1. 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?

     

  2. 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.  

  3. 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.

  4. 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?  

  5. 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?

  6. 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.

  7. 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 

  8. No Rest for Mummy or Kids Cook on Mother’s Day!

    Great British Chefs guest blogger Food Urchin aka Danny Kingston decided to treat his wife by getting his twins to make some Apple Muffins for Mother’s Day. A practice run was in order, just to make sure there were no burnt offerings.  Let’s see how the 4 year olds (and Danny) got on.

    Photography & Blog post by Food Urchin aka Danny Kingston

    Ask anyone where they got their passion for cooking from and more often than not they will immediately drop their heads to the floor, begin to fumble with a button at the bottom of their shirt and raise an awkward left foot onto tippy toes before answering, “In my Mummy’s kitchen”. Shortly after this brief retreat back to childhood, it is then quite normal for the person in question to expand, quite vividly, upon a detailed history of peeling, baking, chopping, stirring, and tasting, all by their Mother’s side. Knee high to a grass hopper is demonstrated by level palm and the battered stool to reach the counter top is reminisced with tearful joy. Before long, they start boasting that they we’re doing the Sunday dinner at the age of 6 and had cracked champagne sabayon way before the first hairy shoots of pubescence appeared.  Such is the wunderkind who owes it all to Mother. 

    Well I have to say from personal experience, that this is a load of rubbish. And before I go any further, I should tell you that I was reliving just then, in part, a tale I heard from a chef. As I sat there, listening to him regale an over-romanticized upbringing of culinary enlightenment starting at the age of 3 (all of which of course was all down to his dear, dear Mummy) I found myself desperately wanting to shake him and slap him and scream “THIS IS NOT TRUE!”

    Why? Because I’ve got kids myself and despite all my best efforts to coach them, the pair of them are absolutely crap in the kitchen. Look I know they are only 4 but have you seen their pastry? By the time it goes in the oven, it’s grey, malformed and usually has a brick of Lego stuck in it. And we can never ever get frigging cupcakes baked, you know why? Because the bloody mixture always gets eaten before it can be spooned into the paper cases and the hundreds and thousands usually gets scattered into hundreds and thousands on the kitchen floor. And as for chopping vegetables, how difficult is it to mirepoix some onion, carrots and celery? Quite difficult with a plastic knife by all accounts but the fact that the twins still haven’t got to grasps with rudimentary chopping techniques drives me up the bloody wall. 

    But why am I sounding so tense and terse here? Well yesterday, I thought it would be a good idea to run through a recipe with the twins, as featured on Great British Chefs, a Mother’s Day recipe no less. After all, with my two, it pays to rehearse. If the kids and I can execute a simple batch of Shaun Rankin’s Apple Muffins for Mummy whilst she gets a well deserved lie-in, then it will be smiles all round.

    And to be honest, at first, it all went rather swimmingly. Isla, a very pretty but very clumsy soul managed to crack and dispatch an egg into the bowl this time, rather than onto her dress. Curly Fin was very good at sifting the flour and spices together, getting away with only the faintest dusting on his nose. And they were very patient with other to take turns when it came to spooning the wet mix, complete with chunks of apple and sultana, into paper cases. Battle lines are normally drawn by this stage, arguments arise, a wooden spoon often gets supplanted into an eye and tears follow. However, like I said, this time they were very good. In fact, walking to the oven together felt like a triumph and after sliding the muffin tray in and reaching for an all-round high five, I began to wonder if maybe I had been just a little too impatient, a little too brusk in the past. After sitting down to enjoy an episode of Ooglies with them, I even began to feel guilty.

    Of course, the proof is in the pudding and after twenty minutes, the timer pinged and collectively, we returned to see the fruits of our labour. The aroma of nutmeg and cinnamon certainly got our saliva glands going but to choruses of disapproval, the muffins had to be left alone on a wire rack to cool for ten minutes or so. But then came the tasting.

    The first bite was fairly amazing, with the slightly crisp outer crust yielding to a soft, light airy sponge, spiced and packed with soft, warm fruit. The second bite however, was odd. The third and subsequent forth and final bites were more definitive, chalky, gritty and oh so fizzy. Something was amiss. The kids who had finished their first muffins and were beginning to start on their second ones didn’t seem to think so but something was definitely amiss. And then I spot it, an empty tube of baking powder on the floor. Which had been just opened and therefore, should have been quite full.

    Er, you know Daddy put some of this stuff into the cake mix earlier, did any of you guys touch this tube?

    Fin pipes up, in his normal repetitive manner.

     “Yeah that’s the sugar, so I put more in, cos it’s a special sugar to go in the mix, so I put more in, all of it, yeah.”

    Now I do try to keep my bouts of apoplexy in check, especially in front of the children but nevertheless, I don’t think I did very well this time around. Collecting the rest of the muffins and crushing them with shaking, bare hands raised over my head whilst roaring was not a good call. The fact that the overdose of bicarbonate of soda was causing my mouth to foam and froth probably didn’t help either as the twins ran screaming into the arms of their mother.

    Actions such as these speak volumes. As a father, I still have a lot to learn about the gentle art of stoicism, especially if I want them to grow up saying they learnt how to cook by their Daddy’s side. In the meantime, if Mummy wants these apple muffins for breakfast on Sunday, she might have to show the twins how to do it herself. With proper care and attention, in the way that only Mum can.

    Don’t worry though; I am taking us all out for lunch!

    Blog post for Great British Chefs by Food Urchin

    Are getting your children or grandchildren to make some Mother’s Day treats?  What sort of thngs do they like to bake?   We’ll be discussing this over on Great British Chefs Facebook Page.

  9. British Pie Week at The Windmill & Win a Tutored Pie Tasting

    British Pie Week 2012 runs from 5th -11th March and to say that we’re looking forward to it on Great British Chefs is a bit of an understatement. We’ve posted a recipe for a gorgeous "Rainy Day" Chicken & Mushroom pie in anticipation & were particularly delighted when Danny Kingston aka  Food Urchin said he was going to a preview of Pie Week at The Windmill in Mayfair.  Read on to see how he got on & there’s a special competition for Great British Chefs readers at the end of the post…. 

    Blog post & Photography by Food Urchin aka Danny Kingston

    I like Carl Smith. I like him a lot. And there is good reason to. He is affable, warm and friendly. He runs two, smart, respectable pubs selling decent, quality beer. And he knows a lot about food, pies in particular. In fact, he is a bit of a Pie Master and presides over the Windmill Pie Club, which boasts over 6000 members. His unbridled knowledge of meat, suet, gravy and crust knows no bounds. So, so far, so good.

    Yet when I sat and dined with him at the table earlier this week, this esteemed gentleman committed a faux pas of such gargantuan proportions that………well, let’s just say he doesn’t know how lucky he is. Because it came this close to kicking off.

    As next week is British Pie Week, I had been invited to The Windmill to sample some of Carl’s excellent pies and to find out about some of the events that Carl and his team had planned to commemorate. Having demolished the best part of my first course of fish pie, wonderfully flavoured with smoked salmon, haddock and by the unusual addition of crayfish, I decided to pipe up and ask whether he had ever put proper Cockney Pie and Mash on the menu. Carl finished his mouthful, paused and then, somewhat disdainfully in my opinion, said:

    “What with that… that watery, parsley, béchamel sauce? Ooh no, I don’t think we would ever do that”

    With one eyelid twitching, I stared back at him and desperately tried to swallow the remaining chunk of haddock in my mouth, coughing as I forced it down my throat. What did he just say?

    Now, of course, Carl wasn’t to know how strongly I feel about my beloved pie and mash and liquor, the stuff I grew up on as I clawed my way of out of Bromley by Bow into the leafy climes of Essex. To me, it is the ultimate comfort food, it symbolises childhood memories on a plate, sure it needs lashings and lashings of malt vinegar to make it anywhere near palatable but, in short, it is manna from heaven. And Carl had the temerity to dismiss it with just a wave of the hand.

    I had two choices. I could go totally Bob Hoskins and create a scene worthy of a Christmas special in the Queen Vic, legs flailing, glasses smashing, with a blonde swinging on my arm all legs akimbo, screaming:

     “’E ain’t worth it, ‘e ain’t worth it Daaaaaaan!”

    Or I could just take it on the chin and sit there and wait for my next course of Steak and Kidney pie to come out. Which, incidentally, turned out to be even better than the fish offering as it was full of flavour with rich gravy and tender morsels of beef, complete with a fantastically moreish pastry.

    And having watched Carl earlier on video, creating his signature meat and offal pie, it was plainly obvious that the guy took a lot of pride in his work. So who was I to quibble his authority?

    *pause*

    No the man is wrong, very wrong, completely wrong, absolutely wrong and he needs to rethink his views on pie and mash pronto. Unless he wants me to turn up to The Windmill like Phil Mitchell on White Lightening, setting fire to the place that is.

    I jest.

    And in all seriousness, Carl was right about one thing though. This humble baked dish, in all its various guises, is pretty much synonymous with Britain’s food culture. If there is one thing we love and do well, it is a pie. So why not have a week to celebrate them? Given current trends and the attention lauded upon burgers, hotdogs, ribs, barbecue, especially in the capital, he does have a point.

    Rhubarb & Apple pie for dessert

    But first Carl needs to start by putting proper pie and mash up on the menu (I’ll stop there now).

    The Windmill, 6-8 Mill Street, London, W1S 2AZ 

    www.windmillmayfair.co.uk Twitter: @tweetiepie_w1

    Blog post & photography by Food Urchin aka Danny Kingston

    To celebrate British Pie Week, The Windmill are very kindly giving Great British Chefs community two pairs of tickets to their Pie and Beer tutored tasting with Pie Master Carl Smith and Britain’s leading female beer writer Melissa Cole on Wednesday 7th MarchTickets are normally £10 & only available to members of The Pie Club.  But to win one of two pairs of tickets simply give us your dream pie filling.  It can be savoury or sweet.  Leave your pie filling suggestion in the comments here or on Great British Chefs Facebook Page by Monday 5th March 11.59pm & we’ll pick our favourites & inform the two lucky winners on Tuesday. Good luck!

  10. Can Scotch Eggs Make One Difference?

    Great British Chefs guest blogger Food Urchin aka Danny Kingston was invited to cook along with Simon Rimmer from Something for the Weekend.  It was all about Scotch eggs and ethical food. Intrigued?  Discover what happened & why Bono wasn’t involved.


    by Food Urchin aka Danny Kingston - photos by Getty Images

    Should Duncan Goose, founder of the pioneering One Brand range of everyday products, ever see fit to make me marketing director for his meritorious and laudable company, my first pitch would go along these lines:

    Duncan, I’ve got one word for you. And that is Bono. If you really want to spread the word behind the One Brand, he really has got to be your man. After all, Bono is well known for his compassion and his drive to bring humanitarian causes to the forefront. He would be great. And plus, there’s the song ‘One’. It’s a perfect fit. I am thinking a reworking of the original. I am thinking of a new ad campaign. Bono walks down the high street. In one hand he holds One Clever Loaf, in the other he holds One Good Egg. And he sings. “One Loaf. One Egg. Sisters. Brothers. We’ve got to carry each other.” I tell you, it will be amazing. If we can get Bono on board that is.”

     

    And I would imagine that Duncan, sitting there in a baggy pale blue jumper, would probably take this idea on board for a second or two before simply replying:

    Why do we need that megalomaniac when we’ve got Simon Rimmer?


    And he would have a point. Because when I met both Duncan and Simon at a recent bloggers’ breakfast to hear the story behind the One Brand and to learn about recipes that have been developed to highlight the products available, it was clear that blast and fireworks, U2 style, were unnecessary. Instead, through warmth and good humour, they conveyed a message that was plain and simple, let’s try and change the world one step at a time and with a ‘like for like’ proposition, where 100% of the profits are used to fund various schemes across Africa. Buy one box of eggs and one family will benefit from a community egg farming project. Buy one loaf of bread and that will help fund one start-up bakery initiative. Buy one bottle of water and one person will be able to drink. A very simple and worthwhile premise, I am sure you’ll agree.

    So after a preamble, travelling around the world with Duncan on his motorbike and some teasing instruction from Simon Rimmer as he ran through the recipes he created (“What flower does vanilla come from?” silence “Pah! And you all call yourselves foodies!”), we all settled down to the business of making some Scotch eggs. Because everyone loves a Scotch egg and I have to say the red pepper chutney that accompanied it was absolutely delicious, a great nod there from Mr Rimmer. You can find the recipe at the bottom of this post.

    Having been to a fair few of these bloggers events before, proceedings can wane somewhat where suddenly you find yourself standing around thinking, “What the hell am I doing here?” But the people behind One Brand fostered an open environment and great spirit of bonhomie, with strangers chatting across the table. All of which was helped by the approachability of Simon Rimmer and his willingness to discuss food issues, Manchester and male pattern baldness. Refreshing in comparison some of the sour faced celeb chefs I’ve met in the past, who grimace false smiles with eyes focused on the clock. With that in mind, I would like to congratulate Duncan and the team for the work they are doing, I’ve got a feeling that there are more good things to come.

    And thank God they haven’t thought about approaching Bono.

    Yet. 

     

    Chorizo Scotch Eggs with Pepper Chutney

    Ingredients 

    • 6 hard boiled One Good Eggs – cooked 6 mins max
    • 175g sausage meat
    • 75g finely diced/blended chorizo
    • tbs chopped parsley
    • tbs finely chopped chives
    • Plenty of salt and white pepper
    • 75g breadcrumbs
    • 75g polenta
    • Vegetable oil to deep fry
    • Pepper chutney – 1 red onion, sliced
    • 4 red peppers, finely sliced
    • Clove sliced garlic
    • 8 gherkins, chopped
    • tbs capers
    • 100g demarera
    • 100ml red wine vinegar
    • 1 finely chopped birds eye chilli

    Method 

    1. Mix the sausage meat, chorizo, herb, chives and plenty of seasoning
    2. Divide into 16, press flat, then flour each egg, then egg wash and wrap the meat around.
    3. Deep fry at 180c for 4 mins, turning regularly
    4. CHUTNEY – fry onion, garlic, chilli for 3-4 mins to soften
    5. Add peppers, cook 2 mins
    6. Add sugar and vinegar, boil 10mins, take off heat, add capers, gherkins, season and cool. Serve with Scotch Eggs and a little pretty salad garnish

    The One Brand is a range of everyday essential products which are sold via major retailers across the UK and internationally, to fund humanitarian aid projects across rural communities in Africa.

    Blog post for Great British Chefs by Food Urchin

    When you’re shopping for food, would you select food that was going to a good cause over food that wasn’t?  Does the price make a difference?  
    Do you think supermarkets should do more to stock ethical food?    We’re discussing these questions over on Great British Chefs Facebook Page.

  11. Pizza, My Saviour (Or Not, As The Case May Be) by Food Urchin

    Great British Chefs guest blogger Food Urchin aka Danny Kingston decided to make the most of a snowy weekend and entertain his twins by making pizza for National Pizza Week.  Was this a wise idea? Let’s see how he got on.

    Photography by Food Urchin aka Danny Kingston

    It’s funny how a simple proposal can turn heads and make people stop immediately in their tracks. Especially when you make a proposal to little people. I realised this just the other day when I found myself under attack, suffering a multiple splattering of snowballs, the shoving of ice down the back of my jeans and the ignominy of failing to build a proper snowman. “It’s not very good Daddy, his nose keeps falling off.” Having had enough of our little sojourn outside, in the freezing winter wonderland of our back garden, I wondered to myself, how I could bring this all to an end? And then it came to me in flash.

    “Hey! Why don’t we make pizzaaaaaa?!” I exclaimed (complete with jazz hands).

    Suddenly, knitted mittens, clasping white cannonballs, pause. Mouths under runny noses gape open and breathe fierce smoke and finally the air becomes quiet and still, apart from the soft slumping sound of a mini-avalanche pouring off the shed roof. The suggestion, thankfully, gets a resounding thumbs up and so we all file back inside, doing the conga, chanting. 

    “Pizzaaaaa! Cha-cha-cha! Pizzaaaaa! Cha-cha-cha!”

    Once inside the warmth, I run to the oven and crank up the dial as high as it will go and pause to warm a soggy bottom on a radiator whilst scarves and hats get tossed aside. Soon enough I am badgered for the dough, the bread, the mix, the cake, the..the..the thingy! Luckily, like all good Blue Peter presenters, I made some dough earlier, a huge batch in fact and so cut off some lumps and throw them onto the table. And then hand over a bag of flour for dusting. This of course, is a huge mistake. Forget the winter wonderland outside, one corner of my kitchen now looks like Narnia but the children are happy, bashing the hell out of the dough with wooden rolling pins.


    I finely chop some garlic and throw it into a saucepan with a glug of olive oil and set it upon a gentle flame to heat through. A tin of primo Italian tomatoes decides to go missing in the cupboard, much to my alarm and one of the twins asks what “bugger” means.

    “’Oh budgies’ darling, I said ‘Oh budgies’ OK?”

    After wading through the split peas and basmati rice, I finally find the prized tin and peel off the lid and slide the juicy, red plums into the saucepan to bubble and spit. As I start to mash things down a bit with a fork, across the room, a raucous is forming.

    By all accounts, one of the twins has more dough than the other, which is true and confusing as I was sure that I gave them both equal amounts. After a quick assessment, I ask a tearful son whether a lump of dough that remains on the floor belongs to him. The one with a Wolverine figure sticking out of it. He says yes, arguing that the adamantium framed mutant needed a bed to sleep in. To pacify the mood, I take some more dough from out of the bowl on the kitchen side (I really did make a lot) and tell the twins that ‘this’ dough will be the dough we’ll be using to making our pizzas. “The first stuff you used was just play dough,” I say. “No, not like the pink Play-Doh that Daddy tells you never to eat.”

    Trying to move on swiftly, I help the twins to form and shape the pizza dough into neat round circles using a combination of fingers and rolling pin whilst giving a neat, historical background of where pizza comes from. My origins speech must have been pretty boring because soon after Naples, my daughter decides to splat a handful of flour onto my head and great hilarity ensues. I am not laughing though. I had a whole section about Lahmacun lined up but given the attention span of your average 3 year old, it was probably just as well that my daughter interceded.


    We all hop off the chairs to inspect the tomato sauce which has reduced right down and is ready for the basil which needs to be torn and thrown in. Small fingers tear and pinch and the air is suddenly filled with a sweet peppery perfume and a Mediterranean hue envelopes the greyness of the kitchen. “Doesn’t that smell nice?” I ask the kids and my daughter thoughtfully responds that the herb reminds her of sunshine, which warms my heart. I then look at my son and discover that he is simply eating his basil.

    The time is then ripe to bring out the toppings and for the twins, preferences, tastes and flavour combinations couldn’t be further apart. The boy, despite his boisterousness and proclivity for destruction is a bit of a vegetarian at heart. He favours mushrooms, roasted red peppers and artichoke hearts on his pizza. My daughter, swirling around, all fairies and princesses and light is a meat fiend and wouldn’t be offended if I stuck a cow on her pizza. But on this occasion we opt for prosciutto and pepperoni. Oh and pineapple too. Her father introduced her to that retro and pleasingly naff combo the last time they made pizza and so she demanded it a second time around. 


    Each pizza is then adorned with slivers of mozzarella, Daddy taking full control at this point, as the twins once discovered that this soft cheese is fantastic for squishing in their hands and expelling little white worms from in between their fingers. But he does let them take turns at sprinkling dried oregano over their respective pizzas, the countertop, the floor and their hair. After the mess they’ve made, they are certainly going to have a bath so at this stage in proceedings it really doesn’t matter.


    On wooden boards, we (or Daddy rather) carry the pizzas over the oven and after repeated warnings “to stand back, no stand back, stand right back”, the oven door is opened and a blast of heat whooshes out. Trays, steaming hot, are precariously pulled out with tea towels and Daddy slides the pizzas onto them to much whooping and cheering. Not to mention whispered profanity as sweat beads pour into Daddy’s eyes. The door is slammed shut and for a couple of seconds we all stand, turn and survey the scene behinds us. Flour, oil, peppers, scraps of prosciutto and dustings of dried herbs are scattered everywhere. Logan still sleeps. And then the twins trail out into the living room because Scooby Doo has just come on the telly, leaving me quite alone.

    I make a couple of executive decisions. Tonight, the twins can eat their pizzas on their laps. And I’ll clean the kitchen whilst Mummy is giving them their bath. But first I think I’ll have a beer and a nibble on some pepperoni whilst their pizzas bake away. I think I deserve it.

    It might be National Pizza Week but every week is pizza week in our house.

    Blog post for Great British Chefs by Food Urchin
    If there’s children in your family what are their favourite pizza toppings? What types of food do you like to cook with your children’s help?   We’re discussing this over on Great British Chefs Facebook Page.

  12. Food Urchin Takes on Robert Thompson’s Bavarois of Butternut Squash with Quince Sorbet

    Never one to shy away from apparently strangely matched pairings, Great British Chefs guest blogger Food Urchin aka Danny Kingston decided to see whether quince and butternut squash made happy bedfellows.

    Like a modern day, culinary and hairier equivalent of Jane Austen’s Emma, I do sometimes get over zealous with my matching of ingredients. As a result, I can happily pronounce in my experience that plums and liver don’t really make happy bedfellows; you should never send chilli sauce out on a blind date with creamy fish pie. Orange juice and milk will always split up in the most acrimonious, curdling fashion.

    Nevertheless, I am always on the look out for unusual food pairing and when I spotted Robert Thompson’s marriage of butternut squash and quince on Great British Chefs website, I was immediately intrigued.


    I must admit, putting a shy, dysmorphic gourd together with a tough, hard nosed bruiser did seem to be a bit of a mismatch at first.
     
    He’s too fibrous, too pithy for his own good and has a tendency to stew on things. She’s crabby, difficult to get to know and will break your teeth given half the chance. It will never work.”
     
    But despite my initial reservations, I went ahead and made this last Sunday and was pleasantly surprised with the outcome. This simple and easy to make dessert is by turns light and luxuriant with lots of different textures. The perfumed quince, in both the sorbet and the purée went really well with the rich, sweet bavarois (or Bavarian cream to you and me) which had just a subtle tone of butternut squash. And the poached blackberries added a nice touch of sugary sharpness to proceedings
     
    One thing you must keep an eye on though is the temperature when bringing the custard mix up to 84°C. Without a thermometer, I was reliant on my trusty and somewhat stubby finger. Staring aimlessly at the pan as things slowly heated up, I kept sticking my digit in, gauging the heat on a scale of “ooh, aah, it’s getting hotter, it’s getting hotter!
     
    Not really an accurate or hygienic way of doing things and to be honest, I did have a little bit of scrambling in the bottom after pouring the mixture into ramekins. So if you have a thermometer, use it!
     
    Still, under the right romantic conditions i.e. in the confines of your kitchen, working under candle light with Barry White playing softly in the background, Robert certainly showed that butternut and quince can make beautiful love together.

     
    In fact, I would even go so far to say that this would make the perfect ending to a dinner party where on placing the dish down on the table, you could expound “I first took it upon myself to introduce Mr Butternut and Miss Quince at a games party at Mr Knightley’s house last Autumn and they have remained inseparable ever since! Wouldn’t you say that the most beautiful thing in the world is a match well made?
     
    If, you know, you were so inclined.


    What initially strange food pairings have worked well in dishes you’ve made or eaten?  We’re discussing this over on Great British Chefs Facebook Page.