Monday, 21 January 2013

Getting A Snowy Surf Fix

We drove through an UK resembling white-out Narnia this weekend to arrive in a frosty, snow-dusted Devon. Treated for our endeavours by beautiful sights such as these (image from EyeballHQ here):
Perfect pealing waves with gleaming faces held up by a light offshore wind. 
I  haven't surfed Saunton in such delightful conditions for years. Saturday was empty and by Sunday everyone seemed to have got the news. Admittedly it was probably a degree or two warmer today - so a few over zero... Strange when it's warmer in the water than out and you're getting snowed on in the parking lot...
Getting my board out of a snow covered bag...
Millie had the best two surfs of her life this weekend. After which we devoured what I, after some serious research in the East of England, believe to be consistently the best pasty I've ever eaten in the Moo Bar (on Hobb's Hill, Croyde, Devon, map). I always go for the steak and Stilton - perfect amount of meat, rich cheese and soft pastry. They have classic peppered steak too for you die-hard aficionados. They're made by made the award winning 'proper Cornish' bakery and baked on site. As we devoured the hot pasties, the owner likened Millie's experience of riding down the face of unbroken waves today as 'like taking her first hit of heroin'.

We've re-kindled the love of surfing and are hooked. Bring on 2013.... then rehab. 

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Jamie Oliver's FoodTube YouTube channel launching live on Monday

Jamie's own YouTube channel ( is re-launching on Monday 21st January at lunchtime. Then the action really begins in the evening with a live show from 7.30 UK time (go on, son).

I'm excited to see what happens with Jamie granted free creative reign especially after seeing the hilarious and innovative interactive video below. Click on the annotations in the video to slap him and more. There's something for everyone. (Jamie's Ninja Lemon Skills)

Here's the promo launch video for Monday:

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Chicken, Pheasant and Cider Pie with David Bowie

I just cooked this delicious pie courtesy of this BBC Good Food recipe.
The rustic game pie
I only had one pheasant so after de-boning it, I added about 6 chicken breasts to make up the rest of the meat. This is honestly one of the best pies I've made! I'll definitely be making it again. You get a delicious creamy, tangy sauce from the double cream and the dry cider, cider vinegar and whole-grain mustard. I usually think of pork and apples as the perfect pairing but this dish worked magnificently.

Here were the goods on the boil:
It comfortably feeds 6 with a side dish. (I went for roast butternut squash). That's dinner for the week sorted then.

Also, enjoyed cooking this while listening to Jarvis Cocker's Radio 6 show - nicely opened by the new David Bowie song. Great to hear him back.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

My First Jerusalem Shakshuka

I was given Ottolenghi's Jerusalem cookbook for Christmas. It's inspired me to cook my first Shakshuka: baked eggs in a spicy tomato and pepper sauce. I love finding another conduit to eat my eggs in the morning.

This one's perfect too on a hangover as it has just the right amount of spice which I crave and perfect if you've given up meat for January.
The cookbook is full of great recipes. Check it out here:

You poach the eggs in a stew of garlic, cumin, red peppers, tomato and harissa. I garnished with coriander too. Here's one of Yotam Ottolenghi's older recipes with many more ingredients: Guardian Food.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Make your own gin at The Ginstitute, Portobello Road

This was the ultimate Christmas present. Millie and I blended our own gin at the Ginstitute above the Portobello Star (171 Portobello Road, London - map). Buy your tickets at the above link.
The evening was a mix between a lock-in at a Gin Palace speak-easy, a tour through a history of gin, and a chemistry lesson complete with white lab coats and gin blending. Jake, the owner of the Ginstitute, was our guide for the evening.

We started in the speakeasy he has created above the pub.
Original Plymouth Gin Bottles
Ginstitute's Gin Palace Mirrors
This intimate room is filled with gin memorabilia like this antique Plymouth Gin bottle and panelled with beautiful, custom mirrors in a homage to the old gin palaces.

The Ginstitute is producing its own gin, the Portobello Road No. 171 Gin. At the end of the evening we were all given a bottle of it and also the gin that we blended ourselves! You can buy their gin here. It's delicious and when part of a G&T they serve it with a slice of orange peel which compliments the bitter orange peel used in it.

The evening began as I mentioned in the speakeasy with a history tour through gin accompanied of course with a gin cocktail. A Tom Collins was a lemony, refreshing sharpener (171 Gin, lemon juice, sugar, carbonated water). Our hour long tour began taking us on a whirlwind, expert voyage from Italian monasteries in the Middle Ages producing Juniper-based medicinal firewater to London's ruinous Gin Craze after the soldier's picked up a taste for it fighting in Holland (hence 'Dutch courage'), through to speakeasy's, gin palaces, its part in American prohibition, the sophisticated cocktails of the early 1900's and finally the current renaissance of boutique, small batch distillers popping up all over the place just like the Ginstitute. The tour was filled with amazing facts and anecdotes brought to life by great story-telling.

Most people will be familiar with Hogarth's Gin Lane print depicting the evils of gin consumption in 1751.
Not perhaps an inaccurate depiction considering that by 1743 England was drinking 10 litres of gin per person per year. The sign above the Gin Royal boozer reads:

"Drunk for a penny
Dead drunk for twopence
Clean straw for nothing"

The evils of gin are clearly displayed with a mother throwing out her baby for another drink, the barber hanging himself as everyone is so drunk they don't care about how they look and only pay for another cup of gin. The only person doing well is the pawnbroker as everyone is selling all their valuables for booze. School girls from the local St Martin-in-the-Field convent are even seen getting drunk.

This print intentionally contrasts with the ruddy health of the people on Beer Street which is an opposite reflection of the ills of Gin Lane.

We were told that these prints may well have been propaganda. Hogarth apparently lived above the Fullers Brewery in West London. Fullers may well have paid him to make these two prints to promote beer drinking. The roundabout by the Fullers Brewery is still called Hogarth Roundabout!

The drinks kept coming throughout the tour. A gin and tonic or two later we were whisked to another floor upstairs where the Ginstitute blend their gin and keep their copper distillery, named Copernicus 2nd.

Sat around a large square wooden worktop surrounded by glass vials filled with gin flavoured with different botanicals, Jake talked us through what every different botanical brings to the flavour of gin and we sniffed and sipped them as we went...

I created extensive notes, which trailed off into oblivion as the drinks continued and as we sampled the different flavours. Jake guided us through what we might want to use in our own gin. After careful consideration we were then invited to blend our own gin. Millie created her own gin, called Blind Tiger. I created mine and am yet to name it. If you can decipher my notes - good luck!

The beauty of the gin blending evening is that not only that you get to create your own gin but that the Ginstitute also keeps a record of your specific gin so that you can call up and have another batch made for you when you want! Apparently some people have done the blending to create a perfect gin to then produce for their wedding which sounds like an incredible idea.

We staggered out into the night after a final martini back in the speakeasy. Jake was an absolutely incredible host. A truly engaging storyteller, a great cocktail shaker and a master gin maker.

I'll be back to let you know the name with which I christen my gin!