Archive for September, 2009

Saffron Walden haul

Saffron Walden late summer haul

Autumn, the best time of year visually, still warm, but with a nip in the air, and the best time for food in my book too.

A daytrip to Saffron Walden yealded some interesting foodie items, Walnut and apricot bread, beetroot, onions, squashes, fresh carrots, a bloomin’ great marrow, cavalo nero, a lettuce, local beer, local honey, some sorrel and two books. The Graham Kerr Cookbook by the Galloping Gormet  (Where’s his bio-pic BBC? He’s not dead yet granted, but you could get Martin Sheen to play him, look at the back story, it’s got everything!) And Eating and Drinking, a food anthology of prose poems and other bits and bobs all arranged under various headings.

The beer was slightly too yeasty for me, with not quite enough fizz, tasted a little, well dead to be honest. Flavour was right, but it just fell short of the mark. The honey was from Gerald Smith Honey of Stanleys Farm in the town and is so good I’ve put it in with roasting veg as well as had it on toast and in porridge.

soup and stock

The cavalo nero went into some chicken broth as a soup, love those bitter irony leaves. The other squashes, beetroots, carrots and the mahoosive marrow were roasted with a whole head of garlic and the onions to create literarly gallons of soup. Soup’s a favourite in our house at lunchtime, it’s hot, quick and in a mug you can eat it with one hand while holding the nipper.

Cavalo Nero soup

Finally the sorrel has appeared in salads and various other things, and there’s still loads left in the fridge.

The cabbage and the beer came from Sceptred Isle, the root veggies from a little ‘local &/or organic’ gazebo round the back of the town hall and the bread from a stall in the Market square. So in all, £20 the lot, not a bad autumnal haul.

Yay for the arrival of Autumn.

leftovers to go please

Ahoy! Like a lazy Frenchman I took the whole of August off blogging to concentrate on learning the ropes of dadhoodness. Surfice to say I think I’ve about got the basics sorted now. So some sort of service will resume on these very pages.

Dinner at St John

Dinner at St John

Now, August is a bit ‘too hot can’t be bothered’ month for food, but it does have the glorious 12th, and that means grouse.  I had one at Saint John on the 29th. The little fella had been hung for 4 days or so to firm up a little, and was then roasted. They served it pink, very pink, so pink in fact a good vet could have brought it round. The liver and other good bits came pated on a crunchy square of toast, there was the traditional bread sauce. and the obligatory water cress protruded from it’s derriere.

Dinner at St John

Yum, bloody tang

Very nice it was too. But here’s the rub. Very hard to really pick all the meat off with a knife and fork, and though I got stuck in there with my fingers for the legs, I still felt it had more to give. Rest assured this grouse did not die in vain. With as much meat extracted as possible in a smart busy restaurant wearing a light colours shirt and on a date with my wife, I asked for the carcass to take home.

Stock with grouse carcass

Roasting the poor thing a second time

Here, late at night it was put the oven, to roast once more, before being slowly simmered in root veg and onions till dawn, when the cockerel call of my baby daughter had us up with the lark.The next day I used it along with a half a bottle of white wine as a base for braising a shoulder of lamb. This was stunning, you could pull it apart with the slightest nudge. After straining off the fat in my trusty gravy separater, I made a gravy by reducing the cooking liquor down.

braised lamb

lamb, veg, stock, time = delicious

Now a small amount of that gravy was left over, and because of the high fat content set solid, I duly popped that in the fridge.  Today’s the 8th September and I made a squid and chorizo stew, for a tiny flavour push I added the last of that gravy, and so the final essence of the grouse slipped under the surface of the stew like Arnie at the end of Terminator 2.

And so I say this. Yes to doggy bags, yes to restaurants giving you the bones, yes to walking out full with a warm foil package under your arm. I did the same at Hawksmoor in May. The fore rib was 40 odd quid and my wife ordered the fish. No probs though, we just had the remaining beef in sandwiches the next day, then a curry, and the huge bone went on to again make stock, which went into French onion soup, with brings us round quite nicely to end on a French note, where we began – bon ap.

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These are my personal views and not those of Channel 4 or the BBC
September 2009
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