Sunday, 23 June 2013

Gammon in Coke

Last week, while talking about delivered meat boxes, a friend asked if I had any idea what to do with a gammon joint.  They had received one in their last meat box and didn't have a clue where to start with it.  I jokingly suggested that they should acquire a bread-fruit and cook Oil Down.  Another, more sensible person suggested cooking the gammon in coke.  I had heard of cooking ham this way before, but it was something that I put down as a weird idea.  The conversation moved on and I forgot all about gammon, after all I didn't have any.

On Friday, while discussing my plans for the weekend, I was offered the gammon joint that had starred in the previous conversation.  It turns out that neither Elizabeth nor Rachel are actually that keen on cured pork.  My mum is exactly the same.  She loves pork chops, roasts a mean pork shoulder but can't stand bacon.  A little bit of bartering later*, I was the proud owner of a modest but perfect gammon joint.

There was only one thing I could do with it really and that was to cook it in coke.  A bit of judicious internet surfing lead me to Nigella Lawson's Ham in Coca Cola recipe.  I'm all in favour of odd cookery but submerging a joint of meat in coke did feel strange.  I cooked the joint as per Nigella's instructions before going out for the afternoon.

The final part of the recipe was the glaze.  I'm sure that you could have quite happily eaten the gammon without glazing it but I felt like going the whole hog.  In any case the meat needed reheating so not glazing it would have been a wasted opportunity.  While the gammon was getting its final cook, under a coating of treacle, brown sugar and English mustard, we roasted a sweet potato and boiled some new potatoes to make a two potato mash.  The final sweet accompaniment was some corn on the cob to round off the sweet savoury theme of the meal.

It wasn't the handsomest plate of food I have ever photographed, but what it lacked in looks it certainly made up for in flavour.  Yes I was sceptical about the whole cooking meat in fizzy pop thing but I shouldn't have been.  The coke didn't just add sweetness to the meat but also added an extra meatiness to the joint.  I'm much more likely to have a joint of gammon in the house in future than a bottle of coke but if the two turn up at the same time, I have a feeling that I'll be cooking this again.

*I owe you some lamb!

Friday, 21 June 2013

Sage and Thrift - Cook Book Swap

It turns out that I was wrong.  When I first joined Twitter I was very dismissive of it as a waste of time.  My first tweet was "I'll give this two weeks" and in under a week I had stopped tweeting.  This was a long time ago, so long ago in fact that one Mr Stephen Fry follows me.  I can't remember what lured me back to twitter but whatever it was I owe it, or them, a debt of gratitude.

For me twitter is a melting pot of wonderful ideas and like minded individuals.  It's a place where ideas turn into reality, it's a hive mind of information, it's all so quite fun when you're drunk*.  A good example of the possibilities of twitter is Sage and Thrift's Cook Book Swap.  The idea of people coming together to swap their precious cookery books was born after Jo gently teased Liz about her cook book habit.

I'm sure Liz isn't the only one of us out there who just can't resist the urge of buying more and more cook books.  Images of egg yolk running down a perfectly poached egg or cream oozing down the side of an apple pie are almost pornographic to foodies.  The better written ones are good enough to lose yourself in for hours.  I don't really use cookery books for their recipes, but for inspiration and that's enough to make me want all of them.

The problem is, as with most things, books cost money.  They also take up a lot of space in the kitchen**, so they are a costly and bulky addiction.  Liz and Jo's solution was to organize the Cook Book Swap so that we could all share our love of cook books without breaking the bank, or our book cases.

The first Cook Book Swap was held back in April.  I ummed and ahhed about what book to take along with me.  Luckily Z came along too so we could take a couple of books.  We handed over our tomes and started browsing through the other contributions.  Z chose Organic by Sophie Grigson and I picked the cookery book from the Thai Orchid Cookery School in Chiang Mai.

Over the last couple of months we have feasted on; Chicken with Cashew Nuts, Savory Scones with Beetroot Jam, Polenta Crusted Mackerel, Gnocchi with Mushroom Ragu, Hot and Sour Prawn Soup, and Pad Thai.  I'm sure you can guess which dishes are from which books.

The next Sage and Thrift Cook book swap is on Sunday 23rd June at Brewbar Espresso, under Leeds City Library, from 2pm until 4pm.  I'm still in two minds about whether to swap my two books or take in two fresh ones from my personal collection.  Either way I know I'll have another couple of months worth of new recipes and inspiration after Sunday and I'll have Liz, Jo and Twitter to thank for it!

*Drink responsibly kids
**or wherever you keep them.

Monday, 10 June 2013

Warm Pigeon and Beetroot Salad

Regular visitors here and to my other blog, Everything but the Oink, will know that I have an ongoing relationship with Swillington Farm.  I have been a purchaser of their organic meat and vegetables for some time and I recently sponsored one of their pigs.   We have been visiting the farm every couple of weeks to visit Breakfast*, to check on his progress and pick up some treats from the farm shop.  We recently got our first ever double yolker from one of their hens which had us both giddy with excitement!

We last visited Swillington on 9th June for Open Farm Sunday.  As well as seeing how Breakfast was getting on, we could tour the whole farm, visiting the bees, sheep and cattle.  We also wandered through the woods past Cockpit Round** and found the old Ice House.  As well as the animals there was one thing that stood out on our tour of the farm. 

Everywhere you looked there were signs reminding you that Swillington Farm, the walled garden, the fishing ponds, Ice House Woods, Cockpit Round, Breakfast's pen, are all scheduled for destruction. The High Speed 2 rail link to London will run right through the heart of Swillington destroying everything that Jo and her family have worked hard to create.  I'm all in favour of building to boost the economy but I am yet to see a business case or argument that has convinced me that HS2 is a good idea.  The fact that Swillington is affected just makes it worse.

That said, the signs of things that are not yet certain to come didn't stop us having a great day.  I'm told that this was the best Open Farm Sunday that Swillington have hosted, with more visitors than ever finding out where their food comes from and how it is raised/grown.  We couldn't leave the farm without visiting the shop on our way out and, for a change, we bought a pack of pigeon breasts rather than pork, beef or lamb.

We've had a whole pigeon in one of the meat boxes that we had delivered from Swillington in the past.  It's one of my favourite game birds, but one pigeon does not really feed two people***.  The packet of four pigeon breasts for £3.00 was a much better find for us.  A simple warm salad of fried pigeon, sautéed beetroot and the first of the salad leaves from the back garden, was a perfect summer's evening meal.  It was also a great way to round off a glorious weekend. 

*Yes I have named my pig Breakfast, you can read all about him at Everything but the Oink.
**so named because cock fighting to place there after it was made illegal in 1863.
***not when they are as hungry as we are.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Primo's Gourmet Hot Dogs

It's just typical, isn't it?  After 300 posts on Tonight's Menu there was only one restaurant review.  Then suddenly two come along at once.  Whereas the last one was all bought and paid for, this review is courtesy of a freebie from Primo's Gourmet Hot Dogs.

For a long time now Primo's has been my go-to fast food restaurant.  Since finding out about Primo's, I've almost eaten every hot dog on their menu, but they keep introducing one off specials.  Every time I pop down to cross off another one of their standard dogs I'm faced with glories like Slum Dog, a hot dog with an Indian twist, or a raft of South American inspired hot dogs, the best of which was Argentinian and smothered in chimichurri sauce.

Creating all of these specials have given the staff at Primo's a taste for the extraordinary.  It was only logical that themed evenings would follow so that they could flex their imaginative culinary muscles.  It also made sense that the first of the Primo's Vs. events would take place during Leeds Loves Food!  I couldn't attend the initial night, Vs. New York but I was more than happy to get a table at the second event, Vs. Australia.

On arrival we were ushered to our table and asked if we were ready for our starters.  It was odd having table service in such a familiar fast-food setting, but I soon got used to it.  The starter of Coogie Bay crab and crayfish cakes with a mango salsa soon arrived, along with a bottle of Carlton Draught.  The fish cakes were superb, not as strong a crab flavour as I had expected.  The star was the salsa. The sweetness of the fruit worked brilliantly with the fresh herbs and the slightly salty fish cakes. If I'm honest, I could have eaten a bowl of it on it's own and I'm not a mad mango fan.

Next up, the main event.  No Australian theme night could be complete without Kangaroo on the menu and this was no different.  Of course Primo's being a Hot dog joint the Roo was in dog form.  I was really looking forward to this as I'd never had kangaroo before but, if I'm honest, the dog was lost under the flavour of the caramelised onion and mustard topping.  The Roo was served with Sweet Potato Chips, Coleslaw and a bottle of Victoria Bitter.  The two sides were great.  I have tried and failed to cook decent sweet potato chips a couple of times.  Whatever I'm getting wrong Primo's got spot on.

The third course was a home baked Lamington served with cream and a hot rum and banana cocktail.  Lamingtons are an almond sponge cake, covered in chocolate icing and topped with coconut.  I don't have a sweet tooth and was starting to feel full after the previous two courses but somehow I managed to delete the lamington and its mountainous Bundaberg cream accomplice.  I'm told that there was not as much alcohol in the rum punch as it felt.  As with mulled wine the heat added to the strength of the punch.  It went brilliantly with the sponge and was a good way to round off the meal.

The Primo's Vs. events are running every month until December and at £17.95 for a three course meal, including drinks, they are a steal.  I know fingers crossed I'll be able to go along to a few more of them, if not I'll still be heading down to The Corn Exchange for a hit of my favourite, The Classic Chicago.  The next Vs. event is "Dixie" on 4th July, Independance Day, if you are interested bookings, with a £5 deposit pp are being taken now in Primo's shop.