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Sunday, 31 July 2016

Spiegelei for dinner sunny side up.

For lunch today I thoroughly enjoyed Spiegelei with herby sausages, reheated courgette tian and home cured streaky bacon.

The German Spiegelei (mirror eyes) or in French oeil de boeuf (ox eyes) are generally two fried eggs cooked to perfection with the yolks nice and yellow and runny. The Germans like to eat them as an accompaniment to bread or spinach. It is important that fresh eggs are used otherwise the older eggs run apart and assume a rubbery consistency in the frying.

It also happened to be a very nice day for hanging the washing out and listening to some idiot parping his car horn relentlessly outside the pub next door.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Missing two of our nicest Tesco fish counter customers as they return home to Turkey.

Written whilst on holiday.

When at work it is always nice to see familiar and friendly faces amongst the daily customers and no more so than two regular visitors to the fish counter. In particular we would welcome a man and his young son who always seemed to carry the sunshine around in their warm personalities. Believe me this degree of genuine personal warmth and friendliness is relatively rare in our daily encounters. Of course we get friendly customers and people passing by for a chat with the folk on the counters which is nice. However, I have never met two such outright friendly people as Recep and his son Mehmet. On top of their welcome smiles they always got very enthusiastic about their purchase of fish, especially sardines.

When I first encountered these delightful people Recep (the dad) had an odd request that we fillet his fish with one side of their fish left with the back bone in. He wanted his son to see the bones in the fish. Over time we got used to his requests and Recep and Mehmet became regular customers at the fish counter. Even when they weren't buying fish they would always stop by for a brief chat. I know that my colleague Paul especially enjoyed their visits, as did I.

Paul and Phil. Tesco Beeston.

It was with great surprise, very recently, that Recep told me that he and his family were going back to Turkey after studying and working in Nottingham. They wanted to be with the other members of their family and he had a job lined up that is better paid than here in the UK. It was hard not to get emotional over this news as seeing them around the Tesco store was always a little ray of positive sunshine in my day. I was given an open invitation to come and visit anytime and thanked for being friendly and always having a smile for them as customers and as foreigners temporarily based in Beeston. We had this nice selfie taken in front of the fish counter.

Well, I may not be able to afford a trip just yet Recep and Mehmet but your friendliness and smiles will always shine in my heart. Take care and keep in touch. And just in case you miss our sardines here are some pictures for you.

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Lamb Merguez sausages from acclaimed Nottingham butcher Johnny Pusztai with patatas bravas. Deliciously Spicy!!!!!!

I am off work for ten days at the moment and suddenly the weather has turned gloriously sunny. Alas I cannot afford a holiday so I have decided to do the next best thing. I believe it is called Le Staycation. So whilst the weather conditions are practically Mediterranean my little home in Ruddington Notts is now Ruddington Sur La Mer. Well, to all intents and purposes any rue up. The huge rosemary bush in front of my kitchen window practically hums in the heat and the lavender bushes either side of my house show off their brightest purple blooms. If I put on some of my favourite French music I could be in France without the expense of a flight and time travelling. Imagination is Everything!

On a trip into Nottingham today I took a rather heated and dedicated walk over to Sherwood and J.T. Beedhams the butchers to buy some of his Merguez sausages. They are the best in Nottingham as are all of the meat products in Master butcher Johnny Pusztai's famous butcher's shop at 556 Mansfield Road. I managed to get my gold award winning  Merguez sausages almost the minute they were being made! It was great to see Johnny again and I hot footed my way back to Ruddington eager to get them in the pan. Johnny uses the best smoked paprika in his Merguez sausage and they taste divine. His meats related heritage is continually winning fans inside of and outside of Nottinghamshire and he was awarded the Observer Food Monthly Award for Best Producer 2011. His new website has just gone live. To quote his website ' Johnny Pusztai is a highly skilled butcher of the old guard. His knowledge and passion for the subject is unsurpassed' Matt Tebbutt- co host of Market Kitchen on the Good Food Network.

Matthew Fort of The Guardian calls Johnny Pusztai a 'ham curing, bacon smoking, sausage making force of nature.

If you want to check out how Johnny and his team of butchers make the sausage go to @JohnnyPusztai on Twitter for a fascinating video look at their sausage making process. They seem very excited about their new Dadaux filler and Kolbe mixer!!!

Johnny Pusztai's superb Merguez lamb sausage.

Back to Johnny's Merguez sausage with Hungarian smoked paprika mixed with the lean minced lamb as a major spice influence. Adding a tin of chopped tomatoes to some patatas bravas (hot spicy roast potatoes) I made yesterday (i.e. some leftovers) and re-heated in the oven for half an hour I pan fried some of my Merguez sausages and a few brown mushrooms. To finish the dish I threw on a (delicately placed on) a few vinegary cornichons and a splash of Hawkshead Chilli Jam (available at Delilah's Deli Nottingham). A sprig of mint was added for decoration.

The Belgian beer I had with this scrummy lunch has made the afternoon a perfect Staycation in my mini European home.

Phil Lowe

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Does Nottingham seafood legend - Dave The Cockle Man - have a younger rival in town?

Ey up me ducks it seems that Nottingham's basket carrying seafood legend 'Dave the Cockle Man'  @TheCockleman may have a younger rival in town or rather the villages south of Nottingham. I was out in Ruddington yesterday and spotted a chap who, apparently, goes by the name of The Mussel Man. His big wicker basket was heaving with fishy goodies. Seemed a pleasant sort, about forty years old. He gave me one of his fliers and said to watch out for him if I fancied owt different seafood like. He had a strong local accent. The speed he was going around the local pubs, coupled with the big gold toothed grin on his face, gave the impression that he was doing a roaring trade. When I explained I was a food blogger he said it was ok if I took a few pictures of him on his rounds but he preferred it if his face wasn't shown. He'd had his teeth knocked out in a pub brawl over his food prices and the gold ones were new. Each to their own I guess. What a character!!!

Dave the Cockle Man

Mr Mussels on his rounds

"What time to they open?"

"Fancy some salty fish balls?"

"Is it early doors yet ducks?"

Here are some of the seafood and fish products you can buy from Mr Mussels (he is a big bloke – lol). Never did get his first name. I think he aiming for the upper end of the market as some of the items were quite pricey and more Gastro pub than selling to drunk people in pubs. I have left off the prices as they can change on a daily basis.

Mr Mussels Fishy Fayres.

Fish brains in a pot.
Load of Cod's Wallop (small or large tin)
Squid for a quid
Iced Skate
Sea Cow Milk – pint or litre
Smoked Kipper Sausages
Fish toes with extra cheese
Minimalist Cockle Burgers (one cockle per burger - no grit guaranteed)
Young Swedish Prawn Stars
Bottle of Dried Sea Mist
Cornish Genital Crabs
Fried Fish Freckles
Dotty Old Trout – well aged.
Salty Fish Balls
High Eels & Flat Soles
Barely Dressed Crab (X rated)
Know Your Plaice
Build Up Your Mussels (3kg by special order – enough for six people or three greedy people.)

It all sounds fabulous and so different. I'm itching to get myself some Cornish Genital Crabs soon and maybe a side dish of Salty Fish Balls. Good luck Mr Mussels!

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Thorsten, a nice guy from Germany tries my courgette bake, lamb chops and mint sauce.

It seems romance is in the air for my young friends Thorsten and Immi as Thorsten Feldmann is currently over in the UK (from Germany) to spend time with his English girlfriend Immi. I took the opportunity to invite them over to my house for lunch. We met outside the Theatre Royal and travelled to Ruddington on the upper deck of the Number 10 bus. Apparently the view out of the top level front window makes passengers who are drivers think they are going to crash! Also the very polite Thorsten was most surprised that we English say "Thank you" and "Cheers!" to the bus driver when getting off the bus. On the journey Thorsten said that he has already tried Scotch Eggs and Mushy Peas but not together – and he seemed up keen to try out another British food item – mint sauce. I organised the pouring rain so that Thorsten could experience real English weather.

So as these nice social events rarely occur I put together a special courgette bake or tian. Essentially one buys a silly amount of courgettes (I.5 + kg), slices them thinly and painstakingly fries them in olive oil so they turn a light shade of brown. Years ago, when I first tried making this dish from Dorling Kindersely's super book about French Country Cooking -Anne Willan's Look & Cook French Country Cooking – I used to over cook the courgettes. The tian is just one of over forty recipes from the book which includes tapenade, terrines, meat and fish courses, vegetables au gratin, fruit tarts and ices. Nowadays I don't think the courgettes need to be such a crisp golden brown colour. They tend to taste burnt and soak up too much olive oil in the cooking.

The cooking process can't be hurried and frying pan after frying pan of courgette frying does take time. However, from a practical sense and, to hurry up the process a little, I discovered that using my wok to par fry a couple of handfuls of courgette slices whilst the main frying pan's worth cooked away, did speed things up. Being aware that the cooked courgettes would need to be chopped finely, I left them to cool in a colander. After all the courgettes had been cooked I quickly fried off a chopped cooking onion and two garlic bulbs and added them to the courgettes.


The next major thing that needs done is to boil up around 600g of long grain rice (Basmati is good too) then drain. The previous evening, to save time, I had taken the leaves off three small Supermarket bunches of flat leaved parsley. These are the ones on the fruit and vegetables stands that cost about 70p. Now is the time to push all the ingredients together on a chopping board and chop away until all the courgettes and onion/garlic mix is finely chopped. Place in a big mixing bowl and add the cooked rice and the parsley. Mix in approx 200g of grated parmesan cheese and finally four fresh eggs.

The pre-cooking mix looks a bit sloppy but when placed in pre-greased baking dish and cooked on a medium heat for forty minutes it will be fabulous. To accompany the tian we enjoyed pan fried English lamb chops and a light salad of Cos lettuce, on the vine tomatoes, radishes, spring onion, feta cheese and a few black olives. A bottle of Kentish beer each went well with the meal too.

And what did Thorsten think of the mint sauce? Hmm, the jury is still out on that one. When we went into Shane Ginty's Ruddington butcher's shop Thorsten did seem rather taken with the idea of pork scratchings though and he loved my English lamb chops marinated in fresh mint and rosemary from the garden. Bananas and custard next time Thorsten. Lecker! Delicious!

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Do you love French Markets?

Do you love French markets? To me that is a crazy question. Being a huge Francophile I adore French markets! As I don't live in France I have to make do with the European markets that regularly come to Nottingham's Market Place. I am often found excitedly buzzing around the cheese stalls and the fabulous bakery goods stalls and of course, the charcuterie vendors. I spend far too much but hey – you only live once.

Bordeaux France.

In the meantime I overdose on reading my favourite books on France and French market life and I love to recall my holiday last year in Bordeaux and the Sunday market on the riverside of the mighty Garonne through my video below.

Two of the books that grace my heaving bookshelves are Joanne Harris and Fran Warde's terrific The French Market. This lusciously illustrated book is a collaboration inspired by the rural markets of Gascony. It contains plenty of beautiful pictures of market scenes and the appetising products on sale as well as a collection of simple recipes that 'recapture all the sensations and flavours of summertime. You can almost feel the heat and smell the produce as you flick through the lickable pages. Click on the Amazon. image below for more details and cheaper price offers.

My second favourite is Anne Gregg's Tarragon & Truffles – a guide to the best French markets. Author and cook, Joanne Harris, found it to be an 'Accessible book, easy to follow and full of interesting details'. The promotional blurb aptly describes the contents as: Traditional food markets and flea markets; markets devoted to foie gras or fashion bargains, oysters or truffles; massive everything- including-the-kitchen sink markets and magical Christmas markets. In a region-by-region guide, Anne Gregg picks out her personal favourites, usually in the most beguiling towns and villages, and points out the specialities to look out for, be they Mirabelle plums of Provenรงal cottons.

For good measure, Tarragon & Truffles includes sections on nearby highlights – a historical curiosity, a shop or a restaurant not to be missed – as well as suggestions of where to stay, completing each chapter with an at-a-glance alphabetical list of all the weekly markets in that region.

The Guide is essential for getting the most out of French markets. Tarragon & Truffles creates a sense of actually being there; absorbing not only the scents and flavours of the markets themselves, but the atmosphere of the settings.' Click the image below for more details and price offers.

Personally I found this guide very useful and terribly inspiring for other places to visit in France pertaining to local markets, and the days they take place, and, of course, to browse around and purchase from. If you have a similar interest to me then you can even plan your holiday or stay around the days these markets take place through Tarragons & Truffles. There is nothing worse than flying home without experiencing the very market you would have loved to have gone to!

Inspired? Both these books are available to order by clicking the image. Your purchases will grace your bookshelves and life your foodie heart for years to come!

If you can, get hold of two large breasts....

If you can, get hold of two large breasts of lamb from your local butcher – the fresher the better. Yesterday, I was lucky enough to perfectly time my visit to the butcher in Ruddington as his bulk meat delivery was just arriving. Shane Ginty the butcher set to and cut my two breasts of lamb from a carcass that had been in his shop mere seconds. They cost about £6 for the two.

My diddy kitchen on a tidy day.

See Shaun the butcher's Facebook page HERE.

Back at home I de-boned the pair, gave them a quick rinse under the cold tap and patted them dry with a tee towel. A couple of butcher's knots later and I had a fairly large lamb joint for £6. I have a huge rosemary bush in my garden and some sprigs of mint growing so I clipped some rosemary from the bush and snipped off a few leaves of mint for the new potatoes.

Harris and Soufie – my neighbour's cats - took a great deal of interest in the boning of the breasts. Harris jumped up on the side to see if he could offer any help. Alas he couldn't hold the knife in his paws. Shame. He did look keen and even smelled the meat professionally to see if it was fresh. I could tell from the look in his eyes that it was to his liking. Always good to get a second opinion from an expert.

Mr Harris - expert meat sniffer.

The joint was anointed with some olive oil and went into a medium heat oven for approx 180 minutes. After an hour I based the joint with the juices in the cooking dish and removed the now limp rosemary. Towards the end of the cooking I took the lamb joint out and poured three tea spoons of runny honey over the cooking meat. When it had cooked for a further half hour I took the meat out to rest. The smell was delicious.

In the meantime I had cooked some new potatoes, green beans and steamed a small amount of asparagus. I made a gravy from three lamb stock cubes and a little of the cooking juices from the lamb. Instead of mint sauce I went for some wild cranberry sauce from Sainsbury's.

Rosemary bush in the garden.

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Rick Stein: Amazing new dvd released 4th July. Tastes of The World: From Cornwall to Shangai.

"Cheers Rick! Here's to you and your fab culinary travels!"

Imagine all of those 'one off' Rick Stein television programmes that you've enjoyed but were never available on DVD before: for example Rick Stein and the Japanese Ambassador or Rick Stein's German Odyssey and Rick Stein's Taste of Shanghai. Well now they are all together on this fabulous two DVD set. I pre-ordered one the other day and, as a huge Rick Stein fan, can't wait to sit down to six hours worth of his international shows! Not all in one go though!

Copies can be ordered through this link below.

Product Description

For the first time on DVD comes this collection of six of Rick Stein's most mouth-watering BBC programmes.

Featuring Six hours of Globe-trotting culinary delights.

The 2-Disc DVD collection features the following programmes:

Rick Stein's Taste of Shanghai

Rick Stein's German Odyssey (German Bite)

Rick Stein & The Japanese Ambassador

Rick Stein Tastes the Blues

Rick Stein's Taste of the Italian Opera

Rick Stein's Cornish Christmas

My copy has arrived already!

Run time 360 mins approx