Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Hey Presto, Pesto!

I was off last Wednesday and was wondering what to do with the herbs in the garden that I'd grown.  I'd planted mint, sage, parsley and basil ages ago and throughout the miserable winter all I could see were a few straggly shoots of hopeful herbs (I hoped) trying to get going.

The sage was soaked in one downpour so was particularly weakened.  The mint I'd used for Mojito's as soon as I saw a shoot so I think in protest was going on something of a go slow and whilst I'd never had any luck with parsley before, my basil had grown like weeds.  Not this time.  It was the parsley that suddenly took off and threatened to engulf its neighbors.

Parsley run amok

I'd planted the herbs in their own individual wine boxes and filled that with potting soil hoping that way they'd have a chance to grow as our regular soil is so poor here.  And now the parsley was on a takeover of the mint next door but as I'd planted a geranium (for some reason I thought was good at the time) in the middle, it in its turn was spreading everywhere too.  Chaos ruled so I had to harvest now before it all went haywire.

Not bushy like it should be but the Basil grew into little trees before harvesting.  I've planted more now so we'll see how that goes.
As we had some pine nuts in the fridge, I immediately thought Hey Pesto!  Sorry, bad pun.  And as I'd not used my big mixer in a while, I thought lets give it all a go.  I checked a recipe on the internet but totally ignored the quantities as I thought I'd just fill up the mixer and push the button and see what happened.

It turned out so well that I thought what could I smear it onto and came across some nice thick pork chops in the fridge, so hey presto there we went!

Here's the recipe.  Ingredients only so do guess the quantities like I did!
  • Parsley (lots)
  • Basil (lots)
  • Pine Nuts -- 1 carton
  • Garlic -- quite a lot as I like garlic
  • Lemon juice -- I used 2 or was it 3 whole lemons?  Hmm.
  • Olive oil -- again quite a bit but as it turned out quite dry, I think I may not have used quite enough.  You can always add more later though as you only need a couple of table spoons with a plate of pasta.
  • Salt and Pepper
Looking at the recipe again, swap pine nuts and basil for mayo and anchovies and you've got Caesar Salad dressing.  

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Brisket is the new...

Since my first retirement in 2009, I started to cook more.  I'm not that great still but am trying and in fact there have been some things I cooked that worked out pretty well.  Regrettably I don't remember many of the things I learned, cooked and now have forgotten.  So I rely pretty much on the internet for recipes I fancy trying out.

And as of today I wrote down the first recipe.  Brisket.

Why brisket?  Not sure really as I don't really care for it.  When we've traveled in the US BBQ states, brisket always seems a top drawer item but in reality I find it just OK so have decided that its probably me and that with the right rub and cooking method, it should turn out pretty well.

Real Texas brisket, Coopers BBQ style

So I tried this Texan recipe:

3-4 lbs brisket

Dry Rub:
  • 2 tbl chilli powder
  • 2 tbl salt -- waaaay too much, cut it back to 1 teaspoon
  • 1 tbl garlic powder
  • 1 tbl black pepper
  • 1 tbl sugar
  • 2 teaspoon dry mustard (actually I used Sumac as I didn't have any dry mustard, or rather couldn't find it)
Stock for the pan and some red wine.  Add some garlic, onion and bay leaves into the mix.

Roast dry for an hour then for another 2-3 hours after adding the fluids.  Cook at 350 and every so often baste it with the fluid.

It took 15 minutes to prepare and the result is actually pretty darn nice!

I do like this done Irish style, something like corned beef in fact.  Hot served with cabbage.  But sliced BBQ style, hmmm.

Eats Redux and BBQ Hogge, Bermuda style

It's been a while since I made the last post (2013) and I know why.  It's because I am or rather was doing what a million others are doing, namely food blogging.  This blog really wasn't meant to be a food blog in the traditional sense.  It was meant to be a reflection of what different things we eat in some hopefully interesting places.

We like to eat.  Actually we like to eat a lot and as it turns out, much of what we do when we are away is go to nice restaurants and eat hopefully nice things.  Take the recent weekend in Toronto trip we just did, 3 of the highlights were the restaurants we visited.

But it's also meant to reflect what other stuff we get up to as well.

Take a couple of weeks back, our son Alex had a combined 30th birthday party/new house party and decided he wanted to cook a whole pig.  Actually a Bermuda hogge, if you want to be precise.

He talked about it endlessly and had the notion of digging out a fire pit at his new house and cook it there.  The question was how.

Of course he could have bought a fancy set up but as he had a neat flower bed available decided to dig it out (and dump the earth everywhere else in his new garden), build it up with a few concrete blocks and cover it with some wire mesh and above that some sort of corregated iron to keep the heat in and give the pig the smoke taste.

Getting the fire going very early indeed
Credit to him for he picked all that stuff up at the dump (for nothing) and worked like a charm!

We visited Wadson's Farm to check out the porcine inhabitants and found a litter of week olds running around and then a group of 1-year old 70 pounders.  Given that there could likely be 60 people at the party, the small piggies wouldn't work at all so that meant the bigger porkers.

Not sure which one it was, but it was one of these guys!

I wasn't part of the pick up crew but was present when the stomach cavity emptied porker was pulled out of the big black bin bag (where it had been marinating overnight) and spread upon the wire mesh above the fire pit.

Alex and the Hogge

Fire pit in all its Heath Robinson-like glory!

This would take 10 hours to cook so Viv and I came and went a few times during the day until the lovely chap was ready.

Talk about flavor!  The skin was fantastic as was the meat.  Why is it that really fatty stuff like this tastes so good?

The fire pit worked so well, I've decided I want one now!

The party rocked too!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Grand Central cuisine

We had just left Radio City and had only enough time for lunch before heading to the airport so thought that one of Grand Central's eateries would be a good thing to do as our hotel was pretty close by.  As we wandered into the main atrium we saw the sign "Cipriani Dolci" on our right and thought it looked pretty nice and chic and probably a good place for a cocktail and a casual lunch.

I think Americans on the whole make very good cocktails.  Better than British bartenders at any rate.  And Cipriani's made very good cocktails indeed -- Viv had a Negroni whilst I settled for a simple vodka martini with olives.  Both were very well executed indeed.

As for the food, I had a lovely home made pasta dish with veal ragout whilst Viv settled for calamari with another light and lovely fish dish.

Terrific location and view over the central hall of the great station.  The service was excellent and the food all round very good indeed.  So good that Viv and I agreed we should go to the big restaurant on 42nd Street next time we're in New York.

Oh yes, the dolci.

Very nice espresso macchiato

Cipriani's Dolci
89 East 42nd Street
New York 10017

Tel: (212) 973-0999

The First

I'd discovered that Delmonico's Restaurant was near to the office where I had a meeting in New York's financial district.  It was on one of those 3D type diorama maps that picked out half a dozen landmarks. I was excited because Delmonico's was in every book about old New York and in every movie or TV show about old New York.  The bigwigs would always end up going to Delmonico's for a steak.

Some old time New York bigwigs

I'd thought it had closed down years ago so this was worth investigating. This is what the current Delmonico's say about themselves:

"Before Delmonico's opened, diners ate at cafes and boarding houses (inns), where the food was simply the food available that day from the farms. Diners had no choice of dishes but ate the food that was served. Delmonico's changed all of that."

Now who doesn't like the sound of that?

But first Viv and I had to get there from our Times Square theatre.  Endless subway journey and thankfully brief stroll down Broad Street to Beaver Street through the blizzard that was dumping snow on New York all day.

It was worth it though.

Delmonico's list of firsts is very lengthy.  I liked the stories of how they'd changed the name of one signature dish -- Chicken a la Keene to Chicken a la King -- as it sounded classier and besides Mr. Keene was a thorough rascal.  The Delmonico brothers also did that to a ship's captain called Captain Wenburg whose lobster favourite became a staple.  Trouble was they fell out over something so banned Wenburg but the clients still demanded the lobster so they changed the name from Wenburg to Newburg which of course is how Lobster Newburg got its name.  So there!

The signature steak is the Delmonico steak which is an aged rib eye.  This is my favourite cut so I had no problem making my classic selection.  Viv chose the special steak -- an aged Porterhouse.  And of course the Caesar Salad to start -- and no, not a Delmonico creation.  It was still very good.

The signature Delmonico Steak
Only trouble was that our table was not out front in the iconic part of the dining room, rather it was through the bar, round the corner and on a table next to a couple of other diners who'd under estimated the size of the dishes and had ordered 4 or 5 sides, so much food in fact that they couldn't fit it all on the table and which they ended up taking home.

Good steak though.  Very tender and delicious.

Delmonico's Restaurant
56 Beaver Street
New York 10004

Tel: (212) 509-1144

Wall Street Chop House

Our meeting was in Broad Street in downtown Manhattan.  Broad Street runs from the very bottom of Manhattan up through what is now the financial district ending at the New York Fed building on the corner of Wall Street -- the other corner of which is the New York Stock Exchange.  After we'd finished Ken suggested we go to lunch.  It was 11.00 am.

"I get in at 7.15," Ken said. "I get hungry about now and so do others so the restaurants open early for us."

OK then so we walked out of Ken's skyscraper to an old 3 storey building Ken said during Superstorm Sandy had been completely flooded out.

"Many of these old buildings housed established businesses that were simply washed away.  They never opened again.  This place though did renovations and re-opened."

This place is Harry's on 97 Pearl Street.

The original Harry is a Greek guy who came to America like many others to seek his fortune, in his case a wealthy business man relative who unfortunately turned out to be a coffee shop counter man.  So Harry had to do it himself.  Ultimately he opened the original Harry's and ran it for 30 years but when his wife died, he closed the doors.  Fortunately his son re-opened and now runs 22 restaurants city wide but old Harry still comes to the original restaurant 6 days a week to greet clients.

Great steakhouse.  Wood paneling, decent hunks of perfectly cooked meat, robust red wine.  Who could ask for more?

OK, its iconic, THE place for Wall Streeters to lunch, drink and dine, and is always jammed.  Because it's good.  Very good.

97 Pearl Street
New York 10004

Tel: (212) 785-9200

Thursday, November 21, 2013

All you can eat… Cockles!

It's been a while since this landmark event but in my defence I took pictures on the phone I left with Viv and wasn't able to download them until now… so here we are!

It all happened in my home town and in particular the area called Old Leigh, a marvellous old part of town right by the water where the fishing boats came in and dropped off their catch at the famous old cockle sheds -- the most famous being Osborne's which has been there for generations.  Once a year Old Leigh holds a regatta, one cornerstone of which is the cockle eating competition.

My brother Jan won this competition a couple of years ago so had convinced his son, Rupert, and myself to enter as a group.  The rules were fairly simple: eat a pint glass full to the brim with cockles without pepper or vinegar or indeed any other seasonings faster than the others.

Now cockles aren't my favourite shellfish.  I far prefer whelks but covered with pepper and vinegar. Cockles are OK but like I said not my favorite.

Jan said we should arrive around 12 noon, eat a couple of bowls of local shellfish, maybe oysters, have a beer from the wonderful Crooked Billet pub and then stroll down to the competition.

So that's what we did.

The cockles were awful.

I don't know how you can take fresh shellfish which are inherently moist and make them taste as dry as Jacob's Cream Crackers.  But without seasoning, they were inedible.

For me, that is, for the chap across from me who'd shown up late (and who Jan later said was last year's champion and the guy he'd beaten out into 2nd place a couple of years back) was swallowing them as though he was simply pouring them down a drain.  He couldn't have tasted them but again he didn't chew either.

Next to me Rupert was trying to chew and I felt for him as that was absolutely the wrong approach -- it was my approach too -- as I could also see Jan open his throat and pour the things straight down his throat too.  Clearly this would be a 2-horse race as the 2 other guys were adopting the entirely wrong gulp/chew approach too.

And then it was all over.  The guy across from me finished with Jan close behind.  Rupert and I quietly thanked the graces that it was all over and surreptitiously emptied our squirrel like cheeks filled with half chewed cockles back into the pint glass.  I think all in all I probably finished no more than a quarter of a pint.

It certainly taught me a lesson though.

Great time through!

Osborne's Cockle Sheds
Old Leigh