Just a quick wee message to celebrate my gorgeous sister's engagement.
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.
Thursday, 15 July 2010
Friday, 9 July 2010
Think of words Laura. Think.
Vodka of course, or wodka, coleslaw, borscht, cold, fur coats, the Kremlin, Gorbachov, Anna Kournikova , Chicken Kiev and James Bond films.
I could not muster 10.
I have always been fascinated with the notion of spy's and indeed the word spy. Our tabloids have been awash recently with the furtive few who have made their way into the US.
When I think of Spy's I tend to think of that Slugsworth chap who accosts young Charlie Bucket with information on the Everlasting Gobstopper. I have also watched every Bourne film at least 6 times and know that Spy's can also be quite normal looking blokes who go by the trendy name of Jason.
Back onto the cold front for Ms Chapman and back to some decent Ruski cooking.
I have been flirting with the Cold front recently, namely the freezer aisle in the supermarket and the shaped meat products.
Not one to invest in such uniformed protein shapes, I allow myself these as a treat once in a blue moon.
A snack (it does not have the sustenance of a meal) that has been a firm favourite in my back catalogue since the 80s is that of the Bootiful Bernard Matthews Mini Kiev.
Friday, 2 July 2010
Like any greedy oik worth his salty fingers, I love a good nut. I tend to veer towards the safety of a dry roasted myself. If that nut was to personify anybody, for me it would be the boss himself. Mr Bruce Springsteen. Musky, a faint hint of nicotine, rock and roll, edgy, the last to leave a party. Yes, this peanut knows how to have itself a good time.
Halcyon memories of many a Christmas day spent on the floor of my Grandma’s house with my brother searching for stray dry roasters that have escaped their Pyrex prison.
An antipodean friend of mine who for the nomenclature of this tale goes by the prefix “Aussie” Ben is the reason behind today’s posting.
Now first of all, I have to assess the reasoning behind men who are given a title to bolster their name. I guarantee that everyone somewhere along the road has been friends with or indeed met a “Scouse John” or a “Big Mike” it just goes with the territory of friendship circles.
You see, Aussie Ben is a man of many mysteries. He tells me that in his previous life, he has worked as a lorry driver, cocktail maker, run his own restaurant and been a Cowboy.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I cannot even contemplate how you begin to prepare your CV for a Cowboy job.
He had no lassoo, no bison, and no chewing tobacco like I had seen in Calamity Jane. Ergo, a pretty rubbish Cowboy by my standards.
A well travelled fellow. Aussie Ben takes great delight in freaking out our very parochial school children with bushtucker trial-esque food. Thus far, the kiddies have encountered Zebra, cuttlefish, Ostrich and god forbid, vegemite.
It was the brightly neon coloured tin that caught my eye.
Mr Oz brought in a delectable snack which would have had Mr Dry Roasted putting an extra 40kg on the bench press.
A vivaciously lurid snotty green colour which would fit in well with #B2E “Inchworm” in a Crayola colour comparison chart. A slightly bulbous appearance. A Marrowfat on Creatine if you will.
He claimed 3 was too hot to eat.
Four handfuls later of the stuff and I began to feel the effects. The Wasabi.
Wasabi, also known as Japanese Horseradish is much more fragrant than our creamy variety we layer on our sandwiches and provides an aftertaste similar to leaving Listerine in your mouth for too long.
I have only in the last couple of years got to know and enjoy the taste of Wasabi through visiting Thailand and Singapore where it is eaten at all times of the day. A delicious snack which compliments the sharpness of the Wasabi, is to slice up a ripe Avocado and dip into Wasabi. It is also delicious liberally spooned into mash and served with a mild white fish.
A member of the Brassica family, making it a cousin to the Cabbage and Mustard plant. I would imagine in your classic Brassica brawl, the Wasabi would lay down serious uppercuts and probably end up getting expelled from school at some point.
It can be sold as a powder, or ready to use paste, usually in the shape of a toothpaste. I do not condone such childish behaviour, however, purely for schoolboy giggles, the perplexity of an unsuspecting early morning wake up call of Wasabi-on toothbrush would be of much amusement to me.
Back in the classroom, the Year 9s were gazing at the A-H of edible obscurities that awaited them.
Lychees bobbing playfully were falsely accused of being eyeballs or pickled onions. Vegemite (the Aussie Marmite) was identified as tar, nutella and poo. The latter, being a decent call for me.
Fruit is standard for inducing a melancholy tone to children who feel that Toffee Apples, Oasis drink and those strips of Yoghurt they squelch down their throats are actually classed as their five a day.
I was mightily impressed that a few could spot Mango in a crowd.
Apparently, Mum has it on weight watchers and it is like only 1 point.
It was the plate of fat Neon bogey-peas that provoked the most laughs that I have had in a long time.
Some of the connoisseurs compared it to Bombay Mix, Chilli Powder, Curries. Cue a heap of exaggerated coughing and choking fits. At least I hope they are exaggerated as I am almost crying with laughter.
No one classified them from the Pea Province.
Again. Vegetable. Risky Terrain.
The reveal was a little bit like when Cilla Black used to bring over someone’s long lost Aunt that no one had seen or heard of for 17 years over from New Zealand on “Surprise Surprise”. The children were vacant, bemused and all together not too bothered about what they were.
Wasabi was a word that certainly no one had ever heard of.
Just as we were packing away, two boys were taking full advantage of the free food and utilising all the left overs when one of them turned to me and asked.
“Miss, have you got anymore of them Washable Peas?”
Who says you cannot impart knowledge.
Having just returned from a trip to our great capital, I spent the best part of the day in China town scouring the many supermarkets festooning the streets. Wasabi Peas are to the children and adults of China what Walkers crisps are to us.
Having always bordered on the side of being a sweet lover, I have been surprised by my affinity to our Brassica buddies. Less hydrogenated and Saturated Fat than crisps (a free snack on weight watchers!! Hell I may even just rejoin) I have found a guilt free snack with and with it's shadowy name, it certainly puts people off from wanting too many. Maybe washable would be a good idea?
Like John and Yoko said. Give Peas a chance.