Tuesday, 30 October 2012

In Search of Clever TV Cooking or Why Eggs Shouldn't Go Through Sieves

Questions that I regularly think when watching cookery shows, and know I'm not alone as I see them repeated on twitter, are why does it always have to be about fast and simple recipes or super quick and easy suppers?

Lots of people that watch cookery shows will want simple recipes that answer the problem of week night dinners, but then lots of people that watch cookery shows don't actually want to cook either. We hear about all these people watching Nigella and the like whilst sitting down to their microwave meals, surely if the majority have no intention of actually making a recipe but simply want entertainment they'd be happy seeing something rather fantastical being created. After all, hardly any of us would attempt to make our own marshmallow tea cakes but the Great British Bake Off seems popular enough.

Even if this were too specific an interest for the main channels week night out put you might think you could find something of this ilk on the Food Network or similar but there it's even more dire with all sorts of INSANE American chefs. I saw a woman dressing a salad by pushing a boiled egg through a sieve the other day. an egg. through a sieve. onto a salad. just think about that for a minute.

The latest in this string of mind numbingly simple cookery shows is Jamie's 15 Minute Meals. If i hear Jamie Oliver say wazz, wooz or any other made up words whilst using a blender again I will scream. We are adults, we understand how machines work, you do not have to talk to us like we are babies. I'm also adult enough to know that if I want something nice I won't be able to make my dinner in 15 minutes, I have electric hobs, my pans are sort of dodgy, NOTHING HEATS UP THAT FAST.

Whilst I'm ranting, I may as well go all out, do you know what else gets right on my goat?  'O this is a super simple week night dinner, all I need is a can of chick peas, and this duck breast I just had lying around in the fridge', said no one in the real world, ever. It might be a quick dinner but i'm pretty sure most of us won't just have some duck breasts left over in the fridge, and most probably can't shell out on these for your average week night dinner. Yes Nigel Slater although I actually quite like your show, I am looking at you.

If i'm interested enough to watch food tv, it's likely I also want to eat good food. Obviously not in every case but good food often takes longer to make and cook than 15 minutes and do you know what, that's ok with me.

So what i'm looking for is a cookery programme that goes into the detail of cooking, the method and science behind why some things work and others won't, interesting recipes that take some time to prepare, or slow cooked dishes that might not be complex but are perfect for lazy sunday afternoons. Sure this might not be week night cooking but why does it have to be? It's alright to admit, this is a recipe you'll maybe only want to do twice a year but when you do it will be incredible or you'll have to get your ingredients ready the day before but you're an organised grown up, it's likely you've got the good sense to manage that.

I'll admit this isn't your mainstream food show, but it must be time for some intelligent cooking.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Recipe: Double Glazed Sticky Ribs

For a while now i've been fighting my overcoming rib compulsion and i'm afraid to say it's a loosing battle. They are undoubtably my favourite thing to cook at the moment, and after a couple of attempts I think i've perfected a pretty easy little recipe to knock up some sticky, glazed strips of goodness, plus a BBQ sauce that is great for all sorts of stuff and keeps in the fridge for around two weeks. I hate manufactured, artificial tasting BBQ sauce that you get in bad pubs but this is a fool-proof recipe and meant I had to buy both coke and ketchup FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER.

One of the pluses of this new inclination is that ribs are one of the cheapest cuts of meat you can buy, although unfortunately I couldn't find any baby back ribs. Baby back ribs are taken from the top of the rib cage, between the spine and the spare ribs, are shorter and more curved and usually have much more juicy meat on them as the meat is both in between and on top of the bones. Spare ribs, which are what you will usually find, are taken from the belly side of the rib cage, below the section of back ribs and above the sternum. I always have a poke around to make sure i'm getting the meatiest rack, like a sleazy man in a nightclub.

I got home with all the ingredients to make these with more than a little inspiration from my favourite recipe book at the moment Joe Beef which i've told you about before. Ribs are really easy to prepare, i've tried them at a few different temperatures but low and slow is definitely best, just rub em up and stick em in for a couple of hours before the glazing begins. I recently picked up this marvellous little compendium when I visited Barter Books so expect many more classic American dishes.

There's only one essential bit of prep to remember, and if you don't like pulling animal sinew with your bare hands then well, you won't like this. On the bottom side of your rack there is a pale whiteish thin membrane, find an edge and pull it a little and get a butter knife or equivalent underneath and prise it off - after you've got the initial bits off this should come away easily although you do have to grip quite hard.

Sticky double glazed ribs
Double Glazed BBQ Ribs


A rack of ribs
1 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp garlic powder
1/2 tbsp Colman's dry mustard powder
2 tbsp black pepper
1/2 ground bay leaf
1 tbsp of smoked sea salt
half a bottle of beer

240ml coca cola
250ml ketchup
60ml cider vinegar
2 tbsp dark brown sugar
1 tsp of instant coffee
1 tsp tabasco
1 tsp chilli powder
salt and pepper

1. Start by heating your oven to 165 degrees c. Mix together the paprika, garlic powder, dry mustard powder, black pepper, smoked salt and bay leaf (I had to sort of tear up a whole bay leaf which had mixed results) and coat the ribs on both sides with the spices. Put the ribs in a roasting tin and pour in the beer, then cover with foil and put in the oven for 2 hours.

2. Make the BBQ sauce by adding all the ingredients into a pan on a low heat and leave to simmer away. I found it took around 45 minutes for this to adequately thicken up.

3. When the ribs have been in for 2 hours, take off the foil and baste them with a thick coating of the BBQ sauce and put back in the oven. Repeat again 15 minutes later to build up a gorgeous sticky coating.

And don't make the same foolish error as I did, buy a rack per person.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Recipe: French Toast & Caramelised Banana Breakfast

When I think about the best way to start a weekend morning, i've always been partial to a full English fry up; bacon, sausages, eggs, beans, hash browns, beans, fried bread, toast, tea, possibly a few mushrooms if i'm really going wild.

The problem with this however is that I can't have a fry up without setting myself some sort of grotesque eating challenge, then rolling around for the next two hours clutching my belly and feeling a bit disgusting.

See, and I haven't even given myself hash browns here, just 4 slices of fried bread.

English Fry up
Recently I've gone off the idea of a morning fry up, making me sluggish for the rest of the day and have been trying out a few lighter, although in no way healthier, starts to the day.

A few of my favourite breakfasts are..

Bacon and cream cheese bagels. all time favourite. 

Scrambled eggs on brown, latte and freshly squeezed orange juice
 at Oklahoma in Manchester's Northern Quarter

Fresh fruit, yoghurt & honeycomb

HK Muffin minus the bread, champion breakfast

This weekend i've been wanting to treat myself, i've been ill all week and still feel rough now. This french toast with caramelised bananas feels like it should be a dessert, a plate of sweet, sticky indulgence and is just what I needed to cheer myself up, and like any good breakfast is nice and simple to make.

A cafetiere and 6 music are the recommended serving suggestions.

French Toast & Caramelised Bananas

French Toast & Caramelised Bananas

Serves 2

8 slices of soft white bread

3 eggs

Splash of milk

Tsp of ground cinnamon

2 bananas

1 tbsp of soft brown sugar

Knob of butter

Oil for frying

1. Take a small frying pan, add the knob of butter and set to a medium heat, get a large frying pan add oil and also set to a medium heat.

2. Crack and beat your eggs with the splash of milk and cinnamon.

3. Slice your bananas and add to the small frying pan and leave to fry in the butter for 2 minutes, then add the brown sugar and leave to caramelise, stirring occasionally on a low heat.

4. Dip each slice of the white bread into the egg mixture, then place in the hot oil and fry until golden on each side. You don't want it to burn so make sure the oil doesn't get too hot, it should take a couple of minutes on each side. You will probably have to do this in 2 or 3 batches.

5. Plate up the french toast, spoon over the caramelised banana and if you're really indulging your sweet tooth some golden or maple syrup. Serve with a slice of lemon.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Fries & Dolls Filthy Sandwiches, Quayside Market, Newcastle

I want to talk to you about filthy food. Dirty, greasy, sexy sandwiches that ooze their juices all over you. There's few things more pleasurable than eating something that makes you feel so disgustingly guilty.

Filthy food is the 'thing' at the moment, what with all the ribs, burgers and fried chicken places that seem to be opening (sadly not up north) plying us with all those foods we were told not to eat when younger. Given that having those cans of beans which had tiny sausages in was considered a treat when I was younger, the filthy sandwiches I discovered this weekend would have been some serious contraband.

Saturday night had been spent at Tusk Festival, a face shredding experience of noise and gin and sunday morning I was in a bad place, wanting nothing more than to spend 3 weeks in a silent room. After recovering enough to both dress and wash myself I was overcome with autumn joy at the beautiful weather, the fact I could once walk again and that I was heading to the quayside after having been tipped off about some dirty sandwiches.

At this point I was craving, needing, something greasy to sit in my fragile stomach and did a little cry at the idea of fries, slaw, melted cheese, pancetta and salami in a sandwich. Fries and Dolls must be a new pitch at the Quayside market, run by a friendly young girl, but seemed to be popular having sold out of pulled BBQ chicken, and stood out with its quirky 50s decor and bright pink tent.

The sandwiches were all prepared fresh, with fries made in a little chip pan, all hot and crispy and more than a little greasy (a good thing obvs). Thick slices of soft white bloomer, salad, slaw and fries are standard then your choice of meat. The other half, who was also in a bad way, had a reuben which although lacking in lots of its classic element was definitely a hit. My pancetta and salami number disappeared in a minutes.

The filthy sandwich and autumn sunshine combo has secured its place on my must-have hangover cures.

Fries and Dolls was at the Sunday Quayside Market. I was in no state to find out any more details than that, sorry. 

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Recipe: Ultimate Mac n Cheese of Joy

I haven't written a recipe post in ages, I was diverted off course with the allure of restaurants and the demands of my then day job stealing all my good recipes. But, I made this mac n cheese the other weekend, after lying around hungover all day needing some serious comfort food and it definitely hit the spot and knew I should share the love.

This mac n cheese is perfect autumn food, warming, creamy and indulgent - look at that crispy, golden top and oozing buttery, cheesy goodness underneath. It's such a simple recipe, and i've never worked out the proper quantities for a bechamel before, but this produced a lovely, creamy but not too rich sauce. Of course you could jazz it up with some roquefort, or lumps of stilton but I was hungover and unwilling to go to the shop.

So stick on some big socks and a thick knit and settle in with a dish for the night. Ridiculous as it might seem, we ate this entire thing in one go (total fatties), so learn from our mistake and make double because you'll be craving it the next day too.

Mac n Cheese of Joy

Serves 2 

40g plain flour

40g butter

350ml full fat milk

260g macaroni

170g good quality mature cheddar, grated

4 - 6 rashers of streaky bacon, chopped

Grated nutmeg

Salt and pepper to season

1. Pre-heat the oven to 190 deg C and stick your macaroni on to cook - you're not idiots you can follow the packet for those instructions - but drain it just before it's done.

2. Start making your bechamel sauce. Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the flour and stir to a paste making sure the flour is cooked. Gradually add the milk, stirring continually to keep the sauce smooth. Add most of the cheese and make sure it's melted through. Do not eat the remaining cheese.

3. Fry the bacon until crispy and add to the cheese sauce. Season with salt and pepper.

4. Mix the sauce through the drained pasta and add to a baking dish, top with the rest of the cheese. Put in the oven for around 25 minutes but you just want to make sure the top is golden and crispy.

Enjoy - with beer if you're not still too hungover.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Review: Brown's Restaurant, Newcastle, Grey Street

Often you might read a restaurant review which lays into a place, points at ludicrously ridiculous flavour combinations on menus and you sort of think, that reviewer already knew that meal would probably be terrible but did it because we all know bad reviews are so much more entertaining to read than good ones. Now i'm not a self serving food masochist, but about half way through my meal at the recently opened Browns on Grey Street in Newcastle I thought 'o well this is going to be an amusing review to write.'

And then perhaps an even worse sign than that, I completely forgot i'd even eaten there until I recently read a similarly non-plussed review over on Newcastle Eats. As an aside, if you've ever come here foolishly thinking you'd get a balanced, considered opinion on Newcastle restaurants, food events and news, you're in the wrong place, head to that site instead.

As a chain restaurant and somewhere that i'd normally avoid like the plague, i'm not really sure why we even thought going for lunch at Browns would be a good idea. It seems almost unfair to criticise it as there wasn't anything necessarily wrong with the meal, it's just everything about the place makes me feel so wearily depressed. And then I think about the small places with personality, that make one high street distinguishable from another one, struggling and going out of business and I think fuck, that's what's really unfair.

So the food wasn't terrible at Browns - if it was these places wouldn't survive, they have to be consistently average - the chips were actually good (see I said one nice thing) I had a minute steak, cooked to order but lacked any flavour with a wedge of fridge cold, artificial lemon butter and some wilted, tired salad leaves. The other half had the burger, which although not cooked pink, was ok, terrible bread and came with a side of gherkins much to his pleasure. I'm sure the cocktails might be half decent, the bar kitted out to look like some 1960s New York affair, but I ordered a latte, what appeared was a crime against coffee and I stared at it, looked out the window at 9 bar and felt dirty.

It's not even the food that bothers me the most about these places, it's that they're so fucking sterile, plastic plants and shit photography in black and white to make it appear 'arty'. The service is always polite but you know they have some corporate policy to follow, so the words they're saying aren't even their own.

But this is obviously what most people want, otherwise they wouldn't be everywhere, I just wish they knew what they were missing out on.

Browns is at 51 Grey Street, Newcastle, you can find there website here