I'm suppose to look puzzled, not angry!

About Me

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I have a book to publish. Editors love it, marketing departments say 'up the media profile'. So here I am 'upping it' and writing about the book, food, and life in general.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Is it possible to have a stroke in one's buttock?

I was supposed to be coming home to cook some deliciousness and blog about it tonight  but I've been knocked sideways by my backside.

Whilst drying myself in front of the mirror this morning, I noticed that my left buttock had developed a sagging appendage - it had become a sort of cheek with-a-lesser cheek.  I turned, I twirled - my right cheek was just as it had been for the last 20 years.  Not exactly firm but nevertheless it was not a sad old sagging two-bag affair like the left one.

 I appeared to have suffered some kind of  'stroke of the buttock'.

There had been an article in the Sunday Times this week about how to get a Brazilian bum (and it did not mean paying for boys).  Unfortunately, as I thought I would never need such advice, I used this particular piece of journalism to line the bottom of the cockateil's cage.  Today, three days later, I have been scraping the birds poo off the page to rescue the exercise instructions.

Then this afternoon, voicing my problem at the school gates, the gorgeous and glamorous Clare-mum said that her sewing machinist friend had very differing buttocks due to the constant exercise of pushing a pedal with her right foot.

"So what do you do with your right leg that you don't do with your left?" Clare asked, "Is your right buttock firmer because you exercise your right leg more?"

Very good point.  The only additional exercise my right leg gets is 1) crossing it over my left leg

                                                                                                    2) kicking things

I must stop kicking things.  No!  I must start kicking things twice - once with each leg.  Yeah!  Exercise problem sorted.  I expect results in a week.

Monday, 28 May 2012

A funny place, Llandudno . .

Dog gone dogfish
I found this fabulous dried out dogfish on the beach in Llandudno yesterday.  It's very crispy and perfectly formed but whiffs a bit.  The family were quite horrified at the aroma it gave off in the hot car but I quite liked it because it reminded me of bottarga - the dried roe of the grey mullet.

I used to frequent Pane Vino in Kentish Town where they served bottarga grated over pasta.  The only trouble was that I had difficulty finding dining partners.  My friend Matthew refused to eat there again with me after he said my pasta smelled like the bottom of a hamster cage.  He should know as he had a ginger hamster called Bianca at the time.

A funny place Llandudno. After a thrilling speed-dinghy ride (only £4 p person) we spotted La Taverna and, fancying a bit of Greek, in we went.  It was Italian.  I had no idea the Italians used the word 'taverna'.  Anyhow, the house Pinot Grigio was crisp and dry, the garlic and rosemary bread was flat and delicious (but confusingly called 'foccacia'  which I thought described the soft dimpled stuff) and the hazelnut ice cream with espresso just divine.  I must have had a main course - oh yes, prawns with garlic and chilli.  Disappointingly without their shells but tasty enough.  Joe (6) was playing the grown up and asked the waitress, "Please may I have the antipasto misto and then the filleto al pepe".  I butted in with the answer of, "Not on your Nelly, young man. You'll have the spag bol and be happy with it."

We picked up two leaflets for peculiar hotels - one was The Lighthouse which has only three rooms to let and is well worth a visit.  The second was for The Tynedale which is described as 'a cruise on dry land'.  More on that later.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

A Bunch of B***ards at Billingsgate

I was all set to watch the lovely Fernando tonight at 9pm but for some reason The Restaurant Inspector is having a mid-season break until the 11th June.  What the bloody hell is that all about?  But, joy!  It meant I caught the fantastic fishy tale, Inside Billingsgate which you absolutely must watch on the i player if you missed it.

Roger who started as a porter, and is now the main-man merchant is ready to poop on his porters from a dizzy height.  An ancient law says they must be licensed and protected but Roger thinks that it's time to open up to competition - let the cheap labour in and have done with it.  One porter has been with Roger for 18 years and Roger refuses to say if he'll still have a job if the laws change.

"I hope to turn over between £150 and £175 thousand this week"  said Rog.  Oh My God.  How much?  He took £35,000 in one day!  Why has he been in the business until he's old, knackered and everyone hates him?  He could have retired as a rich man after a decade.

Then there was the other merchant who was being most unpleasant to the Chinese as they were trying to choose the finest live eels.  He admitted that since the pie and mash shops have gone the Chinese are his main buyers so why doesn't he try to show them some respect?

I've never done Billingsgate but always intended to at some point in the future (when I was in a fit state at 4am to handle a fish market).  Now I can't because I will end up causing a right old stink worse than any rotting fish if I have to personally witness Roger trying to humiliate his staff or any of the other gits having a go at anyone born outside the toll of the Bow bells.

Another thing . . .you all know how I feel about razor clams (see the Spooks blog) so I was shocked and stunned to see Roger having to hide a box because it would cause a riot if anyone saw it.  He meant they would be fighting over it rather than fighting to get out of its way lest they were attacked by the pesky molluscs as I was (are they molluscs?).

And finally . . .  the funniest bit was where one merchant was talking about the pollack v cod debate.  He said that Jamie and Hugh had gone about campaigning for fish and chip shops to sell less cod and more pollack and the result? Cod's dropped in price, pollack has shot up and is now being over fished.  "And it tastes like s**t." he said and went on to liken cod to a healthy-eating body builder and pollack as a lard-arsed Jeremy Kyle watching, junk food addict.  Classic.

By the way, when I was a dinner lady (yes, I have a shady past) I worked with a kitchen porter called Big George who had been a fisherman on the trawlers in Brixham, Devon.  He had retired from fishing because his legs had gone after spending years knee deep in ice, packing the fish on the boats.  He said that skate was the only fish that could not be brought on board because it exuded such slime that no-one could stand up on deck.  It was kept in nets off the side of the boat.  Now I knew there was a legend or myth or possible truth about fishermen and skate but George looked at me like I was mad when I nudged and winked and muttered, "Did the wife ever get jealous of the skate, then?"  Have I made this up or does anyone else remember this fisherman's tale?  Let me know.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

While the husband's away, the Chef will play . . .

An odd yet delicious dinner
This evening I have made the following for dinner;

Shepherd's pie with garlic sautĂ©ed courgettes for Ged, his mum and dad.

Fish fingers, rice and green beans for Joe.

Pasta with courgettes, roast peppers, cherry tomatoes and parmesan for Zoe.

And then  . . . .

A collection of Israeli bits and bobs at Carrie Ann's tea rooms  for our TV pilot; roast red and green pepper salad, tehina, tabbouleh, merguez sausages and fried matzo rolls filled with both spinach and feta, and smoked aubergine and pine nuts.  Actually, I think I forgot to put the pine nuts in.  And a fiery chilli, fennel and sesame seed condiment - I'm not sure what to call it  - it's sort of a paste but more lumpy.

Then finally . . .

I came home and after putting the kids to bed made myself a plate of mashed potato, topped with creamed garlic spinach and lots of the yummy chilli/fennel/sesame thing.

Ged hates spinach, mash and chilli so, much as I am missing him, I am very happy that I can comfort myself in the pleasures of his larder-from-hell.

This afternoon I dipped into Claudia Roden's The Book of Jewish Food  (my bible, or should I say, my Talmud even though I'm not Jewish) to see if she included a recipe for my matzo rolls.  I was pleased to see that she didn't.  The recipe comes from my ex-mother in law who was a Greek heritage Israeli living in Tel Aviv.  The matzo rolls were made during Pesach when no leavening is permitted. I would be happy to give you the recipe but you really need to see it done as it involves washing the matzos and precise timing of when they are just wet enough to roll and fry.  So you will have to wait for the TV series.

It's now 10.20pm and I still have to gather the washing in from the line.  This is my only gripe about sunny days - one feels too guilty to use the tumble drier.  This means one has to spend a lifetime pegging it out, staying in to watch for clouds (or kicker thieves), then dragging it all back in after too many glasses of Retsina to find it all needs ironing because Little Miss Sunshine has rendered everything crisp and crinkly.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Pinkietessa the Crinoline Queen . . . and curry sauce.

Pinkietessa on the left,  in trademark pink crinoline  
Whilst out and about filming with Carrie Ann from Artisan Tearooms today I was thinking how CA reminded me of the wonderful Pinkietessa.

Pinkie and I used to sign on together at the dole office above the Job Centre on Camden High Street in the 80's (not all of the 80's, I did work sometimes). Pinkie would flounce in, full crinoline a-flowing with her Little Bo Peep parasol and perfectly kiss-curled hair.  Brave, brave lady.

Years later I exhibited her cartoons at the Young Unknowns, the gallery famous for exhibiting human foetus earrings.  Then there were the wild nights at Heaven watching Pinkie on stage swinging a la Fragonard and singing her heart out.

At one point in my illustrious career I decided I would host transvestite tea parties at the Candid Gallery in Islington.  It never got further than the planning stage but at one point I gathered together a formidable group of girls and boys willing to get involved - Pinkietessa, Paula the booker from Elite model agency, a mad little thing in hotpants who was Vivienne Westwood's PA (Viv had her cutting rooms around the corner in Greenland Rd, Camden) and a very young looking boy who said he was about to start a magazine with a photographer called Rankin (we knew Rankin because he had shot me and the ex for his Blow Up series at the Milk Bar).  Yes, that youngster was no other than Jefferson Hack and he was about to launch Dazed and Confused.  Pipe dream, we thought.  Who would have known that he would have grown up to marry Kate Moss?

So what's all this got to do with the price of bacon, you're asking?  Yes, this is supposed to be a food (ish) blog.  Well, Carrie Ann arrived today looking as striking as Pinkietessa of old. We were filming at Holts fish and chip shop in Nelson because they make their own curry sauce to a secret Chinese recipe.  Secret until we filmed it, that is.  So I may as well tell you that it's made by boiling cinnamon, star anise, chilli and garlic flakes, curry powder and various vegetables in boiling oil.  Flour is the final ingredient before the whole lot gets cooked up for a couple of hours.  Et voila 400 portions of curry sauce.  Hopefully, this will all be coming to a TV screen near you soon.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

The Sunday Round-Up

Look what I found in the Asian Times (one of Brierfield's free papers) yesterday.  With reference to yesterday's blog post - here it is in black and white,  my old enemy turmeric is being touted as the new wonder drug to help fight bowel cancer.  Funny thing is, it says the active compound found in turmeric is curcumin.  Wouldn't you think they would have found that one in cumin?

It's been a bit of a busy week.  On Tuesday night I met up with the lovely Carrie-Ann to discuss our plans for TV.  We got a bit lost (even though we were no more than five miles from my home) and ended up in a very weird pub called The Roggerham Gate.  The only other punters were a table of men making fish flies and a bloke collecting his egg money  - the Roggerham sells eggs as well as crisps at the bar -  £1 for a half dozen and very nice too.  My quick drink with Carrie-Ann turned into three hours and when I came home at 10.45pm Ged had not even put the sea bream in the oven.  We feasted at midnight on the crispy skinned fish and a bottle of Kourtaki Retsina.

Today I was a good girl and took the kids to church (why do I always sing 'Cadbury' instead of 'Calvary'?) leaving Ged to take the pork out of the electric oven which was on 240C to crisp the skin and put it into the gas oven on number 1 to slow cook for 5 hours.  Herewith is the result of a misunderstanding.
Not so cracking crackling

Strangely, after removing all the incinerated  crackling the meat was still moist and delicious.  God knows how, as it was on number 9 for over 2 hours.  Last week was the first time I had ever managed to cook a bit of pork without ruining it - thanks to Johnnie Mountain's new cookbook.  It now seems  I can do no wrong with the cloven hoofed beast.

Talking of pigs, last night we went to the beetle drive and pie and peas supper in Barley.  Bev Lancaster, the dinner lady at the kids' school, who is also a local farmer arrived late because her poor pig had been set upon by next door's cows.  They had cornered the poor thing and battered it and bullied it until Bev came to the rescue.  It was shaking like a leaf when she found it.  I've never trusted cows and this tale only confirms all my worst fears about them.  Nasty beasts.  Actually I'm pretty scared of pigs too, ever since I was a London nanny and took a two year old to The Kentish Town City Farm.  Little Sammy put his hand out to pat the pig and the pig took his hand off.  Or so I thought.  It actually gobbled up his mitten-on-a-string.  I screamed the place down unaware that Sammy had quickly pulled his hand back up his sleeve.

I've also caught up on my old friend Fernando's The Restaurant Inspector series this weekend.  After telling everyone on Twitter not to miss it, I missed it myself.  I'm thinking of writing to Channel 5 to tell them that they have to stop feeding foulness to my friend.  He is a man of elegance and refinement!  Poor Fernando, hurling in that awful African hell hole.

To bed for my pre-filming beauty sleep.  Carrie-Ann has had her hair and eyelashes done today ready for the event while I have done nothing but cook and scrub my mother-in-law's kitchen.  Not fair.

Friday, 18 May 2012

When is a Curry not a Curry?

I love a good curry but about a year ago I suddenly became allergic to it.  Unfortunately, I was the designated driver of seven unlucky people on the night it happened.  They had their curry dinner evening cut short when I told them they had better get back in the car before my eyes swelled up so much that I could no longer see to drive.

I've had allergic reactions to various foodstuffs over the years so I recognised the symptoms on the curry night; my eyelids began to itch before starting to swell, my spine ached like I had been kicked and my arms and legs were heavy as lead.

The first time I ever had an allergic reaction to food was on the evening of the Soho bomb blast in 1999.  I escaped Soho and sought refuge in Covent Garden's LIVEBAIT restaurant.  Before the end of that dreadful night I was throwing up my oysters and Puligny Montrachet in their loos and my eyelids were swollen like a losing boxer's.  Since then I've had trouble with wheat and cats (being around them, that is, not eating them).  Getting pregnant usually calls a halt to any allergies - don't ask me why.

To cut a long story short, after the curry incident I set off for the Kashmiri Foodstore in Burnley.  I had decided to buy all the dry spices used in a curry to find out which one was the troublemaker.  I threw everything I could think of into my shopping basket;  seeds of coriander, mustard, cumin and cardamom; chilli, paprika and turmeric powder, cloves and cinnamon sticks.  Then I thought, 'It's called 'curry' so it must contain curry spice from the curry plant'.  But there was no single curry spice to be found.

I came home and did a bit of googling. Wikipedia says that the word 'curry' comes from a Tamil word 'kari' which means 'sauce'. But where does that leave the curry plant?  It smells of 'curry' but is apparently inedible.

Anyhow, after a lot of messing about with different spices I discovered that turmeric was the enemy.  It's supposed to be an anti-inflammatory but seems to have the opposite effect on me.  My brother-in-law, Tariq who is Pakistani said that his mum used to boil up turmeric in water and soak bandages in it to put on swollen ankles.

I have now devised the perfect 'curry' recipe but the spice quantities are very loose, so to speak. That's a large pan on the left with three big onions and 4 large cloves of garlic chopped and fried in ghee until coloured but not too brown and sloppy.

In the frying pan is a large handful of mixed whole spices - coriander, cumin, cinnamon bark, dried ginger, bay leaves, black pepper, cloves and cardamom.  Toast it, pestle it, throw it in the onions, add eight chicken legs then salt and chilli powder to taste.  Fill with water to cover the chicken pieces, bring to a simmer put the lid on then stick it in the oven on Gas 1, 140C and forget about it for a couple of hours.  If it's too spicy, whisk some natural yoghurt into it.

Curry without the curry

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Is Crispy Skin the Greatest Sin?

Ducky dinners
How is one supposed to diet when there are so many delicious things to eat in a lifetime?  I had to starve myself all day yesterday so that I could indulge in the divine pleasure of duck-skin-eating last night.

Ged-the-lovely-husband is the man who taught me how to cook a decent duck.

Pre heat oven to Gas 7, 220C.
Pour boiling water over duck to shrink the skin.
When dry, rub with sunflower oil then cover with sea salt.  Put it on a trivet over a deep roasting pan.
Pop it in the oven until the skin starts bubbling up and                                                                     browning -  about 20 mins - then turn it right down to No 3, 170C for a good couple of hours.

When you pull at the leg it should come away like a confit leg and the skin should be super-crispy with no white fat left beneath it.  It can sit out of the oven while you whack up the heat and roast the potatoes in the duck fat while making a gravy with the stock.  Yum yum.

In EATING MY WORDS I make Peking duck for the arms dealer and his family.  It was not a total success and involved a very grumpy maid with a hair-dryer, a paint brush and a bucket of ducky marinade.  Best left to the Chinese methinks.

Monday, 14 May 2012

Eat your heart out Nigella . .

Wings and things
Nigella is tweeting about wing tips so here's a pic of my legendary wings on the home menu last night.  Paprika, fennel seeds, celery and garlic salt, bit of soy, Tabasco and 3 hours at Mark 3 in the gas oven.

12 pubs a week closing in Lancashire but not The Assheton Arms

There have been reports in the papers and  posts on Twitter today all saying that we need to get out there and support our local pubs; especially here in Lancashire where 12 a week are closing.  So I am proud to announce that 13 of us had a boozy lunch at The Assheton Arms in Downham yesterday.

There had been rumours last year that Marco PW was to run the place but thankfully The Seafood Pub Company outbid him just days before Christmas.  They closed it down and bashed and smashed it into a shape  that had me lost at every turn yesterday.  Where have all those little rooms appeared from?  A table for ten can now have its own little ante-chamber.  And then there's another for a table of eight. I like that - it means the public can't see me force-feeding my children while muttering, "Yes, artichokes may taste of burnt plastic, darling, but they are very expensive so eat them all up."

Actually, I had no need to threaten my children yesterday as they had the ribs and loved them, Zoe's adult portion hanging over the sides of her plate.  The fresh chillies in her salad should probably have come with a warning but she had the sense to let me taste them first.

My piece of hake (with peas, bacon and pearl onions) was an enormous slab of perfectly cooked, milky, meaty fish.  Ged's slow cooked lamb a tender mould of torn meat.  He asked for mint sauce and I stopped myself from saying, "If the chef intended it to be served with mint sauce, darling, he would have provided it".  It arrived instantly and was fresh.

I worked the table, as you do, taking photos (which did nothing justice) and interrogating my family about their meals.  We're a picky lot, we cook a lot, we eat a lot but there were no complaints.  Not even from me and that's a first (see yesterday's post if you don't believe me).

Actually, I've thought of something.  I know there is no 'R' in the month of May but we would have liked a bit more seafood on the menu.  Yes, there was a seafood curry but I'm allergic to bloody curry and the monkfish and king prawn tagine was too much of a sloppy dish to appeal to us.  We like a lobster on the grill, a skewer of chargrilled prawns, even a decent crab sandwich.

Cannot comment on the puds because we had a birthday cake the size of a coffee table waiting at home but we'll be back.

Almost a ten out of ten, only failing on the seafood choices.  Service from Dan the Manager and James the Waiter was the best I've had in years.  Anthony Shirley is the chef (ex Harvey Nichs) and doing a fine job.

And it was packed.  Which does lead me to think that if these failing Lancashire pubs are going to survive they have to be first class eateries AND they have to be independent of the breweries.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

How many anchovies does it take to make a Caesar Salad?

Last week, in a restaurant in Morecambe, Ged- the- lovely husband declared, "Really Gill, I think we should be paid to eat out with you."  I had just sent back my lettuce with cheap mayonnaise and soggy croutons which had tried to pass itself off as a Caesar salad.

The waiter had been Italian.  Zoe-the-11-year-old said, "How come he doesn't know what a Caesar salad is?  Wasn't Julius Caesar Italian?"

I had tried one mouthful of the sloppy lettuce and, knowing what the answer would be, I asked the waiter if he could fetch some more anchovies from the kitchen.   As predicted, he came back from the kitchen anchovy-less.  "Chef does not put anchovies in the salad, so we have none.  Sorry."

'Not as sorry as you'll be when I've finished with you'  I thought.  Ged and the kids groaned in unison at what was coming.   I kindly explained to the waiter that if  the menu said 'Classic Caesar Salad' then there must be anchovies in the dressing.  Cheap, slimy catering-standard mayonnaise would not do as a substitute.

When I came home I decided to blog about it. I googled Caesar to find out his full name and . . . Horror!  Wikipedia said that Caesar bloody Cardini NEVER put anchovies in his Caesar salad and that the slight anchovy taste came only from the Worcestershire sauce.  NO!

I thought about trying to edit the Wikipedia entry but was a bit worried that my name would show up and I would be found out.

Ged said, "Well, do you think the salad you sent back had any Worcestershire sauce in it?"


"Well then, you were perfectly justified in sending it back."

Yes, I was justified in sending it back because it was inedible slop but I was still wrong  about the anchovies   I HATE to be wrong.  I need to know that I'm not the only one who thought there were anchovies in a Caesar (besides the smidgen in the Worcestershire sauce).  What about you Matthew Fort? And the lovely Nigella, would you have thought there was an anchovy lurking in a decent Caesar?  Please say you did. . .

Friday, 11 May 2012

Suffer little sheepy to come to my plate . . .

Lamb chop production in Blacko

To Blacko for the Lambing Service - a rural C of E service held in a barn to say thank you to God for the safe delivery of the baby sheep.

Even though I had been to the lovely Charlotte's farm before, I could not remember for the life in me where it was and got horribly lost until I met the milkman, Philip, who pointed me in the right direction.  Unfortunately we missed the service but happily we were in time for tea and yummy cakes.

This here gaudily daubed sheep in the picture had just delivered a still born baby which must have put a bit of a damper on the 'Give Thanks for Safe Delivery' service.

She is in the strange 'stocks' kind of contraption so that two little orphaned lambs can feed from her.  If she was not trapped they wouldn't stand a chance of getting near her nipples.  She doesn't recognise the smell of the little 'uns and she doesn't want them anywhere near her.

I was told tonight that lavender is rubbed on the orphans and on the nose of the mother-of-the-stillborn in an attempt at uniting the two.  Sometimes the skin is taken off the dead sheep and put on the orphan but usually the lavender and stocks combination does the job and the mother gives in and starts happily feeding the orphans after two days.

I did feel sorry for the poor mum sheep, what with her being all restricted and everything but I just couldn't help salivating at the thought of lamb chops and lamb hotpot and lamb tagine.  I could go on.  Sorry vegetarians but God gave us carnivore's teeth and taste buds and the gift of being good shepherds.  I rest my case.

Oh no! Three missed calls from Johnnie Mountain and my blog has been removed from the BBC website!!!

Johnnie and the spam

BBC apology for my blog disappearing
All in all it's been a bit of a stressful day.  I published my blog this morning saying that Johnnie was no longer speaking to me and then the next thing I know, the link to my blog  on the BBC Great British Menu website suddenly disappears!  So, being me who is a bit paranoid, I thought the only reason it would have been removed would be if someone had made a complaint.  My prime suspect was Johnnie Mountain.  I thought he must be hopping mad that I had told the world about his having a strop with me.

AND THEN horrors or horrors, I was checking my spam and there was a message from Johnnie. From over a week ago! I have no idea how it got there as he is in my contact list but there it was - a reply to my e mail asking if he had fallen out with me.  It said, amongst other things, "Love ya more than ever. . .  super busy . . .thanks for all your support."

SUPPORT!  I e mailed him straight away to say I had just found him in spam and that I was really, really sorry but had just published my blog telling everyone how he was not my friend anymore.

When I looked at my 'phone a few minutes later I had 3 missed calls from Johnnie.  Fearfully I called him back to hear him say, "I hate you Watson!"  My knees were all of a tremble, I can tell you.

He was joking.  He'd read the blog, thought it was great and bore no malice for my sloppy spam checking.

I now have to go out to a Lambing Service in a barn in Blacko but will be back to watch GBM and blog about Johnnie later.  Phew!

It's time to come clean. Johnnie Mountain is no longer my famous friend . . .

Well not for now it seems.  The Great British Menu website published a link to my blog yesterday resulting in a few billion hits and a goodly number of comments, some of which were a bit anti-Johnnie Mountain.  Zoe, my 11yr old went to bed in tears after reading one of them. She sobbed, "Mum, why are people being nasty about Johnnie, it's not fair!"

You see, Zoe has known Johnnie since she was a babe and thinks he's the bees-knees.  She wants to be a chef and work with Johnnie when she grows up.

But back to the 'falling out'.  I'd thought it unnecessary to mention in my blog that Johnnie was no longer talking to me because I know what he's like and I know he'll come round sooner or later.  But I'm mentioning it now because I need to let all those angry people out there know that his stroppiness = his passion and without that there would be no excitement and no decent cooking going on.  And yes, he is a fantastic chef and, as I've said before, the food has always been amazing whenever I have eaten in any of his three restaurants.

I called Johnnie a couple of months ago because the editors who loved my book, EATING MY WORDS said I had to get myself on TV first if I was to compete on the bookshelves with the likes of Jamie and Ramsey.  I wasn't asking to be on TV with Johnnie, I just wanted some contacts.  But Johnnie being Johnnie, within half an hour he had set up two meetings with TV production companies.  A week later we were sitting with the TV people and there was suddenly the possibility of Johnnie and I being the next 'Two Fat Ladies'.  Until I messed up.

Without saying too much (because Johnnie still has a TV career and for some reason production companies like to keep their plans secret) I contradicted something Johnnie said in my e mail to one of the producers.  My excuse is that I had just had a nasty experience in  a kids' cookery competition. One of the children on my team had cooked her finger after sticking it in boiling sugar syrup and then put my razor-sharp fish-filleting knife into her mouth to lick it after using it to loosen a chocolate soufflĂ©.  If I had not screamed, 'Don't move!' and carefully removed the knife from her mouth, her face would have been flapping and I would have gone to prison for a very long time.

So, I've upset Mr Mountain and he's not talking to me but for all of you out there who think my blogsite is a place to bitch about him, please do it on Twitter instead.  Because we know him and we love him and I don't want my daughter crying herself to sleep again.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Johnnie be Bad . . .

Well, for me the highlight of tonight's Great British Menu was Simon nearly having a heart attack because he  forgot to plug in his bloody Frankenstein machine.  At least it got a smile out of Marcus.

And, I  realised  that I don't want Johnnie to be good at all.  When Aiden cheekily asked Johnnie which pud he thought was best I wanted him to say, "Well Aiden, I have to say that the desserts created by you and Simon today were . . . .(and then keep him waiting for at least 30 seconds as Prue Leith will be doing shortly) . . ." and then he should have cried, "Pants, compared to what I would have done."  Because Johnnie could have talked up his dish as much as he liked, no-one was ever going to taste it.  It would remain forever as the ultimate fantasy dessert.

Someone, I think it was Giles Coren  said the other week that all his favourite dishes were things he had never tasted - sometimes mad combinations which he new were best kept inside his head.  Johnnie missed his perfect opportunity to fill our heads with a dish so sublime that it was beyond creation.

Roast turkey courtesy of the Co-op £8!!
And here's our dinner for tonight.  Frozen, cheap as chips,turkey from the Co-op. I whacked it in the gas oven on number 9 for 20 mins after seasoning with celery salt and white pepper; then gave it 4 lengthy hours at number 1.  Perfect!

PS  When Johnnie was on the Great British Menu  last time I texted him saying, "Does Marcus love you or hate you, Johnnie?"  He passed this comment on to Marcus who replied, "I love you, Johnnie."  I still don't know.  Will we see Johnnie and Marcus with their own 'Two Fat Ladies' style programme next year?  Maybe. . .

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Johnnie be good . . .

'We just want ya to be our teddy bear'
Now what you need to ask yourself is, would Johnnie ever choose the expression, "Sorry I threw all my toys out of the pram" or was he coerced?

And why did we not find out what Johnnie had in mind for his meaty main even if we were never going to see him cook it? We needed something to get our tastebuds going tonight because the rotting vegetables and un-melted  animal fat were just not doing it for us here in Lancashire.

What is the positive side of Johnnie no longer being in the game?  Well, at least it's one less chef saying, "I think it's pushing the boundaries, Marcus" which I, for one, am bloody sick of hearing.

Will Johnnie don his chef's whites again?  We could take a vote but I think it's unlikely.

PS   Adorable Elvis was Ged's other birthday present from me and the kids.  He is actually animated but can presently only perform a kind of 'Parkinson's disease' shake when turned on.  He needs a remote control so if there's anybody out there with one to spare, let me know.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

All at Sea with Johnnie Mountain

Oh heck, poor Johnnie.  Yes, it would have been nice to see a bit of fish swimming in that sea of his but it was, nevertheless, a very nice sea.  I wonder if Heston's punters send his seaside recreation back because they 'just don't get it'?

I think Marcus did make some valid points - there was no place for smokiness if the main element was supposed to be the smell of the sea and if the gel was not a knock-out taste then there was no point in it being there.  Even if it did look lovely.

BUT Simon Rogan messed up with his toys more than Johnnie did.  At least Johnnie achieved what he set out to do with his molecular wizard's kit - his liquid became a perfect sand, his sea gelled just as he wanted it to.  Whereas Simon intended his poaching toy to raise the taste of  lobster to a height no-one had ever experienced before.  Even he admitted that he had failed on that point.  And he said he'd under-cuckooed his smudge of emulsion.  How come Marcus let Simon get away with it and yet told Johnnie he had messed up big time?

SO. . . bugger me, the razor clams were the ten out of ten winner; although I suspect they could have been substituted with a tasty scallop and then we would be looking at an eleven out of ten.

Come back Johnnie-gone-lately, you're a Great British Menu TV ratings dream come true.

Big Daddy Tabasco with two baby 'bascos
PS  The first time I was in Johnnie's apartment in Chalk Farm I snook into his kitchen to check out his fridge contents while he was having a slash.  Until that night I had been terrified of him coming round to mine and discovering I had a fridge devoid of any culinary wonders (my excuse being that my fridge was dedicated to the needs of my toddler daughter).  I need not have worried, Johnnie didn't even have any Tabasco for my half of the take-away Basilico pizza we were sharing.  Of course, being a working chef he had the valid excuse that he never ate at home.

The above picture shows the fabulous Tabasco miniatures which we found in Harvey Nichols in Manchester.  They fit perfectly into the lipstick-holder elastics of my handbag so I never need be caught short again.

Monday, 7 May 2012

Forgot to mention the Spooks!

Aiden Byrne is going to be cooking bloody Spooks tomorrow night.  I can only hope that they turn out tastier than ours. And I will be delighted if he gets shot in the face by one of them like I did because my family seem to think it was my own fault for looking at the razor clam in a funny fashion.  

I told you there was trouble brewing on the Great British Menu!

It's all going to get nasty tomorrow and me, Ged and the kids are scared of how the public will react.  Because we know that Johnnie may be a stroppy little madman but we love him and not without good reason.  We have eaten in all his restaurants and Johnnie has always made time to be with us and never acted the Primadonna.

If you knew Johnnie how I know Johnnie then you would know that he went into the Great British Menu  competition determined to create something fabulous AND appropriate to the Olympic theme.  Did you notice that he was the only North West chef who even mentioned the word 'Olympic' let alone spend hours in a strange library-I-have-never-even-heard-of talking Olympic Gods with a clever-man-of-Olympic-knowledge?

The first time Johnnie invited me to eat at Mosaica he created a showcase of gorgeousness and - Marcus Wareing take note - even in those early days he was showing skills, imagination and perfect timing that chefs in the game for far longer would have been jealous of.  At the end of that night I took a taxi home to Chalk Farm and Johnnie accompanied me by doing a wheelie on his motorbike for a good length of the journey from Wood Green to Chalk Farm (ie. too bloody far).  Yes, he's crazy but he has proved he can cook.

I also know that Johnnie talks about Simon Rogan as if he were an Olympic god himself so I was a little disturbed at Simon's comments regarding Johnnie's use of the molecular malarkey and saying that it was all a bit old hat.  Why can't all the chefs just be nice to each other?  So far the Northern Ireland chefs have been the nicest of the bunch.  We don't want tension Mr TV maker, we want the food to be the competition not the chefs' personalities.

Rib, Yorkshires and Dauphinoise
So . . . . Zoe said she wanted to try Johnnie's cherry ravioli.  I fancied the goose liver in a cheery, cherry blanket and Ged said he was happy to be eating his birthday rib of beef with all the trimmings, thank you very much.

Joe played with Cyberdog.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Bloody feeds

why won't the e mail work????

Famous Friends # 2 - Johnnie Mountain is kicking off on the Great British Menu

Johnnie's Shoulder
Tomorrow night (Monday 7th May) 7pm, BBC2.  DO NOT miss the Great British Menu because this week Johnnie Mountain is stirring up a storm.

Johnnie and I go back a long way - all the way to Chalk Farm, in fact, where we used to live together (so to speak) in the early 2000's.  There is now a website dedicated to The Etons - the mansion block Johnnie and I shared - which lists the many famous people who have resided there from Larry Adler to Sacha Baron-Cohen.  Neither Johnnie nor I get a mention (yet) but that could all change for Mr Mountain this week. I have inside information, you see, and much as I am dying to let the cat out of the bag, I can't.  You will just have to make sure you watch.

In honour of Johnnie, I cooked his slow roast shoulder of pork from his new cookbook, PIG which I am unable to link to because it's not out yet.  Never in my life have I managed to successfully roast pork - until now.  In EATING MY WORDS I describe how I thought I had poisoned thirteen people by serving up lukewarm, wibbly-wobbly pork after buying a pig leg in America which was bigger than a 3yr old child.

The pork in the picture which fed four of us with enough left over for sandwiches today, was an astounding £3.28 at Morrison's.  Half price at the minute and well worth emptying the freezer for.

I will be blogging throughout the week on the Johnnie status just in case anyone misses one of the episodes - remember it starts tomorrow and is on every night this week culminating in cooking the whole menu on Sunday for the judges, Pru Leith, Oliver Peyton and the lovely Matthew Fort.  Matthew is a fellow blogger and I am a great fan http://fortonfood.wordpress.com/.  Check him out but don't leave me for him.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Still trying to sort the 'follow by e mail'

Spooked by the Razor Clams

Scrumptious Sam and Sam
Birthday Boy with escaping 'spooks'
It will be Ged-the-husband's birthday on Monday, cannily planned to coincide with the bank holiday.  We considered all kinds of trips including Alton Towers and Edinburgh and then thought, bugger it, it's too cold to leave the house.

There is an enormous rib of beef in the fridge and a number of bottles of Cabernet on the wine rack,  the heating is on full whack and there's a log fire a-burning in the hearth.  Where to go?

One of Ged's presents from me and the kids in the fabulous Casa Moro cookbook by Sam and Sam Clark.  Ged's been going through a bit of a creative culinary frenzy of late and has ordered himself a cast iron tagine to sit in the embers of the barbecue this summer.  Casa Moro features those crazy clay 'tagias' - the Marrakesh layered stews which cook in the embers of the hamams.  So hopefully, if it's not pouring down all summer, we'll be eating sticky lamb with preserved lemons and the like.

Ged had 'phoned me from Preston market on Tuesday after delivering the restored mayoral chain back to the Town Hall.  "I've found spooks!  How many shall I get?  And what about some pig's tails?"

That added up to a bit too much creative culinarism for my liking. 'Spooks' are razor clams.  He's brought both the clams and the tails home before and spent hours messing about, poaching 'em, frying 'em.  The spooks were a bit rubbery and rather tasteless so I was surprised he wanted to eat them again.  And on their last visit, the pig's tails exploded in a nasty fashion and burned through Ged's best shirt, scarring him for life.  They tasted better than the spooks though.

So I said, "If you must" with regards to the spooks and "Not on your Nelly" to the pig's tails.

As it turned out, I was attacked by the spooks.  They were sitting in a jug of water beside the chopping board while I was preparing the vegetables when suddenly one of the devils squirted me in the face; a full on great fountain of a spurt.   Ged was highly amused to see his wife assaulted so violently by something without a face or limbs.  I was not laughing; and, although not rubbery this time, they were still too lacking in flavour to be worth the time, the effort and the assault.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Talking of looking calm . . .

So, Zoe was saying how nice and calm Fernando looked in all his publicity pictures.  Here is my publicity picture which was rejected by Rockabox TV.  They thought I looked too scary whereas I think I look just as placid as Fernando.

At last a famous friend! Fernando's on the telly. . .

Fernando Peire is back on TV tonight as The Restaurant Inspector,  Channel 5, 9pm.  Don't miss it.  And I truly mean that because Fernando is another step along the road to publication for my book.

He very kindly took the time to read EATING MY WORDS recently to check I had all my facts right about who was who at The IvySheekey's and Quo Vadis back in 1999.  The 90's were my 'Ivy glory years' when, for part of that time, I was living in Soho.  Fernando became a friend when my partner (artist Sadie Lee) and I were irregular regulars in The Ivy's dining room.

Fernando sent Champagne to Sadie's first solo show as a 'Congratulations from The Ivy' gift and when I fell down the stairs while working at L'Escargot, breaking a rib, Fernando offered to send round Ivy take-aways.  I like to think that no-one has ever been offered an Ivy take-away before.  Feel free to prove me wrong.

Zoe has just looked at a picture of Fernando and said he looked 'really nice and very calm'.  And he is, apart from the time when we found him at the door to The Ivy in a bit of a flap because they had a new boy valet parking the diners' cars. He had parked them in vacant spots on the streets of Covent Garden and then, being unfamiliar with the area, promptly forgot their location.  Fernando sorted it, of course, because that's what he excels at.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Facebook Fiasco

I have often been accused of ballsing things up because I am too impatient to read a recipe/instruction manual etc and today I am bearing the consequences of not having read the 'how to' page of Facebook.

Throwing myself in at the deep end (how difficult could it be?), I registered and promptly began looking up a few friends.  Up popped a list of their friends with their respective photographs.  "Ooh" thought I "that's a fine photo of a very interesting looking fellow/fillie".  So I began clicking on various photo profiles to get a bigger, better look and to find out what these interesting people got up to.

The next thing I knew, my inbox began to fill up with messages from Facebook which said, "Mangipari Belogondo has confirmed your friend request" and things of that ilk. At first I thought  it must be an administrative slip of Facebook but no, there were just too many of these strange and interesting 'friends' appearing in my inbox for it to be a mistake.

Then things took a sorry turn for the worse.  I had clicked on a picture of a friend of a friend who was someone I knew from many years ago.  Back then I had been working at The Young Unknowns Gallery - the place famous for exhibiting a pair of human foetus earrings.  We had an exhibition coming up entitled 'Lesbian Erotica' and submissions were arriving daily.  There were a few highlights including a photograph from Tessa Boffin's 'Angelic Rebels' series, an enormous shocker of a painting by Mandy McCartin and a cast of a woman's torso with her hands tied behind her back; by . . . who?  To cut a long story short it turned out that the creator of the piece was male and when we pointed out that it was supposed to be  women-only submission show he suggested that his daughter (also an artist) take credit for the piece.  We uhm'd and ah'd and unethically decided to include it.  And were found out.  It was quite right that the 'friend of a friend' (a notable lesbian photographer) should create a fuss.

And it was quite right that the 'f of f' should now question why the hell I would want to be her Facebook friend.   A message appeared in my inbox asking for an explanation.  Thankfully, the 'f of f' knows the true meaning of the expression, 'let bygones be bygones'.  But it could have got nasty.

There is also a very nice journalist who may be wondering why on earth I am hijacking all his friends.  If he notices this odd (almost stalker-like) activity on his Facebook page then I will apologise and claim extreme stupidity as my defence.  I HAD NO IDEA THAT WHEN I CLICKED ON A PHOTO THE PERSON CONCERNED WAS SENT A MESSAGE SAYING I WANTED TO BE THEIR FRIEND!  Honest.   And I promise to read all the 'how to' guides from now on.