≡ Menu
scottchoucino-26

Image credit: Scott Choucino

As you may or may not know I sometimes get invited along to events to see what a place is doing, try a new menu or in this case try a few drinks. Not just any drinks mind, these were amazing drinks. I went to the Obar last year to review the now permanent in-house restaurant ‘the smokehouse‘; a deep south american eatery of the finest kind. If you haven’t been before then please for the love of all things braised and pulled go, it is brilliant.

This time round I was asked to come and sample the Obar’s new craft beer range and to test out there bar snack range supplied by the aforementioned smokehouse. First off I should say the range of beers on offer is staggering, I didn’t realise how many they had until I got there. 20 different bottled beers, 14 on draft and 2 ales, plus some ciders thrown in for good measure. If you are a connoisseur of beers and ales then this is your nirvana.

Image credit: Scott Choucino

Image credit: Scott Choucino

I couldn’t try all of them so don’t ask me what they were all like, but the ones I did try were really good, my favourite was the CHP Chocolate hazelnut porter a beer that was just as the tasting notes described, ‘dessert in a glass'; smooth and chocolately with just a backnote of coffee and hazelnut. I loved it so much I had 2! (Sshhhhhhh). Next up was the belhaven, a light crisp IPA that again was smoother than a tiger in a tuxedo, and at 4.8% was a little lighter on the alcohol. Another IPA I tried was the Jaipur india pale ale at 5.9%, a citrusy and very hoppy beer which some might find too strong, I however, loved it.

 

scottchoucino-6

Then I had the Red seal Pale ale at 5.4%, a sort of cross between a light ale and a porter with a kick of spice about it, which would go well with a good steak. Next I tried the Captain black IPA at 7.6%, not one for the faint hearted I can tell you, delicious as it was I could certainly feel the alcohol kicking it at this point but, like a professional I soldiered on. It was full, rich and – dare I say – chewy, bit of citrus and chocolate in there too. I managed to get in one last drink before I decided I’d had enough, and that was an absolutely gorgeous Rutland cider. Not one for the fizzy pop lovers as this one is still, but it was so light and smooth and tasted of, well….apples, great alcoholic apples.

Scott Choucino

Image credit: Scott Choucino

As I was quaffing all this lovely beer I got to sample the new bar menu provided by the smokehouse. Some amazing smoked braised ribs, sticky spicy chicken wings, little mini prawn cocktails, pulled pork served in mini yorkshire puddings – a great an idea that I’m going to steal! We had pastrami and grilled haloumi served on little toasted buns, and Marmite cheese straws which were unbelievably moreish, they were a sort of cross between a twiglet and a cheese straw.

I had a brilliant evening, I wandered out a little bleary eyed I have to say, but that’s my stamina for you. I like what these guys are doing, it’s different from your average bar and I have yet to see anyone in Leicester doing something like it. This is what our city needs, people who are willing to go to new lengths, step outside of the ordinary and produce something exciting, you can get a pint of the fizzy pop any day of the week, but if you want a treat – and yes you deserve one – then go down and seem them, you won’t be disappointed.

For more information go to there website or just go down and see them at 59-61 Braunstone gate Leicester, open 4:30pm – 2 am.

 

{ 0 comments }

chorizo butterbean prawn stew

I turned the gas on for the first time in a number of months the other day, there was a nip in the air and my body was doing that strange shaky thing that bodies do when its temperature drops below a certain point. I was feeling particularly wimpy so decided to flick the switch. The boiler roared and the radiators twinkled with the sound of hot water filling it’s veins. The bill paying side of me was thinking ‘what are you doing man? it’s not even november yet!’ the other side of me threw caution to the wind, turned the heat up even more and made a stew, that’s the side I enjoy the most, and also the side that inevitably wins. I am weak.

I would hardly call this recipe a stew really, it takes so little time to knock up but tastes like it has been cooking for hours. Chorizo is one of my favourite foods, so much so that I can quite happily sit and eat it on its own. I have on occasion sat with a plate of the stuff sliced up with some cheese, bread and a wedge of lemon. You can’t help what you love right?

I created this recipe with students in mind. It’s an easy one pan wonder that can be knocked up in minutes. It’s cheap, tasty, healthy and fills you up. To save on washing up why not just eat it out of the pan, because lets face it; when you’ve had your face planted in a toilet bowl all night, kissed your friends bum cheek, laced your body with vodka, trenched a phallic inflatable around the town centre and woke up with a traffic cone in your wardrobe with the added the fear of knowing you have a lecture in 20 minutes, suddenly – eating out of a pan becomes somewhat trivial. Enjoy your student years, they will be some of your best :)

 

{ 1 comment }

One pan wonder #6: Roast pork hash

roast pork hash

The last time I had any kind of hash was a good few years ago, it was made with tinned corned beef, mashed potato and baked beans, lots of pepper and that was pretty much it. Bland by most palettes but to me it was delicious, and I certainly wouldn’t pass up the opportunity to have it again.

As I got out of work at a fairly reasonable time yesterday I decided I wanted some pork belly for dinner. Lovely as it was, I was most looking forward to the leftovers, because leftovers mean you can be creative with what you have left in the fridge. You can do plenty of cupboard door clacking as you search for spices, herbs or other bits and bobs to snaffle for your dinner. I love leftovers, they can often be more exciting than its original form.

I call this a one pan wonder because 99% of it was cooked in one pan but, you will need a second one just to par boil the spuds, other than that this whole dish is done in one pan. The fried eggs are optional but, why the clucking hell would you not want them?

This roast pork hash is a good all-rounder, students will love this because not only is it cheap easy and tasty, its much better than a pot noodle sandwich – which I have tried, and never will again.

 

As a side note I have to say there is no need for egg snot, you know what I mean. That clear runny egg plasma that ruins your day when you go to some restaurants and order something with a fried egg. You are greeted with an un assuming sunny looking egg, except when you dive your fork in you are instead greeted with a transparent pool of good hard disappointment. Frying an egg is easy, even on a plancha grill, if a chef can’t do that then something is very wrong. If you are one of those chefs, Please for the love of poultry stop clucking doing it!

{ 4 comments }

Foodie news 19.09.2014

the fews

Ok so I have decided to start foodie news section called ‘the fews’, original I know. The reason for doing so is to highlight all the weird and wonderful stuff I have found whilst not getting on with what I should be doing. The aim of this is to provide you – the reader – with a collection of recipes, news, tips, tricks, shenanigans and goodness knows what else that is outside the realms of my blog. The fews will have a slightly different tone to what I normally write, it’s still me, but imagine my blog after a couple of drinks and you will get the idea. So without further ado, adew, a do, adoo? I present the first installment of… the fews! You can clap now.

 

  1. I went over to Dom’s blog the other day to find a rather fetching mushroom pie, now I don’t even like mushrooms but I think I’d still put my face in it.
  2. I got a bit upset and annoyed that a young 17 year old girl was lambasted by the twitter vultures because of her restaurant review, she was doing some work experience for the Peterborough today, hoping to break into journalism. Instead she got flogged by the internet. Shame.
  3. Karen over at lavender and lovage had me salivating with her braised brisket recipe. She has some great recipes over there, go have a peek.
  4. I have been laughing at this sore loser who reminds me why I hate come dine with me.
  5. I also found these ridiculous hotdog animals. Yes because children really need another reason to play with their food.
  6. If you don’t know this blog, then you had better get acquainted with it fast, it’s hilarious.
  7. The guardian has an article on a vegan pizza, sounds interesting but I’m yet to be convinced.
  8. I Found this rather dandy looking sammidge.
  9. Ms marmite lover writes this brilliant post about her fishing trip in Alaska.
  10. David lebovitz has a recipe for taramasalata, a pink fish roe dip. I love this stuff, the first time I had it was with my best friend, his dad slaked it over ham filled baguettes.
  11. I also found this somewhat amusing/annoying.
  12. This is how you make carbonara, please stop putting cream in it!
  13. Niamh has some awesome pasta making classes on offer, go see!
  14. Lastly one of my own here. Who doesn’t love bacon? Well here I show you how easy it is to make your own from scratch and at a fraction of the cost of shop bought bacon.

Well that’s it for this time folks, I have no idea when the next one will be, but in the meantime if you find something you want to share whether its a post of yours, or just something you stumbled across, then drop me a message here.

 

{ 4 comments }

How to butcher a chicken

Since I discovered that buying chicken portions is way more expensive than it needs to be I decided that butchering my own whole chickens was the way forward. Not only is it an immensely satisfying life skill but it also saves you a bundle of cash, which is a good thing I think we can agree. I don’t mind telling you that photographing this demonstration was extremely difficult, If anyone had seen me through the window, pouring awkwardly over a chicken and taking photos of it I suspect they would be somewhat perplexed, but I don’t care, shouldn’t be looking through peoples windows anyway.  Awkward as it was, and getting chicken juice on my camera, It was all worth it in the end because I have produced something which is useful and informative. This is a real tangible skill that you just need to give a go.

chicken

For the purpose of this demonstration I shall be enlisting the help of Terry, Terry is pictured above…he is a chicken, and I shall be butchering him today. Along with Terry I will also need the following (as will you).

chicken 1

 

  • 2 sharp knives, a small knife for fiddly work and a big chefs knife for chopping through cartilage
  • A sharpening steel to keep the knives sharp
  • A flat clean chopping board
  • Sturdy non slippery surface
  • A plate for the pieces to go on
  • About 15 minutes of your time
  • An open – non squeamish – mind

Step 1

Removing the legs/thighs

chicken 2

First remove any trussing from the bird before patting it dry with kitchen paper so it’s easier to handle. Now turn the bird so the leg is facing towards you and pull it out a bit so you can see the skin seam. Taking the smaller knife cut along through the skin until you expose the flesh underneath as above.

Step 2

chicken 3

Once the flesh has been exposed hold the chicken with one hand, then with the other grab the thigh and pull down towards the board until the thigh bone pops through like above, this shows you where you need to cut. Next take your bigger knife and cut through the thigh on the side nearest the carcass parallel to the breast and remove from the chicken.

chicken 4

 

Step 3

chicken 5

Take the thigh/leg piece you have just removed and flip in skin side down, then take your finger and feel for the knuckle joint that links the leg to the thigh, then taking your large knife cut right through until you separate the thigh and leg from each other.

Step 4

chicken 7

You don’t have to do this bit, but it does make the drumstick look a lot neater. Take your large knife and again cut off the top of the drumstick where the joint is as shown above. You can discard the end piece but it’s perfectly fine to use in stocks/soup. Repeat steps 1-4 on the other side of the chicken, then place your 2 thighs and 2 drumsticks on a plate.

Step 5

Look at how well you are doing and admire Terry’s semi butchered body

chicken 8

After completing steps 1-4 on both sides you should now have a chicken that looks like this, if you don’t then I would probably have a long hard look at yourself and question what on earth went wrong in your life, or you could just re visit those steps.

Step 6

Removing the wings

chicken 9

chicken 10

chicken 11

To remove the wings simply turn Terry breast side down and pull the wing out as above. Then taking the smaller knife cut around the flesh nearest the carcass until you find the joint. Cut through the joint to remove the wing from the body, repeat on the other side until you have removed both wings. Chicken wings are great deep-fried as korean fried chicken or used for stock/soups.

Step 7

Removing the breasts

chicken 12

chicken 13

Place terry on the chopping board so that his bum is facing towards you. Then taking the large knife, cut along the side of the breast bone as close to the carcass as you can, cutting all the way down until you hit the wish bone. Now a lot of people cut around this which is fine, but you can end up leaving quite a bit of chicken on the carcass. The best thing to do is to take your hand and place on top of the knife as above and swiftly bash down to cut through the wish bone.

Step 8

chicken 14

chicken 15

Once you have cut through the wish bone, use your smaller knife to remove Terry’s plump juicy breasts from his body. You can remove the skin if you wish, it will easily peel off. Why would you though? Its delicious, personally I like to leave it on. Once everything is removed you should end up with a nice clean carcass that can be stored in the freezer for stock.

There you have it, simple really. Terry went from 0 to hero in about 15 minutes. You have a bunch of chicken which you can freeze and also you have bragging rights. If I were you I would giver yourself a pat on the back and have a drink, you deserve it.

chicken 16

Cluck here for more :)

{ 1 comment }

Why I hate the great British bake off

great british bake off

Image credit – colinmusic666

Since the show began way back in 2010 the great british bake off has been a huge success, millions tune in to watch members of the general public fight their way to be crowned king or queen of baking prowess in this x factor style cakeathon.

 

Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great people are so passionate and opinionated about baking, but it gets a bit much when you have a lynch mob of armchair caketivists baying after someones blood because they accidentally ruined a bearded mans baked Alaska.

I have much respect for Mary Berry and Paul – ever so slightly arrogant – hollywood, they both have made a career out of something I can only dream of, but the show itself just bores/annoys me to tears. The melodramatic oven staring by contestants, the parading of Paul and Mary around each person asking what they are doing; with paul asking what sort of pastry they are using only to react with a – I know better – response of ‘that’s an interesting combination’ are all screen fodder before the end result. The cake, pie or pastry that Paul will inevitably over criticise or give a patronising appraisal response of ‘well you did amazingly well, it is baked to perfection and the flavours are excellent’ meanwhile his face tells you – yet again – ‘but I can still do better’.

Someone reading this might think I’m over reacting, or that im a bit of a snob. ‘oooh look at him getting all irritated about a baking show’ you might think, and I would be inclined to agree with you. I sold my television a good few months ago now because I just couldn’t find anything I wanted to watch, and even if I did find something I would turn into some sort of frowning TV cussing curmudgeon; berating and shouting at the crap that has been laid before me. So yes I fully realise that not everyone will share my opinion and I also realise that I am obviously a TV food snob. Now of course the majority of my media intake is procured from catchup services, which is just great for me.

The great british bake off is plastic life on TV, a homogenized cack off of vintage cookware, rose petal aprons and belittled contestants. I have had numerous people tell me I should go on the show as if it would be the defining moment in my life, as if going on the GBBO would open so many doors for me. Sorry but I would much rather be on television for being myself, not because I was a contestant on a cooking show, but I don’t think many TV producers are looking for round-faced wonky toothed food bloggers do you?

well, unless you want to go on come dine with me…

{ 2 comments }
Robin williams

Image credit: flickr, bagogames

 

Since the news that Robin Williams sadly took his own life there has been a huge outpouring of emotion from everyone, the general public have clasped hands across their mouths and gasped whilst frowning intently. Celebrities, politicians and dignitaries have led tributes and the news channels have played ‘best of’ clips constantly for the past 2 days; to this man, Robin McLaurin Williams, a fitting bunch of reactions to a well-respected and loved individual who sadly took his own life on the 11th august 2014.

But what about Robin himself? Take away the fact he was a world-famous actor and comedian, strip away the fame and fans and you are left with a man marred by manic depression, drug and alcohol addiction brought about by his upbringing, financial worry – thanks to a £12 million divorce settlement – resulting in him having to accept film roles he hated just to pay the bills and try to give his children a secure future. He was afraid of his own father and craved love and attention from his hard-working mother. The booze and drugs were a way of coping and I defy anyone not to feel at your lowest ebb when life deals you lemons like this.

This man has my respect for not only managing to pull off a fantastic conjuring trick by fooling the world he was happy, but also the fact he managed to appease his adoring fans with his act whilst trying to reconcile with his inner demons, he was selfless in his desire to make other’s laugh, all because he just wanted to be loved. I can’t claim to be an expert on the subject, but having tried to take my own life on two occasions, I think I can somehow relate to how he must have felt in his final hours with us.

Now I know you have all backtracked, spun your heads and gone ‘what!? you tried to take your own life?’ Well yes I did, many years ago and both times were over a woman. Something I regret and I put it down to stupidity. I thank my mind I came out the other end of my upbringing and lifes little foibles relatively normal and didn’t end up in the same situation as Robin. I have had my problems absolutely, but I have managed to come to terms with them, deal with them and move on. Some people are not that lucky, celebrity or not.

There is always someone you know that needs your help, they may not be asking for it but sure as hell they need it. Robin needed help but didn’t get it. All the fancy expensive treatment in the world couldn’t help him because he felt isolated from the rest of the world, he couldn’t just talk to any old person without them thinking ‘omg omgeee it’s Robin Williams!’ manic depression is a complex illness but his fame certainly didn’t help him. If you know of anyone that is feeling vulnerable, lonely and isolated then PLEASE just go and talk to them.

Food was a major coping mechanism for me growing up, I know I have written about it numerous times but it has. Food to me can change a persons mind like a switch, I’m not saying it’s a cure but giving someone who is on the edge of collapse their favourite meal will make them feel human again for a period of time at least. Enough time to get them some help. Robin was a victim of manic depression, an illness which can make life completely unbearable to the point you want to end it. He was alone when he took his own life, a quiet personal moment of sadness.

If you feel depressed or you need someone to talk to you can go to the depression alliance website for more information, or call the Samaritans if you need to talk to someone urgently 08457 90 90 90

Nanu Nanu!

 

 

 

{ 0 comments }

BBQ Pulled pork with beetroot slaw

pulled pork

A bit like the cupcake and cakepop frenzy that happened a couple of years ago, the latest food trend to capture our hearts is American BBQ food; the most notable of which has to be pulled pork. There is deep-rooted division when it comes to perfect piggy porcine bliss, there are so many people that will reel in disgust at what i’m doing as much as their will be those who will be delighted. It’s  something I have been worrying over the past 24 hours or so, thinking have I done it right? Have I put the right spices in the rub? did I add too much salt to the brine? Should I have brined at all!? These were all thoughts whizzing through my porcine infested mind. All of this was alleviated when I broke it down in my head as to what pulled pork actually is; a very slowly cooked joint of pork shoulder. Everything else is up to you with regards to flavours, and with that in mind I relaxed a bit more knowing what I had concocted was going to be delicious. I don’t claim my recipe is the holy grail of pulled pork, neither do I claim it’s the best way, all I know is it turned out very well indeed. It was sweet, sticky and spicy with all those dark crusty ‘burnt ends’ adding extra texture to an already sumptuous thing.

I can’t lie, this dish was a long time coming. I submerged the pork in  the brine last night, I was then up at the crack of dawn – thanks to a cooing pigeon right outside my bedroom window –  to rub the spices in before cooking for 7 hours. The result however was worth it in my opinion, and apart from ‘waiting’ there is little else to do. I wanted something crisp and refreshing to go with it, so I created the beetroot slaw that turns a fetching electric pink when combined with the other ingredients,  a winner in its own right if I do say so myself. The BBQ sauce is optional, you could use a ready-made jar if you so wish, but it’s much more gratifying making your own.

 

{ 2 comments }

One pan wonder # 5: Sausage and pea taglierini

sausage taglierini

One of the things I get excited about as a cook is using my noggin and creativity to make something. On friday I was looking after the 2 boys for the day and I decided we were going to make pizzas from scratch. As we were trotting around the shop picking out the ingredients needed and me trying to control Jonson’s need to lunge across the floor and hang from the trolley like a spider monkey, I spotted some ’00’ flour – something I have been keeping an eye out for – which I snatched off the shelf like some post apocalyptic survivor raiding an abandoned supermarket shelf while the boys looked at me puzzled as I shout ‘ahh haaa!’. It’s the first time I have seen ’00’ flour in a supermarket you see, so it was a special moment for me. I decided I was going to make some pasta with it, and with that in mind I started thinking what I wanted with it, and thinking that peas are in season and finding some amazing tomatoes at the market I knew exactly what I wanted to make. You don’t have to make your own pasta of course but it is one of the easiest flour based foods you can make, it’s up there with sour dough and short crust pastry, if you can make bread from scratch then pasta is a doddle.

Now you could use a pasta machine if you are fortunate to have one, I don’t, so you can use a rolling pin instead, or  – if you are me – you could use the sturdy inner cardboard tube of an emptied kitchen foil roll. For some reason I cannot find my rolling pin, in fact I’m not even sure I have one! Since moving into my own place I have forgotten what I have and don’t have because I left a lot of stuff at my fathers. Oh well, that’s my memory for you!

The rule of thumb when making your own pasta is always use ’00’ flour, you cannot use any other flour. The ratio is simple, 100g of ’00’ flour per 1 whole egg, and that’s it. You can scale it up as much as you like if you want to make a big batch. I was also going to show you step by step how to make this pasta, but I forgot to take the intermediate pictures of the different stages in the process, I’m sorry but my brain has been frazzled this past week or so. But you can watch this video from Gennaro who will show you how to make pasta from scratch, now he adds semolina flour to the mix, you can do that of course as it adds a little extra bite, but it’s not completely necessary.

This is the fifth installment of my one pan wonder series, which are recipes designed to be cooked in one pan, to create simple easy meals that are above all cheap. The most expensive thing in this were the sausages, but it will feed 2, 3 maybe 4 people. You will need one extra pan just to boil the pasta in however, but don’t let that trouble you ;)

 

Oh and just in case you were felling a bit down today, here is one of the boys having a go at kneading the pizza dough on Friday.

 

 

{ 2 comments }

Asparagus and pea risotto

pea and asparagus risotto

The first time I tried risotto it was from a microwaveable packet, all those many moons ago there I was; fumbling about squidging the packet to help separate the grains as instructed before eagerly tearing a 2cm slit on the side and popping in the microwave for 2 minutes, then boom disappointment. What I expected and what I actually ended up with where completely different. I expected a soft creamy dish with delicate flavours instead I got a stodgy over salted rice infused bag of misery. Never again. Thankfully I learned that making it yourself isn’t hard at all, in fact it’s one of the easiest things you can make in my opinion, all you need do is follow some basic steps and will get the perfect risotto every time. The good thing about a risotto is you can switch it up however you like, add whatever you have to hand in the fridge or vegetable rack. Get the basic risotto right and you can add all sorts of flavour combinations.

I was asked by the central england co-op to come up with a recipe that was delicious but easy to make. I love doing these sort of campaigns because it allows me to stretch my creativity. The key things to remember when making any risotto is that first; you have good stock, don’t use the cheapest cubes you can find otherwise your risotto will taste less appealing than fishermans wellington boot, if you don’t have homemade stock then go for the jellied cubed variety instead, or fresh stock if you can get hold of it. The other important thing is the rice, my first choice for any risotto is carnaroli as it holds more starch and so gives an even creamier risotto, but if you can’t get hold of that then use arborio. This recipe will serve 4-6 people, but if you have plenty left over you can chill in the fridge. You can make a dish called arancini with left over risotto which are little deep-fried balls of risotto joy, there’s plenty of recipes for it on the web.

 

{ 2 comments }