Friday, 31 March 2017

Rhubarb Gin

This post was supposed to be about whole braised oxtail. After receiving consultation in my shell-like in a pub recently, about hammering out snappier, micro-recipe type posts, it was supposed to be my first. However, I got off on the wrong foot by wittering on about memories of eating oxtail soup as a poorly boy, with curly ginger hair and runny nose, and drifted on for about 500 words about my childhood. Which is fine, there is a place for that sort of stuff on blogs. But I wasn't really sticking to the task. As a result, I subsequently fell into a dark pool of self-doubt, with eyes bulging at the screen as I came back up to the surface. This was then followed, as always, by a prolonged bout of procrastination on Twitter. And then suddenly, I found myself outside in the garden, ripping up stalks of rhubarb that was just beginning to pink, having then decided that I was going to make rhubarb gin.

Writing is indeed a bugger sometimes.

But this is good. Because I can now show you how to knock up something exciting and imaginative in about, oooh, 5 minutes. Give or take. And that was the whole point in the first place.

So, rhubarb gin, what's that all abaaaht then? Well, there really isn't anything difficult about it. It's gin, flavoured by rhubarb and I happen to think that this triffid-like vegetable tastes great. When smothered with sugar, or doused in vinegar, or poached with wine, or curried that is. In its raw state, it's horrific. Your gums will recede so severely, that any teeth you have left with fall out immediately and you'll end up looking like Kenneth Williams for the rest of your life. Always, always cook it. Although I do use that term loosely.

For enhancing the gin, I start 'cooking' my rhubarb by adding a tablespoon of sugar, to get everything macerating away and so that the juices can start leeching out. Just one tablespoon mind. You can always add some more further down the line but if you add any more than necessary, you will end up with a hooch that is far too saccharin for sipping cold on hot summer days. Again, I am thinking about your teeth here.

Give it a month or so before you consider fishing the rhubarb back out and I would leave the pinkish gin* for at least another month or so. Before slurping on the patio and reclining on a sun lounger, legs and knees pressed together like a couple of saveloys for that all important Instagram shot.

Just remember though, it won't always be high days and holidays. You will need to get on with some proper work at some point. I know this more than most. Because today I finish the day job.

Rhubarb Gin


700gms rhubarb, leaves and ends removed, washed and chopped into cubes
700mls London Gin
1 tablespoon of caster sugar


Take a large, sterilised Kilner jar (a 2 litre one will be a sound investment) and throw in your chopped rhubarb.

Add the sugar and shake to mix altogether.

Leave for an hour.

Shake again.

Leave for an hour.

Shake again (by this point a lot of the juices should be running out from the rhubarb).

Leave for...a couple of minutes and then add the gin.

Leave for a month, in a dark place before taking the rhubarb back out. DO NOT WASTE THAT RHUBARB! Make a boozy crumble with it or something, for a soporific Sunday afternoon.

Enjoy a month later, straight with ice, or in something fizzy. I am sorry. I am not a mixocologist.

*Do not be alarmed if your gin is a at first. After a few more shakes, the pink tinge will come through.

Monday, 20 March 2017

How the sausage rolled from Norfolk to Barnes

Every January for the last few years I have been making a pilgrimage down to the quiet and leafy town of Barnes, West London with one goal in mind: to scarf as many sausage rolls as humanly possible down my greedy little throat. And before you ask, no, there is not a particularly exceptional outlet of Greggs down there. I go there to visit The Red Lion pub, an esteemed establishment where the annual Great Sausage Roll Off is held. It’s a culinary competition that pits chefs from around the country against each other to do battle over pastry and mince (in a kitchen the size of a cupboard) for a trophy assembled from burnished oak and adorned with gold-leafed papier mâché.

As nights out go, it is extremely good fun. Particularly for the competing chefs, who, let’s just say, like to let their hair down for the occasion. Nerves are soon washed away with beer, the sound of plates smashing is a regular occurrence and as the night progresses, compere Melissa Cole often has to start bellowing at the crowd to gain any semblance of order. I suspect that when proprietor and landlord Angus McKean first conceived the idea of a #rolloff, he never ever thought things would get so big or raucous. Nor would he ever have the likes of Pierre Koffmann, Dan Doherty, Neil Rankin or Mark Poynton come along, to offer their services as judges for the evening.

In terms of innovation and quality, the nineteen sausage rolls presented this year were all of the usual high standard (bar a fishy travesty and one or two soggy bottoms). The winner though, Charlie Hodson, a consultant chef from Norfolk and patron of Porkstock, obviously worked out something that his fellow competitors hadn’t. It wasn’t enough to just make a very good sausage roll. To gain an edge, there had to be a cohesive story behind it and for Charlie, he simply had to call upon his friends to help bring everything together. Namely the farmers, butchers and producers that surround him in the eastern part of the UK that juts out into the North Sea. On the night, as he talked about each contributor to his sausage roll, after watching the judges go all dewy eyed and nodding with dreams of provenance, I knew he had it in the bag. And plus, the ‘Nelson’ was pretty damn tasty.

Waking up the next day, I suffered from the usual heartburn, disorientation and notions of regret that often comes from attending a ‘roll off’ and then came the panic of trying to find my phone. Luckily, I secreted it in my shoe and, after a quick scan, I saw there was a text message from Charlie that said: ‘Really great that you want to come up, Dan. Can’t wait for you to meet some of the girls and boys.’
‘I am meeting the girls and boys?’ I thought. ‘What girls and boys?’ And then it came flooding back. An enamoured embrace, complete with handshakes covered in sticky barbecue sauce and a promise to visit as soon as I could. Which indeed happened just recently, when I took in a whistle-stop tour to visit all the people that helped to roll the ‘Nelson’ all the way down from Norfolk to Barnes.

Our first stop was at Morley Farm, situated in South Creake near the north coast, to meet Tim Allen and his brother, Phil, who are both fourth generation pig farmers and have a wicked sense of humour. ‘Oi, where’s our bloody sausage rolls?’ was the first utterance to come out of Tim’s mouth on our arrival, and at first, it seemed like we weren’t going anywhere until some were presented. Thankfully, Charlie had some stowed in his car and after an impromptu tasting and assessment (‘decent sussie roll that’) we were on our way.

The breed of pigs that the brothers supply are predominantly Landrace, although some come with markings that suggest a cheeky Gloucester Old Spot has made a rude introduction somewhere along the way. And all are outdoor reared and bedded on straw. Some 7,000 pigs come through the farm each year, amounting to a workload that would make the majority of us weep. Yet for Tim, maintaining a high standard of welfare is top priority. ‘I am out here everyday because there is always something to be done. I don’t get holidays. But the most important thing is to make sure that these pigs are well looked after and have a good life, as that will reflect in the quality of their meat.’

Forging relationships with local butchers, chefs and schools to highlight this ethos with visits to the farm is also paramount for Tim. Without this approach, he said his story wouldn’t get out there. ‘When Charlie won, it was not only a feather in his cap, but it was one in ours too,’ he beamed. Thus highlighting the unknown link that the public often has, with regards to farm to fork.

Hopping back to the car, Charlie announced that our next destination was only eighteen miles down the road and it was a necessary stop. Having witnessed the beginning of the supply chain, it was only fitting to see where the pigs met their end; at Blakes of Costessey, the last remaining slaughterhouse in Norfolk. Business, as we should call it, had been finished for the day but it was still good and proper to have a tour, under the guidance of managing director Andrew Clarke. This was not my first visit to an abattoir and the one thing that always stands out is the sense of care and duty that this industry strives for, and Blakes was very much the same.

We then hit the road down to the Salle Park Estate, in Reepham, to meet the rest of the producers who all contributed to that sausage roll, along with some other press covering the story. Not everyone could make it down. Letheringsett Mill, who are the only watermill in East Anglia still grinding flour, preferred to keep their dusty noses and hands out of the picture and Emily Norton, of Norton’s Dairy in Frettingham, was unfortunately at a farming conference. Otherwise, I am told she would have loved to have waxed lyrical about the benefits of her butter, made only from double cream and no preservatives, which went into making the puff pastry.

On standby though was Dr Sally Francis of Norfolk Saffron, a botanist on a mission to bring saffron back to its rightful home. Intrigued and wanting to uphold Essex’s own historical connection, I asked her where she got that idea from and in a flash, she pulled out a book she had researched and written on the subject of saffron, complete with old maps and tables. Over 200 years ago, as a spice and flavouring, saffron used to be exceptionally popular (on a par with today’s ubiquitous vanilla). But the decline of the rural population and the impact of the industrial revolution soon put an end to that. Sally, given her background, wanted to bring it back to the area and to achieve a premium grade. Which she has – her saffron conforms to the highest category achievable. I visibly blinked at all this information, feeling slightly stunned as I stared down into the tiny jar. Probably because her saffron looked and smelt amazingly potent. But also due to the fact that I will always rue the day, that I once spent £20 on a big bag of dodgy stamens in a market in southern Spain.

Next, I spoke to Stephen Newham who runs Crush Foods, a business forged seven years ago out of making cold-pressed rapeseed oil and now moving into dressings, sauces and granola. The rapeseed is actually grown and processed at Salle and I was keen to hear what made his oil stand out from the rest. ‘Using a single variety of rapeseed is the key and for purity, we triple press. That way we can guarantee consistency of flavour, a high burn point and it’s high in Omega 3, which of course, is very good for you.’

‘Did the inclusion of the use of your oil in the Nelson make it any healthier?’ I asked him. ‘Possibly, but I wouldn’t eat more than one sausage roll a day.’ Which was not the answer I was really looking for. But there you go.

I then got into conversation with chef Candi Robertson, the driving force behind Candi’s Chutney and purveyor of the spiced carrot chutney that went into the mix. Having seen her award-winning collection that included beetroot, juniper, parsnip and chilli and a very curious sounding ‘Non Mango Mango’ chutney, I asked if she had some big sprawling unit where she executed all these unusual ideas. ‘Nope, I do this all in my kitchen at home, all using locally-grown produce. It was difficult at first but I have got it all down to pat now. I can easily churn out a few hundred jars a day.’ ‘Really?’ I asked. ‘Yeah, I could probably peel and dice 30kg of onions in the time it takes for you do one.’ Now there’s a challenge for you. Or me rather. But should we ever get it set up, I’d rather do it at safe distance from Candi’s swishing blade. There was something steely about the glint in her eye.

Last of all came a chat with Matthew Brown, who produces Wildknight Vodka with his wife Stefanie, a single distilled vodka made from Norfolk barley. Admittedly, on the night of the competition, I thought that the inclusion of a wee nip served as a sweetener to cajole the judges along. But given the rich, spicy quality of the sausage roll, serving a smooth, long hit of alcohol to cleanse the palate does make sense. Did Matthew ever see his vodka work in that way?

‘Not at first. When we began the whole process of creating our vodka, at the forefront of our minds was to produce a spirit that could stand alone; to be sipped straight and not necessarily with a mixer. So we’re really pleased to see it evolve and go down other avenues like this. You do know that Charlie also splashes some into the pork mix, yes?’

No, I did not know this.

After the meeting there was one final stop to make – a visit to Archer's in Norwich, for a quick natter with Sarah de Chair, chairwoman of Norfolk Food and Drink. Archers is a third generation butchers that now makes, sells and distributes the Nelson across the county; arguably being the most important cog in this sausage roll making machine. Not only is Jamie Archer responsible for butchering the pigs, adding all the aforementioned ingredients (including black pudding from the Fruit Pig Company) and cooking the sausage roll on his premises; for every Nelson sold, a percentage of the profit gets donated to YANA or You Are Not Alone, a mental health charity that works with farmers and addresses the issue of isolation within the community. When I asked Charlie about it he simply presented a case for paying back into Norfolk and supporting the people that surround him.

‘A lot of the farmers in this area are under incredible pressure. They work punishing hours, often on their own and have to meet all sorts of expectations, such as rising bills for feed, heat and diesel. Some can’t cope. Some make terrible choices. If I can help and make a difference, to encourage farmers to share their problems and save some lives, by way of a sausage roll, as strange as that might sound, then so be it.’

Given that he calls his merry band his ‘heroes’, it seems apt in some ways that he should be included within that throng. When Charlie first tried to drop me off at Norwich station at the end of the day, having realised that I left my coat all the way, miles back at Salle farm; his insistence to go back and get it certainly singled him out as someone who likes to go beyond the pale.

A top chef for winning a frivolous and madcap competition down in Barnes, a champion for promoting local producers and food in Norfolk, or just a hero full stop?

Personally, I would say all three.

This post first appeared on Great British Chefs.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Bird's Eye Fish Finger Sandwich Awards

Given the amount of high profile, celebrity deaths that sadly happened in 2016, you'd be forgiven to think that there were hardly any heroes left. However, I am pleased to report that there is one salty old dog, who is still very much going. If I were to say - 'They make some fish fingers look like a right motley crew.' Or - 'I only choose the best for the Captain's table!' Depending on your age, you may well immediately start smiling, crying and nodding your head with fond memories of the infamous Captain Bird's Eye; who used to appear on our telly boxes, before savagely being made redundant in 2014. You know, that bushy, white-bearded, scallywag of the high seas, who used to press gang and exploit children by making them work endless hours on his ship; all in exchange for strips of flaky, white cod in crispy batter. What a monster! But we loved him. Because he gave us fish fingers! Served sumptuously on platters. And yes folks, he is still alive! I know this because I met him in person! At the Bird's Eye Fish Finger Sandwich Awards! My God! If it wasn't enough to be asked to serve as a judge, I also got to meet the Captain! He is baaaaack! He is back on the TV! With more fish fingers than he can humanly chuck at you! Oh happy days! Oh happy, happy days!

OK, please forget the delirium of that introduction. I have been feeling quite emotional of late. Which may be down to having to digest a huge amount of bread and breaded fish and a recent life decision to quit the 'day' job. Plus I am still reeling from the contents of Gregg Wallace's phone. But more about that later. The dust has settled, my mind is clear and now is the time to actually talk about the inaugural awards, recently held at the Tramshed, in Shoreditch; that fabled land of bushy beards.

As competitions go, it really was good fun and the remit was fairly simple. Bird's Eye simply wanted to find the best, most innovative and tasty fish finger sandwich. Launched on November 3rd of last year and over the course of 6 weeks, both members of the public and professionals from the catering industry were invited to submit their own creations via social meeja. From hundreds of entries, three finalists from each category were selected and they were then invited to the Tramshed, to take part in a cook-off in front of a panel of judges. That panel being food writer Xanthe Clay; Delicious Magazine food editor Jennifer Bedloe; Bird's Eye head chef Peter Lack; the incomparable Gregg Wallace; and me. The prize was spectacular. Instant fame through having the winning recipe featured on each pack of frozen fingers; a fish finger themed, gold sprayed trophy, mounted on laminated teak and (wait for it) a year's supply of fish fingers. You have to admit, it really doesn't get any better than that.

On the night, each finalist had just 15 minutes to prep their entry and then 15 minutes to cook and present their fish finger sandwich. I know what you are thinking. '30 minutes is more than enough to rustle up a decent sanger.' But believe me, it was quite intense in that kitchen. Trying to cook in a bustling room with cameras being shoved in your face is no mean feat. Add Mr Wallace's insistence to tell extremely bad Dad jokes throughout, is more than enough to put you off your stride. So with that in mind, everyone did very well. By way of a quick breakdown, what follows is an appraisal of each competitor, with witty and adroit analysis of their creation.

First up was Jonathan Foan. Or 'JJ' to his friends. Jumping out of the blocks, JJ hit the road running with his fish fingers with Cajun 'slaw, mango and avocado salsa, all served within a toasted brioche bun. This did raise eyebrows. Mango and fish? What fresh hell was this? Peter's eyelid certainly twitched at the description. However, it wasn't as bad as we all first thought. The sweetness of the salsa had thankfully been tempered by the heat of his shredded cabbage and it did all marry well with the crunchy fish finger. Messy but with good textures and it definitely was not inedible. JJ also had to be commended for making his own pirate flag. Yaaaar, that was a nice touch.

Next came Gabrielle Sander, bringing her fish fingers with mayonnaise, wasabi, lime, rocket and smoky paprika to the table, all housed with a crusty bap. Displaying a calmness under cross-examination, Gabrielle did very well with her execution, cooking her fish fingers to perfection, whilst answering questions on whether she was single or not. The baps were shop bought, which was a slight disappointment and her rocket could have done with a bit of tart dressing. But in terms of achieving a balance between tradition and innovation, Gabrielle was bang on the money. And to be fair, when you start sprinkling smoky paps about the place, that really is a string to your bow.

Final public chef, Greg Shaw, was perhaps the most nervous contestant of the lot, but the shakes soon settled down as he got to plating up his fish fingers with homemade lemon and dill mayonnaise, iceberg lettuce and wholemeal bread. A cosy and comfortable approach in other words. Maybe too comfortable. It's tricky because when it comes to a favourite sandwich, such as this one, sometimes all you want is the basics. Alas, Gregg didn't quite get this right. His iceberg, which must have cost a fortune at the time, was far too flaccid and his mayo didn't have that punch we were looking for. Jennifer, in particular, looked crestfallen after tasting it. And was this a sandwich screaming out for ketchup? I think so.

With the public round over, it was time for the pros to enter the ring and in stepped Chris Lanyon of Chapel Cafe, which is in Port Issac, Cornwall. A long way to come. Being chefs, they were allowed to make their own fish fingers, rather than use Bird's Eye and you might think that was an unfair advantage. But a lot can go wrong in that deep-fryer. I know when Chris plonked his huge goujons of Cornish hake, coated in panko, into the seething cauldron; as my eye wavered over the clock, I thought 'He better take them out soon, otherwise they're going to be burnt to buggery'. Chris knew what he was doing though, as the fish came out supremely succulent, with a great crisp shell. Slathered with his own tartar sauce, his sandwich was very special indeed.

Being all pervasive, it was no surprise that a fish finger sandwich with a touch of street food nuance had made the grade and I had high hopes for Ewan Hutchinson's take. A Cajun haddock, in tempura batter, on brioche, with rocket, tartar sauce and pickled samphire; a sandwich that flies out of his Shrimp Wreck van. It was very good, especially his use of spiky sea vegetable. I really loved that. But the funny thing was this. Ewan had really served up a fish fillet sandwich, rather than a finger, and call us picky but that edged him out of proceedings I am afraid. When it comes down to winning, it is often down to the small margins. For me, serving up a huge whack of haddock pushed him just out of touch.

Last but no means least was Kevin Gratton, a man of pedigree, given that he is chef director of Hix restaurants and brains behind their festival and events outlet, Fish Dog. In terms of nailing a manageable bite, Kevin was bang on the brief. Serving up a finger of pollock, coated in panko, in a hot dog roll, on a bed of mushy peas, with a dollop of tartare on, it was delicate and pleasing and welcome relief in some ways. My belly had extended well beyond the buckle by this point. And hats off too, to Xanthe, who delivered the winning quote of the evening - 'This fish finger sandwich is the dog's pollocks.' One tiny issue though. The fish was just a touch on the cotton woolly side for my liking.

Once all the chefs had done their bit, to clamorous applause, it was then obviously time for the judges to retreat to the chamber, to compare notes and fight over who should be proclaimed champion. And reader, I would liked to have said that the deliberations took all night and delivered a scene littered with thick, bloody lips, torn shirts and smudged mascara. But to be honest, we were pretty much in agreement as to who the winners were from the off. I wish we had spent more time arguing. Because then we wouldn't have been treated to a half-hour montage of Gregg's life, via the thousands of photos on his phone. 'This is my flat in Docklands.' 'This is me with James Haskell.' 'This is what I looked like when I weighed 19 stone.' But you got to love him. He really is the best at what he does.

Rather string this out with a drum-roll affair (because hey, this news is well over month late now) I will come right out and say that the winners were Gabrielle Sanders and Chris Lanyon. The tension in the room prior to the announcement was palpable. Muted even. But I put that down to everyone being blinding by our compere's orange suit. So bright.

They were very much worthwhile champions though and no doubt their lives will change dramatically after this. Well, I like to think that it has meant an influx of customers to Chris' cafe, which is good for business. And I am sure that Gabrielle is getting accosted and badgered for autographs whenever she walks down the frozen food aisle in Londis. Actually, I hope not. God, what have we done?

Personally, I am just over the moon still that after all these years, I finally got to meet the Captain.

'I've bloody missed you, Captain Bird's Eye,' I shouted with joy, after grabbing a selfie with him. 'When are you going back out onto the open seas?'

'You what? I've never been to sea in my whole life. And the name is Bill by the way.'


'Yeah, Bill. I was over in the Wetherspoons, off Old Street, only a couple of hours ago. Couple of girls came in and asked if I wanted to earn some cash and stuck this poxy outfit on me. You wanna drink?'

'Yeah, I'll have a pint,' I replied, sagely. 'And let's grab a fish finger sandwich while we're at it.'

'Ooooh, I haven't had one of those in yaaaaaaars.'

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Iceland World Famous Range - Smoked Hoisin Duck Wings

Time has become a valuable commodity of late. Saying that, isn't time always valuable? But still, it has been in short supply lately, as I seem to be spending most of my time running about the place like a loon. Doing lots. But in essence, not getting much done.

Short cuts have been made to help me out. Each night, before I go to bed, I assemble my jeans by the side of it; stacking them so that the legs sit neatly atop a pair of shoes, with socks already inside. An upright, concertinaed pair of Levi's basically. My shirt or sweater hangs down from the ceiling, on a hanger attached to a string on a hook. A jacket is draped over the end of the bed and my wallet, phone, and keys will be there, ready and waiting on my bedside table.

Then really, it's just a case of leaping out when then the alarm goes off. A quick slip into my jeans, socks and shoes. On goes the shirt or sweater. On goes the jacket. Wallet, phone and keys get dispensed into various pockets. I then simply open my bedroom window, kiss my wife goodbye and jump out, landing on an old mattress that I keep in the front garden to break my fall. And then I start sprinting to the train station. Smelling faintly, because I haven't bothered showering. With awful morning breath, because I've neglected to brush my teeth. And without any pants on. Because I usually forget to put some pants out the night before. But no-one ever needs to know about the pants, OK? That's between me and you. This is a time saving exercise and time is money.

I have also been making some efficiency drives elsewhere in my life, to make the most of these fleeting minutes, hours, days, etc. One of which has been to employ some ready made ingredients about the kitchen, so that I can quickly assemble a hearty, tasty and delicious meal, in around 25 minutes.

You see, school finishes at 3:15. We get home usually at 3:45. Stuff like Brownies and Cubs starts at 5:30. And so there really is only about an hour and 15 minutes to spare. Which is more than enough time I hear you say, to make a meal from scratch. But no, it isn't.

Because you have to deal with 10 minutes of general chitter-chatter/whinging, 6 minutes on the phone to the bank, 4 minutes trying to find the remote, 2 minutes telling the boy not to flick blu tack at his sister, 7 minutes emptying the washing machine, 10 minutes ironing Brownie and Cub uniform in a desperate attempt to get it dry again. AND THEN! You need to allow about 15 minutes supervising math's homework. Which all comes to like, one hour and 26 minutes. Or something. I don't know. I am really rubbish at maths and I am always late for Brownies and Cubs.

So, when the likes of Iceland, popped up with a new range of products, such as their new slow-cooked 'World Famous' collection, it ticked a lot of boxes for me. The biggest sell being that it has a 'chilled life'. Rather than sticking straight into the freezer, you can put a box in the fridge (where there is invariably more room) and once defrosted, you have up to seven days in which to cook the contents inside. Very handy that. The range itself skips through the light fantastic from spicy Korean baby back ribs and tender rosemary and garlic lamb, through to rather generic pulled pork. Basically covering all the kind of stuff that takes up hours of cooking. The kind of stuff I tend to reserve for the weekend. When I like to braise a rolled shoulder of hogget for instance; on a bed of onions and thyme, at 110C overnight. Waking up hourly as a result of the scent, is a bit of an issue. As is having to change pillows soaked with dribble. However, there is no time for that sort of behaviour in the middle of the week.

As a family, we've tried a fair bit of the range now but the absolute favourite has to be the black tea and hickory smoked duck wings in hoisin sauce. Chicken wings often raise a chorus of approval in the house but these duck wings are, in the words of a fellow blogger, a 'game-changer'. Sticky and glorious, with notes of aniseed and chilli to bounce about the place, the dense, succulent meat is great for pairing up with cleaner, crisper flavours. Inspired by noodle expert Meemalee, I tried them out last night with stir-fried pak choi, spring onion, sesame seed and of course, ready to cook noodles.  It was all straightforward really but the combination hit the spot and best of all, it took hardly any time to make.

Which was very important because not only did I have to get my daughter to Brownies, and not only did I have to get my son to Cubs, I also had to attend my first public council meeting. A fist fight among the councillors, the police and the residents of sleepy Upminster, to discuss the scourge of fly-tipping in my area.

I found it quite relaxing actually. Whilst all was going off around me, for the first time in ages, I finally found an hour or so of respite. Sitting there, with my belly full, stated and safe in the knowledge, that no-one else in the room would never ever know, that I wasn't wearing any pants.

It felt great.

Smoked duck wings in hoisin sauce with noodles, pak choi, spring onion and sesame seed -serves 4


2 boxes of World Famous Smokehouse Smoked Peking Duck Wings in Hoisin Sauce, defrosted
3 pak choi, trimmed and sliced into even, thin wedges
4 spring onions, white and green part thinly sliced, and leaves roughly shredded
600gms or two packs of ready-to-cook medium noodles (empty into a bowl and gently pull them apart with your fingers first)
2 tbsps sesame seeds, lightly toasted
2 tbsps groundnut oil
1 tbsp sesame oil
Splash of rice wine vinegar (optional)


Heat your oven to 180C and empty the duck wings and sauce into their trays and place in the oven for 20-25 minutes, turning them over halfway through.

If you have a lot of sauce left after this time, take the wings out and keep warm and pour the sauce into pan and reduce further on the hob until thick and gooey.

Place a wok or large frying pan on the hob, over a high heat and warm through both the groundnut and sesame oil and the add the pak choi, stir frying briskly for 1-2 minutes, then add the sliced spring onion and half the sesame seeds. Stir fry for another minute.

Then add the ready-to-cook noodles, a splash of rice wine vinegar and continue to stir fry for another 1-2 minutes over a high heat.

Divide the noodles and pak choi into for bowls and arrange the duck wings on top.

Finish by drizzling the thickened sauce over the duck and sprinkle over the remaining sesame seeds and shredded spring onion leaf.