Category Archives: Food

Good Eatin’ – Gillardeau Oyster and Morteau Sausage

So it appears that I am going through a bit of a renaissance of food in the last few weeks. The reason? Well, I’ve had a few weeks of breathing space at work after some crazy months. It’s set to start up again, but this has meant that I have been going far more on the offensive for tracking foods down.

Still, the two in today’s post were unexpected and only found because I know this list so well and because I was on a trip to Borough to get some nice produce. And leberkase. I love leberkase way too much.

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die

Food item: Speciale Gillardeau

Right, so I have known about the oyster stands at Borough for years. However, this was the first time that I actually saw people walking around eating them. Some of them were these absolutely massive hulking oysters. I am not kidding, I had never realised oysters could be so big.

So I got curious and went to the stand with the massive oysters and there they were: Gillardeau oysters. £3 each. Bargain really. Especially when you think of how ritzy it is to eat an oyster raw with a splash of Tabasco (instead of the deep-fried oysters from Hiroshima).

This was the first time I’ve ever eaten an oyster like this and I expected to be grossed out by it. The fact that I wasn’t and instantly wished that I was in possession of another oyster is a testament to the Gillardeau oyster I was privileged to nosh on. Well not so much nosh, but chew and let slide down my throat. Salty and delicious, I think this might have started something for future oyster eating.

Food item: Jesus De Morteau

Okay so this is one I probably could have found earlier, but it’s just that I’d never visited this particular stand before. It’s a place with the large signs advertising duck confit legs so I figured that was all they did. Oh no, they did a whole bunch of other French things, including this sausage that I hadn’t even found online yet.

So, how was this holy sausage? Well it was insanely smokey. It reminded me a lot of that list sausage I had in Lisbon. However, rather than being mushy on the inside, it was incredibly firm.

The Morteau sausage had a strong taste of wood smoke that stays with you a long time after you have swallowed. There was a spiciness to the sausage, but that was overpowered by the smokiness. Honestly, it tasted better with a good piece of bread underneath it to cut through the fat and smoke compliment the fat/smoke content.

Not the best sausage I’ve ever had. For the same money I would rather have another one of those oysters. Man, that was a good oyster.

Progress: 644/751


Good Eatin’ – Slow Cooked Ox Cheek

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die
Food item: Ox Cheek

Look at that price tag on this hunk of meat. £1.77 for one portion! When I think of how much I spent on other meats it gives me hope that there are still things to cover that won’t break the bank or require international travel (like the Yellow Oil Crab which is only available in Hong Kong… in June).

In it’s raw state ox cheek is actually quite horrible. As a rule raw meat doesn’t smell great because, you know, it’s dead animal flesh – but ox cheek is something else. I was feeling a bit ill as I was preparing this anyway, but the smell of frying ox cheek is the reason all kitchens need windows.

Because of the type of tough muscle ox cheek is – the only way to properly cook this is to cook is on a low heat for a long time. So I found this recipe and got out the slow cooker for the first time in well over a year.

Whilst the smell of the ox cheek frying was disgusting as it fried, the slow cooker smelled glorious. Although, that would probably be down to the red wine, redcurrant jelly and parsnips. Yes, it was down to that. No question.

Upon removal of the slow cooker it was surprising to see how the ox cheeks had shrunk. I am guessing that was because of all the fat melting into the gravy which left the meat with an almost gelatinous texture. The cheek itself tasted very beefy, but I honestly found myself enjoying the gravy and vegetables a bit more than the meat itself.

Progress: 642/751

Good Eatin’ – Why Not Pastırma?

So, the shop where I bought the black limes has recently had a facelift. As in a complete change in ownership that actually makes me feel okay browsing without buying anything. It’s one of the benefits of living in an area of London with a decent amount of immigrants from Eastern Europe and Turkey.

I chickened out on buying a pack of smoked pigs feet (because what do you do with those?), but I did manage to buy something else list-worthy.

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You DieFood item: Pastirma

Looking at the packet you would be excused for thinking that this is just pastrami with a different name. Well, pastirma came first and, unlike pastrami which is cured in a brine, this is dry-cured. I think that’s the main difference? Well that and the spiciness.

Overall it is pastrami-ish, but I would also like to bring up  bunderfleisch, carpaccio and bresaola as other flavour touchstones. I mean, all of these are types of dried meat (usually beef) done in different areas of Europe and Turkey and all of them keep some of the flavour of raw beef that is lost during the cooking process.

So essentially this is Turkish carpaccio, and I am totally onboard with that as a concept. Especially with the notes of paprika and cumin you get from the meat.

Now, let’s cross some flavour borders here. I recently bought some more of the gorgeous Échiré butter to test the theory that spring butter tastes better than winter butter. Well I could tell no difference, but it was still the best butter ever. Anyway – pastirma paired with salted Échiré butter is how to take two good things and make something even better. Remy from Ratatouille would be proud.

Progress: 641/751

Good Eatin’ – Mustard and Marula

Time for a bit of an odd pairing of food items. This is what happens when you have a whole bunch of things in the cupboard that you wouldn’t exactly use in a regular recipe.

It’s good to know that I am nearing 650 and I am still have to do a few of these food items every month. Makes me wonder whether I will have hit 750 this time next year. Unlikely, but I hope so.

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You DieFood item: Moutarde De Meaux

This is one of those things that I thought would have been far easier to find. I mean I went into a specialist mustard store and wasn’t able to find this; then lo and behold it was in the international section of my local Marks and Spencer. Thanks again M&S for giving me access to food items!

Now, there are many different types of mustard. I typically prefer the wholegrain over smooth mustards (ergo my repeat purchases of Bavarian sweet mustard). Meaux mustard ticks that box for me, as well as being a mustard that isn’t too strong. It has that warmth you would associate with mustard, but it’s tempered by being slightly vinegary.

I used this mustard on a sandwich with Quorn sausage on it because I am a philistine. Have to say that I am more than happy to have this be my sandwich mustard until the (hard to open) jar runs out.

Food item: Marula

I have mentioned on this blog sometime ago that I don’t drink. It’s not a religious choice or anything like that, I just don’t like the sharp taste of alcohol. However, it’s not exactly easy to get your hands on marula fruit in the UK. So, in accordance to the rules I set out when starting on the food list, I went for a use as detailed in the book – booze.

Marula fruit is known as being a fruit that animals can get drunk on. This is usually when the fruit has started to ferment after being on the ground for some time. Elephants are the animal most commonly associated with this drunkennes, ergo the elephant on the label of the Amarula bottle.

The drink itself is a fair bit like Baileys, but it has the fruity flavour of the marula. This isn’t a fruit flavour that would be associated with more well known fruit, but I would argue it has a generic sweet fruit flavour. It’s sugary and has a hint of sourness to it that cuts through the cream and the alcohol.

Whilst I have not found a gateway drink into the world of alcohol drinking this partial glass of Amarula is the first time for ages that booze didn’t make my stomach feel weird. Can’t get over that weird taste of alcohol though.

Progress: 640/751

Good Eatin’ – So, Oxtail Isn’t On The List

Every now and then I will buy something only to find that it is not on the food list – either I will have already eaten it or, like today, it was never on the list in the first place.

Today’s purchase (about a pound of oxtail) was never on the list. My best bet is that I had ox cheek or ox tongue in my mind. Still, when you have bought oxtail for the first time in your life you make whatever the equivalent of oxtail lemonade is.

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You DieFood item: Cassareep

So it’s been a good few months since I bought a box full of Caribbean food and was nearly viciously attacked by a piece of fruit. Well, I still had two things left to try – one now – and it proved useful when deciding what to use the oxtail for.

Look, I know that the traditional use of cassareep is to make pepper pot, but I have no idea where to begin on my feelings of cooking cow feet. Or where to buy cow feet (or pig’s tail for that matter). So the whole thing was a bit of a non-starter.

Instead I used the cassareep to help flavour a Jamaican Oxtail stew.

Now, I made a few adjustments to this recipe. For one thing I added a few teaspoons of cassareep in order to give the stew a bit of flavour. On it’s own the cassareep is sweet, sticky and with a touch of bitterness. It tasted a fair bit like the blackstrap molasses, but with a mild underlying heat.

I don’t think I added enough cassareep to the stew to make the impact that I wanted, but at least I know what it tastes like and have ideas for further use. Like, maybe a glaze for some pork ribs or salmon. Not a use as written on the bottle, but that’s the cool thing about amassing a heap of these ingredients – further experimentation.

Progress: 638/751

Good Eatin’ – Jujubes at a Leaving Lunch

It’s always so hard to say goodbye to a work friend. Especially when they’ve sat next to you and provided a lot of entertainment in the last 5-6 months. It’s hard to be sad though as she’s going to a far better place.

No, she isn’t dead. Don’t know why I phrased it like that.

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You DieFood item: Honeyed Jujube

As a leaving lunch the team went to Suda Thai where I took the opportunity to find some food item to cross off the list.

In the menu these are listed as Chinese dates, but that’s just one of the many names for the honeyed jujube. In the dish they, rather annoyingly, resemble fat dried chillies… so you can guess how my first bite went. Note to self: honeyed jujubes do not rattle when you shake them; if they do, they’re a dried chilli.

If they are NOT a dried chilli then you’ll understand immediately why these are known as honeyed jujubes. They’re juicier than you would expect from their wrinkled look. They also taste a lot like honey.

The dish that they came with, which was a chicken and cashew nuts with rice, was utterly gorgeous. I know that should I leave the team at some point soon I would like to come back here and have the same dish again.

Or the tamarind duck, as that sounds too delicious to pass up.

Progress: 637/751

Good Eatin’ – Cheeses from Barcelona

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die

Food item: Torta Del Casar

Other than the Serra Da Estrela I don’t know if I have ever spent so much on a single piece of cheese (this is likely to change with some of the remaining cheeses). On face value you would be excused into thinking that this would be one of those really strong cheeses. On first smell of the cheese through the rind you would think it was one of those really strong cheeses. However, the taste is milder than you would first think.

Don’t get me wrong, it is still a stronger cheese than most. It’s got a fairly high acidity that gives you that prickly feeling over the roof of your mouth. The taste veers between slightly buttery and slightly bitter depending on how far away from the rind you are and how long it has been sat outside of the fridge.

Speaking of which, this is one of those cheeses that tastes better at room temperature. I have seen that some people like to have this left out for two days before consuming it… but I can’t do that to cheese.

Food item: Afuega’l Pitu

So this is a very different cheese to the Torta del Casar. If, off the top of my head, I had to come up with a cheese that this reminds me the most of it would be crowdie. This is a lot firmer and fresher than the crowdie and, like the name ‘pitu’ suggests in Spanish, slightly more cloying.  It’s one of those cheeses where, despite the density of the curds, you can find yourself eating a whole lot of it.

Now, I am not sure how different my experience of this cheese would have been if I had picked up the round or the red version. The red version contains paprika, so obviously that would have had a bit of a punch to it. The rounder version is less dense and can, apparently, be a bit grainy. So… I think I got the best of both words by buying the white atroncao variation.

Food item: Cuajada

I know. This isn’t technically a cheese. It’s on the dairy section of the list, but since ‘dairy products of Barcelona’ doesn’t sound too punchy I’ll just call it a cheese.

So what is cuajada? It’s like a glistening and jiggly mass of milk. It’s pretty much like a milk jelly and tastes how you would expect milk jelly to taste. Milky.

The packet I made the cuajada with seemed to suggest that this is served with something sweet so I spooned on some syrup from the green walnut gliko jar I had in the cupboard. The transformation in flavour after adding a little bit of syrup was huge.

Oh did I mention that I had to make this using instructions I Google Translated from Spanish? Then from Portuguese as the Spanish instructions didn’t mention why I wold need a whisk? The things I do for these food items.

Progress: 636/751

Good Eatin’ – Barcelona Sausages

So, I  brought a bunch of food items back from Barcelona. I figured that a plane flight would double as a blast in the refrigerator… also I should make use of the EU custom rules before they end up being removed in two years time.

Eating these things will cover a few posts and today’s one will be looking at two things I sampled the evening after I landed back in the UK.

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You DieFood item: Botifarra Dolca

I’ve said it before on this blog when talking about the black scabbardfish – but I love it when I order some food and the person feels that they have to make sure I know what I am getting. For these sausages I had a very friendly man at La Botifarreria de Santa Maria double-checking that I knew these sausages were sweet.

Well I can certainly understand why he felt the need to give me this warning. When I first read that these are sweet sausages (a favourite of Salvador Dali) contain lemon and honey I, like most people would, imagined this being a regular sausage with a sweeter element than I am used to.

Instead… this is a sausage that tastes like a savoury lemon marmalade wrapped in a sausage skin. There is so much sugar in this that the skin actually started to caramelise as I was frying it. Here’s the thing though, I quite liked it – it’s just that I was really taken aback by the weirdness of this being an actual sausage. Then again, if Dali considered this as a favourite food I really should have questioned how ordinary it would be.

One other thing that is kinda cool about this sausage is how local this is to the northern region of Catalonia. I only really lucked out because I found a specialist butcher because I could find nowhere else in Barcelona that sold these. Apparently they are relatively unknown south of Girona, which would have made this near impossible to cross off if not for some selective Googling.

Food item: Chorizo Riojano

This chorizo, on the other hand, was far easier to find with a few stands in La Boqueria having it for sale. With this name it has to have come from the La Rioja region of Spain and, as with most chorizo, is available as either sweet (dulche) or spicy (picante) as dictated by the type of paprika used in the production.

Having tasted this I think I inadvertently picked up the dulche variety. Not a bad thing though as it really prevented the garlic used in the chorizo from being completely overpowered by the paprika.

Did I notice a massive difference between this and other chorizos that I have sampled in the past? Well I think I still prefer the bellota because of the greater complexity in flavour, but this is still one of the better chorizos I have tried.

Progress: 633/751

The Great EU Quest: Spain – Gaudí and Barcelona

So here we are with the first of two full days in Barcelona, or should I say Gaudíville considering how much of his handiwork I will end up seeing and just how in love this city appears to be with its native son.

The first stop of the day was the Casa Battló (although I really do prefer the nickname ‘house of bones’ considering the balconies look like jawbones and vertebrae. I’ve been inside a lot of residences when in vacation, but I don’t think that I have seen or will ever see anything like this ever again. It is extraordinary, with plenty of kudos going to go the people who now run this as the augmented reality audio tour helped bring this sublime house to life.

It’s hard to adequately describe this building. Many people have tried, but I guess the best way would be that this house feels alive. The flying turtles of the guide might have helped with that… but so much of this house was utterly astonishing. Not only is this house a masterpiece on an artistic level, but it was made to be incredibly liveable with innovative and practical solutions for light and temperature regulation.

The chimneys and flourishes on the roof were another thing altogether, but I think I have spent long enough on Casa Battló – after all this isn’t the only Gaudí build that we saw today.

So off we went on our first trip on the Barcelona Metro to visit Park Güell… where we had no idea of the steep walk that was awaiting us. Whilst I would have made it up the hill without the use of escalators, I was very appreciative of their existence.

I was also appreciative of some of the views of Barcelona that we managed to get from the top of this mountain. I know that I saw the Sagrada Familia from the airplane as it started in its descent, but it still shocks me just how much this basilica in construction dominates the Barcelona landscape. I just cannot wait until we pay it a visit tomorrow.

Park Güell is one of those things I might not have gone straight for if it wasn’t for Yuri!!! On Ice. Sad but true. There was a pretty sweet scene in the show with Yurio and the Kazakh skater, which made me want to check out the Monument Park section. It wasn’t exactly the most representative of the crowds that gather there, but hoards of tourists would have spoilt the mood.

Speaking of hoards, it really was a good thing I booked the tickets to the Monument Zone in advance. By the time we got there the only tickets left were for the final window some 5-6 hours later. After the problems we had getting into the Anne Frank Huis I think I have well and truly learned my lesson about pre-booking certain attractions.

Some of the stuff that Gaudí planned and executed for this park are worthy of many a roll of film. A lot of photos were taken of the iconic staircases and the open theatre sections. I, however, heavily fell for some of the rockwork in the free section of the park. It’s extraordinary to see how he was able to use the contours of the mountain to then advantage of his work. It just feels like the mountain has chosen to sprout this terrace with its walkways, vaulted ceilings and twisted columns. Just amazing.

Sadly it was time to say goodbye to Gaudí, at least for the moment, and go for lunch. Nothing major, just some really nice sandwiches from a cafe en route to the metro station. The botifarra blanca sandwich was my favourite of the two – sadly it isn’t the botifarra dolca from the food list, but I know of a butcher that sells this and is next open on our final day in Spain… so watch this space I guess.

List item: Visit 100 of the Lonely Planet’s Ultimate Travelist
Progress: 66/100Sight: Museu Picasso
Location: Barcelona, Spain
Position: #371

Our last main site of the day was the Museu Picasso. Finally, a Lonely Planet thing to be ticked off! Now, considering this is on the list and Casa Battló is not, I was very disappointed.

I think the problem is that in order to have a museum dedicated to a particular artist you really need to have some of the major masterpieces. Especially if you are going to rate it among the top 500 world sites to be visited. I mean, sure the Van Gogh museum didn’t have all of them, but there were so many in that museum to make it an extremely worthwhile visit.

However, there is nothing here that I recognised. Also, which was rather telling, this museum appeared to be missing works from 10-20 years of Picasso’s life. This was the time where he painted things like Guernica, The Weeping Woman or (my favourite) Three Musicians. It was interesting to see just how talented he was as a painter from an incredibly young age… but much like some of the works on display, this museum feels a bit unfinished.

We did a bit of wandering until ultimately heading back to the hotel. Seeing how it was both Sunday and Father’s Day a lot of things were closed. Not the Ham Museum though. As tempting as it was our feet were aching and some pre-dinner chilling was needed.

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die

Food item: Cadi Butter

Hooray! I can tick off a food list item. It was one of those I was really hoping to find as well. You cannot get this in the UK and this now leaves me with just one butter to find. Sadly it’s Russian butter and whilst I would love to try that… I know I won’t be exactly welcome.

Cadi butter is pale and highly spreadable. Compared to other butters I have tried the flavour fairly muted. It’s nowhere near as creamy and doesn’t have as intense a flavour profile as I am used to. It’s really nice on a Tuc biscuit as the butter is unsalted and the salt on the Tuc gives it that extra punch. So yes, this needs salt.

Dinner ended up being just off La Rambla (a proper shifty will be done tomorrow) because literally no restaurant on that street scores higher than 2.5-3/5 on Trip Advisor. I mean I know tourist traps are a thing, but this is ridiculous.

Still, we were directed to a restaurant where we had our first authentic paella.

Food item: Fasolia Gigandes

Two in one day. Phew. You can’t see the beans from the picture. But they were most certainly there buried among some of the best tasting paella I’ve ever had. Apparently this restaurant is known for having good paella, so who am I to disagree. According to the menu this was a Valencian paella, which means I probably just ate my first rabbit meat.

So yes, some hazelnut gelato later and I am sat in the hotel typing up the day. I am really looking forward to what I will be seeing tomorrow morning. Hopefully I’ll be able to get some half decent pictures!

Progress: 631/751

Good Eatin’ – Ajowan Parathas

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You DieFood item: Ajowan

A major obstacle for this list (other than the  seasonality and locality of ingredients) is the abundance of names and spellings that they can have. It makes things like recipes quite difficult to locate when you are looking for ajowan, bishop’s weed, carom seeds and ajwain.

For whatever reason I settled on trying to make ajowan parathas using this recipe from WeRecipes. I know that they are meant to be more layered, softer and fluffier than what I ended up making, but I still enjoyed making them. Also, you just learn how to make these things. By the fourth and final one I was really starting to get there in making something that resembled a paratha.

It might not have helped that the only flour that I had in the house was spelt flour from when I made that wattleseed soda bread. Still, hey ho they were still jolly nice.

So what did the ajowan add? Firstly, the knowledge of what that identified spice is in Bombay Mix. I’d never been able to figure what those seeds actually were – and now I do. Always learning right?

Apart from knowledge the ajowan added touch of floral heat to the parathas. The word that immediately comes to mind is resinous, but that feels like such a negative word for something that really made these ‘parathas’ taste that little bit special.

Also, I now have a quick recipe to whip out if I want to make mini flatbread pizza bases from scratch. I know this is not what the take home of this recipe is necessarily meant to be, but it works for me.

Progress: 629/751