On eggs maybe, I've probably said what I felt had to be said on behalf of this wonderful food item, generously provided by cool little chicks. But I did forget to mention a little tip, when I heard this I thought it was maybe an old wives tale, but it does seem to work.
When breaking an egg into a pan or whatever, and a piece of shell falls in, it proves really difficult to fish it out with a spoon or a knife, or both, just when you think got it, the little bugger slips past your defenses.
Use the broken half shell, it is like magic, you just lift it out, why it works I don't know, but it sure as eggs seems to.
Friday, 21 December 2012
Carrying with the theme of eggs being brilliant, which of course they are, I am mystified by how people can manage to mess them up so completely. Eggs are delicate and so easy to cook, if someone asked me how I like my eggs, my answer would be, ideally cooked by me.
Ask anyone what goes into an omelette, filling apart, and you can get some surprising answers. The only things that go into an omelette is; 3 eggs, a speck of butter and some elbow grease, anything else and you are cooking something else. The omelette pan is a specific item, and is only used for that purpose. In a bowl beat lightly three eggs, on a high heat, add a speck of butter to the pan and swirl to melt and heat the butter to smoke point, add the beaten egg and immediately with the back of the fork move the egg. This the equivalent of the kids physical conundrum of patting your head whilst rubbing your tummy, it can be done with practise. With the left hand you push the pan backwards and forwards. Whilst using the back of the fork, move it in a circular motion. This action makes all the egg mixture turn over in the pan, setting as it moves, very quickly the egg is set and also slightly liquid on the surface, it’s done. Give the pan a bang on the ring, pick it up and holding the pan at a downward angle, knock on your left hand with your right fist, each knock makes the omelette climb up the outer rim of the pan until it sits in the edge of the pan like a taco, now add your filling, then, use the fork to close the omelette over the filling. Place the pan back on the ring and pick up the pan with your right hand upside down, this allows you to drop the edge of the pan on to the serving plate and lifting the handle turn the pan completely over the omelette. On the plate is a plump, perfectly shaped omelette to be served and eaten immediately. The whole cooking time is about 30 – 40 seconds, convenient, fast, food, Bish Bosh. This is how they teach omelette at Le Cordon Bleu.
The peculiar thing is, the majority of people actually believe that the tough, overcooked curds and whey that slop onto your plate and make the toast sodden, is actually scrambled egg. How sad. Scrambled egg is soft and creamy and golden coloured and tastes divine. What goes into it to make it so? Eggs, and plenty of them, a fat wodge of butter and loads of elbow grease and absolutely nothing else. The egg yolk is an emulsion of mainly fat and protein and it has a capacity to hold more fat in emulsion, a surprising amount, hollandaise and mayonnaise are the base egg sauces and both hold an amazing amount of butter and olive oil respectively. This principle is employed in scrambled egg. Beat about six eggs in a bowl, in a pan melt a matchbox lump of butter, or even more if you wish, now add the eggs. The heat is low; a Bain Marie is better, now stir with a wooden spatula that will clear the pan bottom. Never stop stirring; the mission is to heat the mixture without ever forming curd. A temperature is reached where the albumen breaks down and the whole mixture becomes watery, it homogenises. From this point, the mission is to bring up the temperature of the mixture to the point where it begins to thicken, it should become thick but not set and definitely not split, at this point smoked salmon is an acceptable addition. Not quite so convenient or fast, but it is lovely food and is worth the effort.
Hard Boiled Eggs
Why? Oh why do people murder them? Boiled until they are definitely dead, white, as hard as rubber, yolk, chalky and crumbly. All it takes is to learn how to prick an egg. There is an airspace in the broad end, place your tongue on the egg (I know it’s come out of a hens bum, but you’ll eat a peck of muck before you die) the airspace is warm. With a sharp skewer, push and twist till you just break thro’ any further and you’ll go thro’ into the white. Now, bring a pan of water to the boil and carefully place the eggs in it, the air hole prevents the shells splitting. Boil for eggzactly 6 minutes, then quench under a cold tap. The eggs are shelled when cold, the result is; the white is set but not tough, the yolk is just meltingly thick and creamy and absolutely delicious. For a snack I’ll cook 4 of these, slice in half lengthways and eat them like oysters, delicious.
In a restaurant you order Eggs Benedict, you get a piece of toast topped with a slice of ham a perfectly poached egg and hollandaise poured over, I’m salivating. However the concern here, is that perfectly poached egg, how do they do it? In a restaurant kitchen they can’t faff about, what can be prepped is prepped and service is about reheating and assembly, in fact, as little actual cooking as possible. They prep the eggs in a large shallow pan with 3 parts water 1 part vinegar (the acidity helps set the white). The water is heated to about 95 degrees, not boiling; as the egg is dropped in they waft it with a spatula to fold the white over the yolk, and then allow to cook. Obviously this is a conveyor belt process, and they continue dropping eggs in and lifting them out until they have sufficient for the next service. Eggs cooked like this would be inedible, but as they are lifted out of the hot water they go into a large pan of very cold water, this quenches and stops the cooking and also soaks out the vinegar. When required for your Eggs Benedict, one is lifted out of the cold water and the raggy bits trimmed off, then plunged briefly into hot water, as it is lifted out, the slotted spoon is sat on a (possibly not very clean) cloth to soak up excess water.
We can’t carry on like this at home, if the kids want poached eggs before school. What I do is use a wok, quite a lot of salt, water to a depth of about 1 inch, heat but don’t boil. Drop in the eggs, I can do about six at a go, allow to set a little, the waft them to fold the white over the yolk. When they have set, lift out with a slotted spoon, trim any raggy bits and with a big wodge of kitchen paper in one hand, sit the spoon on it till the egg is more or less dry. Result, a perfect shape, set white and runny yolk, lurverly.
Monday, 17 December 2012
Aren’t eggs brilliant though, if we didn’t have eggs, we’d have to invent them, and that would be tough task. A perfect parcel of goodness, the shell and shell membrane can breathe and yet is waterproof like Gore-Tex. Also the shell and it’s membrane has antibiotic properties which keeps it fresh for ages.The shell itself is reasonably tough and as most schoolboys know it can be so strong under even pressure across it’s long axis that you can try to crush it in your hand and fail. The shell strength is dependent on diet, eggshells in Spain are remarkably hard, they must be fed a lot calcium over there.
The internal structure of an egg is quite clever, you only have to crack an egg into a frying pan to see that the egg white is comprised of two amounts of different consistency, there’s thick gloopy stuff that flops around the yolk, and thin runny stuff that flollops right around the egg. If you look at the yolk there are usually two strands of white, sort of twisted ropey stuff at each side of the yolk. When I was a boy I thought that stuff was the cockerel’s semen (except I didn’t call it that, back then). In the shell, the thick albumen surrounds the inside of the shell, the yolk floats in the middle surrounded by more thick albumen the interspace being filled by thin albumen, the ropey albumen connects the yolk thick albumen to the shell albumen top and bottom. The result is that the yolk is retained by a spring/damper mechanism to protect it from twists turns and minor shocks, clever or what!
There has been so much bollocks talked about the nutritional value of eggs, once they were good for you, then they weren’t, now they are, but in moderation, what a load of bollocks! It’s said that there’s too much cholesterol, yes there is a lot of it, and it’s there to grow a chicken! When we eat that cholesterol, we digest it and it builds us instead. Consider this, this perfect package of nutrition contains everything required to allow a zygote(first single cell- the result of two gametes(sex cells) ) to develop and grow into a perfect little chicken, that can break its way out of the shell and start pecking straight away. The chick doesn’t keel over and die of a heart attack cos there was too much cholesterol in its diet!
Eggs are brilliant though aren’t they, eat ‘em, eat every day, and in every which way, I do. I should probably carry out an experiment to live on nothing but eggs, just to see if it was detrimental, my god the farts would be awesome. Bollocks to objectors, I believe it’s not even feasible to eat too many eggs, they provide essential protein, vitamins, essential fats and trace elements, they contain the building blocks of life itself, we need everything eggs have to replenish our cellular structure.
As if the foregoing wasn't enough, eggs do so much more, they can be cooked as eggs in so many ways, they are used in so many dishes and sauces and pastries and cakes and batters. All the uses to which eggs are put, without eggs there would be a struggle, a chef without eggs wouldn’t be able to come up with much. So yes, eggs are truly brilliant, enjoy them without guilt, eggs are good food.
Thursday, 13 December 2012
Tuesday, 11 December 2012
Americanisms are creeping into our language; I may even use some myself. Without ever crossing the pond it is inevitable due to the amount of received media from the US. The only real problem is they are distinctly different languages which have a fairly recent common base, which means we can just about converse, albeit with a degree of difficulty. Some American idioms, I don’t mind ,some I abhor, some I just don’t “GET”
On the ferry to Calais I was behind an American citizen at the bar who said “Can I get a latte” well the short answer is NO that is the barista’s job, he may ask for a latte, please. Today I was behind an Englishwoman at a garage shop, she asked,”Can I get 40 Bensons” now there some possibilities;
1, NO, you may only get items from the self service area.
2, NO, the area behind the counter is a secure area and you cannot enter.
3, YES, next customer please.
4, You may be able to get your fags if:
A, We have them in stock
B, You are over 18 yrs.
C, you have adequate amount of coin of the realm.
What is wrong with “40 Bensons please” a simple polite request, just as punchy and to the point as “Can I get” which is simply confusing, “Can I get?” you see it’s obviously a question, not a request.
Monday, 26 November 2012
The answer is too obvious, the egg of course, because I have it for breakfast, the chicken is for dinner. The question that worries me more is, how and when we came by our poultry? We are told that they are originally jungle fowl from Asia and SE Asia, OK but we seem to have had them for ever, how did they spread all across Europe in earlier times? There was indeed a cock crowing in the Gospels! However this happened I don’t know, but I’m very glad we have them, not simply for their produce, but also because as animals to keep and care for, they are pretty good as domestic animals go. My Mam used to keep poultry when I was kid and it was my job, before school to take them the mash she’d made up, and collect the eggs. I remember reaching into the nest boxes feeling a warm hens bum as she softly clucked and, yes a lovely warm egg, and she allowed you to take it without demur, my breakfast!
You don’t even need to fence them in, if you have the space they will roam free and eat what they find, even mice, as it grows dark they will come home to roost. As part of my childhood education I was to learn the place in life of such bountiful and friendly little creatures, their purpose is truly fulfilled when they landed on our plate! My mother would involve me in discussions as to who was laying and who wasn’t, and as the chief collector of eggs I was the Judas who would point the finger and betray my little friends. Then she would demonstrate how to wring their necks, pluck and draw them and prepare them for the oven. Many a happy time was spent on a stool, watching all the innards being drawn and being told what each part was and the function it performed, to see the little miracle of the oviduct with a chain of eggs in gradually increasing stages of development, I was a keen student. When she chopped the feet off I would grab them and by yanking the hanging out tendons, I could make the claws grab stuff, and then run around the house annoying people with them. We didn’t have many toys!
Chicken in those days was a luxury Sunday roast! We kept, I suppose about 20 hens and a cockerel, and raised the odd clutch, so it was an infrequent event to have roast chicken. In fact I was about 13 years old before we had turkey at Christmas prior to that it was always chickens.
At secondary school in the 3rd and 4th years we had a choice of Technical Drawing or Rural Science, the former were for lads earmarked for the factories the latter for lads earmarked for the farm. I, although headed for an apprenticeship in the broad category of engineering, stuck out to do Rural Science for the simple reason I enjoyed it so much, and they kept chucks! I look back now and feel, that if my life has lacked anything at all, it’s the fact that I never felt I had the time or the suitable place to keep hens!
Many people express concern regarding commercial poultry management, I have my concerns too, they need room to roam and peck at the soil. They need to breathe fresh air. They are living creatures, as we are, and a lot of improvements have been made in providing better living conditions for poultry in this country. We owe this to poultry, we have had a mutually beneficent arrangement with them for thousands of years. They as a species have benefitted, in that not only has the species survived, but there possibly more poultry than people. Please don’t buy cage eggs, barn eggs are no better. When you buy a whole chicken, look at its scaly leg joint, if it’s got a brown mark or ulcer, please don’t buy it, it hasn’t had room to move, it has been sat, in poo. We can do better for our chucks they deserve it.
Thursday, 22 November 2012
Cold calling used to be from real companies, many often from local firms. Things grew and call centres were built. Where is the proof that this marketing actually makes money? Is it, well, they’re doing, so we have to. Who in their right mind has ever bought from a cold call, they always get told to bugger off from me, I know that’s rude, but they started it! They called in the middle of dinner! Now, however we’re into another phase, any odd bod with the right bit of kit can do it, but how is the money made?
Someone goes phishing, using spam emails, round robins (robbings) using jokes, smut or whatever, number crunching programs, run all these emails for profile details and extract phone numbers, the same thing is done with facebook with emo posts that make people react by clicking “like” They produce a list that can be sold to the next idiot, or the run all the numbers through an automated dialler, if you answer, the number is marked active, a list of active numbers has more value.
This sort of enterprise is a bubble, because there is no end product and no final profit. The Govt. will be unable to prevent it; most of this is done from abroad, but will ultimately implode.
We can help, get a landline call blocker, install a cell phone call blocker, don’t forward round robin emails, however funny or whatever, don’t click like on Facebook crap posts that use; kittens, babies, cancer, injured soldiers, jokes and you name it crap, think, who posted this and why? Then spam it.
When spam calls start returning too many nulls, lists will diminish, when no-one can earn from it, the bubble will burst and we will breathe a sigh of relief, till the next scam!!!
Monday, 19 November 2012
Fonds de Cuisine, literally the foundation of the kitchen, one can imagine in the great French palaces, the mass catering to a very high standard, the peak of culinary art being served to hundreds. Service would require practically military scale planning and execution. A great deal of what was produced would be using a variety of stocks. These would be being produced at a dedicated station, a production line of bubbling pots, strained stocks being reduced to perfection, when they can be distributed among the other stations for soups, sauces, stews etc. These are, literally, the foundations of the kitchen.
I make stock sometimes, but I have one pot, limited rings and limited storage, very often I need to make gravy and have no stock! There are granules, if you are partial to chemical flavours. But there are reasonably good stock cubes out there, and with due thanks to Julia Child, she offers a “correction” which gives a good approximation for a stock.
I’ve forgotten exactly what she prescribed, but this is how I do it. For three quarters of a pint of stock, in a saucepan, finely slice and dice half a shallot, half a small carrot, half a celery stick, herbs (fresh if you’ve got them or a teabag of bouquet garni) one of your chosen stock cubes and optional, but I urge you to try, a splash of Maggi Liquid Seasoning, (mainly MSG but it isn’t a dreaded chemical. It’s extracted from seaweed, mono-sodium-glutamate, Chinese have been making and using this for yonks, just don’t use too much!) In a jug measure a quarter of pint of wine (red or white depending on the meat) Julia uses vermouth, Noilly Prat, yes it’s good but expensive! I won the Euro millions last week, I won £2.80 so I’ll stick with wine. Make up the wine to a pint, add to the saucepan and bring to a simmer for 20 minutes, then strain. You should have ¾ pint, either make-up with boiling water or reduce on a fast boil to3/4. Make this up to a sauce with the usual roux of 1oz of fat and 1 oz. of plain flour.
Other tips are if you are sautéing meat; use the strained stock to deglaze the pan, added flavour. If you roasting meat, use a roasting tin with a grill rack, put all the stock ingredients in the roasting tray except the stock cube, meat goes on the grill rack. The advantage is the joint roasts well, pork still has crackling, but the steam in the oven keeps the meat moist. If you roast without water the meat juices burn and produce bitterness. The juices left in the roasting tin are strained into a fat separating jug. Again make up or reduce to ¾ pint (enough for two), the fat can be used for your roux, flavour conservation!
Friday, 16 November 2012
A paring knife doesn’t fulfil many tasks in my kitchen, the reason being, to be useful knives should be so sharp, that if you merely touch the edge, you’re nicked. A paring knife, as the name suggests is used to peel or take small slices off, say apples. This is done by holding the knife in the crook of your fingers with your thumb against the apple and bringing the knife onto your thumb. This is immediately followed by kitchen paper being applied with firm pressure to the ball of the thumb whilst being driven to hospital for stitches. I eat apples with my teeth, I peel veg with a peeler, the rule of “thumb” is you never cut towards your hand (except 2-3 cuts on half an onion to begin the dicing operation, but that’s another story)
The only task I use a parer for is scraping new potatoes, something that seems to have gone out of fashion. So many times they are served unpeeled, I find that gross, I can eat them, but that’s because I’ll eat anything, I’m such a pig. However, potato peel goes into the pig swill, it merely means the chef is lazy. If you have the correct parer and a good technique new potatoes can be scraped lickety spit. Exactly what constitutes a good parer? Below are two, top one is years old, a Boots Sabatier el Cheapo Nasty, not forged, and it’s been so long since the Sabatier family made very good knives that there is no trademark, anyone can call their knives Sabatier, Boots don’t even make knives.
Tuesday, 13 November 2012
This is the grip that along with superior intelligence, separated us from our less able though bigger and stronger earlier cousins. This grip enabled us through fine dexterity to make superior tools and weapons and get ahead. Through our history this grip could hold a pen, a paint brush, write Shakespeare paint the Mona Lisa and now twiddles the knobs that make the world run, this grip took us to the moon.
This is the grip for the article to be cut, the knife works butted up to the knuckles, as the blade slices, the fingers "crawl" back along the food, perfect control with blade and never cutting toward your hand.
Thursday, 1 November 2012
Is it Chilli? Or is it Me?
Chilli con Carne, still a favourite for me, in English, chilli with meat, so is it Spanish? Or is it Tex/Mex? In my house it’s an English dish! Chillies, tomatoes and for my dish, chocolate, are all South American. Something like 3 thousand years of Mayan history involved in chocolate and chillies, chocolate was only ever made into a drink, and was flavoured in various ways but mainly with chillies. The conquistadors brought chocolate, chillies, peppers and tomatoes back to Spain. Most prized was chocolate, worth its own weight in gold and was kept secret in Europe for 200 years. Confusingly the beans were called cacao, the rest of the world still calls it this. We English misheard or misspelt this and called it cocoa. There is a record of an English privateer (pirate ship really) hauling in a Spanish Galleon, killing all the crew for the gold, but all the holds were full of black beans, mystified they could only imagine it was worthless ballast and scuttled the ship! Chocolate as we know it didn’t actually appear till the late 19th century, and rose to fashion in the early 20th
Chillies, the bad boys of the fresh produce and spice rack, they should be given an ASBO. I wouldn’t mess with the real thing, I would lose. I stick to mild chilli powder, and use it carefully, I know some like it hot, but if I wanted my head blown off, I would suck on a 12 bore, it would be a lot less painful. Chillies cause pain, because the molecules of the active ingredient are the chemical equivalent of barbed arrow heads, they enter the taste buds and stay, causing irritation, water or lager only causes more irritation, fat will soothe it. After a while they dissolve.
So, why would I consider my chilli to be English, some years ago I was making some while drinking lager and I thought a can or two in the pot would improve the flavour, and it did. I’ve tried various beers and the very best for this is Black Sheep, second best is Old Peculiar. It doesn’t get more English than good Masham Ale lad.
My Chilli con Carne
In a large pot fry off 6 diced onion, in small batches fry off in a sauté pan 3 kg of mince beef, add 2 dsps of plain flour and stir pot, drain 6 cans of red kidney beans and add to pot, add 2 bottles of Black Sheep or Old Peculiar, add a whole tube of tomato puree, add 4 cans of chopped tomatoes, add a head of garlic skinned and crushed with salt, add 2 by 100g bars of chocolate 72% or more cocoa solids, Chilli is up to you, but I use half a pot of Swartz mild chilli powder, bang in the oven for at least3 hours.
Tuesday, 30 October 2012
A Pan for All Seasons
Without apology to Robert Bolt for a silly pun on his "Man for all seasons", pans eh’, you’ve got to have ‘em. When I had to fend for myself in marital discord, I found that the pans had been wanted on voyage by my travelling ex-wife. My venture into the culinary arts required some equipment; I bought Le Creuset, a full set, including a large and small casserole and a marmetout. While everyone else says they are good, I found the actual pans to be an awkward shape, squat and all too small. I laboured with them for getting on for 20 years cos they was a lot ‘o dosh. Recently I replaced them with a traditional shaped pan after the style of the old copper pans, except these are stainless steel with a copper bottom, not even too expensive. In town there’s a posh cook shop that sells French pans, solid copper, tinned inside with black wrought iron handles. Bloody marvellous, thought I, my food heroine Julia Child recommends these, one 2 litre pan £400, the full set would require a mortgage!
30 years ago, I bought my first wife a sauté pan, 29cm diameter very heavy with a thick base and a domed lid, it is a Fissler, a German Company still in existence, a similar pan without a lid now costs £100, and I paid at the time about £50. It was a present, but she thought it extravagant, and to boot she didn’t like it because foods sticks. Naturally that item was not wanted on voyage. That pan is my greatest asset (in the kitchen! I wasn’t forgetting my natural good looks), yes when you throw in a steak it sticks, but after the second turn it sticks no more. The main advantage of such a pan is all the meat juices during frying stick in the pan and coats the base. Lift out the meat onto a warm plate, splash in wine and deglaze and reduce and you have a jus, add cream you have a sauce. Such a basic manoeuvre, but how can this be done with a non-stick pan? I have non-stick pans yes, but they fry eggs. The large sauté pan with a lid is so versatile, pan fry a whole fish, steaks etc., a risotto, any number of one off meals that can be braised on the stove top. (Braise = sautéed, then gently stewed in liquid) Most definitely “A Pan for All Seasons”
I mentioned non-stick pans, any starting out wannabe cook probably wouldn’t understand how life could exist on the planet without Teflon. I was about 15 yrs. old when this came on the market, and it was as soft as butter, I reckon that, with all the pans I’ve seen come and go I must have eaten quite a lot of Teflon. Assuming one doesn’t digest Teflon, then, since it’s non-stick I assume it merely passes through with alacrity. My mam had a couple of frying pans, black as the ace of spades, I’m guessing they were bright when new, I suppose they were probably wrought iron, and probably only cost a shilling from Woollies. These had to be conditioned, then, never washed, and they were non-stick, why did NASA bother to invent Teflon for re-entry tiles, they could have just stuck my mams frying pan onto the re-entry module.
Sunday, 28 October 2012
Bolognese sauce not Italian, it’s an English interpretation so what! Where would we be without it, it’s our dish and we should celebrate it, and be proud. I’ll bet the Italians wish it was theirs, but it’s not, so hands off. They have a dish in Bologna that they say is the inspiration, I’ve looked at the recipe and I think it would turn out bland, also I’ve seen them dish it up in Bologna on TV, a wee dollop of spaghetti and a little spoonful of ragout on top, no cheese!!! The diner has mix it up! This is unusual just about every other pasta dish is tossed in sauce. Bolognese is a main meal, you poor old Latinos, loadsa pasta, loadsa sauce, loadsa fresh grated parmiggiano, a glass of red wine and fresh baked ciabatta to mop up the sauce. Somebody should show these Eye Ties how to eat LOL
Bolognese SauceIn a big pot, fry off, in olive oil, 6 diced onions, in a sauté pan fry off in small batches, 3kg of minced beef, adding them to the big pot. Take a head of garlic, skin and crush the cloves with salt to a paste and add to pot. Stir in a level dsp of plain flour. Deglaze the sauté pan, with a splash of good red wine, I use a Barolo around the £10 mark; add the deglassage and the rest of the red wine to the pot. Then add a goodly amount of dried Italian herb, don’t be afraid, I’ve never used too much LOL, Now add a whole tube of tomato purée, and about 6 cans of chopped tomatoes, I say about, cos I’m never sure, it’s about getting the consistency right, it need to be fairly stiff, too stiff there’s always tomato juice. At this point, use your black pepper grinder till you get wanker’s cramp. It needs bacon, I’ve tried Italian bacon and speck which is similar and it’s good but not that obtainable and expensive. English smoked bacon is chemically cured and full of watery crap, I buy it in catering packs, so I peel off a pile of rashers about 2” thick, slice into strips, place in a big pan of hot water, get my mitts in to separate the strips then bring to the boil, dump into a colander and wash under the tap. Worthy of note is all bacon should be blanched prior to cooking, I eat bacon every day and that would be pain in the arse, fortunately If you use a George Formby Grill (a bit like a George Foreman Grill but it sings “When I’m Cleanin Winders” while it cooks) put the bacon on while the grill is cold and it sheds its own weight in watery crap before it actually starts to cook. So the bacon goes in the pot, plus a big box of sliced open cap mushroom. Bang in the oven at least 3 hours, bish bosh. Probably about 16 portions to freeze