Tuesday, 26 June 2012


Those who have read more than one post on here will have noted that I attribute a lot of my cooking influence to my Step Father.  Well, as well as a huge culinary influence, he is also rather...opinionated...on the food I produce, and after most blog posts I will receive something like the below in my inbox the next day.

Re my pickled egg post. 

Subject: Don't let me catch you using pink peppercorns again

I’d have flung a bay leaf in and got hold of some proper pickling spices from the Coop.

You could do more on the pub food/pickles theme.

Scotch eggs?
Corned beef hash in little containers?

*won’t even spellcheck….

Oh and don’t admit that you’ve not even tried what you are suggesting someone else is about to spend an hour making!*

*(I have tried them now, they were fine).

I'm not entirely sure what his beef with pink peppercorns is (too girly?), but it's fair to say that Keith is pretty particular with his cooking and it's a brave (wo)man who messes with a classic in his company. I was once severely berated for telling him on the phone that I was making a beetroot risotto, "BEETROOT RISOTTO!  Fuck me.  Seriously, beetroot risotto? Have you got the Marcella Hazan book? I'll get you the Marcella Hazzan book.  You wouldn't catch Marcella Hazan making beetroot bloody risotto."  I haven't lived it down since.

Usually my response to any highlighted cookery faux pas is to sit back and wait for a new book for my shelf, but today I have a rare smug moment.  Last time I went home, Keith made asparagus and hollandaise sauce AND THE HOLLANDAISE SPLIT.  This doesn't often happen and is undoubtedly due to the current alignment of the planets or some other cosmic trickery, rather than lack of skill, but I have to take my chances where I can. 

So, Keith, if you want to do it properly, perhaps follow my perfect execution below *pulls cocky expression*.

Next week: rollmops.


2 egg yolks
Juice of half a lemon
1 tbsp of white wine vinegar
4oz butter

Place your egg yolks in a blender or food processor with seasoning and blend for about a minute.  Heat the lemon and vinegar in a pan until it starts to bubble then switch on the blender and slowly pour into the egg.  Switch off when well combined.

Add your butter to the same pan and gently heat until melted.  Then switch on your blender again and very slowly pour in the butter in a steady trickle.  Once all the butter is added give a good mix with your spatula and then pulse once more. Taste and add more salt/pepper/lemon as desired. 

I served this with some asparagus, smoked salmon and poached egg.  If you hurry you'll catch the end of the asparagus season - I just trimmed off the woody ends and boiled for a couple of minutes. For a good poached egg you need to use a really fresh egg, add a bit of vinegar to the water, swirl and cook for about two mins, till the white is firm.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Ben's sea bass with carrot and coriander salad

My good friend Anand, who is one of my closest competitors in the stakes of sarcasm and cynicism, takes great pleasure in pointing out whenever I boderline-smugly mention my boyfriend.  This all stems from a rather embarrasing article he found from my cupcake making days, where I bang on about how much I love Cath Kidston, and how helpful my boyfriend is.  Well, the joke was on me because that one dumped me a few months later.  And I've since realised that Cath Kidston is shit. 

Anyway, I appreciate that I probably harp on about Ben quite a lot, so I thought I should let him harp on about himself for a bit in the form of a 'guest post'. Whilst I tend to dominate the kitchen B does occassionally get hauled in, mainly when I wail something along the lines of, "OH GOD I'VE GOT AN 8PM MEETING IN GREAT YARMOUTH, I'M GOING TO DIE, PLEASE FEED ME OR I'LL NEVER GIVE YOU A FOOT MASSAGE EVER AGAIN".  To which he points out that I never give him foot masages anyway, but he usually obliges.  Then I hurl a series of requests such as 'Something not too heavy, but filling, and no meat which isn't free range, or if it's fish use that app by Hugh F-W that tells you which seas we're allowed to get fish from' to which he gives me a look and starts rumaging around the cupboards yelling, 'WHY DO YOU KEEP BUYING PASTA? THERE IS SO MUCH PASTA IN HERE'. 

So without further ado, willkommen, Benjamin...

Thank you, and hello. 

Let me start by saying that I have no idea about cooking, nor about how the selection process for this blog works.  I have often suggested writing a guest post on here, after all I hate Nigella as much as the next man.  For some reason though, it has taken me this many months to produce something which is worthy of inclusion.  A while ago I did consider starting a food blog of my own, as men do not seem to be as well represented in the blogosphere as women.  GREAT FOOD FOR MEN it would be called, or CORDONBLOKE, or something.  'How to impress your girlfriend with food that doesn't come from a packet'.  An instructional for cooking real food from scratch, cos it's not just girls that cook, right? Then I realised that essentially it would only need one post, which would be

Take your bacon (or other meat if you have run out of bacon). 
Pan fry in butter. 
Add wine, and when this has reduced a little, add cream. 
Serve.  With vegetables if you don't have enough meat to go round.

So I never did in the end.  Anyway the point is I'm so rarely allowed to enter the kitchen that I try and put a little bit of effort in whenever I cook, normally this creativity is met with comments such as "No, really, it's... nice, darling" and obviously never permitted anywhere near the internet, but for some reason I managed to unwittingly hit gold the other day with Sea Bass and Friends.  Just for my peace of mind though, here are a couple of things that I took photos of in the past expectantly thinking I might be able to include them, but instead had unequivocally snubbed.  Feel free to comment on the post explaining why they are quite so inappropriate... 

Lamb steaks with potato and Jerusalem artichoke Dauphinois and piselli - we drank a rather disappointing Valpolicella Ripasso from the Co-op with this. Not recommended.  I appreciate the application of sauce here (or Jus as we call it in the business) is unacceptably gun-ho.

Thyme and pistachio halibut and honeyed swede with red mustard sauce - I served this with a nice aged Chablis, yum yum. Enjoyment of this meal was slightly overshadowed by the Oyster Debacle.
Anyway, back to the point in hand, which is this (in my best authoratitive cooking voice):

Pan-fried Sea Bass on a Salad of Coriander and Carrot

I shall not list the ingredients as I feel it adds to the excitment if you have to find them as you're going along.

-Peel and slice carrots (a couple per serving) lengthwise into paper thin strips, place in a bowl with a little vinegar, salt and pepper.  This is a job for a mandolin if you have one.  We don't so this step took me four hours.
-Fry bass skin side down in a touch of oil, with a couple of sprigs of oregano in the pan. High heat, two minutes maximum.
-Pour a little white wine in and a knob of butter, and cover frying pan with a lid, to steam the fish, turn the heat down a bit here.
-After a couple of minutes remove the fish from the pan and pour the juices into a small receptacle of your choice.  Discard the soggy and pathetic looking oregano.
-Chuck the carrots into the pan and fry very briefly, but make sure to keep tossing them.  The purpose of this is not really to cook them so much as to burn off some of the vinegar (whose purpose was to cook them a little).  They will loose their bite very quickly so be careful.
-Add a healthy spoonful of cream cheese per person to the jug/bowl/whichever-receptacle-you-chose-in-the-end of pan juices, and stir/whisk in with some salt and pepper - the cheese will melt slightly, but it will need some encourgement to smooth out entirely.  Add a good squeeze of lemon.
-Assemble the carrots and a decent bunch of coriander tossed together on the plate (be firm here, the carrots will attempt to make you think you are not the boss of them, but you are; you really are), pour over the sauce and top with the fish.
-Photograph finished plates with your Instagram app.  Be careful not to do this for more than five minutes as the meal will cool quickly.  Don't worry if you don't perfect this stage at first! The more you cook the better and quicker you will become at catching the perfect shot.
-Serve your sea bass to gasps of awe and enjoyment from your dinner guests/girflriend.

I don't think we were allowed wine with this meal, but I'd serve it with a Vermentino from the South of Italy or Corsica or something, or maybe even a Chenin Blanc from South Africa so long as it's not too heavy.

So there you go.  Before I leave you I feel I must make one final comment in defence of what I believe to be a hitherto unfair protrayal of me on this blog.  Don't get me wrong, I am very grateful to have been included here and given this opportunity to join in the fun.  Most of the comments made about me on this blog at least have their basis in truth, and with those I cannot quibble.  I must say though, that I find the choice of pictures of me up to this point has been somewhat regrettable, and I feel to a large extend I have been mis-represented.

I would thus like to try and redress the balance with the following picture of me looking rugged and windswept, and then one of Morgan looking like a dick.

Thank you for having me, it's been a pleasure.

Monday, 4 June 2012

Patriotic pickled eggs

I think I've come to the conclusion that I couldn't give a tiny rat's arse about the Jubilee.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not a massive republican - I am perfectly happy for 2p of my income tax to go on keeping Prince Harry in inappropriate fancy dress costumes each year - but this whole thing is a bit cringey, isn't it?  Obviously I'll take the mega bank holiday, Queenie, but do you think you could ask everyone to be a bit less vomit-inducingly twee perhaps?  I've had it up to here (around eyebrow height) with tea cups, cucumber sandwiches and god damn fucking bunting.

I think it's the marketing element which makes me more uncomfortable than anything else.  It's like every feasible product, advert or publication has been stamped with a Union Jack; the supermarket shelves subliminally screaming to us that by purchasing the red, white and blue bottle of fairy liquid we're somehow getting one step closer to Pippa Middleton's marvellous buttocks. And whilst we sit on Auntie Geraldine's sofa with an insufficiently alcoholic glass of pimms in one hand and a limp plastic flag in the other, some smarmy American fat cat who owns these brands, is sprawled on a beach in the Costa Del Greedy Bastard, snorting lines of foie gras and raising their seventeenth glass of Krug to old Lizzie. 

It is, however, an event which has brought together communities - who, on every other day of the year would barely nod at one another when passing on the street - and that is not something to be sneered at, even by a cynic like me.  I just wish we'd do stuff like this without celebrating the old age of someone we've never met or buying the whole event prepackaged by Lakeland Plastics.  It would be nice if people came together more often and it all wasn't so disposable.  Although saying that, there's been a street party going on down the road all afternoon and we've stayed in and watched a TV series about zombies. 

Perhaps I'm just bitter that nobody's invited me to go to a hog roast. 

Anyway, if you fancy making something traditionally British yet are sick of the sight of coronation chicken, perhaps try these pickled eggs.  Unless you don't like pickled eggs, in which case you might want to make a scone, but I haven't got time to tell you how to do that as I've got more zombie apocalypse to watch.  I made these ones for Ben's pub, The Plasterer's Arms (which you should probably go to if you like real ale and live in Norwich).  I haven't tried one yet so I should probably include the caveat that they could be rank.  Mr Mangrove, as ever, was pretty keen to get involved. 

Pickled Eggs

However many eggs you want to do (I did 2 dozen)
However much vinegar (I'd recommend malt or cider) you need to cover said eggs in a jar (I used about a litre)
Spices (optional, but I used black and pink peppercorns and a few dried chillies)
About 1 tsp salt for above quantities
You'll need a sterilised jar, preferably a kilner jar or one which doesn't have any coating on the lid, as this will react with the vinegar.

Hard boil your eggs - about 12 mins - then transfer to a bowl of cold water and peel when they are cooled down.  In a pan bring your vinegar to the boil with the spices and then turn off and allow to cool.  Once both eggs and vinegar are cool put the eggs in the jar and pour vinegar over.  Store for about a month before tucking in.