Blogging the airwaves

Food disasters. Now there’s a subject I’ve goy a few opinions about! At least that’s what the producers at BBC Wales thought when they got me in yesterday.
I was a bit worried that Sunday’s blog might have offended so many Welsh people that they wanted to take me to task on air but thankfully they just wanted to talk about the biggest calamities in food history.
According to Waitrose Illustrated, the top ten food disasters includes the deep-fried Mars bar, anything from KFC, Pot Noodle and is topped by the invention (by the French in 1869) of margarine.
But there’s also a couple of questionable cheesy entries – quiche and the Ploughman’s Lunch.
What’s wrong with quiche? Properly cooked that bubbling mixture encased in a (very) short pastry can be delicious.

I can probably go along with criticism of the name ‘Ploughman’s’ being a horribly overused term, but I fail to see how wholesome hunks of fresh bread served with a selection of fantastic regional cheese could be offensive to anyone – whatever you want to call it.
When all you get is a piece of sweaty Cheddar and some Branston pickle with a stale roll, on the other hand…………………..

Anyway the top five (listed here) seems to be missing a few items so I thought I’d come up with own version.
My food hell
1. Fruit with meat.
I know, I know there’s classic dishes such as duck a l’orange but in general it’s wrong. The sweetness (and often the acidity) of fruit is not a good partner to any meat and simply throwing the content of your fruit bowl into a stew won’t make it more edible. Gammon with pineapple? Why? What’s wrong with an egg?
2. Wensleydale cheese that’s been messed with.
Leave this fantastic cheese alone, nothing can enhance it and certainly not berries or curry flavour. It is plainly, fantastically beyond improvement.
3. Prawn cocktail
Slathering tiny tasteless shrimp with that tastleess, gluppy, brightly coloured sauce is a sin to seafood.
4. Pop Tarts
Cardboard with molten jam. Point?
5. Pointless garnish.
Any regular readers of this blog know why.
Let me know your personal food hell below and if you want to hear the radio broadcast from yesterday, it was shortly before 5pm and you can “listen again” to Good Evening Wales.
As you’ll hear, there was a promise of an address where I could sample some well-cooked Welsh lamb. Nothing has arrived as yet though. Tricky to find was it?
Thanks to yes_Kristoli for the vile prawn cocktail picture!

Green lentil and parsley salad

lentils.jpg I first made this recipe for the one and only barbeque I’ve managed to hold this year. The one bright day in July and even then we had to adjourn to the house after the food thanks to the rain.
Of all the dishes I made that day, this became the unlikely favourite with meat eaters and veggies alike. It’s particularly good with quality lamb chops but equally good with the crumbliest, salty feta. It keeps in fridge and makes a useful lunch.
What you need for about 2 servings.
A cup full green lentils.
Half a cup of brown basmati rice.
Juice of one lemon.
Big bunch of parsley – flat leaf is best.
At least two cloves of garlic.
Slurp of olive oil.
Salt and pepper to taste.

What you do

Cook the rice until fluffy.
Wash and cook the lentils.
Mince the garlic and finely chop the parsley.
When everything is cool, mix together. Simplicity itself.
Try it and let me know what you think below.

Welsh lamb incineration

Welsh lamb, as the glossy magazine adverts tell us, is some of the best meat available. Reared in the scenic grasslands and saltmarshes of our neighbouring principality the quality and freshness is second to none.
And I’ve no reason to doubt it having had my share of sweet and tasty cuts dished up on this side of the border.

So given this natural advantage, why can’t the Welsh cook lamb properly? I’ve yet to eat a succulent joint or chomp on a tasty chop on its home turf.

Here’s an example from this weekend – char-grilled chops with the emphasis on char. I was a bit worried when the waitress at The Royal Goat in Beddegelert didn’t inquire as to how we would like our chops prepared but I figured they would know what to do. Sadly the resulting dish (not cheap at £11.95) were not just well-done but blackened.
Bitter and tough they might have been but what did I do. Complain? Me? Far too English for that!

A parsley posey

I got this idea from watching a florist preparing a birthday bouquet recently. Create your own little water pocket for herbs and they last a lot longer in just the same way as any plant would.
My parsley is still happily green and fresh in the fridge. It’s become an invaluable part of my current favourite green lentil sald (recipe to come ).
Just chop the stalks off a couple of inches before you wrap them loosely with flim.
Hold it closed while you drip water into the “sack” created and then seal the top with sellotape.
That’s it.

The Bridge, Manchester.

Oh dear, what has happened here? The Bridge has had something of a changeable existence in my experience. When I first visited years ago it was to attend a private party in the upstairs function room where you had to cut through the smoke in the bar with an axe and fend off drunks on the way to the toilet before tucking into a watery, carrot-floating hot pot.
More recently I enjoyed a lunch of well-cooked game served in an almost hushed dining room after making my way through a bar full of television types talking about city centre property prices while feasting on beef and horseradish sandwiches.
But if my visit this weekend is typical, we now seem to have an unholy alliance of those two extremes.
Making our way through the now smoke-free bar it was a case of sit anywhere in the empty dining area which also seemed to be doubling up as a well-trod highway to smoking heaven out the back.

The menu might have shrunk radically with just a handful of main courses – but the prices haven’t diminished alongside the choice.

Expect to pay around £15 per meal.
The selection was a bit ordinary – steaks, chicken, fish and a vegetarian option. I broke my cardinal rule of buying chicken which didn’t come with a full history of its source for the first time – then promptly regretted it.
Chicken supreme with vegetable cous cous was promised. What was delivered was a chicken portion with sauce which reminded me of Uncle Ben’s – sweet, shallow, luke-warm and most certainly plonked onto the overcooked chicken at the last minute.
But at least the chef gave me cheery smile as he sloped off through the back door for a smoke though and the cous cous was good.
Himself’s medium cooked steak (a predictable choice) was cooked well enough but what about this for an onion ring? Huge and slimey they also featured some sort of seasonings and were quickly rejected.
Not having enough of an appetite to continue onto another course, watch another round of smoking interruptions or listen to the drunk woman who kept moving into the dining area so that she could speak a bit more loudly while she slurped her alcopop, we decided to make a move.
I only hope those behind this venture can get a grip on it before the signs extolling the virtues of the old gastropub begin to look incongruous – we have few enough great eateries without losing one of the best.
Was my experience a one-off? Let me know how you’ve found The Bridge by submitting comments below.
The Bridge, 58 Bridge Street, Manchester. 0161 8340242

Garnish anguish 2

The completely pointless, tasteless and visually incongruous advance of the garnish continues unchecked.
Just take a look at this recent offering.
It’s a soggy bit of lettuce with tomato slice and red cabbage. There’s a further clue in its presentation – yes the scallop shell.
Putting a dried up trio of salad items into a shell must be intended to somehow conjure up a sense of the sea. I could feel the waves and smell the salty air just by looking at it!

When it arrived it was taking up valuable plate space and so was immediately transferred to a side plate so that I could tuck into my fish and chips. It wouldn’t surprise me if 20 previous diners had done exactly the same thing and the seaside salad would spend its day rotating the tables until finally being flung into the rubbish untouched and unloved.

Apart from the fact that it looked so unappetising and I didn’t order salad with my fish and chips – the only veg to accompany my favourite seaside meal will be of the green and mushy variety – I hardly think a slither of tomato is going to transform the dish into a healthy eating option!
The venue for this sad sea themed scraping? The Magpie in Whitby. You really would think they would know better.
Go back to Garnish anguish 1.

Join me in banishing these things. Name and shame your garnish anguish by submitting your comments below.

What I did on my holidays……

Back from a lovely but wet fortnight in North Yorkshire. With no internet access available I haven’t been able to blog so here’s the briefest round-up of thoughts, observations and discoveries from spending the start of July in God’s own country.
In no particular order;
1. Eating fruitcake without cheese is like a kiss without a squeeze. Enjoy both (cake and cheese that is) to good effect at Williams in Richmond.
2. Gluten-free pasta? The point?
3. Thank you for re-opening The Punchbowl at Low Row, Swaledale and turning it into a top eaterie. Perfectly cooked and beautifully presented food in a spectacular location it was always a surprise to find it closed down for so long previously.
4. Some people believe that your diet should reflect the blood group you belong to as this is a way of achieving harmony with your genetic make-up.magpie1.jpg
5. The Magpie Café in Whitby is still the best fish and chips to be found in the whole world. The fish is so fresh its almost swimming and the batter truly does melt in the mouth.
6. There is life outside the Magpie. Try Mister Chips’ seafood trio – fish, prawns scallops, chips – and red wine? Trust me it worked. 7. Kippers for breakfast and Champagne cocktails at night. The Moon and Sixpence on Whitby’s quayside is sophisticated without being pretentious.
8. Does the smoking ban mean us non-smokers have to fight for a space in every beer garden in the country? At least the dink was cheap and the welcome suitably welcoming at the Whitby Friendship Rowing Club which has one of the best views in town.
9. Talking of smokers, who is going to clear the mountain of nubs which seem to be gathering outside every small town pub?
10. Does everything served up in Yorkshire have to be quite so large? Himself is due to finish his crab salad from the Magpie a week on Wednesday we guess.