1. Junior MasterChef – The first four go through

    This week, two versions of the same television cookery show, aiming to find the nation’s best, have gone out on air.  With both setting tough culinary skills challenges & technical tasks, Danny Kingston aka Food Urchin explains why he thinks the kids have been “trampling over their adult professional rivals”.


    Two versions of the same television cookery show, aiming to find the nation’s best, have gone out on air this week. Each version takes the same approach, format and style; competitors are set the same challenges and tasks and are given the same opportunities to showcase their talents. And yet the differences between the two programmes couldn’t be more startling. On the one hand, viewers have been treated to cute displays of ineptitude, lolling tongues of concentration, fearful fumbling fingers and images of startled rabbits in headlights.

    And then on the other, we have witnessed fine demonstrations of confident, joyful, exuberant cooking with skilful hands plating up imaginative, good-looking food. If you haven’t already guessed, I am talking about MasterChef: The Professionals and Junior MasterChef and if you have been watching both, I am absolutely sure that you will know which one is which. Because so far, the kids have been trampling all over their adult, ‘professional’ rivals.

    Like I said, everything is pretty much the same, with the same montage sequences of walking around corners, camera shots focus on the MasterChef logo, the kitchen and flashes of gleaming cutlery. The ‘big fish, little fish’ techno music in the background is also very similar. And then John Torode appears, fresh and tanned from his holidays, or quite possibly a St Tropez salon, alongside newcomer to the series, Donal Skehan; Ireland’s answer to Jamie Oliver. And then we get the fresh faced youngsters, beaming, beatific and healthy and completely the opposite to the sallow-faced, dark eyed wonders from the other show, which I promise not to talk about anymore.


    However, I would just like to talk a bit more about the presenters for a second though. Having watched four episodes in a row now, I have been impressed by Mr Torode’s transformation into fun Uncle John. In the past, I have found him just a little bit too stoney-faced and sardonic for my liking, encouraging but always with a slight note of Antipodean sarcasm. Yet with the kids in the room, he seems to have mellowed and is more than up for some gentle self-mockery, which is a good thing. Good looking and clean-skinned Donal needs to shake the identikit children’s presenter mode out of his system just a tad but even so, he also has a warm, sincere approach. All I would ask is for him to step out of the wind tunnel before stepping on set.


    But enough about the adults, Junior MasterChef is indeed about the kids and seriously, the standard of cooking has been very high and most importantly it’s been fun to watch them do their stuff.

    In episode 1, Emily wowed with her presentation skills, impressing with a dish of puy lentils, haddock and salsa verde. Joe found an ally in Donal, who defended him well against Uncle’s John criticism of putting raspberries with hazelnut chocolate, although Joe’s consequent rebuttal of ‘Ha’ to Uncle John was even better. Maya’s smile illuminated everything, including the food on her plate. And TC, the episode’s winner was definitely street cool with his knowledge of testing hot oil with a cube of bread, not to mention his dish of scallops and savoury rice. I just wish someone had told Uncle John that he burnt his chips when demonstrating during the master class round.


    Episode 2 saw the introduction of Laura who couldn’t make her mind up whether she wanted to be a paediatrician or a chef (be a paediatrician Laura and keep eating fish, it really does help the tissues of your brain). Aisha was the spice queen of the North who re-invented shepherd’s pie with an introduction of boiled egg and not to mention a hefty whack of heat, if the judge’s faces were anything to go by. When asked the reasons as to why did he go in for making gnocchi, I loved the intonation in Guy’s response which was essentially “Because I wanted to get through to the next round, stupid.” Yet it was Tom who was to win this round with an excellent construction of poached eggs, asparagus and tarragon butter. His response of ‘feeling free when cooking’ was equally heart warming.


    For episode 3, Charlie came bouncing onto our screens with great aplomb, snarling behind Uncle John’s back whenever it was turned and just generally being funny. I have to agree with Donal though, that his introduction of watermelon to chilli and crab was an unusual one. A battle of the ratatouilles broke out between Alice and Georgie, although with a flair for French cooking and aspirations of owning a restaurant in Paris, I would say that Alice’s version edged it. Thoughtful and artful Emiel rustled up some very good looking, south East Asian food. “Boom!” went Uncle John after tasting it (or was it “Boome”?) but alas Georgie pipped it and deservedly so, with her chicken rolls in lemon and rosemary with pancetta.


    A slightly older crowd gathered for episode 4 and it showed as levels of technical ability upped the stakes and the atmosphere in the kitchen was more quiet and subdued than usual. Caitlyn showed her thinking outside the box by producing a delicious looking upside-down cheesecake with caramelised biscuits. Eloise’s Spanish inspired dishes of rolled peppers stuffed with chorizo and chicken paella were nearly eclipsed by her funky, Heston-style, onion glasses; well Donal certainly took a shine to them. Matthew produced a clash of the titans with his spinach and ricotta ravioli and pan fried sea bass and experimental Lucy cooked a perfect looking apple tart tatin with cinnamon ice cream. It was Eloise and her Iberian efforts that won the day on this occasion. And no, Donal, those glasses are not a good look.


    So that’s the first four done, four more to go before the quarter finals next week. Can Uncle John keep his fingers out of the saucepan? Can Donal sort his hair out by then? Can the next bunch candidates do even better than this lot? I am sure they can. One thing is for sure, the Professionals have had their butts kicked already.

  2. Bonfire Feast

    What will be be cooking or eating on Bonfire Night? Bangers to go with the bangers? Cumberland Sausages to mimic Catherine Wheels?  Or will you take Danny aka Food Urchin’s route of a more sophisticated meal?  Read on for a potted history of Guy Fawkes Night and discover how Danny celebrated them as a child & what he’ll be eating this year.

    Let’s huddle together and consider this montage for a moment. A group of conspirators, dressed in big hats with big feathers, wearing big leather boots, decide to get together and hatch a devious plot; a dastardly scheme to assassinate the country’s monarch and to blow up the capital’s centre of legislation . Over a period of months, they formulate and rehearse ideas, peruse plans on parchment by candlelight and abortively dig a series of tunnels. In taverns across the city, tentative glances and whispers are exchanged; winks abound the place over tankards, noses are tapped and a room under a chamber is leased. Barrels of explosives are secreted into this cellar under the cover of darkness and patiently, a lone man who goes by the name of Guido watches over them; silently awaiting his destiny.

    And then he is promptly found, arrested, charged with treason and is hung, drawn and quartered. And all because one of his ‘mates’ decides to write to his brother-in-law, warning him to stay away from the Houses of Parliament on November 5th. The brother-in-law in question being Lord Monteagle, who just happened to be friends with King James and was therefore able to tip everyone off.

    That, in a nutshell, is the story behind the great Gunpowder Plot of 1604. And before you exclaim “Ooh, ark at you, David Starkey!” I put my hands up; I have gleaned all this information from Horrible Histories. But you have to admit, the story behind Bonfire Night is a fascinatingly absurd one. I mean, talk about plans of mice and men.

    The more I think about it though, when I was growing up, the whole approach to this festival of fireworks and lights was quite surreal. Parents wouldn’t dream of sending their kids out with a makeshift dummy these days would they? Onto the streets, using Dad’s old jumper, Mum’s old tights, some scrunched up newspaper and a balloon, to well, basically beg for money to buy fireworks (or sweets). But I used to do that. I also remember the scary adverts on TV with kids in sunglasses, warning against the dangers of bangers and having it drummed into me to never, ever pick up a sparkler once I had thrown it on the ground. Yet at the bonfire parties we used to attend, adults would be running around in a frenzy with Roman candles in their pockets and nails in their mouths to fix up yet one more Catherine wheel to the fence; oblivious to any notion of safety. Actually, that was mostly the Dads, the Mums would keep us well away from the pyrotechnic clamour, keeping the children quiet by stuffing cheese sandwiches and Monster Munch into our mouths.

    Food on Bonfire Night was always a strange treat though. The one time of the year where was it acceptable to stand outside in the pitch black, freezing cold and throw burger after burger down your gob as your Uncle conveyor belted them off the barbecue. Could he ever see what he was doing? I never was sure but the concept of cooking outside in the depths of autumn was always thrilling and alien in equal measure. If I ever was sick, it was because I ate too much, I am sure of that. And if it rained, we would simply watch the bangs, fizzles and splutters through French doors. Feasting on jacket potatoes and baked bean and sausage casseroles out of bowls; mouths pursed, issuing forth “Ooohs” and “Aaaahs.”

    This coming Saturday, slightly ahead of schedule, I’ve got plans to host my own bonfire party and will be rustling up something a bit more sophisticated than the fare of my yoof. I have already tried and tested Geoffrey Smeddle’s Lamb Tagine, which left over a couple of days is gorgeous heart-warming dish, full of sweet, fruity spice. And because the weather is looking a little shaky, I am going to make a couple of lasagnes, specifically Paul Heathcote’s Beef and Bacon Lasagne, simply for the love of adding some streaky bacon to this versatile dish. I might even add some beans and sausage too, en homage to days of old. However, I am also an optimist; so I am also going to roll out Betty the Barbecue (Mk2) to serve up some of Marcus Wareing’s Cheeseburgers with Caramelised Onions as I am intrigued with the introduction of tarragon to beef. Chicken and tarragon I know but not with cow, so it should be interesting. Whatever, smeared with melted Emmental and topped with juicy onions, it should go down a treat anyway.

    I only hope the kids enjoy the display. Although I have to say, the funds for the fireworks are looking a bit peaky. Still, they’ve got a few more days on the high street yet.

    With Guido in tow of course. 

    What will you be cooking on Bonfire Night? Hopefully you’ll be in inspired by these winter recipes on Great British Chefs.

  3. Spice Cupboard of Mystery

    How many people make curry paste from scratch? With so many ready prepared pastes on the market it’s pretty easy to rustle up a curry in a hurry. However, it’s more fun and authentic to try making a curry paste with individual herbs & spices. Danny Kingston aka Food Urchin delved into his spice cupboard to set about this task. Did he have everything he needed? Discover in his entertaining post

    In terms of organisation, the most chaotic part of my kitchen has to be the spice cupboard. No rows of alphabetically ordered glass jars for me; and no printed crib sheet, detailing dates of purchase and when I opened said jars either. No, my spice cupboard, I am ashamed to say, is a black hole of mystery and clutter. And even though I peer into the spice cupboard nearly every day, whenever I open that door, I never quite know what I am going to find. Sometimes, when rooting towards the back, I half expect to reach through to a different world altogether. And should I ever clasp a cold, snow covered tree branch instead of grabbing hold of a jar of marjoram, the fact that the land of Narnia lies beyond my spice cupboard wouldn’t faze me. It wouldn’t faze me one little bit.

    I think the reason for this befuddled and somewhat indifferent state of affairs is largely due to the fact that when I go shopping for food, I buy spices and herbs compulsively; and often without thought.

    Wow, I wonder what these Dried Romanian Pig Berries taste like? What the hell is Asafoetida? Coriander seeds! We’ve nearly run out of coriander seeds! And almost always in the negative, rather than the affirmative, my accompanying wife will respond with something like:  “I don’t care, they’re too expensive, it’s used in curry and Dan, and we have jars and jars and jars of coriander seeds at home.” Admittedly, it is a curse but in my own defence at least I can always turn to my fantastical spice cupboard whenever an obscure ingredient pops up in a recipe. It might take me an hour of rummaging and slinging to actually find it but it will be there. Or at least that’s what I thought when I decided to make Alfred Prasad’s Murgh Makhni in honour of National Curry Week.

    As you might expect, the list of ingredients for making this curry is quite comprehensive, as is often the case when making a curry from scratch. Yet as I scanned down the list, I felt pretty confident that I had everything in stock. Bar the mystical sounding Kasoori methi,otherwise known as dried fenugreek leaves. Which I have to say, narked me a little bit.

    So much so, that I decided to embark on an epic journey earlier this week to find some Kasoori methi and boy, the journey was fraught. I went to numerous supermarkets. I went to several  smaller, corner shops. I went to a ‘specialist’ Asian food shop in Romford. And drew a blank everywhere. Although I have to say, the shop in Romford did have plenty of jars of coriander seeds. At one point, I starting flying down the A13 in my car, intent on hitting Green Street in Forest Gate, East London; thinking, if I couldn’t find Kasoori methi down Green Street, then I may as well throw myself off a bridge somewhere. But alas, I got called back before I could get there; the kids needed picking up from school and I had been out for 3 hours already, apparently.

    In the end, I had to make do with using ground fenugreek, which I had in the magic cupboard all along. According to folk on Twitter, it isn’t the same as using the leaves but it would be good enough substitute.  And you know what? I don’t think the curry suffered at all from this little tweak, it was pretty good in fact. I tell you, the smell was heavenly when I grilled the marinated pieces of chicken tikka and after a quick simmer in the accompanying, hot sweet and slightly sour tomato sauce; this curry sent an impressive punch to the taste buds. Having served the dish up with a side of Alfred’s Fine Bean and Potato Curry and some plain steamed basmati rice, I patted myself on the back (as I often do) for delivering against the odds. Who needs Kasoori methi anyway?

    I think the point in principle, which this recipe illustrates, is that the key to creating a fragrant, aromatic curry lies within the early stages. By gently frying some of the more regular spices and flavourings right at the start, your cardamom, your cloves, your chopped ginger, your green chilli; this is where you form the backbone of a great curry. And it also helps if you throw a tiny bit of Asafoetida in for the sheer hell of it.

    Especially when you’ve gone to the trouble of sneaking it into the shopping basket in the first place.

    How often do you make a curry paste from scratch?  

  4. Junior MasterChef to return with a new presenter

    Junior MasterChef, the competition to find the best young cook in the country, is  set to return to our screens later this Autumn on CBBC. And alongside seasoned veteran, John Torode, we have a new presenter in shape and form of Irish food writer and photographer, Donal Skehan. And Danny Kingston aka Food Urchin & father of 4 year old twins, is very keen on seeing how this new series pans out.  Read on to discover why

    Because I’ve had enough of the hallucinogenic adventures of Big Cook, Little Cook with tiny, ginger men flying around on wooden spoons; too many ‘magic’ mushrooms went into the dish upon its conception methinks. Plus the repetitive mantra of “Roll up your sleeves, give your hands a wash, with slippy, dippy soap, splish, splash, splosh" on I Can Cook has become far too irritating lately; I would gladly smash up Katy Ashworth’s guitar, given half the chance. And as for Annabel Karmel’s Annabel’s Kitchen………… well let’s…… let’s not go there.

    What I suppose I am trying to say is that I wouldn’t mind watching something a little bit more serious these days, food wise, and with the twins I mean. After all, our journey in the kitchen together has gone beyond smiley-faced pizzas; we all peeled some lamb’s tongue the other day. And I also think that they are fed up with watching their father rant like a loon at the box.

    You know what Annabel; you can take that broccoli and stick it where the sun doesn’t shine!

    So what should we expect from this latest series? Well, no doubt there will be the same warm yet slightly sardonic approach from judge Mr Torode, gently enthusing and chiding at the same time, as per his usual demeanour on the adult series. Though if he does overstep the mark with any criticism of a child’s attempt at say panna cotta or remoulade, I would urge them to respond with “Bog off, Cardy-boy.”

    I also expect to see some sort of wunderkind grace our screens at some point; a precocious talent that will cause mouths to drop with their interpretation of Lemon infused Goat’s Head with Milk Poached Daikon and Camomile Starfish Goujons, for instance. Or something like that. I must admit, I didn’t see the last series of Junior MasterChef so maybe I am setting the standards a little too high. The age group of the competitors is between 9 and 12 after all. And OK, the aforementioned dish is completely stupid too.

    However, I am intrigued to see to what the kids come up with. And it will be interesting to see what newcomer Donal brings to the table. With his boyish, good looks and cheeky banter, he has been described as ‘Ireland’s answer to Jamie Oliver’. Well a book deal after just 6 months of blogging and a television show on RTE certainly suggests talent and passion.

    But will he be up for the challenge of sampling and judging food cooked by youthful hands? Will he be happy to bite down into grey, palid pastry, that’s been worked for hours and hours and give it the thumbs up? Will he accept that sometimes, just sometimes, lego bricks will find their way into bubbling pots of curry? Will Donal, should he ever get the chance to display his cooking skills, be understanding if one (or two) of the contestants take his home-made mayonnaise from the fridge and smear it all over the walls and their faces? In my experience, this is what happens when you cook with kids you see. Still, like I said, we are past that stage and I am eager to see just how accomplished the competition is on Junior MasterChef.

    Because next year; I plan on entering the twins.

    They will be 5 by then.

    Do your children or any youngster in your family enjoy cooking? What sorts of dishes to you like to make with them?

     

  5. The Scotch Egg Challenge at The Ship

    Scotch eggs are back in fashion.  No longer the last resort food for people at service stations desperately looking for a snack. Pubs and restaurants are now re-inventing the Scotch egg into a tastier dish that stands up in its own right.  There is even an annual Scotch Egg Challenge with a host of respected foodie judges and supported by Fortnum & Mason, which Food Urchin, aka Danny Kingston, reports on for us.

    Photo credits to Danny Kingston and Tom Stainer

    If food is the new rock and roll, then scotch eggs are the equivalent of punk. A strange assertion to make, I know, given the humble nature of this popular dish. But after the raucous and rowdy scenes I witnessed last week, people certainly seem to be getting their kicks from breadcrumb, sausage meat and egg based snacks these days. With bodies pressed against the stage, sporadic bouts of moshing and flagrant displays of flipping ‘the bird’, I would have mistakenly believed that I was at a Motorhead gig at one point; if it wasn’t for the juxtaposition of Barbour jackets, rugby shirts and glasses of wine dotted about the place.


    Egg Boss vs The Coach and Horses

    Still, throw into the mix a gladiatorial spectacle of chefs doing battle, sweating and gurning with knives flashing in front of a braying crowd and well, the scene becomes even more surreal. Waiters and waitresses stage dive in with plates of freshly fried, cocooned oeufs and hands snatch forward in frenzied adoration. Whilst in the background, a buxom, blonde compare, threatens to smash her microphone stand over someone’s head. Like I said, very rock and roll and all rather bonkers crazy really. But I should have suspected it I suppose, this was the Scotch Egg Challenge after all.


    This competition, brain child of Oisin Rogers and held at his pub, The Ship in Wandsworth, is only in its second year but already has all the makings of becoming a firm favourite on the food calendar. The premise, as you might have already guessed, is to find out who is currently making the best Scotch Egg and anyone can enter. Although the only proviso is that all eggs entered must be available in a retail outlet somewhere, be it on a restaurant menu or over the deli counter. So naturally, a lot of the big guns were intent on shining their eggs in the spotlight, with names such as The Hinds Head, The Modern Pantry and Opera Tavern heading up a list of 24 entries.


    The enviable task of judging this year fell into the laps of pâtissier extraordinaire, Eric Lanlard; rockabilly food Queen bee, Gizzi Erskine; Fortnum and Mason’s consultant chef Shaun Hill of the Walnut Tree; renowned Bubbledogs head chef James Knappett and egg fanatic and host of last year’s Challenge David J Constable of www.forevereggsploring.com. I say enviable, they did have to get through sampling 24 different scotch eggs, which couldn’t have been easy. In fact, just at the start, my fellow spectator and blogger Paul Hart blurted out “My God! This is like Cool Hand Luke for the morbidly obese.” And he had a point; but I reassured him that surely, as sponsors of the event, Fortnum and Mason would be handing out bags of luxury prunes to the judges at the end.


    With each team allocated 15 minutes to fry and prepare 10 scotch eggs (with 3 teams in the kitchen at any one time); proceedings did take a turn for the manic. Two eggs from each team were sent forward for the judges to try and the rest were divvied up for the audience, with often unsporting consequences. Our aforementioned compare for the evening, beer writer and somALEier, Melissa Cole did well in trying to keep everyone in check but for future events, The Ship would do well to employ a different strategy of distribution. Like employing a couple of heavies to part waves through the scrum. Still, the atmosphere was good humoured and I managed to scarf a couple of the eggs coming out of the kitchen. The Coach and Horses, for instance delivered a fine, traditional example and hats off to Duck and Waffle for their out of the box, curried haddock egg.


    However, the judge’s decision reigned supreme and the winner of the evening came in the form of a ‘ham, egg and chips’ homage from The Bladebone Inn in Berkshire; with the Hinds Head truffled quail, Iberico sausage meat and lardo coming second and London’s Drapers Arms, taking honourable third position with their popular black pudding and pork with panko breadcrumbs.


    David Constable gave his Best Scottish Egg Award, which to my mind was the better looking trophy of the four available, to Peyton & Byrne for their braised pigs cheek and shoulder, with oatcake and crackling crumb.

    The next day I emailed David, who was apparently feeling quite delicate after his efforts the night before and I asked him “Where can the Scotch Egg Challenge go from here?” His response was this:

    I think the event has worked on so many levels, particularly showing people that the real Scotch egg is something truly special and not consigned to those ones you’ll find in the fridges at petrol stations or some cold nightmare orb you were given in your school days. The Ship use their social media presence fantastically well and this arguably made the event - and of course, they do a damn fine Scotch egg themselves. The Scotch Egg Challenge is clearly building in momentum. Its popularity has grown without question. How long the public will continue to arouse excitement from the bar snack is a mystery, but  there’s something there with Fortnum & Mason supporting the event and the media wanting to cover the Challenge in their various forms. And of course, the crowds (those devoted golden-orb supporters) who crammed in for the second year to watch, taste, pick, neck-back and gawp at the competing Scotch egg.”


    Well I know I’m up for it again, if it goes ahead for a third year running; I just need to find my old hobnail gig-going boots first.


    We have a number of Scotch egg recipes on Great British Chefs site, including a Smoked Cod Scotch egg and a Quail Scotch Egg.  Let us know the best Scotch egg you’ve ever eaten.  

  6. The Joys of Allotment Gardening

    National Allotments Week runs from 6th - 12th August 2012. At Great British Chefs we were keen to learn more about allotment gardening and harvesting your own home grown fruit & veg. Who better than to tell us about the joys of tending an allotment than food blogger & proud allotment owner Food Urchin aka Danny Kingston.

    Blog post & photography by Food Urchin

    I will never forget the day I managed to get a plot at our local allotment. Unlike a lot of people, who have to wait for years and years, eternally creeping up through lists of names struck through with a pencil, I simply answered an ad in the local paper. After a quick conversation on the phone, I soon found myself in the company of friendly old gentleman called Bert, who was the warden of Norfolk Road Allotments. Peering up at me in the sunshine from underneath a battered straw hat, he gave me a quick once over with a squinting, rheumy eye before proceeding to show me around.

    Slowly we walked from one end to the other and along the way he gave me the history of the site, pointing out patches of handsome vegetables here and there, commenting on who was doing well and who, in no under certain terms, could do with ‘pulling their fingers out.’ And then we stopped at Bert’s plot and with a wavering, shaky hand, he bent down and plucked a scarlet strawberry from a plant, washed it underneath a nearby tap and handed it over to me. It tasted beautiful.


    “You won’t get better than that my boy, straight from the vine and much better than those rubber ones you get from Holland in the shops. So do you fancy a plot then?” he said, smiling and nodding. Somewhat goofy and full of bucolic wonder, I nodded back, dreamily picturing scenes of skipping through daisies and carrots with a watering can and so Bert led me to the particular plot that had been advertised. And that’s when the needle came screeching off the record. For before me lay a seething jungle of towering grass and weeds with a monstrous bramble bush at its centre.

    Before I had any chance to remonstrate, Bert simply pressed a key into my palm for the lock on the front gate, wished me the best of luck and then dashed off, moving at a pace a great deal faster than he did on the grand tour. Slack-jawed, I watched him vanish off into the distance before turning back around to face the mess, stunned, like a duck hit on the head.


    Clearing that plot was bloody hard work, a whole summer’s worth of sweating, profanity and sore backs in fact but it was worth it as we are now 5 seasons down the line and have a fairly well-presented, abundant and productive plot. The hard work continues; let’s not make any illusions here but the rewards of fresh, seasonal produce are so worth the time and effort. I do sometimes wonder if this is psychosomatic but if I were to talk about Charlotte potatoes for instance, dug straight from the ground, then washed and simply boiled, well I would opine their virtues until I went blue in the face. They just taste so much better, so much creamier than their plastic wrapped counterparts. This is why we will gladly slog our guts out.

    However, having a busy family and working life to contend with, visits to my allotment aren’t as frequent as I would wish and I tend to take a ram raid approach to things. Sunday mornings at Norfolk Road are often punctuated by the sounds of running footsteps down the path and clattering of forks and spades, peppered with grunts, whispered swearing and happy giggles. Pops and crackles fill the air as seedlings get ripped from eroding, black plastic trays. Wheelbarrows trundle back and forth. Weeds fly up into the air in a frenzy and courgettes, runner beans and gooseberries get stuffed into carrier bags in a blur.

    Throughout, in the background, there is a soundtrack of much splashing and laughter, and then screams as a little girl gets admonished for trying to drown her brother in the water butt and then the footsteps and noise disappear back out of the gate. The other, more elderly residents are then left in peace, to continue pottering and scratching around on their immaculate plots. People like Bert. Except that crafty old sod isn’t with us anymore.


    All of the photos are from Norfolk Road Allotment’s Open Day which happened on July 21st.

    Blog post & photography by Food Urchin

    Do you or any of your friends & family have an allotment?  Or do you have the space in your own garden for home grown fruit or vegetables?  Let us know what you love about gardening.

  7. No Jacket Required

    Do you find cooking therapeutic?  For some it’s relaxing to spend time preparing food for dishes, such as peeling veg or popping peas from their pods. Discover how Great British Chefs blogger Food Urchin finds pleasant distraction by squeezing broad beans from their, err  ”jackets”.  He also shares a delicious recipe by Geoffrey Smeddle - Lamb’s Kidneys with Crushed Broad Beans, Lemon and Capers 

    Blog post and photography by Food Urchin aka Danny Kingston

    During my time as my man and boy, I’ve heard lots of people extol the virtues of simply spending time in the kitchen preparing fruit and vegetables, happily easing themselves throughout the day with a spud in one hand and a peeler in the other. And I have to agree. There really is something quite pleasant about whittling away minutes, hours or days at the sink, stopping every now and then, to contemplatively stare through the window, into the back garden, to zone out and quietly pause.

    This state of Zen is normally interrupted by a prod in the backside from a wayward son with a lightsaber, or a vision of the cat squatting over my beloved petunias but nevertheless, any state of grace, however long it lasts, is a very pleasant place to be. I do get caught out sometimes, particularly with aubergines. I think it’s something to do with the lovely firm purple skin of this very sexy looking fruit. Standing there grinning with one drooping, heavy eyelid, cupping the base as though it were a buttock, I easily become distracted and lost, thinking lascivious thoughts of yielding, soft flesh.

    'Oooh, I am gonna flame grill you until you drip all over the hob, you saucy little thing you.'

    Again, in this incidence, things usually come crashing to earth with a firm slap from my wife, as she shakes me out of my stupor and tells me to get on with the baba ganoush. But even if it’s just for a little while, that space in time is a beautiful space to inhabit.

    Not all vegetable preparation needs to be meditative or titillating though. Many a squash has been cleaved in half with the zeal of Jason Voorhees which helps to release tension, frustration and anger. Sometimes, I find it very soothing to personify said vegetable, even going so far as to stick a photograph onto my butternut before sticking my chef’s knife in and slashing it down the middle whilst screaming “DIE! DIE! DIE!”

    Admittedly, this form of therapy is probably not very healthy and should not be condoned. With that in mind, some fruit and vegetables, due to their inherent, finicky attitudes to life, can still manage to racket up the blood pressure when it comes to preparing them. I love gooseberries but I hate top and tailing the buggers. And why I ask myself, do sulphurous Brussels sprouts have to be crossed at Christmas time? And just what is the point of globe artichokes? Never has a vegetable had to give up so much for so very little.

    The humble broad bean is similar in some ways, in that you have to pod them from their fluffy overcoats and then remove them further, out of their little jackets. Especially as they come towards the end of the season. The key of course, is to blanch the beans for just a minute or so in boiling water and then pop out them out with nick from your thumbnail and a gentle squeeze. To me this is the veritable padlock on a pair of culinary knickers which is time consuming and fiddly to unlock. An hour standing at the kitchen counter, mindlessly popping beans into a bowl would dampen anyone’s ardour.

    However, the rewards are great because this sweet, emerald legume is quite delicious and versatile and I always look forward to this time of year when they are ready for harvesting from the allotment. We don’t grow many and for that I am grateful but once I get the faff and the fiddle out of the way, I always end up feeling thankful that we did.

    Recently, with some of this year’s batch I tried out Geoffrey Smeddle’s Lamb’s Kidneys with Crushed Broad Beans, Lemon and Capers, the main attraction of the recipe being the introduction of offal. As pointed out, lamb’s kidneys aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, usually due to their odorous nature, but as I am quite fond of them (devilled is best), I thought I would give Geoffrey’s approach a go. And it is certainly a winner.

    Combining tender, earthy kidney with the sweetness of crushed, buttery broad beans is great idea. Add the citrus, sour tang from the lemon and capers and all the elements come together surprisingly well. This recipe is probably one to be left for aficionados of the Fifth Quarter as cooking times leave the kidneys slightly underdone. But as an inexpensive starter for an unsuspecting crowd, I bet a lot of people would give it the thumbs up. And now that broad beans are readily available frozen at the supermarket, there is no reason as to why you can’t enjoy this dish throughout the year, without capitulating to the pain of popping.

    And popping and popping and popping and popping and popping and popping…….


    Blog post and photography by Food Urchin aka Danny Kingston

    You’ll find this recipe and other bean recipes in our collection at Great British Chefs.      

    Which vegetables do you find most  therapeutic to prepare?  

  8. The Foodie Father

    With Father’s Day fast approaching you may be looking for recipes to give your Dad a memorable meal (our Father’s Day recipe collection will help). But if you’re a young father yourself, your children may not be old enough to prepare a great meal.  This is the situation that Great British Chefs blogger Food Urchin finds himself in.  In this fun post he wonders what meals he may get for future Father’s Days and whether his cookery style will rub off onto his twins.

    Blog post and photography by Food Urchin aka Danny Kingston

    On the subject of fatherhood, Spike Milligan, that esteemed, eccentric and now sadly expired comedian once said this, “My father had a profound influence on me. He was a lunatic.” And in my opinion, never a truer word has been spoken on the matter.

    Not that my father is a lunatic mind, far from it. No, what I mean to say is that when a man becomes a Dad, from that point on, the course of action he takes; the behaviour he displays and the relationship he fosters will have a lasting impact on the lives of his children. His influence is profound and I stringently, cohesively and indubitably believe in this. And I hope that when my beloved twins have grown up and begin to make their own way in the world, that they will one day look at their dear old Dad, with love and tears in their eyes, and think ‘He made us the way we are today.’



    I also hope to God, that if they do develop any frailties, they don’t hold me responsible in anyway, especially when it comes to food. You see, one of the things I have always tried to do is to make the kitchen at home an open environment and to involve my children as much as possible. After all, learning about food, about where it comes from, learning how to cook and how to eat are incredibly important life skills to have. There have been occasions though where scenes have unfolded and I have been left scratching my head, wondering whether I am doing the right thing as a father.

    Take the time for instance when I brought a whole lamb home, for a mammoth pit barbecue I was putting on. As I carried the stiff, cold, plastic-wrapped carcass into the kitchen and put it on the table, the twins naturally and inquisitively asked what it was.

    This is a lamb,” I told them.

    What like Shaun the Sheep?” replied Fin.

    Er, yes, just like Shaun the Sheep!” I countered, enthusiastically.

    Is it dead?” asked Isla.

    Er, yes…..,” I muttered, perhaps not so enthusiastically.

    And with that they both leapt upon the poor, inanimate, headless beast and cuddled it with all their might, making cooing noises, saying things like “Aww, lovely, lovely lamb.” To say that I was perturbed by this sight is an understatement but hey, at least it was educational for them, in some bizarre, macabre way.

    In fact, I don’t think they have batted an eyelid at anything I have ever brought home for display.

    A pig’s head to be used for making brawn was encountered with a very casual inspection and Isla thought nothing of sticking her tiny finger in the pig’s snout whist firmly rooting another finger up her own. Finlay has gleefully chased his Grandmother out into the garden before, wrestling an ox tongue in his hands, pretending to be some monster from the deep. And through visits to farms and the like, connections have been made, that link from field to plate, which is a rare for children to make these days, so I am pleased about that.



    There is the niggling worry in the back of my head that this will backfire one day though. As a result of all this carnivorous indulgence, the twins, probably once they make their politicised teens, may well want to wreck vegan vengeance upon their father with a mung bean and turnip stew. And quite rightly so but at least they’ll know their potato from their elbow; trips to our allotment have sorted that one out too.

    What really concerns me is that the twins will end up mimicking their Dad’s style of cooking. And I am not talking about my penchant for doting micro herbs and flamboyant swirls of sauces about the place. Or my preference for Pavarotti’s Nessun Dorma as background music when plating up. You know, to enliven the occasion with a sense of grandiose spirit and adventure, even for egg and chips. No, I am talking about my language and temper.

    During their short lifespan so far, they have seen home-made, congealed pasta fly across the room, witnessed the whole of the hob erupt into flames and screamed at the sight of Dad, very nearly chopping his index finger off with a cleaver. All of which has been accompanied with a cacophony of swearing, enough to make Gordon Ramsay blush. Just the other day, I heard Isla utter to her brother whilst sitting on the tiled floor by my feet, “F-ing hell Fin, you’ve eaten all the grapes!” She is four, the shame.



    This means that as we continue our journey together, in the kitchen and throughout life, I better get my act together; clean things up a bit and tone things down. For the burgeoning little foodies that they are (and imagining that they could well become chefs in the future) wouldn’t it be wonderful to sit there on a Father’s Day, in one of their restaurants and to overhear someone ask, “So, who taught you how to cook?

    And to hear them to reply, “Oh, our Dad did.” And not just some lunatic.

    For the record, if Isla or Fin were old enough and up to the task of cooking for their dear ol’ Dad this forthcoming Father’s Day, he would select Nathan Outlaw’s Cornish salt pollack, squid and mussel stew to start. Followed by Hatchet Herd Dexter beef with Jerusalem artichoke gratin by Matthew Tomkinson for mains. And Robert Thompson’s Chocolate and chilli tart with crème fraîche and lime for dessert.

    Thanks (Mum)

    Blog post and photography by Food Urchin aka Danny Kingston

    Who’s cookery style have you inherited or who’s cookery influenced you the most?  Your mother’s or your father’s?

  9. DIY Barbecuing - The British Way!

    Summer must be finally here, as the food gods have decided that it’s National Barbecue Week.  Up and down the land we’ll be dusting off grills and various BBQ implements in the effort to cook some tasty meat, fish and vegetables outdoors.  Great British Chefs blogger Food Urchin aka Danny Kingston, decided to start off this weekend. He doesn’t actually  own a barbecue proper, so thought it would be fun to show you just how easy it is to make your own. And take a look at the difference between barbuecuing UK style vs US style along the way. 

    Blog post and photography by Food Urchin aka Danny Kingston

    By all accounts it’s National Barbecue Week this week and I do believe that as a nation we should get well behind the campaign and celebrate this wonderful way of cooking. Sure, along the way there will be sunburn, liver failure, food poisoning and statistically, at least two fatalities from petrol being thrown on the fire but that shouldn’t stop us because something else is at stake here. And that is pride.

    You see over the pond, our US counterparts tend to scoff at our interpretation of barbecuing food directly over coals, favouring hot smoking or indirect cooking. Often they will take huge joints, racks of ribs and carcasses, normally from piggies, and place them in cavernous barrels. Barrels that stand 12 feet high in the air. On stilts.

    The meat will have been thoroughly rubbed with piquant spices and cooked via said methods for 12 days until the flesh falls off the bone in ribbons, to be collected from the bottom of said barrels, scooped up with “alooominum” buckets. The succulent, tender, beautifully smoked meat will then be slapped onto individual platters, complete with ‘slaw, whatever that is, and smothered with a rich vinegary, mustardy, chilli, tomato based sauce. This sauce by the way is normally knocked up by pouring all the industrial sized components into a bath and then a guy called ‘Jed’ will climb inside and writhe about with no clothes on.

    It sounds disgusting doesn’t it?

    OK, actually, it does sound quite nice and in fact, it tastes great and there are a fair number of proponents who are leading the way with US-style barbecue in this country. Pitt Cue in London is one place that springs to mind.

    BUT give me my direct grilling methods of cooking any day of the week. That cursory five minutes of prodding sausages with a fork until they are black on the outside and pink in the middle. I might simultaneously singe the hairs on my eyebrows and knuckles as I bend down to scrutinise the one damn sausage that has dived into the fiery pit. I might decide to pour beer over the BBQ in an effort to quell the inferno that the £1 Iceland burgers have invited. I might, after the event, decide to throw little bits of cardboard onto the charcoals in a vain effort to keep the hypnotic primordial flame alive. I might just go for a sleep under the tree because I’ve drunk too much cider and my head is pounding. But I don’t care because this is the British way dammit. And I can see that  National Barbecue Week will lead us neatly into the patriotic fervour of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee bank holiday weekend. For surely, as her Majesty makes her way down the Thames next Sunday, thousands of gardens across the land, will be going up in smoke.

    *Salutes, blows kazoo, waves flag*

    Except, I don’t actually own a barbecue proper. And you might not either, so I thought it would be fun to show you just how easy it is to make your own.

    First of all I select a spot.

    Then using a cunning array of bricks and a metal grid that I somehow seem to have acquired from somewhere, I assemble a very simple but very effective barbecue.

    I then place one of those ready-to-light bags of charcoal in the middle and er, set it alight. And you can get lost all you snobs that complain about meat having a tinge of white spirit. It all er, adds to the flavour.

    I then sit back and admire my handy work, with a beer in my hand and hum that classic, “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.”

    After a while, I get fed up of the smoke and decide to speed things up with some frantic flapping.

    I then bring out the meat and other combustibles that will go on the barbecue. In this case, lamb steaks that have been marinated in olive oil, lemon, garlic and thyme and a piece of pork belly that has been rubbed with crushed sea salt, fennel and coriander seed and already slow roasted for a couple of hours. Plus the ubiquitous, squeaky halloumi, which in my opinion, no barbecue should be without. Oh and some pitta bread.

    I then cook the meat, trying to keep the lamb a bit pink in the middle but sometimes, hotspots in the coals will dictate that it gets cooked all the way through (see how I blamed ‘hotspots’ there?) The skin on the pork belly will crisp up wonderfully though.

    I then throw on the cheese. Now there are different preferences to grilled halloumi in our household. My wife likes it quite burnt, I like it just nicely browned and the kids couldn’t care less.

    After quickly toasting the pitta, we then sit down to a feast adding a delicious Greek salad to the mix and Daddy gets to sup some beer, smelling faintly of solvents and with tears running down his eyes.

    Description: Link
    Barbecuing the British way, there’s nothing to it really.

    Blog post and photography by Food Urchin aka Danny Kingston

    How often do you have BBQ’s at home? What are some of your tips for getting a barbecue off to a great start?  Let us know your secrets to BBQ success over on Great British Chefs Facebook page.

  10. A Quick Chat With Ernie About Asparagus

    It’s May and that means asparagus season.  The wet weather this spring has put somewhat of a dampener on the crop of asparagus this year.  The annual asparagus festival was cancelled as a result.  Asparagus growing takes much careful planning & tending of the young plants.  Allotment owner and keen gardener & blogger Food Urchin aka Danny Kingston had a word with one of the older gardeners at his allotment for some words of wisdom  He also also makes one of the delicious recipes from our asparagus collection.

    Blog post and photography by Food Urchin aka Danny Kingston

    If there ever was a vegetable to be defined resolutely by its seasonality, it has to be asparagus. Sure, lots of other vegetables have their day in the sun but in the UK and especially amongst the food community, the arrival of asparagus is distinctly heralded by much fanfare and trumpeting.  Just as the first purple, phallic, feathered heads of these all-male cultivars make their appearance, peeping up through the sodden earth; a sea change seems to occur. No sooner does it arrive and off to the streets we take, dancing wildly with spears sticking out of our noses and pants, chanting, in a mad frenzy of culinary inhibition: “The asparagus is here! The asparagus is here!”

    I tell you, it’s like some Dionysian cult. And I am afraid to admit, it’s one that I belong to.

    Maybe I am going over the top, maybe it’s because the season is quite short and maybe this observation originally comes from the fact that I never really used to be bothered with the stuff. But all that changed a few years ago when I visited some friends in Herefordshire and they had asparagus growing in their garden in abundance. Presented and examined during a barbecue of beers and ribs, the asparagus was cut, washed and blanched for a mere 30 seconds before being handed to me, plainly, on a plate to sample. It’s hard to put in words now but the impact was quite profound. I don’t think I had ever tasted something so fresh and sweet and almost buttery in texture. From that moment on I resolved to grow my own and continued to resolve well into the night. To my bored looking pals around the table and to myself in the toilet, belching and giggling at my funny smelling wee.


    I was the proud owner of a crown, which has been grown from seed and which resides in our garden. It was a long journey as the plant needs a few seasons to mature. To establish itself fully, young asparagus has to be left alone, unharvested and yet the temptation to sever even the most spindly of spears has been great. However, this year I have been able to sample some glorious, delicately flavoured shoots, way ahead the official opening of the season which was on April 23rd.

    Sadly for me, yields will still be quite low so I have already been thinking about splitting and replanting the crown down the allotment. So I took it upon myself the other day to have a chat with Ernie, the octogenarian champion asparagus grower of our plot. His row of crowns, about 20 in total, were the envy of Norfolk Road Allotments and our conversation went a little bit like this:

    “Hi Ernie, how’s it going?”

    “Alright.”

    “Yeah great, well I’ve got some asparagus in my garden at home and I want to bring it down here and knowing that you know a lot about asparagus, I was wondering if you could give me any tips.”

    “You want to dig a trench, sling a load of manure in, plant yer crown in, sling some soil on and then sling some manure on top of that.”

    “Great and will I be able to harvest next year?”

    “Yep”

    “And what about cutting it back? Do I cut it back in autumn? Like, when the ferns have died and yellowed and all that?”

    “Yep”

    “And what tricks do you have up your sleeves? Because, you know, you grow loads and loads of asparagus, so what’s your secret?”

    “There isn’t one, now if you don’t mind, I want to go home now because in case you haven’t noticed, it’s p***ing down.”

    It seems to me that Ernie has yet to be entranced by the cult of asparagus. Nor is it likely that he ever will be. But if you are a fully paid up member of the Mercaptan club and would like to kick start the season with a delicious and simple recipe, then look no further than Geoffrey Smeddle’s Grilled Asparagus with Soft Poached Egg, Balsamic and Parmesan.

    It really does bring out the best of this most excellent and divine vegetable, marrying the inherent grass flavour of asparagus with rich yolk, salty cheese and an acidic, fruity tang. In the meantime, keep an eye out for the true revellers of Spring coming down your street, we are headed your way. And we are recruiting.

    Blog post and photography by Food Urchin aka Danny Kingston

    For more delicious dishes check out  Great British Chefs Asparagus collection

    What are your favourite ways to cook asparagus - roasted, baked, grilled, steamed or some other way?  Let us know over on Great British Chefs Facebook page.

  11. How to make a Crunchy Mister for British Sandwich Week

    It’s British Sandwich Week (12th - 19th May 2012) and Great British Chefs guest blogger Food Urchin aka Danny Kingston has a unique take on the humble toasted sandwich, or toasted panini, or Croque Monsieur, or whatever you like to call it.  He calls it a Crunchy Mister and all you need is bread, butter, cheese, ham and an iron.  Yes, an iron. Find out why here …..

    Blog post and photography by Food Urchin aka Danny Kingston

    It’s British Sandwich Week and whether it has been freshly made or spent some time ruminating and sweating in clingfilm at the bottom of a rucksack, the humble sandwich has been the cornerstone of our lunchtime diet for centuries now. Well, ever since some Earl barked at the card table late one night, “Bring me some meat tucked betwixt two slices of bread!” that is. Of course, familarity breeds contempt and sometimes this snack can become a bit pedestrian and habitual so here is a step-by-step approach to making a sarnie which is just that little bit more special, the Crunchy Mister.

    Now, some eagle-eyed readers will have already cottoned on that the Crunchy Mister, in translation at least, may well allude to that gallic pretender, the Croque Monsieur. And they would be right, it does. But in keeping with our fine sense of humour and eccentricity, this sandwich calls for a lot more than simple French flair. It calls for an iron. The type that you would use to uncrease your undies. And you need to switch it on right now, up to the hottest temperature.


    So whilst your iron is heating up, you need to assemble your ingredients; a sandwich loaf, some butter, some good oak-smoked ham and some fine Cornish Cheddar (or something similar, Emmental or Gruyère is not needed here)


    Slice your bread into slices, not too thick and slather with a healthy helping of butter. This is not a pappy, unsatisfying, calorie conscious sandwich by the way, the type you can find in the chiller in Boots. This is a sandwich of Kings.


    Layer your flaky, delectable, oak-smoked ham down on one slice, resisting the urge to take a nibble. Oh go on then, just a little bit.


    Grate your cheddar over the ham, again trying not to pop any slivers into your cakehole. However nice the cheese is, with it’s crunchy, crystals of salt.


    Lay the other slice of bread on top and then slather both sides of the outside slices with more butter, lots of butter, tonnes of butter. This is not a healthy sandwich.


    You will then need to cut two neat(ish) squares of foil and place them atop and below the sandwich and then put the whole construction onto a baking tray.


    By this time, your iron should be fiercely hot and ready to thwack on top of the sandwich. You can do this on your countertop or you could get your ironing board out, complete with resplendent and natty dandelion cover.


    Leave the iron on top for about 2 minutes. The weight of the iron will press the bread down, creating a panini-type effect.

    And watch as the butter and cheese, sizzles and melts and fills the kitchen with wondrous aromas and smells.

    After 2 minutes, flip the sandwich on to the other side and place the iron back on top for another 2 minutes. Rub your tummy in anticipation.

    When the next 2 minutes are up, carefully peel back the foil to reveal a beautiful, toasted sandwich that would even make John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich, weep with joy. If the foil sticks to the bread, then quite frankly, you haven’t used enough butter. I repeat, this is not a healthy sandwich.

    With a sharp knife, cut the sandwich in two and enjoy the gorgeous, warm combination of gooey cheese, savoury ham and toasted bread.

    And then go for a lie down.

    Or a run.

    Blog post and photography by Food Urchin aka Danny Kingston

    What are some of your favourite ways to make a toasted sandwich?  Do you use a sandwich toaster, a grill, an iron, or something else?  Which fillings are your favourites for toasted sandwiches?  Share your toastie tips on Great British Chefs Facebook Page.

  12. Nathan the Butcher of The Butchery Ltd by Food Urchin

    Great British Chefs guest blogger Food Urchin aka Danny Kingston travelled to deepest Bermondsey to have a chat with Nathan Mills, an Australian butcher who has lived and worked in the UK for the last 6 years. Nathan has been running his butchery aptly named ‘The Butchery Ltd’ from underneath the railway arches since January and is doing things just a little bit differently to your normal High Street butcher. Here’s what Danny found out:

    Interview and photography by Food Urchin aka Danny Kingston

    Hi Nathan, thanks for agreeing to meet up and coming out to find me. I must admit, I was starting to get scared standing in that tunnel there.

    That’s alright, we are a bit off the beaten track.

    Right, so why did you become a butcher? 

    Family, really. Back home in Oz, the whole family have at some point been involved in the meat trade. When I was a small child my mother owned the canteen at the local slaughter house which was run with the help of my sister, dad worked grading beef, my two brothers worked on the slaughter floor and one in the boning room. I spent most of my school holidays walking around all of the different parts of the slaughter house intrigued with what was going on. My parents then opened their own butcher shop when I was about 14 so I started working there after school making mince, sausages and washing up.

     

    OK and how does butchery differ from Australia to UK then?

    The trade is not respected as much as in the UK. To stereotype, the person that becomes a butcher in Australia is most likely to assume that they are not very bright but can lift heavy things. In the UK, a butcher is looked upon as a person of skill both with a knife and the frying pan. Though Twitter tells me change is afoot in Australia.  The actual meat and animals are very different too; the rare and native breeds that I get to work with here in the UK are very rarely seen in Australia.

     

    Do you have any good stories (or mistakes) you can talk about when picking up the trade on the way?

    A good story that all was comes to mind is the time that I was learning to bone meat in a mass production factory (abattoir). The whole process was very hard as you had to be fast enough to bone a hind 1/4 of beef in 4 minutes, as I was learning the new skill there was a group of 8 boners (technical name for people taking meat of the bone, no pun intended) would be standing on a platform singing Sophie Ellis Bextor’s ‘Murder on the Dance Floor’ as we worked.

    So what is the deal with The Butchery Ltd?

    It’s a simple idea, we buy whole animal carcasses and butcher to sell nose- to-tail, which is the traditional way of doing things but not many places are doing that these days. And the beef, pork, lamb that we buy will be free range, chemical free, pasture fed and sourced from small farms or through the Traditional Breeds Meat Market. Our aim is to always source traditional native breeds and if rare breeds are available, then even better.

    What is the point of buying whole animal carcasses then?

    Well, really, there’s no room for confusion when you buy an animal whole because all the information is there. I can categorically say where my animals come from and where and when it was killed ie from small farms and local abattoirs. You don’t really get that sort of transparency at the supermarket where joints and cuts of meat can be sourced from a multitude of places.  And because I buy through the traditional breeds market or rare breeds trust, I get total traceability. I even get information on the parents.

    And what about your butchery classes, how are they going?

    Really good, we’ve only done a few so far but people are definitely up for them. I think the fact that they are proper ‘hands-on’ helps, not many people get the opportunity to work on a whole side of beef.

    I must admit, I rather like the sound of Bashing the Beef. Sounds kinky.

    You are a sick puppy Danny.

    Ahem… butchery seems to be going through a renaissance at the moment, are there any contemporaries out there who are doing something different like yourself?

    I’m inspired by a couple of butchers in the States that have taken whole carcass butchery to the next level and injecting some fun such as Fleisher’s and 4505 Meats.  In the UK, I would have to say that The Ginger Pig has done a lot for butchery over the last 5 years. And it’s not just about their approach to meat, although they do a fine job of championing rare breeds. But it’s also about the people they employ. They give a lot of younger people the opportunity to gain specialist skills that will take them around the world. And they have taken the idea of engagement to another level.

    Maybe I’ve had a couple of bad experiences but butchers used to scare the hell of me, not so much these days, do you think butchers are becoming more approachable?

    We have to be, maybe that level of service went missing for a while but it’s definitely coming back. And I would say that the job description of a 21st century butcher has definitely changed because a lot more is expected from you these days. To start, cooking has to be a passion if you’re a butcher because more and more customers are starting to ask a lot more about where their meat is coming from, what to do with it and how to cook a particular cut. So the need to know your food, whether it’s a carrot or a cow, is very important. Saying that, I am learning all the time too.

    Have you had any unusual requests from your customers?

    Penis is the only one that comes to mind that is very unusual, I am still trying to work out how you would cook that one.

    I blame I’m A Celebrity, so how often do you eat meat then?

    Depends on my mood and what I have in stock. I could consume meat 2 times a day for a week or only a couple of meals in a week. In game season it always seems to be on the higher side 

    What is your favourite animal to work on and what are your favourite cuts?

    Beef, as it allows you to get in and separate so many different muscles due to its size. It’s been great fun lately doing a blog on the cheeky butcher’s cuts such as the Pope’s Eye and Goose Necks. I have done 5 cuts so far with a couple more up my sleeve. All of these cuts are the cheaper cuts that most other butchers would mince but cooked the right way are as good as the more expensive cuts.

    OK. Last question, what would be your last meal?

    Oxtail that was slow cooked for hours in red wine served on mash potato. I need something sticky that will last on the tongue too see me to through to meat heaven……….that exists, right?

    I hope it does Nathan, I hope it does.

    Interview for Great British Chefs by Food Urchin aka Danny Kingston 

    Where’s your favourite local butcher?  What cuts of meat do you mostly tend to buy? We’ll be discussing this over on Great British Chefs Facebook Page