Monday, June 29, 2009

Michael Jackson: Remember The Thyme

You wouldn’t have thought Michael Jackson would have got stuck into haggis and deep-fried Mars bars during his brief love affair with Scotland. And you’re right, he didn’t.

But he did love a bit of cock a leekie (no, I’m not going down the Graham Norton route with this – I don’t get paid enough...Heaven knows that man’s worth every penny of taxpayers’ hard-earned lucre...but I fact you could say I’ve come over a little queer...oh dammit...) - or at least the way head chef Peter Fleming made it.

In 1997, when Jackson planned to escape the glamour of Hollywood for the glens of Holyrood, he stayed at the Cameron House Hotel on Loch Lomond while hunting for magic castles in the area.

“He asked for a bowl of chicken soup, so I made him his chicken soup and he phoned me to say how great it was,” Fleming said.

“Then I got a call at home at 6am the next day asking if I could make this soup again.

“I ended up having to explain to the breakfast chef over the phone how to make it!”

I don’t know about you, but it’s one of my favourite meals too. Although maybe not for breakfast. Needs nothing more than some thickly buttered bread, and plenty of salt and pepper.

Here’s my method – not sure if it would have got the 6am call, but it makes a delicious clear soup that seems to put the world instantly to rights, and leaves you feeling invincible, however BAD your day at the office. And as a million cook books have preached, you’ll no doubt know it’s good for the soul – something I’m sure Jackson would have applauded.

Chicken Soup:

2 free-range chicken carcasses
1 large onion
3 sticks celery
1 bay leaf
5 pepper corns
1 sprig thyme
1 carrot
1 large leek
salt and pepper

Please don't use battery chickens for this, because you won’t enjoy it as much, in fact you’ll just sit there remembering horrific conspiracy theories about legless mutant birds with drips in their spine, and how all those chemicals and antibiotics are now bubbling away in your soup.

The best place to get free-range carcasses is at farmers' markets. If you buy some other meat from the stall, they will often throw the carcasses in for free. Wash the chopped carcasses in plenty of water and then prep the vegetables and chop into inch-long pieces. Make sure you wash the leek well to remove all the grit.

Put all the ingredients in a large saucepan and fill to the top with water. Bring to the boil and then turn the heat right down and simmer uncovered for at least two hours. Skim off the grey scum that builds up on the surface with a slotted spoon from time to time.

Drain the stock and return to the heat - you should have a clear consommé. Boil off some of the liquid to taste, and season with salt and pepper. Serve with a glass of Jesus juice.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Ducks & Masterchef Get Punters Flocking

Who needs a celebrity chef in the kitchen when you’ve got a celebrity duck? And let’s face it, who’d you rather have on your side in a pub quiz?

It seems what with the credit crunch and all, every restaurant needs its own particular blend of niche marketing to survive.

Masterchef winner Mat Follas has just opened his Wild Garlic restaurant in Beaminster, Dorset, with his shiny trophy proudly on display among the bread rolls – and already looks like he’s on to a winner.

Such is the success; he’s got 300 covers booked for the official opening this Saturday night. “I’m bricking it,” he admits.

“We're serving fizz and canapes and really putting my tiny kitchen through its paces (there is no plan B if it rains so please wish for good weather over Dorset!)”

Further up country is The Mill At Gordleton with its own quirky way of getting the customers flocking. Crispie the duck (only a chef could have come up with that name) has proved such a hit with the punters that some of them only book if they know she’s working that day.

She’s been wandering around the bar, lounge, hall and garden ever since restaurant manager Terri Seabright became ‘Mum’ when she was just a day old and abandoned by her mother.

“I bring her to work every day in my car and she travels in a cat basket,” she said.

“She really is a pet. She’s more like a little dog than a duck. She likes little walks and we’ve taken her out across the New Forest for a little wander.”

When she gets to The Mill in the morning, Crispie has a routine which includes checking out the grounds before getting on with the day-to-day matters of spreadsheets, margins and staff rotas.

“We have ladies who phone to book tables and they only book tables if she’s here,” said Terri.

Nothing like a local celebrity to bring out the cheese and quackers. It would be churlish to draw any comparisons...

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Ready Steady Crook: Fake Chef Faces Jail

A bogus celebrity chef who claimed to have flushed Jamie Oliver’s head down the toilet as a kitchen prank is facing jail after admitting a string of gastro-pub frauds.

Kenny Goldsmith faked his credentials by claiming to have worked with some of the cheffing industry’s biggest names.

And he appeared on UKTV Food after boasting of working with Oliver, Gordon Ramsay and Ken Hom, taking viewers through his "simple but tasty" meal of beef brochettes served with mustard garlic cream.

But he had actually honed his knife skills – not at the foot of the Greats, but in a prison kitchen. And he had never worked with Ramsay and Hom or won a Michelin star. Or for that matter helped train Oliver – or , sadly, bogwashed the Naked Chef star as a "prank".

Oliver and Ramsay were asked to give statements to police during the fraud inquiry - and confirmed they had never met him.

A UKTV spokeswoman said the channel was now washing its hands of the chef following his appearance on Great Food Live.

“As part of that appearance, his recipe was uploaded on to We will now remove the recipe from the website (they have),” she said.

His lies were finally exposed after he left a trail of bounced cheques and bad debts, cheating unsuspecting gastropub owners out of a total of £120,000.
At one pub, the St Vincent Arms in Norton Disney, Lincs, he even ran up a £4,000 bill for a helicopter trip to a food festival in London.

He is now behind bars, facing a lengthy jail-term after appearing before Lincoln Crown Court to admit a string of fraud charges.

Goldsmith, 39, cooked up an elaborate story of how his love of fine dining developed at an early age.

It was the usual sleb chef rites-of-passage-guff that the punters lap up. According to his website, his journey was inspired by his grandmother and the "traditional, homely food" she served.

"She was well travelled and had an in-depth knowledge of international cuisine. She shared her passion for good food with Kenny,” it gushed.

"She encouraged him to learn and cook alongside her, and her enthusiasm created a longing that ultimately led him to a career as a chef.”

He also boasted of having been crowned Seafood Chef of the Year in 2000 and said he was the holder of a Michelin star and ran the European Cooking School, based at a French chateau.

In reality, however, he ran a dating agency in Grimsby, Lincs, with his partner Kirsty Emmans.

Goldsmith, from Winterton, near Scunthorpe, admitted 20 charges of fraud and two of theft. Emmans, 38, of Grimsby, admitted 11 fraud charges and one of theft.

Jamie Oliver was unavailable for comment on Goldsmith's claims of having trained him, and his outlandish boast that he’d once flushed his head down a toilet during a bout of horseplay.

He and Emmans will be sentenced later.

...Blimey, a chef with a worse reputation than Gordon Ramsay. But my favourite bit of all is the blurb for Goldsmith’s European Cooking School...

“Can you imagine what it is like to stay in a French Château which is an authentic Fourteenth century castle complete with moat, working drawbridge, arrow-slits and battlements? Can you imagine what it would be like to extend your cooking skills under the tutelage of a top British chef?”

The plug comes with a grinning mugshot of Kenny, his arms crammed full of delicious peppers and garlic presumably foraged from a nearby 14th century market, and is accompanied by his recipe for orange sorbet. Rather appropriate now he’s in the icebox.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Masterchef Presenter's Tweet Nothings

‘Would you like to jiggle my cabbage?’ It’s hardly the best chat-up line in the world, is it? But it seems to have done the trick for that wily old ingredient expert Gregg Wallace.

The self-proclaimed ‘cooking woman’s crumpet’ has found love again – in the shape of a biology teacher 17 years younger than him. And pundits are already breathlessly exclaiming that this is the first instance of a celebrity romance developing from Twitter.

The two first made contact when Heidi Brown, 27, joined the 2,000 or so bored housewives, students, and other Masterchef fans following his every spoonful. Discussing his famous dessert-driven mutterings like: “I want to take my shirt off and dive in,” and the unforgettable, "it's like a lemon has just picked you up by the ears and given you a big snog." (Maybe that’s how she felt?)

But it was when Egg posted his cabbage comment that he really hit gastronomic gold, prompting a number of saucy responses from fans. "Jiggling cabbage is not a euphemism,” he replied to Brown. “No more than shuffling shallots or sorting celery."

Shuffling shallots? Even Frankie Howerd would have baulked at that one.

The father-of-two then went on to explain to Brown how to sort celery before she asked him whether he knew he’d been described as a “weird crush” in a magazine. He couldn’t get to the keyboard quick enough. "Ever visit London? Give me a call, I'll buy you lunch," he said.

Egg, 44, who uses the name Pudding Face on Twitter, has persuaded her to give up her job in Cumbria and move in with him at his home in Kent. "He and Heidi are very happy," a spokesman for the former grocer told the Sunday Mirror.

But since the Twitter love came out in the tabloids, are the strains already beginning to show? Asked by one follower whether there were paparazzi hiding in the dustbins outside his door, and how his girlfriend was coping with all the attention, twice-married Egg tweeted back: “Calling Heidi, poor kid.”

I can hear the Mrs Merton questions now: “So what first attracted you to the millionaire Gregg Wallace?”

Last February, Egg bragged in a magazine article about how TV fame had helped get him girlfriends half his age.

“Television is very, very good for your love life,” he said. “The girls are getting younger too. I’m seeing one who’s 29, but they have been as young as 21. God that was hell.”

Television doesn’t get tougher than this...

Brown has now protected her Twitter updates, but lists her profile as: “Cumbria 20 something, Northerner, owner of a retired greyhound and a cuddly whippet. Loves Sancerre and all things cured.”

Perhaps that’s why she fell for the lovable old ham?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

What A Squeak! The Tale Of Malty Mouse

This story about a man getting the shock of his life by finding a mouse splayed across the top of his malt loaf has brought back some unhappy memories.

He bought the Hyndman's malt loaf from a supermarket in the Ballymoney area of Northern Ireland for Christmas two years ago. But God knows what he’d done to upset Santa that year.

One can only imagine the moment he unwrapped the delicious loaf to discover the lifeless mammal embedded in the base of the bread, like Ida, the celebrated ‘missing link’ fossil unveiled in New York last month.

North Antrim Magistrates Court heard that the bread tins were filled with dough every night, and the mouse got in sometime between the tins being sprayed with oil and being filled with dough.

A judge was shown pictures of the incriminating rodent-in-the-loaf and fined D Hyndman and Son Ltd £1,000 plus costs for placing unsafe food on the market.

A defence lawyer suggested the mouse might have been put in the tin to "sabotage" the baker who has been in business for 60 years and has never had any complaints.

The hapless customer is now said to be pursuing a civil case against the firm.

Poor buggers. Mice get everywhere. Doesn’t matter how many traps you set.

Reminds me of the time I was living in a shared house on the Old Kent Road with about 300 Kiwis (don’t feed them water) when I popped some bread in the toaster and saw a small flash from the corner of my eye.

I thought nothing of it, of course, and began buttering my toast furiously, ready for a liberal application of Marmite when I spotted some blue furry mould on the bread.

Perfectly alright I thought, as Sir Julian Bashford would say. Besides I was hungry and those pesky Kiwis had nicked the rest of my bread.

Trouble was it didn’t look like normal mould. It just seemed to be attached to one side of the slice.

I took a couple of bites and then looked down into the bottom of the toaster and saw the electrified mouse. Haven’t eaten toast to this day. Or malt loaf for that matter.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Ramsay's Roasting Over 'Lesbian Pig' Slur

I’ve got a bad feeling about Gordon Ramsay – is the man finally losing the plot? Are his antics Down Under now one step too far?

Has Ramsay – the man who could once do no wrong, the man who could get away with shouting at Edwina Currie that it wasn’t enough for her to fuck the Prime Minister, she had to fuck Ramsay (up the ass) too – finally bitten off more than even he can chew?

He is already on the back foot following allegations about a long-term affair, claims about exaggerating his football career, the ready-meals debacle, the crumbling business empire, and getting kicked out of the list of the world’s top 100 restaurants.

So even for a chef with the size of his balls and ego, it may have seemed a little foolish – not to say a trifle churlish and downright misogynistic – to start calling Australian TV presenter Tracy Grimshaw a pig-faced lesbian.

The row has rumbled on since the weekend, with growing calls for Ramsay to be shipped out of the country in a convict ship, and Australian women’s groups calling for his bollocks to be hung like corks from Germaine Greer’s hat.

And now the Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has waded in, describing Ramsay as "a new form of low life" and declaring war on Scotland.

The spat began at a food and wine show in Melbourne when Ramsay shocked the 3,000-strong audience by calling Grimshaw "a lesbian" and showing a photo of a nude woman on all fours, with multiple breasts and a pig's face.

"That's Grimshaw," he leered at the crowd like a bully in a tuck shop. "Holy crap. She needs to see a Botox doctor."

Grimshaw then retaliated on her show on Australia's Nine Network by calling the celebrity cook an "arrogant narcissist" and a "bully".

"I'm not going to pretend that his comments didn't hurt. I was absolutely miserable when I found out," she whined.

"He says it was a joke - well not to me or to anyone who truly cares about me.

"Truly, I wonder how many people would laugh if they were effectively described as 'an old ugly pig'. How is that funny, exactly?"

Grimshaw added: "Obviously Gordon thinks that any woman who doesn't find him attractive must be gay. For the record, I don't and I'm not."

She continued her attack in a radio interview, saying his insults upset her and her mother.

She said she did not expect an apology from the TV chef, adding: "I don't want one, I don't care.

"There's nothing more he can do to me now and he can't make it better."

But then Ramsay could not help himself and had another crack at Grimshaw, telling the crowd at the Good Food & Wine Show that he and the TV host had been long-time lovers.

"We were secret lovers for 20 years," he said before dismissing it as a joke. "No, I didn't go there...I didn't stoop that low, for God's sake."

Despite the storm, Ramsay remains unrepentant, saying his comments have been "blown out of context".

Bit like his football career? At least he didn’t mention the cricket.