Friday, 21 November 2014

Recipe: Beetroot & Parmesan Risotto with Rosé



In my head, risotto is famous for two things: being the go-to vegetarian option in mid-range restaurants, and tormenting more Come Dine With Me contestants than the correct pronunciation of “Dauphinoise”.  My fiance used to be a vegetarian, so I’ve reached across many dining tables to try the former; while they’re not specifically to blame for her ditching her morals, the prospect of eating bland, watery spinach and feta packet-rice every time we went out to eat wasn’t enough to keep her about dat life.  

Combining this with the calamitous attempts witnessed on CDWM left me in no hurry to try my own - too much room for error, and not enough effort to reward ratio to make it worth my time, I thought.  What an idiot I was.

Risotto couldn’t be easier - all you need is a decent non-stick pan and a bit of patience.  If you’ve already built a callus on your thumb then it’ll come in useful, but if not don’t worry; 20 minutes of constant stirring with a wooden spoon will fix that for you.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Regular Guy Fitness Club

As a guy who writes about food, my level of fitness is largely a product of my environment; an environment that, for the past 18 months, has been full of extravagant street food and high %ABV craft beers. It's a combination which has left me in peak physical condition - for a 56 year old heavy-smoker whose vices include port and cheese.

Confit-ing food isn't going to suddenly become less delicious overnight; I've shed my naive, ignorant dismissal of offal as being totally gross (except tripe, that is and always will be totally gross); I know now that it's entirely within the realms of possibility to deep-fry ice cream. These things can't be unseen or untasted, changing eating habits at this point isn't an option - once you go black pudding, you never go back, pudding.

I know I'm not alone - I've seen my peers stood around at food markets dribbling salted caramel into their beards, and a cursory glance at Instagram suggests you all share my dedication to discovering new, gluttonous ways to enhance Macaroni Cheese. The inevitable outcome of this is that we're going to expand, and in that case there are two options.

Option One:

Own it! Dove commercials and #bodyposi memes have persuaded everybody of the merits of being big - surveys show that 8 out of 10 anacondas prefer it if you've got buns - but there's a couple of risks involved with this one. Firstly not everybody can be Latrice Royale or Action Bronson; there's a chance you might not pull off the image with their pizzazz, and look more like an out of work WCW wrestler. There's also the health implications - you'll get out of breath on escalators, you'll be the subject of taunts if you ever have to boot an awol football back to a group of youths in the park, and then you'll die young. At that point all of your loved ones will think you're a posthumous dick for denying them several more years of your company, just so you could eat pizzas where the crust is made out of miniature burritos (patent pending). If you don't want your memory sullied, you can try Option Two:

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

An Ode to the Festive Bake


Each generation grows up with its own concensus of pop-culture artifacts that spell the impending Festive season.  Anybody who came of age between 1990 and 2008-ish - regardless of gender, race or social class - will be able to tell you that Christmas didn't begin until the first broadcast of the Coca Cola advert with the convoy of illuminated lorries and their unneccesary carbon footprint.

That wore thin after Youtube came out and let people watch adverts any time they wanted, and userpers to its throne came thick and fast; the announcement of each year's candidate for alternative Christmas Number One - Rage Against the Machine did it, Simon Cowell didn't give a shit, and the concept became a dead horse for serious "Musos" to flog each year - Elf popping up on Channel 4's program schedule one Sunday; Starbucks turning people's misspelt-name related angst into childish wonderment just by making their cups red, like reverse-matadors.

For me though, Chritmas begins when I walk past a Greggs - caution in my step due to the early-November sludge of damp leaves - and smell that familiar scent of the Festive Bake; a sensory trigger as salient as hearing the opening strings to Spice Girls - 2 Become 1, or seeing some Daily Mail-reading shithead post a Facebook status about Muslims trying to ban tinsel, or make Figgy Pudding halal.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Recipe: Chilli Beef & Red Miso Udon


Mondays have become de facto noodle-night in our house thanks to how easy it is to cram a load of chilli, ginger and garlic into a big bowl of ramen or udon and put the weekend behind us while catching up on Boardwalk Empire.   Due to the illegal/highly unethical nature of weekend workouts, Monday is the day to get back on the T25, so loads of noodles and vegetables provides good fuel for that.

If you've ever used one of those Stir Fry kits you get form the supermarket - a big bag of cabbage and beansprouts, egg noodles and a sachet of gloopy sauce for about four quid - you'll know that they kind of suck - the vegetables are all filler no killer, the sauce is cloying, and the noodles end up leaving their impression on the base of your wok, and reducing to mush in the meal.

I went to Fuji Hero last week and noted that they overcome this problem dousing the dish in curry oil, which tasted brilliant but went against everything Noodle-night stands for.  Rather than lubing my udon with oil, I made a little bit of stock using Miso paste, mirin and soy to stop them sticking to the wok - as a bonus, it helped cook them through properly, something else which is difficult when cooking such thick noodles quickly on a high heat.

I used mange tout and baby corn this time because they were in the reduced aisle at the supermarket, but feel free to experiment with the vegetables - just be really careful not to overcook them, a couple of minutes is plenty.  The same goes for the beansprouts, you want them to provide nice bit of crunch and texture rather than going limp and sagging all over the place, so put them in when everything else is cooked, take it off the hob and let the residual heat bring it all home.

Any ingredients that don't look familiar will be available in the world food section of any decent-sized supermarket, (including vacuum-sealed Udon which are much cheaper than name-brand versions or the bags from the vegetable section) or any nearby Chinese supermarkets which you should familiarise yourself with as soon as possible because they are a goldmine.

Serves 2.  Preparation 10 Minutes, Cooking 10 Minutes

Friday, 17 October 2014

Trinity Kitchen - 10 Highlights from the First Year


It's a common pop-cultural phenomenon for near-identical movies to come out at around the same time - I don't just mean copycats which wear their plagiarism on their sleeve, but actual massive coincidences like Deep Impact and Armageddon, The Prestige and The Illusionist, Mean Girls and NOTHING, because Mean Girls is one of a damn kind.  But what about Sharks Tale and Antz coming out so close to Finding Nemo and Bugs Life?

It's not just films - the current UK Top 40 contains no less than 39 songs that are about bums; or have videos with a tracking shot of somebody's bum for 4 minutes; or come on a bum-shaped picture-disc which looks like the artists' bum, and has an anus in the middle where you put the spindle.  Admittedly those 39 songs are more tasteful than the other charting record though, which has the misfortune of carrying Ed Sheeran's face on the cover.

In October 2013 this phenomenon spread to food, and it was a good month for Leeds city centre.   Before you had chance to wipe the Dough Boys sauce off your face at the newly-opened Belgrave, Trinity Kitchen was opening just down the road - a new kind of food court which snubbed the typical "Fast Food-Fast Food-Harry Ramsdens-Spud U Like-Fast Food" roulette, ingrained in the DNA of shopping centres across the country.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Recipe: Crab, Scallop and Black Pudding Jambalaya


I thought I'd have come up with a recipe for Jambalaya a long time ago, just to give me an excuse to say such a brilliant name over and over again until the word lost all meaning.  The final motivation came after a particularly somber Monday which dragged on for three-quarters of an eternity; a Ned Stark of a day that incessantly reminds you that Winter is coming, but all of the fun bits of it are weeks away yet; a day that somebody had imported into VSCO Cam, slid the temperature setting down to -8 and given everything and everyone a greyish blue hue.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Pop-up restaurant menu made of (mostly) iconic pop-culture dishes.

Time to perpetuate another press release!

Ever wanted to kick a hole in your TV screen, reach into whatever you're watching and snatch the food right off their table?  That's kind of what Virgin Media are doing today with a one-day pop up in Soho.

Chef Neil Rankin from The Smokehouse has curated a menu which caters to different services throughout the day.  Dinner is easily the highlight, with Breaking Bad's Los Pollos Hermanos fried chicken and Pulp Fiction's Big Kahuna burger (With a $5 shake, even though they're only available from Jack Rabbit Slim's, and Sprite is the traditional accompaniment for a BKB - I really hope somebody got fired for that blunder).