Meet the New Year, just like the Old Year?

Well, we made it out of 2017. Which is nice.

I’m trying to imagine that we’ve now entered the third act of a bizarre tragi-comedy. 2016 was the first act, where a bunch of really bad decisions were made. 2017 showed the first effects of those decisions, and signposted potential future horrors, but it also signalled the beginnings of resistance. 2018, hopefully, is when the resistance begins to undo the damage, and gives us signs of a more positive future.

One can hope.

I don’t really do New Year’s resolutions. But I have a few aims. I had begun to hit a work rhythm that combined my freelance job with writing and other creative work, but that got disrupted in the weeks before Christmas. I’m going to try to get back into it this week.

Cycling is something I’ve been doing less of in the last few years. That’s another thing I hope to do more of.

And I’ve not been experimenting with food as much, either. So more of what I call Collision Cooking is called for. In fact, I managed tp start the year with a little bit of it.

Some of Christmans was spent in Cumbria, which meant I got to have Rum Butter for the first time in years. It’s basically alcoholic, coarse grained, butter icing, and is more-ish in that way all the least healthy foods are. As a last bit of Christmassy decadence, I had some on my porridge this morning, instead of honey.

And it was nice. The butter melted, and added a rich creaminess which was a nice counter to the dark richness of the brown sugar and rum. I’ve still got about three quarters of a jar of it left, so it’ll be appearing on porridge in the future, when i really want to spoil myself.

So, I’ve begun the year in one way I intend to go on, as well as getting some (but not enough) writing done.. Tomorrow, I’ll try to get a few more started

Testicle Pie

This video has been several months in the making. As mentioned, it started with a conversation in the pub, but that was back in January or February, and I only got to make the pie last weekend. Thanks to wonderful timing, my local butcher, after months of not having them, had lambs’ fry in again just in time for me to make the pie and take it along to a party where it could be sampled by my challenger.

Now I’m looking for other food related challenges to video. Any suggestions?

Rocky Mountain high

One of the butchers downstairs sells lamb frys (fries?). Lambs sure have big balls. I think it’s time to be brave and try a new food experience. First I thought I should find a recipe.

Not all gentalia is good to eat. As some readers may recall, in February I wrote the Valentine’s Day edition of the Nasty Bits in which I tried my best to make bull penis palatable, but to no avail. Penis is often made into chew toys for dogs because it is nearly impossible to digest unless it’s stewed for a long time, in which case the vascular tissue breaks down into a gluey, flaccid mess of a dish with virtually no flavor.

via The Nasty Bits: Testicles, Grilled and Fried | Serious Eats : Recipes.

Update I tried ‘Rocky Mountain in Oysters’ for the first time the day after this post, opting for the shallow fried version. I forgot to soak them in cold water beforehand, so they were a bit squishy when I cut them up, but they still fried up well. The flavour was quite mild, and reminded me of pork, somehow, rather than lamb. The texture was light and fluffy, I can imagine that undercooking might result a less satisfying, almost slimy, texture. The only problem was that I made my usual mistake when cooking offal, and I prepared too much. It doesn’t look it at first, but there’s a lot of meat in three lamb testicles, and I couldn’t eat all that I prepared. Next time I’ll have to share them.

Growing Underground

This week, paid a visit to the subterranean farm, descending the winding steps deep into the bowels of southwest London. The space is enormous. It’s made up of two seemingly never-ending tunnels (actually 430 metres long), lit — at least during our visit — only by the torches of Steven Dring and Richard Ballard, the founders of Zero Carbon Food, the company behind this agricultural curiosity.

via Vast underground bomb shelter reappropriated by urban farmers (Wired UK).

Vertical farms sprouting all over the world – tech – 16 January 2014 – New Scientist

URBAN warehouses, derelict buildings and high-rises are the last places you’d expect to find the seeds of a green revolution. But from Singapore to Scranton, Pennsylvania, “vertical farms” are promising a new, environmentally friendly way to feed the rapidly swelling populations of cities worldwide.

In March, the world’s largest vertical farm is set to open up shop in Scranton. Built by Green Spirit Farms (GSF) of New Buffalo, Michigan, it will only be a single storey covering 3.25 hectares, but with racks stacked six high it will house 17 million plants. And it is just one of a growing number.

The Biospheric project is Salford’s very own vertical farm and the talks there were a fascinating part of last year’s Manchester International Festival.

Vertical farms sprouting all over the world – tech – 16 January 2014 – New Scientist.

RIP (sort of) The Mark Addy

I never got to enjoy The Mark Addy in its more recent foodie guise, but I have fond memories of the cheese platters it used to do. It was an option as a food stop on my upcoming birthday pub-crawl, but may now be by-passed (if it’s even open to sell beer) as it’s off the route a little.

THE well-known and much loved Mark Addy pub is to close as a restaurant with immediate effect. This means it will not re-open after the Christmas/New Year break which was due to finish on Monday 6 January.

Costs associated with upgrading the kitchens and restaurant areas have led to the decision. The physical upkeep of the site has been an issue for some time.

via The Mark Addy To Close | Food Drink | Manchester Confidential.

Collision cooking- Christmas Pie 1

I really didn’t want to do a turkey, but felt the need for something Christmassy. So I made a pie.

None of the “deep” pie tins I found in the shops merited the description, so I made the pie in a medium sized pyrex dish. As I’ve said before, I don’t bother mixing up pastry, but use the ready-made stuff. Once the dish was lined, the first part of the filling was a layer of stuffing. On top of this went some cranberry sauce, then sausage meat, more sauce, chunks of turkey, more sauce and the rest of the stuffing. Then I poured some chicken gravy on, to fill any gaps. Lidded, the pie cooked for just over an hour (it was deep and full of meat that went in raw, so I wanted to be sure) at gas mark 6.

If I were to do it again, I might put in less gravy, or mix it so it was thicker. Otherwise, this was a definite success. The only thing that could have spoilt it would have been the foolhardy inclusion of sprouts.

The Bacon Wiki

Everything you need to know about bacon.

Until well into the sixteenth century, bacon or bacoun was a Middle English term used to refer to all pork in general. The term bacon comes from various Germanic and French dialects. It derives from the French bako, Common Germanic bakkon and Old Teutonic backe, all of which refer to the back. There are breeds of pigs particularly grown for bacon, notably the Yorkshire and Tamworth.

The phrase “bring home the bacon” comes from the 12th century when a church in Dunmow, England offered a side of bacon to any man who could swear before God and the congregation that he had not fought or quarreled with his wife for a year and a day. Any man that could “bring home the bacon” was highly respected in his community.

Collision cooking- vaguely oriental sea bream with pak choi and soy-chilli toffee

This recipe will probably work just as well with lots of other fish. As usual, no weights, measures or times.

Courtesy of Withington’s monthly market I had two fillets of black sea bream. After removing the last of the bones I laid them in a foil envelope on a baking tray. Next in was a handful of coriander leaves and then a large chunk of ginger root cut finely. I drizzled chilli oil on them next- in lieu of chopping up a chilli I didn’t have- then soy sauce and honey and finally lemon juice. After folding the foil envelope closed it went into the oven for about 25 minutes.

About ten minutes before the fish came out of the oven I heated some oil in a flat bottomed frying pan, split the pak choi lengthwise and fried them. When I’d served them up I left the pan on the heat whilst dishing out the fish, then poured the sauce into it. It boiled impressively, thickening and caramelising. When it was sticky enough I poured it over the fish and pak choi. the fish was light and tasty and the sauce was sticky and tangy, a rather nice combination.

Collision cooking: Bacon and Egg Pie

This is about as far from collision cooking as you can get, actually. Bacon and Egg pie is a family/Cumbrian traditional recipe which can be guaranteed to taste good every time.

First, get or make your pastry. I’m not going to tell you how, if only because I cheat and use frozen pre-made pastry. Also, as usual, I’ll not be giving weights, because they’ll vary depending upon the size of the pie tin you use.

After lining the pie tin with the pastry, the first layer is bacon, obviously. I’ve often used the packs of offcuts you sometimes find in butchers, though they need a bit more preparation. It’s also worth doing a quick fry of the bacon before putting it into the pie, to get a little of the fat and water out of it.

Grate some pepper over the bacon and carefully break open the eggs and put them into the pie. Don’t fill it to the brim though, as the eggs expand a bit as they bake. This is the point where I occasionally throw a little variation into the mix and grate some mature cheddar over the eggs. As the pie bakes, the cheese melts between the eggs and creates veins of extra flavour. Of course, whenever I’m home and suggest this variation my mother gives me a look like she’s thinking of disowning me.

Put a lid on the pie and put it into the oven. If, like me, you’re a dirty rotten cheat when it comes to pastry the packet will have some guidelines for temperature. If you’re a virtuous person who makes their own pastry from scratch then you’ll also know how to bake it. I usually give it 45 minutes then test it and leave it for longer if necessary.

Bacon and Egg pie is delicious hot or cold. Cold, it goes well with tomatoes and a little mayonnaise.

One final, important point- Bacon and Egg pie is not quiche with a lid on. To even suggest that is slanderous. It’s far better than quiche.

Collision cooking: salmon stuffed peppers

I have been practising collision cooking for several years. It’s a bit like fusion cooking, though occasionally messier. But it’s also a bit more than just throwing stuff together and hoping it doesn’t explode.

This meal was one I made up recently, a case of mixing what I had in an interesting way.

Salmon fillets
Large red pepper
I won’t do exact amounts. I had two fillets and a large courgette and ended up with enough left over to make myself risotto the next day.

Skin the salmon and cut into cubes. Cut the courgette and tomato up. Put all the pieces into a bowl, sprinkle with the juice of half the lemon and add seasoning (I only added a little pepper, if I were doing it again I’d have cut up some fresh parsley and added that).

Cut the top off the pepper. Remove the stalk and cut the flesh and seeds from the inside. I also took a sliver off the bottom to give it a level base.

Place the pepper on a baking tray, fill it and put the top on. Pour some liquid into the tray- I used tea with the rest of the lemon juice, but that’s just me.

I cooked the pepper at Gas Mark 6 for around 50 minutes. This chart says that that’s about 200 Celsius. You’ll know your oven better than I do, so you may want to set a different temperature or cook for a different length of time.

Remove from the oven and serve.