as ever, Nick replied "Mais oui Madame, vignt minutes, bien sûr !" Satisfied that we were going to treat her beef with the respect it deserved, she allowed us to pay for it and we left the shop with our purchases, stunned but happy."

Nick:" That's right - the thing about the French butchers is that they are extremely passionate about giving you the very precise piece of meat that you want and really keen to know how you are going to cook it and want to offer their sage advice into the shopping bargain to make absolutely sure you go away and the correct thing and the very best correct thing at that. Plus the provenance of the produce is key to the French people's enjoyment of food. "

Jean:"At Easter the French (mainly Catholic) eat lamb and lamb in France is very expensive. They won't touch New Zealand lamb - it has to be French almost down to knowing what field the lamb grazed in! So what they tend to do is buy a small piece and really enjoy the taste rather than spend a fortune. Saying that, there was a queue right round the block last Easter for M. Poupeau's delicious lamb!

Nick:" What is interesting is that if you want something actually chopped with the cleaver the lady owner will hand the cleaving job to her husband Laurent as the huge cleaver is too heavy for this tiny woman to use. Also, there is not so much constant hand washing as in the butchery shops in the UK and the displays are fantastic even for a small village butcher and the choices of cuts are very different to those in British shops. They'll have stuffed meats on offer and steaks and chops all done in fantastic herbs and of course the French aren't shy about putting all the offal out for sale including brains. Like I said, it is like going back to the 1950s and '60s and nothing - nothing at all is wrapped in plastic! You might get a plastic bag to carry all your goodies home in, that's it. All is carefully wrapped in paper and done with such pleasure and pride. My particular favourite from their shop is the Morteau boiling sausage - Saucisse de Morteau smoked to perfection."

Nick also mentioned the layout in the meat cabinet wasn't sectioned as in the UK, all the trays of raw meat were sitting happily alongside, beautiful chickens and rabbit portions, fresh salads, pates, sausages fresh and cured and terrines. He also said that the shop they go to had very pretty rustic tiles with images of rural life on them and the whole shop was spotlessly clean.

Le Grand Pressigny is situated in the Touraine region of the Loire Valley and the region specialises in andouillette de la Touraine in which calves and pigs cauls and the pluck are used to combine the taste advantages of both and give a satisfactorily balanced taste. Even across this region there have been two factions that swear that one way is better than the other in the meat content. Troyes prefer the pork and the folk of the area around Lyon have a preference for veal. Andouillettes must conform to a decree which dates from 1912 and the Association Amicale des Amateurs d'Andouillette Authentique (yes the AAAAA!) awards diplomas on which the customers can rely.

This region is also well known for the famous rillons, a speciality from Touraine, large pieces of cut pork shoulder and belly pork with milky fat running through them. These are browned with caramel added into the mix. The pieces are put into a large larded pot, sea salt added and allowed to soak. Towards the end of the soak a bottle of Vouvray wine is added and the meat is fried in the mixture and when cool, bottled up for future enjoyment.

                                                                     classy butcher's shop frontage in Paris

The French have something called Variety Meats and this practice of butchery and tripe dealing distinguish between what they call white meats and red meats. The white meats cover the various stomachs, intestines, trotters, ears and heads. The second group represents organs like the heart, the livers and the testicles, the brain, the tongue, the cheek and the tail and the origins go back to usage of the cuts in pre-historic times when the parts were eaten in ritual to gain the traits of the animal associated with them. As you may imagine Variety Meats are not to everyone's taste but the French certainly like to use every part of the animal in their Boucherie.

Here are some unfamiliar names that you may be confronted with in the beautiful butchery displays in France.

Animelles - Ram's testicles.
Caillette - Rennet stomach.
Joue de boeuf - Bull's cheek
Langues de beouf, agneau et veau - Bull's, lamb's or calf tongues.
Ris de veau et agneau - Calf and lambs sweetbreads.
Cervelle de veau - Calf's brain.
Gras double - Tripe.
Tetine - Cooked udder.
Panse - Paunch.

Now I've scared you with the names above I've put together a collection of French words for products and cooking styles you might find in a traditional French butcher's establishment.


La viande et la volaille – meat and poultry.

L'agneau – lamb

le boucher – butcher

l'allonge – meat hook

la balance – scales

le fusil – knife steel

le bacon – bacon

les saucisses – sausages

le foie – liver

le porc – porc

la venaison – venison

le boeuf – beef

le veau – veal

la langue de boeuf – ox tongue
les abats – offal

salé – cured

fumé – smoked

de ferme – free range

naturel – organic

la viande blanche – white meat

la viande rouge – red meat

la viande maigre – lean meat

la viande cuite – cooked meat

les morceaux de viande – cuts of meat

le jambon – ham

la couenne – rind

la tranche – slice

la viande hachée – mince

le filet – fillet

le rumsteck – rump steak

le bifteck d'aloyau – sirloin steak

la côte de boeuf – rib

le gigot – joint

le coeur – heart

la peau – skin

le blanc – breast (as in chicken)

la cuisse – thigh

le poulet – chicken

le poulet préparé – dressed chicken

le faisan – pheasant

la cuisse – leg

la caille – quail

le canard – duck

l'oie – goose

la charcuterie – delicatessen

le comptoir – counter

en saumure – in brine

mariné – marinated.

les pâtés en croûte – pies

les saucisson piquant – spicy sausage

le salami – salami

la tourte – pie

le rôti – roast

le ragoût – stew

le chiche kebab – kebab

les boulettes de viande – meatballs

farci – stuffed

grillé – grilled

cuit à la vapeur - steamed

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Now a new Nottingham Nero

As I travel by bus and foot through the city of Nottingham I have been aware and, to some extent documented, of a new CaffèNero venue being constructed on the corner of Canal Street and Carrington Street. I prefer this coffee chain out of all the major ones like Costa or Starbucks because the staff are always friendly and seem enthusiastic about their work. Plus they do a darn good cup of coffee and yummy almond croissants. Although it is a chain the venues always have a homely feel.
On a Sunday morning before work I like to sit and relax with a book and a cappuccino at the Caffè Nero in the town of Beeston. I have to say it puts a great start on my day and given the fact that I work every Sunday it is a routine I enjoy. From now on in I shall be taking my coffee at the new branch opposite the bus station. After all it is literally only a few steps away from where I get off my first bus. I popped in tonight on the way home from work and was very impressed with the revamped space and the two guys who served me.
A bit of history for you:

The block in which this Caffè Nero now sits was designed by Gilbert Smith Doughty and built in the period 1896 -1898. I would be fascinated to know what the building was used for the first sixty years and I have been told that the space was a branch of Redmayne and Todd sports shops for about thirty years and in my memory of living in Nottingham I recall it being Branches the furniture shop. If you know of any other occupants to let me know and I'll edit accordingly. Rachel of Caffe Nero says that the space was once occupied by The London Boot Company and also Gunn & Moore who sold sportswear and specialised in cricket gear and the England team were a high profile customer.

Then it was empty for a while until an Indian restaurant started up. This was called Holi and according to some -not very favourable posts on - it was thought of as a poor venue to eat. The main complaints were -indifferent staff - poor and greasy/oily food, sometimes undercooked - no atmosphere in the restaurant - often empty even at peak dining times (an ominous sign!) and the mural of the Holi festival with scary painted up people made diners uncomfortable. There were a couple of favourable reports but not many. The restaurant inevitably closed and the property became a bit of a mess. The space was used for a temporary art space and then a tatty showcase for local colleges. The windows looked a right mess and filthy with the blu-tacked posters and pictures often on the floor.


Then along came signs that the property was going to be developed into something new and more attractive and I began taking photos of the development once I knew it was to be new Caffè Nero. The one below was taken at 6.30am! The lengths I go to entertain my dear readers.


So as I said at the beginning of the post I popped in for twenty minutes tonight between my bus journeys home and immediately felt at home. I'll definitely be back tomorrow on my way to work.
For anyone unfamiliar with Caffè Nero culture - the emphasis is on the Italian and they have a great website at

I've previously written about my Caffè Nero experiences and you may wish to read about them at the links below.

                                           This last picture was taken on the Sunday morning around 8.30am.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Wasting food? Couldn't care less? Do care but not sure what to do?

I'm sure all of us waste some food in the week though various avenues, over buying - duplicate buying - over tempted by supermarket offers that lead to waste in the end as the food doesn't get eaten.

According to a recent report we consumers and the stores from which we buy are all throwing away far too much food and drink. Tesco seem to be leading the way in dealing with the problem and are planning to resolve some of the portion issues that lead us to chuck away uneaten food.

'Today, Tesco have published their food waste figures and want to help customers to save £700 per year on wasted food. Love Food Hate Waste has been working closely with Tesco on this, why not check out their website for more hints and tips to help everyone to waste less and save money?'

Personally I hate food waste and will do my best not to bin food items or to buy in things I know may go to waste if not eaten within a given time.

The best source of advice, I have found, is the excellent company and website where they not only highlight the wastage that happens in the average household but also suggest some great meal ideas to help us deal with what we do with food. Additionally they offer advice on storage and tips for portion control.

Considering the average family throw away over £700 worth of food a year all this great advice is worth considering if not for ourselves then for the planet too. Do visit their site.

Love Food, Hate Waste: 'We throw away 7.2 million tonnes of food and drink from our homes every year, the majority of which could have been eaten. It's costing us £12bn a year and is bad for the environment too.

Britsh Bake Off bonanza! The final. Are you watching?

Tomorrow is the final of the latest series of the television cooking competition. The previous Great British Bake Off  final drew in a fantastic 6.7 million viewers. I wonder how many viewers tomorrow's BBC2 final will attract as the three lady bakers, Beca, Ruby, Kimberely and Frances go head to head?!

Host Paul Hollywood says work has already started on a fifth series for next year and in the Radio Times he says that "This year's bakers are almost professional. Let's hope that the level continues to get higher but we could have reached our pinnacle. May the best woman win!"

Paul Hollywood believes that baking is more of a treat, whereas cooking is more of a chore, and the show's success has led to communities having bake offs all over the country even down to staff in offices having a 'bake off Friday' and supermarket chains like Tesco having inter store bake offs. In fact you can't move in bookshops across the UK for baking related books. Baking is blooming big.

Mary Berry explains that the Great British Bake Off is 'great family entertainment' and that she feels there aren't many programmes where the whole family can sit and watch from beginning to end. Everything is educational without viewers realising it. Plus, the show has caught Britain in a time of recession and it is lovely and easy and less expensive to do than other activities with children. She also credits the fact that the bakers support each other and become friends.

The Great British Bake Off first aired in 2010 and it took the team four years to get anybody at any television channel to take any notice. Anna Beattie, creator of the show says that "Nobody liked it but we just kept on because we thought it was such a great idea." Beattie simply loved the idea of village fetes and an old fashioned baking competition with enthusiastic, ordinary people, who just wanted to bake a good cake. The viewing figures have risen from 2.2 million in the first series nearly 7 million for the latest series Not so bad for an apparent no hoper! The show has been awarded two consecutive Baftas and it has been bought and copied in 13 countries including the famous tent and décor.

The last in this series of The Great British Bake Off airs at 8pm (Tuesday 22nd October) on BBC2.Will there be tears in The Tent Of Dreams as each contestant tries to make a perfect savoury picnic pie - the final signature challenge? Go bakers!!!

For more info on the show visit

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Beeston Food and Drink weekend

Click on the collage to view in a larger format.

The Beeston Food and Drink weekend (19th and 20th October ) and Oxjam music festival was a mixed bag for me. On the plus side the Oxjam music festival managed to raise over £10,000 and it was great to hear and see the various musicians and bands playing around the town and the local Broadgate park. The various street entertainers brought a bit of fun to the high street and market square, especially the madcap French waiters dashing energetically around and about on Friday. The Beeston Tesco Extra supermarket also drew crowds with the taster sessions in store with many people queuing to sample some of Tesco's Finest range foods.

The Yiannis Greek restaurant on Wollaton Road were offering 15% discount for Jan 2014 bookings and other eateries in and around Beeston were offering between 10% and 15% off food over the Food and Drink weekend. The Belle & Jerome establishment on the High Street were doing a brisk trade with their outdoor barbeque.

Whilst I applaud all the positive things happening over this weekend the let down for me was the lack of businesses selling and promoting food and drink on the market square on the Friday - maybe half a dozen stalls and an equally small amount of stalls on the Saturday during what I imagined to be the biggest foodie draw - the farmers' market. Again a very small cluster of stalls on one corner of the market place. I hope that any future events such as this get more support from the stall holders attendant and then the event will be a bigger draw for the folk of Broxtowe.

For more information about Beeston and its shops and businesses see

Friday, 18 October 2013

Bake a cake for Beeston. Tesco competition.

This cake making competition 'Bake a Cake for Beeston' was run as part of the Beeston Food and Drink Weekend and for those who don't know Beeston near Nottingham it has a famous statue on the high street called The Bee Man and the locals are very fond of this local character. Thus he was reflected in many of the entries for the cake making comp.

The local Mayor of Broxtowe, Iris White judged the competition and was delighted with the very creative entries. Manager of the competition - Stephanie Wilkinson was also in attendance as was Linda Lalley community officer for Tesco extra Beeston.

Iris White and Linda Lalley

                                                   Stephanie Wilkinson and Linda Lalley

The main two winners of the competition were declared as Josie McCullen with her 'Let's Go to Beeston' cake and she got a £30 first prize. The second prize of £15 went to John Draper with his Bees Ton cake creation.

The food and drink festival continues in style tomorrow with a farmers market on the Beeston Market Square and various local cafes and pubs offering taster sessions and meal deals. The streets of Beeston are going to very musical as well with musicians performing all around the town as part of Oxjam.

Tesco Beeston Extra are also going to town by providing free taster sessions in store from 12pm to 3pm and I will be going out and about with my camera seeking out the best of the Beeston Food and Drink Weekend.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Saving a lot of money in supermarkets

I've been digging around some great price comparison sites for saving money on food and I would recommend you check these UK supermarket comparison sites out.

Money saving supermarket provides guides, offers and best buys for food prices, shopping, credit cards, broadband, energy prices, banking, savings, loans, and voucher codes.

This site looks at supermarket shopping online and claims to save an average of £17 per shop!

They say "Everyday we collect over 50,000 items from Tesco, Sainsbury's and Asda and you can easily and quickly search them. If you register you can build your own shopping list and see at a glance which supermarket would be the cheapest.You can compare over 10,000 items to see who has the best buys. Our sister site is updated daily and has over 5,000 special offers. "

Monday, 14 October 2013

Introduction to my blog on video

A fun opportunity, via the wonderful world of home video, to say 'hello' to all of my followers from my kitchen in rural Nottinghamshire. If only it was 'smelly vision' as I had just finished cooking some lavender and lemon chicken from a recipe by Rachel Khoo. The kitchen aromas are fantastic!

Life in filming world can be a veritable trial though - mostly connected with sound, occasionally by unexpected visual distraction. Today I had to work around the following and this video took eight takes until I was reasonably satisfied with the result.

  • Noise from the household central heating powering up.
  • Soufie the cat wanting to join in the action and meowing loudly.
  • Random noise and visual distraction from some builders doing a major job four houses down the row.
  • A realisation that I tend to blink a lot when talking and therefore a compulsion to go for another take. Perfectionist that I am.
  • Betty the sweet old dear talking loudly outside my door (getting deafer don't you know) about the inclement weather with another neighbour.
  • Regular traffic noise from Eastthorpe Street as the number 10 bus sails by every ten minutes.
  • The communal gate banging as the postman barges through and distributes his letters to all and sundry along the row of cottages, accompanied by an out of tune whistle and as a percussive finale - an exiting slam. Sans whistle.

I've wanted to do this for a while but previously never had the video camera to achieve a reasonable standard of short film. I hope that you like it. I've used a Sony handycam 8.9 megapixels.

For added information I enjoy documenting the cooking process with photos and now video but I am not a great follower of recipes - if anything I tend to use them as a guide rather than adhere to exact measurements. Plus, like most folk my funds don't always allow for extravagant ingredients so I have a tendency to ignore or put aside for a wealthier day any recipes that call for more than I have in the kitchen cupboard. As I mentioned in the video I do tend to cook dishes like stews and proper curries that last me a few days. This is practical because I am out at work throughout the week and am often tired on return. As I don't have a person to cook for me it can be lovely to just arrive home, stroke and fuss next door's cats and  warm up a stew and settle down to do some more blogging or watch a food programme on BBC iplayer.

Do let me know what you think of the video. Phil Lowe x

Review of 'My Little French Kitchen' by Rachel Khoo

I have to say that  - My Little French Kitchen - is one of the most beautiful books on French cooking I have ever seen. There is a lovely mix of stunning colour and black and white photography, hand drawn maps, over a 100 recipes from all regions in France and with a two page introduction on each region covered you really get an idea about what attracted Rachel to re-discovering various dishes.

In the book Rachel Khoo writes charmingly about her latest project and that she was a woman on a mission as she travelled around France on trains, by bus, by cycle on foot and by minibus! He mission was to discover long forgotten French recipes, made by regional grandmas. Rachel's travels take her to Brittany, Bordeaux, Basque, Provence, Lyon and Alsace. She also met food producers and artisans along her travels and credits their knowledge and enthusiasms for and about regional food in France for much of the inspiration in this book. She wasn't just interested in the old recipes though she was also interested in what foods and drinks the younger generations enjoy.

Every seductive page in this book has your mouth watering and wishing you were in France enjoying the dishes that Rachel has lovingly made. I really must try those sticky cassis pork ribs with mint and broad bean couscous but then the Porc et palourdes en cocotte looks darn good too and then again the praline brioche may be just what I need for breakfast. And after reading all about Christmas in Alsace I desperately feel the need to head off to the mountains and jostle amongst the happy traditional Christmas throngs in the Alsace city of Strasbourg whilst enjoying a le knack sausage in a bun. Ooh la la!

Rachel Khoo's first book – The Little Paris Kitchen – was a number one best seller and after fervently browsing through the sumptuous pages of - My Little French Kitchen – I could well see this one zooming to the top of the booksellers charts and into the hearts of all things French and of the lovely Rachel Khoo. The retail price is £20 and Amazon are offering it at around £12 at this time of writing.


Sunday, 13 October 2013

Winner of Rachel Khoo Competition is ...

Many thanks to the hundred plus applicants who entered the Rachel Khoo competition to win a copy of Rachel's brand new book on French cookery - My Little French Kitchen. There are clearly a lot of Rachel Khoo fans out there and the new book was certainly worth waiting for.

So here were the questions - some harder than others.

A. Which Parisian bookshop did Rachel Khoo work at when she arrived in Paris?
B. At which famous cookery school did Rachel Khoo enrol to learn French cookery skills.
C. Can you now book a meal at Rachel Khoo's Little Paris Kitchen?
D. What is the company name of the fishmonger that Rachel Khoo goes to in her tv programme, Little Paris Kitchen.


A. La Cocotte
B. Le Cordon Bleu
D.Pillet – Saiter

And the first applicant to get all answers correct is - Sinead Dowd of Leeds!!!

Well done Sinead. I'm sure you'll love your prize.

My review of 'My Little French Kitchen' will follow shortly.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Competition: Win a copy of Rachel Khoo's new book.

For all Rachel Khoo's fans tomorrow (10th October) is an exciting day as her new book - My Little French Kitchen - is launched.

I am offering a chance for one lucky winner to win a copy of her new book through my competition below.

Just answer these questions correctly and send your answers with your full name to with the email title RK French Kitchen Comp. Winner will be the first email to get the answers correct. Closing date midnight Saturday 13th October. Winner will be announced on this blog on Sunday 14th October.

Comments with the answers will  be deleted. Comp is by email only.


A. Which Parisian bookshop did Rachel Khoo work at when she arrived in Paris?
B. At which famous cookery school did Rachel Khoo enrol to learn French cookery skills.
C. Can you now book a meal at Rachel Khoo's Little Paris Kitchen?
D. What is the company name of the fishmonger that Rachel Khoo goes to in her tv programme, Little Paris Kitchen.

Bonne Chance.

cooking a spanish style lamb stew

I managed to get a half price whole shoulder of lamb (from Tesco) and boned the joint out myself removing some of the fat (not all) and roughly cut the meat into bite sized chunks. The intention was to make a big lamb stew that would last me two or three meals. As the October nights get darker some comfort food that just needs warming through is needed as I come home from work and settle down for the evening.

The ingredients were the chopped up lamb, a big bunch of coriander, two hot chillis, sweet and new potatoes, chopped tomatoes, carrots, chorizo, garlic, cayenne pepper, and olive oil. I also used up a piece of saucisson sec I happened to have residing at the back of the fridge. Actually I bought very little produce as the garlic and herbs and tomatoes I already had in my kitchen. Same for the chorizo and saucisson sec.

Before making this short video below I prepped the potatoes and carrots and boiled them until al dente and I made a paste with olive oil, the chopped up coriander stalks, the de - seeded peppers and the garlic.

Once I had the vegetables done I put on the large cooking pot and added a small amount of olive oil, heated it up slightly then added the paste. A couple of stirs and a lovely waft of garlic cooking, and I then spooned in the lamb and browned this in the paste. Incidentally I didn't use the whole shoulder, probably about two thirds and the rest got frozen for a curry another time. You can see the rest of the operation on my video. The actual cooking time once the meat was tender was about three quarters of an hour. The video shows the highlights. I had some for my evening meal last night and again for lunch today as I am going out to review a play in Derby this evening. Overnight the gravy has thickened and become richer in taste, bringing out all the delicious flavours of the chilli, garlic, paprika and cayenne peppers. The lamb is very tender and melts in the mouth. There is a comforting heat behind the gravy. No stock was added by the way. This is mainly because I forgot and then found it didn't really need it anyway.

Happy eating!

Monday, 7 October 2013

A quiet morning at The Hand and Flowers (great video!)

I just had to share this fantastic video of a busy pub kitchen and restaurant and bar. Love it. Just shows (at speed) all the hard work that goes into a meal. If you want to learn anymore about this pub/restaurant at Marlow run by Tom Kerridge, click on the link below.

Friday, 4 October 2013

Just for fun... a cunundrum over baked beans.

A friend came up with a proper mathematical question recently that sounded just like one of those awful brain teasers that you used to be given in maths lessons at school and which I happily admit I hadn't ever got a clue how to answer. To be brutally honest even when some smug bastard had furnished me with the blisteringly correct answer I still desperately struggled to fathom out how anyone could logically (or even illogically) work it all out. It always seemed to be the case of - too much information!  So, on the back of this I made up this nonsense equation. Enjoy. It's just for fun.

"A lorry is loaded with six tons of cans of baked beans and each baked bean weighs between 2.5 and 3 grams. Ninety-nine point seven of the baked beans are in tomato sauce and therefore 4% heavier. The lorry, which departs York, drives two hundred and five miles from two-thirty a.m on a Saturday morning and encounters traffic problems at Calais. The French are one hour ahead on the twenty-four hour clock. However their clock is 3.567 minutes late on this particular Samedi in the French calendar 2013. The French customs refuse to admit the load of baked beans and impound 47.2345% of the total load. How many baked beans arrive safely in Switzerland and then open a Swiss bank account and what is the total weight of the remaining baked beans and how much toast would be needed to turn the beans into decent meals for three hundred and sixty and a half ravenously hungry Swiss bankers called Heinz by the time it is Wednesday? Answers on a postcard please? No cheating and open your papers NOW!'

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Not for me the fairground rides but at Goose Fair Nottingham...

Nottingham's famous spectacle, Goose Fair, starts tonight and I for one won't be braving the rides, wimp that I am! All that frantic spinning and whizzing round would have me throwing up me lunch before I could say Helter Skelter and where's me toffee apple gone?

                                            Nottingham's very own Goosey!

However I could be tempted to the Forest recreation ground for some fairground nosh. Bring on the crunchy brandy snaps, the Grantham gingerbread or a sugary bag of hot sticky doughnuts, terribly messy but delightfully naughty and moreish. Of course these days amongst the multi-coloured sticks of candy floss and rock; the dubiously named Cocks on a Stick and traditional fish and chips and ubiquitous mushy peas in mint sauce sit a myriad of burger styles, chips and curry sauces and Chinese noodles. I don't know about you but I can always manage to slop half the food down my front without even realising amongst the hustle and bustle of the dark and flashy fairground crowds! And nobody tells you! Do they? You only find out when you get home and switch on the kitchen light to reveal a winter coat coated in food stains and stuck on noodle. Suddenly you are your pet dog or cat's best mate. Slurp slurp! Never have you been so popular.

I've usually had a lovely time at fairs like Goose Fair watching the punters scream their lungs out on the glitzy and tawdry scary rides; I've heard the girls of all shapes and sizes giggle and shriek; witnessed the blokes showing off, swigging beer and preening and have secretly laughed as some bonny lass has tried to negotiate the wet and increasingly muddy fairground fields in now, not so white, stilettos. The ground behind her looks like a city of earth worms have come up to the surface for a nose around and changed their minds.

So what do you love to eat at the fair? Have you got any sharable fairground stories? Do leave a comment. I'd love to hear your stories.

A GOOSE FAIR link for anyone planning to visit the fair this year