Thursday, 31 July 2014

What would YOU cook with Lurpak's Clarified Butter?

I know. It's a million dollar question isn't it. What the flippin' heck would you cook with Lurpak's Clarified Butter? Do you even know what clarified butter is? Do you need me to *ahem* clarify the whole concept for you?

Well, if you aren't au fait with the notion, clarified butter is butter but with all the milky shite taken out. Thus leaving a beautiful golden fat that you can use in a variety of different ways, cooking at high temperatures and most importantly perhaps, it keeps for weeks.

You can make your own clarified butter at home. Take a saucepan and place it on a gentle heat on the hob and then put a block of solid gold inside. Watch it slowly and very gently melt and then take notice as it begins to separate, with chalky solids falling to the bottom and a light froth appearing on top. The stuff in the middle? That is clarified butter my friend. And that stuff can be an absolute bugger to syphon off. The times I've spent oh so carefully pouring this melted elixir into a Pyrex jar and have ended up having to fish out a lump of calcium with my stumpy fingers, I tell you.......

But I suppose if you have ever come over to my house to eat, you really don't want to know about that.

I digress, as per usual. The important thing to discuss here is that you can now buy, yes buy, clarified butter from the supermarché and don't have to worry about the whole palaver. Lurpak, the Danish Butter Barons, have a whole new Cook's Range to play with and clarified butter is part of the arsenal. I've already tested out their Cooking Mist and tackled crackling and was very impressed with the results (mind you, anything to do with cracking normally impresses me). In all honesty, I have yet to try out the Lurpak clarified butter though and here is the rub, how would I use it? Make hollandaise maybe? Dunking fresh lobster or crab meat into bowl of warmed clarified butter mixed with herbs is a sexy option. Smearing it on my nipples is an even hornier suggestion. But even I am now starting to run of ideas here and I don't think I am alone.

As part of their campaign to spread the word and from intensive market research, Lurpak have cottoned onto this, gathering that the public at large still need edumicating about clarified butter so they have brought on board Chef Tom Sellers, he with the fantastical ginger beard and behind Michelin starred restaurant Story. Now Tom has filmed a selection of very, very short videos which can be found here and although very, very short, I believe they are quite inspiring. He certainly shows off a multitude of ideas so do check them out. Especially his 16 second splurging of clarified butter on steak. Ooof. Nurse!

The best part is that Lurpak have launched a competition to get everyone's noggins working about clarified butter. The prize being a Masterclass with Tom Sellers, the man himself. Imagine that eh? A day in a professional kitchen, hanging around with a super cool chef, flicking each other with tea towels, eating steak and drinking gallons and gallons of clarified butter. And then..AND THEN you get to eat some more food from Tom's seductive tasting menu and drink even more clarified butter/wine afterwards!

That is one humdinger of a prize if you ask me.

To enter just leave your entry on Lurpak's Facebook page. But don't dilly dally for too long, the competition closes next week on August 8th.

So get thinking folks, what would YOU cook with Lurpak's Clarified Butter?

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Triple D Bingo with Guy Fieri

On paper, I shouldn't get on with Guy Fieri. He is exactly the sort of brash, loud, over-bearing American caricature that I just simply cannot abide. What with my stiff British upper lip and all that.  Guy's penchant for bleaching facial hair, wearing sunglasses on the back of his head and a sweatband to cover up a nobbly elbow should get me all edgy and irritable. Throw into the mix a vocabulary that knows no boundary when it comes to the inane, the bizarre and the inconsequential; well I should grimace, spit and shout every time his gurning face appears on my screen.


But I don't.

Because I love Guy Fieri. I don't know why but his cartoon enthusiasm and random batshit is very infectious. Like a big puppy Labrador, he bounds all over the place, hugging, fist-bumping and slapping line chefs aplenty and he is over-brimming with positivity. Even when a plate of greased smoked hog's arse, drizzled with molten cheese, grits and pickled jalapeños is shoved under his nose, he is always more than happy to shovel a spoonful in his cakehole. It all amounts to a very strange yet totally compelling viewing experience. So yes, I am a fan of Guy Fieri and I am a fan of Triple D.

As I have already mentioned, the best part about Guy is his notable use of the random word or catchphrase here and there. Time after time he reels them off and in the past I have looked at my wife next to me and said "Did he really just say 'you must have a PhD in Deliciousness'? Did he??" Which is all part of the game when watching.

So for a laugh, I have whipped up a bingo card for people to use whenever they watch Guy Fiery. I shall be watching Diners, Drive-ins and Dives in my Beamly TV chat room tonight so if you fancy joining me, do pop along. It's on the Food Network and starts at 9PM.

The first one to scream HOUSE wins a can of Cheez Whiz.

Check this website out by the way for all things Fieri related, it's brilliant.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Invasion of the Courgettes

Gronda! Gronda!
At present there is a glorious 'climbing' courgette plant sat on my patio, doing exactly what it says on the tin, climbing upwards towards the sun, spilling huge green leaves and popping fragrant yellow flowers of joy. It is quite a sight to behold and now that we have steady supply of lolloping green truncheons, nothing could be better. Cos I do love a courgette. Yet the speed at which the plant is growing is starting to alarm me. We are not talking 'Jack and the Beanstalk' progress here but the way things are going, I'd say that the plant will soon be over-taking the height of our garden fence. "Hooray! More courgettes!" you might cheer but the other thing that is worrying me is that I am sure, nay certain, that the plant is moving about the place. Terracotta pot and all.

Lots of people ascribe to the notion that plants are sentient beings, Prince Charlie boy being one of them, and if this is the case with our courgette plant, if it has become self-aware then fine. I dig that man - pulls on a drag but does not inhale - that's just groovy baby. There is no reason to dismiss that notion that plants are conscious creatures. Just as much there is no reason to dismiss Gwyneth Paltrow for reasoning that water has feelings*. I just hope that it has a soul whose intentions are good because oh Lord, imagine if it ever felt misunderstood? 

Imagine for instance, if the plant started to suffer from delusions of grandeur, knowing the value of the bounty it provides? Imagine if every time I went to pluck a ripe beauty, having to deal with an uppity Prima Donna that roared and shook until you placated it with a bow and a low whispering of "Gronda, Gronda!"**

Imagine during duty of care, when watering and feeding, taking a stinging slap from a spiky branch and all because you got carried away with snipping some of those lovely blooms the day before, have stuffed them with cheese and gently fried for tea. "Stop un-sexing me, you are effectively slashing BOTH sets of my genitals off, you bastard!" would be the unspoken word.

Imagine if this life force was all down to some extra-terrestrial intervention, malevolent and dark. The idea of a 'Day of the Courgette' is quite terrifying if you think about it. But not quite as terrifying as the thought of being beamed up and whisked off for experimentation by a gang of evil, alien squash-related scientists. I really couldn't face the anal probing. Not with them bulbous fingers anyway.

Perhaps the courgette plant isn't moving. Perhaps it's all in my mind. I haven't been getting much sleep lately and as a result, have been mainlining caffeine by injecting espresso into my eyeballs in the morning before going to check on the plant. That might have something to do with it. But today I am going to nip into Wilkinson's to buy some chalk and when I get home, I am going to trace the outline of the pot. Just to make sure that I am imagining things and not going crazy. I shall let you know the outcome.

In the meantime, here is a quick recipe for a courgette, mangetout, lemon and mint salad, very healthy!

*No, actually, there are lots of reasons.
** Only people of a certain age will get the 'Gronda, Gronda!' joke.

Courgette, mangetout, lemon and mint salad - serves 6 

The majority of recipes for courgette call for them to be cooked but I rather like them raw, especially when they've had time to ripen and become slightly creamy. Paired up with some mangetout, also raw, this salad has great texture and smacks of summer with its citrus and mint flavour. For this salad, I used purple mangetout that I got from Wholegood, an organic fruit and vegetable wholesaler that will also supply weekly boxes to your door, and you may want to blanch your mangetout briefly. But I prefer the crunch and I hate to lose the purple with purple veg. You could also add courgette flowers stuffed with ricotta and mint, briefly flash-fried in the pan but they don't seem to go down well with the kids


2 big, fat, portentous courgettes, sliced into ribbons using a peeler or mandolin (watch those fingers)

250gms mangetout, topped and rinsed

1 lemon, zested and juiced

1 large bunch of mint, leaves roughly torn

2 tsps of rapeseed oil (I used Mellow Yellow from Farringtons)

Salt and pepper


Take a bowl and place your courgette ribbons, mangetout and mint and mix thoroughly to combine. Using a small glass or jam jar, pour in the oil and juice and mix to emulsify and then season well. Pour the dressing over the salad and mix and then present on a pretty platter. Scatter over the lemon zest and drizzle some more oil across if necessary. Enjoy in the garden, in the presence of your courgette plant. If you have one.

That's a whopper!
Purple Mange Tut
A bowl of salad
A platter of salad
Close up

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Polenta Brisket Peperonata

Polenta Brisket Peperonata
I went out for a drink last Friday in Borough Market with one of my oldest and best buddies and needless to say, I got very drunk. I should have had something to eat beforehand, on the advice of my better half who always, always advises me to do so but I never listen. So as usual, I found myself floundering around the streets of SE1 around midnight, arms windmilling, legs moving one step forward, three steps back. A terrible epitome of car crash TV and the bane of A&E's up and down the land. Not that I ended up there mind. I don't ever get that bad. Although it was bad when Mrs FU rang me, asking where I was and I said that I seemed to be in the middle of a very busy road; which I can only presume was London Bridge. When I finally got home, my worried and somewhat angry wife said she could hear screaming horns and screaming apoplexy echoing in the background. One day I will grow up.

But hey, I don't get like that that often and I don't get to see my best mate much these days and it's good to let your hair down once in a while (he says, whistling). And we did have share some very big giggles, so there you go. One topic that came up amongst many was beer. We do like to talk about beer. About it's inherent, sulfurous nature, the way that some particularly 'hoppy' ones can taste like soap and whether we've made the full transition into old CAMRA farts yet, complete with ridiculous t-shirts, socks, sandals and moobs. I brought up Innis & Gunn, brewers of unique, cask flavoured beers based in Edinburgh, Scotchland, as I've been drinking a lot of their stuff lately and we both raised an eyebrow and a wry smile.

"Bloody nice aren't they. Quite.... vanilla-ry"

"Yep, I tried a limited edition one the other day. Very smokey, lovely it was."

"But very strong."

"Yes, very strong. Reminds me of some Belgian beers."

"Jerry loves Innis & Gunn but he always has to have a slice of orange in his pint."

Jerry is a friend of ours. Well, more of a friend of my best mate who knows Jerry from university but I also know him well. I am sure Jerry won't mind me saying this but he is a Tory poster boy on the Alan B'stard scale, notoriously smug and looks like a German. We both pondered whether this preference for a citrus tang came from the proliferation of shite lagers out there that are 'radlerising' themselves up. Or if it came down to the simple fact that Jerry enjoys stuffing his mouth with oranges, like all good Conservative MP's do. Which is a bit harsh on Jerry because he is a decent bloke really with a warm, albeit disillusioned heart. Still it made us larf.

Yeah, I am not too down with the whole adding fruit to my beer these days. I've sunk my fair share of Sol and Coronas with a slice of lime, don't get me wrong; but as I've got older, I prefer drinking it unadulterated. I don't mind using it as an ingredient though, and boom, there is the tenuous link that leads us from a tale of weekend binge drinking to this rather smashing recipe that I came up with for last night's dinner. From the title of this post, you can see that lovely brisket is on the agenda and you might be getting prepared for a 48 hour method of dry curing and marinating but I cheated and bought my brisket already slow cooked from Waitrose.

"E's got a bloody cheek knocking his true blue mate when he's orf shorping in Waitrose, ain't he?" you might well be saying in your head right now but I do like to shop in Waitrose from time to time, especially when I can get my hands on brisket that is half price (I do love a Waitrose red and white sticker me).

So yes, this recipe calls for pre-cooked beef but if you want to try the whole seven day, slow cook in the woods thing, go knock yourself out. The great trick though is to add a bottle of Innis & Gunn to the pot after cooking the joint through, scraping the bottom of your casserole with a wooden spoon to get all that flavour out of the remaining grubbings. If you can get hold of some of the limited addition 'Malt Whiskey Trail' then even better. After reducing by half, the gravy was fantastic. Throw some tangy peperonata and cheesy polenta into the equation and before you know it, you'll have a dish fit for a King.

He says, patting himself on the back.

Polenta, Brisket, Peperonata - serves 4

1 Waitrose Slow Cooked Beef Brisket (750gm)

2 red peppers, 1 yellow pepper, de-seeded and sliced into strips

2 red onions, finely sliced (1 for the brisket, 1 for the peperonata)

2 garlic gloves, crushed

Small bunch of parsley, finely chopped

1 tbs of red wine vinegar

1 bottle of Innis and Gunn beer

Olive oil

1 packet of polenta, (375gms)

250gms of Parmesan cheese, grated

500ml water

Salt and pepper


First, heat your oven to 140C. Then take a casserole pot and scatter the red onion slices on the bottom and place the brisket on top and then drizzle over the accompanying sauce along with a healthy splash of beer. Cover and braise for an hour, according to instructions (I left it in for 2 hour to make sure it was extra flaky).

Whilst that is cooking, make your peperonata by placing a frying pan on the hob over a medium heat, add a splash of olive oil and once hot, throw in the peppers. Stir through, season with salt and pepper, reduce the heat and then cover with a lid. Leave to gently cook for 15 minutes, stirring halfway through. Then add the second red onion and garlic, stir through, cover and again, leave to gently cook for 20 minutes. Once everything is nice and soft, bring the heat up and add the vinegar and reduce. Stir through the parsley, check for seasoning and cook through for another minute or so and then set aside.

When the beef is ready, take the meat out and pull apart in bowl with forks and keep warm. Strain the remaining liquor into a saucepan with a sieve, pushing down on the onions to release the juice. Deglaze the casserole pot with another splash of beer, scraping around the place and pour into the saucepan. Add the remaining beer and place on the heat and reduce by half.

For the polenta, again cook according to instructions on the packet i.e. bring 500ml of water to the boil, dump the polenta in, stir like crazy for 8 minutes, dump the Parmesan cheese in, stir like crazy again, season and then breathe.

To plate up, take a bowl and add a generous spoonful of polenta and then place some of the ribboned brisket on top and drizzle over a nice ladle of gravy. Finish with a generous helping of peperonata on top of the beef.


Pretty peperonata
Food styling advertising beer
Innis & Gunn Beer....................burp

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

The Red Lion Great Sausage Roll Off 2014

Sausage rolls are steeped in folklore in my family and if you ever have the good fortune to listen to my mother at a party, cornered in the kitchen, late on a Saturday night, after she's had a few Tia Maria's, you'll soon find out why. Because we don't have parties like we used to. Not like back in the good old days, when she used to live above the shops in Eversholt Street in Camden with her grandparents. Gawd blimey, love a duck, wot? Wot the parties that used to go on in that place were legendary! Mythical even. By all accounts Grandad Billy would often get kicked out of the local boozer at 11 o'clock on a Friday night and not happy with his lot, he would corral a bunch of miscreants to come back to the flat to carry on with the celebrating. Twelve nine and four sixpence would be slapped on the bar and the boys would hoist wooden crates onto their shoulders, carrying bottles of mild and waltz off daaan the street singing an ol' ditty like "Oi Sally, How'd You Get Yer Knickers In Twist?"

Grandad Bill would hammer on the door and announce "Alice! We gort guests so we 'ave," and Nanny Alice would stub her woodbine out and leap out of her chair and shout "Oh Bill, you are a bleedin' pain in the backside and no mistake but sod it, come on in boys." Bottles would be popped and more carousing would go on, culminating in a riotous cheer as Grandad Bill would pull the throw orf the ol' johanna and everyone would leap in with a chorus of  "Aunty Mabel On The Table." Spoons would be handed out for percussion, dust would leap into the air from all the dancing and my mum would awake and walk into the room and immediately get half a guinea of threepence coins thrust into her hands. If she was really lucky, she'd get 12 bob note.

Soon enough Grandad Bill would shout something like "Alice, we're 'ungry!" And before you knew it, Alice would be in kitchen, sleeves rolled up, port and lemon on the side, woodbine dangling from 'er lips and out came the flour, water and lard. Working like a demon, she could knock up a ball of pastry in seconds and after quickly dipping into the fridge, a slab of sausage meat would slapped on the side (for they always had sausage meat in the house). With a rolling pin, some deft finger work and a splosh of egg wash, snake-lengths of sausage rolls would start to materialise before being cut and shoved into a hot oven for 25 minutes.

By this stage, the boys would be onto their fifth round of "Ooooh Mrs Pembury, You've Got A Lovely Daughter" and would be getting rather drunk but when Nanny Alice walked into the room, with the smell of roasted unidentifiable pork and crisp, flaky pastry wafting through the air, everyone would stop dead still. And pause. Before leaping upon the tray with gay abandon with many a thank you's and much obliging. Nanny Alice would then take centre stage and give everyone a blast of "No Thank You Mr Tiggywinkle, I've Already Had Me Chips For Tea." To much riotous applause and laughter and smashing of bottles on the ceiling and these sort of parties would often go on until Sunday afternoon; a constant stream of frolics, booze and of course, lots and lots of lovely, laaavely sausage rolls.

You can probably detect that I am taking the michael here and whenever I get to hear that story, I do usually get a thick-ear but the fact remains, that sausage rolls form a cornerstone of my family heritage. And despite the overwrought nostalgia, Nanny Alice must have rubbed off of my mum because she can make a mean sausage roll at a moments notice too.

With that tale in mind then, when I got asked to judge at 'The Red Lion Great Sausage Roll Off' earlier this year, I jumped at the chance. Organised by handsome couple Angus Mckean and Claire Morgan, who together run the award winning Red Lion pub in Barnes (in relative harmony, so long as Angus does everything that Claire says) this competition to find the best sausage roll in the country is only in its infancy but has already made waves amongst the cheffing community.

In the words of Angus, this sausage-and-pastry fest is really "just a healthy night for all those in the trade to let their hair down and have some fun" but there is ambition in the Master Cellarman's twinkly eyes as he would like to attract some heavyweight Michelin starred chefs to the event. The crowd that assembled way back in January was not too shabby though, with culinary luminaries assembling from Nanban, The Bull in Highgate and The Opera Tavern. And my fellow judges were no less impressive either, coming in the voluminous shape of Charles Campion (he that critique food), Hayden Groves (he that is National Chef of the Year 2013) and Lisa Faulkner (she that won Sleb MasterChef and caught Mr Torode's eyeballs). With beer writer Melissa Cole  compèring and taking the hold of the reins with her usual commanding style and good humour, this competition obviously has legs for the future but what actually happened on the night?

Well, after running all the way from Hammersmith tube station and arriving slightly late, pouring with sweat, it was nice to settle in with a cool and refreshing pint of Chiswick ale and to mill about the place; lording it a touch. Call me shameless but I had no qualms at all about talking with some of the chefs before the competition, just to sound out some ideas and whatnot. However, when it soon became evident that no-one was going to hand me a brown paper envelope, I thought "sod the lot of you then" and joined my fellow judges at the top table to stare loftily down at the simmering crowd. Sitting next to Mr Campion was quite a thrill actually and the man is certainly an interesting character; a curious mixture of warmth and bitterness, sardonic even. Hit the right note and you will get on like a house on fire. Hit the wrong one and well, you could hear a gnat fart in the room. But of course that didn't happen because as the evening went on, the braying chefs got louder and louder the more they got pissed.

The sausage roll cookery element consisted of four chefs jumping into the pub kitchen at a time, to weave their magic and then present within 20 minutes or so. We, the judges, then had to selflessly chomp and chew our way through them whilst studiously making tasting notes and conferring with cheeks full. In total, over about 2 and half hours, we sampled SIXTEEN sausage rolls of various quality and stature, and I will not lie, it was a hard job. In fact, it is all a bit of a blur now really and my notes from the evening are now withered somewhat with grease and beer stains but notable sausage rolls for me personally came in the form of a sausage roll packed with offal from chef Phil Harrison. Also a deliciously, crumbly effort from the editor of the Richmond and Twickenham Times reminded me of the good ol' fashioned 'famlee' sausage rolls of yore. That one chef decided to flavour his one with langoustine seemed like blasphemy to me and plus it tasted rather rank, so that was a low point. In general though, all the savoury pastries presented were pretty good.

Of course, we had to all agree on a top three (well a top seven to be precise but let's concentrate on the top three) and after some intense conflab, during which Lisa tried to shoehorn her mate Tim into the top of the chart, it was Hayden who dispensed the pearl of wisdom - "C'mon guys, which of these sausage rolls would you like to eat again?"

And so these were the final three:

Third -  The Running Horse, Mayfair - Wild Rabbit and Chestnut Mushroom sausage roll along side a carrot and thyme puree
Second - The Opera Tavern, Covent Garden - Iberico Pork Sausage Roll
First - Ben's Canteen, Battersea - All Day Breakfast Sausage Roll with Bloody Mary Shot

Judging by the hip-thrusting, bird-flicking, tongue-protruding jubilation of chef Chris Brumsby to the crowd, beating his fellow contemporaries obviously meant a lot to him and deservedly so. The nifty addition of quails egg into his pork mix was definitely inspired and more importantly, it was a tasty twist. It did make me laugh though when I heard that his proud dish was soon dropped from the menu at Ben's Canteen because no punter wants to wait more than 20 minutes for a starter. Hey, you live and learn and he should still be happy that his sausage roll was a champion.

Like I said, this juggernaut of a competition has no intention of stopping as I believe a date of 28th January 2015 has already been set, so will be interesting to see if any 'superstars' take up the challenge, to see if anyone can totally redefine the humble sausage roll. Saying that Angus is more than happy for members of the public to get involved. I wonder if I could get me muvva to enter?

Best not sit on the panel next time on the panel if she does though. I'd never hear the end of it if she lost.