Are You Going To Eat….. Whelks?

image

Lovely whelks!

I was beyond thrilled to discover my local fish boss Terry had a glut of whelks available last weekend. Already cooked, shell on at less than four quid a kilo which meant I could add plenty to my shopping list for our fishy Easter holidays night in. I bloody love whelks. Ok they aren’t posh and salty and gilstery like oysters. They’re aren’t small and cheeky little cockney geezer cockles. Whelks are the Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson of the seafood world- big tanned rubbery lumps of muscle that just make you grin even though you know they are probably a little bit wrong.

Enthralled, nay, enraptured, I turned to my co shoppers, barely containing my delight at this find only to be met with stony, tragic masks of gastro-horror. Somehow I have ended up with whelk haters in my life and a brief Google shows that I’m far from alone in this.

I seriously don’t know what is wrong with you people, whelks are awesome. At about 80 calories per 100g they are a great source of lean protein with bonus high levels of vitamin B12 and ‘master mineral’ magnesium. Being a sea mollusc they have a thick, satisfyingly fibrous consistency and strong flavour easily turned to so many culinary uses.  Whelks emote the sea and the cold salty wind and grandads and brown ale. All fine, stalwart British things. They are also cheap and abundant in these here British Isles. Why would you not eat whelks!?

Ok apparently some people really don’t like them, and they are a bit fiddly, but fiddle schmiddle! Just boil them in the shells for 5 minutes then cool and simply pop them out of the shell with a cocktail stick. Chop off the hard end at the shell opening and scrape off the sack at the other squiggly end once you’ve got it out then serve them doused in malt vinegar and white pepper. Delicious, low fat and perfect with a pint!
Not a fan of the rubbery charm of the sea snail cousin? Get them uncooked then freeze overnight to begin the destruction of the tissue as a tenderising cheat. Then you can use them as you would most seafood- boiled and tossed in a salad or stirred into your pasta sauce or awash with butter, garlic and white wine.

I’m not going to let this one go into the No pile. Whelks are brilliant, healthy and all over the shop so buy some and try something new and support your local fisherman. Go Whelks!

Advertisements

Smoothie #6

image

The Punisher.

Oh it’s not that bad. I really don’t believe in ‘detox’ ingredients but I do believe in a rest on the dairy and animal fats once in a while, especially when trying to lose weight in a holiday week. This is a real tummy filler with more than a days worth of vitamin a.

Boomboom Smoothie No 6

Around 250 calories
Up to 10g protein
Up to 6g fibre

2 cups fresh spinach
2 sticks celery
3 inches cucumber
1tbspn no added sugar crunchy peanut butter
1 small green apple
Half a lime- juice and flesh
1tsp fresh grated root ginger

Good for – a veg hit to make up for easter egg binges; hangovers; vegans

Skinny it- use less/no peanut butter if you really hate yourself

Splurge it- oh don’t bother just have some toast!

The Skinny Thing: Hot Sauce

image

I don’t have the downlow on how to be thin yet, but if there is one thing all dieters (and frankly all eaters) should keep in their fat fighting arsenal it is a good quality hot sauce. By good, I mean one that you like. Hot sauce is brilliant because it packs flavour with so very few calories and can pep up your dinner easily in place of less waist friendly condiments. Just as example your average tablespoon of mayo costs at least 90 calories vs about 10 in the same amount of hot sauce. And you will never use the same amount of hot sauce as you would mayo or bbq sauce or the like.
I’m not a believer in subbing artificial sweeteners to make your ketchup nice or weird cabbage bacteria gunk to fat up non-fat mayonnaise. If you want to last long term, learn to like other things. Retrain your palate so you don’t become so reliant on Helmann’s Light to eat that you can’t possibly consider passing up a full fat splat of the white stuff when the skinny version isn’t available. Chances are if you’re a fan of creamy things they mess with your calorie intake in many guises and you seek out the heavy sauces, the softer cheeses and the buttery biscuit bases. Going for adulterated versions of creamy fat stuff doesn’t stop you from wanting it, which is half the battle. In other words, get over it and get on to something better for you- you can start with hot sauce. Maybe you don’t like it but then have you really tried to? There was a time when you didn’t like coffee or beer you know. Maybe you still don’t but in that case you are probably beyond help.

There are many alleged diet benefits of the main hot sauce ingredient- the chilli pepper. They melt fat. They stem your appetite. They burn the crap out of your lips so you don’t crave bad food you can’t taste any more and my favourite- they are Detoxifying. It is amazing how many Detoxifying magic foods there are around now.  Goodness knows how we only managed with our own kidneys and water until all those were discovered.
Sarcastic interlude over,  chillis are packed full of stuff that is bona-fide good for you like Vitamin E for all that skin you’ll be flashing when your bikini bod is ready. If that’s not enough then try Capsaicin which acts as an anti inflammatory in the body and is shown to have anti fungal properties. Wikipedia also tells us that the burning sensation of a good hot chilli releases endorphins in the body in a similar way to the pain reflex, and this can give the seasoned chilli-head a cheeky high.

hots

Ease yourself in with a mild, smokey chipotle based sauce or others from the Cholula range.

So try some hot sauce on your spuds or in your mash or over chicken or in your salad.  Really try a good shake in your cottage cheese to make it less cottage cheese like. If you aren’t huge on heat start with the smokier chipotle sauces and look for one with vinegar further down the ingredients list as some can be unpleasantly sour. Cholula chili with garlic sauce (click here to buy) is about two quid from sainsburys and very light on the burn but very tasty.
For the more adventurous taster just get out there and fill your basket!  The BBQ trend isn’t going anywhere and there is more to it than pulled pork in every pub menu in the land. All the big supermarkets carry a couple of options now as do your foodie and Asian specialist shops. No, sweet chilli sauce does not count!
Connoisseurs with a bob or two to invest in your pantry should get to The Rib Man and try one of his many yummy hot wares (which you can look at by clicking here). Holy Fuck sauce is great for packing some real heat without sourness. Fuckyuzu is better. Christ on a Bike is a bit too scary for me but I will get to it one day.

 

Give some a go, you might like it. You might love it, and I promise it wont make you fat. But let’s be honest hot sauce alone won’t shift the pounds any more than it will stop you ever wanting cake again. It will not Detoxify you. Use it as a tasty low calorie sauce alternative, not as a dressing on your camembert!!!

Smoothie #5

image

The emergency breakfast- make and drink immediately though, if you keep it too long the branflakes go a little gluey.

Boomboom Smoothie No 5

<300 calories
Up to 10g protein
Up to 7g fibre

1 banana
3 strawberries
1 plum
150g low fat natural yoghurt
15g branflakes
1/2 cup water

Good for breakfast!

Skinny it: cut the cereal out

Splurge it: use Greek yoghurt or sub the branflakes for a tablespoon of muesli.

A Little Plug- The Cells, Colchester

cell wall

Themed interior No 1 at The Cells

What: Mixed menu of classic grills, veggie and vegan options and all sorts with comically prison themed dish names.
Where: Behind and under Colchester Town Hall, entrance just off the High Street.
How Much: £30-£40 a head three courses and drinks
Overall: 7.5/10

The Cells boasts to be the only venue in the country where you can eat your dinner in an underground cell. One assumes they mean in a voluntary fashion but it’s a new theme on me and a visit here has been struggling to get in the diary for a while now. The theme runs heavy throughout as you take your seat in one of several ‘cells’- from classic Medieval to Hammer Horror era lunatic asylum. Your service staff come presented in cheerful convict-orange jumpsuits or old school black n white Hamburglar-esque stripes. Sounds fun. Sounds silly. Sounds potentially damp, cold and draughty but we were pleased to take our seats in a robust historically themed cell, complete with shackles hanging from the wall and a nice high level high window! Yes, yes technically the cells are beneath street level but you aren’t descending into the pit for your dinner and there is some chance of natural light coming in. To be clear these were once upon a time in use for the Magistrates Court in the Town Hall above your dining room. So the decor is fun, the beaten metal or bench seating isn’t as uncomfortable as it looks and you can stand to take your coat off. Now, to eat!

The correctional institutional theme continues into the menu and seems to be the only one as the a range of dishes on offer is tied up only by humnourish titles such as ‘He Battered a’ Fish and Chips and ‘The Last Supper’ Steak. Points for effort there guys. Offerings range from deep fried sharing platters and dirty burgers to salads and vegan sausage and mash with a curry option in the middle somewhere. All the beers and wines you would expect in an eatery of this type are available alongside an impressive cocktail list which in itself makes it worth visiting their bar alone. I thoroughly recommend the botanical Gin creations. Unfortunately I can’t recall the title of my downfall that evening and the cocktail list isn’t on line for reference but it involved cucumber, pink peppercorns and rose petals and it was a perfect refresher alongside a very spicy starter.

cocktail

My poison of choice- a wonderful gin bowl with cucumber, peppercorns and petals. Truly delicious and cooling against the Holy F*ck wings.

I will take a moment now to suggest that The Cells abandon the frankly irritating 2-4-1 Thursday night cocktail offer which invites you to rush to the bar on hearing a siren to claim your BOGOF mojito or similar. So, I can get up from my dinner and go through with my purse to the bar to line up and buy my drinks? But I can’t have this offer if I stay at my table where the bulk of my money is being spent? Assuming I can even identify the right ‘siren’ through all the whines and alarms of your phone and kitchen calls? Just, no. Do a happy hour or something, this is is ill thought out and unnecessary when the drinks are as good as they are.

And on to the food. We Want Plates Twitter fans will note the tin trays and billie tins in lieu of plates and you will probably get your chips in a charming old school enameled mug. I was excited to try my first commercially available Holy Fuck sauce here in the home town, as served on their starter chicken wings. We went halvsies on one set of hot wings and one BBQ. The sauces were both exceptional- HF hot and full bodied as expected while the BBQ was sweet and well flavoured. It’s a shame the chicken beneath was probably within about ten seconds of being cooked. It wasn’t worrying enough to send back, so why mention it? Because I want to get my dinner and focus on my nice, piping hot and slightly crisp wings, I don’t want to be checking for pink bits in an unwelcome distraction from my hot sauce.
Mains also came meat heavy with a Green Mile Gammon for me and On The Inside for my hot lady date. Now that I’ve moaned about the chicken, I shall sing like a canary for the gammon. I’ve not eaten better in a restaurant- a well sized and well cooked gammon steak gloriously topped with a perfectly fried egg AND lovely charred pinapple AND a cheeky slice of black pudding, peas on the side. And a mug of chips. Take note millions of other pubby menus that offer your ham and chips with egg OR pineapple, you’re just mean. This plate was exceptional in that it was simple and flawlessly served. Bravo. ‘On The Inside’ was basically the cheese-BBQ-bacon-chicken combo often called Hunters or New York Chicken in other eateries. It was devoured without ceremony, along with another mug of chips, and lived up to the standards of the Hot Lady Date. That’s saying a lot- she is something of the cheese-BBQ-bacon-chicken combo aficionado. So mains, brilliant!

Ah, dessert. A technically competent brownie and a rock hard waffle. The ice cream was good. The desserts menu is plain without the puntastic dish titles, I felt that perhaps the effort ran out somewhere at the end of the entreé specials in the kitchen as well as on the menu. A shame.

collage

List of Offenders- Green Mile Gammon top, Holy F*ck hotwings bottom left, tin mug free waffles bottom right.

On the whole, I recommend the cells and will certainly be going there again. Although our dining experience wasn’t as arresting (ahahahahahaha!) as it might have been it’s a fun, novel place for your dinner with a good varied menu. Like many newer ventures, it does feel like The Cells is still finding its feet though not in an incompetent way. The venue is a draw in itself and a mild stroke of genius use for the space; the service is friendly and prompt; the menu is enticing and spans enough to cater to most eaters without fuss or special requests. The ham egg and chips is bloody brilliant. Nothing here needs work, perhaps just a bit of a polish in a couple of spots.

We’ll be back.

Read up on The Cells and book here.

Smoothie #4

image

Back to Basics- an easy, fruity pick me up. Cinnamon is a great way to add depth and illusion of sweetness without piling on any more sugars- a great spice if you are trying to wean off a sweet tooth.

Boomboom Smoothie No 4

Around 250 calories
up to 7g protein
Up to 8g fibre

1 banana
1 red apple
1 large strawberry/ 2-3 small ones
100ml whole milk
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
Ice cubes

Skinny it: use skimmed milk or swap for water and whey powder

Splurge it: add a splash of cream to bring out the strawberries or a dash of honey if you have a sweet tooth.

A Little Plug-Il Padrino

outer

What? Traditional Italian
Where? Church Street, Colchester, CO1
How Much? Menu dependent, potentially ouchy for meat lovers, budget friendly for pasta fans
Overall? almost but not quite 8/10

Il Padrino has been open some three years in Colchester and I must confess to not having heard that much about it. To be honest Italian isn’t always something that floats my boat for many reasons, most of which are Ask, Prezzo and the related glut of fake fast Italians on the average high steet. Equally unappealing is the fact that a real, quality Italian is often relatively expensive and pasta makes you fat. It makes me extra fat because I like it with lots of cheese and red wine (bloated sad face). More recently however, I have heard several credible sources sing the praises of Il Padrino, including someone I know to get their wallet out with far less gusto than I do myself. Hmm. Then I had a school night date with two of my favourites, favourites who are up on the short list of people who enjoy a cheesy pile of carbohydrates more than as much as I do. Double hmmm.

So, Il Padrino. Tucked away on Church St it houses a mildly sparse ground floor seating area and much grander winery-esque basement space where one can enjoy a range of freshly cooked traditional and modern Italian fayre. Decor is mostly classic Mediterranean style with green woodwork. If you’re eating here, definitely ask to be seated downstairs.
Staff were a mixed bag as one doesn’t tend to expect to have to explain how a Pimms is to be served but perhaps I am too snickety on these details. The service of our main courses however was an absolute joy as bought out by (we assumed) the owner/manager with genuine pleasure and unexpected showmanship. What a refreshing difference to get your dinner from someone so clearly proud of what they are bringing to you, and justifiably so.
The menu is mildly irritating by point of there being slightly too much good stuff on it, making it a chore and a half to choose exactly what you want. Lots of meat and shellfish on the options and a pleasing range for the vegetarians amoung us. If you are eating with happy sharers, this is probably the way ahead to sample a good amount of the dishes on offer. I was eating with two people who had already studied the menu furiously online and I was under strict instruction to have their razor clams, which made the elimination process easier for our party.

We all opted for seafood specials to start- one razor clams served pan fried with a sweet but seriously punchy mix of peppers, and two crab gratin served cheesey in the shell. The opinion of my co-diners on this was a muffled grumble of ‘yersh relly nice’ around a gobful of garlic bread. The garlic bread, by the way, is absolutely excellent but will make your pasta main a merry chore to get through unless you are a seasoned belly stretching proffessional.
The main event was carb heavy with Tagliatelle ai Funghi di Bosco (mixed mushrooms, tomatoes, cream), Penne Calabrese (sausage and chilli, quite a serious lot of chilli) and a smoked chicken rissotto (er, smoked chicken and rice). The short version is that it was all very good. The long version escapes me somewhat as I don’t know much about Italian cookery or how to properly describe the nuances of pasta and sauce. I would like to return in days when I haven’t just bought a house and might be able to splash out on a fishtastic special of skate wing or a steak. Ever notice how well proper Italians cook a steak? Musings for another day.

 

tag

Tagliatelle ai Funghi di Bosco- maybe not so photogenic but a rib sticking satisfying bowl of pasta that will have you loosening your belt and impersonating Tony Soprano in no time. 

An ‘ample’ pasta course will put you back about a tenner and is very nicely presented with fighting flavour and obviously fresh ingredients- it is well worth it. If you are a dessert fan, go with the small serving or be prepared to take a fairly long recovery period before hitting the sweet menu. Maybe don’t drink a couple of pints or fizzy drinks before you turn up either because such well executed dishes deserve an empty stomach ready to savour them. It isn’t jazzy here and on the outside it looks fairly stereotypical but expect some serious talent beneath the surface at Il Padrino. Expect ‘creamy’ to be seriously oozy and rich and lush and indulgent. Expect ‘chilli’ to be hot and clean and make your nose run a little bit but not in a bad way. Expect huge meat jealousy if someone on a nearby table goes for one of the strictly carniverous dishes as they look pretty spectacular but will roughly double your pasta budget.

It isn’t flawless, but for a weeknight stop with the girls and no dessert, I recommend it here. I hope in months to come I may also be able to recommend it as a no-holds-blow-out-three-courses-coffee-and-wine location too but time will tell on that score. Don’t mistake my lack of technical speak for dwindled enthusiasm- Il Padrino ticks all the ‘proper’ Italian boxes, including tinned blood orange San Pelligrino for the designated driver and a comedic oversized black pepper grinder dragged to your table on demand. Who doesn’t love one of those?

check out menus and booking info here