Guest blogging for Penguin’s #penguincooks month

Follow my blog with Bloglovin
Recently I was asked by my lovely colleagues at Penguin to write a guest blog as part of their #penguincooks campaign this October.

I decided to write about the nostalgia of cooking and have a look back at some of the vintage cook books from the Penguin archives.

You can read my Cooking from the archives post over on the Penguin blog.

The post was inspired by an old cooking notebook of my Great Nan’s that my mum recently bestowed upon me, it’s full of awesome recipe cards and leaflets. I just love the language and design of these things:
heirloom recipe books

A wonderful find and a treasure to keep and cook from forever more.

– Charlie

Food how to guide – how to prepare artichokes in pictures and words

Artichokes are great, and, though they are a bit of a faff to prepare, they’re worth the effort. Here are a few photos showing how to prepare them from our last artichoke feast:

20131018-125520.jpg

To begin – chop the top 1/3 of the artichoke

20131018-125530.jpg

It should look a bit like this when you’ve done that

20131018-125600.jpg

Now chop the artichoke in half down the centre of the stalk

20131018-125620.jpg

Now start to scoop the centre out of the artichoke and pull a few of the tougher outer leaves on.

20131018-125612.jpg

Now continue to scoop out the fibrous inner part

20131018-125634.jpg

Once it’s all scooped out it should look like this.

20131018-125508.jpg

Keep the prepped artichokes in some water with lemon juice to stop them from browning

20131018-125647.jpg

Cook and eat as you’d wish – these ones have been simply BBQed for a few minutes and served as is

Tim Hayward’s Food DIY – an interview and our attempt at a homemade pastrami recipe

This post is a little bit about getting free recipe books through work (such as Tim Hayward’s Food DIY) and also getting the opportunity to meet and interview authors through work (like author of Food DIY Tim Hayward). Quite handy when you run a food blog.

Now that I own the book, I can tell you it’s a ripping read and features some terrific typographic design and smashing use of vintage butcher’s shop iconography. Here’s a quick Instagram video of the book if you want to see inside

As I might have already hinted, I was also asked to interview Tim Hayward for the Penguin Soundcloud channel, you can have a listen to my gushing interview technique here:

From all this gushing about free books and meeting authors, somewhere along the way we were inspired to do something delightful with meat. So a plan was hatched to try our hands at pastrami.

Buoyed along by memories of Katz’s diner in New York – we had in mind an ultimate outcome of sandwiches, pickles and either beer or root beer. Either of those beers would do. The results of this pastrami plan can be seen in pictures below, plus the resulting sandwich (with home made pickled gherkin to accompany as is only right). We cured, boiled and then BBQed this awesome piece of meat. Consensus is we’ll be doing that one again.

Meat and Beer Tasting at Brew Dog London with Cobble Lane Cured

Last night we ventured forth to Camden for our second night of beer-matched-with-something-tasty at Brew Dog. Last time it was cheese and this time it was meat.

Brew Dog have worked with a small charcuterie company in London – the only one in London we’re told. These guys brought Picco Salumi premises in N1 off the previous owner 6 months ago and are rebranding as Cobble Lane Cured. Everywhere I can find they are referred to using the previous business name, including on Brew Dog’s own site. However, it seems they’re trying for a name change – so thought I’d mention that here.

Interestingly, Islington seems to be fostering a bit of a food movement according to an article in the Evening Standard from September 2013.

The evening began and ended with beer and meat. Over the course of 3 hours, we slowly consumed enough beer, bread and salami to keep us going for the duration.

As part of this meat-fest, there was some cured lamb (a violin of lamb was mentioned – this had to do with how you slice the cured meat if I’ve remembered correctly) that split opinion and a pepperoni that packed a punch. The following photos show meats #2 and #3 both of which were my favourites.

Brew Dog beer matching begins

Brew Dog beer matching begins

Brew Dog beer matching continues

Brew Dog beer matching continues

The beers went from very drinkable into the slightly murky territory of 18% alcohol content – those pokier beers don’t always appeal to me. We had the Punk IPA and Dead Pony – both two of my favourite Brew Dog beers, all would go perfectly with a beer stick.

Beer stick

This is what’s known in the business as a beer stick

Lots of meat

All the meat all the time – we purchased beer sticks. They’re good for fishing trips.

Along with the inevitable excitement of beer combined with awesome cured meat, it was also exciting to find out that Cobble Street Curing invite the general riff raff that is the public into their kitchens to see how the process works. Suffice to say, I know at least one bearded Canadian who will be taking them up on that offer.

Beer tasting on the balcony: Brew Dog and Tate Lichtenstein APA

Another sunny Sunday, another beer tasting on the balcony.

This time it’s a collaboration with Brew Dog and the Tate, using Lichtenstein for the bottle design.

From the bottle: brewed with rye and US hops, this is a vibrant yet refreshing take on the American pale ale style.

Alc. 5.2%

Ty’s thoughts:

It’s good, hoppy. For me, it leaves a slight liquorice flavour on the back of the mouth. It’s very effervescent. I find it hard to describe the rye flavour – there is something about it that reminds me of rye breads, but it isn’t overtly rye or dark. I’ve known lots of rye beers to be darker in colour.

Charlie’s thoughts:

On a purely aesthetic note, the Lichtenstein inspired label design is awesome. On the beer itself, the first sip I thought it was too bitter for me, but the taste mellows on the second sip. Perhaps it’s the rye in it, but the flavour coats the mouth – and whilst it’s nice, I’m not sure I’d drink more than a half if out. I think maybe the rye gives it a heaviness that adds to that conclusion as well.

20130519-181022.jpg

BBQ whole chicken marinated in lemon and olive oil and seasoned with za’atar recipe

Once upon a time I was a vegetarian. After co-habiting with the aforementioned carnivore, I have somewhat reversed that life choice (with a few caveats). Firstly, if I’m going to eat meat I’d prefer to buy it locally, from the farmer’s market or a local veg box scheme. Secondly, I’d like it organic or at the very least free-range. Thirdly, I’d like to try and eat as much of the animal as possible – waste not.

So – vegetarian guilt aside – this weekend we BBQed a whole, organic chicken. It was tasty good.

BBQ season is well and truly upon us again, we have had three BBQs in as many weeks and the chances of this slowing look slim to none.

If you too want to make this BBQed chicken, you can do so by using the following method.

Marinade:

  • One large whole chicken or equvilent chicken pieces
  • Juice of a lemon
  • Juice of an orange
  • Juice of a lime plus a squeeze extra
  • Liberal helpings of salt and pepper
  • Small onion/challot grated
  • 3 large cloves of garlic, grated
  • 3-4 tbsp olive oil

Marinade method:

      1. Combine all the above ingredients.
      2. Find a lock-and-lock container or sizeable ziplock bag that will fit your chicken.
      3. Spatchcock your chicken or put your chicken pieces to one side.
20130429-223834.jpg

Spatchcocked and ready to rock.

4. Marinade all chicken in the bag or Tupperware, ensuring the whole thing is well covered, for 24 hours if possible but for a minimum of 4 hours.

Other ingredients:

        • 3 tsps of za’atar
20130429-223844.jpg

Steenbergs is the herb supplier of choice.

        • Cup of cherry wood smoking chips
20130429-223940.jpg

We’re PRO-Q-ers. No doubt.

20130429-223930.jpg

Loading up the wood chip gadget thingie.

To BBQ:

        • Preheat BBQ.
        • Soak the cherry wood smoking chips, then add to the BBQ – we use a bespoke wood chip box that sits on the grill and heats through.
20130429-223954.jpg

Wood chip gadget thingie.

        • Heat the BBQ through, until the wood chips are starting to smoke.
        • Remove chicken from marinade (but save the juice), lay out flat and coat with za’atar and rub in until liberally coated.
20130429-223854.jpg

Prepping the chicken for massage of spice.

20130429-223908.jpg

Leftover marinade for basting.

20130429-223919.jpg

Do the chicken rub.

      • Put chicken on BBQ, on the cooler half (if using gas, turn down one half of the grill, if coal move coals to one side – you basically want to cook over indirect heat).
      • Occasionally baste chicken while it’s BBQing, turning regularly.
      • Continue until cooked through – check in thickest part for juices to run clear.

We served with rocket, BBQed asparagus and BBQed red romano peppers. It was awesome.

20130429-224025.jpg

Spatchcock chicken and wood chips in situ

20130429-224036.jpg

It’s nearly done!

20130429-224048.jpg

The finished meal complete with required BBQ char.

You can see a Vine of our BBQ action here.

Moshi Moshi Book Launch at Moshi Moshi Liverpool Street

Tonight, the Canadian and I are at a Moshi Moshi members’ event for their new book launch, 500 Sushi. So far, the fizz is flowing and the sushi plentiful.

20130425-184057.jpg

20130425-184103.jpg

20130425-184119.jpg

20130425-184110.jpg
So far we’ve had avocado and plum, duck with chilli and onion, scallop, and some beautifully rolled maki. All the sushi has been lovely, with one small exception of the duck – the onion on this was so bitter it deflected from the taste. My favourite so far has been the scallop one, but the Canadian opted for the duck. So as you can probably tell, it’s all really rather good.

So, here’s the book:

20130425-190456.jpg

And since the last update, we’ve been served the following and had a wonderful conversation about sustainable fishing:

20130425-190614.jpg

20130425-190715.jpg

A sunny spring day beer review: Fathomless Oyster Stout

It’s been a while since we reviewed a beer, but we certainly have a lot to try (our West Ham flat is a kind of makeshift beer cellar).

Today’s brew is Fathomless. It’s a 5.2% Oyster Stout, brewed by RedWillow Brewery in the UK. It’s a bottle conditioned ale.
20130420-150948.jpg
Charlie’s thoughts:

“At the first sip I wasn’t sure, but the taste grew on me. It’s a lovely, light stout and perfectly suits this sunny day. A stout for spring if you will. I’d recommend it to someone wanting to try stout for the first time, who usually drinks lighter beers. Overall: it’s very quaffable.”

Ty’s thoughts:

“Slightly bitter, doesn’t have that full stout heaviness. Quite light in colour for a stout, with a slight liquorice flavour. There’s a sweetness but with a hoppy-ness along with it.”

20130420-151837.jpg

Gauthier – Vegetronic Tasting menu review

Since a visit during London Restaurant Festival a few years back, we’ve always been fans of Gauthier Soho. With my coming from a background of vegetarianism, and the Canadian coming from a background of out-and-out carnivorousness we always found Gauthier to be a good middle ground.

Of course, these days, my vegetarianism is all but a distant memory, and the carnivores reign supreme – so tucking into all Gauthier had to offer was on the cards for me this time.

I should probably start by mentioning the overall ambience of the restaurant, and I’m going to do it in a bulleted list:

  • You ring a doorbell and go in through a front door – this was a brand new experience to me first time round, and very much puts you in the mind of going to a posh friend’s house for dinner.
  • There are often pillows on the seats – for comfort, naturally.
  • The lighting is soft and a lot like how you might light your own home if having a dinner party.
  • There is loud music in the toilets, and soft background music in the main dining area. It’s like walking into the toilets and finding a rave is continuing on in a more appropriate place.
  • Sometimes the tables are set up so that you and your dining partner are both facing outwards, in the mannar of surveying the room.
  • The waiters are well mannered and informed, and attentive throughout service.

So, now to the actual food. The Vegetronic tasting menu went a little something like this:

A small bite: squid ink crisp with avocado moose and toast with tomato confit and basil

We thought: ruddy lovely, we’ll have more of that thank you.

iPhone 4 April 2013 953

An aperitif: jasmine scented hydromel

We thought: possibly an acquired taste, I (Charlie) love Jasmin tea so the taste was very pleasant to me, whereas Ty found the whole drink a little hard going. Still, not a drop was left.

iPhone 4 April 2013 964

iPhone 4 April 2013 965

A pre-starter: ovenbaked carrot and fish skin

We thought: lovely, crispy, unctuous fish skin which worked really well with the carrot. The sauce that accompanied was a little too salty for our tastes and my carrot did seem just a tad over.

iPhone 4 April 2013 967

A starter: green asparagus with quail’s eggs, confit lemon and parmesan crisps

We thought: very excited when we saw it coming up on the menu and it tasted as good as it sounds. Perfectly poached quail’s eggs and the asparagus with crunchy parmesan crisps just made it. The only query we had was on the confit lemon; it was very strong and even seemed to detract from the taste of the parmesan crisps (oh the shame!). Perhaps it was meant to refresh the palate, but I personally think the dish would have been fine without that.

iPhone 4 April 2013 971

A post-starter: umami bomb, wild mustard custard

We thought: up there with favourite dish of the entire menu. The name really says it all, the textures of the dish were amazing as well: smooth custards with the firmness of really well cooked wild mushrooms with a piece of crispy panchetta. An accomplished dish and a memorable moment in the meal.

iPhone 4 April 2013 975

A fish dish: bamboo steamed cod, garlic leaves, croutons and cos lettuce

We thought: although the cod was cooked perfectly and the croutons a delightful crunchy addition to the dish, overall the flavour didn’t quite deliver for us and the garlic leaves didn’t seem to have the punch we’re used to (perhaps because it’s earlier in the season or perhaps the cold weather?) and again the dish was a bit too salty for our tastes.

iPhone 4 April 2013 981

To cleanse: peppered lemon infusion with sugared celery and cucumber sobet

We thought: very well-timed dish, I was just beginning to feel full and needed something light and palette cleansing to see me through the remainder of the menu. The cucumber sobet was awesome (but not in the Vegetronic cookbook it seems) and it was a pleasing and surprising way to treat celery.

iPhone 4 April 2013 981

And now for dessert: compote of rhubarb, Indonesian pepper and fresh goat’s cheese

We thought: having a sweet tooth, I always hold out for dessert and it will (by and large) be my favourite course – this did not disappoint me or the Canadian (who does not have quite the sweet tooth I do). There was a decidedly savoury note and the goat’s cheese worked wonders with the rhubarb. I’m not entirely sure what made up the little floating dots, almost like mini, very light, slightly salty, meringues. It rocked. Alas, this picture doesn’t do it justice.

iPhone 4 April 2013 1000

Finally: lovage bubblegum, orange blossom marshmallow, sugared quince carrot and olive oil petits fours

We thought: specifically, I thought, “how delightful”. You can see my Vine of this part of the meal here. My favourite was the orange blossom marshmallow which was just wonderful. The lovage bubblegum was tasty, but this taste only lasts a short amount of time before giving over to what you’d expect from gum that’s lost it’s flavour. No matter how much I wanted to – I just couldn’t bring myself to blow a big bubble with the gum in the restaurant.

iPhone 4 April 2013 1004

We drank: strawberry vermouth, Pommeau De Normandie and coffee to finish

iPhone 4 April 2013 956

Total bill: £191.25 (including service)

Cost of tasting menu: £136.00 (with two copies of the Vegetronic cook book included)

Cost of drinks: £34

Overall thoughts on Vegetronic tasting menu: more than 3 hours of dining with fantastic food in one of our favourite places to eat, great waiters and two books included. Highly recommend a visit.