2018- The Dinner Resolutions

2018

Ah, hogmanay is upon us, and I feel this morning like 2018 may continue very much as 2017 is ending. Basically that means sore footed and snotty (you are dead to me Jon & Kerrie) whilst trying to devise ways to eat good dinners and keep the Mr away from anything with lemon in it.

Ah, it’s not all bad, it’s just early.

In review, I made quite a few ticks on my 2017 list and will infact be seeing out the year in one of my promised venues from last year, The Kovalam, which has become our celebration restaurant of choice. I didn’t make it to Lily Vanilli’s and the bloody Man Behind The bloody Curtain didn’t materialise for a number of booking conflicts but they will bump on to my renewal wish list at midnight. I kind of hope that this is all that thumps about as the year flips over this time.

Confession: New Year is not traditionally a happy time for me. Take a ticket and get in line if you fear this is some kind of attack on any NYE I have spent in your company. It has nothing to do with you- frankly I enjoy drinks and celebrations at any time of year but the actual entire New Year concept is often something of a gloomy weight for me. There’s a bunch of reasons for this, but the biggest is that the end of the year is a time to look back. To reflect. To add up all the little notes and failures and embarrassments and slights and underachievements that have dragged me another twelve months closer to the grave. Woe is me.
OK fine, not really, I don’t need a Samaritans intervention and I really don’t need to spend any more time agonising over my Nine Of The Best instapost. Time to look forwards.

I don’t want to be that bore who bangs on about wellness and feelings and all that but just for a moment let’s get bored about wellness and feelings. I’ve seen a lot of pleas this year to think of those who are alone at Christmas and think of those who might not like the holidays (disgraceful term) and this gets right on my festive tits, not because I don’t wish to think of these people but because I can’t believe people still need to be reminded to be nice to eachother and lay off the emotionally fragile once in a while!

What the AF has this got to do with a food blog? I will tell you. The world sucks. The world contains misogyny scandals and factory farming and everything dark and selfish within humanity that has allowed a demented gibbon to rise as leader of the free world. There isn’t much I can do about those things, and it is easy to become massively depressed about the state of the world, or massively depressed about the state of yourself. When you can’t wave a magic wand to change the world, you can take a peek inside yourself and make some changes there which nudge the world as a whole in a better direction and quite frankly cheer you the hell up.

I’m going to wager that you eat every day, I know I do, so I’m going to start there, and do my best to start looking at my dinners as a way to make a softer and possibly kinder world that isn’t quite so depressing.
I am absolutely not going vegan.
I am also not cooking tonight. It has caused me enough stress to calculate the perfect ‘casual’ new years day dinner for visiting parentals and a work weary Mr alike, if I had been planning a blow out NYE dinner too it may well have destroyed me. The pressure. The vegetarians. The wonky oven. Horrors. So screw it, I booked a table and everyone can have exactly what they want and if I hadn’t I would literally not be sitting here to type this now. I would probably be crying in the kitchen on my third Scotch. Herein is my first resolution for 2018 and it comes under Be Kind To Yourself. This is a bullshit self help slogan but I’m hijacking it. It means taking that long bath or that cheeky sick day. It means saying no when you need a rest and yes when you need a laugh. It means a slice of gingerbread latte cake and a pornstar martini but it also means a kale salad and a run around the block too. There is only one you, and you should look after you. Don’t feed yourself crap, in an emotional sense yes but in an actual one too. Give yourself a break. Masses of sugar, endless espressos and litres of high fructose corn syrup infused frankenfoods scarfed in a darkened room might sound great but they will make you feel shit. Just stop living off shit all the time. Get up, get green and get outside for a bit of fresh air. Then fine, eat the cake later but not the whole cake. Treat yourself. No really, think about that word, and treat yourself. Look at what is on your plate and think about what it is going to do to your innards. Your innards run your outards, you know. Be nice to both of them.

Next up, Be Kind To Others. Give to charity. Have some buddies over for a meal because it’s nice to have dinner cooked for you- especially if you are usually the host. Most people are much easier to please than you might think and they would love a chance to sample that funny trifle with ginger nuts and dream topping that your nan taught you how to make. Plus you can get rid of one of the eight Pannatones still in the cupboard from Christmas and you know they will bring some wine with them, so everyone wins.
Take your friend out for a long walk or a short stack of pancakes and talk to them. They might need it even if you don’t. Believe it or not just listening to the thought of others is a kind of therapy, it’s called Giving A Shit. It is important to give a shit about other people because it helps you give a shit about yourself. It is easy to focus on the success of others and the failures of yourself too. I do this constantly. I frequently tell my mates not to beat themselves up whilst mentally listing all of the reasons why I should die alone in a hovel whilst self flagellating with some dried brambles. When you care a bit about the pain in other people they become less Super Human and a bit more like you. And life is not all pain of course! You can share the funny and the triumphs too and even if your life hasn’t gone to shit it’s still cool to see someone else doing well. Hang out with other people, and be kind to them.
Give to your local foodbank because some people literally cannot afford to heat their home and eat in the same day. In a world where you can spend £300 on a gold leaf vintage brandy cocktail, this still happens. It is a disgrace. Help them out. Look up your local one here: https://www.trusselltrust.org/get-involved/ways-to-give/donate-food/
Take one of those tubs of Celebrations into work even if you do share an office with a bunch of pricks. Everyone likes Celebrations.
Stop buying cheap, mass farmed meat because those chickens die scared and filthy. Look for the welfare assertions. Ask about origin. Ask about people. Sorry, what? No, I don’t expect you to start cooking with organic hand reared fillet of Caucasian, but food is about farming too and the little creatures aren’t the only ones to suffer for your dinner. At the very least, move your coffee and chocolate to Fair Trade only. Ask where your avocados were grown and research living conditions there. Take a very hard look at where your nuts and spices come from and cut out palm oil out wherever you can because the origin is so hard to assert. Check out Farm Africa and send them a fiver. Be Kind To Others. I will try to.

Finally, Be Kind To Your Planet.
Seriously, you don’t have anywhere else to live, why the hell would you contribute to pollution or global warming or mass extinction?
Eat more plants, because we need plants. Sorry, what? Right now, masses of energy and effort goes into growing plants to feed animals to later kill those animals to make burgers, and we are running out of clean air and topsoil because of this. Google it if you want more info. Eat more plants, and grow more plants. Lay off the meat a couple of days a week. Petition against idiot councils hacking down trees to appease wankers who don’t like cleaning bird poo off their shiny cars. Walk to the shops once in a while. Grow your own potatoes and stop wasting the food you already have.
If nothing else, please buy a long life reusable water bottle. Recycle. Put a jumper on and turn the heating down a degree. Put a bug hotel in your garden and an aloe vera on your windowsill. Nature makes you feel better, it really does, and it needs some help. Be Kind To Your Planet.

So these are my dinner resolutions- less meat and more kindness. How dreadfully pious and self-congratulatory , right?
I am literally about to eat shortbread for breakfast then nip out to fill up my gas hog VW with hydrocarbons as an 18th birthday treat for the old tank. Then I’m going to get smashed and stuffed with curry tonight and probably feel like crap tomorrow which will make me grumpy and disrespectful to my mother. I am not perfect. You aren’t either. Maybe we can do better, maybe we can’t, but we can do kinder.

I wish you all the best in 2018, for you and your people and your planet. Happy New Year, up yer bum, etc.

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20 Questions with Gourmet Anglia!

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Today on 20 Questions we have Tracey from Gourmet Anglia– purveyor of truly gorgeous small batch kitchen and homewares. I think I could only like this webshop more if it offered a one hour gin-to-desk delivery service, but there is always time to expand.
We are also doing a little giveaway inspired by her love of Italian food, so look out for details of that below.

And the questions commence:

1: Describe what you do without being boring?
Picker, packer, parcel dispatcher at Gourmet Anglia www.gourmetanglia.co.uk

2: What’s great about what you do?
Sourcing utterly gorgeous products is pretty fabulous and, as an online biz, it’s great to connect with amazing, like-minded individuals on social media.

3: What sucks about what you do?
The boxes, THE BOXES! We have a mountainous store of packaging.

4: Do you eat breakfast?
Does a handful of dried fruit and nuts count?
Ed- yes!

5: Where/who is your favourite local food/drink business (other than your own)?
Tough question as there are so many passionate and hardworking local businesses producing a vast array of quality products. As a homage to FoodieBoomBoom homeland let’s throw in Coles Puddings, Kelly Bronze Turkeys, Maldon Salt, New Hall Vineyard wines and Wilkins & Sons but that really is a tiny drop in the teacup.
Ed- All great examples, I’m prompted to give a quick wino shout out to the Bacchus from New Hall vineyards- it is superb. 

Shy Owl Pot Holder from Gourmet Anglia with two Local Lovelies (2)[1112]

Tracey loves a bit of local heroes Wilkin & Sons jams, shown here with the Shy Owl pot holder available on http://www.gourmetanglia.co.uk

6: Which celeb chef would you want into your gang in the event of a zombie apocalypse and why?
Nigella (whom I have met) would surely stop any zombie dead in their tracks with her mesmerizing loveliness.

7: What’s your go to comfort food?
Something cheesy or eggy, Croque Monsieur, Welsh Rarebit, Eggs Benedict or Florentine.

8: Who taught you how to cook?
Delia Smith, Raymond Blanc, Nigel Slater …. c/o their books of course!

9: What’s the weirdest thing you have ever put in your mouth? Keep it clean!
A wasp!!! It landed, unseen, on a boiled sweet a split second before I popped it in my mouth, ouch! I was about 12 at the time!

10: What one food would you erase from all existence?
Mean, tart little blackcurrants … or ‘fruits of the devil’ as I prefer to call them.

11: What’s on your kitchen playlist?
Anything chilled and mellow.

12: If you could eat out anywhere tonight where would you go and who would you dine with?
Le Cinq, Paris … want to tag along Jenna? Closer to home, Le Talbooth, Mistley Thorn or The Company Shed for some succulent Mersea oysters.
Ed- Le Cinq looks great I’ll get my coat!

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That’s a good looking bit of salmon!!!

13: Do you have a signature dish?
I love to cook simple dishes using terrific quality ingredients, an example would be Salmon with a Parmesan & Herb Crust.

 

14: Confess your biggest food sin………..
Heinz Tomato Soup (… is that a sin?), also cold leftover sausages are not safe.

 

15: If you had to restrict yourself to the cuisine of one country which would it be and why?
Italian …  pasta, pizza, parmigiano reggiano, prosciutto, panna cotta, prosecco.
Ed- Thanks to Gourmet Anglia we are frankly thrilled to be giving away not one but two gorgeous Italian cookery books! Details at the end of this post. 

16: Cake or biscuits?
Cake. Carrot can be good, or something chocolatey. I also love pears in cakes, or a Pear Frangipane Tart or a pear or quince flavoured vodka but I digress …..

17: Tea or coffee?
Both. Morning coffee. Afternoon darjeeling.

18: Chunky chips or curly fries?
Chunky thrice cooked, or oven baked with a generous sprinkling of olive oil and Maldon Salt.

19: Wine or beer?
A large glass of an oaky smoky full-bodied red for me please.

20: Does pineapple belong on a pizza?
Not a fan but fine if you want it … tho’ ‘fusion’ toppings do make me slightly twitchy. Chicken tikka, Cajun prawns, Black beans & banana … just isn’t right is it?

Catch up with GA’s musing and meanderings on
Instagram  https://www.instagram.com/gourmet_anglia/
Twitter  https://twitter.com/gourmetanglia
Facebook  https://www.facebook.com/gourmetanglia/

Last time: Boneman’s BBQ

Next week, our buddies at Bumbles!

Now, as promised here is your chance to win your very own copies of Rome, by Katie and Giancarlo Caldesi AND Anna Del Conte on Pasta in association with the lovely bods at Gourmet Anglia with a combined RRP of over £40.

books

To enter head over to our twitter page @foodieboomboom  and see our pinned tweet or if you don’t tweet simply comment below this post with I Want To Win! For a bonus entry sign up for email updates! 

Terms and conditions:
Entrants to be UK resident and over the age of 18

Winner to supply UK postal address for prize delivery
Giveaway is not associated with, sponsored or moderated by Twitter
Entries close at midnight on Friday 6th October 2017 winner will be contacted directly and announced on Twitter feed. 

 

 

20 Questions With Boneman’s BBQ!

BBQ

Today The Boneman himself is suffering our 20 Questions- Steve is another Colchester based food bod who you will usually find smoking, prepping and yumming all the proteins. Or chowing down on creamy Asian poo fruit. Those 4 words are going to bring me some highly misdirected Googlers.

Let’s go!

1: Describe what you do without being boring?
I BBQ meats! Either grilled hot n fast or smoked low n slow! Not strictly American style, just tasty, juicy and smokey!  I offer a pop up catering service, event catering, BBQ advice and tuition.

2: What’s great about what you do?
When a long smoke produces an amazingly tender nugget of smokey goodness, with a great bark (crust) then the long day is well worth it!

meat

Extreme meat close up. Who’s hungry now?

 

3: What sucks about what you do?
The long smokes can be 9 hrs plus, not done a commercial brisket yet but many of my home experiments have gone over 12 hours! I also hold myself to a high standard so if its not as tender as I would like it can be a bit disheartening.

 

4: Do you eat breakfast?
Always! Seeded bread with crunchy all peanut butter and a cup of tea!


5: Where/who is your favourite local food/drink business (other than your own)?

That’s a difficult one! I love The Victoria Inn, they gave me my first gig! Sheena and Andy have been a great friends and their passion for their pub, it’s atmosphere and their general ethos is inspiring! I also love Two Brews, Paul’s passion for quality beer and local business is contagious! Our first collaboration went well the other week, and we’re hoping to do some more! I also love PECK because who doesn’t love fried chicken?!?
Ed- I’ve been thwarted by the mass queues for Peck at the last two food fests I’ve been to! They certainly smell awesome. 

6: Which celeb chef would you want in your gang in the event of a zombie apocalypse and why?
Does Ray Mears count? He would be good in a pinch! He can find anything and cook it, and you know you probably won’t die from eating it!

 

7: What’s your go to comfort food?
Tricky! Either roasted chicken thighs with white rice and peas or Steak & Ale pie (a good one!) with white rice and peas! The rice just soaks up all the awesome flavours!

8: Who taught you how to cook?
A mixture really, I watched my Dad cook, my Grandad bake and I have always enjoyed cookery shows. Food Network is usually on most days in our house! Or Netflix.

 

9: What’s the weirdest thing you have ever put in your mouth? Keep it clean!
Another tricky one! Being Chinese, we eat some weird stuff! Fish brains, fish eyes, chickens feet. It’s a tie I think between sea cucumber and Durian fruit (the Marmite of Asian fruits, banned on public transport as it stinks). Durian has been described as eating the creamiest custard in a festival toilet. Get from that what you will!
Ed- What an utterly charming prospect!

durian

Durian fruit. Maybe the spikes are there to protect you from eating it?? Pic from 2msia.com

10: What one food would you erase from all existence?
Canned pulled pork.

 

11: What’s on your kitchen playlist?
Usually anything rock! 80’s hair metal is on a lot! As are classical film soundtracks! I also enjoy some 50’s diner jukebox music or scratchy old timey Blues! No ABBA!

 

12: If you could eat out anywhere tonight where would you go and who would you dine with?
I would go to Noodle Bar on North Hill with my fiancé Megan, the most authentic Asian cuisine you can get in town!
Ed- Everyone is so lovely wishing for a nice dinner with their life partners. Am I the only one who wants to take the Defenders cast to Mighty Quinns?!?!?!?!?

 

13: Do you have a signature dish?
A random pineapple fried rice, can be veggie or its good for leftovers!

 

14: Confess your biggest food sin………..
I like to eat peanut butter out of the jar with a spoon. Oh, and I once had a packet of instant custard for my dinner.
Ed- #studentcuisinegoals

 

15: If you had to restrict yourself to the cuisine of one country which would it be and why?
I would say Chinese but I really mean the cuisine of Penang, my Dad’s home island. Penang is a real melting pot of fusion cuisine, Chinese, Indian, Malay, Hokkien. It’s awesome!

 

16: Cake or biscuits?
Biscuits

 

17: Tea or coffee?
Tea at home, coffee at work

 

18: Chunky chips or curly fries?
Proper chunky chips, triple fried!

 

19: Wine or beer?
Beer!

 

20: Does pineapple belong on a pizza?
Of course! Especially with hot n salty meat!
Ed- someone immediately needs to start a business and/or Dad Rock tribute band called Hot N Salty. 

 

Check out Boneman’s BBQ here for lots of meat teasing and news of the next events: https://www.facebook.com/BonemansBBQ/
Tweet to @Bonemansbbq
Insta- bonemansbbq

Last Time- The Victoria Inn

Grow Your Own! The Wind Down.

A brew in the last of the sunshine


It’s nice, as we descend into the season of falling leaves and escalating rows about the central heating settings, to be able to say that I have really enjoyed my garden these past few weeks. In the real sense of just being out there and having s good time. In the earlier half of the summer I couldn’t profess to the same, as we became overrun with various beetles, grubs and potato related mishaps atop the standard issues of constant mowing, weeding and felines. But as it has cooled down a bit and the majority of critters have undergone a mass exodus (something to do with the hellish spiders nest under the conservatory I suspect) it has been positively wonderful to sit out with a coffee of a sunny Saturday and just, well, be.

I’m not going to descend into some hippy crap about spiritual oneness with my petunias but there is a definite therapy of the soul to be found by hanging out with nature, even if that is just a bit of lawn and two planters rather than a wild and ranging heathland. Yes, the pumpkins are still running amok and we got no edible radishes to speak of and the carrots weren’t much cop but it is still just lovely to be here. Of course basking in the glow of those few home grown triumphs does increase my smug enjoyment of our outside space. The sight of the dwindling stubs of chard in my patio planters prompts fond memories of the summer-long harvest of tasty green leaves which has only just begun to slow down. My sage plant is thriving in the brick planter, having doubled in size since I swept it out of a sad pile of potted yellow-sticker twigs at the back of Homebase, and makes me feel entirely self righteous and even God like for selecting it for salvation.  It is rather wonderful when my eye runs across our two gooseberry plants and I am reminded of the gooseberry gin in the pantry that needs straining, rather than just recalling the pin-picked shreds of my fingers when I was harvesting the damn things. It’s all good.
I suspect a purely ornamental gardener might find the Autumn depressing, what with all the tying up and fleecing down and endless bulb rearrangement for the spring. This is the joy of fruit and veg.  Spending my previous free hours taming squash vines and trying to entice bigger courgette flowers meant neglecting the big old budlejas which are now enormous but still in bloom and feeding a veritable army of fat bumble bees, which is great, and makes the ‘pretty’ end of the garden a rather shabby delight that is way too far gone to care about now. Yes it’s a mess but it’s full of life and one doesn’t get depressed about drooping flowers and plugging daffodils when there’s fruit to pick and jam to jar. This is no time to rest and contemplate the deadheading for there is so much better stuff to do than tidy up the shrubs.

Attack of the mass rhubarb

My first year rhubarb plants are MASSIVE, and also undisturbed as common wisdom is against eating these in the first growing season. Having taken some advice I apparently need to bundle up and pin down the huge stems in a way as to both protect the crown over the winter and let the leaves rot some nutrition back into the soil. I sound like I know what the hell this involves I’m sure……….

Next, I will start off the winter cabbages on a windowsill now that the caterpillars have evolved off to eat someone else’s green stuff. Then the pumpkins need some care in the final run up to their inevitable October evisceration. So that’s plenty of feeding and preening for them and the late potato crop I planted three weeks ago which should be ready right in time for Christmas dinner. These have sprouted surprisingly quickly, although I’m not convinced at present that there is enough time to get them past the yuky hard green stage. Thankfully the Older Male Sibling will have a line on some last minute festive spuds if it comes to it. And speaking of yuletide, my little pear tree is springing up straight and smart again, unburdened by two and a half kilos of pears which are now pickling in a cool dark space in the pantry. 

It’s not been a bad back yard haul at all and hopefully by the time it is all done and dusted the flowers will have died off by themselves and left me some nice bare spaces to fill in with crocus bulbs.

Research jobs for the spring will be on less harsh bug sprays and more bird-enticing behaviors to adopt, as they have all buggered off since we took out the rotten plum tree and replaced it with a feeding station. Ungrateful, feathered fools. In fact much of the next season will involve reviewing the environmental impact of our lives in both the garden and kitchen. I plan many boring and preachy posts about this, for which you can blame Chris Packham, but that’s for a later time.

So I like the autumn, overall. I’ve got pickles and can have a cuppa in the sun without burning and some cyclamen are popping up already to cheer the view while we wait for the January Kings to get going. Ok so it’s getting chilly and of course the bloody cats are still at it, though hopefully I can get hold of some decaying nuclear material and realise my dream to irradiate the spiders under the conservatory into enormous patrol beasts to keep the kitties out for good this time. Watch this space.

20 Questions with The Victoria Inn!

victoria-inn-colchester

There’s more to life than food.

There is also beer.

This week we are taking 20 Questions to Landlady Sheena of The Victoria Inn, Colchester: A self proclaimed Proper Pub and multi award winning type house of drinks. They throw a mean BBQ once in a while too, and don’t mention the annual fireworks extravaganza………..

 

1: Describe what you do without being boring? Adult Entertainment Industry (publican to you & me)

2: What’s great about what you do? Funny drunk people

3: What sucks about what you do? Stupid drunk people

4: Do you eat breakfast? Does tea & cigarettes count..?

5: Where/who is your favourite local food/drink business (other than your own)? Two Brews bottle shop – if only for Dennis –  the super cute shop puppy.

6: Which celeb chef would you want in your gang in the event of a zombie apocalypse and why? Marcus Wareing – one glare from those steely blues & the zombies would soon quit bothering us…(Swoontastic!)
Ed- I’m glad someone is finally thinking out of the Gordon Ramsay box on this. We must of course all be prepared for potential need to repopulate the planet once all the undead are, er, proper dead? 

Marcus-Wareing

Chef Wareing looking happier than usual at the prospect of facing the undead with our Sheena. Pic from country and townhouse.

7: What’s your go to comfort food? Soft stinky cheese

8: Who taught you how to cook? Trial & error

9: What’s the weirdest thing you have ever put in your mouth? Keep it clean! Sheeps Brains – long story..!
Ed- Are you sure Marcus will be safe with you?!?!?!?!

10: What one food would you erase from all existence? Spinach. No need for that horrid soggy yukkiness.

11: What’s on your kitchen playlist? BBC 6 Music..always

12: If you could eat out anywhere tonight where would you go and who would you dine with? Blue Strawberry with my lovely hubby
Ed- I’ve still never been! Must remedy this.

13: Do you have a signature dish? Ummm…not really. Like to try my hand at allsorts

14: Confess your biggest food sin……….. Fray Bentos Pies – so wrong..but…
Ed- Pure. Filth. 

15: If you had to restrict yourself to the cuisine of one country which would it be and why? China – so much variety, & lots of small bites. Then again, proper Italian Pizza is hard to beat..

16: Cake or biscuits? Biscuits

17: Tea or coffee? Tea.

18: Chunky chips or curly fries? Chunk chips, but PROPERLY cooked.

19: Wine or beer? Do I HAVE to choose?

20: Does pineapple belong on a pizza? Only with ham.
Ed- I know a spicy chicken that might change your mind……

plaque

 

Find out more about this truly pubby pub at http://www.victoriainncolchester.co.uk/ or tweet to @victoriainncol

Last time: Two Brews

Next time: Boneman’s BBQ

20 Questions With Two Brews!

twobrews-logo

This week we’re talking to Paul, the mind behind the mighty Two Brews- a wee indie store in Colchester selling the craftiest beers and coffees that your money can buy. I cannot say enough good things about this shop, so just take my word for it and check out the links at the end.

1: Describe what you do without being boring?
I help to get people intoxicated! Alcohol and Caffeine!

2: What’s great about what you do?
Testing the above statement

3: What sucks about what you do?
Not proving the above statement

4: Do you eat breakfast?
Yes! Big yes! Big Breakfast!

5: Where/who is your favourite local food/drink business (other than your own)?
New boy Bonemans BBQ. Bones n Brews night soon hopefully!
Ed- yes yes we love Bonemans BBQ who is also soon to star in these pages, and sooner still you can catch Bones and Brew on 9th September. 

6: Which celeb chef would you want in your gang in the event of a zombie apocalypse and why?
Gordon Ramsey, a verbal tongue lashing from him should see them off! Plus I think I would die of laughter selling him in action long before the Zombies got to me if first Part didn’t work!

7: What’s your go to comfort food?
Pringles!

8: Who taught you how to cook?
That hasn’t happened yet!

9: What’s the weirdest thing you have ever put in your mouth? Keep it clean!
My dogs paw!

bew pup

Brew Pup Dennis, who’s welfare we now fear for……

10: What one food would you erase from all existence?
Terry’s Chocolate Orange, just wrong!
Ed- no, no you are just wrong chocolate and orange is the holiest of unions!!!!

11: What’s on your kitchen playlist?
A random 90’s dj house mix from Soundcloud

12: If you could eat out anywhere tonight where would you go and who would you dine with?
Picnic on a random (read sandy, secluded, exotic, paradise) beach with the Mrs.

13: Do you have a signature dish?
Yes, its big, round, empty and always looking for someone to fill it!

14: Confess your biggest food sin………..
I have not tried enough!
Ed- happily this is one of the easiest to fix. 

15: If you had to restrict yourself to the cuisine of one country which would it be and why?
Britain!
British cuisine has been so open and incorporated the national dishes of so many other countries for so long, that combined with our ‘traditional’ range you never fail to have a huge choice.

16: Cake or biscuits?
Biscuits! Chocolate Hob Nobs please!

17: Tea or coffee
COFFEE!
Ed- quel suprise…..

18: Chunky chips or curly fries?
Chunky Chips – but must be cooked properly or a huge disappointment!

19: Wine or beer?
Beer!

20: Does pineapple belong on a pizza?
Hell yes! But look out – Banana and Ham, the next ‘big’ pizza topping!
Ed- or chocolate and orange………

Check out Two Brews here: https://www.twobrews.co.uk/ or tweet to @two_brew

Last time: The Older Male Sibling

Next time: The Victoria Inn

The X(mas) Files: Grow Your Own Christmas Spirit!

xmas pudI assure you that I am not your irritating facebook friend constantly posting about how many weeks/Saturdays/nanoseconds are left to pass until we can crack open our advent calendars. However, there are certain activities of yuletide prep which really need to begin in this the final quarter of the year and if you’ve got a decent pear crop, my Christmas Spirit is one of them.

Like pretty much everything this summer, the pears in my garden have matured early and thanks to several weeks of classic British summer washout they are of good size but still, as last year, harder than a concrete cage fighter. I did three things with them last year. Firstly, after a minor brush with fame getting read out on Saturday Kitchen tweets, I took on some telly chef advice and pickled the best part of three kilos of my rockhard green babies and put them up for Christmas. I mostly followed this recipe from Saint Delia of Smith but put in about three times too much pepper by happy accident. They were pokey and sweet and went wonderfully on the boxing day cheese board, so it’s worth a look if you have your own crop to process.

The rest of them got made into an unsuccessful puree and the bulk of my Step Father’s Christmas bottle. He’s an awkward sod to buy for, because he generally doesn’t know what he wants and the Mothership gets fed up of asking him so on gifting occasions I tend to steer unguided towards obscure sci fi books and lesser contemplated consumables around themes of coffee, booze or marmite. I often remember him enjoying a sneaky tip of Benedictine back in the halycon days of us all living in the same house, and got into my head that I was going to make him some kind of sweet, spiced vodka for his stocking last year. What I made was absolutely NOTHING like Benedictine, mostly as I am not a monk with a secret recipe, but I did come up with a pretty winning and distinctly Christmassy home brew that will warm many a cockle of a cold winter’s eve. So if you’ve got a spare pear, so to speak, you might want to give this a go but get it started in the next 2 weeks for maximum infusion time.

Boomboom Christmas Spirit

1 bottle mid-range vodka
2 large conference pears
1 teaspoon of orange or lemon zest
1 vanilla pod
2 cinammon sticks (one now, one later)
6 cloves
4-6 tbspns Golden granulated sugar depending how sweet you take your tipples.
5 Cardamom pods
A 1l mason jar
Decorative bottle to decant

pears

Pear infused Christmas Spirit in process

Start by thoroughly cleaning and drying the mason jar- the combination of vodka and sugar will keep most microbial growth at bay but it still pays to give the glassware a really good clean and a very hot water rinse before you get started. Same goes for the decanting bottle in December.
Start to fill the jar with the spices and sugar (you can add more later if you don’t love the first taste test so less is more at this point).  Split the vanilla pod, crack the cinnamon stick in half and gently press the cardamom pods to crack the outer skins and allow as much surface area as possible for all those aromatics to seep into the vodka. The cloves can go in whole.
Wash the pears gently but thoroughly in cold water and cut off the very ends. With a sharp knife, score through the skin from top to bottom three times around the pear, then add to the jar. Chuck in the zest then fill the jar up with vodka. As always, don’t fall into the trap of budget cooking vodka use something you could stand to drink! Russian Standard or Smirnoff at a minimum please. Seal the jar, give it a very gentle jiggle then put it somewhere cool and dark to contemplate its destiny for a couple of months.

Continue to jiggle the bottle daily for a week, then once a week until early December, when you should take a little taste test and add more sugar if required. It will start to darken over time and should be a golden yellow after about 8 weeks. Don’t be put off by the pears starting to look a bit manky by this point and do not be tempted to open the jar or taste it before this- you really want to minimise oxygen exposure. If you want to sweeten add a table spoon more of sugar, shake, then leave for another 24 hours to taste. If this is not required, strain the liquid through muslin or a very fine metal mesh sieve and decant into a clean bottle with another, intact cinnamon stick for some pretty factor. Put a ribbon around it and give it away to be served over ice or in a martini. Merry Christmas!

Variations- you could try this with gin  using a very plain dry London gin like Gordon’s however I would leave out the cloves and vanilla.