“The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you've got to have a what-the-hell attitude.” ― Julia Child

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

My, That's A Big One

So today being Wednesday a.k.a. Jeff's Day Off, Sis and I went for a little excursion out and about to see what we could see. The first place we went was to jolly old Tesco's to pick up a few choice items. Mum had gotten some beef out of the freezer this a.m and informed us boys (myself and Christopher) that we would be dining without her as she had a previous engagement. Chris was keen on a curry, so while in Tesco I purchased one of those lovely convenient Uncle Ben Basmati rice thingies in the pouch that you just bosh in the microwave. Sorted. I knew we had some Basmati rice at home but I also knew I wouldn't be going home till about 6pm and I wasn't sure I'd have the patience to cook it. I also bought a bottle of nice Chilean plonk which I'll tell you all about after I've drunk it. It's sitting in the fridge, ready to be consumed when chilled. I also thought it was a good idea to get some beer.

Now, I am sure I've mentioned in both blogs on numerous occasions my predilection for bargain-hunting, and a cheap streak. Thus it was that after spinning around 180 degrees from my spot in the wine aisle I was facing the canned beer. The cheap canned beer. Sis pointed out the Tesco Value Bitter.
As you can see, they went all out on the design budget for the can. They clearly put the alcohol content on the front. 2.1 % alc/vol is nothing to brag about, but the cheap streak won out and I purchased it. You can buy a 4-pack of this brew for 95p. Yep, 95p. The cans are 440ml, so it's more than a half-pint, but not quite a pint. Yes, it's weak (2 cans barely gave me a buzz, which wore off almost immediately), but it looks, smells and tastes like beer, which is remarkable for a beer that is almost 24p a can. That's about 35 cents.

After Tesco we went out towards Goudhurst, which for us Wealden folk is known as 'the village with that wall by the church and the 90-degree-angled-corner'. To the uninitiated, it is pronounced GOWd-hurst. Not GOOd-hurst. It is a beautiful little village with a charming duckpond with very friendly ducks sitting next to the Parish Hall at the top of Balcombes Hill with a striking tree (see pic).

 Before we went into Goudhurst proper we stopped off at a little place called Taywell Farm Shop, which in addition to being a lovely little farm shop full of great local produce and delicious treats from all over the country, is also a place where you can buy chicken houses, if you want to keep chickens in your backyard. If you have a garden big enough to do it, I think it's a worthwhile thing to do, especially if you like free range eggs fresh every day and are a keen gardener who knows about good fertilizer (chicken poo is really good for that). They have demo models on display, and one of them actually has some pretty chickens in it which are for sale also. We made a few purchases in the shop and went back on our merry way back to Goudhurst proper.

 We said hello to the ducks and walked up to a lovely little place called Weeks' Bakery. Weeks' used to have a branch in Tenterden where I live, but it is now Brasserie Gerard. The menu prices seemed pretty reasonable so we went in for a spot of lunch. It was a good thing we did, because less than 10 minutes after we had arrived the place started to fill up with lunchtime traffic.

On the Specials board was today's 'Meal Deal' wherein one could purchase a pie from a large selection, with chips and either peas or baked beans, followed by a dessert of apple or cherry pie (among others) with custard and a cup of tea or coffee (which, it must be mentioned, was not only very good coffee, but I also got a refill for no extra charge  a la USA-style). This entire thing was only £7.50 which is pretty decent for a big ol' lunch. My choice of meat-filled pastry item was a sausage roll, and when the huge six-incher arrived (I kid you not!) I was stunned to see it laying alongside a veritable mound of fries and a large ramekin filled with piping hot beans. The coffee cup was of above average size too. Sis plumped for the ham, egg & chips which was rather largely proportioned as well. Two big slices of ham, two eggs and the pile o' fries. Whoa. What had we gotten ourselves into?
So... onto dessert. I had chosen the cherry pie and custard. There is something so warm and comforting and silky about custard. It's a childhood thing, I think. And, like a lot of food items, there seem to be two schools of thought. With custard it's skin on, or skin off. Some people hate the skin. Personally, I adore it. The more the better. When the pie arrived it was an individual one, but I'm not talking individual like a Mr. Kipling two-bites-and-it's-gone type of pie. This was one you could really sink your teeth into. Homemade-looking, in a decent sized bowl, with a jug of custard on the side, sprinkled with a bit of icing sugar and cocoa powder, and a sliced whole strawberry as a garnish. Okay, it's not Marco Pierre White, but it still thrilled me. I knew I was gonna need help. Luckily I had not used my teaspoon, so I handed that to my sister, poured on the custard and we were away. After lunch we went up to the counter and selected a few baked goods for our afternoon delectation and delight, including a Gypsy Tart and a Lemon Slice, and a square of Bread Pudding.
Okay, I can hear several of you saying, "Well Jeff, I've heard of Bread Pudding, and I've heard of Bread-and-Butter Pudding. What up wit dat, yo?" or words to that effect. Well, I was a little unclear on the distinction myself, and I've eaten both many times. The main difference I've noticed is that Bread-and-Butter pudding is wetter, more custardy, and Bread Pudding is denser, more stodgy and sliceable when cold. Indeed, this is how come Sis bought a square of it.

Bread Pudding, according to The Food Lover's Companion, is "a simple, delicious baked dessert made with cubes or slices of bread saturated with a mixture of milk, eggs, sugar, vanilla and spices. Chopped fruit or nuts also can be added. Bread and butter pudding is made by buttering the bread slices before adding the liquid mixture. Both may be served hot or cold with cream or a dessert sauce." That does not really clear the issue up, though, does it? It's not really as simple as butter/no butter. So I did some more digging and discovered that

  • In Bread Pudding, the bread is torn, not layered in slices like bread-and-butter pudding;
  • In Bread Pudding, the bread is soaked in the liquid and then patted or squeezed dry before being mixed with the fruit and spices.
Further adding to the confusion is the fact that Bread-and-Butter Pudding is often referred to in the USA as Bread Pudding. Oy!

One last thing to mention about Weeks' Bakery is the restrooms. Where are they? Upstairs. Along a corridor I went, up a flight of stairs to a landing with a bookcase on it, up another short flight and onto a landing, along a corridor where I finally found them. The building is very very old so the floor is that delightfully uneven surface that makes you think you're drunk. On the doors of both Men's and Ladies bathrooms was printed a little rhyme:
Watch your head if you are tall, and slowly
Walk along the corridor where the lights are lowly. 
 Trouble is, there were at least two line breaks between the first and second lines, so I puzzled for a second what it meant to be "tall and slowly". Duh.

Prost, y'all!

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