Monday, 20 February 2012

He Died With A Falafel In His Hand


I am standing in a snaking queue around the back of a market stall on Whitecross Street and the wait is agonising.

Truly, truly agonising.

I turn a corner. It's another ten minutes of shuffle, shuffle, stop, shuffle, shuffle, stop.

Shuffle, shuffle...............stop.

The aroma drives me insane, my saliva glands go into overdrive and my stomach emits a low growl.

I turn another corner and I am almost there, the end is nearly in sight.

Subconsciously, I nudge up to the person in front of me, eager to to get a glimpse of the delights in store. This gets mistaken as a pass. Or worse, a case of frottaging, judging by the frown on the besuited gent.

Stepping back, ashamed and abashed, I keep my head head down and focus on my feet.

But the smell keeps dragging me on. Shuffle, shuffle. Shuffle, shuffle.

Finally, after an age, I hear the question:

"Regular or large?"

"Large," I answer.

"With everything on it?"

"Everything"

"Aubergine?"

By then it's too much and I spit back with a manic glare. "I don't care for the bloody aubergine, just give me the damn falafel, now!"

Eye's widen, glances are exchanged.

And then suddenly, everything springs into life. Tongs move back and forth, dipping in and out of trays, working swiftly, smashing crisp brown patties down, piling the other ingredients up. With a wrap and a twist and a tap tap, the package is handed over.

I snatch at it, hand some money over and scuttle off like a wizened goblin, giggling gleefully, spitefully.

Fortune Street Park. That's as far as I get and into a bush I run.

The paper gets ripped open, greedily I take bite after bite, without pausing for breath. Incisors tear into the chickpea and cumin. Molars grind the pickles. Tahini and chilli sauce dribbles down my chin.

It's gone in seconds, so I clean up with paper towel and slowly emerge out of the topiary, into the light of day and saunter back to the office. Sated but feeling oh so slightly disgusted with myself.

I love you Hoxton Beach Falafel.

But sometimes the wait is too long. Too, too long.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Unaccustomed As I Am


This is just a quick one really.

Now you may or may not know it but this week is (or rather has been) Social Media Week. Where multitudes of people across the globe have been talking, conversing, chatting, extrapolating and waffling, online and off, about all things to do with social media. Which is what you might expect from such an event I suppose. But there is no doubt that social media is making a massive impact on our lives so why not have a week dedicated to it? Like it or not, we are slowly and surely becoming integrated, absorbed and saturated by the medium and it is undeniable that social media has now become a catalyst for "driving cultural, economic, political and social change."* Therefore, it is a very important thing indeed.

And within that tenuous grasp of proceedings lies the reason as to why I have agreed to talk at an event for Great British Chefs. It's a big thing this social media stuff, it's something I should get involved with and it is something, incidentally, that is on tonight - gulp.

Running under the title and themes of 'How Social Media & Collaboration Change the Way We Eat', I shall be joining several other speakers to show how these "collaborative changes are leading to greater enjoyment of food and wine." My topic in particular will focus on my supper club, the business models I use and the various online marketing methods I employ which sounds all very grown up and astute. Really and truthfully, what I've got in mind is a 'show and tell' session based upon the vagaries of "this is 'ow I've dun it." But never one to shy away from a challenge, I hope to make it at least vaguely amusing and informative.

Apparently, extra tickets have now become available so if you fancy popping along to lend an ear and moral support then please do so. There is a glass of wine from Naked Wines in it if you do.

The event will be held at TechHub, near Old Street and starts at 6:30PM. For more details and tickets please go here.

* quote taken from the Social Media Week website

Monday, 13 February 2012

Naughty Scrumpets

Scrumpets

Like a dog with a bone, refusing to let go, I've been wrestling with the whole crumpetgate saga for a couple of weeks now. Ever since that night, my life has been a montage of long walks in the park, contemplative pints supped alone, cigarettes lit but unsmoked with ash snaking down to the butt and spent hours in grey light, wallowing under crumpled sheets.

"Epigrams. Who the hell has ever heard of epigrams?" That's all I've been muttering under my breath.

Of course, it never was epigrams, I got the spelling wrong, which grates even more. It was actually ├ępigrammes, dug out from Elizabeth David by some young, snotty nosed, Oxbridge educated researcher no doubt. Tosser.

So yes, readers, the whole episode has hit me hard.

But thankfully, I am now over it, for this weekend I got off my backside and set to make what I know as 'scrumpets', a word gleened from Mark Hix's Oyster and Chop House cookbook. A word trapped in the inner recesses of my mind, a word that was the source of confusion all along.

In terms of simplicity, this dish really couldn't be easier. Take some breast of lamb, season and slow cook with herbs and garlic and then leave to cool. Then cut into strips, batter with breadcrumb and deep fry. The result is ridiculously toothsome, with a lovely outer crunch that yields to soft, tender meat inside. Mark Hix suggests an accompanying dip of wild garlic mayonnaise to serve with the scrumpets (he also suggests using breast of mutton too) but I think that would be a step too far. What these lamb goujons need is something acidic to cut through their inherent fatty richness, so I would serve them up with a green sauce or salsa verde. And this will be the gameplan as scrumpets are on the menu for my next supper club.

Going back to the word itself, I have to say that I would take 'scrumpets' over '├ępigrammes' any day of the week. There is something bawdy, riotous and devilish about 'scrumpets', whereas '├ępigrammes' seems poncy and sniffy by contrast. Not that I have anything against Fronch cooking and Elizabeth David, no not at all. It's just that scrumpets is definitely better. Definitely. And if Kirsty Wark had used it in the quiz, then I wouldn't have looked so stupid.

Hmm, I still haven't let go of that bone have I?


Le breast d'agneau

Lamb Scrumpets
- serves 4

300-400g boneless breast of lamb

salt and roughly ground pepper

1 head of garlic, halved and roughly chopped

a few sprigs of rosemary and thyme

2 free range eggs, beaten

60-70g fresh white breadcrumbs

vegetable oil for deep-frying

method

Preheat the oven to 160c/gas mark 3. Place the lamb into an ovenproof dish (with tight fitting lid). Season well and scatter over the chopped garlic and herbs. Cover and cook for 2 hours or until very tender, basting regularly and turning down if necessary. Leave to cool overnight.

Scrape away any fat residue from the lamb and any fat that hasn't rendered down during cooking. Cut the breast into 1 cm wide strips, 5-6 cms long.

Have 3 bowls ready, one with flour, one with eggs and one with the breadcrumbs. Season the flour. Heat a 6 cm depth of oil in a deep fat fryer or other suitable deep, heavy pan to 160-180c.

Pass the lamb strips through the seasoned flour, shaking off excess, then through the egg and finally coat in the breadcrumbs. Deep-fry the strips in batches for 2-3 minutes, moving them around in the oil until golden and crisp. Lift out with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper.

Serve with lemon wedges and (in my opinion) a healthy dollop of salsa verde .

'Erbs and Garlick

Tender

Absolutely battered

Friday, 10 February 2012

Banana On Toast

Banana on toast

As you are probably aware, it has been very cold and icy and snowy lately. Very cold and snowy and icy. There have been warnings, snow warnings and yellow snow warnings. Imploring people to be careful, wrap up warm, don't make unnecessary road trips and on any account, please do not eat yellow snow. Weathermen stare out, gravely, from our screens, frowning, clenching their red button remotes and with undertones of fear and dread expound upon the horrors of 'freezing rain'. Rain that actually freezes. Can you believe it? Via Twitter and Facebook, we regularly get updates of snow that is snowing in people's gardens, pictures of snow. Reports that it is snowing over here. And over there too. Supplies are running low, trains can barely cope, planes are grounded and hospitals can't cope, cats won't go outside to do their business and dogs sadly bite at snow, with no real success of getting a meal. No, you really can't miss the fact that the country is currently gripped by a Siberian fist, which is slowly squeezing, squeezing and freezing the very life out of this fair land.

Unless you work for the council that is. In which case you will be totally oblivious to the nation's plight and won't have even bothered to get your arse into gear and get the gritters to come down my road. No, Havering Council, you are probably far too busy sitting in your wonderfully warm offices, wearing Hawaii shirts and shorts, drinking cocktails.

I gripe.

But despite all the terrible weather we have to endure at the moment (and it really is terrible), the great thing is that we can get away with eating pretty much whatever we want. Biscuits, cake, crisps, pork scratchings, pork pies, pork products in general, lard, the brown gloopy stuff that remains on the bottom tray in the oven, you name it. Because it is all energy. We need the energy to cope with this current crisis. And lately, I have been reverting back to that childhood fave, banana on toast. I have had it every morning since the Big Freeze hit us and I can't get enough of it. Bread, toasted until it's nicely, toasted. Salted butter (and it must be salted) slathered across and melted into crunchy, slightly carbonised pores. And then sliced, ripe, sweet banana, mashed in, sometimes to a gooey pulp. Gorgeous. It might be beneficial to spread some peanut butter on too, you know for the all important calorific blast. It's all energy remember. But I am a bit of purist when it comes to banana on toast. Like all good things, you need to keep it simple.

After munching away on a couple of slices and before trudging out into the bleak, harsh winter, in my Aldi snow boots, I always like to utter the immortal line - "I am just going outside and I may be sometime."

But I always come back.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Crumpetgate

No one likes a smart arse and you'll be sure that whilst riding high upon the crest of a wave, spectators, commentators and detractors will be looking for the slightest slip up, the merest excuse to mock, bray and scream. I found this out to my cost when I appeared on 'A Question of Taste', a new epicurean quiz recently aired on BBC2. Watching nervously from my settee at home, clutching a cushion and a bottle of port, I spent the first part of the show lamenting the fact that I had decided to wear a flowery shirt that day. And sporting a ginger, hairy caterpillar under my nose was also a definite no-no. But as the programme progressed, my confidence grew because a) my team were doing quite well and b) I had answered a fair few of the questions myself. In fact, as things went on, I could actually start to feel my temporal lobes swell with pride. 'This could be it,' I thought. 'Redemption. At last I can walk tall in the street. People will see me for who I really am. They will all slap me on the back. They will all hoist me up on their shoulders and carry me through the streets of Romford, praising my genius. "This man has got it!" They'll all cry. "This man really knows his stuff about food!"'

And then came this question.

"What is the name given to small round pieces of mutton or lamb dipped in egg and breadcrumbs and then grilled or fried?"

"Wait! I know this one.............."

*BRAINFART*

"Come along now Danny"

"Er is it ...........crumpets?"

"Wrong! It's epigrams"

Kavey - "You knobber Danny." Dan - "Oh my god you prink."
Twitter -"HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!"

Of course I have heard of nothing else since. Via text, emails, DM's and phonecalls, everyone has been keen to point out my little mistake. Even my Nan rang last night, just to simply say "Crumpets Dan? What the hell was you thinking!?! You are no Grandson of mine!!!"

Oh to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous (mis)fortune.

But let me just say that it is I who will have the last laugh, for yesterday I took a very interesting call indeed. I can't say much at the moment but let's just say that the marketing department of a well known (and may I add premier) producer of baked goods got in touch and wants me to spearhead a new advertising campaign. Kerching!!!

Like I said my lips are sealed but here's a little sneak preview of what they've got in mind.


Who's laughing now eh?