Saturday, 23 February 2013

Gammon knuckle with sweet sauce and pease pudding

We talk about food a lot here In fact it's definitely in the top 5 topics of conversation, along with technology, the arts, frivolities and the Limehouse Cut coots. Oh the footballers in the park get some attention too but that isn't important right now. We also like to think that we are frugal, economical and sensible in our spending habits which is why we were in Canary Wharf looking at handbags, frocks and sparkly blue shoes. On our way back from Capitalism Waters we stopped off at historic Chrisp Street market for some food bits and some pithy social observation.

The area is extremely diverse and the local butchers demonstrate our community beautifully; five halal to the single traditional English butchers. As befits the Contrary Kitchen, we required either oxtail, pork knuckle or offal, depending on availability, so we opted for the most appropriate vendor. We joined the queue and tried not to giggle as the large gent in front asked for 8 saveloy and 4 faggots...and the tall one was immediately transported to northern dreams of dirty food circa 1970. After spending the princely sum of £5.48 on 6 eggs, a cooked turkey leg and a pork knuckle, we stopped by the co-op for more bits and hungrily staggered home.

I had a vision for my pork and this is the recipe I came up with

1 huge gammon knuckle
2 small onions
scrag end of a droopy celery
5 hairy carrots
1 small bottle of good cider
a handful of chopped prunes, apricots and apple rings
bay leaves, teaspoon of allspice
a good grinding of pepper
a drop of water

Pop everything in the slow cooker for 5 hours and go have a nap and do some reading. Also make some curried open turkey sarnies. Drink ginger beer. Soak the split yellow peas in cold water.

Once the meat is done, cook the drained peas in half the stock and veggies. Add a little more water, pepper, ground cloves to the pan. Simmer till the peas are a pastey consistency which took about an hour, then beat in an egg and turn the mix into a warmed oven proof dish. The one I used was too shallow so it went a little dry - next time I'd use a deeper one so you would have a loaflike texture and the lovely crunchy top. Mine was more like baked polenta.

Remove the meat from the pot, discard skin and bone leaving the pink flesh. Thicken the remaining sauce with a little cornflour and then serve with the pease pudding. Wash down with lashings of sherry or more ginger beer. Or cider.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Mardi Gras, Oh Mercredi Gras aussi

The thing about the food here is that it's Mardi Gras everyday.

We had a splash of pancake mix left, enough to make 3 and a disaster so for stuffed pancake leftovers, I whipped up some extra mix and tossed six perfect little rounds onto a dish. This is how I made the filling:

2 x tubs of corner shop special soft cream cheese (I only used one tub)
1/2 small tub of soured cream
1/2 punnet of finely chopped mushrooms
1/2 pot of fresh grated Parmesan
2 finely chopped spring onions
Squished garlic, black pepper and grating of fresh nutmeg
A couple of nuggets of frozen spinach (from the Ice Age by the looks of them)

I beat these ingredients together and thickened a little with some cornflour to make it gloopy. I left it to look at the pancakes for a bit.

Into my pancake (lazy) pan, I poured a box of sieved tomatoes, added cayenne pepper, plenty of ordinary pepper, a squirt of Daddy's sauce and let it simmer for 5 mins or so.

The ceramic dish went in to the hot oven until it was burny handy, then I ladled a bit of the tomato mix into it so the bottom was covered. Taking the first pancake, I placed an amount down the middle, rolled it up on the thigh of a maiden and placed in the dish. I repeated this 5 more times and then ladled more tomato over the top. Then sprinkled the top with the rest of the Parmesan.

Place in the hot oven until it looks appetising. My goodness that smells good!

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Ohayo gozaimasu おはようございます

A long time ago, in another life, I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to learn Japanese. The company paid for this and, every week, an ever decreasing set of people would trundle in to a meeting room for an evening of linguistic torture. I chose the title because, right rightly the first phrase I learned as ohayo gozaimasu, good morning, a greeting, part of the delightful formal exchange I would come to love deeply. I loved the logic of the language too. As a software person I appreciated the clarity of overloading phrases in a consistent matter, for instance o genki desu ka, essentially "are you well?" would lose the question and become a confirmation, genki desu, "I am well".


I enjoyed the times I went to Japan after I was taught a little, it suddenly became a less terrifying place. It's not the people or the place that brings terror, it's the lack of understanding of signs, they tended to be written in a combination of kanji, hiragana or katakana. I could just about translate hiragana, via romaji into to english, things became clear. I began to understand and feel comfortable with this country of deeply civilised people.

Which brings me to the present.

400 years ago this year an English ship landed in Japan and our trading relations creaked in to being, though it was a little tortured at first. However, an englishman was already in Japan, one William Adams. He'd arrived, drifted in really, in 1600. An astonishing tale. Fortunately for Adams he was open minded, keen to learn, explore, challenge and, ultimately, integrate. He is the sort of man that would have been welcome at an Elizabethan Contrary Towers, forsooth.

So what's the connection?

Well, I received a text on Friday from my lovely friend @Feinics11 asking if I'd like attend a matinee performance of Anjin: The Shogun and The English Samurai, being shown at Sadler's Wells. Did I want to go? Duh! As it happened I was double booked, so I had to initially decline. Fortunately though (actually unfortunately as I was looking forward to a meandering day with a friend) I became free so skipped to the DLR and headed for the scary, dark, delights of Islington...

I took garlic, a wooden stake and a silver bullet just in case.

The play was simply astonishing. I haven't enjoyed one quite so much in ages. Not only was it beautifully produced, but it also provided the intellectual challenge of seeing how much Japanese I could actually remember as whilst the English parts were in English, the Japanese were in full on, idiomatic, Japanese. I was in heaven.

This was no Tokugawa Shogunate 'allo 'allo.

Don't get me wrong, if you don't speak or understand a word of Japanese you should still go, it was so well acted you knew exactly what was going on without having to refer to the subtitle screens (Japanese for English, English for Japanese). The story unfolded with a measured, unrelenting throb of culture, politics and unlikely friendships. True there were parts that made me feel deeply uncomfortable as, yes, I believed my European forebears could have been that ignorant and arrogant. It was also interesting to see how the Jesuits were portrayed as they worked to convert the Japanese people to a Papist vision of Catholicism. Fabulous stuff.

Sadly, the play is only on until the 9th of February. If you can get to it then go! You really won't be disappointed.