Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Tomoe, Marylebone (Restaurant Review)

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I have found my sushi heaven.

Having trawled countless foodie threads from eGullet to Chowhound, one recommendation kept cropping up time and again - Tomoe. This small, unassuming restaurant was apparently just off Oxford Street, so my husband and I made it our mission to go there for our anniversary lunch. We didn't book, as I decided that if it was Meant To Be, there'd be plenty of room to fit us.

We made our way past a dozen identikit bistros on James Street, before finding
Tomoe on Marylebone Lane, well secluded from the bustle of Oxford Street. Indeed there was a table for two free, and I was comforted that all the faces around us were Oriental because that means it's good, right?

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As soon as we sat down, they brought us complimentary Japanese tea. I looked around and was a little frustrated by that Japanese custom of having special, off-menu dishes written in kanji on little signs adorning the walls. At least that was my gaijin assumption - they could equally have said "If you can read this sign, that means you don't suck".


However,
the menu itself was clear and comprehensive, split into one-plate meals like donburi, soba and udon, as well as larger teishoku like udon/sushi sets. There was also a wide range of sushi and sashimi. Hubby went for a classic tonkatsu set and I went for tempura udon. We also ordered a deluxe sashimi set, and five individual nigiri of tobiko (flying fish roe), unagi (kabayaki eel), hotate (scallop), chu-toro (medium fatty tuna) and o-toro (super-fatty tuna), as well as a portion of tsukemono (Japanese pickles). I am greedy.

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First came the tonkatsu set, or rather its side dishes - miso soup, Wafu salad plus tiny saucer of pickles. "Here are your tsukemono" chirruped the waitress as she placed in front of me another saucer of pickles, as tiny as the one included in my husband's set and certainly not worth the extra £1.80. I felt sad and promptly ate all of his pickles too. I said I was greedy.

Next came the tonkatsu itself, a crispy, crunchy, panko'ed pork chop on a bed of shredded white cabbage. The accompanying rice was good and fluffy and the pork itself tender and flavoursome.

Tempura udon brought chewy, firm noodles in a rich broth topped with a variety of tasty tempura including prawns, shiitake mushroom, aubergine and potato, but sadly the batter was a little soggy (though this may be due to the fact that I was fannying around with my camera for so long before tucking in). Regardless, with a sprinkle of shichimi pepper, I happily lapped it all up.

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The deluxe sashimi appeared as a bejewelled platter of sliced maguro (tuna), hamachi (yellowtail), tai (sea bream), hotate (scallop) and salmon.

There was also chopped-up saba
(mackerel) with ginger and spring onions, and real-ish wasabi, shredded daikon, cucumber and shiso leaf. Every piece of fish tasted fresh, delicious and vibrant.

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The real star of the meal however was the sushi. The rice was warm and pearly with the slightest vinegary tang, the neta (toppings) were fat and generous and, my, I don't know if they were having a good day or what, but every single nigiri was packed with explosive flavour.

The tobiko popped with savoury bursts, the unagi was sinfully unctuous, the hotate sweet and lush, the chutoro delightfully rich and the o-toro - sweet. buttery. goodness.

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The whole lot only came to about £50 for both of us and we ate so much.

Tomoe is now my number one Japanese restaurant in London!

Around Britain With a Paunch, londonelicious, Kake and An American in London all loved it too!

Tomoe Sushi Bar
62 Marylebone Lane
London
W1U 2PB
020 7486 2004

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Tomoe on Urbanspoon

Friday, 27 March 2009

Bento Box, Kingsway, Holborn (Japanese)

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I'd just bought my lunch at Samurai (salmon tempura salad if you're interested) when I ended up wandering aimlessly round Holborn. Suddenly, I came across a place I hadn't seen before - Bento Box on Kingsway.

Bento Box is a takeaway joint along the lines of Samurai or Wasabi, with sushi and Wafu salads as well as hot Japanese food like ramen noodles on offer (though I heard only Cantonese being spoken by staff).

The cold selection was so beautiful and tempting that I decided that I would stick my salad in the office fridge for next day's lunch and buy another lunch here. Other factors
in the decision were that I am (a) an idiot, (b) impulsive and (c) a glutton.

Unlike Samurai or Wasabi, you can't buy individual wrapped sushi pieces (though that's probably marginally better for the environment). Instead, they sell most sushi in packs of three for £1.95 which is a brilliant deal considering unagi (kabayaki eel) and tobiko (flying fish roe) are amongst those available.

I plumped for a three-pack of what looked like scallop and tobiko gunkan maki but was more likely to be squid and tobiko given the prices. I also snapped up a pack of their Fusion Sushi for £3.95 which had four beautiful, jewel-like gunkan. Both packs came with soy and gari (pickled ginger).

When I returned to my desk, I stashed the rejected salad and then bullied a colleague into lending me his camera to take pics. Then it was time to try the little beauties.

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First the three-pack. YES! I could have punched the air - it was indeed hotate which crowned the gunkan and, by criminy, they were the juiciest, freshest-tasting, morsels ever - and they didn't stint on the number of scallops either. The tobiko was salty, sparky and tasted of the sea, which is exactly how they should be (rather than fishy or sour). The sushi rice was good too and who doesn't love nori?

Next the Fusion Sushi. From left to right (see above), these were tuna mayo topped with lumpfish roe; ebi (king prawn) topped with wasabi tobiko; tuna topped with tobiko; and salmon topped with tobiko. Each also all had a sliver of wakame seaweed on top of the rice.

All four were stunning but bizarrely the tuna mayo was the most toothsome - probably due to the addition of Kewpie Mayonnaise, the umami additive beloved by the Japanese (I also have a bottle at home).

Bento Box is actually an offshoot from Bento Cafe in Camden and has apparently been around for a while - you can also eat in.

To me, it's an extremely welcome addition to the places I haunt for lunch.

Bento Box
36 Kingsway
London
WC2B 6EX
020 7242 6567

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Heston's Roman Feast (TV Review)

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Guess what the secret ingredient is?

"Contains Adult Humour and detailed scenes of Pig Butchery"

No, not this, but Heston Blumenthal's Roman Feast. It's Week 4 and we’ve come to the climax of our gastronomic journey, where we find ourselves in the Roman Empire for a feast that will be "theatrical, deviant and orgasmic".

The Ancient Romans were all about culinary
boundarylessness, and their lusty appetites encompassed everything from flamingos to parrot tongues. Heston tells us that they particularly loved to create "theatrical spectacles to astound their diners" (anyone else getting massive déja vu?).

This week's guests are the Yes Man himself Danny Wallace, Pimms O'Clock Alexander Armstrong, coquette Greta Scacchi (or Skakky as I like to call her), the utterly bonkers Marquess of Bath (sadly sans wifelets), food Agony Uncle Matthew Fort and lastly the cheap version of Tara Palmer-Tompkinson (you know, the one off the rubbish new What Not to Wear who isn't Mica Paris). 5 out of 6 ain't bad, Channel 4.

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Mister Wallace, cheap Tara P-T, Lord Bath

In keeping with the Roman orgy theme, Heston's racy appetiser is Pig's Nipple Scratchings - apparently Caligula enjoyed feasting on private parts. I once roasted a pork belly where you could still see a nipple - my husband screamed like a girl. Heston on the other hand lovingly slices up porcine areolas for deep-frying.

The resulting perky scratchings are then coated in coriander salt and served to his diners in individual packets, while Heston eavesdrops on their reactions via CCTV (part of me wonders whether he is made to observe remotely for anger management). Initial caution is followed by delight - the Marquess of Bath declares "I love pork scratchings but they're often not scratchy enough". Bless.

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Nipp-uhs (say it like Cartman)

Next up is the starter. Heston tells us "I'm going to create an amaaazing meal you caaan't make at home". This coming after his opening of "Pleeeease don't try this at home" is making me irritable. Anyway, Heston's starter is Calf's Brain Custard. I could do that if I wanted to.

With the help of Rocco Panzarella, he attempts an authentic recipe by Apicius (where "epicure" comes from) of calf's brains, rose petals and garum - the Roman's relish of choice made from long-fermented raw fish guts (and also used in cosmetics and dog bite medicine).

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Braaaaaaiiinnnss

Unsurprisingly, Heston has no garum at hand, so he substitutes the modern equivalent nam pla (Thai fish sauce which he refers to as "liquid armpit"). He blends the brainy mess together and then bakes it on coals, but the resulting custard doesn't hit the spot.

Thus Heston heads to Salcombe to catch some mackerel and make his own garum. It's Cannibal Holocaust time again, as Heston brutally disembowels the fish while they're "still breathing" (gasping surely?) - hey, no-one warned us about scenes of fish butchery (mongery?).

The next step in the garum-making process is to ferment the guts for several days, but Heston has apparently found an ingenious quick-fix recipe. He simply simmers the fish guts in brine, then vacuum filters to obtain a "surprisingly delicate broth tasting of langoustines." I'm not surprised. Dude, you just made fish stock. What part of "ferment" and “raw” do you not understand?

So, chuffed with his "garum", he makes a revised custard and serves panko & anchovy-coated, deep-fried calves' brains on the side. Matthew Fort says the custard is "exquisitely flavoured, I mean, textured" and, YES, Danny Wallace is willing to eat everyone else's brains as well.

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Anyone remember Brain's Faggots?

"Having fooled [his] guests by using [his] brains" (ho ho) Heston reveals that his next course will be the Trojan Pig - so-called because it looks like a gift but a horde of tiny soldiers will stream out and stab you in the tongue. Or something.

No, apparently I'm wrong, the Pig is actually full of joke intestines which turn out to be sausages, so Heston travels in Del Boy's three-wheeler to Italy, the land of the sausage (this whole programme is like Benny Hill).

It's here that Heston has his most amazing encounter yet.

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"Send her victorious, happy and glorious"

"I. am. Peppe Cotto. I. play. the. trumpet" says a wiry Italian butcher who then proceeds to blow a ham trumpet. That's a trumpet made from ham. Heston looks as confused as I feel, and this turns to fear when Peppe then slowly anoints his head with a bony crown made of lamb racks, whilst ominously humming "God Save the Queen". I swear, it's just like the Black Lodge.

Having offered Heston some cacao paté, Peppe then smoulders to him "Now. come. in. labora.tory"... sadly, it's only to the back room to make some bangers. Seriously, give the man his own programme, please. Anyway, Heston eventually concocts “small intestines” of pasty chicken and “large intestines” of porky cocoa.

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Peppe Cotto, he da man

Now we're back to Blighty for the promised scenes of pig butchery and "the Notorious Trojan Hog". Heston likes to use water-baths to cook his meat, but a whole pig is too hefty, so he calls on the Canadian Spa Company to let him make Onsen Pig.

They sling the vacuum-packed piggy in a Victorian Spa and let it sweat at 60 degrees for 24 hours (this sounds like a bad idea to me). And Lo! a still pink and bloody-looking pig comes forth.

It’s okay though, Heston then spit-roasts the pig in his “garum” and pork stock so it caramelises and, well, actually cooks.

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Spa-gazing

Next Heston uses an endoscope to place his joke intestines in the pig’s sweet spot and then it’s ready to be rolled out to the waiting diners. Bated breath all round, Heston slashes open the pig’s stomach and the “intestines” spill out juicily onto a platter.

It’s a hit - the pork is amazingly tender, the sausages equally so - Alexander Armstrong declares “Dammit to crikey goodness, that’s the most delicious thing I’ve eaten” and Matthew Fort applauds the “vulgar, coarse” humour.

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Yummy intestines

Vulgar? He ain’t seen nothing yet.

The Satyricon is a classic Roman text which describes a feast held by Trimalchio; courses included a rampant statue of Priapus (randiest of gods) with a lapful of fruit, and cakes spurting out saffron juice.

So Heston decides to recreate the latter with his Ejaculating Cakes (as a nine year old, I once used “ejaculate” in a story to mean “say suddenly or quickly, esp. with feeling” [OED]. I got it from Just William. It was an innocent time.)

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Run!

How will Heston achieve the money shot? First he tries the brown fountain ie Mentos and Coke, but that’s too messy; next he tries dry ice and water which just explodes. Finally he settles on dry ice, water and saffron custard which oozes languidly - perfect. Now he just needs a cake to house the eruption, so he calls on Mich Turner, cake-maker to the stars.

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“Mich needs time to understand how my ejaculations will work”

They settle on a dense chocolate cake which he fills with white chocolate mousse, syrup, egg white and dry ice. Having used a paint-gun to coat the cakes in a chocolate shell to avoid “seepage”, he also makes a dark chocolate funnel to control the spurt. For an extra “surprise, orgasmic sensation”, Heston adds a base of popping candy biscuit.

First a Priapic statue is brought out to get the diners in the mood. Next the individual cakes are presented with little amphoras of saffron custard and the maitre d’ says to the diners “Pour your juices into the holes”. Ooh-er.

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The money shot

The ejaculation begins - frothing, spurting, bubbling custard streams merrily out of every cakey cavity. Bafflingly, Alexander Armstrong says it’s “the biggest ejaculating pudding you’ve ever seen that hasn’t spurted in your eye”.

Greta Scacchi gets far too overwhelmed, and when the frothing stops, squeals “I want it to go again!” - Danny Wallace gives her a look and says “Give it 20 minutes”.

Obviously it’s super-delicious and when they discover the space dust, it sets them all off again.

Just before the credits roll, we cut to Ms Scacchi who exclaims “I really got off on that. It was very, very sexy”.

It’s best to end things there really.

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All good things must come to an end, Heston


All photos belong to Channel 4

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Best Macaroni Cheese Ever! (Recipe)

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Google "macaroni cheese recipe" and you'll get over 400,000 results. So why am I giving you another recipe for mac 'n' cheese, aka macaroni cheese, aka mac & cheese, aka macaroni and cheese?

Simple, because this recipe is genuinely the BEST ever! Kraft Mac 'n' Cheese is all very well, but a few simple ingredients, a short stint in the oven and, according to everyone who's tried this, you're looking at mac and cheese heaven :)

Of course, what really makes this cheesy manna is the hitherto top secret ingredient which I am now ready to reveal to the world ... ready salted crisps (ie plain potato chips)!


This recipe serves four hungry people, six who are less so ...


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The Best Macaroni Cheese Ever (IMHO)


  • 3 heaped tbsp plain flour

  • 2 heaped tbsp margarine/butter

  • 2 mugs milk

  • 500g pasta tubes (I like them fat so I use rigatoni or tortiglioni rather than actual macaroni)

  • 300g grated mature cheddar

  • 2 packets of ready salted crisps

  • 1 tbsp tomato ketchup

  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

  • 1 tsp wholegrain mustard
Cook the pasta till it's a little tougher than al dente (ie almost under-cooked!), then drain well and set aside. Melt the margarine in a saucepan, add the flour and stir over a medium heat until it forms a roux and cook for a few more minutes.

Next drizzle in the milk slowly and whisk at the same time until the sauce thickens. Add the ketchup, mustard and Worcestershire sauce and two-thirds of the cheddar and whisk again.

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Next pre-heat your oven to to 200°C, 400°F, Gas Mark 6. Tip the drained pasta into the pot of sauce and stir so all the tubes are coated evenly.


Now for the fun part. Get the two bags of crisps and SMUSH them to within an inch of their lives! Open the packets and stir one bagful of crispy crumbs into the pot of saucey pasta.


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Transfer the pasta to a deep baking dish and sprinkle the other packet of crispy bits evenly all over the top.



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Then cover this crisp layer with the rest of the grated cheese (so that the crisps don't burn) and then place in the oven for 25 minutes.


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As soon as the cheese on top is melty, browned and bubbling, it's ready to eat.


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When you're dishing up, make sure everyone gets a piece of the gorgeous crispy, crunchy, cheesy topping or there'll be trouble!

I like to serve a leafy green salad with balsamic dressing on the side, so I feel a little bit better about the massive cholesterol hit ...


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UPDATE 28/12/09: Am entering this in the "Best Original Recipe" category in Fiona Beckett's Ultimate Macaroni Cheese Challenge. See the Cheeselover for more details. Wish me luck!

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Mrs Kibble's Olde Sweet Shoppe

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One of the best bits in "Supersizers Go Seventies" was when Giles Coren and Sue Perkins visited a fantastic-looking old-fashioned sweet shop and found themselves face to face with glorious sweets from yesteryear - cola cubes, humbugs, peardrops, spacedust and the like.

I've never been able to track down this particular establishment, but Mrs Kibble's Olde Sweet Shoppe fits the bill just as well.

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The windows are crammed with enormous jars stuffed with good old-fashioned jaw-breaking sweetness, but I was surprised to discover they also have three shelves of sugar-free sweets for diabetics (or the more abstemious) amongst us.

Overwhelmed by choice, Hubby and I eventually plumped for a mix of 50g each of Butterscotch Gums, Sour Apples, sugar-free Lemon Sherbets, and sugar-free Strawberries and Creams.

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As the lovely Scottish assistant packaged up our goodies, I also noticed a chocolate counter containing luscious-looking hand-made truffles.

Thus into the basket went a dinky box of Praline Truffle, Chocolate Cream, Lemon Souffle, Malibu & Coconut Truffle, Banana Cream, Violet Creme and Rose Creme. Hubby added a Sherbet Dip Dab (with bonus Cola Dip!) and we shuffled home.

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Back at the ranch, I waited about two minutes before ripping open the box of chocs. The
Praline Truffle and Chocolate Cream were lush, cocoa-rich and crazily fresh-tasting, as if made with real, clotted cream.

The
Lemon Souffle, Malibu & Coconut Truffle, and Banana Cream were equally delicious and you could definitely taste real fruit.

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However, the Rose Creme and Violet Creme felt like an assault to all my senses. Cloying, over-perfumed, air freshenery horrors, I ended up spitting them back out.

Sweeties next. Sugar-free doesn't have to mean flavour-free, and Mrs Kibble has done a sterling job with the Sherbet Lemons and Strawberries and Creams. And the Sour Apples were really, really toothsome - not too astringent, and just the right amount of appley punch.

Sadly, the Butterscotch Gums were weirdly bland and plasticky tasting and barely tasted sweet at all.

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To sum up, run don't walk to Mrs Kibble's Olde Sweet Shoppe to get your sugary blast from the past.

They also have great gift ideas, like huge personalised sweetie jars or make-your-own hampers of goodies.

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Mrs Kibble's Olde Sweet Shoppe

57A Brewer Street

London W1F 9UL


Mrs Kibble's Olde Sweet Shoppe

4 St Christopher's Place

London W1U 1LZ



Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Rant: Heston's Tudor Feast (TV Review)

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Heston's abomination

"Throw away your cookbooks - and please don't try this at home!"

Confusingly commanding us to neither follow recipes nor copy his antics (what are we meant to do then?), this week Heston Blumenthal visits
the Tudor Era.

The royal court of
Henry VIII was flamboyant and spectacular - with Shakespeare wowing the crowds at the "the-AY-tre" (sic Heston), it was the 1st Golden Age of English cookery.

Heston decides this is his opportunity to recapture lost greatness by making three dishes that would make Henry VIII "proud to be an Englishman".

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For once I like everyone in this picture.

This week his guests are Sophie Ellis Bextor (Janet's little girl), the rambunctious Cavalier Jay Rayner, hotelier Ruth Watson (Channel 4 says she's off "Country House Rescue"), Kelvin MacKenzie (a journalist of some sort), and Ms Cillaaaaaaa Ber-lack! (sorry - was channelling Our Graham). Oh, and there's failed doctor Alex Zane.

(I know Wikipedia can be as reliable as a chocolate teapot, but
Mr Zane's current entry reads:

"His father currently resides in Trinidad, and has done some time. His mother lives in his native Leeds. Zane has mentioned on many occasions that while he was growing up, he, his mother and his brother lived in the upstairs of the house while their cats lived downstairs."

Brilliant.)

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Heston gives good head (not my caption - Channel 4 did it first)

So Heston starts with an aperitif of Butterbeer which he refers to as "what wizards drink in Harry Potter", but which I know as "one of many things that JK Rowling ripped off from JRR Tolkien". It looks and tastes like eggnog and this simple (and dare I say it utterly boring) drink gets the thumbs from all but Kelvin who says "I dislike intensely the combination of alcohol and sweetness". Well, you're no fun at Christmas. Anyway, it turns out that Mr MacKenzie is the only food critic who hated the Fat Duck.

Next Heston tells us that the Tudors played topsy-turvy with their food - beef and custard was an accepted combo, and meals would often start with chicken
blancmange. Of course, the church banned meat for 70 or so days a year, so the Tudors stretched the definition of fish to include frog.

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Grim

In Heston's case, big motherloving, still-breathing frogs from New York's Chinatown. There chef Jo Ng decapitates, skins, boils, blends and strains the creatures to create a monstrous almondy smoothie. "What a waste of frog meat" says Heston, and having tasted Jo's battered frogs' legs, he also decides to make some froggy dippers. He experiments with tempura and then pané coating to create perfect KFC (that's Kermit Fried Chicken).

To serve, he pours his frog stock blancmange into a water lily bowl perched on a lily pond nestling inside a hollow log, tops it with violets, rosewater and pomegranate and adds the frog leg dunkers. 'Tis a veritable hit with all except, yes, Kelvin who says "I preferred the plate".

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Frog on a log

Now for the main. 80% of the food consumed in Tudor times was meat - Henry VIII held a £50,000,000 feast where they served 2000 sheep, 1000 chickens and 1 dolphin (only one, mind). Heston wants to live up to this culinary bling by creating a Mythical Beast - another Tudor fancy where they served up various animals that had been bolted together.

He finds a recipe in the Harleian Manuscripts (the TV shows me the Harleian Miscellany) to create a Cockentrice (but not Cockatrice) and manages to convince some plastic surgeons to help him in his bizarre foray into cryptozoology.

The recipe reads (more or less) as follows:

Take a Capon & smyte hem a-to in the waste
Take a Pigge & smyte hem also in the waste
Take a nedyl & a threde, &
Sewe the fore partye of the Pigge to the hynder party of the Capoun & than
Stuffe hem as thou stuffyst a Pigge
Putte hem on a spete, and Roste hym


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Worth a second look


The deed is done, and the pigtail is even re-attached to the chicken's bum by the smiling surgeon who I really feel should be correcting harelips somewhere else.

Saying "I'm creating the freakiest dish in English history", Heston cradles the deviant creature and gets his local kebab shop to spitroast it (his local kebab shop appears to reside in the lobby of Fawlty Towers). As it turns, looking more monstrous than any elephant leg, the pride of England asks "Is it alive?"

Though it tastes great and looks magnificent, Heston is disappointed - he wants to create "the daddy of all meat monsters". His team fry up some python, crocodile, kangaroo and zebra. Heston's never tried zebra before -
in your face, Heston! Sadly, they decide this animal jigsaw's too chewy and Heston says "There's a reason why we don't eat this type of meat here" (that reason being you don't know how to cook it, unlike some people).

Finally Heston decides a monstrous, feathery, furry façade stuffed with traditional meats will fit the bill best. He visits
Sylar's daddy and commissions a beast with a boar's head, a giant coxcomb, a lamb's torso and the legs and back end of a goose. Then he goes to see UCL's Dr Andrea Sella who makes him "funny cotton" - cellulose soaked in nitric acid that goes up in a WHOOOMPH! when ignited. This he uses to clothe the beast in "fur" as the Tudors adored pyrotechnics (Shakespeare used them in the "the-AY-tre" you know).

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WHOOMPH!


The meat stuffing is beef, chicken and goose, bound together with tuna protein (used to bind wounds in the war), cooked in a waterbath, and browned in a pan. This is placed in the beast's cavity and the horrible, horrible creature is brought out to the diners like

Grond at the siege of Minas Tirith.

Sophie EB squeals "A spliced beast!", Rayner looks unsure, Zane declares "It looks like a swan has died bumming a boar". They all don safety goggles and a fuse is lit, so the whole thing goes WHOOMPH! up in flames (Grond!
Grond!)

The maitre d' removes the insides, claims it's "
Cockentrice meat" to the wary diners (it looks like cotechino) and serves slices with lamb jelly and wilted spinach. They love it - this time even Mackenzie's impressed.

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Fly my pretty!


How will Heston top this - and how will his harshest critic react to a pudding that's not a pudding? Tudor puddings were a mix of sweet and savoury cooked in intestines - think black pudding and white pudding. Heston goes to the land of Ambrosia (not Heaven, but Devon) to try their rice pudding and to test his on the factory staff.


Heston's rice pud is marrowbone (off topic - I've been trying to get some of this for ages but whenever I go to my butcher he says "All the restaurants have bought it up - it's
very in vogue"), pudding rice, milk, sugar and bitter berries cooked up in a sheep's intestine. It's a resounding success but the casing still bothers him; see, Heston still wants to mould the rice into sausages but he needs a new casing "with sufficient lubrication to slip it off"...

I throw up a little when he indeed uses condoms to shape his rice pudding wieners. And of course now they look like real sausages, so he decides to caramelise them and serve them with banana and apple mash, and fennel and syrup gravy. He finishes off with some frozen peas aka sweet pea
Dippin' Dots (old faithful liquid nitrogen).

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Meat and two veg ... or IS it?


The Verdict? Cilla thinks it's fabulous, Kelvin MacKenzie suggests that people should always start with dessert, Alex Zane mocks him for his about face.

As Zane puts it, they've all gone "food mad".

Next week, the Romans -
I'm expecting dormice.


All photos belong to Channel 4!


Monday, 16 March 2009

Easy Toad in the Hole (Recipe)

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When I was little, I always had school dinners and one of my favourites was Toad in the Hole.

This traditional dish of Yorkshire Pudding batter and sausages is about as comforting as food can get, and its name is about as silly (bar Spotted Dick perhaps).

It's a dish that's also beloved by my husband, but I try not to make it too often in case he gets fat.

I've tried various different combos for the batter and I found that Brian Turner's Yorkshire Pudding recipe gives the best results and is also fairly idiot-proof.

As for the sausages, I use nice quality pork ones from my butcher's counter, Debbie & Andrew's, or The Black Farmer, and when our veggie friends come for tea, Cauldron's vegetarian sausages.


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This recipe serves four (or three greedy people who want 4 bangers each)

Dead Easy Toad in the Hole

  • 12 good quality pork or vegetarian sausages
  • A mug of beaten eggs (a standard coffee mug - not a monster from Whittards)
  • A mug of plain flour
  • A mug of half milk/half water
  • Tablespoon of malt vinegar
  • Pinch of salt
  • Three tablespoons vegetable oil (I use groundnut)
  • Onion gravy (gently fried onions plus onion Bisto Best works brilliantly!)

Sift the flour and salt into a mixing bowl. Add the beaten eggs and half the milk/water mix and whisk till there are no lumps. Then add the rest of the milk/water and the vinegar, whisk again and leave this batter to stand.

Preheat your oven to 200°C, 400°F, Gas Mark 6. Drizzle the vegetable oil over a large rectangular baking dish (as big as will fit in your oven) and then place the sausages evenly in the dish.

Next, bake the sausages in the oven and watch till they change colour from pink to pasty white (but not brown). As soon as this happens, take the dish out, and then carefully pour in the batter so it pools around the sausages and they look like they're swimming in custard.

Place the dish back in the oven and leave to bake for a further twenty to thirty minutes.


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As soon the batter has puffed up and crisped nicely, and the sausages are toasty brown, it's ready to eat.

Slice up into generous portions making sure everyone gets some of the gorgeous Yorkshire Pudding crust, drown with onion gravy and get stuck in!


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I usually serve creamy mashed potato and baked beans with this, but any steamed veg will do.

It doesn't really matter though because the Toad in the Hole is the star attraction!

EDITED ON 29.01.2010: I've just entered this into AmuseBouche UK's Battle for Toad Hall :)