Monday, July 16, 2018

FUN WITH MEAT - ENGLISH STYLE

What I ate on my travels.

Some barbecued venison in Essex:


Some barbecued lamb in Gloucestershire:


A might pile of miscellaneous meats at the Anatolia restaurant in Hackney:


And a pile of kebab meat from a place in West Hampstead called, I kid you not, Lezziz Express, which turns out not to be an outpost of lesbian separatism, but a halal joint.  The yoghurt sauce was hiding a multitude of sins.  And I was left thinking I should have ordered the chips and cheese: ah well, there'll be another time.



Tuesday, July 10, 2018

MASHED WITH EVERYTHING

I was in Mistley, in Essex, on the river Stour, and my companion and I went into the Mistley Thorn, a pub that’s been in existence since at least 1805, and in its current manifestation is a gastropub that specializes in seafood “with-a-glint-still-in-its-eye” (their description).  And on the menu was something I’d never eaten before - “seaweed crushed new potatoes.”  I ordered it of course, and it came looking like this:


I’ve been trying to find out how many species of seaweeds there are.  The online Seaweed Site offers a “selection” of 200, and I can’t tell you what kind came with those crushed new potatoes but the combination worked really well, a slight chewy texture to the seaweed and a lot of saltiness – not going to argue with that.

There are so many things that go well with potatoes, all the way up to caviar.  And as fate would have it, a reference on Facebook (thank you Steve Duffy) led me to this ancient news item.  It’s from the Sacramento Union, 7 May, 1916.


Now, my experience with morphine is essentially medical, and I seem not to have the right body chemistry to become a real fan, but having taken it after surgery, I can definitely say I didn’t emerge buoyant, my lips wreathed in smiles, my eyes a-sparkle.  In fact my mouth tended to hang open and my eyes roll back in my head.  But maybe it’s different when potatoes are involved.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

A LIFE OF PIE

Well, I said that I’d be eating pies while I was in London, and I wouldn’t lie about a thing like that.  On my first day in town I ate this one (not all of it), a Brace and Dram Wild Game and Whisky Pie, from Fortnum and Mason. It took a certain amount of imagination to convince myself that I could taste the whisky.


A week or so later, again from Fortnum and Mason, I bought this one: a (ruinously expensive – best part of 9 quid - really) Mutton and Caper Pie, which I thought could have used a few more capers.



And it so happened that I was staying close to a Marks and Spencer.  Now, M and S is no Fortnum and Mason but they’re not bad, and by no means ruinously expensive, and so in those moments when I was in need of comfort I wandered in and bought items such as these Mini Melton Mowbray Pork Pies, which were perfectly good.


I also scoffed down some of these Dinky Melton Mowbray Pork Pies.  Yep, thay really call them that.  In general I don’t want my food to be “dinky” but I was prepared to make an exception here.


I suspect there is some alternative universe in which Marks and Spencer sell micro pies, or bijou pie-ettes.  I’d probably be happy to eat those too.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

EATING AWAY

I’m going to be in London for the next month or so: pork pies will be eaten.  Here are some found foodie images to amuse you while I’m away:





Monday, May 28, 2018

THE BIRYANI AND I

I’ve mentioned elsewhere on this blog that if you’re an Englishman of a certain generation (i.e. mine), chances are that the first “foreign food” you ever ate was Indian.   And very possibly it was a biryani, because that was “safe,” essentially a risotto (though I surely didn’t know that word at the time), with a curry sauce on the side that you could pour over it in whatever quantity you wanted.

Were these biryanis authentic? Probably not, although Wikipedia has a remarkably detailed entry on the subject, which suggests that authenticity comes in a vast number of forms.  You want inauthenticity? This is what Martha Stewart’s version looks like:


I started thinking about biryani because I found myself back on Venice Boulevard last week and spotted this restaurant sign:


However you look at it, 30,000+ is an impressive number – I was seduced, I wanted one  – but it was early, only 11 am and the restaurant wasn’t open.

And so I wandered further along Venice Boulevard, and I came to India Sweets and Spices: a place I’ve been known to go to buy their giant jars of Marmite and slightly less giant jars of lime pickle. And yes this is the only “All Asian, Fiji and British Grocery” I know of in LA or in fact anywhere else, though I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that there are others in this town. India Sweets and Spices is a small, independently owned chain - but I don't think any of the others claim a connection with Fiji.


And they have a small buffet – you point at things – (no biryani alas) - and have exchanges in polite, cheerful but fractured English, and end up with a plate that looks like this: 


I wouldn’t absolutely swear what’s there.  I do know that’s a yoghurt curry, front left, with spinach and a chick pea flour fritter lurking in it. I think that’s a potato curry (perhaps aloo poori) in the back, and that’s definitely lemon rice – I had to pay extra for that – and there’s some yogurt on the side, not curried.  It was all pretty decent.


I also ordered a paneer pakora (above) – a deep fried cheese pancake – you’re not going to go far wrong with that – but I had to wait for it to come, and by the time it arrived I knew I was going to be so stuffed I didn’t need it.  I took it home. reheated it, and it was good, damn good, the best thing they sold.  You know, sometimes I think maybe the British Empire wasn’t all bad.


Saturday, May 26, 2018

VINEGAR GEOFF (AS OPPOSED TO JOE)



Salt and vinegar: one of the simplest flavor combinations, and it’s certainly not a subtle one, but it has a lot more poke than, say, salt and pepper, or sage and onion.  For the British, salt and vinegar reaches an apotheosis with fish and chips – if you don’t put salt and vinegar on them they’re hardly worth bothering with.  


This topic was only vaguely on my mind when I bought, from an all-American supermarket, a pack of Tim’s Cascade Style Potato Chips, “extra thick and crunchy, sea salt and vinegar,” and gluten free (you don’t say.)  
Yes, there’s a lot of writing on the pack.  I think “cascade style” simply means they come from Washington state – but the company’s address is 1150 Industry Drive North, Algon, which doesn’t in itself summon up images of mountains and volcanoes.  Also it turns out that Tim’s is actually a subsidiary of Birds Eye.  And wait a minute, what’s that printed on the pack, black on blue so it’s barely legible “artificially flavored”?   


Turn to the list of ingredients on the back and you’ll find they include vinegar powder and malic acid.  Vinegar powder, I now know, from the pack and elsewhere, is “maltodextrin and vinegar.”  You could argue about how artificial maltodextrin is.  Yes, it’s a food additive, a polysaccharide that is a thickener and improves mouth feel, but then again it is derived from starch.  As for malic acid, that’s a naturally occurring organic compound found in certain fruits and it gives them a sour flavor - quince is pretty much the magic-acid queen.   So you might think that was vaguely natural, though it does have an E number, E296.


Anyway, Tim’s potato chips tasted fine. It’s true enough that they were thick and crunchy, and the tartness didn’t strip the inside of the mouth the way some salt and vinegar flavor does.
*
          OK, now I had the bit (and the salt and vinegar) between my teeth. I bought some Kettle Brand Sea Salt and Vinegar Chips “great taste … naturally” – the packaging seems to suggested they’ve managed to trademark both “kettle” and “naturally.”


These were noticeably harsher tasting than Tim’s.  Flavoring here included, of course, vinegar powder “(Maltodextrin, White Distilled Vinegar),” Maltodextrin on its own, and citric acid. 


It’s hard to see that this version of “natural” is so very different from the “artificial” flavor of Tim’s, though the pack says, “non-GMO project verified” – which would obviously please some people a lot more than it does me. 
*
          And then I bought another pack, the last for a while.  I mean frankly, 3 largish packets of salt and vinegar chips go quite a long way.  This time I tried some Boulder Canyon Malt Vinegar and Sea Salt, Kettle Cooked Chips: 


and do you see that proud boast on the pack, “authentic foods”?  We’ll save our book- length discussion of “authenticity” for another day.


These chips tasted the best to me, the subtlest and most complex flavor, with a hint of something lemony. And how did they arrive at that flavor? Malt vinegar power (maltodextrin, food starch modified, malt vinegar), then white vinegar powder (maltodextrin, distilled white vinegar), fructose, some more maltodextrin, and then malt extract.  Is that artificial?  Is that authentic?  Beats me.

This incidentally is (part of) the Vinegar Joe referred to in the title: