Tuesday, 14 December 2010
I love doing Christmas quizzes with my classes in school.
Although the entire cohort of my children are fully ensconced with the notion that Santa does not come down their chimney with his magic key, they are happy to play along with the remaining 59, 000, 970 of the population of the UK and throw themselves right into the party spirit.
The sheer magnitude of the yuletide season for me starts to throng around the 12th of December.
The usual garb of songs are bleating their way through the smooth, signal and heart FMs and through the sound system of many a boots, argos and clinton cards.
My best friend and I had an almost 2 hour conversation en route from London to the North West about which was our favourite of the Christmas songs and why.
We came to many conclusions.
People who write Christmas songs are married to women who get very excited by September and the royalties.
Christmas songs cannot be written anymore.
The only good Christmas song to come out of this decade has been Christmas Time (Don't let the bells end) by The Darkness.
People are forgiving when listening to Christmas songs.
If you listen to Shakin Stevens, Merry Christmas Everyone and you are standing opposite someone. You will eventually start dancing by moving forwards and backwards simultaneously. FACT.
What startled me was that for all the eons ago that some of these songs were created, my children in my class were not even born and neither were some of their parents. Yet when it came to my annual festive fun quiz. All of them knew who Noddy Holder was.
I even had a couple of little impressions thrown in the mix "miss it's him who screams ITZZZZZ CRISSSSSSMEEEEESSSSSSSSS"
Yep. The very one.
It would appear that for young people today, Christmas has a formula.
Must be cold.
Must be put up by December 1st.
Must have chocolate.
Must have an i in front of them.
For teenagers and children today. The Christmas songs are now just part of their magic Christmas formula.
It just made me think how such modern day classics such as the Wesley brothers, Hark the Herald has now been ruined by Mariah, Destiny's Childs 12 days of Xmas and Christina Aguilera warbling her way through some carols.
I must admit. I dislike very few Christmas songs.
The one that does make me feel a bit green around the chops is a spaceman came travelling by Chris de Burgh. Not content with monopolising the commercial season of love with his smoochy slicked back, dry ice oozing classic lady in red. He created a rather unusual narrative documenting the travels of a UFO.
The video impales you with fluorescent green strobes and lots of mountain scenery. The flash photography warning has been omitted. Visions of heathcliff tearing wildly through the Yorkshire moors. And then you are smacked right in the ruud gullit with the la's.
And it went la la la la la la laaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa.
If I were a gambling man. I suspect old CDB was veering towards the metaphor inside the music.
"twas light years since time his mission did start, and over a village he halted his craft"
Sorry Chris. Stick to the mothers day album fanfare.
Whilst I continue to pump out the yuletide merriment and fun in school time, I take time to also reflect on some of our unsung heroes of the sleigh time sing brigade.
Step forward, Harvey, Mortimer, Hendy and Coldwell. That's the lads from E-17 to you.
Yes siree. Stay another day is my guilty pleasure.
Although when I hear the crackled tones of the lads, I am also reminded of Mr Brian Harvey and his bizarre car accident in which he managed to run himself over...in ironically the East 17 district.
Reports from cockney reuters that day say "I’d been stuffing my face with jacket potatoes,’ said Brian Harvey. ‘They were big. I put cheese on, then tuna mayonnaise and I ate the lot.’
It's been too damn long and I will be back with a Val Doonican spesh this week bringing you some more tales from the Christmas Crypt.
See you tomorrow door 15.
Thursday, 2 September 2010
Goodbye 2000 and all its little foibles and idiosyncrasies.
I have been a bit of a BB slut of late in that I have a tendency to dip back in and out of certain series.
BB4 will always be referred to by ardent BB-ers as the “lost years” when it all went a bit countryfile on us. We had some highs with BB8 with the likes of Rex and Mikey, BB5 legends Victor and Nadia and sheer brilliance in the Myra Hindley/ Camp Norwegian Spy and Deep Sea Diver relations between Anthony Hutton and Craig Coates in BB6.
What I do know, for the po-faced people who insult BB watchers as illiterate, uneducated, labour voting, vesta curry eating pondlife of society, there are lots of people who are extremely high brow who still watch it, like my good self.
Yes, it is full of idiots who are destined for the front cover of OK magazine or the Closer diet challenge but in times of people stuck down mines, cricket bungs, urban fox attacks, Peter Crouch being allowed back into Abbey’s arms we are all entitled to some fluff in our life.
Maybe it is just me who still finds it funny to envisage Craig from Big Brother One, body popping in front of the mirror singing to Madonna’s just like a prayer in his heavy scouse joiner’s lisp, or to see signs in the Big Brother crowd supporting Nadia Almada which read “Go Nads”.
Now tell me that is raw sewage.
And so to the daddy of all BBs: Ultimate Big Brother 2010.
Since the early days of the very clinical and unilever factory appearance of the first house with its whimsical mud painting tasks, we have been entertained over the years with some tasks which belie utter genius.
Housemates have been asked to drink pureed roast lamb dinners, punch their way out of human sized brown paper bags, ignore the obvious, lick thousands of crisps, eat shed loads of sprouts and the now legendary chilli task.
Enter 10 chillies hung on hooks in ascending order of strength. One glass of milk.
So for all you curry lovers out there who turn to a pint of water after a warm Jalfrezi, retreat now. The Capsaicinoids found in chilli peppers determine the heat of the food. Capsaicinoids are also not water soluble, so a little bit like a poo with the mass of a cork that won’t flush; they will remain tingling on your tongue for a good ten minutes or so.
And so bring out the milk which has milk fat and proteins which helps to neutralise the acidity of those pesky Capsaicinoids.
Number 1 is usually your archetypal Friday night in Wrexham Chilli, perhaps a Serrano. Smooth, bullet shaped. Five times the heat of a Jalapeno, guaranteed to get the bowels having a brisk workout.
Number 5 might see your housemate indulging in a Habanero “hab-an-yeah-row”. A close pal to the Na-Na- Notorious Scotch Bonnet, they are both equally fiery and likely to get the tear ducts flowing.
At this point you have to bear the housemates producing some serious stringy saliva and carrying out some serious blunders which would have Geoff Stelling hopping in his seat.
Eyes rubbing, tongue rubbing, in fact any body rubbing is out of the question here.
Some manage to have the minerals to reach number 10.
The Naga or “bhut jolokia” is hotter than Megan Fox and David Beckhams lovechild on an all expenses paid trip to the Sandy Lane Beach Resort with Simon Cowell.
The Naga is grown in parts of the UK which see some standard of decent weather, usually Devon and Suffolk.
Adrian Nuttall who grows the Naga’s at his Chilli Company in the deep sowf recommends domestic cooks to use latex gloves when chopping.
Capsaicinoids are kept in the oils which are split open upon chopping. One meeting with the skin and its Cap-ow suckers.
Chilli has been used in desserts for years in Mexico and we are now seeing this in our own chocolate in the UK. The Chilli Company have even started to produce a Hazelnut and Naga ice cream. Having a tongue like 10 emery boards and a stomach with the strength of hulk Hogan, I could take on a few Naga Cornettos no danger.
I feel a sense of melancholy sweeping across on me as I type this almost posthumously BB – Chilli inspired blog. I shall enjoy raising a glass of bubbly on the BB final night and say farewell to my formative twenties.
In the words of Mr Nick Bateman, you live by the sword, you die by the sword.
Wednesday, 1 September 2010
A sucker for a gadget myself.
OK, so it looks like it has come from the Anne Summers "autumnal" range of sex aids, however this is a natty idea from Firebox.com at only £12.99 a pop.
Who hasn't bought a Coriander plant for a token curry only to find it shrivel in the faux heat of your kitchen.
Build me up buttercup indeed.
This device is ergonomicall designed to hold any sprigs upright in water- which can be topped up as necessary. It promises you the discerning customer to prolong the life of any cut herbs in your fridge.
As we feel that coolness of the British air and say goodbye to those halycon days spent in minorca with scott and joanne from southend and say hello to our extra vanity pounds, we are also able to embrace all the good things that come with September.
Get those forever growing rosemary sprigs cut up and in your rampant herb compartment and await to adorn them on a fine shank of lamb.
Saturday, 21 August 2010
Thursday, 19 August 2010
Monday, 16 August 2010
Friday, 13 August 2010
They are basically pre-empting your exit before you have had chance to sit down and slightly absorb the ambiance.
Like people who choose to find out the sex of their baby and talk about it for the next 8 months, I don’t like to think about my food all week.
An Italian menu. Good start. The standard layout and choices. Girls tend to steer away from the meat and fish section. Firstly, it is too healthy and second, too damn expensive.
Pizza and Pasta may as well be the only choices to show us.
Most girls will choose pasta. It is safe. Pizza can say a few things when it comes to ordering in a restaurant.
You are an unpolished philistine with no social etiquette when it comes to eating out.
You are greedier than an urban fox sniffing around a KFC waste control bin.
You can’t read properly.
You could be pregnant.
I like to hold my pudgy fingers in the air and throw caution to the wind on this one as I flippin' 'love Pizzas and that is what I went for.
Essentially a very posh toastie, it is no nonsense. You don’t have to have a back catalogue of knowledge on the location of the ingredients, nor will it whiplash you in the face and smear sauce up your nostrils.
Some classic pub quiz trivia for you. Pizza owes its origin to Neapolitan cuisine and has been adopted in various bread guises across the world.
Now, if they were to ever bring back the game show You Bet! (without Matthew Kelly as he scares me somewhat) I would be able to compete on the topic of Pizza.
I would vouch for eating going on 2000 pizzas in my lifetime. I love everything that the Pizza stands for.
For those of you who are interested in its Etymology, the first recorded use of the word "pizza" dates from 997 AD and comes from a Latin text from the town of Gaeta in southern Italy. There are many varying stories from die hards from various Pizza Posse’s. Some believe it comes from the Latin word “pinsa”, the past participle of the verb “pinsere” which means to pound or to crush and may refer to the flattening out of the dough.
Some believe it comes from the Greek word Pita just for bread and there are even some cheeky Germans (they never retreat) who believe it is a derivative from their word "bizzo" which means bit or bite. H to tha bizzo indeed.
My piousness for Pizza can be traced back by Pizza anthropologists to my love of mini cheese and tomato Pizzas in my grandmother’s house in the six week holidays.
A chewy CD size of pale white dough, the bread looked like an aero when you cut into it with your knife. The cheese was the type although it had been under the glare of a 180 degree oven, it did not melt fully and still maintained a bulbous maggot appearance, similar to strands of all bran.
The tomato sauce was sharp to say the list; I would go as far to say that we were eating cheese and tomato ketchup on toast.
The advantages to these little babies were that you could essentially build your own Pizza on a daily basis.
Having a mum who worked in a supermarket also played a big part in my love of Pizzas. We were able to try all the latest imports hot off the conveyor belts of Chicago Town and Findus back in the day.
Mum worked at ASDA who had already cottoned onto the sheer magnitude of Pizza’s in the UK.
Soon our freezer was stocked full of French baguette style Pizza’s, Pizza pockets for the toaster no less. Both should have been banned under ISO 1001 for their different inflicting injuries on the gums and upper mouth.
The black orchid in our Pizza trail was back in 87’ when the world was a place full of Deeply Dippy, Respectable by Mel & Kim, Flipper on a Sunday morning followed by Batman and Robin and more notably to our household WWF and Teenage Mutant Ninja (now Hero) Turtles.
Part and parcel of being a younger sister to an older brother means that you have to learn to fit in with their chaotic lifestyle.
Being utilised in WWF knockouts in the front room was just one of the deal breakers. Yes, I have been involved in the Hart Foundation, The Colossal Connection, given an elevated walls of Jericho move whilst trying to be The Honky Tonk Man and also been impaled into the carpet after many a Tombstone Piledriver as he attempted to be the Undertaker.
After a good pasting from my dad (heavy duty brass wedding ring and all) WWF was given a timeout and the ring was usurped from under his evil clutches.
TMNT soon became our new fascination. I became particular enamoured by Michelangelo, developing quite the crush on our anthropomorphic buddies. I don’t know whether it was the fact that we were kindred spirits in our shared love of the party scene or that he made me laugh but I developed quite the crush on Mikey.
My brother was not so strange and just stuck to April O’Neill.
Again, another thing we had in common which could not be ignored was our love of Pizza.
The clever cads at ASDA decided to start knocking out some TMNT pizzas. Nobody to this day believes us, but you could get a sweet flavoured TMNT pizza which used chocolate spread on the base and marshmallows as the topping.
We were only ever allowed this on very special occasions. Essentially just nutella on toast with extra sugar smeared across it, this is Pizza Piety in its glory.
Now of course, like anything, I have had my poor Pizza’s. Over use of the dough, stingy on the sauce and oily flabby cheeses are guaranteed ingredients for a teenage dirtbag mutant pizza.
Over in Italy, Pizza’s are all a serious business and are recognised through their regions.
Sicilian Pizza has a thicker base, Rome like to make their bases as thin as crackers, Naples like a soft and pliable dough, Neapolitans stay true to their roots and will only produce two flavours, the Marinara and the Margharita. So staunch about their doughy discs, a Pizza can only be classed as a true “Italian Pizza” if it passes a parliamentary bill by the Pizza mafia.
Once snorted at as a peasant food, it was sold in the street and not even recognised as a dish to be made in a kitchen.
Early pizzas were covered in a white sauce as opposed to tomatoes. It wasn’t until 1889 to honour the Queen consort of Italy, Margherita of Savoy when a Neapolitan chef created the “Pizza Margherita” covered in tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and basil to represent the colours of the Italian flag.
My personal Pizza poison has to have a thin base, preferably with a Naples style chewy dough so that you can taste the pepper in the extra virgin oil. A good lashing of tomato sauce which is still perfectly pulpy bearing flavours of sweet San Marzano’s.
Toppings would bring out my wild Michelangelo side. Vivid orange sweet pointed peppers, soft and sweet artichokes, Milano sausage, capers, fresh red chilli, chilli flakes, a thin layer f patchwork mozzarella cheese and a shower of Pecorino Romano.
Now that’s what I call music 2010.
The pre planned pizza in question had all the pre requisites of my perfect pizza. The venue was Piccolino’s in Clitheroe. A pleasant and cheery restaurant chain from Manchester, it brings a slice of cosmopolitan neopolitano to the East Lancashire eating scene.
Packed with beautiful people quaffing the Italians champagne Prosecco, I was in good company with equally beautiful people.
My week old pre-conceived Pizza was plated up and it did not disappoint. The only problem was the age old routine of “I don’t need to eat a starter”...who was I kidding.
I decided to opt for a little dolce instead......being an official funder of the I hate Tiramisu/all coffee based desserts, I went for a little gelato instead. Ferrero Rocher to be precise.
The waiter was a cheerful soul, who embraced his charachtature of the Italian waiter with great gusto. He obviously fancied his chances as he questioned my choice of a dessert.
Pointing to his belly “you not afraid of diet no?”..........................
No mate, I’m bloody starving after that Pizza was his abridged version.
It is a good job I was steering off the Prosecco or he could have found himself entangled in some Sweet Chin Music, Shawn Michaels styleee.
All in all, a tidy little meal.
Shall I compare thee to an ASDA build your own Pizza??? Hmmmmm, purely for nostalgia, the pick and mix greed factor and the dessert comment, I am going to opt for our supermarket giant.
A Saturday lunchtime favourite from my region of the country is to whack some onion jam on a naan bread or pita, crumble over with feta or Lancashire cheese, decorate with spinach leaves and if I am feeling exuberant, some anchovies.
Wednesday, 11 August 2010
Friday, 6 August 2010
Tuesday, 3 August 2010
Tuesday, 27 July 2010
Being taken out for the night by a non drinker is always a huge coup. Like that rogue pound coin found in your winter coat pocket in September, the sly after eight mint that got away in the box full of empty wrappers or weighing yourself at someone else's house only for the scales to have dropped five pounds.
Upon this very evening, my partner in crime and I headed not to far from our hometown of
Having just returned back home to the Lancashire region after a stint of living in the West Midlands I am like a calf finding it’s feet and falling in love again with the natural beauty and magical lure of our humble county.
The drive for us this evening through the charming little chasm of Whalley and on into Mitton itself, was not for hedonistic view finding purposes but to fill our bellies with fine
The swirling B roads en route to our destination favoured by ramblers, cyclists and bikers always exude to me an air of mystery. The bobbing trees protecting the roads like a guard of honour, enveloped in the swooshing glory of both the Hodder and the Ribble, yes, as my grandparent's would say, and with a gulp and lump in my throat, this truly is God's country.
The despondent and melancholy tones of your typical July evening in
After all. We were hungry people.
The place in question, The Three Fishes at Mitton.
As ubiquitous to our gradely county as creamy
Thanks to the genius mastermind of Mr Nigel Haworth, the good townspeople are now able to experience Michelin starred cooking in a homely, toasty environment in the rolling splendour of the Ribble Valley.
A staunch user of local produce, the Three Fishes and it's fellow Ribble Valley Inns are abundant with some of the most shining jewels from the fields and coastlines of Lancashire. Nigel is a champion of sourcing his ingredients within the region and the suppliers sit proudly upon the walls and are mentioned on the menu's. A true ambassador for the county and the amazing array of produce it has on offer, Nigel works very closely with the farmers, suppliers and growers in the quest for creating a menu that will make Lancashire proud.
The produce is used with spirited wit, charm, patience and sensitivity to create a true gastronomic experience.
Only on our journey to Mitton, my friend and I were lamenting on the “good old days of
Mr Haworth has played a superb role in bringing the best of
An accomplished chef in his own right, Mr Haworth has been “grafting” as we would say in the north for well over 20 years.
He was the first person we could identify as trying to put
The Three Fishes is one of those places that I want to go when I am feeling in the mood for full on comfort eating. The type of meal where you might need to wear a loose fitting dress for that extra boost of support. I am not part of a gang of female dieters who steal other people’s bread, chips, puddings and nibbles of cheese.
If I am ordering. I am having it. All.
My friend in the driving seat had not visited before and having been told in advance that we had to be early, we hot footed it down before 8pm as well advised by the assistant on the telephone.
Our damp arrival was greeted with a bubbly smile and our names were etched onto the already bustling chalkboard. We were told a wait of 45 minutes which soon squashed down to 25 minutes.
Time to sample the fine beverages upon offer.
The décor in The Three Fishes is quintessential countryside chic. I think of a slick saloon vibe when I look around. The bar area has a feel of the “Deadwood Stage” in Calamity Jane with it’s warm chocolate hues and stone floors. An Inn in every true sense of the word. No chrome seats, glass tables or feathered chandeliers here. Real and honest to the core.
A gust of cheese on toast and the faint aroma of homemade chips were a welcoming aroma.
Being cold Annie, The Three Fishes and it’s room brimming full of people made it a perfect environment- not a cardigan in sight!
My abstaining companions eyes lit up as he saw the array of cold non alcoholic beverages on display, in particular, the Sarsaparilla.
Being one of our many driving topics of conversation, it was only customary that when in
I of the non driving variety ordered a Tanqueray and tonic on ice. When on school holidays……….????
My driver would fit in well with the Sarsaparilla society in their heyday.
Sarsaparilla owes it’s creation to the temperance movement in the late 1800’s in
A certain Mrs. Lewis at this time, was not happy with level of carousing and boozing amongst the town.
Now, it is worth a mention here to hold our good
This was a time of heavy industry. Most of the towns that stretched the borders of the Pennines were cotton mills.
You see, before we were just known in a Beatles song and for our terrific football team winning the premier league in 1995, we were the Kings of Cotton.
Honest, hardworking men and women would be working long hours and many would leave work in the dark. Customarily, the workers would head to the pub after a long and tiring day.
Mrs. Lewis was very proactive in her campaigns against the drinking and was involved with different council boards to try and stop the amount of alcohol being consumed in
Dark, sticky and just the right level of fizz, with subtle smoky undertones of liquorice and the sassiness of the Sarsaparilla root.
My friend was on a temperance binge and decided to order another Mawson’s favourite of Dandelion and Burdock.
Now, on't tucker.
Only recently, following the great tradition of her mentor Mr. Haworth, Lisa went on to win the starter course of The Great British Menu 2010 of which she executed a stunning dish with bags of
The sweet Goosnargh duck oozed with every reason of why chefs from Macclesfield to
A cross between Aylsebury and a
Like chewing through melted toffee, the meat was wrapped delicately with a crisp and honey coloured layer of pastry which provided the perfect balance of a buttery crumb which silently smashed into crumbs allowing a mop up with fingers at the end.
Like a hidden foil egg in my grandma’s allotment at Easter, I dug out the shard of scratching that accompanied my mound of salad leaves and chewed it with great gusto. The utopian balance of charred crunchiness played against the gooey and spongy texture was a triumphant end to my starter.
The wicked mayonnaise was smeared onto the discs of mini garlicky breads and submerged into the sea of reds and rust. I was a little bit Mrs. Lewis about adding the delectable
A sneaky little addition which added a new dimension to our French fancy.
A wave of euphoric silence and half groaned yoga positions gave only one suggestion.
We were both beaten.
What? No puddings!
By Eck indeed.
Had we have stayed, it was all about the bramley apple pie, needless to say for the greed factor and for the fact that unlike your average gastro pub, this is served with condensed milk AND a piece of cheese in the pie.
Now that is why it certainly is not grim up north.
In a time of cutting back on dining out and treating yourself once a month, The Three Fishes is a highly recommended choice for your pennies.
Just make sure you are not the one driving.