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Sunday, 30 August 2015

A welcome steak dinner and more tram travel.

Since Wednesday this week I have been enjoying travelling some of the way to work and back by the new Phase Two trams that get me from the city of Nottingham (train station stop) to Beeston Centre in only 22 minutes. This means that I have been able to get a bus home from the Broadmarsh bus station considerably earlier than in the past. Therefore I have been home in Ruddington within an hour from leaving work. Today was not much different even though it was a Sunday.

As it was good weather this morning I saved £2 bus fare by walking for half an hour to the Ruddington Lane tram stop (the nearest to my home) and I took the tram to Nottingham Station and changed tram to board the Toton Lane tram that dropped me off in Beeston. In doing this, I was at CaffĂ© Nero at the same time as I would have been attempting to catch a bus from the Broadmarsh bus station and therefore had another extra half hour coffee time before starting work! It was almost like being on holiday!

On the tram going to work on Sunday.

Caffe Nero interior

Almost like being on holiday!
After a full day's work I got home via the tram and a Loughborough bound bus and I opened a 'welcome home' bottle of La Chasse red wine and made myself some dinner: new potatoes, broccoli stems and a top rump beef steak with a creamy black pepper sauce. A fine way to start the evening methinks. Me also thinks that I might well watch some of the new Rick Stein series 'From Venice to Istanbul' on BBCiplayer. With the headphones it might just drown out some of the chavvy racket coming from the karaoke obsessed Red Lion pub next door. Why do the drunks in the doorway have to bellow so loud in order to communicate? Apparently they have got a Jaeger Bombs or as the harpy who went to get some pronounced; "They ant got none babe!!!!!!" I think the demented she witch meant "They haven't got any!"

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Tramtastic barbequed fillet of lamb.

You may be wondering what trams and a bbq fillet of lamb have in common. Well, last night,  I heard the great news that the new tram routes in Nottingham were officially live (taking passengers - not frying them) today. These new routes will give me an alternative travel system to getting to work at Tesco Extra in Beeston. The benefit to me will be getting into Nottingham after work quicker by tram and enabling me to get home via my second bus journey. It could save me a whole half hour each day in travelling time and no frustrations on the traffic route via the Queen's Medical Centre. This part of my travelling day almost always gets partially gridlocked and if there is a serious accident around Nottingham then it can take me almost two hours to get home. Considering that, as the crow flies, my home in Ruddington is only five miles from Beeston (work place) then that is a lot of time I could be dedicating to these blog posts and not sitting on stationary busses.

On the first part of my tram journey we passed the Lakeside venue at the Nottingham University and the tram was greeted by two performance artists and Shona from the theatre at Lakeside! On the way back the journey was made even more pleasant by the acoustic talents of a local singer/guitarist who jumped on at Beeston and leaped off at NG2.

#tramtastic times

So, having enjoyed travelling on the entirety of the new NET tram system routes I am finally home and have opened a bottle of chilled Prosecco and decided to bbq a butterflied fillet of lamb previously destined to be cooked traditionally in the oven. Even the dark rain clouds that threatened to rain off my bbq have gone away and as I type the lamb is smelling utterly divine as it cooks and spits on the mini bbq by my rosemary bushes.
"Here's to the success of the new tram lines in Nottingham!"
As I type the lamb is not yet done but here are some pictures of the process so far. Later in the day I will add some more. My original intention was to cook the fillet whole in foil covered with charcoal in an old biscuit tin given to me by my work colleague Alan. Although I started the bbq off with the depth of hot coals in the tin later on I decided to spread out the heat in order to cook the meat uniformly.

To be continued....

The continuation.....

After finishing the first part of my blog post I decided to make use of the hot coals and smoke some mackerel fillets. I may use the finished result in a kedgeree. Towards the end of the cooking the rain had got quite fierce and I finished the fish off situated on my front door mat. Luckily I have no household smoke alarm otherwise I think all hell would have been let loose! The mackerel fillets came from my freezer and defrosted quite quickly in a large bowl of cold water.

Leaving the mackerel wrapped up in foil to cook on the bbq I headed off in a mist of rain on my bike to the nearest tram to me (Wilford Industrial Estate stop) in order to take a few photographs of the trams.

On returning I sorted out the mackerel (taking the pictures above) and boiled some new British (buttered) Charlotte potatoes and fresh cabbage leaves to go with the barbequed lamb. By this time the lamb was cold but the slightly burnt taste of the lamb fillet (with mint sauce) went particularly well with the potatoes and greens.

Monday, 24 August 2015

Chicken wings Spanish style.

Having purchased some chicken wings on a reduction from my local Co-Op store I decided to cook them enhanced with a mix of paprika and two fresh de-seeded tomatoes, chorizo slices and finely chopped ginger. Yep, that easy. They cooked on a medium heat of gas mark seven (160 degrees in an electric oven) for seventy-five minutes with a small baste in between.


Earlier in the day I cleared some space in my herb garden and got rid of a whole big green bag of garden rubbish down the local municipal tip.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Sea Bream baked in rock salt.

Aside from a roast sea bream (dorade) in Bordeaux earlier this year the sea bream I had tonight was only the second in my life. Both had Italian influences. This one was 'cleaned' i.e. de-scaled, fins removed and innards and gills taken out and the remaining prepared fish thoroughly washed in running cold water, ready to cook.

Using a 500g box of Tidman's natural rock salt (£1.50 at Tesco) I baked the sea bream for forty-five minutes on gas mark six. Simply line a baking tray with silver foil and empty half the salt on to the surface. Lovingly plonk the sea bream on top and cover up with the rest of the salt. Pop into a pre-heated oven for forty-five minutes.

To go with it I boiled some new potatoes and added butter and black pepper on straining and with a surprise finding of a small tin of marrowfat peas in my store cupboard I warmed them through with some spare finely chopped basil leaves and then made a mushy pea mix by mashing the cooked peas and basil together.

The tricky bit is gently removing the salt from the fish and removing the skin. Even if you are a salt freak like me I suggest you get rid of all the evident salt as the flavour seemed to have intensified threefold with the cooking. Finally dress the half naked fish with a little fresh lemon juice and a tiny splash of olive oil. Simple and very tasty, it took about an hour to put together and goes well with nice chilled Italian white wine.

Monday, 17 August 2015

Barmy and Balmy with Beer and Balti in Beeston

Last Saturday evening saw me meeting up with my great friend Emma who was over from Holland with her man Ronald for a holiday in Yorkshire via her parents Elizabeth and George in Beeston, Nottinghamshire. I had been working all day and had arranged to meet Emma and Ronald in the dried hops bedecked and rather nice Crown Inn pub for a catch up and a few beers before going on to the Cottage Balti – Fine Indian Dining restaurant in Beeston. The Harvest Pale and Tranquillity beers went down rather well and we all enjoyed a good chin wag about the Dutch city of Leiden and Emma's recent time in Hungary. Emma, with a mischievous glint in her eye, said she had a present for me but it was at her parents' house. Knowing Emma's naughty sense of  humour I was intrigued to see what that might be. I wasn't disappointed.

Prior to meeting her parents that evening we indulged in some English fun just for our Dutch friend Ronald's sake. It was purely a spontaneous 'when in England do as the tipsy English do' moment or two. It is important for foreign visitors to integrate and quickly adapt to our loopy social customs I feel. The balmy evening weather was proving suitable for some summery silliness.

Eventually we weaved our way down Chilwell Road and the newly laid tram lines. We weren't in any danger of being killed by a tram as they aren't running yet, just at the latter part of the testing stages. Finally, after ten minutes of walking and silliness we arrived at the Cottage Balti. It was very nice with an attractive and stylish interior. It was only seven o'clock so it wasn't full yet, just a smattering of couples and George and Elizabeth – Emma's mum and dad awaiting our arrival.

Whilst I took a few pictures of our group in the restaurant I was so busy enjoying the food and company that I never got round to taking any of our meals. We started with poppadoms and trays of pickles and chutneys and decided to each order a dish which we would all share along with rice, peshwari nan, pillau nan and paratha. Incidentally, as my spell checker is now rebelling wildly at all these names, my spellings are lifted directly from the Cottage Balti website menu.

From what I remember, our shared mains dishes included: Tarka Daal, Bhuna Meshi Gosht, Fish Tikka Chana Zarl, Chicken Jeera, Makhani Chicken in a tomato based sauce and Shambar Lamb. The very tender and trimmed lamb (mutton?) curries and the fish curry were the overall favourites among our group. Amongst the delightful dinner chat were Emma and Ronald's amusing tales of a recent adventure to India and of their exotic experiences restricted only by bouts of chronic diarrhoea and projectile vomiting. Oh how we laughed!

We finished our restaurant experience with some sumptuous desserts. Mine was a wonderful chocolate and chilli dish.

A few minutes before we were about to leave there was a man's voice (fairly deep, loud and grumpy) from the table behind us. I couldn't see this man but felt that I had suddenly been transported back through time to the 1970s – a period in which many people had started to go to Indian restaurants. Back then, a night of decent folks' culinary adventure could easily be ruined by the antics of pissed up blokes finishing off a night of drinking and coming in mob handed to have an 'Indian'. The 1970s uncultured 'culture' was to drink even more pints of lager and challenge anyone in the boisterous (and invariably racist) group to eat the hottest curry – a Vindaloo.

The rude man behind us said to the woman he was with “I don't do posh!!! I wanna Vindaloo! 'ave they gor 'ny lager or Guinness?” I was half expecting him to ignorantly call over the waiter with a condescending and demanding “Oy Gupta!” – a character from It Ain't Half Hot Mum. Thankfully we paid and left having had a splendid time and a splendid meal. I sincerely hope the throwback 70's man was an extreme rarity in their fine dining restaurant clientele.

Oh yes, the present! I'd almost forgotten. Knakkers. Emma had brought me some knakkers all the way from Holland and some Trappist beer. Cheers Emma!

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Know your plaice and serve with mussels and rhubarb.

We have been selling a lot of whole 'half price' plaice at the Tesco Extra fish counter in Beeston in the last few days and I decided to try to cook some for myself for the first time last night.

First of all I bought two whole plaice thinking (they are only smallish flat fish) that one would not be enough for me but, once I had got them home and trimmed off the fins and bony heads, I realised that one was actually fine with accompaniments. The other went into the freezer.

In the first instance I purchased the fish after my shift and got inspired to add a few fresh mussels, potentially steamed in a refreshingly crisp white wine (Pinot Grigio) and added to the plaice dish as a pleasing aside. Then I bought some fresh dill, also from Tesco, to add to the cooking fish with the knowledge that the dill gives off a mild aniseed aroma, that the cooking fish will take on. I had run out of capers so I got a jar of those too to give the fish another accent. It only needs a few. So far so good.

When I got home I was thankful to my fridge that there was another friendly bottle of Pinot Grigio chilling there. I like to have an inspiring chilled beverage or two as I cook and, as half the wine was going towards infusing the mussels, why spoil the overall effect by skimping on the wine. I see you lovely readers are with me on this one!

My next door neighbour Jo was kind enough to be generous to me by offering one of her very own purple headed, organic 'allotment grown' garlic to help flavour the mussels and I rewarded her with a steaming bowl of my finished dish later on.

Now here is the interesting part. After the plaice had cooked in the gas oven for about forty-five minutes complemented by zingy lemon slices and mouth watering lemon and pepper butter - with a small accent of olive oil to give a Mediterranean flavour to the fish cooking, I decided to play with the evolving food.

Mr Harris checking on the cooking. He is the expert after all.
I had been busy cooking some Tilda Basmati rice with black wild rice and once done to a satisfying crunchy rice mouth feel I chose to strip the creamy white cooked fish flesh from the bones and mixed them into the rice discarding a few soft bones along the way.

Another neighbour (Ms Georgie) had given me some home grown rhubarb and I got inspired to off set the delicate fish with a rhubarb and Greek style yoghurt dressing. Simple, minimal and sugary sharp, it all worked very well and, all combined. it made one of the most inspiring meals I have concocted in a long time. The rope grown orangey shell on mussels added at the last minute made the dish very special. Even Mr Harris the cat was very impressed! "Miaow!" Totally agree Mr Harris!