VIFC- Medieval Night

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If I have ever moaned about a restrictive food club theme then this wasn’t it, as a quick google tells us that ‘Medieval’ times or the Middle Ages cover any dates from 500-1500 AD. Nice. Quite a lot to choose from then?

Well, maybe. A quick chat confirmed that we all sought information from the, er, information super highway and didn’t struggle too much to find a dish that fell into our second restriction of not spending more than £7-50 on ingredients. Those original members also had something of a warm up for this one with the Elizabethan night some time ago, when generally available ingredients were very similar. Think simple constituent parts, heavy on the cooking and very heavy on the spices. Oddly the ‘simple’ element is ruled out by the excessive use of many spices that are more in luxury budget today-particularly oodles of saffron. Historians divide us as to whether this was to disguise the tell tale taste of past the mark meat, or a value on the aroma of a dish as a mark of culinary skill. Who can say. Well, actually we VIFCers can say that everything was certainly very tasty but also very beige. Reasons for this? Long cook times and the ingredients involved. Meat, onions, spices, grains, nuts. It’s not colourful stuff. For this reason I’m not sharing a ton of photos for this one, rather I invite you to paint a picture in your mind, a wheel within a wheel, that kind of thing. With one exception at the end. A google of the terms involved should help you find the/a similar recipe.

Ground Beans- sounds painful and vegany, the greenest of the beiges on offer. Made by Tom. Bloody amazing. Long boiled broad beans cooked in stock then mashed and mixed with teeny tiny bits of bacon. Absolutely delicious, so savoury and well flavoured. I went back for more.

Pork in Ale & Honey- from Nigel, pork cooked in an ale and grain mustard mix served with butter beans and more bacon. Hurrah! Have we always had bacon? I may need to write a new section on ancient bacon recipes. I digress. This was very good, and didn’t have that unfortunate after-tang that can happen occur when cooking with beers. A pinkish beige.

Chickpeas Two Ways- did the middle ages come up with the tossy ambiguous ‘ingredient several ways’ concept? Who knows. Matt served a very fine dish of stewed chickpeas, heavy on the garlic. As one eater suggested, an unmixed houmous. It was very fine indeed. As were his crispy roasted chickpeas, little crunchy bites with rosemary simply thrown on a baking sheet and into the oven. Very good, perfect TV snacking food for your favourite Olde Worlde show of choice. Still beige.

Capon Pie- oh bugger off Charlotte with your perfect pasty and precisely compacted pie. No-one likes a show off. Chicken, prunes and raisins in a marvelously golden pastry crust. Good stuff, devoured by all. Pastry is beige.

Stewed Ox Heart- from me, a slow cooked stew heavily spiked with sweet spices and thickened with breadcrumbs. A little heavy on the mace for my liking but a happy new discovery of heart as a dinner meat, very tasty indeed. Full recipe to follow soon on the main blog. It’s a browny kind of beige.

Medieval Meat Balls- from Professor Stu. Pork and lamb (I think?) meatballs served in a wonderfully sweet and creamy almond sauce, which wins the prize for the whitest shade of beige for the evening.

Gingerbread- from Sheena a bizarre, no-bake biscuit made from mixing breadcrumbs into boiled, spiced honey to make a pilable dough. Weird on the consistency but stupidly moreish. Like, I ate another three whilst getting my coat on moreish. Fab. A golden beige with cinnamon dusting.

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And hurrah for the cherry cakey thing from new member Jo, it’s pink! It’s VERY pink and came of boiling cherries, breadcrumbs and other stuff before setting. Sweet and sharp and delightfully un-stodgy for cooked bread. I think I have discussed my feelings on wet bread previously, but this certainly didn’t qualify for that category of desserts, more the consistency of a cheesecake. And it’s pink. Again, hurrah!

Tune in next time for Pasta & Booze. Yup, pasta and booze. Now is also time to apologise for my lack of posting last month as I was prevented from attending the evening due to being struck with the plague. A missed omen at the time, perhaps?

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VIFC- Cooking With Dairy

 

Have I mentioned that as well as our foodie nights the lovely Victoria Inn also hosts Cheese Club once a month? Yes, that’s where select individuals ascend to the private room at the back and eat a load of cheese. And talk about cheese. Then eat a bit more cheese. I couldn’t wait to get on board with cheese club, but it’s on a Monday and I invariably forget to go which is my own shameful cross to bear.

Anyway so last month the draw for the February meeting was an ingredient- Dairy. This lead me to suspect that I might get in on some of the cheesy goodness previously lost out on due to my sporadiac appearance for cheese club. I wasn’t wrong, and it did seem easy to go straight for the cheese in our savoury dishes. What was surprising was how many other options came to mind after we had all cooked, sat and devoured. I struggled to come up with ideas for my starter I have to say but in retrospect I was just being brain lazy. And also somewhat nostalgic as I initially decided to make an old favourite from The Mothership- her cream cheese and sandwich spread dip. Oh My Goodness. Amazing stuff, possibly some of my earliest dinner party involvement helping to stir this up to complete the ubiquitous Crisps and Dips. This was in the 80s when this was still a cool and suave thing to do before falling totally out of fashion then coming back as kitsch and/or slob out TV night food. Sadly I didn’t get to share this piquant tub of cheesey delight with my fellow foodies as the Sandwich Spread drought in the local area was so severe as to lead me to believe that Heinz had discontinued it, however I have since been corrected that it can still be found in Asda. Maybe we will come back to this another day. I did however bang out a passable mustardy cheesey dip and a highly pleasing goats cheese dip which I will summarise for you at the end of this post.

And now, the offerings:

Crudité! Recipe at the end of this post. The mustardy dip was a little pokey but I enjoyed it and the lemony goats cheese although runny was very pleasing, may well have made a good salad dressing.

Crudité! Recipe at the end of this post. The mustardy dip was a little pokey but I enjoyed it and the lemony goats cheese although runny was very pleasing, may well have made a good salad dressing. Serving platter model’s own.

 

Prawn Mornay. I love you Sheena. Thick, rich bechamel with paremesan and another (which I'm going to say gruyere but may be mistaken) cheese with prawns and peas to make it healthy. Ahem. Absolutely beautiful.

Prawn Mornay. I love you Sheena. Thick, rich bechamel with paremesan and another (which I’m going to say gruyere but may be mistaken) cheese with prawns and peas to make it healthy. Ahem. Absolutely beautiful.

 

Cheesy bacon and pasta shells in a tomatoey sauce from Charlotte. Reeealy good and I would say better than similar dishes you pay eight quid for in your chain Italina restaurant of choice and end up tasking only durum and garlic. Really nicely done. Extar points for using mahoosive shells.

Cheesy bacon and pasta shells in a tomatoey sauce from Charlotte.  I would say better than similar dishes you pay eight quid for in your chain Italian restaurant of choice and end up tasting only durum and garlic. Really nicely done. Extra points for using mahoosive shells.

 

Tom, I love you more than I love Sheena. Mac n cheese n bacon, hooray! Tom broke an (apprently) established food club rule by healthy-ing up this dish using rice flour, skinny milk and half fat cheddar but I applaud him in this it was SO delicious. I'm a sucker for macaroni cheese anyway to the extent that I couldn't be British and politely decline his offer of me taking the leftovers home for my lunch. It was as good cold the next day from my desk. Bravo, my winner for this month.

Tom, I love you more than I love Sheena. Mac n cheese n bacon, hooray! Tom broke an (apprently) established food club rule by healthy-ing up this dish using rice flour, skinny milk and half fat cheddar but I applaud him in this it was SO delicious. I’m a sucker for macaroni cheese anyway to the extent that I couldn’t be British and politely decline his offer of me taking the leftovers home for my lunch. It was as good cold the next day from my desk. Bravo, my favourite for this month.

 

Bread and Butter Pudding by Matt, who yes scored another desset draw by totally legitimate means. Hmm. This was well recieved by everyone who doesn't have an inherent biological fear of soggy bread. Extra points for double dairy usage.

Bread and Butter Pudding by Matt, who yes scored another dessert draw by totally legitimate means. Hmm. This was well recieved by everyone who doesn’t have an inherent biological phobia of soggy bread. Extra points for double dairy usage.

 

Creme Bruleé, Proffessor Stu, perfectly executed. We think this is the third outing of a creme brulee at food club, the archives are to be checked to verify this. I wonder if maybe we should have a creme brulee cook off.....

Creme Bruleé, Proffessor Stu, perfectly executed. We think this is the third outing of a creme brulee at food club, the archives are to be checked to verify this. I wonder if maybe we should have a creme brulee cook off…..

 

We gather next in March to share our findings on food of the fifties and a new added category to aid our creativity- all ingredients to be British sourced.

 

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As promised here follows two very easy dips to be made at home when you feel a bit retro or don’t want to eat a proper dinner infront of Poldark. Serve with sliced carrots, cucumber and peppers to counteract the massive fat content! I also like pitta chips a la Boomboom made by roughly chopping wholemeal pittas, drizzling with rapeseed oil and a good shake of maldon sea salt and freshly milled black pepper then baked in a medium oven until the edges start to brown. Also good seasoned with paprika.

Not Mum’s Sandwich Spread Dip But As Near As I Could Fake It

Combine one tub of philadelphia (or cream cheese of your choice) with three tablespoons natural yoghurt and two finely chopped gherkins and 1-3 teaspoons of hot english mustard, depending on how pokey you can take it.

Easy Lemon & Goats Cheese Dip

Take 250g of a soft goats cheese and the juice of 1 lemon and mush down with a fork, adding natural yoghurt until you can beat this into a soft dippy consistency. Blanket the top with fresh black pepper. I think this might work with feta too but don’t quote me on that just yet.

VIFC- Asian Food

At a time that now seems many more moons ago than it probably was, the theme of Asia was drawn for the November meeting of the Victoria Inn Food Club. Actually referred to as cookery club these days but I prefer the FC acronym, so ner.

Asia. Sadly the land mass and not the band, but a big old remit either way. One immediately thinks noodles, rice, chicken, and one is kind of racist restrictively minded for going Chinese as default. There’s so much Asia and a huge amount of diverse and noodle free cuisine. Clean, precise tastes of Japan, spicy hits from Malaysia and Indonesia, a million billion curries from India and beyond, loads of vodka soaked beetroot involving Russian dishes. Yes. Russian dishes. I took the role of pedant away from Tom this month and had to ask, well we can do something Russian, yes? Debate ensued. Speaking in terms of dinner (are there any others?) it was generally consented that Russian grub sat better with the Eastern Bloc theme night yet to be drawn. However, if one was to get down to the geography of the matter then yes, Russian counted as Asian so would be accepted at the November meeting table. Geographical themed night, so Geography wins. So smug, gleaming and triumphant from this ruling, I made something Vietnamese.

Here we go.

Satay Chicken from Tom made with hazelnut butter. A tasty twist on a classic, well received by all.

Satay Chicken from Tom made with hazelnut butter. A tasty twist on a classic, well received by all.

 

Sushi from Charlotte who would have us believe this was only her second attempt at the nori roll. Suspicions abound as it was a very professional result. Good job.

Sushi from Charlotte who would have us believe this was only her second attempt at the nori roll. Suspicions abound as it was a very professional result. Good job.

 

Fab spiced salmon and corn soup from Sheena, well spiced without being ouchy hot. Think this was Vietnamese in origin, I await confirmation for my terrible memory.

Fab spiced salmon and corn soup from Sheena, well spiced without being ouchy hot. Think this was Vietnamese in origin, I await confirmation for my terrible memory.

 

Thai Curry from Ian, really warming and punchy with chunky veg. Delicious, perfect winter food.

Thai Curry from Ian, really warming and punchy with chunky veg. Delicious, perfect winter food.

 

Goi Buoi Tom Thit (I love saying that) or a Vietnamese pomelo & chicken salad from me. I love this personally but it was badly timed for a cold night in the pub in Essex. A good freshener with lots of mint and a radioactive  fish sauce dressing of death, this one will be back in summer.

Goi Buoi Tom Thit (I love saying that) or a Vietnamese pomelo & chicken salad from me. I love this personally but it was badly timed for a cold night in the pub in Essex. A good freshener with lots of mint and a radioactive fish sauce dressing of death, this one will be back in summer.

 

Perfectly executed Rendang Curry from Malaysia, by Prof Stu. Everything you would expect and well spiced enough to trick me into eating coconut. A triumph.

Perfectly executed Rendang Curry from Malaysia, by Prof Stu. Everything you would expect and well spiced enough to trick me into eating coconut. A triumph.

 

Welcome to the Layer Cake Son.......this is a lovely multi layered Indonesian cake by Matt. Sweet and spicy and oh so pretty. Very moreish, you can make this one again.

Welcome to the Layer Cake Son…….this is a lovely multi layered Indonesian cake by Matt. Sweet and spicy and oh so pretty. Very moreish, you can make this one again.

Nigel wasn't happy with his Japanese cheesecake and let's be honest we all sulk about a less than perfect visual finish once in a while. Appearances can bugger off in my humble on this one- it was AMAZING! Light cakey base, creamy cheesey smooth sweet filling and a striking layer of green tea jelly to top it off. Fan. Bloody. Tastic. My clear favourite of the night, bravo Nigel!

Nigel wasn’t happy with his Japanese cheesecake and let’s be honest we all sulk about a less than perfect visual finish once in a while. Appearances can bugger off in my humble on this one- it was AMAZING!
Light cakey base, creamy cheesey smooth sweet filling and a striking layer of green tea jelly to top it off. Fan. Bloody. Tastic. My clear favourite of the night, bravo Nigel!

 

And not a noodle in sight! A really good night, agreed by all to be one of the best meetings we have had in terms of both food and comedy from ‘I’ve only had 4 pints’ Ian. Not to mention a quick whip round of Stuart’s devilishly marvellous Sloe Gin. Treats for all!

Join me some time after the second Tuesday of the month for our pre Christmas meeting where we are tasked to bring in a traditional Christmas-time dish from anywhere but the UK. Interesting.

Until then, I bid you farewell.

VIFC- Two Fat Ladies

Two Fat Ladies.

Two Fat Ladies.

No, we didn’t have an impromptu bingo night at the Victoria Inn Food Club for August, rather we drew the lot of recreating dishes from the old school beeb delights of Jennifer Patterson and Clarissa Dickson Wright, the proudly self proclaimed Two Fat Ladies.

If you aren’t familar with them, think Floyd with busoms. If you aren’t familiar with Floyd then pretty much all of this post is going to be lost on you. Move along.

I kind of love the two fat ladies, as they managed to hit an unatural balance of being marvellously British but also completely unapologetic. They used lard and booze and cream and veal and suet all other kinds of sinful ingredients. Puddings, stews and hearty loaves made with a firm hand and a dirty joke or two to sweeten the mix. They were all dinner and no dainty, the panto dames of the Celebrity Chefs perhaps but also the most believeable. How much of those cakes and trifles and pastries that ex model Lorriane Pascal bangs out do you think she actually eats? I don’t trust skinny cooks, I never have, it’s like buying a used car from someone without a driving licence.

I use the past tense as poor old Jen and Clarissa have both departed this mortal coil. Rather wonderfully Jennifer’s last request of her cooking cohort was to smuggle a tin of caviar to her hospital bedside, a request sadly fulfilled just hours after she died in 1999. Clarissa made another decade and beyond, leaving us just this year. My favourite quote of hers, which sums her up quite wonderfully I think, was “I once had two people attempt to mug me and they both ended up in intensive care. I can handle myself.”

History lesson over, what did we cook!

 

'Easy Onion Soup' which I made. It certainly was easy, basically onions, butter, stock, beer and stilton. You should find it easily with Google, well worth a go for tasty lunch or first course.

‘Easy Onion Soup’ which I made. It certainly was easy, basically onions, butter, stock, beer and stilton. You should find it easily with Google, well worth a go for tasty lunch or first course.

Guinea Fowl Terrine from Professor Stu with pickled walnuts and a bacon jacket. Absolutely delicious, solid and gamey broken up with those tart, soft walnuts. This is the kind of thing I could easily disappear on a cold sunday afternoon along with a loaf of crusty white and a bottle of aged red.

Guinea Fowl Terrine from Professor Stu with pickled walnuts and a bacon jacket. Absolutely delicious, solid and gamey broken up with those tart, soft walnuts. This is the kind of thing I could easily disappear on a cold sunday afternoon along with a loaf of crusty white and a bottle of aged red.

Mains no 1: Meatloaf- beef, pork, sausage, mushrooms and another bacon wrapping this was serious meat, the Godzilla of gourmet burgers. Very well done Jason this was delicious, moist and meaty. I could eat a whole one. But I won't do that.

Mains no 1: Meatloaf- beef, pork, sausage, mushrooms and another bacon wrapping, the Godzilla of gourmet burgers. Very well done Jason this was delicious, moist and meaty. I could eat a whole one. But I won’t do that.

Medieval Roast Chicken from Matt. A fine and classic effort with sweet spices. Very well received and especially yummy when smooshed together with some of the roasted garlic.

Medieval Roast Chicken from Matt. A fine and classic effort with sweet spices. Very well received and especially yummy when smooshed together with some of the roasted garlic.

Broad beans cooked in cream and lemon juice with more bacon. I'm a big fan of broad beans and was a big fan of this offering from Nigel, though the lemony finish took a bit of getting used to. Maybe two mouthfuls....

Broad beans cooked in cream and lemon juice with more bacon. I’m a big fan of broad beans and was a big fan of this offering from Nigel, though the lemony finish took a bit of getting used to. Maybe two mouthfuls….

Caramelised potatoes from Sheena. Yup, toss cooked potatoes in butter and brown sugar. Unanimously unremarkable, though also a unanimous agreement they sounded great in theory.

Caramelised potatoes from Sheena. Yup, toss cooked potatoes in butter and brown sugar. Unanimously unremarkable, though also a unanimous agreement they sounded great in theory.

Beetroor gratin: it's bright pink and baked with extra mature cheddar and parmesan. I love you Sheena. This was my favourite of the night.

Beetroot gratin: it’s bright pink and baked with extra mature cheddar and parmesan. I love you Sheena. This was my favourite of the night.

Just because we've not made fun of Ian enough recently he decided to put his souffle in very early and learn the hard lesson of deflation with an audience. It was however very impressive upon tasting with a rich choclatey flavour. Who doesn't like warm chocolate cake in all of it's forms?

Just because we’ve not made fun of Ian enough recently he decided to put his souffle in very early and learn the hard lesson of deflation with an audience. It was however very impressive upon tasting with a rich chocolatey flavour. Who doesn’t like warm chocolate cake in all of it’s forms? Points too to fearless side kick and one night only member Matthew. 

Yorkshire Ginger Cake from Charlotte, served sliced with clotted cream. This is the kind of heavy, weaponised cake that cries out for a cold night and a hot custard. Spicy and hearty, good stuff.

Yorkshire Ginger Cake from Charlotte, served sliced with clotted cream. This is the kind of heavy, weaponised cake that cries out for a cold night and a hot custard. Spicy and hearty, good stuff.

As you can see from the above evidence, Jennifer and Clarrissa didn’t do much for light lunches or photogenic cuisine but boy did they know how to churn out a good dinner. Traditional, old school comfort with extra bacon is what you got with those two and no doubt the main precursor of their famous shared physique.  There were mutterings of this being possibly the best club night yet.

Join us next month for tastes of the 70s! Disco soundtrack and Huggy Bear dress up compulsory.

 

bio info sourced from Wikipedia and yahoo

VIFC meeting- Keith Floyd!

article-1189714-0523F02A000005DC-156_468x499Last month’s draw for Food Club was a celebrity chef again, the late, great Great Keith Floyd!

Keith Floyd came to be 1943 and worked in the army for some time before embarking on his culinary career as either a bar man or a veg peeler, depending on your information source. He had something of a chequered history in the catering trade, opening then bankrupting a group of restaurants in Bristol, then repeating the process later in southern France. A quick scour of wikihistoy confirms the slightly cracked, rakish English sterotype he showed us on telly was maybe not as affected as it might appear- a hard drinking, chain smoking boozer with a string of ex wives and a charmingly toffish speaking voice that lent itself so well to mildly abusing a camera man. James Bond’s cooking cousin perhaps, Mr Floyd was one of the earlier TV chefs with a staggering number of books under his belt as well as a run of beeb shows from the mid eighties until 2001. A staggering number of books it’s not easy to get hold of nowadays it seems as most Victoria Inn cookers were found trawling library order services and ebay in order to get a good selection to chose from.

In general, we loved all the Floyd food we came up with and yes some of it was pretty heavy on the hard stuff as expected. But all of it was good and hearty and nicely traditional, despite being from a number of different cuisines. Some of it ever so slightly retro to my mind, but in a good way. Although traditional doesn’t always mean simple and I certainly skipped over a few options in favour of saving time and shopping hours. The only irks expressed were that some quantities in the recipes seemed a little out of whack (if they were present at all) to the point of questioning the sobriety of the writer at the time of composition. So here we go, Cheers Keith!

Beef Pho by Dave, really flavoursome broth and tender beef. A fine start to proceedings.

Beef Pho by Dave, really flavoursome broth and tender beef. A fine start to proceedings.

A very nice chowder, heavy on the butter and cream nicely cut with some crisp pancetta bits. Indulgence galore, thank you Amanda.

A very nice chowder, heavy on the butter and cream nicely cut with some crisp pancetta bits. Indulgence galore, thank you Amanda.

Stuffed tomatoes, meaty and cheesey and everything good. A brilliant result for Sheena from a recipe with no quantities or oven settings! My favourite of the night.

Stuffed tomatoes, meaty and cheesey and everything good. A brilliant result for Sheena from a recipe with no quantities or oven settings! My favourite of the night.

 

A tabloulleh (that's a bulgar wheat salad) from me. A favourite of mine historically and went well as a side or as a big bowl of it's own. Must say I prefer more greenery than Mr Floyd stipulated but it was de-lish.

A tabloulleh (that’s a bulgar wheat salad) from me. A favourite of mine historically and went well as a side or as a big bowl of it’s own. Must say I prefer more greenery than Mr Floyd stipulated but it was de-lish.

Pigeon Pie! Hurrah for pigeon pie, supplied by Tom and enjoyed by all.

Pigeon Pie! Hurrah for pigeon pie, supplied by Tom and enjoyed by all.

Poachers Rabbit. I mean Poacher's-Chicken-Cos-They-Didn't-Have-Any-Rabbit. Creamy and heavy on the vin blanc, really tasty hearty stew begging for some dumplings! Good job Jason.

Poachers Rabbit. I mean Poacher’s-Chicken-Cos-They-Didn’t-Have-Any-Rabbit. Creamy and heavy on the vin blanc, really tasty hearty stew begging for some dumplings! Good job Jason.

A fabulous dish as always from Dr Stuart- I'm guessing an african dish by design of chicken with tomatoes, sultanas and plenty of lemon juice. Fantastically fresh and moreish this was a very, very close runner up for my dish of the night.

A fabulous dish as always from Dr Stuart- I’m guessing an african dish by design of chicken with tomatoes, sultanas and plenty of lemon juice. Fantastically fresh and moreish this was a very, very close runner up for my dish of the night.

Rum cakes from Ian. Ian makes good cake. This was no exception to the rule. Nom.

Rum cakes from Ian. Ian makes good cake. This was no exception to the rule. Nom.

Floating Islands from Charlotte. That's bascially meringues poached in custard. Some mixed response here but for my 2 cents the custard was top notch and it worked in that way that traditional old lady dishes do. Yes, it was a bit eggy, what with being made with eggs and all.....Also loved the caramel you can't quite see on the top. Good work.

Floating Islands from Charlotte. That’s bascially meringues poached in custard. Some mixed response here but for my 2 cents the custard was top notch and it worked in that way that traditional old lady dishes do. Yes, it was a bit eggy, what with being made with eggs and all…..Also loved the caramel you can’t quite see on the top. Good work.

This month we welcomed Nigel to the VIFC! Hi Nigel! Nigel made these lovely plum and almond creations, a hefty cakey base cushioning the fruit in the middle. Delicious, and very nicely presented.

This month we welcomed Nigel to the VIFC! Hi Nigel! Nigel made these lovely plum and almond creations, a hefty cakey base cushioning the fruit in the middle. Delicious, and very nicely presented.

As seen many times before, Matt was happy drawing a dessert for the evening. A chocolate and cherry brandy trifely-cheesecake thing. It was double decadent and very boozy. That's me one step closer to diabetes, and not necessarily unhappily so. Good job.

As seen many times before, Matt was happy drawing a dessert for the evening. A chocolate and cherry brandy trifely-cheesecake thing. It was double decadent and very boozy. That’s me one step closer to diabetes, and not necessarily unhappily so. Good job.

 

In summary, we like Floyd and I think I will keep an eye out for any more of his books on my travels!

Next month: Marco Pierre White. No Knorr products allowed.

 

 

VIFC- Gino D’acampo Night

Mr D'Acampo, celebrity chef and world record enthusiast. More interestingly, he shares  his birthday with me, 17th July if you want to send a card.

Mr D’Acampo, celebrity chef and world record enthusiast. More interestingly, he shares his birthday with me, 17th July if you want to send a card.

For the February outing of the Victoria Inn Foodie Club, we drew a celebrity chef from the random pot of themes, Mr Gino D’acampo. Personally, I was nonplussed at this happening as I snobbishly don’t quite count Mr GD as a proper chef. Sorry, but smiling on Ready Steady Cook and giving the odd housewife an even odder thrill with your big eyes and toothy grin doesn’t automatically result in knowing your asofetida from your elbow, no matter how personable you are (I’m looking at you too,  Ainsley).

But Gino we got, so Gino we took to google in search of a good night’s eating. Having a main course allocated should have been a godsend on this one, it is usually the category with most wiggle room but it seemed that the majority of Mr D’Acampo’s mains tended to be a variation on mixed meat with a bit of chilli. Had I not briefly conferred with Charlotte before shopping for my dish, all three mains served would have been meatballs! I may have been quick to judge however, as there certainly was some good stuff on offer and us Fooders can only take so much credit for that as it all began with a funny little Italian man who once went in to the jungle and survived a couple of seasons with Worrell Thompson. Let see what we managed to come up with.

One of the few not Italian dishes of the night- a hot chilli and prawn soup and BOY did it pack in the spice. Stuart had us all in clear sinused heaven with this one, really tasty and Thai in origin.  Worth looking up to recreate.

One of the few not Italian dishes of the night- a hot chilli and prawn soup and BOY did it pack in the spice. Stuart had us all in clear sinused heaven with this one, really tasty and Thai in origin. Worth looking up to recreate.

 

Beef carpaccio with a zesty salad. Fantastic offering from Sheena thanks to a great seasoning mix and some highly delicious beef. Tender and tasty and a joint winner for my favourite of the night.

Beef carpaccio with a zesty salad. Fantastic offering from Sheena thanks to a great seasoning mix and some highly delicious beef. Tender and tasty and a joint winner for my favourite of the night.

 

Meatball mains number one from either Charlotte or Amanda. Pork and beef in a slightly chillied tomato sauce. Both were good, both from the same recipe and both tasted very different! Go figure.

Meatball mains number one from either Charlotte or Amanda. Pork and beef in a slightly chillied tomato sauce. Both were good, both from the same recipe and both tasted very different! Go figure.

Meatball mains number 2, from Charlotte or Amanda. Please see previous meatball accompanying text.

Meatball mains number 2, from Charlotte or Amanda. Please see previous meatball accompanying text.

 

My stuffed peppers- roasted and filled with a mix of ricotta, capers, rosemary and lemon juice. Bit tart, but not bad at all. Shame I forgot the chilli oil drizzle to serve but the parmesan crisps off camera made a fine garnish.

My stuffed peppers- roasted and filled with a mix of ricotta, capers, rosemary and lemon juice. Bit tart, but not bad at all. Shame I forgot the chilli oil drizzle to serve but the parmesan crisps off camera made a fine garnish.

Ever had a risotto that seemed to be missing that certain something? That certain something is chocolate, honey and cinnamon. Made be Ian, demolished by all these were lovely.

Ever had a risotto that seemed to be missing that certain something? That certain something is chocolate, honey and cinnamon. Made be Ian, demolished by all these were lovely.

A white chocolate mousse with fresh mint leaves and black pepper. This was some heavy going dessert fayre let me tell you, dense and creamy and highly satisfying. We all agreed that it was good but could have used a little more mint. Good work Tom.

A white chocolate mousse with fresh mint leaves and black pepper. This was some heavy going dessert fayre let me tell you, dense and creamy and highly satisfying. We all agreed that it was good but could have used a little more mint, I bet it would make an awesome icecream. Good work Tom.

 

Oh good god. My other joint favourite of the night, a chilli chocolate mousse. It was just incredible, creamy and chocolatey with a subtle chilli drop off in the background and mega sickly. Divine. Jason made this and had some misgivings on the texture but everyone else loved it.

Oh good god. My other joint favourite of the night, a chilli chocolate mousse. It was just incredible, creamy and chocolatey with a subtle chilli drop off in the background and mega sickly. Divine. Jason made this and had some misgivings on the texture but everyone else loved it.

Beautifully presented Tiramisu shots from Matt, accompanied by a whacking great traditionally served tiramisu also. Cakey coffee-ey creamy goodness from the dessert maestro.

Beautifully presented Tiramisu shots from Matt, accompanied by a whacking great traditionally served tiramisu also. Cakey coffee-ey creamy goodness from the dessert maestro.

 

And there you have it, in conclusion we can say that Gino loves a bit of chilli and should maybe stick to the puddings as they were all marvellous. Though credit where due, if you stray away from his obvious Italian classic recipes there’s some more interesting stuff to be found, especially that yummy soup.

Next month, South America!

 

 

 

 

VIFC Meeting- Veg!

I think it is fair to say at the end of last month’s meeting there weren’t many whoops of joy as the theme of Vegetable was drawn. For clarity this meant that dishes for the October meeting had to not just involve but star vegetables. Major food groups such as meat, fish and chocolate were of course allowed too but only as bit part players. Not so hard for the savouries but there was a collective low groan from almost everyone that drew a dessert, other than Matt of course who groans if he draws anything other than a dessert!

I like vegetables, as a rule. Five a day isn’t much of a stretch for me, infact it’s usually out of the way by the end of lunch. I love a good salad in the summer, I go giddy for watercress at any time and revel in the mass application of onions at most meal times. Veg is great. It has fibre and vitamins and generally quite low calories for the associated bulk- don’t quote avocados at me diet freaks, it’s not a vegetable. Veg is generally cheap and generally good for you, hooray for vegetables.
I had in mind for cookery club a nice seasonal bake of aubergines with a tomato sauce and a cheeky bit of parmesan, a plan scuppered by a stunning lack of aubergines in Sainsbury’s two days in a row which left me wandering the fresh veg scratching my head. Not because there was no inspiration, rather too much! As I searched the racks for some ideas my eyes caught some leeks and my brain instantly told me it had to have creamed leeks for tea that night- a simple often guilty pleasure I indulge in when the weather turns and I can’t be bothered to cook very much. So I got three leeks for my dinner. Then realised I should just do some leeks for my club entry and that, dear reader was that. Let’s have a look what everyone else came up with.

A mixed mushroom goulash from Tom with peppers and plenty of paprika, a great winter dinner for certain

A mixed mushroom goulash from Tom with peppers and plenty of paprika, a great winter dinner for certain

Colcannon, and just remembering it raised a hearty foodie chuckle from my sofa as I type. Creamy mash with cabbage and bacon. Does life get better than mashed spuds with bacon? Exactly. Good job Amanda.

Colcannon, and just remembering it raised a hearty foodie chuckle from my sofa as I type. Creamy mash with cabbage and bacon. Does life get better than mashed spuds with bacon? Exactly. Good job Amanda.

A rather marvellous take on a tart tartin- small, sweet onions caramelised in sugar and balsamic vinegar with the traditional puff pastry lid/base served with a truly devilish Roquefort sauce. This is the kind of food that could have me dead of congestive heart failure before I'm 40. Fan. Bloody. Tastic, and points for originality.  Fearless leader Sheena provided this one.

A rather marvellous take on a tart tartin- small, sweet onions caramelised in sugar and balsamic vinegar with the traditional puff pastry lid/base served with a truly devilish Roquefort sauce. This is the kind of food that could have me dead of congestive heart failure before I’m 40. Fan. Bloody. Tastic. And points for originality. Fearless leader Sheena provided this one.

My offering- butter fried leaks and chestnut mushrooms in a pretty heavy cheese sauce with plenty of nutmeg, topped with more cheese and bread chunks then baked. I love this, and make it often and yes, it is absolutely worth the calories. Well received by my fellow foodies.

My offering- butter fried leaks and chestnut mushrooms in a pretty heavy cheese sauce with plenty of nutmeg, topped with more cheese and bread chunks then baked. I love this, and make it often and yes, it is absolutely worth the calories. Well received by my fellow foodies.

Iced chocolate cakes made with frozen mashed potato as per instruction from Saint Delia. Matt provided these, and was not desperately impressed with them. You certainly couldn't tell there were potatos in them and they were most palatable though with a stickier consistency than your average cupcake. I finished mine, obviously. It was a cake.

Iced chocolate cakes made with frozen mashed potato as per instruction from Saint Delia. Matt provided these, and was not desperately impressed with them himself but everyone tucked in heartily. You certainly couldn’t tell there were potatoes in them and they were most palatable with a stickier consistency than your average cupcake. I finished mine, obviously. It was a cake.

Immaculate little chocolate and beetroot muffins from Dave with distraction tactic icing carrots. Mixed reaction on these- the beetroot haters among us found the beet taste too overwhelming and did not enjoy. Beetophiles such as myself could taste only a light and moist cakey goodness. And what a result for his first ever bake, God bless you Dave!

Immaculate little chocolate and beetroot muffins from Dave with distraction tactic icing carrots. Mixed reaction on these- the beetroot haters among us found the beet taste too overwhelming and did not enjoy. Beetophiles such as myself could taste only a light and moist cakey goodness. And what a result for his first ever bake, God bless you Dave!

Another beautiful offering from Stuart who frankly shames my presentation skills further into the ground with every meeting. This beautiful beast is a sweet potato cheesecake, digestive base topped off with pecan halves. Again some mixed reviews and debate as to the cinammon levels being too high. I thought it was great and the spice helped to cut through the richness of the cheesy sweet potato filling but I'm a big fan of cinnamon. And slightly too rich stuff. This was amazing.

Another picture perfect offering from Stuart who frankly shames my presentation skills further into the ground with every meeting. This beautiful beast is a sweet potato cheesecake, digestive base topped off with pecans. Again some mixed reviews and debate as to the cinnamon levels being too high. I thought it was great and the spice helped to cut through the richness of the cheesy sweet potato filling but I’m a big fan of cinnamon. And slightly too rich stuff. This was amazing.

A striking icecream from Ian of spinach, pistachio nut, honey and avocado. Whilst the spinach gave the colour the avocado was the main flavour here. Very refreshing and crisp, I really enjoyed my first scoop then moved on to cake. Oddly on going back to finish it seemed to have lost all sweetness, no doubt in comparison to all the much sweeter offerings. No doubt one of the slightly healthier options on offer and really different. I really like it, an no-one hated it. Good job.

A striking icecream from Ian of spinach, pistachio nut, honey and avocado. Whilst the spinach gave the colour the avocado was the main flavour here. Very refreshing and crisp, I really enjoyed my first scoop then moved on to cake. Oddly on going back to finish it seemed to have lost all sweetness, no doubt in comparison to all the much sweeter offerings. No doubt one of the slightly healthier options on offer and really different. I liked it very much, and no-one hated it. Good job.

Let me tell you, it takes a very special group of people to turn a vegetable cookery night into a comfort calorific dinner with cake AND ice-cream. Very special indeed.