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Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Olives in lime pickle, moist beef rib roast in gravy, roast potatoes and broccoli.

Today another of my 'keep it simple' dinners, a mix of traditional roast potatoes, steamed broccoli and meat in gravy was elevated by adding another simple ingredient - olives. But not just any olives.

Described on the Delilah home brand jar as ' Mixed pitted olives in a zingy lime pickle marinade, irresistibly moreish and tongue tinglingly tangy' these sharp olives certainly complemented the sliced remains of my cooked roast rib joint warmed through in gravy made form hot water and a beef stock cube.

Monday, 28 March 2016

Roast rib of beef for Easter Sunday

I'm off to Derby today to see my Mum so I thought I'd quickly share with you my one man Easter Sunday dinner from yesterday. I wanted to keep it simple so I purchased a small lean rib roast from Tesco at half price and just had a few boiled carrots, new potatoes and horseradish sauce with it.

Tea spoon added to show size of rib.

The rib joint had a quick browning in a pan containing olive oil. Both sides took no more than ten minutes. Then I put the beef aside and having pre-heated the oven (Gas mark 6) I then placed the beef in a casserole dish with cold water, a cinnamon stick, three whole star anise and a few dried bay leaves for extra flavour. This got covered over in tin foil and cooked in the oven for two hours.

After an hour I took the beef out and basted it in the juices then returned it to the oven. After an hour and three quarters out it came again and I gave the surface a shake or two of ground black pepper. For the remaining quarter of an hour the rib continued to cook and then was released from the oven to rest for ten minutes before slicing.  I took out the cinnamon stick, star anise and bay leaves and used the hot meaty broth to make the gravy.

In the meantime I had boiled my carrots and new potatoes and voila my roast rib dinner was ready to enjoy.

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Preparing dozens of whole salmon for the Easter rush.

When we are given an amazing half price whole salmon (only £4 a kilo) offer to deal with on the Tesco counters we can expect it to be a busy time ahead. This will mean de-scaling the whopping 3.5 - 4 kilo whole fish (a whole new workout for the arms, wrists, shoulders and legs) and cutting and neatly preparing them to the customer's specifications; examples - two de-boned and trimmed salmon sides; two salmon sides cut into smaller portions and pin boned; steaking down; cubing the lot for endless fish curries (please don't let them dump it).

We also get some outlandish requests like "Make it like a kipper - make it like that which we have at home in Kipperstan sur Mer  on very special occasions and, as you do it, we will stand and politely scrutinise your every move. It must be exactly so. Each bone. The entire family and generations past are watching you now. No stress. As we say in Kipperstan sur Mer 'God almighty makes the fish perfect. The fishmonger less so.'  #Fishmongervoyeurism is trending apparently.

Sometimes we have to listen very carefully to the preparation request as English isn't always the customer's first language. A simple request to "Leave the head" can be very confusing. Do they want the actual salmon head or not? Should I leave the head in a bag with and spinal bones for fish stock to be given to the customer? Leave the fish head on the body of the fish peut etre? Maybe you want me to leave it on the side to go into our fridge as waste?"

Maybe the request has a density of such poetic complexity we can only expect to humanly scrape the surface of it. "Please Oh Mr/Miss Respected Fish Person. I ask, nay deeply implore you to: Leave the head only if it has bright virginal eyes identical to the sacred Madonna, skin as shiny and crystalline as an October morning sea at Dubrovnik and with ruddy gills like the freshly painted window blinds I saw that sublime day I visited a side canal in Venice and knew not its name but felt forever blessed by its colourful, intoxicating, Italianate Rococo existence."

With us getting an influx of customers from varying cultural backgrounds we have to politely ask that the salmon on display is not prodded, poked, tickled, flipped over, licked as a fetish, or the ruby red gills minutely examined or discussed by excitable generations of Cantonese or Mediterranean folk crowding the counter front with their mobile phones and translator apps documenting everything fishy.

More importantly the name 'salmon' is not pronounced 'sallamon' nor is a fillet a 'fill-ay' comme en Francais but 'fill - it' like 'I have a hole so I must fill it.' Little things matter to us fishmongers. 
Prétention is not our tier

Sometimes we get asked to take all the scales off the whole salmon and then to take the skin off. There is no point in removing all the 'flicker about everywhere' scales on the fish skin when the customer's end game is not to have the skin left on their portions or salmon side. Occasionally, we have passionately done the entire job and bagged the whole salmon up in portions and the customer suddenly decides they want the skin taking off their twenty portions!!! This would mean weighing the whole thing again with the waste (that wot they refused) which is now hidden amongst dozens of bags of fish waste in the green tray at bottom of the fish fridge. Patience can be a virtue.

This is when the patience, the  skills and passion of my internet friend Emma come into play. I have never met Emma McKeating face to face but she is one of the most passionate fishmongers in the UK that Tesco have on their counters. Her recent 'Girly fishmonger' web blog post is certainly worth a read.

Emma McKeating.

Plus, right next door on the meat counter at Tesco Beeston (which I help run) there are half price whole leg of English lamb offers, and half price British beef roasting joints and half price British beef rib roast as the main offers. Busy busy busy!

My colleagues Paul and Alan, Nicola and Debbie (as well as additional help from the deli staff Andrea, Alistair, Adele and Sharon) have all worked very hard this Easter to make sure that the customers have gone away happy with their meat and fish products and I wish them all (and you dear readers) a very happy Easter!

Funnier than the average fishmonger: Phil Lowe.

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Lamb fillet, Bratwurst and Chilli Jam. Making more out of less.

Apart from tonight when I was lazy and just fancied a glass or two of chilled white wine and some toasted hummus with pitta bread whilst I caught up on my writing projects after a hard day at the Tesco fish counter, I have been frugal and creative with my food of late.

As part of Tesco's Easter half price leg lamb offer I brought myself a fillet of lamb and cooked it with fresh rosemary sprigs (from the huge bush in  my garden) and a whole clove of crushed garlic. With the meal I made some roasted potatoes and butter fried field mushrooms and steamed spinach. Mint sauce finished this dish. Of course!

I had two old potatoes remaining from the pack of four and so the next night I went down the patatas bravas route. Here I added the cold sliced lamb to the dish and some more spinach. Can't ever get enough steamed spinach!

The last photo is a bit poor because it was nearly 10pm when I finally got my evening meal after spending hours on the internet chatting to my German friend Thorsten Feldmann. Regular readers may remember Thorsten from his correspondence over his German Christmas dinners over the past two years. So the photo was taken in low light with three or four glasses of white wine under my belt.

Continuing on the German route I had some bratwurst in the fridge so decided to use them up with some re-heated patatas bravas, steamed asparagus and a splash of Chilli Jam courtesy of my great friend Janette.

Friday, 18 March 2016

Stinking on the bus and tram home soaked in very fishy haddock water.

The Wednesday evening is all planned. After work - plan to go to Nottingham University - and have some cheap food in the student bar. Maybe a tasty burger and chips with gerkins and something that passes for a warm salad accompaniment. Then I propose to hang around for an hour with my friend 'Mr Lager Beer'  then go to Nottingham New Theatre to watch a tense sounding drama, Frank McGuiness's Someone Who'll Watch Over Me.

After the play I will return home on a tram and a bus (an hour plus journey) and stay up until one o'clock reviewing. Then I will triple check my review for content, style and worthiness. Tired, I will retire to bed and then be up again at 5.30am to set off for work once more. This proposed incident is after reviewing two plays earlier in the week with similar routines and working hard preparing salmon at Tesco in the daytime. "I'm not getting any younger don't you know?"

Haddock fillet

Five minutes before I am about to leave the counters and set off for the university I manage to accidently knock a whole tray of haddock down my trousers and the very strongly fishy iced water goes everywhere including through my protective coat and apron on to the only pair of trousers I have me with and subsequently, like a mini raging torrent, into my socks and shoes. Great!!!! Freezing cold, wet and stinking of fish. Just the thing to be as I look forward to sitting in a packed theatre studio under the hot lights.

I semi dry myself off in the mens' room but I still smell badly of fish and by the time I get on the crowded tram and later the number 10 Ruddington bound  bus (goes the long route home). The heat from the crowds means that I really start to pong. I could see people giving me an odd stare as if I have pissed myself and smell like a warm urinal or Grimsby/ Immingham - in the summer.

By the time I get home it is too late to have a quick change and head back in the direction of the very remote university theatre. Buses from my village are a bit random of an evening. I send the theatre staff an apologetic email and get a very supportive message back. Such is the adventurous life of a butcher/fishmonger and theatre writer.

Monday, 14 March 2016

Smoked herring and buttered olive bread.

Kippers (smoked herring) taste beautiful but can be a bit, how shall we say? Well the cooking smell can linger for a few hours or even days after cooking. With that in mind and the fact that today the weather was very Spring -like, I cooked with the kitchen door open and washed up straight after eating.

The delicious kippers were only about £3 for the two. After removing the heads and tails I pan fired them for about ten minutes in Normandy butter, turning once. I ate them with some thick cut, buttered, olive bread. Fab!

Picking out the last flakes of cooked kipper.

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Meat crazy meals. Plus using up other foodstuffs along the way.

I do like a bit of meat for my tea but I am also aware of the amount of foodstuffs in my fridge that have a limited life so I have tried (over the last three days) to use up what I already have in the fridge and maybe partake in a small meat purchase or two along the way.

My rump steak came from Tesco on a half price offer I couldn't resist. I bought a thick piece like a mini joint that I sliced in two. As I often discuss with my customers - a thick piece of steak is more manageable in the pan. The pork chop is from my local butcher in Ruddington who laughs whilst he cuts the chops extra thick and they still turn to be great value and finally the smoked bacon that has been in my fridge for well over a week and needed cooking.


The medium rare steak was accompanied by noodles and stir fry veg and raw edamame beans. Once the steak was nearly cooked how I like it I wrapped it in silver foil and put it in a pre-heated oven to keep warm for five minutes whilst I stir fried the noodles and veg.

 The thick cut pork chop is cut through the skin along the length otherwise it will curl up in the pan as it fries.

Chorizo slices added about five minutes before the pork chop is cooked. Like chicken it is very important that pork is thoroughly cooked otherwise food poisoning could occur.

Pork chop served with fried chorizo slices, mushrooms fried in salted butter, vegetable couscous, shredded cucumber and edamame beans.

Pasta  (coated with the crusty remains of a jar of red pesto) with fried smoked bacon (four slices halved) those pesky edamame beans and a few crunchy Mr Filbert's French rosemary almonds. The almonds were part of a lovely thoughtful gift from my friend Janette. All the items in the picture below came from Delilah in Nottingham. Many thanks Janette for those and the delightful meal at Tarn Thai.