Thursday, July 10, 2014

Cooking In A Kettle: Vegemite Soup

This is the second in a series of blog posts I intend to post about my experimentations with cooking in a kettle. I was put on to the idea by a bloke I met in Cambodia and cooked some fairly decent meals in cheap hotel rooms out there.

But since I’ve been back, I’ve been experimenting further with cooking times etc. and asking people for suggestions.

This one came from an Australian woman called Sarah I work with. Her mother used to make her this when she was ill. The Jews have chicken soup, the Australians have their own brothy penicillin in Vegemite soup it seems.

It really couldn’t be simpler, and the beauty is of course you can “cook” it in a kettle, which after all is the point of these recipes. I have to say I’ve cooked it twice, and preferred it better the second time.

Perhaps I didn’t pick up on the gastronomic subtleties on first tasting, but it definitely has a moreish quality, and I imagine with the “B vitamins for vitality” so prominently displayed on the rather garishly-coloured Vegemite tube is a good pick-me-up if you’re feeling under the weather Down Under, or anywhere else for that matter.

Sarah’s mother sends her a parcel of Vegemite tubes every couple of months or so to stop her getting homesick, and she was kind enough to give me a tube so I could try out her delicious recipe.

Like all Australians she detests Marmite, and swears this soup should only be made with 100% Australian yeast extract grown on barley and wheat ie. Vegemite. She also recommends coating warm hard-boiled eggs with the stuff so that it melts and gives, I imagine, a 1,000-year-old eggs-style coating.

Vegemite Soup


1 kettle
1 bowl
1 soup spoon


1 slice of bread

Fill the kettle with about half a pint (250ml) of water and boil. While you’re doing this carefully prepare your soup base. Using the spoon, gently spread enough Vegemite so the bread is completely covered.

It’s important to get a consistent covering for aesthetic purposes, and after all, as chefs will continually tell you if you give them half a chance - you eat with your eyes.

The next bit is a tad more tricky. Take your bowl and carefully press the bread into it so it’s evenly centred with the corners poking up into four peaks. The Vegemite side should be facing up.

Pour in enough water to half fill the bowl and let it rest for two minutes to amalgamate the flavours and give the bread a doughy - almost melted cheese - consistency. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Cooking In A Kettle: Perfect Soft-Boiled Eggs

This is the first in a series of blog posts I intend to post about my experimentations with cooking in a kettle. I was put on to the idea by a bloke I met in Cambodia called Dirty Derek and cooked some fairly decent meals in cheap hotel rooms out there.

But since I’ve been back, I’ve been experimenting further with cooking times etc. and today nailed what I consider to be the perfect boiled egg, with virtually idiot-proof instructions.

I’ve noticed people get particularly argumentative, territorial even, about what constitutes a good soft-boiled egg. Everyone seems to have their own view on how runny the yolk should be and the firmness of the white.

Indeed, I once witnessed an argument in a waffle bar on the subject. It was in a mountainous region of the US. I forget where. A loud American (are there any others) sporting a lumberjack shirt covered in wood chippings demanded his soft-boiled eggs be cooked for exactly three minutes, with a match thrown in to stop them breaking.

The waitress said something like: “You want soft-boiled?”

“Yes I want soft-boiled!” said the red-bearded lumberjack, repeating his cooking instructions, this time in greater detail.

“You want six minutes.”

“Three!” he said, with rather unnecessary vivacity.

“It’s six here because of the altitude...”

“Fuck the altitude. Three minutes!” he said.

I won’t bore you with the details, but the waitress was right and his eggs were a slime-fest, and he sent them back for further cooking.

I can’t say I fully understand it, but it has something to do with air pressure decreasing at higher altitudes, which means water boils at a lower temperature, which means food takes longer to cook. Anyway, I assume you’ll be cooking at less than 2,000ft or so, so don’t try this on an aeroplane.

The perfect boiled egg is something that has a slight droop of runny white at the tip of the egg, ensuring a golden runny freshness to the yolk as you dip your bread in.

Some people - and I used to work a breakfast section in a hotel for a short while, so I know exactly the sort of people - believe this means the egg is slightly undercooked.

This, you can tell them, is utter nonsense, because if you cook the egg to the point where you don’t have egg white dribble at the egg’s peak, then what you will gain in the firmness of the white, you lose in the runniness of the yolk, which surely is the beauty of a decent boiled egg.

The last point I want to raise is the issue of soldiers, which reminds me of an old joke: “What’s the difference between Italians and a piece of toast? You can make soldiers out of a piece of toast.”

Soldiers are of course made by cutting a piece of buttered toast into strips, thin enough to dip into your runny egg. They should, as the Savoy and others do it, come with a small mound of salt and one of pepper on your plate, so you dip a soldier into the seasoning and then into the egg.

Of course, when cooking in a kettle in a hotel room or bedsitting room or such, you won’t, unless you’re extremely lucky, have access to a toaster - and yes, I have tried toasting bread in a Corby trouser press with rather unsatisfactory results.

So instead, you’ll have to make do with bread, cut into soldiers. Firmer bread like granary is better for this, particularly the crust. You don’t need a knife - you can butter the bread very effectively with the teaspoon. If you don't have an egg cup, you can make one by cutting one of the egg compartments out of the egg box.

In short, this carefully-honed recipe really has taken any guess work out of the runny egg issue and is guaranteed to perform admirably in the breakfast stakes. The beauty of it, unlike my other experiments, is you don’t need an egg timer.

Soft-Boiled Eggs Cooked In A Kettle


1 kettle
1 plate
1 teaspoon
1 wooden spoon


Two eggs
Salt, Pepper

Empty the kettle and fill with enough cold water to cover the eggs. In a conventional kettle this will be about one litre of water. Using the wooden spoon, carefully roll the eggs in so they don’t break. Pour a little more cold water in to cover the eggs if there is not enough.

Switch on the kettle and while you’re waiting for it to boil, make your soldiers. When it is boiled, unplug the kettle. Leave for one minute to take the sting out of the water and let the steam reduce.

Open the kettle’s lid and being careful not to burn yourself roll the eggs out with a wooden spoon and put  on your plate. Pour a small mound of pepper and one of salt next to the eggs, then get to work with your soldiers. A cup of tea made with the egg water is the perfect accompaniment.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

My Death Row Meal: Spanish Roast Lamb

I finally realised it the other night. I was wandering through the streets of Aguilas, a small, seaside town in southeast Spain, looking for a place to watch England get knocked out of the World Cup.

When I say was looking for the football, more than anything I was looking for something to eat. I hadn’t eaten all day. It was late at night. And opening times in Spain are always chaotic.

I walked back home and there she was. She was finally open. The old woman’s restaurant I’d heard so much about. The TV was on. Either she wasn’t showing the game, or it was half-time, but I was too hungry to care.

I looked at a rich-looking couple sitting outside, enjoying wine and a great spread of tapas. The hot evening air streaming down purple and the distant flicker of Venus brick-red.

Inside, the old woman was nagging at her husband to finish his cigarette and start on the washing up. He walked past me. World-weary, wine-shadowed eyes. He glanced at me with an expression that was hard to read, but seemed to say “don’t get married”. He scuttled off to the kitchen and I heard the clink of plates.

I looked at the tapas on the bar. 11.30 at night. Where else would you find food like that? I thought about Boris, the man who urged me to write a book about training to be a chef - a journey that failed miserably when I ran out of money and was forced to return to the 9 to 5 rather than the 9am to 5am.

He’d told me to buy an “old jalopy and scootle down to Spain and learn the knives”. “Spain,” I remember him saying breathlessly as he sank another oyster, “is the food capital of the world!” 

That was seven maybe eight years ago.

I ordered another beer and looked at the food again - meatballs in salsa, fried fish, hake roe, pimientos spread like oil paintings over clay. A similar hue to the sandstone cliffs that house the troglodyte caves where they once dried weed for baskets, and the hollows where the Romans fermented garum - a sort of Centurion’s Worcestershire sauce.

The old woman opened a huge metal oven, and the bar was filled with the smell of almond wood. She pulled out two huge steaks and headed to the rich couple’s table.

The game came on. No overpaid, half-time punditry from crisps-peddlers here, just adverts. Then I spotted it. The menu of the day. A huge roasting tray filled with potatoes the size of giants’ toes, and legs and shoulders of lamb - cooked not to pinkness, but to falling-away succulence.

She heaped a metal plate and put it in the wood oven to warm through, then asked whether I wanted salad to kick things off. She suggested pimientos.

A plate arrived with a basket of bread. Green and red streaks from Van Gogh’s palette, studded with black olives, and draped in garlic. Seconds later the peppers were snatched and the lamb arrived.

A whole front leg and parts of shoulder. Half a kilo of potatoes roasted not in the usual way, but more like fondant spuds - stewed in the lamb juices so the bottom was soft and the top wreathed in smoke and crisp from the fire.

It was incredible. I pulled off a huge strand of meat and munched. If I had one more meal - my Death Row Meal - this would be it. You'd hardly worry about the calories. The bone was thick, the meat was thick, the juice was thick, the fat was soon thick around my lips and hands.

The meat juices were seasoned with whole black peppercorns, sprigs of thyme and rosemary, the garlic papery and unpeeled. The taste was magical. Onions, a little white wine, but not much else. What else?

The lamb had been fattened on the nearby cliffs, munching samphire, wild rosemary and thyme. My word did this beast have flavour. I was half-way there, bursting. I picked up the leg bone like a troglodyte. Juice smeared, fat everywhere.

Uruguay scored again. “Goooooooooooooooooaaaaaaaaaaaaaal!” roared the Spanish commentator. His favourite part of the job. The stadium went wild. 

The dish deserved more applause. The woman asked me if I wanted postre. Just another cold beer. I washed my face, I washed my fingers, and then I told her what an excellent meal it was. She looked happy.

I sat outside, barely able to move. My stomach thrust towards Venus. The couple were now on gin and tonics and chocolate desserts. I looked at the sign. I hadn’t seen it earlier. There it was - asado cordero.

My bill came. Three beers, half a sheep and enough potatoes to sink a freighter for 16 euros. Where else in the world would you get a meal like that? Only in Spain. Only in Spain. Then the trap door fell open.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Experimentations With Spanish Food: Pollo Aguilas

For this to be a success, the chicken needs to be hacked into about 15 smallish pieces. So get your chopper out and plaster the walls or, better still, get the butcher to do it.

When I cooked this the other day in Aguilas, a lovely seaside town in southeast Spain, with thankfully not a Brit, German, or best of all, Russian in sight, the butcher attacked it straight away thinking I was making paella. But I can hardly blame him with my Spanish pronunciation and the custom in Aguilas of leaving the "s" off the end of words.

He soon made short work of it, using a half-moon hitlerite monstrosity that looked more like a halberd than something you´d get in a butcher´s shop, and it took to the bones like a sizzling poker through warm butter.

In fact, while on the subject of bones, it's important to buy a decent chicken that's led some sort of life foraging for acorns and things. Sturdier bones and muscles offer far more flavour, rather than the brittle-boned, bacon-across-its back daisies you often get in the UK.

But it´s easy to be a food snob here in Aguilas, with lovely, corn-fed chickens at two euros a kilo, which means they wouldn´t dream of importing (literally) couped-up Frankenhens from Thailand.

(Serves 3-4)

1 chicken (about 1.3kg)
1 large Spanish onion
3 garlic cloves
1 carrot, diced
3 celery sticks, diced
20 green beans, in inch-wide pieces
150g decent chorizo sausage, diced
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tsp of salt
1 tablespoon harissa paste
8 green olives
500g jar cooked white beans
100ml Spanish brandy (Terry Centenario is ideal)

Heat the olive oil, then put the chicken pieces in skin-side down. Turn when golden brown. Fry for 15 minutes until browned all over.

Add the salt and chorizo and cook for a few minutes, turning all the time. Add the onions, carrot, celery and garlic and cook for 20 minutes or so stirring regularly.

You´ll find the vegetables and chicken produce enough liquid to make a thick liquor to stop any burning. Then add the brandy, harissa paste and green beans. Cook for another five minutes.

Add the beans (including the jelly from the jar) and cook for a couple more minutes. Then leave a lid on and let it rest for at least 30 minutes while you polish off the rest of the brandy and shout at the Spanish family arguing in the street.

Finish the meal off with white bread and manchego cheese, or similar ewe-milk cheese.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

The Old Man And The Cheese

Pic: Patricia Varela/Flickr

The door squeaked behind him, as it did every evening when the old man walked in. He turned and smiled at Mr Dutt, who was teaching his granddaughter how to add using two ivory dice.

The little girl was counting each dot and Mr Dutt was trying to get her to remember that two and six are always eight, and five and four are nine - whichever way round they are. She preferred her way. It was more fun counting each dot, and she could spend more time with her grandfather.

The old man shuffled down the aisle, between the tins and racks of dusty birthday cards to the fridge at the back of the shop. He stopped for a moment at the cat food. Jessie still had half a tin. It was enough for tonight.

He opened the fridge door, pulling harder than he needed to, and felt the temperature of the cider tins. Mr Dutt was still doing five for four. Nine percent. Almost as strong as wine, but without the flavour. Just the distant notes of sour apples and cheap alcohol. It was enough for tonight.

He pulled ten cans from the back of the fridge and balanced them under his left arm in the crevices of his raincoat. It had been worn once by a country gent and spent its first year folded in the boot of his vintage car, before eventually finding its way to a charity shop where the old man had bought it three years ago, when his luck had changed.

The smell of five-star petrol had long been replaced with cider fumes and ripe cheese. The old man adjusted the cans and then stopped at the milk section as he did every night. He coughed frantically, hacking away at his lungs, and then stumbled towards the milk, and with his free hand grabbed a block of cheese and put it in his pocket. It had the curved shape of Edam.

He turned again unsteadily, regaining his balance, and shuffled towards the counter. Mr Dutt rolled his eyes and then the dice again. One and one. The little girl put a finger on each dot.

“One. Two!” she said.

“Snake eyes,” said the old man.

The little girl looked up at him and then giggled.

“Snake eye,” she said.

The old man pulled a handful of coins from his pocket, and waited for any change. The girl picked up the cans with both hands and slid them into a plastic bag.

“Put another one or the bag will split,” Mr Dutt said gently.

The old man opened the garage door and Jesse ran to greet him, rubbing her tail against his leg and mewing for her tin. He spooned out the pink sludge and collapsed on a grimy mattress on the concrete floor. It was the only thing he had left from the fire.

He pulled the cheese from his pocket, broke the wrapper with his two good teeth and then bit off a chunk, dissolving the cloying fat with a mouthful of cider. Then he bit off more, turning his mouth slowly, and grimacing at the pain in his back.

The old man woke with a half-empty can in his hand. The rest were crushed next to his mattress. Jesse was purring next to him. Winter was setting in. The embers from the tin can he warmed his hands on were long cold.

He gathered his coat around him and shut his eyes, hoping to sleep through the hangover. Not that he really had hangovers any more. He slept because it meant less time worrying about food and drink. I’d sleep all the time if I could, he thought. But who would look after Jesse? Besides, he didn’t have the strength.

The old man was praying in the railway arch, with a cardboard sign at his feet, as he did most days. The rain was pelting hard. The shoppers had their heads down. It was a bad day for begging. It had been a bad week for begging.

He was bent forward on his knees, his hands clasped in prayer as he’d seen the beggars do near Charles Bridge when he had money. Some of them could keep it up for hours. Cardboard the only cushioning for gravel-dented knees.

Some sat inside the cathedral and held their hands over candles. That’s too hard, he thought, even in this cold. It’s not the pain, it’s the blisters. Too long and they come out like yellow gobstoppers.

A woman looked down at him, and then looked away quickly. He could feel her pace quicken. An hour or so later, perhaps two, there was another drop. It sounded heavy - perhaps a nugget. Too light for a two-pound coin, and not a 50p - they give a different tinkle; something to do with the edges.

If he was right, and it was a pound, he had enough for four ciders and two tins of pink sludge. Or three cans and one decent tin of cat food with delicious jelly and juicy bits and gravy like the advert said.

Jesse was going off the pink sludge. She’d seen the advert as well. She stared at the telly and drooled. The woman snipped the pouch and had a whiff of the lamb casserole and poured it into a bowl, the jelly glistening away, and none of it had been lost on Jesse.

She’d seen that cat tucking in with its fat little cheeks and Equity card. There was more to the world than pink sludge. Her eyes had been opened. The Bishop was right. There was too much pester power in the world, and it wasn’t just what kids wanted for Christmas. Cats were in on it too.

Two cans of the strong stuff and a pouch of coq au vin with baby shallots, he thought. Then there was a double drop. A pair of 20s probably. They had the tinkle of 50s, but not the thump.

Then another drop. A heavier clatter this time. You often found that with begging, the old man thought. When you get a good drop another one follows. Someone sees someone give and it catches on. People are like sheep, he thought, especially in London.

No room to move, just follow the ones ahead. Works the other way too, mind. If people are in the mood for walking, looking you hard in the eye and shaking their heads, it catches on too. The herd has decided - it’s not a day for milking.

That’s why he liked to beg with his face to the floor. He didn’t get the hard looks, or the pity either. But there were always more hard looks than pity.

His stomach was rumbling. I bet Jesse’s is as well, he thought. Bad day for begging. People give more when it’s sunny. Hasn’t stopped raining for weeks. That’s what happens when the world gets warmer. The ache in his back was getting worse. He didn’t dare look in the bowl. Not yet.

Perhaps it was more than he thought. He remembered the time he’d spent an afternoon with his face to the floor without a single drop, and then got up to find a crisp £20 note in the bowl.

There wasn’t one this time, but there were a couple of nuggets. He counted the coins as best he could - £5.47. Not the worst day he’d had. But there were far better ways to make a living.

Two cans and a pouch of braised monkfish in gravy stock, or perhaps chicken in cheese with chives. His stomach gurgled again at the thought of the cat food. The only thing he’d eaten all day was half a sandwich he’d found in a bin and a few scraps from a box of fried chicken. Amazing how many people leave the skin.

He put the coins in his raincoat and held on to the wall as he clambered to his feet. His legs were numb, he couldn’t feel his boots. He held on to the wall until his head stopped spinning. The sickness was coming back, but he’d have to eat something first.

He hobbled down the street, his neck hunched against the rain, and his collar pulled tight. He heard the cheery jingle in his pocket.

The old man pulled open the door harder than he needed to. Mr Dutt was teaching his granddaughter to read. She looked up from her book and smiled.

“Snake eye,” she said.

The old man grinned and wandered off to the fridge. He picked out four cans of cider and then looked at the gourmet pouches. They were more than he thought. More than the advert said. He put back two cans. Ocean delicacies with whole shrimp, or duck and turkey?

He walked towards the counter, and staggered slightly at the milk section. But this time he couldn’t do it, however much he coughed. It wasn’t the new cameras. He’d stolen cheese a dozen times since then. It was something else.

He stood there staring at the milk. He couldn’t look at the cheeses. But he knew they were there. Wedges of Edam and amber blocks of Red Leicester, glistening under the lights, clammy moisture beneath.

He staggered again and did his trick, but his hand was still empty. The little girl walked past him, book in hand, and disappeared through the beaded curtain where her mother was cooking.

The old man put the cans and gourmet pouch on the counter. He reached into his pocket and began counting out the coins, staring at the green display. He hobbled to the door, his stomach gurning at the smells from the kitchen. The sickness was setting in. He looked at the rain thundering on the pavement.

He pulled his collar tight, and felt a tug on his trouser leg. He looked round. The little girl was looking up at him.

“You’ve forgotten something,” she said and handed him a block of cheese.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Food Waste Collection: A Letter Of Complaint

I came across this letter of complaint to South Bucks District Council the other day, it rather amused me so I thought I would share it...

Dear Refuse and Recycling Local Official Co-ordinator,

I live at XXXXXXXXXX and for some reason my food waste has not been picked up for the past two weeks. 

I put the brown box out both times, which normally does the job, but it remained there untouched by workman's glove. It was in plain sight, so I fail to see why your refuse collection experts were unable to see it.

Perhaps if this was the case, you might have considered choosing different colours when you introduced your new coloured-box refuse and recycling collection system? 

Maybe bright, neon colours would have been a better choice, maybe even luminous for easier identification and collection of during the dark winter months?

But as it is now positively spring, I fail to see why your neon-breasted garbage collectors were unable to spot my (albeit rather dun and unstriking) brown box on two consecutive weeks.

I am at rather a loss what to do with the contents of my brown box, given some of the food in there must be three-weeks-old now. 

I'm afraid I rather lack the courage to look inside, but the curious odour from my humble box is enough to convince me that the victuals and plate-scrapings are now somewhat beyond the fermentation stage, and perhaps even nearing putrification.

Please advise me on how I should rectify this rather odorous situation, and if there is anywhere I can take my brown box for it to be rid of its rotten contents. It might also be helpful to let me know when, or indeed if, I can ever expect my brown box to be emptied again.

I hope you look into this fairly promptly, and treat it with the sort of expedience one could probably expect should a council tax bill remain unpaid for a fortnight.

Hope to hear from you soon,

Kind regards,

Mrs Neville Twitcher.

Friday, May 02, 2014

Lamb Kebabs - The Perfect Midnight Snack

I lived above a kebab shop in Brighton when I was a student. It was a terrible place, but I learned two things. One was to wrap 1p coins in Rizla papers, which worked as 20p pieces in the parking meters in the street, and the other was how to shave white cabbage.

Every night the owner’s cousin used an incredibly-sharp machete to cut cabbage for the kebabs. It took him 30 minutes to get through a large cabbage, just using the weight of the blade to cut wafer-thin shreds. Now when I make kebabs I always think of him for some reason, and try to get the white cabbage as thin as he showed me.

(Serves 2)

2 lamb rump steaks (about 150g each)
1 onion
1 white cabbage
1 tomato
2 large pitta breads
Chilli sauce

Heat a frying pan until it begins to smoke and then lay the lamb steaks in there, fat-side down. You don’t need oil as the fat will soon render down (see pic below). 

Cook for about 10 minutes, turning every couple of minutes, and sprinkling with a little salt, until the meat is charred on the outside and still pink and juicy in the middle.

Meanwhile, finely slice enough white cabbage and onion for two kebabs, then slice the tomato. Pop the pitta bread in the toaster or under a grill - but don’t cook too much otherwise it will go crispy and fall apart when you fill it. Split the pittas open.

Cut the lamb steaks into strips about 1cm wide. Half fill the pittas with the salad, pour in some chilli sauce, then put in the lamb strips and top with a little more salad and more chilli sauce. Eat immediately. 

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Pork Belly Parcel With Sage

This really is one of the simplest recipes, and it’s a belter - particularly if you want to sup wine with any guests you might have hanging around, rather than slave in the kitchen missing all the banter. 

It’s also an excellent choice if you fancy just bunging it in the oven, while you nip off to the gym or something, without worrying about the house burning down in your absence.

It uses three of the things that go best with pork - sage, onion and cider. Indeed, while we’re on the subject of sage, it’s also probably quite a restorative dish if the Romans and others were right. According to an old English custom, eating sage every day in May will grant long life, immortality even (but who wants that), hence the proverb: “Why should a man die who has sage in his garden?”

The sweetness of the onions is cut by the cider, which you add towards the end, to make an amber liquor smacking of sage and black pepper. When I made it last night, I bunged a couple of potatoes in the oven to bake while the pork was slowly cooking. Then I served it with finely sliced carrots, broad beans and peas.

You could thicken the sauce by making a roux with butter and flour and then stirring the pork liquor in, but sometimes life’s too short for that sort of thing, and besides the spuds are good for soaking up the juice.

(Serves 2-3)

1 small rolled pork belly joint, about 750g
2 small onions, sliced
20 sage leaves
Salt and pepper
200ml dry cider

Take a large piece of foil - about enough to cover two chopping boards. Lay the sliced onions in the centre, to form a bed big enough to rest the pork on. Tear up the sage leaves and scatter over the onions.

Sprinkle the pork joint liberally with salt and then nestle on top of the onions and sage. Season with black pepper - a good few grinds of the pepper mill. Then tuck the foil sides inwards and fold up into a parcel. Put in an oven tray, and into a pre-heated, low oven - about gas mark 4 or 160C.

After an hour and a half, take the pork out and crank up the oven to maximum heat. Open the foil, to form a bowl shape that will keep the juices in, and pour the cider over the pork. Season with more salt and pepper, and put back in the oven for another 20 to 30 minutes until the crackling is golden.

Take out of the oven and rest for 20 minutes before cutting into thick slices and devouring.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Lamb Hearts Braised In Scrumpy

Hearts are a very underestimated choice of meat, and should be used much more than they are. Not only because they are cheap - around £3.50 per kg - but because they have a delicious flavour and texture. They also have just enough fat to thicken the meat liquor slightly.

It is important you use a decent cider for this. Ideally a good scrumpy, but if you’ve drunk it all, a full-bodied still cider will do. The other beauty of this dish is it takes only a couple of minutes to prepare, if that. You just bung it in the oven and wait for it to cook while finishing off the rest of the cider.  

(Serves 2)

2 lamb hearts
1 pint scrumpy
2 carrots, diced
2 slices swede, diced
4 sticks celery, diced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
Salt, pepper
1 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
Two handfuls of frozen peas

Wash the hearts and put them in a casserole dish. Surround with the diced vegetables, thyme and garlic. Pour in the cider and season the hearts and vegetables liberally with salt and pepper. Cover the dish with foil and cook in a pre-heated, medium oven for one hour.

Take out, remove the foil, and stir the vegetables, and turn the hearts over. Add the peas, put the foil back on, and cook in the oven for another 15 minutes. Serve with a baked potato and plenty of English mustard. 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

World's Best Food Jokes

Well, I’m very pleased to say my new book, World’s Best Food Jokes, is finally done and available on Amazon here for the price of half a lager...

It was written with my good friend Dom Bailey and is a collection of hundreds of the best food gags foraged from the four corners of the Earth, as voted for by the International Symposium On Food And Cookery Humour. 

Ranging from vintage cheese jokes - How do you approach an angry Welsh cheese? - to curry gags - What’s a chicken tarka? - to celebrity chef jokes - What's the difference between Gordon Ramsay and a cross-country run? - to the far more fruity - What's the difference between marmalade and jam? - it will hopefully leave you holding your sides more than a dodgy, late-night kebab in Blackpool.

Anyway, I hope you like it. Here’s a sample...

Q: Why should you never insult an Italian baker?

A: Because he’ll beat the focaccia.

Most of the jokes are pretty short. But here’s a long one that I quite like that didn’t make the cut...

One day, a priest gets a bit bored and decides to go for a walk, and walks down past his church to a huge lake. He looks around and finally stops to watch a fisherman loading up his boat. The fisherman notices, and asks the priest if he would like to join him for a couple of hours.

The fisherman asks if the priest has ever fished before; the priest says no. He baits the hook for him and says, “Give it a shot, father.”

After a few minutes, the priest hooks a huge fish, the rod’s bending, and after an hour he manages to get it on to the boat.

The fisherman says: “Look at the size of that, that’s a huge fucker, father!”

The priest crosses his chest and says: “Ah, please sir, can you mind your language?”

The fisherman says: “I’m sorry father, but that’s what the fish is called - it’s called a fucker! And an enormous one it is too!”

“Oh, I’m sorry,” says the priest. “I didn't know.”

The priest gets off the boat and slings the fish over his shoulder and walks back to the church. He walks into the kitchen, and the bishop comes in, and the priest says: “Bishop, will you look at the size of this fucker!”

“Please father,” says the bishop. “This is a house of God, we don’t use language like that here...”

“No, you don’t understand,” says the priest. “That’s what the fish is called, it’s called a fucker!”

“Oh,” says the bishop. “I didn’t know. I apologise father. Do you want me to clean it for you? The Pope’s coming round tonight and we could have it for dinner...”

So the bishop takes the fish and cleans it, and Mother Superior comes in.

“Mother Superior, look at the size of this fucker,” says the bishop.

“My lord, what language!” says Mother Superior, blushing.
“No, sister,” says the bishop. “That's what the fish is called - it’s called a fucker! Father caught it, I cleaned it, and we thought we could serve it to the Pope when he comes round for dinner tonight.”

“That’s a splendid idea bishop,” she says. “Would you like me to cook it for you?”

The Pope comes round for dinner and they’re all sitting there, eating the fish, and he says “This is a magnificent fish, where did you get it?”

“Well,” says the priest. “I caught the fucker.”

“And I cleaned the fucker!” says the bishop.

“And I cooked the fucker!” says Mother Superior.

The Pope stares at them for a minute, rolls up his sleeve, pulls out a spliff and says: “You know, you cunts are all right.”