Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Speed Butchery at Etherington's Butchery Academy, Cornwall

As a guy who takes ridiculous pride in boning a leg of lamb* I just wanted to put up a quickie video post highlighting the majestic skills of a butcher named Frank Lines. Frank heads up a butchery academy down at the Brian Etherington Meat Company which is based near Redruth in Cornwall and I was lucky enough to get to watch him in action at the weekend. I also had the privilege of getting to work on a slab of meat of my own, a huge fore rib of beef and under the close tutelage of Frank, I managed to bone it all out, roll it and tie it into a nifty joint without stabbing myself once. Well, I might have poked my hands with the knife a couple of times but fank gawd for the Michael Jackson glove of knitted chain mail that Frank gave me. Without it, I am sure I would have screamed the place down. Instead, as the blade glanced off my knuckle, I simply shouted "Schmon! Aaow! Hee hee!"

Mastering the infamous 'butcher's knot' also brought a smile to my face but like I said, watching Frank take apart a hind of Tregullow Ruby Red beef was probably the afternoon's pièce de résistance, so do have a goosey at the video below. It should be noted by the way, in case any young buckish butchers should watch this and scoff at the time, that Frank had not long got over some serious surgery. I've got a sneaky feeling that once he gets back up to full fitness, he could probably shave his time in half. And that's without shaving his knuckles.

For more details on Etherington's Butchery Academy and the courses they run, please click here.

*Whenever I serve up butterflied leg of lamb, after say grilling on the bbq, I always make a strong point of letting guests know that the butchery was all down to my own handiwork and as such, I often receive tumultuous applause. However, I never reveal that it normally takes me at least 15 minutes to tease the damn bone out of the thing.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Foraged Salsa Verde

This post first appeared on the Great British Chefs blog 
At the moment I am in the process of turning my back garden into more of an edible one. Although we made the sad decision to give up our plot at Norfolk Road Allotments last year, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to abandon the idea of growing our own fruit and veg for too long. As such, a cornucopia of pots, troughs and potato bags currently litters the place, full to the brim with compost and all ready to go. I have even managed to bag some old railway sleepers which will be used at some point to build a raised bed. I say at some point, I need to give my poor old back a rest first. Railway sleepers are not light.

The area to build this magnificent bed is not big but it will take up a spot where weeds seem to grow vigorously. I like to keep things a bit wild in the garden but I do need to do something about the clump of nettles that proliferate in this particular area. The Easter holiday break has brought more than its fair share of tears and pink welts after a kick-about with the football.

So I started clearing the nettles away earlier this week and whilst I was digging them up, I began to muse about the culinary aspects of these vicious plants (always thinking with my stomach me) pondering if some of the leaves could be put to good use. There was a fair amount of sticky willy that needed cutting back too and I wondered if I could eat that as well. By the way, you can stop that sniggering at the back of the class if you please. When I refer to ‘sticky willy’ I am talking of course about goosegrass, that velcro-type weed that you used to throw on your mates’ back after school.
After a quick bit of research on the Internet, it seems that you can eat goosegrass and whilst the majority of the plant is akin to chewing on a cat’s furry tongue, apparently the young tips are quite sweet and delicious. And I can confirm that because I ran some under the tap and shoved them into my gob.

With my mind fizzing, I then began to wonder if I could make some sort of foraged salsa verde using these weeds, along with some wild garlic and sorrel that I’ve also got growing in abundance. This verdant sauce (or middle-class ketchup as it is also known) goes really well with grilled meat or fish and normally uses standard herbs such as parsley, basil and mint; so to use nettles and goosegrass and whatnot, didn’t seem to be too much of a stretch of the imagination. There were also green after all.
Taking the plunge yesterday, I am pleased to announce that it works. It’s actually a lot lighter in flavour than the usual salsa verde I make, tasting more of citrus than the normal woody notes you get. It certainly went very well with the lamb steak I grilled for supper.

So if a big barbecue is on the agenda this Easter weekend this is something you definitely should try making, to serve alongside whatever is planned for the grill, sausages, chops, burgers etc.  Provided that you can get hold of the ingredients in hand (the sorrel might be tricky but the rest should be easy to find) this alternative, punchy salsa verde will certainly impress, especially when you say that it contains stinging nettles.

You might want to explain the sticky willy though.

Foraged salsa verde

The measurements for this recipe concerning the foraged leaves are fairly approximate and you may want to play with quantities, according to personal taste. There is something to be said about chopping them up though, as opposed to putting everything in the food processor. I prefer a course texture as opposed to smooth. The nettles once picked will lose their sting after a while but if you want to blanch very quickly in boiling water, that won’t do any harm. As always, try to pick away from busy areas i.e. parks and roads and wash everything thoroughly.  And if you are not 100% sure of what you are collecting, leave well alone!

Large bunch of wild garlic leaves
Large bunch of sorrel leaves
Large bunch of nettle leaves
Handful of goosegrass tips
1tbs of capers
1tbs of cornichons
4 anchovy fillets
1tbs of Dijon mustard
2tbs of red wine vinegar
5tbs of extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper, to season


Simply chop all the leaves finely and place into a bowl, then roughly chop the capers, cornichons and anchovies and add. Mix in the Dijon, red wine vinegar and olive oil and then season to taste. A very simple, gorgeous tasting sauce.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Cracking Crackling with Lurpak Cooking Mist

When I first took receivership of a can of 'Cooking Mist' from Lurpak, I'll be honest here and say that I was slightly perplexed. After all, what is cooking mist exactly? How does one apply mist in the process of cooking? Does the can contain a dense fog or does 'mist' allude to a powerful steam? Or does it produce a nebulous vapour, a phantasmagorical fire, hazed in green, bewitching, beguiling and magical? Seriously, what the hell is cooking mist?

Well, plainly put (and I discovered this after reading the nifty little pamphlet that came with it) cooking mist is a sprayable blend of Lurpak butter and vegetable oil, apparently giving fantastic results when glazing and basting, offering a burnished gold finish to any dish. Now a simple explanation of 'sprayable butter' would have caught my imagination straight away ("Wahey darlin'! I just got me some some liquid buttah! Just think of the fun we can have with this!") but I am guessing that the marketing department was pushing more for the ethereal and mysterious so that Daphne could impress her dinner guests.

"Daphne.....Daphne, how did you get these potatoes so crisp? They are simply marvellous! What is your secret?"

"I know. They are fabulous aren't they. I've been using this farntarstic new product from Lurpak called 'Cooking Mist.' It's changed my life."

"Cooking mist Daphne? Cooking mist? Are you sure that you're not pissed Daphne?"

As you might have figured out, I am still a bit flaky with the whole branding concept for this new whizzy product but when Lurpak approached me to test it out and embark on a new #foodadventure (yes, everything must be hashtag-able these days) I was more than happy to do so. In for a penny, in for a pound and all that.

With anything like this, I do normally have a tendency to take the Flash Harry approach and a thought went through my mind to see if this cooking mist would work like mini blowtorch to bubble up the top of a creme brulee. But that would have been juvenile and immature and plus I wouldn't be setting a good example to the kids if I showed them how to makes flamethrowers with aerosols. So I began to wonder if this cooking mist could help me beat an old foe. Or rather, a simple task that I haven't quite cracked yet. That is to make a decent crackling from a joint of pork.

Straight away people are going to be up in arms about this, tutting and sighing at the admission that I have mixed success with this perfunctory skill. But there you go, I've said it. I don't aways get my crackling right. Which is a crying shame because I love crackling. My whole family loves crackling. There have been fights; big, proper, serious fights at the dinner table before over who gets the last piece of crackling. So really I should have nailed it by now but for every success, there has been a rubber offering of despair, a burnt hairy hide of pain. No succulent crunch, just pity and withering looks. Could this new fangled cooking mist help me out? 

Well I gave it a whirl last Sunday, after procurring a large joint of pork loin from the local butchers, C Johnson and Son. I wouldn't mind but I only went in for some steak but the proprietor sweet talks me everytime. After carving it in two and placing one piece in the freezer, I decided that I would keep things simple and roast the remaining hunk of pig. I then decided to stuff the thing with some wild garlic (always looking to use up the wild garlic) and then spent a good half hour re-tying the damn thing (meat tying, that's another skill I could do with mastering). With a sharp knife, I then made some incisions across the skin and rubbed in a handsome amount of salt. The joint was then left in the fridge overnight, uncovered, so that the skin could dry out some more.

At this point you might be screaming "Dan, that's all you ever have to do to get decent crackling, you numpty!" But believe me when I tell you, this tried and tested route doesn't always work. 

Sunday, roasting day, was the day that I then put the Lurpak *double-fingers* cooking mist *double-fingers* to the test and the first thing that surprised me was how fast the sprayable butter came out, so be careful with the sheets if you do try to use it in the bedroom. A liberal dose was applied and bang, into the scalding hot oven it went. I always go for the blast first and then I turn the oven down, it makes no sense to do it the other way around. Or should that be the way? If you have any tips on crackling, do let me know.

Even after half an hour, the skin looked like it was on it's way to crackling nirvana. After an hour, it seemed like the mission could almost be complete but obviously I had to let the meat cook through properly so I gave it another hefty spray of mist, just for good measure. The loin was roasted for two hours all told and when I hoisted it out, the skin gave a satisfying tap when I poked at it with my chef's knife. The crackling was a success

Is that the advertorial complete then? Does Lurpak 'Cooking Mist' guarantee you hard piggy nuggets and chewy shards of joy everytime? Well, I would have to use it again for another pork roast to pass full judgement on that one and plus I should admit that I cut the crackling off  and put it back in the oven for five more minutes at full blast (I got nervous). However, after this first foray with the magical fog, the results do look promising.

Who knows, in the not so distant future, we could all be using 'Cooking Mist' without the merest sniff of intrigue or disparagement. But for the present, I can forsee plenty of cocked heads as people stare at Lurpak's new cooking range on the shelves. Which incidently includes clarified butter, butter especially blended for baking and 'cooking liquid'. No not water, stock or wine. Cooking liquid. I am sure we will soon get over ourselves though. 

And then the real food adventures can begin.

Wild garlic and pork stuffed with wild garlic (before tying, of course)

Tied, sprayed, crackling on its way

Boootiful............whoops, wrong animal
Gratuitous crackling shot

Curled cracking, with pork, bubble and squeak, leeks and carrots

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Teenage kicks against Chicken Kiev (with a wild garlic recipe on the side)


This post first appeared on Great British Chefs blog

Chicken Kiev used to the bane of my existence.  Now, you might wonder what this humble family favourite has ever done to have such an emotive and overwrought statement heaped upon it. Listen though when I tell you that once upon a time, the merest mention of Chicken Kiev meant nothing but the prospect of heartbreak and loneliness; of long walks home and of tears in the rain with the words of Morrissey echoing through my head. For a short period, I had nothing but hatred for Chicken Kiev; such was the impact it used to have on my life. It was that bad.

The problem with Chicken Kiev began when I was in my late teens, still living at home and still in the cosy cusp of my Mother’s bosom. Brit-pop was at its heady height and thanks to the whispy hair that was growing on my top lip; I started to venture into local indie pubs and clubs with my friends. I was lucky because my parents pretty much gave me free rein in those days and knowing I suppose that part of that youthful journey consisted of sinking pints and pints of industrial strength cider, my Mum always made sure that I went out on a full stomach.

So there I would be, on the dance floor, dancing like a robot from 1984, thinking that the raven-haired beauty dancing in front of me might, just might be interested in holding hands and quite possibly a snog later on, when bam it would happen:


And she would then grimace and off she would trot, out of my life forever.

As time went on, this began to happen more and more. The dancing became more desperate. The preening and strutting like Mick Jagger and the flailing of arms and thrashing of hair always looked like it was going to work. But then from the depths, a resounding gust of wind would always, always ruin my chances.

After a while and after bemoaning to a mate that no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t get a girlfriend, he took me to one side and said that I had to give up eating “all that frigging garlic.” Then the penny dropped. My Mum would always, nearly always serve up Chicken Kiev before I went out. Whether this was some sort of maternal instinct, a vaunted attempt to prevent her eldest bird from fleeing the nest, I do not know. But from there on, the battle became fierce and the arguments grew.

“Mum, why are you giving me this bloody Chicken Kiev again? You are killing me out there!”

“You eat that my boy or you are NOT going out tonight!”

And so on it went.  A terrible roundabout of capitulating at the dinner table and then heading to Romford to burp in the faces of prospective girlfriends. It really was a depressing time.

Eventually my Mum conceded. Despite her all her care and attention in preparing this dish, the bashing out of chicken breast under cling film, the slathering of garlic and parsley butter and gentle egging and breading, she could see that I was unhappy. I’ll never forget the day when I came home from Sixth Form College and headed straight upstairs for a shower. My Mum poked her head out of the kitchen and asked if I was going out that night. I said I was. She then winked and then said “Well, you’ll be glad to hear that Chicken Kiev isn’t on the menu tonight.”

I was so overjoyed I ended up using a whole bottle of Lynx shower gel.

When I got back downstairs and sat at the table, all deodorised and resplendent in army surplus, I began to wonder if that night, down the sweaty pit once known at The Cellar Bar, was to be my night. My Mum then plonked a plate down in front of me and true to her word; she had left the Chicken Kiev well alone.

However, in her infinite wisdom, she had decided to serve up chilli con carne instead.

It took me ages to find a girlfriend.

Wild Garlic Chicken Kiev - serves 4

OK, so I don’t really hate chicken Kiev with that much of a passion. The aforementioned story was born out of a time when I was sure that my Mum was trying to spur my chances for romance but the damage didn’t last long. And to be fair, to fall out of love with a breaded chicken cutlet that bursts with molten, pungent butter would be a very hard thing to do. I have never actually made Chicken Kiev by hand before so I had a crack at the weekend using everyone’s favourite foraged ingredient of the moment, wild garlic. Using some tips from this recipe on Great British Chefs and this video from Chicken Kiev supremo Jesse Dunford Wood, the whole process was surprisingly easy.

So if you can get your hands on some wild garlic (you have about 2 weeks left) do try and give this recipe a go. A word of warning though, wild garlic is no less strong than ordinary garlic so share this dish with well-established loved ones and not possible partners.


4 boneless chicken breasts
100gms unsalted butter
Large handful of wild garlic leaves, washed
Salt and pepper, to season
150gms Panko breadcrumbs
2 eggs
100gms plain flour
Sunflower oil, for deep frying


First of all, leave the butter out so it comes up to room temperature and a place into a bowl. Finely chop the wild garlic and add to the butter and mash together well with a fork and season with salt and pepper. Lay a sheet of cling film on the counter and spoon the butter at one end of the sheet. Roll and wrap the butter, forming into a sausage shape as you go and twist the excess cling film at both ends. Chill the garlic butter in the freezer for an hour.

Next you need to flatten your chicken breasts so take two sheets of cling film and lay the breast meat in between. Bash out into a thin and even escalope with a meat hammer or rolling pin into as much of a circular shape as possible. If you have any odd bits sticking out, cut them off with a knife. Repeat with each chicken breast.

Then take your butter and cut it into four rounds (25gms). Place the chicken escalope onto a fresh piece of cling film and then put the garlic butter in the centre. Gather up the corners of the cling film and shape the chicken around the butter so that it forms and shapes into a ball, then twist and seal the excess cling film. Place into a freezer for about an hour as this will help firm them up for the breading stage.

When ready, take your pane ingredients and place into separate bowls, whisking the eggs together. Unwrap each chicken ball and first coat evenly in flour, then in egg and then in the breadcrumbs. Repeating again with the egg wash and then breadcrumbs to ensure the chicken is sealed. A top tip when doing this is to use your left hand to coat in flour and egg and your right hand to breadcrumb (I still get messy doing this though).

Leave to rest in the fridge for 1 hour.

Using a deep fryer or stockpot, heat the oil to 180C and also switch your oven on, heating to 180C.

Carefully lower the chicken kievs into the hot oil and fry for about 4-5 minutes, until golden brown all over, then place on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper and cook for a further 15 minutes. It would be safe at this point to use a temperature probe to check that the internal temperature is at least 63C. If you don’t have one, resort to the skewer trick but sticking it in for a minute and then place on your lips. If it burns, it’s cooked!

Serve with accompaniments of your choice (I went with fondant potatoes and purple sprouting broccoli) and marvel when you cut into your Kiev and watch all that gooey, garlicky butter spill out.