It’s been a bad day for………….

Getting lunch. Yes I know having lunch at 2.31pm is quite late but it was my day off. Anyway lunch isn’t allowed after 2.30pm in this idyllic looking country pub, The Strines Inn, that we called at today. It may only be one minute, but that one minute is obviously of critical importance when you run an almost empty Derbyshire pub. I didn’t realise any business was so cavalier with their customers these days.
Forget that the online information says they serve food all day, forget that its miles and miles from anywhere and completely forget any pretence of customer care. If you arrive at 2.31 and not 2.30 pm – the kitchen is closed.
So we did.
Full review of the pub which did serve all day, just down the road, to follow later.

Chicken with tarragon and mushrooms

I was in two minds about what to cook for a relaxing meal so turned, as I always do these days, to the internet for some searches on the ingredients I’d already bought – chicken, cream, mushrooms.
I had intended a chicken chasseur but came up with this .
It looked straightforward enough and had all the components that I had. Well almost. I replaced chanterelle mushrooms with the chestnut ones I had in the fridge.
I did add a dash of truffle oil to posh them up a bit and add a bit of depth, plus I replaced the creme fraiche with single cream, because I had it, but apart from that followed it pretty well.
The recipe doesn’t give you much idea of what a bunch of tarragon looks like. I was pretty generous, a handful about the size of a large carrot, but this was about half what I originally intended.
The final stage involves deglazing the pan with the cream or creme fraiche. When I started out, I did wonder about this because there seemed to be far too much liquid.
However, I only just caught it before the lot was committed to the pan for eternity and it looked frighteningly as if it would take industrial cleaning fluid to deglaze the pan.chickenstuck.bmp
But a quick blast on the heat at it did indeed deglaze. A rich creamy sauce which had just a hint of tarragon.
I think my first instinct was right – a bigger bunch of tarragon could have easily been allowed for to create a stronger taste.
It was well received in my household and a recipe which will be re-visited.
Do you have a recipe for me. If so, submit comments below or send me an email.

The 10m tip for a Chinese

A Mayfair millionaire has left £10m to the owners of a Chinese restaurant.
And why not? They obviously gave Golda Bechal a lot of pleasure in her life and the money will undoubtedly change the lives of Kim Sing Man and his wife, Bee Lian Man.
Sadly her decision has left a sour taste for the surviving family who, according to The Guardian, will now be embroiled in a court battle. That will no doubt last many years, result in nastiness and stress for both the restaurateurs and the family and ultimately see lawyers get rich.
Seems unlikely that the property tycoon ever imagined that outcome when she decided to gift her favourite Cantonese in Essex.

Is tea the new battleground for China?

By Amitava Sanyal
Like the swilling spoon in the boiling water, the history of tea closes a circle every now and then. Trouble is, more often than not, a British-born finds himself in the middle of the boiling brew.
The latest was, perhaps, Tony Blair saying that he rued the lack of a decent cuppa in the capital.
Councillor Pat Karney invited Blair to a tea tour of Manchester to show that not all was lost. Recently, in its ‘Living Britain’ report , insurance giant Zurich claimed that there was a fair bit of bonding happening in different parts of Britain over the brown brew.

The report cited Manchester University’s Tea Cake Tuesday group, where the young and the angsty gather weekly to “drink tea, eat cake, and have a nice chat”.

But then, Blair was probably being fair about London itself. The better places to be served a decent brew are now probably to be found up north.
Even Lincoln, which does not claim to have had much more than a grand cathedral and the world’s first zebra crossing, has extremely nice tea rooms. The humour of history lies elsewhere. The former prime minister said all this while on tour in the US, the former colony where the battle of independence was lent the decisive spark with the raising of tea taxes.
Not such a big deal, to be fair. But consider why the taxes were raised and you get into another interesting loop of history – one that goes towards the east, to the root of the plant itself. Tea taxes in the US were raised to fund, among other things, the rising cost of Britain’s wars in India.
This is the loop the organisers of next year’s BUPA Great Manchester Run stepped into when they decided to give some of the money to tea workers in India.
This loop of history started almost a century after the American war of independence, when a couple of enterprising Scottish brothers, Robert and Charles Alexander Bruce, went hunting for the shrub in India.
One found some plants in Assam remarkably similar to the shrub they knew. The other had land on which it could be planted. They started the enterprise with the help of a few friends who brought in cheap plantation labour from several parts of India. The workers’ plight has been bad ever since, as several folk songs of the region would tell you.
But India itself was not yet a tea-drinking nation. There was no history of brewing the leaves except among some tribes in the northeastern states.
So the Tea Board of India embarked on what some claim to be one of the largest promotional exercises ever – to educate urban India on how to make and drink tea.

Armies of tea-toting ambassadors were sent into homes with cups and literature to demonstrate the subtleties of the brew. Towards the beginning of the 20th century, India became the largest tea growing and guzzling nations.

The latest loop of history has to do with the modern trade. As with every human industry, China claims to be the first in brewing tea. They are said to have done it some four millenniums before anyone else did. And sure enough, that’s where most of the tea came from before India stepped into the trade. India even borrowed its word for tea – cha – from China.
So while India grew in the trade and remained the largest tea trader for the most of the 20th century, China bristled. The hundred-year war turned last year when China produced more than a billion kilos of the leaves, pipping India to the piping pot by a good 50 million kilos.
In the last decade, Indian companies have picked up some of the largest tea brands in Britain. The Tata group has bought Tetley and the Apeejay group has bagged Typhoo tea. Will the Chinese give chase?
If they do, the tea rooms of Britain might just turn out to be yet another warring ground between the eastern neighbours.
Let’s take a sip and watch.

Music to cook by….continued

As I endeavour to pull together the ultimate playlist to cook to, you’ve been letting me know your favourites. And a very intellectual bunch you are too!
I’ve had several mentions of Radio 4 programmes – including the Today programme which must mean you get started early – unless of course you’re podcasting as well as cooking and blogging. Obviously masters and mistresses of muli-tasking.
And outside of spoken word, it seems you’re in a mellow mood when you’re rustling up the goodies in the kitchen, unlike myself.
Here’s where we’re at so far;
1. God Put a Smile Upon Your Face – The Daptone Horns, Mark Ronson
2. On the Way – Abra Moore.
3. John Coltrane.
4. Hounds of Love – Kate Bush
5. The Today programme.
6. Women’s Hour.
7. Play on Saturday,
8. Zane Lowe.
9. Pete Tong.
10. Going home for Christmas. Chris Rea.

Personally I feel there’s too much radio in there, but the list goes on so send me your suggesstions by submitting them below or posting on the Facebook group We live to eat (and blog)!

Btw, so far all the responses have been from women – don’t you guys cook?

Giraffe @ Spinningfields

By Mark Richardson
WITH Spinningfields steadily coming to life it seems like our new business district is becoming a replica of ‘high street Britain’, with the now mandatory selection of chain restaurants popping up left right and centre.
The latest addition, Giraffe, promises ‘world food’ and a relaxed atmosphere, and manages to achieve both.
The menu is varied and uncomplicated with everything from burgers and steaks to green curries and a particularly warming chilli lasagne, and all available at a comfortable price.
Unusually Giraffe offers a substantial breakfast menu ranging from a super food muesli to the more traditional egg and bacon selections, plus an intruding Eggs Tostada which involves spicy Mexican sausage. Although that might be a risky option of you have an early presentation to conduct.
The breakfast menu may appeal to the busy banker types that are populating this area of the city, but these days most people seem happy to settle for tea and toast at their desk. So the manager says they are going to play the whole breakfast idea by ear, as it were.
It looks as if we are going to have to get used to the homogenous look, and taste, of our towns and cities and on the plus side, finding something to eat is uncomplicated and the quality fairly standard, but surely there is room for a more original eating experience?
Giraffe is at Spinningfields Square, off hardman street (which is off Deansgate). 0161 839 0009.
If you want to post a review to this blog, please submit your comments below or email me.

So, will Delia strip?

So Delia is coming back. Yes the queen of the kitchen is breaking her five year self-imposed exile from our television screens to show us How to Cheat in the kitchen.
Inevitably her decision has prompted some fond memories of the spirited support she showed for her beloved Canaries, but what I want to know is whether she’s going to be keeping her clothes on?
I only ask because her predecessors just don’t seem to be able to resists flinging off their garments at regular intervals.
Not an episode goes by without being treated to the F***ing torso of Gordon Ramsay being freed from the constraints of the chef’s whites and frankly Gordon, we could do without it – your football fit days are over.
Then there’s Nigella who seemed to appear at the end of last week’s episode in what looked like satin pjs to sneak a glug of cold gravy from the fridge after lights out – doesn’t the woman eat enough during meal times?
And finally there’s the man-boy Jamie Oliver and those shorts.I really can’t go into that again.
Enough, all of you celebrity chefs, enough.
Let Delia bring aprons back to the kitchen please. One sign of that twin set being dropped from a shoulder and I’m tuning out.

Blog goes email

Over on the M.E.N website, we’ve launched a foodie newsletter – which means you can now keep up with this blog by email.
In addition there’s also offers for restaurants, video cooking tips from Channel M and food and wine news and views from the M.E.N’s writer Neil Sowerby.
So what’re you waiting for? Click here to sign up.
PS – it’s sent out on a Thursday.

The best pub curry in the world (probably)

If Carlsberg did pub food, as the advertising strap line goes, they’d be running the Bull’s Head! Having resisted blogging about my local for all these months I couldn’t hold off any longer. Not only is it a “proper” pub i.e. pool table, tiled floors and a cosy bar BUT it’s also a proper curry house.
Not only that, but the landlord seems to have cloned my iPod playlists as well. What more could anyone want?
There’s no warmed up, under spiced, microwave cooking here. Having sampled much on the menu over the years, we’ve got to the boring situation where we have a “usual” so last night it was time to break the habit.
This was most disconcerting for Mamood. He prides himself on remembering all regular customers’ names and their orders, and their particular requirements – extra ginger, medium chilli, chapatti instead of naan etc. In fact there must be a memory man competition going on somewhere in the world which he would be a surefire winner at.
So, out went the daal, spinach and cheese and tandoori lamb chops even though they are consistently and proven to be excellent. It’s just not right to order the same thing every time. In came vegetable jalfreezi, mushroom rice and lamb with lentils.
Mamood assured us this that these dishes would compliment each other perfectly and they did.

The jalfrezi had a full selection of veg with some chick peas too and a good whack of chilli as requested.

The lamb in the lentils just fell apart and the gingery lentils was a friend to the whole experience.
Meals at the Bull’s Head always start with a couple of poppadoms, the usual selection of sauces and a green salad with lemon which always strikes me as a bit off but is a refreshing start to a large meal.
While the décor also doubles as a salesroom for some frankly terrible art, the rooms set aside for the restaurant are always friendly and provide an escape from the busy bar.
Drinks are purchased separately in the pub where they keep a good pint – but this being a proper pub, the wine is best left in the bottle.
Due to the consistency of the food quality and warm welcome it’s often worth booking at the weekend busy times.
The Bull’s Head is at 102 Church Street, Old Glossop, Derbyshire SK13. Tel : 01457 853291
Read more about the pub here.
Style: Life on Mars meets Dulux artist.
Plus: The complete customer care personalised meal choices no problem.
Minus: The wine is truly and utterly terrible.
Value: Excellent value for money. Eat for two for less than £20.
If you agree, cast a vote for the Bull’s Head here.