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Thursday, 28 November 2013

Happy Thanksgiving to all my legions of US and Canadian readers!

Wishing you all a very Happy Thanksgiving for this year! Good luck and prosperity to you all my American and Canadian readers! Plus to my English friend Dave Bilton and his wife Christine currently living in Texas.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Just what are those dudhi and mooli veg in my supermarket and how do I cook them?

We walk past them everyday in the supermarket but most people have no idea what to do with them. No rude comments si vous plait. They are on sale with the ladies fingers and the yams but what are they and how can I use them in cookery? I went intrepidly into my Tesco fruit and veg section and checked them out for you.


Moolis are often found in Asian supermarkets and sometimes called daikon or Japanese radish. It looks like an overweight and pallid carrot and is part of the radish family and can be used raw in much the same way. It is an important ingredient in the cookery of Japan, China, India and Vietnam where it is served raw, pickled or cooked. It is believed to have originated from the Mediterranean.

The grated vegetable is used in a variety of ways including as a garnish for sashimi and can be used in stir fries thinly sliced. Western chefs frequently use it in Asian style dishes and it is particularly popular with vegetarians for its low calorie content and high levels of vitamin C.

Plantain: a staple of East and Central Africa and parts of Asia, plantains are kinds of banana that can only be used for cooking. They have a tough skin and a starch level that renders them unappealing until the cooking heat converts it into sugars. Edible plantain starts green, turns yellow, gets black spots and when fully ripe are all black. For all intents and purposes they can look like the bananas you certainly wouldn't want to buy but read on. When they are green and starchy they can be sliced and fried into chips or crisps. Once the interior is sweet and ripe they can be mashed, baked or boiled. However they are best fried and served with fish, meat or vegetables. They are especially loved in the Caribbean.

The dudhi is also known as Lauki or Lau in north India, sorakaya in Telugu. The English name for this vegetable is 'bottle gourd' and they come is various shapes and sizes the one shown above being the  most common. It is not recommended to eat the dudhi raw. Extensively used in Indian cuisine, the dudhi can be a very flexible ingredient. HERE is a great example of the dudhi used in Indian halwa cooking.

Japanese yams: known in Japanese as yamaimo (mountain potato) or taro root the Japaense yam has been revered for its medicinal qualities in the Far East for thousands of years. Yamaimo is unusual for a yam in that is  most often eaten raw. Grated, it is served on top of a bowl of noodles or with rice. Then it is known as tororo. Traditionally it is eaten on the third day of January to aid indigestion after New Year excesses! The taste of raw grated yam is extremely sticky - an acquired taste but, apparently, one worth acquiring. Thinly sliced with soy sauce and with wasabi it is crisp and juicy and when cooked it is gluey and soft.

Okra or ladies fingers. Okra is a fantastic vegetable whose texture varies dramatically depending on how it's cooked. If you like it gooey and glutinous, add it to an African-style stew; if you prefer it in whole chunks, try it in a classic American gumbo. Okra is also known as ladies’ fingers because of its shape, and is widely used in Indian, Middle Eastern, Caribbean and southern US cookery. Quote: BBC Cookery.The BBC Food website is worth looking at for inspiration in cooking with okra.

Tip: Rather like choosing sweet young courgettes for their taste and texture when choosing okra choose okra that is evenly green and about 2 to 4 inches (5-10 cm) long. Too large and the okra will have a flat taste, and may be too tough to eat. Too small, and the okra will be difficult to cook.
Avoid okra that look shrivelled or are soft when squeezed. The okra should snap rather than bend.

Hope that is helpful and has at least given an overview on those strange veg that have become part of the shopping experience for a multi-cultural society and hopefully will broad and enhance our cooking choices.

Thanks to the book 1001 Foods for much of the practical information on this blog post.

Monday, 25 November 2013

"Oh for God's sake - get a room!" or Eating face in public.

You meet up with a good friend for lunch. A glass of wine, a spritzer and some shared tapas. You chat convivially having not seen each other for a while. The food arrives with the drinks. It has arrived quite quickly as there aren't many in La Tasca today. All is pleasant. Outside is autumnal and a bit chilly. Inside is warm and about to get a whole lot warmer. One might say hotter than the steamiest jungle and it is nothing to do with the amount of chilli in the patatas bravas.

He spots them across the dining room - the older lady with luxuriant blonde hair with her young boy lover in jumper and jeans. First the hands meet on the table top, fingers entwine, eyes look deep into each others. The fascinated pupils widen with mutual interest and lust. Lips part. Her glistening tongue flickers enticingly. He stirs and moves his legs wider.The older woman strokes his blushing cheek with a delicate loving touch and tussles his long public schoolboy floppy fringe. She brushes his lips 'accidently' with her womanly fingers and leans forward for a kiss. She won't take no for an answer. He eagerly joins his lips with hers. They nearly knock over their full glasses of deep ruby red wine. Some of it sloshes on to the table. She grabs a paper napkin and mops it up. They giggle. They kiss again, passionately, with more, satisfying wet sloppy kissing noises. No-one is in the world but they...

"Oh for God's sake! Get a room!" I mutter under my breath as the lusty couple re-enact at least twenty shades of grey over by the window table. I whisper to my friend Janette of the goings on - going on. She smiles and feigns interest in the peckish pigeon in the alley next to us. The pigeon is trying to demolish three left over Yorkshire puddings. I wouldn't deny this experienced lady and her boy lover their carnal joy but not while I'm nibbling on me Spanish meatballs and sucking on my spicy prawns! It's most distracting. Even more distracting when it turns out that the boy is actually a girl.

Once upon a time I went to a pub in the centre of Nottingham with Janette's husband Rick and we were enjoying sipping  a  satisfying ale or two when we noticed a young couple having a right old time necking and kissing and desperately resisting tearing the clothes off each other's backs. This was in the snug at the Bell Inn. No pun intended. There's hardly room to lift your beer glass to your mouth never mind hump your new lover over the bar! Do these people have no decorum!?

Does anyone else have these circumstances where you want to cry "Oh for God's sake! Get a room!"

Sunday, 24 November 2013

A fantastic Food and Gift Fair at the Lincolnshire Showground.

I would have made a short film of the stalls and their owners at the Lincolnshire Food and Gift Fair at the Lincolnshire Showground yesterday, except that the place was packed with visitors all excited about the local food and drink goodies on offer to try and to buy. I love events like this where the exhibitors are so genuinely enthusiastic about their products on sale. This brief  film was made shortly after my visit to the show and a return to the beautiful city of Lincoln.

I arrived at lunchtime, just in time to hear the end of some delightful choral singing by the All For One Choir and find my way around the two main halls via the aromatic linking hall full of folk enjoying an oven baked pizza, a treat from the smoky barbeque or one of the delights for sale at Nottingham's own JTBeedham's stand. I had a chance to speak for a few minutes with my friend Johnny Pusztai and to take a few pictures of his team before the inevitable queue built up at his stand. The long hot sausage cob with onions was super!

Their were around 150 stands at the show so finding time to speak to everyone was pretty much impossible but I did manage to sample a little wine at Abbey Vineyards and say a quick 'hello' to my acting friend Natalia at their busy stand. Later on I heard all about an enterprising new beer brewery and tasted two light beers (American hops) at Greg's Brewery and met the very enthusiastic owner and former chef, Greg. I preferred beer A as it was a nice balance of fruit and hops. It reminded me of many a continental beer along the lines of the popular Dutch beers/lagers.

Looking around I was naturally attracted to the meat based stands such as Mountains Boston Sausage - Purveyors of Fine Foods and  as Tom Barker Bowles from The Mail on Sunday once said - they do make a damn good breakfast sausage. Check out the company's website at

Not only do they do fine sausages but they are celebrated for their gluten free products, Scotch beef, English pork, English lamb and English poultry and their delicious bacon and prize winning gammon. Additionally you can shop in store and online for cooked meats and pies, BBQ packs, hampers and selection boxes and a gourmet range is also available. All their products are delivered fresh and the delivery is temperature controlled. It was a pleasure to briefly meet two of the friendly staff on their stand yesterday and the sausage roll I purchased was yummy.

Modens [gold ward winning] Lincolnshire Plum Bread was selling like - well like - juicy plum bread ought to sell. The queue at the stand was two deep! These Lincolnshire folk certainly know a good food thing when they try it and buy it! The original recipe for the plum bread was developed in 1936 in the beautiful rural Lincolnshire town of Spilsby. Modens,, say that the recipe has changed very little since 1936 and it is a very popular Lincolnshire delicacy, delicious with a spread of pure butter and your favourite cheese.

Cote Hill Farm  tempted the visitors with their sumptuous display of soft cheeses including Cote Hill Yellow - a mild cheese with a subtle twang, Cote Hill Red - a firm Alpine style cheese with a nutty taste and matured in a semi permeable membrane. The punters were keen to sample their new cheese the Cote Hill Reserve - a washed rind cheese, described by Cote Hill as elegant and complex with a depth of flavour. The cheese is washed in a local beer by Tom Woods. Finally there was the Cote Hill Blue. Even reading the promo leaflet  quote by Tom Bowles of the Mail On Sunday about this cheese had my mouth watering - this blue cheese has a beautiful creaminess the sort that envelops the entire mouth in a sumptuous embrace that gently subsides to leave a slightly bitter kick and a buttery sweetness that lingers for minutes to come.

Uncle Henry's Heart of Good Food were doing a good trade and I picked up one of their leaflets for their Christmas Meats and Produce all of which seemed very good value and great quality. Uncle Henry's are based at Grayingham Grange Farm at Grayingham near Gainsborough. See the website or visit them on Facebook. For those who follow Twitter they have a presence at @unclehenryslinc.

Woodlands Farm Organic Home Delivery are definitely worth a look in as they offer free delivery within Lincolnshire, Rutland, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire and Northamptonshire and more importantly, were the winners of the Green Business Award in the RSPB Stepping Up For Nature Awards. See their site at One of the guys on the stand ( friendly marketing chap Karl McGrory) told me that Woodlands produce is farmed organically and bio dynamically working with nature to produce wholesome, nutritious food in a method which cares for the natural world. Karl has recently joined Woodlands and is passionate about local food. He is a keen grower and a former chef in a Michelin starred restaurant and a dedicated Woodlands customer. They are based at Kirton in Lincolnshire.

                                                         Rose Cottage pies to die for!!!

Ancaster Butchers of Ancaster, Grantham had a lovely tempting stand and they are a small, {Gold Award Winning} family butchers that source 90% of their meat within a radius of fifteen miles from their shop. I learnt that their wholesaler, I.G. Topps buys all of his meat from the field, not from the market which means less travelling stress  for the animals. Their beef is slaughtered at twenty to twenty two months old and the bread is either a French Limousin Cross or Lincoln Red. After slaughter I G Topps will hang the meat for two weeks before Ancaster Butchers can have it in the shop and all the beef that they buy can be traced back to the field using the beef traceability method. The lamb they use is a   Suffolk breed and the breed of pig is Large Whites. For further detail see their website at

As you might expect from a foodie county with links (or is that lincs?) to the east coast there was evidence of the current fishing industry among the exhibitors including Chapmans Fishcakes who offer a great variety, tradition and modern in the world of fishcakes and fish based products including smoked haddock and bacon fishcakes and Thai style fishcakes to the traditional fish and parsley. They utilise all the best that Grimsby can offer in fresh fish and shellfish and use Piper Maris potatoes in the fishcake mix. From its heyday as a fishing port Grimsby has now reinvented itself as the food capital of Europe.

I spent a good few hours enjoying this fabulous promotion of the finest Lincolnshire can offer in food and gifts and I would certainly recommend a visit next year. All of the exhibitors can be found at this LINK and thank you to the promoters for inviting me along this year on the back of the food and drink event at Clumber Park earlier this year. Especial thanks to the lovely couple, Josie and Robin for driving a stranger (me) back to Lincoln. It would have been a long long walk! I hope that you both have a fabulous Christmas and that the show was a great success for you all at the Lincolnshire Show ground! Lincolnshire certainly knows and excels in its food and drink!

Phil Lowe

                                                                  Lincoln Cathedral.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Doctor Who and the Dalek cupcakes.

I saw an advert in the Radio Times (a Doctor Who special) featuring some Doctor Who goodies to add that certain inter- galactic something to your cupcakes - like turn them into a Dalek! Being a Doctor Who fan I felt compelled to write a blog post about the products that Lakeland are offering in their catalogue and online at Lakeland also have a great selection of really good quality items for the kitchen and their kitchen knife selection is exceptional.

Silliness completely took over me and I decided to have a bit of fun making a short video using my best Dalek voice. Don't be scared it's only me and the woodlands made of asparagus!

Using Lakeland's Doctor Who products you can dress up your cupcakes to look like Daleks or top them off with a K9, a Tardis or the good Doctor himself. Not only that but you can get a brilliant three tier Dalek cake stand to show off your creations. Plus there are Weeping Angels cookie cutters, a Tardis chocolate mould with six Doctor Who characters, Dalek cupcake cases (50 for £2.99) and a selection of party items. The party items include a garland with seven characters from the TV series and paper Doctor Who plates.

For keen Doctor Who fans this Saturday with The Day of the Doctor at 7.50pm on BBC1 and on BBC3 we have Doctor Who Live; the Afterparty at 9.05pm followed by Doctor Who: the Ultimate Guide until 12.05am. get those Dalek cupcakes made now!

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Get your choppers round this - two visits to the dentist.

Well we all use our teeth to eat and recently I reluctantly took myself and my gnashers along to the local dentist after suffering with my back teeth. Eating or drinking anything hot or cold would set a tooth off and send pains up the side of my face. Believe me I didn't want to go. Then who does huh? In the last couple of weeks I've been twice and spent (sobs as types) nearly £200 on dentistry. No wonder I've not been to the dentist since 2002. Part fear of dental treatment part cost.

blogger in pain.

The first time I entered the modern clinical space of my local village dentist I had the tooth extracted and nervously explained to the young dentist and the dental nurse about my fear of dentistry in particular the dentist probing and prodding (with the metal scraper thingy) around sensitive teeth. Another fear was of the needle going in my gum to freeze up the area for the extraction to take place without me screaming the place down. He was very understanding and once the clamps were around my thrashing legs and arms and my head held rock solid tight in the female dental nurse's strong hands I was fine. Nothing like a bit of bondage to reassure the nervous patient. The sentence that began 'he was very understanding...' was slightly exaggerated. He was actually very understanding and the reality was that I lay in the dentists chair being very well looked after and every step was explained to me as he did his job. The crunching sensation as he extracted the tooth was pretty weird though. All passed off without me rushing out of the surgery with a trail of slow motion blood issuing from my ravaged mouth. He suggested I come back another time and have the next tooth along filled as it would soon be in the same situation as the one just extracted. I nodded my consent and went to pay the bill. Ouch!

Yesterday morning I returned to have the filling done (£93) and sat in a somewhat serious mood waiting to be called in for the filling to be sorted. Not keen on drills - dental or otherwise. I bet as you read that the thin wine of the dental drill passed through your mind and thoughts of graphic dental torture scenes from the film The Marathon Man weren't far behind.

After a liberal dose of injection (had to do it twice as my tooth was still feeling sensitive to the drilling) the dentist got on with drilling the former filling out of the tooth. That was with the fine drill. The dental nurse sucked out the moisture and metal bits floating around my open mouth. Then came a very odd sensation of a bigger wider drill grinding at the cavity in a slower circular movement. It didn't hurt  - I could just feel the movement. The dentist said he just had to remove the decay and then he packed the tooth with the new filling substance. Towards the end I had to grind my back teeth and this proved quite difficult with the right hand side of my face frozen up. My hands also felt very sweaty with tension and I had the bizarre sensation of wanting to giggle. In the old days of the dentist using gas this urge to giggle was a common reaction when coming round or going under but my reaction was more of relief I guess.

Because so much anaesthetic had been used in my gum to dull the area I couldn't really eat or drink anything for the four hours it took to wear off. Later on I made myself a lovely smoked bacon wrapped chicken dinner as a treat. Enough dentistry already!

PS: for any facebookers out there this blog now has a facebook page. Do click like if you like.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

My writing life. Coming on leaps and bounds.

Presently I seem to spend every waking moment writing for one personal blog or another and local magazines too, which is time consuming, a little obsessive, fun albeit tiring and very encouraging to forwarding my writing ambitions. During any spare moment I am either writing or collecting ideas and materials for on-going or future blogging sessions. I always endeavour to be original and pertinent to myself and to my readers regardless of the blog I am writing through.

For those that don't know - I currently run three blogs. This food and drink based blog, another blog of mine dedicated to my acting and theatre writing, and a brand new (just for fun) blog called

Arty Artifice deals with creatively interpreting found art pieces on the street - things that look like they could be art - and I have invented a pompous character to interpret the 'art' for me. He is called Phil E Stein. Do click the link and follow. I think you will find it great fun.

The actor writer blog has really developed over the last year with my endeavours to critique theatrical performances both amateur and professional (mainly professional) in Nottingham and Derby. Not driving restricts where I can get to and get back from, within a reasonable hour. Originally I would just write about shows I had been involved in and visits to Germany with the Lace Market Theatre as part of our twinning arrangements through two theatres in Karlsruhe and reflections on good times in amateur and semi-professional theatre. Then, on discovering a website requesting new critical writers I applied to write professional reviews through and this has led to me reviewing plays around Nottingham and Derby to a professional standard and getting them published online to acclaim. From that experience I gained a good contact at Derby Theatre called Heidi and I have often been invited to review shows at Derby Theatre independently as well as cultural events for Derby Live. Recently I have started reviewing for Nottingham Live. These aren't paid gigs but you do get free tickets (two) and a programme and the opportunity to get your writer profile known in artistic communities. It can often mean writing into the early hours to meet the strict deadlines but it is worth it for the acheivement. Theatrically, I also write for a monthly magazine that showcases the Lace Market Theatre in Nottingham.

A real writer's boon has come through adding myself to Twitter and linking each review and blog post through to my account (@PhilLowe7) as I do them. Often this has been picked up by important people and very often re-tweeted to hundreds if not thousands of others. All good publicity for the venue and me as writer.

I continue to allocate the highest proportion of time to this blog concerning food and once again Twitter helps by developing contacts/followers in the food and drink industry through my writing. Already I have been invited to attend  two major East Midlands Food and Drink Fairs based on previous in depth writing about the foodie folk I have spoken to along the way. These are in Lincolnshire and in Donington Park. As you may have seen in previous posts I have made a friend and contact in Johnny Pusztai at JTBeedham's butchers on Mansfield Road in Sherwood, Nottingham and have been invited in the New Year to spend a day with his crew developing my own sausage mix and blogging about the experience.

In reading this do consider that I work full time including every weekend. Therefore, arranging all these possibilities is usually done on my days off (Monday and Tuesday). I have recently purchased two tools that I believe will aid my writing and  online presentations and allow me to be creative outside of sitting on the sofa slogging away at the laptop at home after work on a Monday or Tuesday. Those who have posh mobile phones will think nothing of this but I now have a Tesco tablet (the Hudl) which, amongst other creative and entertaining offerings allows me to create Word docs on the go without the need of WIFI and to send them to myself through email and to paste into my blogs. This, I have discovered, is especially useful when reviewing theatre. I spend hours travelling on the buses to Derby and write up the review on returning home around 11pm so any time that I can save is welcome to me and my sleep needs!

The second tool is a small video camera and I have started to use this to add different content into my blog posts. This is just the beginning. It is a good job I love doing all of this!

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

A Lincolnshire Food and Gift Fair date for your diary

I have been invited to attend and cover the Lincolnshire Food Fair over the weekend of 23rd and 24th of November and I am looking forward to it immensely, There will be over 150 stalls a lot if which will be Lincolnshire based.

Check out their website for details.

Some general details:

The 2013 Food and Gift fair will be on Saturday 23rd and Sunday 24th November
from 10am to 5pm (4pm on Sunday)


 Complete your Christmas shopping by browsing through more than 150 stalls, watch cookery demonstrations with Dominic Franks and Amy Claridge, see Uncle Henry’s head butcher making sausages and explore artisan bread making with Welbourne’s Bakery.  Learn crochet with Crafts by Angela Tubb, make Christmas decorations with Tempo Designs, discover pyrography with Pyrographiques and learn how to make an Advent wreath with Flowers by Suzanne.  Enjoy live music from All For One Choir on Saturday and Vibe Youth Choir on Sunday , hot food and drink and lots more!


Tickets are available now on 08452 305171 or online here
Entry is £4 in advance and £5 on the gate. Under 16′s are free when accompanied by an adult.

Are you a Lincolnshire Agricultural Society Member?  Then don’t forget the preview evening takes place on Friday, November 22nd – strictly invite only.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Best British Banger competition. East Midlands final.

The East Midlands final in the Best British Sausage competition was held yesterday (November 5th) - a day famous for the more explosive bangers - at the Orange Tree pub on Shakespeare Street in Nottingham. Out of over 300 entrants their were twelve finalists chosen to be at the event. Chef Simon Rimmer was one of the three judges.

I went along to the event and got the chance to talk sausage with Steve and Johnny from Nottingham's own JT Beedham's on Mansfield Road, Sherwod. This year they had entered a spring roll sausage inspired by the popularity of the food influences of Chinese takeaways. The recipe is a secret but includes ginger and soy sauce. As I spoke to Johnny my mouth was watering! I also took some time to speak to the butcher Steve and he told me about the practicalities of running the shop, the hard work put in to be an entrant for this nationwide competition and of their new and enthusiastic apprentice Sam. They really seem to look after and encourage their apprentices.

some of the finalists in the sausage competition

The judges were situated in a side room and had the task of sampling the cooked up sausages from all of the East Midlands finalists. The three judges were Simon Rimmer (Ambassador for British Sausage Week), Del Frith for The Orange Tree and Claire Holland of the BSW team.
Waiting with me for the result were butchers from across the region . I met Jim Sutcliffe from Meridian Meats of Louth - a very foodie town with no fewer than four butchers in the town centre, Sarah and Andy of Ringrose butchers of Broughton Astley in Leicestershire and Trevor Fairburn of Fairburn's in Louth.
The judging took a while and I managed to say a quick 'hello' to journalist Erik Petersen of  the Nottingham Post. I hadn't met Eric before but he did a telephone interview with me when I was the face of Tesco's 'Love Every Mouthful' campaign and featured as the butcher in the tv adverts.
I had a busy day on with all of my food and theatre blogging and had to leave around four to go over to Derby to review the Balletboyz at Derby Theatre and I was keen to find out who the region final winner was. By the magic of Twitter the winner was shown to be Trevor Fairburn of Fairburn's butchers on Mercer Row in Louth. Well done Trevor and to all the other finalists for getting to the final with exemplary sausages and their passions for quality butchery. Trevor's sausage was a traditional Lincolnshire sausage mix.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

It's British Sausage Week. What is your favourite sausage?

The Aussies may have their Kanga Bangers, Germany may be the home to over 1500 varieties of sausages and a sausage academy at Neumarkt, but the statistics show that 90% of British households buy British sausages and enjoy them for breakfast, lunch, supper and for snacks. Whose can resist a sausage sarnie, a delicious warming sausage casserole, sausage and mash with onion gravy? Sausages are just so flexible and we Brits have been enjoying them since the Romans first developed the art of stuffing coarsely minced pork or pork mixed with other meats, fat and seasonings into skins or casings. Emperor Constantine the Great attempted to ban them because he thought that the eating of them at the wild feast of Lupercalia was ruining public morals! Thankfully he failed.

Traditionally, country pork sausages are the favourite closely followed by beef. For those shoppers who shopped in traditional butchers and the chain butcher shops like JH Dewhurst throughout the UK in the 1970s and even the 1980s they may well have a fond memory of the very popular tomato sausages.

Sausage facts:

  • Sausages should be cooked slowly over a medium heat and definitely NOT pricked with a fork. If you prick them they are more likely to burst and you will lose those flavoursome juices.
  • The nickname 'bangers' was first given to sausages during the first world war when the sausages exploded in the pan while being cooked. This period was a time of meat rationing, so the manufactures bulked up the sausages with cereal and water. The sausages exploded during cooking because the water turned to steam.
Check out this great website that is celebrating British Sausage Week and all things pork.

What is your favourite sausage? Do you prefer plain or seasoned/spicy sausages?