Are You Going To Eat…..Chard?


Freshly harvested chard, from my garden.

I remember seeing chard mentioned on Masterchef increasingly frequently and assuming it was about to become the next go-to-food-twat ingredient taking the supermarket by storm. That was a while ago, as it’s been at least two years since I have paid any attention to Masterchef and I am still yet to recall a single incident of seeing actual chard to buy in a shop anywhere, though I think I have had it perhaps twice in restaurants.

Obviously there is a seasonal issue here, but chard has a pretty long growing season potentially from spring to autumn in the UK so we can’t just blame that. It is also tasty, potentially attractive to your plate and has a superheroic nutritional profile. So what is our problem with chard!?!?!?!

First to address is the above mentioned issue that you don’t see chard about much and thus a ton of people don’t know what it really is. Who is that adventurous about green leafy veg they don’t recognise? Not many people. Thus no one to sell it to. Thus no one sells it. The circle of consumerist life.  So what is it? Well I can tell you it is basically a big old leaf from the same family as beetroots and spinach, that grows much in the same way as a lettuce but is frankly a lot more robust in both texture and flavour. Young leaves are tender and can go straight into a salad, like most veg chard will retain the highest levels of nutrition when raw. Speaking of nutrition: 100 grams of raw chard will set you up with over a day’s worth of vitamin A requirements (to see in the dark), half your recommended vitamin C (which the body can’t store so you need to consume frequently) and 10, yes TEN TIMES the scientifically complicated daily volume of vitamin K that clever people in white coats think you should eat. Who cares? Women facing the menopause should, as vitamin K plays a big part in bone health. Nutritional (i.e. eaten) vitamin K is also known to play a role in inhibiting arterial calcification associated with heart disease* so if you have a heart or arteries, you should probably get plenty of it in your diet.

Older, and bigger, chard leaves are more bitter than the tiny wee ones thus more likely to be cooked in the same fashion as inexplicably trendier but not dissimilar kale. Like kale, chard doesn’t need a huge amount of cooking and tends to be shredded and added towards the end of the process of whatever you are rustling up in the kitchen. Chard is also much better at keeping it’s form when cooked and you can enjoy the stem as well as the leaf, unlike bitty annoying kale and its chewy horrid stems. The fact that it only need a short time to cook helps to maintain those lovely vitamin levels too** Not all of us like the bitter end of the taste spectrum, but if you find yourself cooking for oodles of children or indeed my own mother, you can sneak some chardy goodness into stews and bolognesey dishes by cutting it up very finely or add it to blended soups for some stealth nutrition. However if you take your coffee black and your chocolate dark, chard is quite wonderful as a vegetable in it’s own right, very quickly sauteed and stacked up alongside some red meat and a bit of gravy or shredded into a Spanish omelette. Raw vegan types might chuck it into a lurid smoothie for extra smugness and additional Instagram followers, and dinner party hosts and unicorn trend fans can seek out pretty old rainbow chard for extra photogenicity too.

There is a lot you can do with chard, and it is really good for you, so why the eff can’t you buy it anywhere?!?!?!?!?!


chard seeds are widely available and easy to grow at home

Actually along with the aforementioned lack of demand, it has a cruddy shelf life. Proper cruddy. But this shouldn’t stop you, as I have kept the Mr and myself in chard since this May with a simple planter box on our patio. As Grow Your Own veg goes it is incredibly easy to cultivate, needing partial sun, watering and the odd feed when they first start to sprout. You may have some interest from aphids and fleabeetles but there are many simple and organic pest control sprays that will fend these little buggers off (just don’t spray it near anything flowering and don’t eat within 2 weeks of a spray!). If you plant late march/early April you should be able to harvest your chard from May, and if you stick to snipping the outer leaves one plant will continue to grow for the whole summer. If you are very lucky more established plants will recrop even if you completely strip down to half inch of growth at the base. They will grow on a balcony or a well lit windowsill so come on people, grow some chard!

And eat some chard. Which is exactly what I am about to do with some scrambled eggs and a cheeky Sunday crumpet.

*thanks Wiki

**for cooked nutritional info look here


20 Questions With Boneman’s 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!


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 fruit. Maybe the spikes are there to protect you from eating it?? Pic from

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?


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?


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:
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!


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? 


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……



Find out more about this truly pubby pub at or tweet to @victoriainncol

Last time: Two Brews

Next time: Boneman’s BBQ

20 Questions With Two Brews!


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?

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?
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
Ed- quel suprise…..

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

19: Wine or 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: 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


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. 

20 Questions with the OMS


The Older Male Sibling hard at work in the kitchen. Fiver says not one of those bananas got eaten. 


Yup, it’s time to take five minutes to appreciate the culinary musings of the Older Male Sibling: food flogger, Pomme D’Or alumni and champion crispsndips hogger since 1977. He ain’t heavy.

1: Describe what you do without being boring?
I work for a company who make all sorts of lovely food for the big retailers. I sell and help develop food for Marks and Spencer.

2: What’s great about what you do?
Working with a truly foodie customer and business dinners!

3: What sucks about what you do?
Early starts, office hours and never escaping emails thanks to the work phone.

4: Do you eat breakfast?
Yep – as soon as I get to the office. Some form of heart healthy cereal to make up for the rest of the week.

5: Where/who is your favourite local food/drink business (other than your own)?
The White Oak in Cookham. They are as welcoming for a pint and a packet of crisps as they are for a four course dinner party. Good beer and beautiful, British, seasonal food. Great Sunday lunch.

6: Which celeb chef would you want in your gang in the event of a zombie apocalypse and why?
Ken Hom – have you seen him with a cleaver?! Also I reckon I could out run him.


Three guesses where those chopsticks are going if you question his cardio skills again.

7: What’s your go to comfort food?

8: Who taught you how to cook?
My parents. Both awesome cooks in very different ways.
Ed- neither of which will ever forgive you for not specifying them first. Unlucky!!!

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

10: What one food would you erase from all existence?

11: What’s on your kitchen playlist?
It changes so much. Recently Haim, The Milk, Vance Joy, Michael Kiwanuka. And always Fleetwood Mac. And Springsteen. How many am I allowed?!

12: If you could eat out anywhere tonight where would you go and who would you dine with?
Osteria Barberini in Rome. Our best honeymoon meal so obviously with the wife! Great value tiny restaurant. If you’re early they make you wait outside but the food is amazing.

13: Do you have a signature dish?
Tarte Tatin. Award winning. Just saying.
Ed: I won first prize Cornish Pasties when I was in the Brownies you know, I’m not still going on about it. 


Tarte tatin for the purists, no pears or salted caramels here (yes this is one of his).

14: Confess your biggest food sin………..
Eating too many nibbles and spoiling dinner.

15: If you had to restrict yourself to the cuisine of one country which would it be and why?
Italy without doubt. So simple, so tasty and I’m growing to love their wine.
*insert inevitable Nice Chianti gag here*

16: Cake or biscuits?

17: Tea or coffee?
Coffee. Black, no sugar as nature intended. Tea is up there with lychees!

18: Chunky chips or curly fries?
This is tough. Chunky chips.

19: Wine or beer?
I couldn’t choose. Beer is so good and so varied now.

20: Does pineapple belong on a pizza?
Yep – I never order a Hawaiian but I’d gobble up a free one!

Feel free to insta-troll him @jonboybarton

Next time, the brains behind Two Brews, possibly the best retail idea in history (or at least in Colchester).

Last time, Chef Tom Russell from The Rosebud (click link)