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

Saturday, February 26, 2011

A Taste of The Deep South (Coast)

A wee trip to Hastings today, ostensibly to go see our writer friend Kate O'Hearn doing a book signing at Waterstone's for her new book, Pegasus and The Flame,  but of course we got slightly peckish afterwards and headed for sustenance. We found ourselves at the local KFC, a place none of us had eaten for quite some little while, and so we thought, "Hey, why not?"

I ordered a little thing that was introduced last year, known as the Kentucky Jack.

Apparently, as the sign says, it's a taste of the Deep South. I beg to differ. It's not bad, but it does not remind me of anywhere in America specifically. It's just a chicken sandwich.
True, it's on a ciabatta roll...

And it contains some tangy-ish relish in addition to some cheese.
But a taste of the Deep South? Not a chance. It was OK, that's all.

Ewan liked his Oreo Krush'ems.
If you say so.

After leaving the home of the Colonel (yeah, right), we headed down through Queen's Arcade to look at some of the shops, and experience the sights, sounds and smells.

Look at the size of those Bakewells!


Blood oranges... yum.

I don't know how many years it is since I had a selection of broken biscuits. Awesome.

Kangaroo and Crocodile Steaks? In Hastings?!

Look at that lovely bit of skirt steak....

I think that all in all, Queens' Arcade was probably the most fun bit of the day. KFC I might give another chance in a year or two.

Friday, February 25, 2011

It's A Potato, Tarby

*Note: The above title is a little private gag between my sister and I. Do not sit scratching your head about it, unless you are an avid Spitting Image geek, in which case you probably know what it's about and cannot figure out how you ended up here on a food blog. Thank you. *


So what were the strange round dark purple things?

Those, my friend, are Potatoes!

A variety known as Vitelotte. Vitelotte (also called Négresse or Truffe de Chine) is an ancient (quite like an heirloom rose) cultivar of blue-violet potato. Vitelotte potatoes have a dark, almost black skin and dark violet-blue flesh thanks to a high content of the natural pigment anthocyanin. They retain their colour when cooked. The plants mature late and compared to modern varieties produce a fairly low yield. The tubers have a thick skin and thus store well.
Originally from Peru and Bolivia, the Vitelotte variety is still commonly grown there. It is supposed that they are a 200 year old mix of ancient types of Peruvian potatoes. (source: Wikipedia)

Here's a Vitelotte recipe: Vitelotte Potato Chips (crisps, for you UK readers) With Cheddar Cheese.

 Wash and cut the Vitelotte unpeeled in thin slices – the thinner the more crispy they get while maintaining their great color. Soak slices in salt water for 5 to 10 minutes, then pad dry.

 Deep fry in peanut oil at about 160°C (you can spot little bubbles on a wooden spoon, but the oil should not be smoking). The thinner the slices are, the less time they need to be deep fried. If they start to develop brown patches better get them out quick and drain on paper towels. Try to double deep fry them with a bit thicker slices, and you get an interesting result: they become even more crispy and start to throw bubbles.

 Then arrange on a baking sheet and sprinkle some cheese crumbles over the chips. Bake for 2 minutes (or until the cheese melts) at 180°C with additional top grill on. Optionally add some sea salt or other spices to the chips.

So.... what's the next Name This Food! food?

Name it!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Liquid Pleasure - Grand Opening

Tenterden, Saturday 19th February, 2011. Grey, cold, damp, and bloody miserable. Must be something we can do to elevate the mood, surely?

Like to try a little champagne?
Don't mind if I do!

I told you folks recently that I had stopped in to see the good folks at Tenterden's newest purveyor of fine wines and spirits, Liquid Pleasure. (Great name for a shop, by the way, boys.)

The 18th and 19th were the Official Grand Opening bash for the shop, which opened just in time for Christmas. There were lots of lovely new wines and champagnes available for sampling, and in addition to the knowledgeable staff, there were on hand four guys from different wineries to talk in depth about their wines. The gentleman pictured above is named Nick (I think - I didn't get his card) and he is waxing lyrical about Aspasie Champagne from the winery of Ariston Pere et Fils.  Not much of a champs drinker, me - but I quite liked it. Very light and refreshing, like a proper champagne is supposed to be.

This chap's name is Alessandro, and he was on hand to talk about red wines. The two he had me sample were Planeta's Plumbago Nero D'Avola, and Cuvee Confiance 2003. The Nero D'Avola was an interestingly spicy and fragrant red, quite unusual and, I have to say, probably my favourite of all the reds I tried.
Cannot remember this guy's name for the life of me, but he gave me two samples - one, a Privada Bodegas Norton, a lovely Argentinian red which is a Cabernet/Malbec blend, and the other, Chateau Haut Monplaisir Cahors. I liked them both equally, and although I'm not that much of a red drinker, I knew my stepdad Chris would totally dig them, so I need to start saving my pennies as they're both in the £14 - £17/bottle range.

This is Leigh Claridge, UK & Ireland Sales and Marketing Director for Maison Sichel, and an extremely tall chap. I'm 6 foot, and he towered above me. The two I tried from him were Domaine De Pellehaut 2010 Rose (really nice - I bought two bottles) and a white, which I cannot remember the name of, but it was quite nice.
Also on hand was a chap from Silcocks Farm Organics with a selection of local cheeses. Yum!

I bought a St. Michaels Blue, which is a very nice Stilton-type cheese, but not overpoweringly so.

Ian (store manager) and Nick chew the fat.

Kooshti sante!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Another One Bites The Crust

As followers of this blog undoubtedly are aware, this is not my only blog. I also write a little thing called The World Of Jeff! over at http://jeffie2k.blogspot.com. In it, I discuss not only issues that are on my mind, but I talk a lot about TV, movies, and especially music. I mention these sort of things in passing over here on The Food Of, but mainly we deal with food-related issues over here (natch).

Occasionally, though, I get little ideas that tickle my fancy, and sometimes I see fit to run them by you. As we are nearing the one-year anniversary of The Food Of (yes! March 1st, people. Get ready.), I thought perhaps we might enjoy a little game, a little audience participation, if you will.

In the 80s my sis and I were avid readers of a music mag called Smash Hits! In later years it degenerated into a formulaic teeny-bop magazine full of boy bands, but in the 80s it was quite groundbreaking. Blessed with writers and editors such as Neil Tennant in his pre-Pet Shop Boys days and Mark Ellen, they did the magazine equivalent of what is known in film and TV as 'Breaking the fourth wall', whereby an actor in a film or TV show looks at the camera directly with a little comment or aside, just to let you know they know you're watching, and you're all in on it. In Smash Hits the relationship between the reader and the writers was similar, it was like we were all in on some big private joke, and the mugs were the musicians who didn't get that here was a music magazine that did not take itself seriously. In the letters section, most of the letters were long elaborate jokes and puns (In the jungle with Sweep and Bungle, he lay on Sweep's two kites...), and there began a 'thread' (to use a modern term) of letters concerning song titles and food. Puns were made up, mostly awful ones, but it made me laugh.

So here's the idea.

I want you to think up some food-related song titles. Puns are most definitely allowed. I'll give you a couple of examples to get you started.

Bonnie Tyler - It's A Hard Egg
The Beatles - Dear Prune Juice
The Beatles - The Salad Of John And Yoko

You get the idea. Now I know there are a bunch of you smart people out there with creative minds - I can hear you breathing. Get your thinking trousers on and send me your best ones. You know you can do it!

Edible Fractals

Remember all those years ago (errr... maybe...) back in the 90s, or perhaps it was the late 80s - I don't really recall the exact moment.


Remember back when chaos theory and fractals were all the rage. The fractal pictures were really amazing to look at, and yet none of us really  understood what they represented, but they were pretty, so we just rolled with it? Remember?

Ooh. Aah.
Don't worry, I'm not going to try to explain them to you. This is a food blog. If you can't eat it, we're only mildly interested.

A few days ago I asked you what this was...

My mum took a crack at it with  calabrese,  which is close. Calabrese is a name sometimes applied to Broccoli of any form, and the name comes from the Calabria region of Italy. But this is in fact a cultivar of Cauliflower (all part of the same family (Brassicaceae) I know), known as Romanesco Cauliflower, Roman Cauliflower, or sometimes Romanesco Broccoli, just to confuse matters. Its green colour should not confuse it with the American Broccoflower, though - they are distinctly different varieties. Romanesco has been around a long time - it was apparently first documented in Italy (well, duh!) in the sixteenth century.

One thing I can tell you, though, is that despite its outlandish appearance, it tastes just as good as ordinary cauliflower, so you can go ahead and use it in the same way you would the regular one - cauliflower cheese, steamed cauliflower, whatever. Just looks really cool on the plate. Just don't overcook it though - Romanesco is a tad tenderer than standard cauli and will get mushy very easily.

Oh, come on, Jeff. How about a recipe?

Oh, alright.

Try this for a little twist on cauliflower cheese.

Roasted Romanesco with Cheese

1.  Wash and chop into florets.

2. Preheat the oven to 375 F / 190 C.

3.  Toss florets in a bowl with a splash of olive oil , a couple of cloves of crushed or chopped garlic, salt, pepper and a handful of grated Parmesan, Pecorino Romano, or any strong hard cheese will do (mature cheddar, for example).

4. Spread onto an oven tray and roast for about 20-25 minutes. Serve piping hot.

Go on, Jeff. Give us another one.

Jamie Oliver has a great recipe for Cauliflower Risotto, right here.

Anyway, onward and upward. Per ardua ad astra. Etcetera.

What's the new food?

Name This Food!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Tapas, Churros and Liquid Pleasures

Yesterday we ventured off again to the bustling metrollops of Maidstone, where I remembered what it is about bustling towns that I don't like, which is that they are large, and full of cars and people, especially on a Saturday. From the dirty diesel smell of the buses to the crowded shops, Maidstone fills me with a combination of claustrophobia and loathing which is hard to describe. However, being a jolly sort of fellow, I try to maintain a positive outlook while there. There are some nice shops and eateries, it has to be said. After we alighted from the bus, we went for a quick glance around the Royal Star Arcade, a place I have not been in since it was first opened all those years ago before I left these shores for foreign climes. Well, architecturally speaking, it's a pretty place with lots of stores, but I resisted the temptation to buy anything, at least for the moment.

I also resisted the urge to buy candy...
After the delights of the arcade we went to Lush (natch) and by this point we were both Jonesing for a coffee. We headed for the Chequers Centre (what used to be the Stoneborough Centre, and now known as simply The Mall) with the intent of finding caffeine, among other things.

One of the other things we were looking for was some items of clothing for the young'uns. We were looking for a particular store called Madhouse, which did not seem to be there anymore. Bah. We did, however, meet some Daleks. Friendly ones. Raising money for the British Heart Foundation, no less.

By this time we were really in need of some Joe, so we ducked into the British Home Stores, or BHS as they seem to prefer calling themselves these days, lured by the sign saying that their restaurant was open.

Well, I say restaurant. I mean cramped room with tables.

Attractive, isn't it? Hmm.

Standard nasty cafeteria. The signs with the pretty pictures bore no relation to the food behind the sneezeguards. Ecch.
The only attractive-looking food seemed to be the baked goods and cookies.

We ordered two large lattes, which we didn't much care for other than the fact that they were warm and wet.

After leaving the Mall and trotting round a few more shops, we finally decided we were hungry enough to go to the place we had decided to go for lunch.

It's a little place on Earl Street, which has several nice-looking restaurants including Nando's, Zizzi and Mexxa Mexxa (which I am planning a future trip to... watch this space), but we had plumped for La Tasca, and boy am I glad we did.

 The first thing I noticed on entering the building was the visually arresting authentic Spanish decor, especially the big frieze behind the bar.

We started by ordering drinks - Laura had a Coke, and I had a pint of San Miguel.

Then we ordered a couple of appetizers. We had intended to order a paella for the main course and share it, but they make their paellas to order and it takes about an hour, so we decided to order some tapas instead, because we were hungry now.

Our appetizers came and we munched happily on those.

Montado De Queso - Garlic bread with goat's cheese and balsamic caramelised onions.

Pan De Ajo Con Queso - Garlic bread with melty cheese. Mmm.
Then our tapas came quite swiftly...

Pescado Blanco Frito, which is deep-fried white fish, in the lightest and most delicate crispy batter I have ever tasted, served with roasted garlic mayonnaise and lemon.

Patatas Riojanas, sauteed chunks of potato with mixed peppers, onion and chorizo.

Ensalada De Pera Y Jamon - Serrano Ham with slices of fresh pear, cherry tomatoes and mixed salad leaves, with a balsamic drizzle. Quite a lot of baby spinach and lamb's lettuce in the mix, two of my favourite salad leaves.

Albondigas A La Jardinera, tender beef and pork meatballs in a fresh tomato sauce.

Cordero De Mallorca - tender pieces of lamb, potato, sultanas and prunes, in a rich red wine & brandy sauce.

By the time we'd polished that lot off we'd just about finished our drinks and we'd decided to get another. The drinks menu was very tempting indeed.

Oh, look out.
The drinks menu contained a lot of permutations on Sangria, one of my favourite drinks - the flavour always makes me think of summer. One of the concoctions was a Sangria Margarita, and that's just double trouble because margaritas are one of my fave drinks too. Well, there was no question about it. I liked both Sangria and Margarita, and Laura had never experienced either, so we had to get one each.

It's a wicked combo of white-wine Sangria mixed with  Cuervo Gold tequila , fruit and lemonade. Delicious, and it's got a kick.
Around this time we also looked at the dessert menu. I noticed they had Churros, and it was game over. What are Churros, I hear you cry? Churros, sometimes referred to as a Spanish doughnut, are fried-dough pastry-based snacks, sometimes made from potato dough, that originated in Spain. Churros are typically fried until they become crunchy, and may be sprinkled with sugar. The surface of a churro is ridged due to having been piped from a churrera, a syringe with a star-shaped nozzle. Churros are generally prisms in shape, and may be straight, curled or spirally twisted.

Now the Churros I was used to from my days in the States, served in Mexican joints up and down the country, usually get coated in cinnamon sugar and are served with a dollop of whipped cream, a cherry and perhaps a drizzle of chocolate syrup. Like so.

La Tasca does their Churros with sliced strawberries and marshmallows, a light dusting of icing sugar, and a bowl of warm chocolate fondue for dipping. Heavenly....

They were great...

As you can see.

Little sip to wash 'em down with...

We finished our drinks and ordered another. This time Laura's was the Fruity-Fizz Sangría, with orange liqueur, peach schnapps, brandy and fresh orange slices, mixed with cava.

I think she likes it.

I went for a good old-fashioned Long Island Iced Tea. For those of you who are uncertain of the contents of what we ex-Outbackers used to refer to as an LIT, it consists of a mix of Bacardi, Smirnoff, gin, Cointreau, Jose Cuervo Gold tequila and fresh lime juice, shaken over ice and topped with Coke. Hot-cha!!!

I thoroughly recommend La Tasca to anyone looking to explore Spanish cuisine. It's a chain, with 60 restaurants in the UK, but you wouldn't know it. The atmosphere is friendly, the decor is great and the food is delish. Not to mention the drinks! A definite 4 and three quarter yums out of 5 on the Jeff scale of yumminess.

Later, as we lurched back into sunny Tenterden, we stopped by Liquid Pleasure, a new off-licence in the town, a rather high-end establishment, staffed by some very knowledgeable and personable gents named Ian and Ray. They have both an on- and off-licence which means they are able to do tastings regularly. In fact they have a purpose-built tasting area in the rear of the shop. We sampled some Thunder toffee-flavoured vodka, which we'd had before but still, I'm not one to pass up a sample of something delicious. It was nice and cold, straight from the freezer, which I am assured is the best way to enjoy it. If you've been on a skiing trip recently you've probably seen people quaffing toffee vodka at the bar (and getting themselves piste, no doubt). However, Thunder is the only one that uses no artificial ingredients or preservatives - just vodka and toffee syrup. Nice.
The boys at Liquid Pleasure tell me that their official opening is on the 18th and 19th of this month (February 2011) - that's a Friday and Saturday. They'll be doing lots of tastings on those days, so why not pop in and sample a little something? Hey, it couldn't hurt, could it? It'd almost be rude not to.

Kooshti sante!


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