Food cooking and eating – stories and ideas from a passionate foodie

Archive for February, 2012

Can Men Cook?

Ok.  I’ve recently published “Can Men Cook?” on Amazon (link below)

Can Men Cook

One of the side effects from doing this had never entered my mind.  What happens now when you go to friends who have bought the book, and you are going to a dinner party at their house?  Now, I had thought of the obvious one – that we may get less invites because people might be intimidated.  Once they have read the book, they realise that is not the case – it really is a cook book to work from scratch if you want to, and not a chef style complication to be seen.  It is also designed to make you laugh at the same time.  One (woman) purchaser said “It reads like a cookery version of Top gear!”.  Fine with me!

But there is another side effect.  Part of the email invite to Pete and Pam’s was “And Pete’s going to do one of your recipes”.  Gee whiz – suddenly I feel the pressure!  What if it doesn’t work for him?  What if it tastes crap?  What if he ruined the kitchen and I am to blame?

When we arrived, I decided the only sensible option was to drink copiously.  Pam had done some brilliant grilled steaks (she is a fine cook, and her flapjacks are legendary!  Many a young football friend of their son, Tom, still remember them as a full time treat from 10 years before!).  Mixed veg, including asparagus, and lovely small potatoes, in their skins, finished off in hot oil in the oven,

So Pete decides to take the piss.  And said -“You know you said cheating good in your book – wel here it is!”  Tinned apricot, with a glace cherry on top, and condensed milk.  Silence.  Then huge guffaws of laughter.  (Those who know Pete Curtis will know that this is the hugest of guffaws).

What he actually made was a Lemon Syllabub.  And it was pretty damn good.  Buy the book if you want the recipe! There were a few disasters on the way.  Pete had followed instructions about covering the mixing bowl with a kitchen towel, but had used the mixer on fast and at an angle.  Pam followed the swearing, and saw Pete’s face completely covered in the mixture (and a lot of the kitchen was covered too).  So, out for more double cream, and finally success.

Cheese was great.  The fourth bottle probably a mistake.  Drinking and chatting with Jo-Jo, daughter who arrived home from college at 9, was great fun too.

And here’s the dish:  Splendid!  Well done Pete – and thanks to you both. Can men Cook?  Certainly!

Gloucester Old Spot – a great gastro-pub

The Gloucester Old Spot is in a village called Elmstone Hardwicke.  I think this sounds too much like that great Glen Campbell classic “Like a Rhinestone Cowboy”  So, I never miss the opportunity to sing “Like an Elmstone Hardwicke’ whenever we pass through the village.  Sad, I know.  No-one laughs.  But it makes me smile.

Have a look at the web-site

As you can see, a lovely looking pub.  The main dining room is a Baronial Hall, complete with large country house paintings.  Quite a setting – and they do hire it out for any sort of function.

Food is great modern British.  And biased towards the staple of medieval diets onwards – the pig!  (Look, The Gloucester Old Spot is not going to be a vegetarian restaurant, is it?) (But they do have excellent vegetarian options).  Starters and mains were the fancied combination of all 6 diners in our party.  It feels savoury, not sweet as a place.  Soups – parsnip and nutmeg – went down well.  Poached egg, ham and hollandaise – dreamy and timed well.  Seared pigeon breast – actually cooked through for once – which I prefer (and chefs will accommodate your needs here).  Mains – Guinea fowl with home-made haggis – how wonderfully wintry!   I had to have the Old Spot Pork Belly – boned and slow cooked.  It was honey on a plate.  And robust.  Grilled plaice fillets with a parsley and lemon crust with a chowder made of mussels, smoked haddock and leek had me searching for an excuse to swap meals.  Isn’t it annoying how often that happens? It was just cooked, and infused beautifully

Unusually, the choice of vegetables is included – choose 2 of chips, Dauphinoise potatoes, seasonal veg or salad.  The robust duaphinoise went wonderfully heavily with our pork belly.  Coffee was as good as we could manage afterwards!

Book.  It’s worth it.  They do a two course lunch for 12.50 during the week, too.  And there may be Gloucester Old Spot on the menu!

Old Spot Exterior

Christmas Food – in February?

We were due to visit our friends in Cheltenham (old neighbours actually) on 27th  December after our Family meals in the South East.  We had a bit if mild food poisoning, so had to call off.  So when we went last weekend, Judy had kept the menu the same – so we had our Christmas food mid February!

The main course was an all in one pot sort of dish.  Chicken, chorizo sausage (with a kick of heat), chick peas tomatoes and a bit of chicken stock.  At Christmas it would have been left over turkey.  Judy had fried the chicken first with a bit of garlic and onion.  She de-glazed the pan with some lemon juice and a bit of white wine.  In the oven dish, then cooked (covered) at 170 deg for 45 minutes.  Lovely with some extra vegetables.

Pudding was a rather more OTT affair.  Judy is renowned in the whole of the Cheltenham area for her Pavlova.  Her slightly chewy but fluffy meringues are indeed a thing of wonder.  This pudding was built around three frisbee sized meringue biscuits, and the sandwich layer between filled with Bailey’s enhanced whipped cream.  The top was made very festive with gold hundreds and thousands, and broken up pieces of after eight mints pushed into the surface.

This is not exactly a nutritionists delight.  But it was Christmas after all!

Mike opened the second bottle of red to help the cheese go down.  We slept well.

View through a frozen window

Pot Luck

What does Pot Luck mean? It feels like a go with the flow sort of meal. Anything goes, sort of style. I was speaking to a friend the other day who finds cooking a bit of a chore, but has to follow a recipe for everything. She cannot imagine the sort of cooking challenges they have on Masterchef, where contestants are presented with a set of ingredients and told to ‘go create’.

That is the essence of the fun for me. We had some strange bedfellows that were only just past their sell by dates (I will rant about that in another post!). Some cooked and thin cut beef, a few small potatoes, wrinkly mushrooms and a leek. Pristine food? Yes we had some fresh sping onions (should we change the name to salad onions as they are now available all year round?) and half fat creme fraiche.

I cleaned up the spuds and left their skins on. Halved them – so they cooked quickly, then boiled. The confloption ( a new word!) to fry up included the leak, and mushrooms. Discoverd a few mini tomoatoes too – so they got chucked in. I shredded up the beef, and added it when the other bits were done, and switched the heat off (after adding some mustrard and balsamic squirt). Spuds? Drained, added the chopped up spring onion, some parmesan, a nob of butter and a large spoon of creme fraiche. Served the spuds under and the confloption on top, like as if the potatoes were pasta.

The great thing with using up stuff that a lot of people throw out is the meal feels free – because you have saved the ingredients from composting!

Pot luck? Well, the plate felt like it got lucky too!

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