You are what you eat & drink

Posts tagged “England

What beer be this?

Wychwood Snake’s Bite


Source: Pilsner Pilgrim Blog


What beer be this?

Lump of Coal Stout

lumpofcoalstoutYou can read more here

No wine, no waiters, no finery…

The-Company-ShedYes, and they call it a restaurant.

From what I read, it is about a basic as you can get, and you may have to stand in line for a place, it’s that good.

They don’t even accept cards, just money.

I first read about it on The Guardian site, Shuck it and See, a review.

Then there’s their homepage The Garden Shed.

Seafood Platter

£11.50 Per Person

Smoked salmon, smoked mackerel, prawns (peeled and shell on), 1 green lip mussel, 1 crevette, ½crab


But, when you see that, you don’t mind bringing your own bread and wine and the ramshackle surroundings.

Somewhere near Colchester.

English wine… an Oxymoron?

Apparently not.

English wine: Is sparkling wine better in England than France?

A vineyard in Hampshire

The Duchess of Cornwall has called for a new name for English sparkling wine to match the grandeur of champagne. And for the first time, domestic wine is the most popular in the government’s cellar. Have Britons developed a taste for a home-grown tipple?

Someone arrives with a bottle of English wine. Cue excitable voices saying, “Gosh, English wine is really quite good, you know – it gives champagne a run for its money.”

The surprise used to be palpable.

But English wine has grown up. Today it regularly wins awards – there were four gold medals at the International Wine Challenge (IWC) this year.

It’s a far cry from English actor Peter Ustinov’s put down: “I imagine hell like this – Italian punctuality, German humour and English wine.”

But is there something holding English wine back? It accounts for just 0.25% of total wine sales in the UK, according to industry body English Wine Producers.

This week the Duchess of Cornwall called on producers to come up with a name.

“People should put their heads together and think of a new name for English sparkling wine,” she said while visiting Hambledon Vineyard in Hampshire. “It should be something with much more depth. I plan to find a new word for it.”

So is new terminology the final piece in the jigsaw?

English wine has been through a revolution. Old grape varieties are out, new owners are in. The area of vines planted in England and Wales has doubled from 761 hectares in 2004 to about 1,500 hectares today. The country now has 434 vineyards.

Figures just released by the Foreign Office on the government’s wine cellar, show that for the first time more English wine was drunk at government hospitality events than wine from any other nation.

Andrew Neather, Evening Standard wine critic, says the new winemakers tend to be go-ahead types from the City or wealthy lawyers, who want to carve out another career.

They are focusing on sparkling wine, planting more of the traditional champagne grapes – chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier. In 2010, for the first time more than half of the vintage went into sparkling wine.

Three of this year’s four IWC gold medal winners were sparkling wines. In June, Majestic announced that sales of English sparkling wine trebled in 2012, encouraged by the Jubilee and Olympics.

There is logic to England focusing on fizz. Kent and West Sussex, where the best English sparkling wine originates, are only about 90 miles north of Champagne. The chalky soils around the North and South Downs are very similar to the earth where famous names such as Bollinger and Dom Perignon plant their grapes.

English vineyards

Denbies Wine Estate in Dorking, Surrey, is the UK’s largest single vineyard

The best English sparking wine is as good as “decent” champagne, Neather says. England’s top seller – Nyetimber – has more to offer than a mass market champagne like Moet Imperial, he argues.


“It’s more interesting, has more complexity and better acidity.” The Moet costs more at £32.99 – although it is sometimes discounted – while Nyetimber is £29.99.

The Financial Times wine critic, Jancis Robinson agrees, albeit with a couple of caveats.

“Most English fizz is now very well made and attractively dry and zesty. But very little has any real complexity since producers generally cannot afford to age it very long.” And cost is a problem. “It’s never a bargain,” Robinson says.

“It is generally made by people who have invested a great deal in new vineyards or winemaking and need to see a return.”

The competition can be significantly cheaper whether prosecco, cava or own-brand champagne. Aldi, for example, sells champagne for just £12.99.

Despite the cost premium, patriotism and the fashion for local provenance suggests that current levels of production are outstripped by demand.

“The industry sells everything it produces,” says Julia Trustram Eve, spokeswoman for English Wine Producers. “Demand is exceeding supply.”


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If the English are planning to supplant the Champagne name, they’re going to have to come up with something more dramatic than Nyetimber or Dorking.

Just imagine that rolling off your tongue, “Here, have a Dorking!” or “I’ve brought the Dorks, darling!” when you compare it with the much more regal sounding, “Here have a Champagne!” or “I’ve brought the Champers, darling!”

I put it to you, is there an English county name that equals the magic of Champagne? I think not. Pity, because without that magic ring, Champagne will always be king.

Eat, drink and be Perry!

PerryOr, if you’re French, Poiré.

Everybody has heard of cider, most everybody knows that cider is made from apples.

Not entirely true. Cider can be made from any such fruit, but principally and famously apples.

But there is another fruit used in making ‘cider’, pears; but it’s not called cider, rather it is perry. Perry has been made for centuries from fermented pears, much in the same traditional manner as cider in England; or more specifically in Gloucestershire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire, and in Monmouthshire, Wales. Also in the north of France.

Perry is certainly not a new drink, Pliny made reference to it. Making Poiré in France became common after the collapse of the Roman Empire, and was taken to England with the Norman conquest.

More recently products like ‘Pear Cider’ have appeared, it is generally considered that these are pear flavoured ciders rather than perry which is made from pears.

“CAMRA defines perry and pear cider as quite different drinks, stating that “pear cider” as made by the large industrial cidermakers is merely a pear-flavoured drink, or more specifically a cider-style drink flavoured with pear concentrate, whereas “perry” should be made by traditional methods from perry pears only.”Wikipedia












eperry2Lambrini Original 75cl


Now, I know what you’re thinking…

You’re not allowed to cook faggots, it’s sexual discrimination.

The days of burning witches, heretics and politicians at the stake are gone, although it’s a pity about the politicians…

Caul Fat, the exterior stomach lining of the pig

Faggots are like meatballs made from meat off-cuts and offal, especially pork. A faggot is traditionally made from pig’s heart, liver and fatty belly meat or bacon minced together, with herbs added for flavouring and sometimes bread crumbs. The meat is shaped in the hand into balls, wrapped with caul fat , and baked.

Traditional fare from Wales and the English Midlands.

Faggots can be made from a variety of meats.

Faggots. Offally good, if you like that sort of thing… picture from PracticallyDaily. Source: Brownhill’s Blog

Not limited to pork and venison (above), but also black pudding…


A traditional faggot is wrapped in caul fat to hold it together. Increasingly difficult to get hold of, this thin membrane of fat is replaced here by an outer casing of bacon.

Black pudding faggots and chips for lunch, image source: The Telegraph

pork belly 125g
an onion
lamb’s liver 250g
black pudding 100g
garlic cloves 2
white pepper
fresh white breadcrumbs 50g
streaky bacon 12 rashers
cocktail sticks
stout, or other dark beer 500ml


Set the oven at 180C. Peel and chop the onion. Cut the pork belly up a little and drop it into the bowl of a food processor, then blitz with the onion and lamb’s liver till coarsely chopped. Add the black pudding and blitz very briefly, then tip into a large mixing bowl. Crush the garlic and add it to the meat, together with a generous grinding of salt and white pepper. Mix in the breadcrumbs.

Divide the mixture into six equal amounts. Place them on a work surface and roll loosely into balls. Wrap each with two rashers of bacon, overlapping, around the outside of the meat, leaving the top of each open, then secure each with a couple of cocktail sticks. Transfer carefully to a roasting tin or baking dish.

Pour the stout into the roasting tin and bake for 35-40 minutes, till the tops are lightly crusted. Check the seasoning of the liquor in the pan before serving.

Recipe source

How stupid are McDonald’s?

Apparently very stupid.

They can’t tell the difference between this…

A meat pie

And this…

A pasty

Blissful American ignorance has upset a lot of people in Britain, particularly those in Cornwall and Devon.

Check this story

How to eat: fish and chips

What’s your idea of faultless fish and chips? Tony Naylor prepares the ground for the battle of the batter – will there be peas in our time?

This is not the Guardian photo, theirs is a fancy interactive thingy

This month on How to Eat – the series attempting to isolate the perfect iteration of the nation’s favourite dishes – we turn our forensic fork to a true British classic: fish ‘n’ chips.

It fed an embattled nation during the second world war, and, in Yorkshire, it could yet spark a third conflagration – if you to try fry it in vegetable oil. Over 150 years after it was “invented”, it remains Britain’s favourite takeaway. There are still, it is reported, eight chippies for every branch of McDonald’s. But what makes great fish and chips? It’s time to separate the truth from the codswallop.

Cooked where?

At the chippy, and only the chippy. Yes, in theory, you could cook fish and chips at home. But is it wise? Unless your local chippy is one of those fraudulent frozen fish and gristle-burger joints, then its fryers will invariably be armed with better batter and fatter fillets than you can muster. Plus, fish and chips is supposed to feel like a treat. You can’t have a “chippy tea”, if you are the chippy.

Fish and chips in a pub or restaurant, meanwhile, just feels wrong. It shouldn’t be eaten indoors, with a knife and fork. More importantly, professional chefs can rarely cook fish and chips without refining it: spiking the batter with vodka; minting the mushy peas; serving your “chunky” chips in a metal bucket (it’s the seaside, geddit?); all of which detracts from the dirty pleasure of fish and chips. Plus, to justify that £11 price tag, restaurants tend to serve ludicrously big portions.

In a restaurant, your fish and chips will be cooked to order, but your local chippy should be doing that too. If not, find one that does.

Served how?

In a polystyrene tray or one of those posh corrugated-cardboard boxes. To be eaten with a tiny, fiddly wooden fork and greasy fingers. It’s the only way. Picture it: it’s Friday, chippy tea night. Was the magic not lost the moment your mum insisted on getting the plates out? Exactly. You knew this instinctively even before (thanks, Harold McGee) you had the scientific evidence to prove it. To stay crisp, batter needs circulating air. Any steam needs to be able to escape. Sat on a plate, trapped under hot fish, it will quickly reabsorb moisture and get soggy.

Skin on, skin off?

Off. The fish is essentially a delivery vehicle for the batter. Who wants to scrape 50% of it off an unwelcome gluey insole?


Salt, Sarsons, no pepper. Never tomato sauce. Gravy or curry sauce with chips, but not with fish. It’s barbaric. As for tartare sauce, a good, homemade caper-packed one is a wonderful thing, but you do have to choose between tartare or mushy peas. There is something about the cashmere textural comfort of freshly cooked, vibrant mushy peas and the sharp, creamy jangle of tartare that jars. Each places fish and chips in a different register.


Garden peas are not acceptable. Baked beans take the whole plate in a different sweeter direction and are better kept separate and eaten with chips. Bread and butter is essential, the chip butty an exceptional amuse and / or savoury course, as you see fit.


Strong tea, light beer or your favourite fizzy pop. Personally, I think cola’s caramel flavours are the most complementary. Either way, there’s a lot of grease here, you need plenty of (preferably carbonated) liquid, to cut through it. Wine is a waste, water too bloating.


Yes, you definitely need chips. In fact I would go as far as to say, you can’t have fish and chips without them. And chips, as Oliver Thring touched on recently here, doesn’t mean fries, huge wedges, oven or frozen, it means Maris Pipers chipped that morning, as thick as your finger, and cooked to perfection within a spectrum that starts, if using veg oil, at golden and buttery, and ends, equally fluffily, if frying in beef dripping, with chips the colour of autumn leaves.

Personally, I don’t think triple-cooked work, here. That glassy, shattering exterior, that clinically perfect interior, produces a chip that, in this context, is too dry


Cod or haddock? Haddock or cod? I don’t really care. As long as it is fresh, sweet and muscular enough to separate into big satisfying flakes – and is sustainably caught, of course – there is almost nothing to choose between the two. And both, ultimately, are secondary to the batter.


The real star of the fish and chips show, batter (which should be cooked through with no raw batter within), is at its best when it is well seasoned and made using a raising agent, beer or malt vinegar, which, as Felicity Cloake has observed, delivers a nicely “citric” twist.

Now, as you may have noticed, batters differ massively, in terms of their colour (determined by the type of flour, the amount of salt used and sometimes added colourings), and their surface texture. Batters can be smooth, spiky, swirly, curly. I had assumed, on the occasions that I have pondered this each side of the Lancashire (flatter), Yorkshire (spikier) border, that this was due to the different oils used, but apparently – and thanks to the National Federation of Fish Friers and Mark Drummond at Towngate Fisheries for the technical info – it’s down to the raising agent, the amount you add and how much the batter has been beaten. “Why different areas of the country like different batter styles, I can’t say,” concedes Drummond. But they do, with the big food service outfits offering numerous batter mixes, including a rippled Scottish one.

The best? I will happily eat either, but for me it’s got be a flat batter cooked in veg oil. A well-seasoned light, but not tempura-light, batter delivers enough flavour without overwhelming the fish, whereas fish cooked in beef dripping can be more reminiscent of roast dinner. The fish should steam within a sealed carapace of batter. Spikier batters tend to crack, leaving the fish exposed, and the final product heavy and oily.

That said, chips cooked in vegetable oil are often bland and anaemic, where their bronzed, beef-cooked cousins both look better and pack an unbeatable, residual savoury oomph. Therefore, until some far-sighted chip shop starts frying its fish in veg oil and its chips in beef dripping (would that even work, harmoniously, in the mouth?), my absolutely perfect plate of fish and chips may remain a distant dream.

But, enough of this blue skies bunkum, how do you eat your fish and chips?

Follow their links



Well, there you have it, everything you wanted to know about fish ‘n chips…. and more.

When I was a lad, millions of years ago, in New Zealand fish ‘n chips came in a paper parcel, newspaper.

This one is neatly taped, ours were just tucked in at the ends.

But someone in their wisdom… idiots, decided that the lead in the printing ink or process wasn’t good for us, so they changed to unused newsprint. Fish ‘n chips were never the same from that moment on.

There were only two ways to eat them. One if you were at school, you merely ripped a gapping hole in one end, big enough for your tiny fist; the other was to spread the parcel open on the front room floor in front of the telly.

I have to comment on the condiments. In our house my brother and sister used tomato sauce, my father and I used Lea & Perrins (never Boss) Worcestershire Sauce. Things like vinegar and lemon were something they did in other countries, and tartare sauce was not for the hoipoloi like us.

But I must agree in essence with all the above. Fish ‘n chips is not just food, it’s an art and a science.