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Identify my plant dot com (2)

11 Jul

This one seems to be growing and self-seeding very merrily around my herbs. I don’t know whether it is useful or should be obliterated (weeded)? The closest guess using a book is that it is Mugwort but I don’t know for sure. It smells quite nice. Is it good or safe to eat? Is it good for the herbs around it? MMmmm…..

On a different note, I’ve just seen rainbow number 10 of the week!

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Identify my plant dot com (1)

11 Jul

What with all this rain we’ve been getting here, the weeds have been having a rum old son and dance. I thought it was high time I went out into the garden again and did some weeding, and so to the devil with the rain! It’s a tiresome process I can tell you, the little bleeders just pop up again when you turn your back. If only my vegetables did the same, I thought. One thought quickly led to another and it came to mind that I could just leave them if they were edible, and munch them at a later date rather than bother pulling them up and getting my fingernails dirty.

One small problem though…confidence! How would I know if it could poison me or not…. Put it on the blog and ask, why not? came the reply.

With that in mind, if anyone could shed any light on this I’d be grateful because I want to eat it!

 

Can I eat it?

It’s certainly doing better than my spinach. I have done some research and think it may be Good King Henry or something called Fat Hen.

Reblogging

2 Jun

Just thinking about nutrition, which, despite all my blethering on about beer, does concern me, I came across this post on Glen Pendlay’s Blog. The comments section makes fantastic reading with lots of interesting ideas and opinions, along with a bit of spam! I liked it so much I wanted to post it here too.

I myself do eat in a particular way but have resisted going on about  it here as I don’t want to come across all evangelical and would also feel a little hypocritical eulogizing about beer and trying to promote a way of eating as healthy. For the record, I don’t think there are real health benefits to beer and I no longer kid myself that there is (I used to). I do still enjoy the culture that surrounds it and like the taste!

Silly Pils, Silly Photos!

23 May

Beermerchants.com sell beer. A lot of nice beer. I’ve ordered beer from them before, it’s been prompt and I have been pretty satisfied with the service. Buying online does tend to put you on mailing lists and you do get a few mails from time to time. In the case of Beermerchants it’s not such a bad thing as the mails can keep you abreast of some developments in the beer world (i.e. new stuff they’re selling, or old). How else would I have been dumbfounded by the idea of Orval coming in cans.

Well, when I received their latest e-mail where they were doing a special offer on Silly Pils, I got a bit spooked out. The photo at the top of the ‘brewsletter’ looked as if it had been taken in my back garden. Closer inspection seems to reveal that it had been, on a table in front of my heather!

The thought of them sneaking round to do a photo shoot for Silly Pils while I was out crossed my mind but I quickly told myself not to be a plum. Then I realised… I’d posted the photo on this sight before!! They must have lifted it.

To be honest, it wasn’t exactly a great picture and they must have thought the same because they’ve done some rather nasty photoshopping on it!! However, I don’t know whether to be indignant that they are using it to make money from or take it as a compliment.

At the end of the day, I think I’ll just think nothing!

Mine

Cheese of the Moment #4

13 May

I always enjoy a farmers market. Yesterday the Traditional Cheese Dairy were in town again. The cheesemaker was keen to offer us some of his … cheese to taste. This time it was called Burwash Rose, a nice semi-soft cheese again from East Sussex, it was quite squelchy in texture.

This cheese came with a little romantic story. Mr Cheesemaker told me it was called Burwash Rose because it originated in the town of Burwash and it is washed in rosewater during the maturation process. Say what you like, but you don’t get more romantic than that.

Well you do as it happens because the jolly man on the stall went on to tell us that this particular cheese has its origins way back in 1211 although that date could be wrong, he definitely said it was 12 something or 11 something. Whatever year it was it was a long time ago. He said he discovered it in a very old recipe book from an Abbey, again I can’t remember which Abbey but for some reason Nottinghamshire keeps popping into my head. He took the recipe and started making the cheese and there you have it. Originally, he added, the cheese was named Abbot’s Delight but they changed the name because they didn’t want people to get the impression they were in the habit of selling small boys! He then winked or I might have added that for dramatic effect.

I’m a sucker for such romance so this is my cheese of the moment.

BURWASH ROSE!!!!!

Not my pic

Dandelions

10 May

Dandelions get bad press in my opinion, unwanted in gardens and dismissed as ‘just weeds’ by heathens out there but they are so much more. They are a lovely plant. Striking flowers and dreamy fluffy seeds.

Dandelion Frootz

Not only do they look nice but they have many uses. They can be medicinal. They are good for digestion and the liver and kidneys. They are a diuretic and are also known as piss-a-bed, presumably for that very reason! Liquid obtained from boiling the roots and leaves in water can be used as a cleansing wash.

It can be used as a dye for clothes.

They are edible. The young leaves can be put into salads or cooked in butter. The flowers are used to make dandelion wine. Dandelion and Burdock is a classic country drink in this country, a kind of root beer not to be confused with some of the horrible industrially produced versions in supermarkets. Brewers also put them into more modern beers. In addition, the roots can also be roasted and made into a caffeine-free coffee. Need I say more?!

Anyway, I don’t think I can be bothered to do any of the above for the time being so I’ll make do with some photos of them. Far less time-consuming.

Fluffy Clouds n ting

Admittedly this one is rubbish but all of the essential parts apart from the root can be seen!!!

Remote Brewing – Nether Wasdale’s Strands Pub and Brewery

9 May

I probably go to the Lake District in the North West of England about once every year and a half. Each time I have been, I’ve found myself in awe at how beautiful the place is. There is something in the combination of colours, light and stone that is individual. The farmhouses and stone walls are fantastic, the walking is superb and there is plenty of good food and beer to be had to boot.

Cumbria

The West side of the lakes is less visited but equally beautiful. I started a walk from Gosforth village where I saw an excellent bakery which doubles up as someone’s home. Nice. I like that kind of thing.

Gosforth Bakery

The village itself is very pretty by normal standards but certainly not a jewel in any Cumbrian crown. My walk was through the village for about 5 miles in the direction of Nether Wasdale. Another of the great things about being in this part of the world is that the light changes every 5 minutes and the views are in a constant state of change. There are also plenty of animals to look at and, of course, plenty of animal shit to tread in. Oh the great outdoors!

Moo

Goat

Deer

Sheep

I also came across that most rare of things. A fox. Not just any fox, a fox that was actually frightened enough by your presence to bolt off into the fields on seeing you. A far cry from your urban fox with its devil-may-care attitude and its disdain for all things human (as exemplified by the holes in my garden and the ‘little messages’ left outside my front porch).

Road to Wasdale

Nether Wasdale is a stunning place and when I entered the village I came across a young man knocking posts into the ground and fixing some bunting along the roadside. ‘Why?’ I asked. Well, there was to be a May Day Fair in the village that weekend and they were expecting quite a few people. From where I’m not sure I could guess as there seemed to be more pubs in this village than houses (there were 2 pubs). Nevertheless the small green still had its maypole in good working order and apparently the local (?) children were well versed in the ways of traditional country dancing.

A signpost

All good walks in England ought to take in a pub at some point or other and mine did just that. If I’m being completely honest I’ll admit that I had slightly engineered this walk because I had heard about one of the village’s pubs, The Strands pub and microbrewery. We’ll keep quiet about that one though!

As pub location go this is up there with the best of them. We shared the pub garden with a load of hens while a group of brown cows looked over the fence at us. The views towards the mountains were great and sitting back with an ale after a bit of a trek was just what the doctor didn’t order, but I did it anyway because I’m rock and roll! So off to the bar.

Strands handpumps

There is nothing so welcoming as a line of ale pumps set on a pub bar as you walk in. In this case there were 5 from the pub’s own microbrewery. Great – Responsibly, Brown Bitter, Red Screes, Pied Piper Mild and Irresponsibly. It was nice to see a selection of different styles of beer on offer. I didn’t check the food out because I’d brought my own packed lunch (this is also rock and roll). I wasn’t entirely sure about the triangular pump clips but they did catch the eye, or rather I remembered them. The barman happily took me through the beers and made appropriate recommendations along the lines of ‘they are all nice.’ This happened to be true.

Red Screes & Irresponsibly

The beers on the right were halves because I was trying to get into the spirit of the rambler! My first half was Responsibly, again in the spirit of the rambler, a slightly hoppy, light, dare I say largery 3.7% beer.  Their website says it is slightly smoky but I didn’t really get that. I would certainly have a couple of these again though. The two in the picture are Red Screes 4.3% and Irresponsibly 5%. The Red Screes was my favourite of the three, it was tasty, refreshing and interesting. I contemplated it down to the bottom of my glass, much to the chagrin of the Profesorette, who was hoping for a little bit more adult conversation.

Being a saddo who photographs pump clips turns out well sometimes as the owner came out and told me he was setting up a tent in the garden for the next week’s beer festival and that if I gave him a few minutes he would put on all 25 pump clips for me to photograph. Now in the real world I would have taken this as a sarcastic threat but in the beer world people are genuinely nice and I took him up on the offer.

Chickens, or are they hens?

After I finished my beer, I left the Profesorette playing with the hens/chickens and joined him for a while while (ahem) he was setting up. Despite him and his co-worker looking extremely busy he stuck some pump clips on for me and let me take photos. I felt a bit guilty so rushed them. He also took me into the microbrewery where he was brewing up some Angry Bee honey beer and happily answered my questions. If I had known he was going to be so accommodating I would have prepared some more!!

Mark Corr, I believe his name is, brews around 26 beers and many of them look really interesting. Unfortunately, I won’t be there to try them all as the festival is on 11th-13th May 2012. This weekend. He brews for the pub mainly and he mentioned one other pub in another valley that he supplies to as well. He sells bottles from the pub and they are all bottle conditioned and very popular by all accounts.

It’s always quite impressive when a brewer tries his hand at so many different types of beer and even more that he manages to get different beers all ready in time for one festival. Remember they are all beers from the microbrewery and in cask form!!  Unfashionably, I love a TBB (that’s Traditional Brown Bitter apparently) and like the idea of drinking a beer called … Brown Bitter. I’d also love to get my hands on his Barley Wine (and no that isn’t a camp euphemism). There is also a cheeky lager style ale name Corrsberg. (That’s a play on words, you see his surname is Corr and there is a Danish brew…)

It’s a shame the beer is only sold in the pub but next time I go to that part of the world, I will definitely time it right so that I’m there for the festival or if not, I’ll stay the night in front of the fire after a long day walking, supping ales and waxing lyrical about the time I jumped over a stile and nearly fell full force into a great big round cow pat, and we’ll all laugh heartily!

Angry Bee in the tank

 

The cheeky one is on the left!

Pumps

More handpumps

Tea, Beer and a Mallet – 2 Great British Institutions and a potentially lethal murder weapon!

Bored yet?

 

 

If you are in the area. You won’t regret going there if not for the pub then the scenery!

The pub

The pub opposite

OK sometimes it really is grapefruit I can taste!!!

24 Apr

Well, yesterday I was blethering on about that elusive grapefruit taste in beer. I recognized the taste but didn’t really think it was grapefruit, at least not the grapefruits I eat. I’ve always known what people are referring to but it just wasn’t really grapefruit, was it?

Hopsacked with Citra Hops

Well today it really was grapefruit and it really was lemon. It wasn’t grapefruity or lemony, it was grapefruit and lemon, both on the initial smell and the tasting. The beer was OMNOM by Mallinsons Brewing Company 4.3%, who hail from Huddersfield UK. This was a winning beer for me. Very light tasting but with good body, there is some sweetness which helps with the aftertaste. It’s tart and hoppy without being too bitter.  It was a fantastic refreshing beer. All in all, I think this is one of the most enjoyable beers of the year so far for me and I hope I can get it into the summer months.

I believe OMNOM is the sound you make just after drinking it or at least it was after I was drinking it.

More like this please.

By the Horns Brewery Open Day

23 Apr

Summerstown is a very nice name. It sounds like the name of a happy village from a charming fictional storybook. Well, the reality is quite different. It’s the crap bit that sits between Earslfield, Tooting and Wimbledon where all the pubs are boarded up and green spaces concreted over. It might be wild west country were it not for the fact that nobody lives there. It is basically a rather dated industrial estate with a dog track.

So spending a Saturday afternoon alternating between a garage-sized industrial unit and a small car park drinking beer wouldn’t appear to be the most attractive way of spending a Saturday afternoon. Just as well I didn’t do it. I arrived a bit later for an hour or so to have a brief look at what now must have become my local brewery.

By the Horns

I’ve mentioned By the Horns Brewery on here before but was unable to make their last open day. It’s been set up by two lads in their twenties (I think) called Alex and Chris, who say they saw potential in the market and just went for it. I can’t remember which one was which but the tall bloke said that he hadn’t long been into appreciating ales as such whereas the shorter one was the avid homebrewer. Together they seem to be putting their respective strengths to good use and have been making a few waves around the local area since they started production in November 2011, not even 6 months ago. I recently missed out on their beers, which also appeared at the Hope’s London Beer Festival last month, too many beers not enough of a beer gut to put it all in I’m afraid!

Menu

OPA

The open day would display (sell) some of their cask ales, some keg and their bottle-conditioned range, as one might expect a brewery to on such an occasion. They were also having some food put on from a deli in the altogether nicer part of town not 5 minutes away. Unfortunately, which is an adverb I often use when I’m describing how I never pull my finger out of my arse in time, I arrived too late for the food. And whatsmore, they’d ran out of beer!! A welcome sign indeed for the lads but not so for me! My initial fears of a wasted journey were not completely borne out, most of the bottled range was still being sold albeit a little on the warm side.

Having a little chat with the brewers was also quite nice as they were two enthusiastic and personable young men (I’m not sure I’m old enough to say that!) who spoke openly about what they were doing and appeared to have time for everyone.

The people who attended, at least while I was there, were not just the usual suspects but had quite a young bias. I only counted one beard, not that I’m knocking beards, after all they are nature’s bibs. It appears to be a good sign for the brewery as they look to (also) tap into a younger, perhaps trendier market, as may be evidenced by the 33cl bottles and branding. They also appear to be tapping into their status as a London brewer with their brews often named after something iconic, Diamond Geezer Red Ale and Lambeth Walk Porter and good luck to them.

Garage

I tried their new beer 6 X 6 Oat Pale Ale 4.4% which was pretty hoppy without being overwhelming and had a decent mouthfeel and flavour for the strength. The one I liked the most was their Bobby on the Wheat 4.7%, it didn’t ask too many questions was good in the mouth and didn’t smell of old socks. Their Diamond Geezer Red Ale 4.9% felt like it might be quite interesting but I thought that it had a touch of the vinegars about it. Stiff Upper Lip was a Pale Ale at 3.9% and was good and the most sessionable one on offer, light with a hoppy finish. I also tried a sample of the Lambeth Walk Porter and was a bit disappointed to miss out on the Doodle American Pale Ale 5.9%.

Makeshift Keg Taps

I’m glad I went. I brought home a few bottles but I think I’ll reserve judgement on the beers themselves until I’ve tried them on cask. Cask ale is a different beast after all. Considering these fellas have only being going since November, I think  it is quite exciting to think what they might end up producing for us.

Good luck to them and it’s certainly good to see a brewery in South West London again.

They have another open day on the 19th May but no details are available as yet.

Cor Blimey!! Cockney Food Gone All Posh!

16 Apr

Didn’t we ‘ave a loverlee time!

Time was when these were a working man’s staple down in ‘ole London town. A little bit of malt vinegar and a toothpick to pull out the grit and you were away.

Dirty Whelks

Whelks are sea snails and grow around the coast of Britain and elsewhere and these days our whelks seem to have found themselves a market in South Korea. There is more information from the Marine Conservation Society here. I was actually unaware that there was any pressure on them when I bought this lot but still it’s a bit of a shame that there is no longer a natural market for them over here. Apart from some very good restaurants or the dying breed of cockney fish vans traditionally found in pub car parks, there doesn’t seem to be anything in between.

under water

I’ve eaten whelks but never cooked them. It always sounded like a bit too much effort. When I’ve had them before, they’ve been either very nice or very rubbery. Still, I couldn’t resist picking up some to see how they would turn out once placed in my foolish hands.

I said it sounded like a bit too much effort and I half still think that. Basically, this is because you have to clean the blighters forever to get rid of the grit.  Now, there is a man whose recipes I generally trust and who goes by the name of Mark Hix, you may have heard of him as he is quite famous over here, and I chose to follow a recipe of his from his book British Regional Food.

Basically, it’s a simple snails in garlic butter recipe but strike-a-light it was blummin’ long-winded. The first step was cleaning them as best you could, which I did. It has to be said they were quite dirty on the whole and it was good 10 minute job. I was glad the Profesorette wasn’t taken with the idea of having a serving or I would have had to have spent more time at the sink. They were then drained and put into a bowl with some salt and left for two hours. I was already bored by this stage but did eventually find something else to do to fill my time. After this step, you are supposed to leave them rinsing under the tap for 30 minutes but in these dry, dusty days of hose pipe bans I decided not to be quite so wasteful and just rinsed them in a couple of changes of water.

The next stage was creating the cooking liquor. 1 onion, 12 white peppercorns, fennel seeds, thyme , 1/2 lemon and some white wine were all put into a pan and the whelks were added. The pan was then topped up so they were covered with water and some salt added. This was brought to the boil before lowering the heat and simmering for 45 minutes. At this point, I was a bit worried that 45 minutes seemed a long time and that they would be sure to come out rubbery but, uncharacteristically perhaps, I stuck with the recipe.

After the 45 minutes, they were taken off the heat and allowed to cool down in the liquid for yet another hour, and to think I had originally planned to have them for breakfast! Fortunately, I was around the house most of the day yesterday so when they were cooled, I plucked them out of their shells and chopped them up, being sure to remove the foot and any grey sacks from them.

Whelks and Beer

The butter mixture was made with garlic chives, butter, lemon, salt and pepper and the meat was mixed into it. The shells were then given another clean and the mixture stuffed into them. Nearly there! Puff, deep breath!

Salt was spread along the bottom of an oven dish and the filled whelks were rested on this to prevent them slipping and the butter leaking out during baking. Needless to say, I didn’t quite get this right!

Just put the ruddy things in the oven!

Last bit!!!!! Into the oven at Gas 6/200C for 12-15 minutes and they were ready. Finally! It’s tiring me out just writing this.

Verdict/Conclusion: Really nice, better than garden snails and best of all I managed not to make them rubbery – take note Essex! However, I wish more restaurants and pubs would do them properly so I could eat more of them without having to hang around all day preparing them. Would I make them again? If I had a sous chef maybe.

Non-gritty, non-rubbery, cor blimey Whelks done all posh like!

I’m a Sausage Fiend, Don’t You Know?!

14 Apr

When I moved house a couple of years ago, I didn’t just leave a little love nest behind, I left my local butcher behind too. He used to do the best pork and leek sausages of all time, in the world, ever, etc. While I found quite a decent butcher’s nearby, I was quite underwhelmed by their sausages. I took that as a challenge, bought my own mincer and have never looked back. If you don’t mind handling slippery meat, I thoroughly recommend you doing the same.

I’ve been doing them for a while now and have only ever had one ‘alright’ one. The rest have been immense, which I admit sounds a bit cocky but there’s nothing quite like pulling out your own sausage when people come round to eat. It impresses people no end for some reason. The feedback has been excellent so I’ve continued to do them, especially as they are so easy to do, even if they are a little labour intensive.

One of my fallback sausages is the Italian Spice sausage and here are two such sausages looking very happy together!

One of them is now sitting, even more happily, in my stomach. Somebody thank that pig!

I once enjoyed a Westmalle Dubbel with a spicy sausage in Bruges but alas, the two have never been seen in the house at the same time.

Just in case I make a foray into the sausage business* I won’t give you the precise measurements but because I’m feeling good today here are the ingredients:

Pork Shoulder, Pork Belly, Cold Red Wine, Parsley, Salt, Garlic, Cayenne, Fennel Seeds, Chilli, Paprika

*This is a lie actually. I just can’t remember them all off the top of my head!

Jackie Wilson said…..

14 Apr

……………. I’m in heaven when you smile!

A few things which made me smile today:

Apple Blossom

Looking forward to mine!

Underwood typewriter

Pic of a pic of Nag's Head Inn William Blunt

Wisteria Buds

 

And then it was time for an ale……

Cheese of the Moment #3

14 Apr

Well, it was a fine morning over here. Made even better by the farmers coming to town with their fine produce. Now, I’ve never been a massive fan of cheese with ‘stuff’ in it and I’ve always liked my cheeses more on the sharp side but this morning I was charmed, taken in by the moment.

The cheese I most enjoyed today was like a softish Cheddar with added garlic, herbs and cider in the mix. All of those ingredients I like so what my problem was with ‘stuff’ being in cheese, I’ll never know. It’s made by the Traditional Cheese Dairy from Sussex (again!) I think I like them. Herby, garlicky and a little cidery sweetness to boot. The photo will tell you more.

Give it up for ……….SUSSEX SCRUMPY!!!!

Info above

The Hit Parade

9 Apr

We all love a chart, don’t we? Top 5s, Top 10s… When I was younger the Top 30 (40) was so important to my life. Every Sunday evening the official music chart went out on BBC radio and I used to take it really personally if the song I liked at the time went down a few places. Now, I don’t even know if there is an official chart.  There is just music, isn’t there?

Lads mags and fashion mags are forever compiling Top 100s. Every time I log onto the Interwhatsit, Yahoo homepage is displaying a list of 10 things not to say to your lover while they have their nose in your fridge or 8 tell-tale signs that the person you are speaking to would really rather be looking at their iPhone.  Now, I would say that if you can’t beat them join them but clearly I joined many a moon ago, as evidenced elsewhere on this blog. Long before Nick Hornby released High Fidelity, we were all compiling our top 5 this and our top 5 that and top 5 the other. When I say ‘we’ I don’t necessarily include you. I refer to those of us who have shards of the obsessive coursing through our veins.

Well, I suppose I can’t keep ranting on like this without compiling another Top 5 of my own. Actually, in the interest of balance, why don’t I make that two Top 5s! Both are based on how much I enjoyment I gained from them on a particular occasion.

My top 5 foods enjoyed since finishing my detox!

  1. Spinach
  2. Venison Hearts
  3. Lord of the Hundreds Cheese
  4. Feta Cheese
  5. Pork Shank

My top 5 beers enjoyed since finishing my detox!

  1. Fuller’s Chiswick Bitter
  2. Ellezelloise Quintin Ambree
  3. Rothaus Pils
  4. Otley Thai-Bo
  5. Windsor & Eton Knight of the Garter

 

I might go away next Easter. I really do have too much time on my hands!!!!!

 

What’s up doc?

6 Apr

Some time back when I was travelling in the Andes I put this in my mouth and swallowed it.

Cuy

This is an Andean Guinea Pig which has been traditionally baked in a hot oven on a hot rock of some description. They go by the name of cuy. This particular cuy was consumed on a balcony overlooking the colonial-style main square in the Peruvian town of Arequipa. People in the Andes are thought to have first domesticated these animals some 5000 years ago and not because they are cute and furry. They were domesticated to provide food. When I was trekking through the countryside in the Andes, there weren’t too many households where you didn’t see them being kept in outdoor enclosures for exactly that purpose.

I only ate the one cuy but that wasn’t because it was horrible, it was just a bit too much of an effort to eat for so little meat. You really need to get your hands greasy to get the meat of those little fragile bones. It did make me think about the meat we eat in the world though. If everyone in the world develops a taste for the same protein sources, beef, lamb and pork, where are we going to farm them all? On the area currently known as the Amazon rainforest perhaps? I might be stretching things there but you do get the point. It is a serious environmental issue.  One thing that puzzles me is why we don’t eat more of what is abundant near to where we live.

One such animal here, and I suspect in many countries around the world, is the rabbit. Often scoffed in the UK for being peasant food or more recently because they are cute little bunny-wunnies, these animals are a plentiful source of meat and very often a pest in the local habitat. They are also very, very cheap. You won’t be surprised to learn that I picked up 2 for £5 at a local farmers market recently. Eating them would seem to be a win-win situation. The meat is good, wild and there is certainly more on them than on the cuy that I ate.

They are a seasonal product and the rabbit season finishes at the end of February so I froze those last two before cooking them. Historical and traditional recipe books always have a few rabbit recipes in and amongst all the mutton recipes that also seem to have disappeared from modern tables so I decided to try a couple of new ones back to back  (almost) and see how they turned out.

The first was a fairly typical recipe with cider, tarragon and mushrooms. When it came down to it though I didn’t have any cider so I chopped some apple up and used some of my homemade oakleaf wine. I guessed this might come out a lot sweeter and a bit less refined than using a dry cider and I was correct. It was pretty tasty.

rabbit 1

The second recipe came from a torn out page of a recipe magazine and was called Craddock’s Hazlenut Picada. I’m guessing Craddock refers to Fanny Craddock, the legendary mad-as-a-lorry TV chef from the distant past, but please correct me if I’m wrong. I think this recipe could be Maltese in origin or perhaps Spanish but I’m not sure. Again let me know if you have any information. Anyway, I enjoyed this one too. It’s quite rich but I liked this recipe more. Then again that could be because I didn’t tinker with the recipe!!!!

Braised Rabbit with Mushrooms and Cider (Official Version)

Ingredients: 30g butter; oil; 4 rabbit portions; 4 small onions;  375g of quartered mushrooms; 300ml dry cider; parsley; tarragon; 300ml single cream

Method: Brown the rabbit in the butter and oil and remove; add onions to pan and stir until golden; add mushrooms and cook for 3-4 minutes; return the rabbit and add cider, parsley and tarragon, season and bring to boil; cover and cook at 160c/325F/gas 3 until rabbit is tender (90 minutes); remove rabbit and reduce sauce then add cream, season and garnish.

Craddock’s Rabbit with Hazlenut Picada

Ingredients: Rabbit; Olive oil; 4 tomatoes chopped; onion; garlic; parsley; 250ml white wine; thyme; celery; paprika; 75g hazlenuts toasted; garlic (I like a lot); a few strands of saffron; chopped red chilli peppers

Method: Put hazlenuts, 3-5 cloves garlic, saffron, chilli peppers and some oil into a blender and press ‘whizz’; In a pan fry onions and olive oil until translucent; add tomatoes, garlic and parsley and reduce until you get a thick sauce; brown rabbit pieces in another pan in some more oil; add rabbit to the reduced tomato sauce; add everything else except the sauce in the blender; cook the rabbit for 25-35 minutes until it is nicely cooked then remove from sauce; now add the contents of the blender to the tomato sauce and cook to the right consistency; pour over the rabbit pieces and drizzle a bit of olive oil and sprinkle some paprika over the top.

 

For my next mission, I will eat a squirrel. There are too many of the blighters running riot across this country. Again, a plentiful source of protein. Anyone know where I can eat it?

A Tale of Two Cities – U Fleku and Birreria Peroni

6 Apr

Two beautiful cities. Two historical cities. Two tourist destinations. On the surface, the two cities seemed well-matched and I had high hopes of enjoying them both equally. Actually, they are very, very different in culture, style and what is becoming increasingly important to me, atmosphere. Atmosphere is a personal thing when I visit places, be they a village 20 miles from my house or a city on the other side of the world. Sometimes preconceived ideas of what to expect ruin an atmosphere unfairly and it takes you a little time to shift your mindset around this.

Stained Glass

I visited both cities within a short space of time and only for long weekends. In Prague, the weather was spectacular and the buildings were very beautiful and the tourists bled from every church, museum and statue there was. In Rome, the weather was spectacular, the sheer volume of history was overwhelming and the tourists cascaded down every dome, column and  balustrade in sight. I enjoyed the Rome experience and was slightly underwhelmed by the Prague experience. Why? How could I be so underwhelmed by such a beautiful place? On paper, it ticked all the boxes for me architecture, history and one of few countries with a bona fide beer culture.

It all came down to atmosphere I suppose. Italy is ‘literally’ bursting with historically important towns and cities but each one that I have visited still has a lively, life-goes-on-despite-what-we-have feeling. People go about their business and the tourists go about theirs. Rome had this feeling but Prague did not, for me at least. In Prague, I felt like a lot of the life had been squeezed out of the centre of the city turning it into a place with a splash of the Disneylands about it. There may be economic and historical factors for this, taking into account the Czech Republic’s communist history and the fact that people have been touring Italy since the Renaissance for example but that was my impression.

Prague

Now, I mentioned the Czech Republic’s beer culture and the Czechs are very proud of their beer, rightly so, and they do drink an awful lot of it. The Italians are less well-known for their beer but have recently begun to make some very nice brews themselves. In Prague, one beer seems to dominate, the famous Pilsner Urquell, which is a classic, but there are others around. On my visit, I was also able to try a number of other types which were all of a quality, if not always to my taste. Rome tended to have three beers per menu, two typical lagers and a bock or a ‘Rosso’, just enough to get by on.

U Fleku

It was in two particular establishments, one in each of the cities, that I could sum up my overall reaction to the two cities. One was the legendary U Fleku, a brewpub/restuarant which dates back to the 15th Century. They have been brewing there for 500 consecutive years and it has a medieval look, with Gothic and Romantic styling. There is one house dark lager called Flekovský ležák 13°.  It is a place of pilgrimage for beer lovers and was high on my list of places to visit, as it happened my hotel was a minute’s walk away so it was one of the first places I went to.  In Rome, there is a similar beerhall, less well-known, and while still a destination for tourists, not a mecca for beer lovers. This was the Antica Birreria Peroni, a beerhall which ‘only’ dates from 1909 and whose Art Deco style dates back to the 1920s. Inside it really looks the part and sitting there you could imagine wax moustachioed Italians with centre partings and white bibs sucking up spaghetti off their plates all those years back.

On entry to U Fleku, a rather grumpy man pointed glumly to a room where we could go in and find a seat. It was a nice room with a lovely beamed ceiling. I loved the fact that there was only one drink on offer and you were expected to drink it. The waiters just brought the dark, frothy brews into the hall and without looking banged them down on the tables. Perhaps this less challenging part of their job contributed to the disinterestedness and lack of charm they were showing to their customers. Next, a waiter came along and barked out that we needed to try this horrible, green, medicine shot because it was traditional, omitting to mention that they were about £100 each. OK, I guessed that they weren’t free and thought why not, but the manner in which it was done was a little forceful. The food was simple Czech fare but definitely not the same quality as the beer. The beer was very nice. I wasn’t raving that it was the best thing I’d ever tasted (which I do do) but it was very nice. I now wonder whether the atmosphere affected my enjoyment of it. Before and since, I had and have enjoyed oompah bands but the musicians in U Fleku were just a bit, well annoying, and in your face, certainly not the endearing ones I had expected. The bill, when it came, was relatively high and looking around the room it was easy to imagine that this place was no longer within financial reach of your average Prague pub-goer.

Pic from their Website

Onwards and upwards, Birreria Peroni, provided quite a different experience. On entry, we were greeted with that most precious of commodities, a smile. It was again lunchtime but this time looking around the room you were not just met with groups or tourists, although these were present, many local workers were also enjoying their lunches there. The hall was equally stylish but less steeped in history than U Fleku and, happily, there was no oompah band and nobody was trying to force Buck Rogers drinks down my neck. There was even a bit of banter with the staff despite the fact it was plainly busier than its Czech counterpart had been. Simple Italian food was available and was very tasty. The prices weren’t too bad. The beer was from Peroni and they had 3 types on sale, Nastro Azzuro, Rosso and Gran Riserva, no real attraction to the beer lover but it was fantastic to drink and eat in a nice atmosphere in a classy, historic beerhall and when I did drink those beers, I wasn’t thinking about how average they were, I was just enjoying every last drop of them, cold an’ all!

I would happily go back to Prague again and re-evaluate my impressions but as revered a beer as U Fleku has around the world, I’d give it a miss if I did.

Not mine either

*I always consider myself among the tourists, wherever I am and whatever form of travelling I'm doing. I don't buy into the idea of having a backpack makes you less of one, despite me being more likely to travel that way.