Catching up and Fennel

Well it’s been a busy time over the last week or so, my pals Ed, Eamon, Lloyd, Paul and Rich were all going grouse shooting in north Yorkshire, Bingley Moore to be precise. Well it was a double gun day and Ed asked me to load for him which I did. We stayed at the Devonshire Arms near Ilkely, it was very nice, the restaurant has a Michelin one star and is suppose to be the bollocks, if the bistro is anything to go by then I reckon Michelin must have lowered their standards quite considerably. I had sirloin steak on the first night, I could have soled my shoe with it, boy it was tough and absolutely tasteless.
The shooting was good, the birds kept very low and were extremely skittish which made them very testing. The bag for the day was 101 brace.

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It’s been confirmed that I have a half gun on the Priory shoot, I still can’t believe it, I keep thinking I’ll wake up and it was all a dream.

The garden is not looking good, the veg just don’t seem to be developing, the tomatoes are half the size they should be and not ripening.

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The only thing that’s doing well is the Fennel and as some are ready I decided to have some for lunch today.

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Fennel with bacon is a traditional French dish and is absolutely fabulous with either roast or grilled meat or with a lump of bread (we do not cut bread in this household, we break bread, grab a handful yourself).
You need four Fennel trimmed, cut into quarters and blanched for 5 mins in boiling salted water.

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Chop up two onions finely and three rashers of thick cut dry cured bacon (Garry strikes again, thank you) into thick strips crosswise. Fry the onions gently in 50 grams of unsalted butter until transparent, add the bacon and brown gently (be careful not to over brown the onions and bacon as you will be adding the Fennel to slightly brown as well, if you over do the onions and bacon they will be burnt by the time the Fennel has become golden).

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Cut the blanched Fennel into bite size pieces and add to the pan, you want the Fennel to be slightly golden so keep stirring to ensure nothing burns on the bottom of the pan.

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Add lots of freshly ground black pepper, a small amount of salt (don’t forget that the bacon will add salt as well), a bouquet garni and half a litre of brown stock (see previous posts), bring to a gentle simmer, cover and cook for 45 mins checking occasionally and stirring gently.

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We had this with a crusty loaf and it was fantastic, enjoy.

Nick, shooting and Ragu

Well it’s Been quite a day, I picked Millie up and drove over to see Nick to return an egg carton and luckily buy some eggs.

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Anyway when I came back after walking the M Nick was cutting his hedge and asked if I fancied a beer (silly question), the sun was shining so we sat in the garden with a bottle of beer, I think Nick had had enough of gardening. We had quite a long chinwag and I found out what he does for a living.
Bella, his dog is an absolutely beautiful black Lab and full of beans, she ran poor old Millie ragged.
I took Millie back to the Peli only to find Steve having a very late lunch al fresco. He’d had an email from his shoot captain about me, inviting me to have a half gun for the season coming. Now I should explain that this is one of, if not the top shoot in South Wales, this is an honour indeed, it normally takes years of being on a waiting list to even be considered. Well when I got home I emailed the shoot captain, I only hope his arm is okay after I snapped it off.
I’m cooking a Ragu (an Italian meat sauce) this evening, it’s what most people would call Bolognese, well it’s not, there are many meat sauces in Italy, most regions have them, Bolognese has become a generic term for them in Britain.
Right chop up a small onion, a small carrot, a small stick of celery and two rashers of bacon (smoked or dry cured, good old Garry) and sauté in a drop of olive oil (not to much as the bacon will add some fat), be careful not to brown the mixture to much.

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Add the mince (once again thanks Garry) and brown over a high heat mixing all the time, ensure there is no fat/water (there shouldn’t be if you are using good mince), season with black pepper and a small amount of salt (the bacon will impart its saltiness and you will be reducing) and add a large glass of Dry Martini (Vermouth). Bring this up to the boil and simmer gently until reduced by half.

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Add half a ground nutmeg, a bay leaf and a bouquet garni, stir in. Add half a litre of beef stock, bring back to the boil and gently simmer with the lid partially open until reduced by half.

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When the sauce has reduced remove the bouquet garni and the bay leaf, stir in 3-4 dessert spoons of single cream just before serving.

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I’ve used tagliatelle, don’t use spaghetti as the sauce won’t stick, use anything but spaghetti, sprinkle over some flat leaf parsley and enjoy.

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Garden produce and a roast chicken

It’s Sunday and my peas and carrots are ready. I took a look at the peas and I thought that there are some ready for consumption, to my surprise there were loads, the sneaky little (big) buggers were hiding underneath so I picked them and pulled some carrots.

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We’re having a roast free range chicken with them. Cut a load of herbs, I used rosemary, oregano, sage, thyme and bay. Put these into the chicken with half a lemon and 4 cloves of garlic with the skins on (this will impart a delicate flavour without overpowering the herbs)

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Chop up half an onion and a small carrot, put the chicken, chopped onion and carrot into a heavy casserole pot, dress with black pepper, rock salt and olive oil, pop onto a medium/hot oven uncovered for 30 mins.

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Take out of the oven, baste and cover and pop it back into the oven on a medium temperature for 45 mins, basting occasionally. After 45 mins remove the lid, baste and pop back into the oven for half an hour.

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Take the chicken out and keep hot (put it back in the oven), pour off the fat/oil left, leaving about two tablespoons, add two dessert spoons of plain flour and stir in to make a roué, add the water from the peas, carrots and potatoes (if that’s what your cooking) to make the gravy. You can strain this or leave all the bits in for a course gravy (this is what I did on Joe’s insistence, he really likes it this way. If I strain it he eats the bits with bread as he says they’re to good to waste). You might have to reduce this to get the right consistency, which is up to you.

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This was a fantastic meal, there’s nothing like picking stuff from the garden sticking it straight into the pot and into your belly. The chicken has a delicate herby, garlicky flavour which is perfect for a summer dinner ( we ate late). I can’t tell you how good this was, even though you get fresh veg from the green grocer (fresh-ish) there ain’t nothing like getting it from your garden, if you’ve got a patch of soil plant some veg, you wont be sorry. Even the most tainted pallet will taste the difference.

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Catching up on the last few days and a Barbie

Gerald the Gunsmith phoned on Tuesday evening to say my stock was ready so I collected it on Wednesday, it’s not pretty but it’s far more functional. I did notice a big black mark on the Tarmac by the lights, I wonder how much of the Alfa was left.
Frank phoned me on Wednesday afternoon to tell me my La Pavoni coffee machine was ready, he had totally rebuilt it so here’s to the next 15 years or so. Michelle gave me a huge bag of Moka coffee beans, I think she felt sorry for me having to spend so much on the machine, ah well that’s life and good coffee taken care of.
Huw called over on Thursday evening baring gifts, a tray of freshly pulled veg and some Bay leaves; you see what I mean about Bay leaves, you don’t have to buy them. Anyway I put the Bay on the window sill to dry off.

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I’ve just had an update on the WordPress App and everything has changed, doesn’t that piss you off, it was fine the way it was. I apologise on behalf of WordPress if my blog looks a bit different.

Right then it’s Friday, the sun is shining so I thought a Barbie was in order.
I’ve decided to do some pork kebabs with a spicy tomato ketchup. The ketchup first, this is really easy; chop two shallots up really fine, crush a clove of garlic and half 8 cherry tomatoes and sauté in a tiny drop of oil until the shallots are transparent, add a pinch of smoked paprika and 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne. Put a tin of chopped tomatoes in the pan and simmer. Add some black pepper a 1/4 teaspoon of rock salt and a bouquet garni, simmer for 15 mins and remove the bouquet garni, continue to simmer covered for another half an hour. Remove from the heat and let it stand for half an hour. Sieve the contents, adjust the seasoning and use hot or cold.

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Now the pork, I’ve used two pork fillets.
Trim the pork of any fat etc and cut into rough cubes.

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The marinade; I tend to play this by ear but this is what I did this time;

Rind of a lemon

Juice of half a lemon

Glass of armagnac

Teaspoon of dark soy sauce

Three dessert spoons maple syrup (we’ve talked about this before)

Mix this together in a bowl and add the pork.

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Cover and allow to stand for 3-4 hours stirring occasionally.
Cut up two red peppers into squares and thread alternatively onto skewers with the pork. I tend to use wooden skewers, don’t forget to give them a soak in water for an hour before use, this will inhibit them burning (to much).

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Pop this lot onto the Barbie and cook slowly (have you noticed that the ly seems to be left off, in the Olympic indium “he ran the race perfect” not perfectly as it should be. Another thing that is really getting under my skin lately is “for free”, now something is “free” or “for something” it is not “for free” . I noticed the other night five adverts on the telly using the phrase “for free” are the advertisers illiterate, I don’t consider myself to be a particularly literate person but surely they should be. We seem to be taking the English language to the lowest common denominator and it’s not good), basting as it cooks.

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After eating Joe and I had a coffee from the La Pavoni with the coffee given to me by Michelle. It was absolutely gorgeous, I’ll be buying this again (although I didn’t buy this lot), it was really smooth, strong and thick. We also had half a bottle of armagnac, what a good night.

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Earlier I was checking the garden and thought I’d pull a carrot to see where we are, lo and behold I have carrots, the peas, fennel and courgettes are all nearly ready. The tomatoes on the other hand!

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A rainy day

I was going to get the train into Cardiff today but it was chucking it down and I’d have been a drowned rat (or battered to death by Cats and Dogs) before getting to the station, let’s face it the last thing anybody wants is to start their day being soaked to the skin. Anyway I decided to take the truck and drove in.
Have you noticed that parking costs have sky rocketed the past few years, what’s caused it, is it a case of we’ve got the spaces and we can charge what we want or the price of sugar has risen so you have to pay more for your parking, what ever the reason someone is making a fortune out of us poor schmucks.
Right then went over to have my hair cut at Tino’s which is always an experience, as I said before Tino is a great talker but is always interesting. He is one of those people that seems to have met everyone and I mean everyone. Anyway had a great chat with him about life and all that and ended up with a great hair cut.
Next on the list was a trip to Wally’s, now for those of you who have never been to a good Deli and Wally’s is one of the best ever, you don’t know what you are missing. Wally’s have everything, cheese, ham, salami, pickles, bread, the list is endless and it is all of the very best quality. Well, bought some bread, cheese, salami and olives and bid them farewell.

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As it was still pelting down I went up to the market via the arcades, I needed to replenish my minced meat stocks so went and had a chat with – yes you guessed it Garry Blackmore.

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What I love about Garry is that he never has any mince he has to mince the beef for you then and there, like I have mentioned before Garry’s mince does not have any fat to speak of and definitely no water added, you get a kilo of fresh minced beef. I also bought some of his own cured bacon, again this is hand cut with a knife, you won’t want many slices of this for your breakfast. I didn’t forget Millie either, she has a nice big bone to look forward to.

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On the way home I was unfortunate to be stuck behind a driver ( in this case a woman) who seemed to think that the speed limit on the A48 is 20mph, how can anyone be that oblivious of so much bad language, gestures and general hatred, they must wear blinkers and ear defenders or something.
Just as I pulled up outside the house the rain stopped, thank God.

La Pavoni and Nick

I decided it was time to have the La Pavoni serviced, I bought it 13 years ago in Sienna and it’s been used every day since. Over the years the milk warmer has been lost and the milk frother has stopped working so it’s time to get it all up and running properly. I checked on line and found a service agent just down the road, what luck.

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The agents are called Frashell Ltd, situated on a local industrial estate.

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This place is owned and run by Frank and Michelle (Frashell – get it), they seem to really know their stuff when it comes to all things coffee and are definitely on the same wave length as me and we all know what that is – don’t drink it if it’s made with anything other than beans. Frank does the servicing and I’ve no doubt my La Pavoni is in good hands. Michelle wouldn’t have her photo taken (something about make up I suppose, women are like that), Frank on the other hand had no reservation.

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They do a really extensive range of coffees and coffee making machines; we had quite a long conversation about the subject over a rather nice espresso. Frank realising I’m a bit of a fanatic said he’d get the La Pavoni done as soon as pos, nice man. You see, when you go to specialists (butcher, green grocer or coffee merchant) and have a chat you generally learn something and make a friend.
I left Frashell feeling very confident and went on to the next part of my day.
I went and picked up Millie and then drove over to return some egg cartons to Nick. He’s had a bit of trouble lately with dogs, well one dog in particular. The dog in question has killed three of his chickens in two attacks. Luckily on the second murderous occasion he managed to catch the dog owner who told him “it’s a terrier, that’s what they do” to which Nick said “well not to my chickens on my private land” further more “I’d be quite within my rights to shoot it if it happened again”; I think he made his point, anyway the lady in question must have felt some remorse later as she dropped a card into Nick’s daughter Maddy with 20 quid in it, rightly so too.
Nick told me that the hens are not producing much at the moment but if I need any eggs to give him a knock and he’d see what he could do, see getting to know someone and becoming pals pays off.
Took Millie down the valley for a nice walk and then went back to the Peli for a swift half.

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Just had a message from Nick, another dog attack, more chickens down since I saw him this afternoon, what is the world coming to. I think I’ll need to take up sentry duty with one of my shotguns.
He also intends coming for a pint when I’m over next time if I twist his arm – oh yeh.