Tuesday, 28 August 2012

The Perfect Steak & its place in The Manwich

Everyone who knows me knows that I love steak. In fact, all red meat is probably my food of choice. Apart from cheese. Cheese and steak - I would hate to think of my cholesterol. Recently, I found out I was deficient in vitamin B12 which isn't present in many foods, apart from red meat which has loads of it. Despite my love of the red stuff, I have to have a little injection to keep me topped up every three months. When the doctor asked me if I was vegetarian, you can imagine my reaction. I must be the least vegetarian person in the world.

If there is a steak on the menu, you can be sure I will order it. I have to physically stop myself doing this. At Barbecoa earlier this year, The Scouser and I had the best steak I've probably ever had (and coincidentally, the best table in the restaurant - the service was amazing. Don't listen to the people who slate it). On a par with that would be Gaucho. I'm yet to go to Hawksmoor, but it's on the list, amongst at least 20 other restaurants.

I recently read an article on The Perfect Steak, courtesy of the Ginger Pig (whose cookbook I want too). I realised how I hadn't tried so many of the different steaks in that article, so I'm going to start. I think my butchers could supply with everything there. Then it's just the cooking to worry about. Maybe I'll have to invest in this meat lover's cookbook after all...what a shame.

Normally I favour the ribeye. When it's a good cut, it's so tasty and stays juicy. Although when you eat it like I do, it's barely stopped moving let alone lost it's juiciness. I have managed to bring The Scouser into this way of thinking too, not entirely kicking and screaming... But a sirloin can be lovely too. Especially when it's featuring in The Manwich.

This is a discovery I have made on a blog I've become a little more than obsessed with - The Londoner. Rose blogs about all kinds, but she has some amazing recipes (need I remind you of the Slutty Brownies?) Having spent more hours than I'd care to admit browsing through her blog, I stumbled across something I knew I would love by the name alone - The Manwich. It's got two types of cheese, loads of steak and a nice carb-overload. Are you salivating already?

It's simple. You need the above (chips are for the more greedy amongst us - we had been decorating all day. That's our excuse and we're sticking to it). Plus mustard and cheddar cheese. Have a look at Rose's picture and her ingredients list, she's much more organised with her photography and instructions. The bread is important here, you need it to be big and thick. You'll need a griddle pan too, for those nice grill lines on the steak.

Get everything ready - the steak cooks fast, and you need to shove it in your gob asap once it's ready. While I was waiting for the pan to heat up (because it needs to be SMOKING hot), I cut the bread up and laid it in the pan to toast it a little. So grate your cheese, get everything opened up, plates out (it's all going a bit Jamie Oliver 30 Minute Meals isn't it? This is easier. promise).

Once the steaks are cooked, get them out and let them rest. I find this so hard because I just want to eat the steak right there and then but no you must wait like an impatient child on Christmas morning. When you can wait no more, slice it up like so...

Quickly layer up as much steak as you want, or until The Manwich can take no more, and sprinkle cheese over the top. Get the top piece of bread and squash it all down and tuck in quickly. My mouth was watering at this point, but I managed to hold back to get a picture of my beloved Manwich. The Scouser said it was the best sandwich he'd ever eaten. And he eats a lot of sandwiches. Just not many Manwiches.

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Friday, 17 August 2012

Relaxing in Ross-on-Wye

Recently The Scouser and I visited Ross-on-Wye in Herefordshire. It's a beautiful part of the world, all sleepy villages and lots of local food to discover. We ate out as well as in to avoid bankruptcy - but we definitely made the most of all the food on offer.

We got there and went around the different shops to fill up the fridge. First stop - Andy Callwood's butcher shop for the famed ham hocks. These are the best ham, without doubt, you'll ever eat. They cost £2-3, worth every penny. It's like a knuckle of meat, the bone in and they cook them for hours - then you can just slice some off when you fancy. So much better than that horrible pre-packed sliced ham from supermarkets! I also got some amazing tomato & basil sausages and bacon that could be used as a doorstop (but much much tastier).

Next stop, my favourite - the delicatessen called Truffles. This place isn't cheap, but it has a mass of cheese and exciting things in jars like chutneys and jams. I got some of the local cheese called Hereford Hop which is tastier than cheddar, as it's coated in hops which give it the rich flavour. I also got Black Bomber cheddar - this is the best cheddar ever. Ever. It's not local to Herefordshire, so if you see it, buy it. I also got some of my favourite pate made by family company Patchwork Pate - excuse my raving over everything, but this is the best pate and I would love to be able to get mine as good as this. They have all kinds of flavours, mainly with booze like tequila - sounds vile, tastes amazing.

Back we went with the haul to feast away...

This lasted us for the four days we were there which is shocking considering how I cannot resist cheese if it's right there every time I open the fridge.

In the centre of Ross on Wye there aren't that many nice cosy pubs - when I say nice, I'm talking good lager on tap and a good wine list, because we are massive snobs. Maybe when we win the lottery, we'll go and open what would be our idea of the perfect pub in the town centre. Anyway, we got a taxi to the Kilcot Inn to find the kind of pub we like.

It was a lovely pub, nice and cosy. The menu wasn't massive, but we had the 'love it or hate it' Welsh Rarebit. It was the most cheesiest thing I've ever eaten and that is saying something. Surprisingly, we both had steak for main - just for a change... Mine was cooked rare, and really tasty. I'd definitely go back here - we even got to watch Mo Farah win the 10,000m race and Jess win her Heptathlon.
We also went for dinner at Wilton Court, a riverside restaurant with rooms. Now this might be one of the strangest places I've been to eat. We walked in to an enthusiastic welcome from a guy who loves his job and rushed around all night - then chatted to us for ages after our meal! Something us city people aren't used to... The decor in this place is more than a bit weird - bright yellow walls that remind me of the 80's. But the conservatory is nice and the food was really really good.

To compensate for all this eating, we went to Symonds Yat, a village in the Forest of Dean with a very steep hill (I would say mountain) that we walked up. I was exhausted but the views were amazing. We probably ruined all this exercise with a cream tea when we got back down to earth. I don't have a sweet tooth unless it involves a scone, clotted cream and sticky jam. If only Broome Farm had been open for one of their notorious cream teas - more cream and jam than you could shake a stick at.

Ross on Wye, we'll be back!
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Thursday, 9 August 2012

Dinner Party featuring Slutty Brownies

I have had a fair few parties at my house, not always managing to consume dinner. As I get older and wiser (yes, it's true) I find I can't go out until 4am and drink myself into oblivion. So I tend to stay in and drink myself into oblivion and somehow it ends up being 3am - so perhaps not that old or wise.

Staying in, in my world, is definitely the new going out. I love going out, I love nothing more than an anticipated dinner at a restaurant that has been on my wish list for months. I love meeting up with my dinner-mates early for a drink or three, the anticipation of a fabulous dinner and hours of chatting and laughing. But I also like attempting my own feast and as I haven't won the Euro Millions yet, it's a good thing too.

My most recent dinner party consisted of my lovely newly-wed friends back from their honeymoon with tans and happiness sparkling in their eyes, and Pippa the dog's favourite auntie and her Swedish boyfriend, visiting for the weekend. Much discussion was had over the menu, but not as much as we discussed the alcohol. The newlyweds arrived with bags full of booze and the freezer was promptly jammed full and we set about the gin.

Now, since I have very little self control, I have to make sure everything is as ready as possible because I know when the alcohol arrives, all the concern over serving dinner dissipates and I fill myself with gin and Prosecco. So the slow roast lamb shoulder I am always banging on about is perfect - throw it in the oven about 4 hours before you want to serve it up and Bob is your proverbial uncle.

I also chopped, mixed and prepped everything - the antipasti plates were laid out, I mixed the mixture for the ricotta mushrooms, and my brownies were ready for the oven to be served warm (more on that later).

I used to be a little scared of dinner parties, as our kitchen is also where the table goes, so you drag everyone in to sit down then they watch as you flap about in the final moments. Unfortunately this fear didn't go unfounded as I did manage to pour a whole jug of very hot red wine sauce over a friend's crotch once (after too much Prosecco) so don't get over confident or you could be preventing your friend's future child-bearing capabilities.

Normally, if you are well-prepared and have cooked what you're serving up before, then it will be fine. And they are your friends, so they won't be too harsh...right? Well, let's not mention the time my friend decided it would be hilarious to bring her video camera and film everyone's review a la Come Dine With Me. I still have nightmares about those scathing videos turning up online.

Anyway, this time everything went without too much a hitch and there were no crotch-scolding spillages. I did drop a ricotta-filled mushroom but it was onto one half of the newlyweds, so he didn't mind too much. He even described my lamb as 'meat heroin' the following day, so he is firmly in the good books. I even managed to enjoy plenty of food myself and I have to say I did myself proud.

Now, I have to give special mention to the Slutty Brownies we had for dessert. I have become just slightly addicted to The Londoner a blog by a rather beautiful London girl, who's life you will want a piece of. These Slutty Brownies are without doubt the best dinner party dessert. They take 15 minutes to make and 30 minutes to cook. You do have to cheat and get Betty Crocker's finest, but when you've slaved over everything else, an easy dessert is key in my book. They went down an absolute treat and I tried to avoid the credit for these - so easy and so delicious. I urge you to try them - and I promise I haven't exaggerated the ease of cooking!

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Thursday, 2 August 2012

BBQ'd Burgers at The Barchester

You may realise that I'm a little obsessed with burgers. I love them and I can't really explain why - cheesy meaty sloppy goodness and a frequent hangover cure of choice. I've been to Meat Market and Meat Liquor, as well as Honest in Brixton who all peddle some amazing burgers that I would highly recommend.

Making burgers at home is never the same, but I always give it a go. The best way to cook those bad boys is on a BBQ - just a shame the weather means that sometimes you have to cook under an umbrella.

I get a load of mince - 500g will make two massive burgers, or three reasonably sized ones. Squidge it all up in a bowl and add whatever you fancy. I add loads of garlic, sometimes some herbs and spice, definitely plenty of seasoning and an egg too - to make it all stick together. Mix it up, with a fork if you need to squash it, and then make a round ball of mincey mix for each burger. They will shrink a little when you cook them, and try and pack them tight so they don't fall apart.

Dab a bit of olive oil on each side so they don't stick to the BBQ when you are cooking them, then turn them only once. Leave them on the grill for 5-10 minutes before you turn them. A burger is best with a crispy outside and a juicy inside.

Slap some cheese on top of the burger - my choice is those lovely little cheese slices that look bright orange and probably aren't cheese at all. But you can have whatever you like - The Scouse has been enjoying some 'Mexican' cheese that seems to be cheddar with jalapenos in...

Making your own burgers is fair more satisfying than buying those horrid burgers from the BBQ aisle at the supermarket. And easy and cheaper!

If you are also a little obsessed with burgers and where to eat the best ones, have a look at these blogs:
Burgaffair - these guys are on a mission around London to try the burgers everyone is raving about and then create their own league table
Burgerac - the most comprehensive burger blog, everything is about burgers here and not just limited to London
Young & Foodish's Top 10 Burgers in London - this list has recently been rejigged by foodie afficonado Daniel Young and I'm yet to visit these. Widely considered the burger expert!
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