The Perfect Fishfinger Sandwich Hunt- The Purple Dog

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Hello, and welcome to The Purple Dog in central Colchester. It’s a pub and it has history and beams and a beer garden and stuff. I’ve spent many a rowdy evening and one too many boozy afternoons there in my time due to it’s comfy ambience, indie friendly sway on musical matters and pleasing range of food and drink on offer. The Mr and I finished off our first date there in fact, but it was convenience that chose The Purple Dog for lunch this Sunday just gone rather than any kind of romantic nostalgia, I promise you.

So to set the scene yes, it was a sunny Sunday, towards the end of the lunch shift, and sustenance was required before Mr Me began his perilous journey back to the wilds of Maldon. He ordered a jacket with curry no, wait chilli. Yes chilli thanks. Rather obviously, I had a fish finger sandwich.

I shall make a point of saying that I like this pub, and have never been disappointed by their edible offerings previously.

Does this look like a £7.40 lunch to you? No. Me either.

Does this look like a £7.40 lunch to you? No. Me either.

My fish finger sandwich came after a substantially long wait  in a pannini which was a wee bit over done, as were the mega crunchy fishy fingers inside. Standard frozen sort, nothing special there, smear of tartare sauce in the bottom. No salad, no discernible seasoning. Somewhat worrying as the chips on the above photographic evidence were purchased in addition to the £4.75 I paid for my sandwich. If there had been no chips then what, this sad and harshly textured example of joyless calories on a mostly empty plate? Credit where due though, nice plate.

On the whole, unacceptable Mr Purple (or is it just Dog?). I can’t even drag out more words on the subject. Over done bread and a bit of sauce. Passable chips. Not much change out of eight quid. This is why people are eating out less and less, especially in the mid level eateries like your local pub. A little presentation can end up costing so much in these circumstances, if I had never eaten at this pub before this lunch, I wouldn’t ever do so again.

Overall, four out of ten. A standard pub garnish of three curled lettuce leaves plus two slices of cucumber and half a tomato under a thin drizzle of dressing would have increased this substantially. Take away the near cremated state of the fish fingers and this might have made a seven.  I might just stick to boozing next time.

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VIFC Meeting- Fruit!

I have been shamefully slow in the writing up of the May meeting of The Victoria Inn Food Club, and for this, well, lets pretend I have a good excuse and move on.

The May meeting, as determined by the age old fail safe of drawing names from a hat, was fruit, and much like the Chocolate Challenge from April, the results were mouthwatering without exception. Creativity abounded and we all went home as full of vitamin C as we did calories. Some very good healthy options here, and, well and lots of cakey goodness too but let’s not get all tied up in waist watching for this one.

We shall get to it then, summaries below with pictures as thieved from Stuart (thanks Stuart!). Once again full recipes not available at this time but stay tuned for a Christmas Cook Book opportunity for an as yet unconfirmed charity.

 

Starters

Prawn and mango salad from Amanda. Simple and scrummy, the meaty texture of prawns goes so well with soft mango and rounded of with a sharp dressing and a nice crunch of green leaves. Very good.

Prawn and mango salad from Amanda. Simple and scrummy, the meaty texture of prawns goes so well with soft mango and rounded off with a sharp dressing and a nice crunch of green leaves. Very good.

 

Fruit Slabs in Serrano Ham. As if ham and pineapple was ever going to be anything but a winner! Really nice chunky strips of pineapple, melon or mango wrapped up in a little serrano ham parcel from Paula. This is the kind of food that makes diets doable. Really tasty and satisfying and truly saintly in the macros.

Fruit Slabs in Serrano Ham. As if ham and pineapple was ever going to be anything but a winner! Really nice chunky strips of pineapple, melon or mango wrapped up in a little serrano ham parcel from Paula. This is the kind of food that makes diets doable. Really tasty and satisfying and truly saintly in the macros.

Green apple and halloumi salad from Ian. This one is my joint winner dish of the night. Crunchy green salad with fresh apple wedges went so well with the salty halloumi cheese and a dusting of cinnamon throughout to balance out with a little sweetness. Fabulous.

Green apple and halloumi salad from Ian. This is one of my joint winner dishes of the night. Crunchy green salad with fresh apple wedges went so well with the salty halloumi cheese and a dusting of cinnamon throughout to balance out with a little sweetness. Fabulous.

Wraps with hand made turkey goujons and a cranberry sauce. It's like christmas dinner in a wrap! Well not quite, but it was very good and possibly not a starter but I took one on my first plate so it goes in the first section. Really nice idea and a combination I previously wouldn't have considered in a wrap/sandwich type affair. I will now! Good work David.

Wraps with hand made turkey goujons and a cranberry sauce. It’s like christmas dinner in a wrap! Well not quite, but it was very good and possibly not a starter but I took one on my first plate so it goes in the first section. Really nice idea and a combination I previously wouldn’t have considered in a wrap/sandwich type affair. I will now! Good work David.

Mains

Pan fried (yes I know you hate the term) mackerel with roasted rhubarb. Yes, rhubarb is technically a vegetable as Tom was keen to point out but as Sheena is our leader and this was soooo good, we will let her off for that. A fantastic and unusual fish dish, just about seasonal at the moment I think and well worth a go at home. Great.

Pan fried (yes I know you hate the term) mackerel with roasted rhubarb. Yes, rhubarb is technically a vegetable as Tom was keen to point out but as Sheena is our leader and this was soooo good, we will let her off for that. A fantastic and unusual fish dish, just about seasonal at the moment I think and well worth a go at home. Great.

My own offering, robbed word for word from Phil Vickery (recipe link at the end of this post). This is a slow-ish cooked pork shoulder dish cooked with lots of plums, soy and worcester sauce. Certainly not sweet and sour this gave really tender meat in a thick, dark and wonderfully rich sauce with a spicy back note. I loved it, and congratulate myself heartily.

My own offering, robbed word for word from Phil Vickery (recipe link at the end of this post). This is a slow-ish cooked pork shoulder dish cooked with lots of plums, soy and worcester sauce. Certainly not sweet and sour this gave really tender meat in a thick, dark and wonderfully rich sauce with a spicy back note. I loved it, and congratulate myself heartily.

Desserts

My second joint winner of the night from Tom, and not just because he had the confidence/balls to serve a cake that really did fall out of the tin in bits. I once made a cake that did this and was so mortified by the results that I gave the broken cake to my neighbour who I don't like and made another one. Well done Tom for being rather more sensible and less vain that I am. And double well done for putting together a really tasty, moist, golden apple cake which I really could have polished off without any help at all. Top notch.

My second joint winner of the night from Tom, and not just because he had the confidence/balls to serve a cake that really did fall out of the tin in bits. I once made a cake that did this and was so mortified by the results that I gave the broken cake to my neighbour who I don’t like and made another one. Well done Tom for being rather more sensible and less vain that I am. And double well done for putting together a really tasty, moist, golden apple cake which I really could have polished off without any help at all. Top notch.

Matt came up with these lovely profiteroles filled with a strikingly coloured and wonderfully sharp blackberry cream and devilish toffee shards to garnish. A great take on a classic.

Matt came up with these lovely profiteroles filled with a strikingly coloured and wonderfully sharp blackberry cream and devilish toffee shards to garnish. A great take on a classic.

Unarguably beautiful effort from Stuart- a perfectly presented fruit tart. Great texture from a buttery shotbread base, topped with a rummy custard then immaculately topped with sliced soft fruits. Marvellous.

Unarguably beautiful effort from Stuart- a perfectly presented fruit tart. Great texture from a buttery shotbread base, topped with a rummy custard then immaculately finished with sliced soft fruits. Marvellous.

See you next month for 80s night! Will we have to go full on with outfits, beverages and soundtrack too? Come back in June to find out!

For the pork dish I made click here it’s fantastic.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Little Plug- CHeFS at Colchester Institute.

I don’t need to explain to anyone who has ever ground the nine to five grind that there is something very special about a Friday. Magical things happen around this portal to the weekend. Things like swapping the suits and sensible shoes in favour of ‘dress down’, the sudden abandonment of weekday diet righteousness for Friday Cakes, a relaxing couple of closing hours of the business day playing candy crush after the boss inevitably buggers off home at three and the sudden total lack of restraint that speaks to your soul and says yes, yes I think we will go out for lunch. It’s Friday.

At my glorious establishment of employment this usually means a pannini and skinny fries at the pub a couple of doors away but this Friday just gone I was told I was going to the Clone Restaurant at the local college. It turns out that this was a comical typo and not some kind of Lucasfilm themed lunchery (I’m bagsing that idea for the future BTW) and we were headed to the Colne Bistro- one of three rather charming open to the public restaurants which form part of the catering college at Colchester Institute.

I hope to rack up enough eating experience to fully review all options here, but for now I can only reflect on one surprisingly pleasing lunch. For the Colne Bistro option, you arrive into a really sweet dining area with almost twee rattan furniture on the carpeted hall floor staffed by some immaculately turned out students from the college. Yes, students. They are not seasoned professionals but they are doing a pretty good job so cut them some slack. Water and bread come to your table free of charge and promptly after you are seated. And if you like scrummy, soft and generally perfect bread they will be bringing you a second serving pretty promptly too as there is no option but to devour the first offering, it is marvellous. Hats off to whoever knocked that up. You can also, if you choose to, watch all the action from the kitchen on a large live feed screen which does dampen the ambience of the room somewhat and may destroy your lunchtime conversations.

20130517_133623The menu isn’t extensive, it seemed to be a single meat, fish or veggie option for first and main courses plus a handful of desserts- you can see a sample menu here. Held in by the restraints of being on an hour break, we just went for mains and my friend and I both ordered a grilled salmon served with a watercress sauce, served in a typically ‘restauranty’ way with strategically placed shell-on cockles and a side of seasonal veg (great roasties). We both thoroughly enjoyed it too and left very clean plates. And the whole thing cost less than a tenner for us both, double bread rounds inclusive.

At the risk of coming over all Governator, I’ll be back. If you’re local to these parts you should definitely take some time to check out this little charmer of an eating spot, you’ll get a good lunch for a bargain price and be supporting local folks in their education to boot. That’s a win-win-win situation for you.

20130519_092659To book or learn more about eating at the CheFS project click here.

Something New- Chinese.

It’s a long way from the new year, but I’m still trying to embrace new things in line with that little resolution which seems so far away today.

Enter Saturday night, enter dinner with the friends in law, Chinese in theme and everyone to bring along a dish. Due to some poor forward planning (blame the boy) we found ourselves in serious danger of entering said dinner empty handed 😦 Due to the thankful over preparation of everyone else involved we got away without having a proper dish to take so I voted for a quick trip to the oriental market for some bok choi and anything else that might be able to hide his our hideous lack of organisation skills.

Bok choi is not new to me, I love it done off lightly in a pan with some oyster sauce, or even some butter and black pepper for the non traditionalists, and as usual I was happy to get a couple of bags for less than three quid. Yay. Not as usual, we also took some time for a wander through the highly stacked aisles and picked up some interesting little bits to try with dinner. Afterall, I love most Chinese food and this produce was about as authentic as it gets (you work out most of the packet contents by the pictures on the front unless you read Mandarin in this shop). There was bound to be some tasty morsels in that lot somewhere, some new unlikely delicacy just waiting to be discovered.

Well.

They worked as conversation pieces anyway.

Seaweed strip things

20130504_212742We found these next to various suspicious versions of indistinct meat jerky. I like seaweed of the wakame or sushi variety, this was basically seaweed crisps from the look of it. And how can you not love the look of the bright cartoony packaging? It had to be tried. You can file these with away with nightmare from the deep laverbread type seaweeds. Ick. Dry, ferric and cloying, a bit of a no-no. One kind diner declared them as ‘very seaweedy’. I didn’t try the chilli ones, maybe they were better, but somehow I doubt it.

Refreshing Basil Seed Drink

20130504_160838One must admit, this was picked up as something of a joke after we spent some time marvelling at the radioactive green goop, spotted with ominous floating basil seeds that never settle to the bottom of the bottle. The boy proclaimed that it would ‘really upset’ his sister, so we had to get some.
It really is a whole new level of disgusting. It has the grim aroma of some kind of revolting herbal remedy and frankly I can’t tell you what it tasted of as all my attentions at the time were counteracting my gag reflex against the gelatinous little lumps of basil seed. A drink should not ever have a texture. Eeeeeeeeerck. On the plus side, our youth worker host will be using this to torment his charges later in the year as a ‘drink the frogspawn’ challenge.

Aloe Vera Stuff

20130504_211333Much less offensive than the above seediness, with a very clear crisp taste and only a very slight mediciney aftertaste. It would probably be very good for one’s stomach in quantity what with all the health boosting properties that Aloe Vera has, but this one will never know. Again, this was run through with unpleasant, cloudy lumps of plant which stuck in the throat and made it look unappealingly clotted. Again unlike the basil seed drink, this did get some points on flavour and The In Law claimed it would be quite pleasant as a cocktail base. I’m sure this theory remains unproven for now.

Dessert Stuff

20130504_212544A cautious sampling proved this to be a mixed assortment of bits of fruit and possibly some nuts that had been soaked for several centuries in a very heavy sugar solution, then dried out. We think there was some melon in there and maybe papaya. I got stung with a strip of my old nemesis coconut, as if these little authentic touches weren’t bad enough! It was hard to tell the others apart to be honest, they just tasted like old sugar other than some very small incredibly bitter whole oranges, which those who tasted continued to taste for some time to come. There was a random centre section that looked like hazelnuts with a hole punched through the middle which the daughter of our hosts found very pleasing indeed. Overall, could have been worse.

In summary, I shall be doing more looking and less purchasing of the random authentic products at the oriental market, I bet we gave the guy on the check out a right laugh when we handed over the cash for that disastrous little lot! My money is staying firmly in their fresh vegetable goods from now on and I’ll just tell myself that a crispy chilli beef and singapore noodles from the Mayflower is as authentic as I really need to get.