Archive for October, 2010

A Yorkshire Mans Guide to Somerset

Friday, October 29th, 2010

When it comes to inter county rivalry, there are no greater demagogues than us Tykes (if you live south of Derbyshire this refers to a Yorkshire man, one of God’s own). Seriously, we live in the most beautiful part of the country, with dramatic valleys, windswept dales, golden cornfields and savage stretches of coast. Our food and drink is manna from heaven and the people aren’t too bad either, yes dear parishioners we are truly God’s elect!…or so I thought.

Several billion years ago, cosmic forces conspired to create some kind of paradise several miles south of Gloucester, a land rich in greenery, lofty rocky crags and gentle rolling hills. The people would be jovial, friendly folk who enjoyed nothing more than a flagon of golden cider sat under the trees from which it was grown, and lo they called this little part of Elysium… Somerset!

I have now spent quite a bit of time in Somerset and Bath and I am envious. It pains me to say it but I am so envious of the students at Bath…From a foodie perspective, this region really has so much to offer it is quite incredible:

Somerset is a little bit renowned for its commitment to piggys. Boasting numerous breeds such as Large Blacks, Middle Whites and Kune Kunes, while the world renowned Gloucester Old Spot (a chief component of the renowned Bath Chaps) just sits across the border. When we went out filming the “Taste of Bath” film, I bought some fantastic dark ruby red pork steaks from Cheddar, the likes of which I have found hard to get anywhere else. Fried off with a bit of cider from Thatchers (I am coming to that later) and a handful of superb Cheddar cheese while in the wet and damp of the Cheddar valley, was something of a fitting end to a hard day’s filming. Maybe it’s a bit whimsical but I can picture the pigs in the field eating up the cider apples that they are one day going to be sautéed in, and it makes me bloody content.

If you have ever eaten Cheddar cheese, you have eaten Somerset. I think Cheddar, like a lot of British cheeses can get overlooked sometimes. We automatically think our cheeses are inferior to those of our Gallic and Italian cousins, but news flash mes enfants! The French go nuts for a bit of the West Country favorites, Cheddar, Double Gloucester etc! I remember seeing queues snaking out the door of Globus (huge department store in Geneva) for a few slices of select Cheddar cheese. I have eaten a fair bit of Somerset’s favourite son and have come to the conclusion that the best comes from Twerton Market’s very own Bristol Meat Machine. Though a butchers, I bought a huge block of a local farm’s mature Cheddar (I cannot remember the name, but many of the locals at the market told me it was the best) and it was incredible. Go and see Mark at Twerton Market, he will sort out your cheesy needs.

Somerset/cider, cider/Somerset. It goes hand in hand. We had the pleasure and privilege to film at Thatchers cider where we tried some incredible locally produced ciders. The range of ciders was baffling and extensive, from strong dry ciders to the sweet and moorish Medium Oak Aged Cider (aged in Rum casks which is subtly obvious when you pop the bottle cap). All these refreshing, golden nectars where accompanied by (once again) a vast selection of artisan produced cheddars, pickles and breads, which complimented the drink perfectly.

It seems to me, that when whatever heavenly deity created Earth, he or she decided to give Somerset an abundance of ingredients that all complimented each other nicely. I have listed a few things here, but Somerset is a land rich in culinary diversity all waiting to be explored and enjoyed by inquisitive mouths from further afield. Yorkshire may be Gods own country, but Somerset may just be his pantry?

Guide to Aberdeen: Where to go.

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

We visited several fantastic shops in Aberdeen selling some wonderful fresh, local and Scottish ingredients.  All these shops trade at very competitive prices, the staff are fantastic and are always willing to lend you some advice (remember to be a bit cheeky and ask for a little discount or AT LEAST a free taster)

Our first stop was D. Nicholl fishmonger, which had a wonderful selection of fresh, smoked, and shellfish.  The women who worked in the shop were fantastic characters and had lots to say for themselves! I have no doubt they have a wealth of amazing information and recipes so definitely have a chat with them.

To find Nicholls:

D Nicholl Fish Munger. 01224 636635. 243 Rosemount Place, Aberdeen, AB25 2XX

Open from 8:00, seems to wind down trading in the afternoon though.  We got there at 1:00 and most of the fish had gone.

After Nicholls we bombed it down the road (I should add at this point that Rosemount place is an amazing shopping area) to Herds butchers.  Now I have a bit of a thing for Scottish meat (oooh err! “Carry on I think) the range of meat at Herds is truly excellent with lots of fresh Beef products sourced from the local area.  The Beef sausages looked amazing as did the Lorne sausage and the Steaks.  They had a lovely selection of dark pork meat and enough chicken to KFC open for months.  What struck me most was the price difference with the supermarket, so much cheaper for better quality meat.

If you fancy checking out Herds it is conveniently on Rosemount place,

Herds. Butchers. 277 Rosemount Place Aberdeen Aberdeenshire AB25 2YB.

Keeps regular opening hours and also has a deli section serving sandwiches on the side.

Our final location was Mellis the cheese monger.  I have been to Mellis in Edinburgh and was blown away by the selection of cheeses from around the world, but had never really got my teeth into anything from Scotland.

Ed, the manager of the store is a fantastic guy who really knows his stuff and took the time to show us around the store and introduce us to some of the best cheese Scotland has to offer.  Cheese is not only for after dinner, but there is a whole range of fantastic meals a lovely bit of artisanal cheese can compliment.  Ed has promised to share some of his cheesy recipes with us so if you go down and have a chat I am sure he will be able to help.

To find Ed, head over to:

201 Rosemount Place, ABERDEEN AB25 2XP 01224 566 530.

Food of the Saints?

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

Mufadal Jiwaji tells why St. Andrews is the gem of Scotland’s gastronomic re-invention!:

St Andrews loves food, and foodies love St Andrews. My favourite way to compose a meal in the bubble is to see what’s new, exciting and fresh in the vast array of local producers. Nip into John Birrell’s greengrocers (201 South St) and pick up some seasonal veg, tasty fruit and a bunch of fresh herbs. Onwards, but not very far, to Minick’s Butchers (183 South St) where you’ll find a huge selection of meat and poultry. So whether it’s venison burgers or quails’ eggs, you must stop by.

Continuing down the road, as you wander past Argos the tempting smell of I. J. Mellis  Cheese Monger (149 South St) lures even the most ardent anti-fromagist into the delights of the cheese shop. I’m the sort of person who has to try something new, so I always ask what has just become available and sample to my heart’s content. What’s more, you can pick up a pint of Jersey milk, some local variety apples and any number of chutneys and jams to accompany your cheese. There are two important delis in the town: The Little Italian Shop (33 Bell St) and Butler & Co. (10 Church St). Both stock a phantasmagoria of tasty treats and exciting edibles for your delectation. At The Little Italian Shop you’ll find paella rice, home-made chicken-liver pate, fantastic wild-mushrooms and even truffle-honey. Butler & Co. is renowned for its freshly-made wraps, but did you know you can buy the Lebanese Khobez bread to make your own wraps at home? From American, to Thai, and every sort of olive in-between, the friendly staff at Butler & Co. will guide you through the vast stock of produce.

What is food without wine? For all of my spiritual needs I stop off at Luvian’s Bottle Shop (66 Market St). Whether it’s the sumptuous Ruggeri Prosecco, Peroni Gran Reserva, or the finest Monte-Christo cigars the shop is an oasis of vice. If you happen to wander in during a tasting, be prepared to spend a good half an hour sampling wines and whiskies. There are, of course, the necessary evils of Tesco Metro (138 Market St) and Morrisons (45 Largo Rd.) for the less-discerning shopper.

Beware, buyer, of falling into the mindset that you need a vast quantity of cheap food where it would be much healthier, tastier and economical to buy a little less at a much greater quality from the local producers listed above.

University of Sheffield International Food Court.

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

When it comes to eating on Campus i think i have now sampled everywhere between the South Coast and the rural Highlands of Scotland.  The university canteen is generally undergoing something of a transformation nationally and since my days at a University (which will remain nameless) where the most celebrated item on the menu was “random grey meat in random brown sauce” or the eerily, student named, “Baby Pie” ( i believe this was sausage and tomato pie) things seem to be improving.

Sheffield University however, have really set the bar high.  On one hand i am not surprised as i know from attending several chefs conferences the passion for food around the University is incredible.  I have eaten some seriously good food at Sheffield University and spoken to some top independent Chefs who would agree to.  It now seems that the good people at Sheffield University have really rolled out the gastronomic red carpet for their students and have created an area where they can get stuck into some exciting and innovative dishes at a very reasonable price from all over the globe.

From traditional foods provided by the “Chippy” outlet serving burgers and fish and chips(in the famous orange and brown colours of Sheffield’s very own Henderson’s relish- a sore point as i could not find any in the food hall) to the fantastic “Street Food” kiosk which really captured the essence of Oriental street food culture, Sheffield University’s food court has something for everyone.  I tried a creamy chicken curry which was excellent and if i had paid 8 or 9 quid for it at a restaurant i would not have complained, i also sampled some of the Mexican food on offer at Old El Paso which, as i was informed by the Vice Chancellor (thats right, even Keith Burnett eats here it is so good!) is some of the best he has had out of Mexico.

Wandering around and chatting to some of the first people to sample the food on offer i got the impression that everybody loved the place and the concept.  A group of Cypriot boys told me that it was their first experience of Fish and Chips and they loved the stuff, while to Japanese girls assured me that the Oriental food here was as good as anything they would get back home!  I did note that their was also Pizza on offer, the perpetual temptation of my life, but as regular blog readers will know (if you have seen any videos post 2009 you will see the blob known as joe) i have to stay away from such amazing cheese centric foods, but it did look very good.  Their is also, i must add, lots of tasty looking healthy food options available for those of you, like myself, conscious of your figure…

The cool thing is (and here is the official party line kids that i feel i have to include) is that you can come along and work while you eat! isn’t  that amazing!!! Study and food combined.  The place is open pretty late as well.

All in all i was very impressed by what has been achieved at Sheffield, the food and atmosphere was superb.  I suppose all it needs now is a couple of bottles of Henderson’s relish knocking about and i am truly sold.

Aberdeen: A Gastro Guide

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

My early memories of holidays in Scotland always revolved around great food and drink.  Whether it was cooking fresh beef steaks by the loch side, eating haggis and eggs for breakfast or eagerly anticipating lots of thick slices of fresh Scottish smoked salmon simply dressed with lemon juice and cracked black pepper, it was always amazing.  Dining out never seemed a problem too, I used to love going to the pubs around the Trossachs sampling such local delicacies as Collops, steaming bowls of Scotch broth with pearl barley and creamy, smoky Cullen Skink.

People would laugh at me when I told them that after Italian food, I considered Scottish cuisine to be second to none, the perfect food for all seasons.  In autumn and winter its heavy, rich warm sauces, thick cuts of gamey meat and hearty earthy vegetables that make my wet and damp walk from work bearable, while summer months see an influx of salmon, shellfish, fresh fruit and peppery salad leaves.  Of course, the reason the Sassenach laughs at the cuisine of his northern cousin is the perception and myths that have built up around Scottish food in the last ten or twenty years.  Horror stories about deep fried pizzas, Mars bars, haggis, Scotch pies have flooded English newspapers.  While London and her provinces have been dining on the imaginative works of food fantasy inspired by Heston Blumenthal et al, Scotland has been perceived to be deep frying animal, vegetable and mineral at will.  Ok so there is some truth in this, and I myself have sampled it, nothing as extreme as a Scotch pie or Mars bar (though I hear that they are both exquisite) but I have found myself eating deep fried haggis on the royal mile at two in the morning.  But Scotland does have so much more to offer than these offerings to the great god of cardiac arrests!  While we were filming in Aberdeen we came across some of the best looking fish I have seen in a while, straight out of the North Sea and landed in Aberdeen.  The selection of shellfish and smoked fish was fantastic and a lot cheaper than anything to be found ion the supermarket.  The butchers shop also revealed a wealth of local, seasonal produce with some fantastic home made beef sausages and thick, deep ruby red steaks with just the faintest hint of fat marbling its way through the meat.  The real highlight for me, and the thing which makes me wish I was studying up in the granite city, was Mellis’ Cheese shop.  If folk in the south think that Scotland is somewhat stationary in terms of gourmet produce they need to check out the quality available in terms of artisanal Scottish cheeses.  I was staggered to be eating a Lanark blue that could have quite easily been the most rich and decadent Dolce Latte, or the Cromarty goat’s cheese which would give any French stuff a run for its Gallic money!  Favorite cheese of the day would have to be the Blarliath smoked cheese, a fantastic light and clean tasting  cheese that would swing even the most ardent hater of smoked cheeses into its corner.  I literally scratched the surface of Aberdeen and cannot wait to delve a little more into the culinary underbelly of this historic city.

University of Portsmouth Campus Guide

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

Wanting to find the best food on campus? Look no further! Here’s a breakdown of the best places for food and drink at your uni!

3rd Space – Student Centre PO1 2EF
On the first floor of the Student Centre, the new 3rd Space for students has room for working, eating and relaxing.
our new catering facility offers a wide range of drinks & snacks
Opening hours
10:00 – 15:30 Monday – Thursday
10:00 – 15.00 Friday

901 – Anglesea Building PO1 3DJ
This coffee shop is found off Anglesea, in the internet cafe.
Come and visit our convenient “grab & go” facility offering a
variety of drinks, sandwiches’ and cakes.
Opening hours
9:00 – 15:00 Monday – Friday

Eldon Building Art Cafe PO1 2DJ
Come and try some of the delicious choices from our extensive new
menu, including breakfast rolls, panninis, jacket potatoes and our new
salad bar.
Opening hours
09:00 – 15:00 Monday – Thursday
09:00 – 14:30 Friday
Park Building Coffee Shop PO1 2DZ
The catering team are situated in the student common room in the
basement of this building. We now serve a much improved menu,
offering a range of hot and cold snacks to order.
Opening hours
08:30 – 15:30 Monday – Tuesday – Thursday
08:30 – 14:30 Wednesday – Friday
Cafe Coco,Gun House, The Student Centre PO1 2EF
Looking for a place to relax or just a different atmosphere? Café Coco
is an excellent choice. Offering a range of quality snacks, premium
Fairtrade hot and cold drinks. With large tables, friendly
wireless access and much more. It’s an ideal place to meet up with
friends, relax, collect your thoughts and get going again.
Opening hours
08:30 – 16:00 Monday – Thursday
08:30 – 15:00 Friday
Water Hole PO1 2EF
Located in the bar area of the Student Centre, Cambridge Road.
Offering a wide variety of hot or cold meals and snacks, the menu now
Includes a variety of Halal dishes. Choose from the menu and then relax with a drink from the bar while your food is freshly prepared for you to
enjoy. Regardless of your budget or needs you’ll find something to satisfy
you here. Join the breakfast club from 10:30 to 11:30.
Opening hours
10:30 – 11:30 Breakfast served 11:30 – 16.00 Main menu served
10:30 – 11:30 Breakfast served 11:30 – 15:00 Main menu served
St George’s Building Coffee Shop PO1 2HY
Our coffee shop can be found in the basement where the catering
are happy to serve you a variety of hot and cold snacks and
The Breadline baguett
es are freshly made daily on site.
Opening hours
10:00 – 14:00 Monday – Friday
Library Coffee Shop PO1 2ST
A bright and airy place for you to meet your friends, and enjoy a
variety of snacks and beverages.
Opening hours
09:30 – 19:00 Monday – Thursday
09:30 – 14:30 Friday
Portland Building Coffee Shop PO1 3AH
Come and enjoy our vast range of Breadline baguettes, freshly made
on campus daily. Along with a variety of hot pasties and pies, snacks,
beverages and Fairtrade coffee.
Opening hours
09:30 – 15:30 Monday – Thursday
09:30 – 15:00 Friday
Dennis Sciama Building – The Hub.PO1 3FX
Serving a large selection of hot & cold snacks and freshly ground
Fair trade coffee (the best you have tasted for a long time). If you
likeyour food hot, the Inferno Pizza is served from 11:00 till late, or
drop in for breakfast and choose from a wide range of morning goods
from 08:00 to 10:00.
The University Catering Department is committed to making your
dining experience as enjoyable as possible, it understands that people
have specific dietary requirements. Many of the meals meet halal and
Kosher standards; please ask if you are unsure. Fully qualified chefs
oversee the operation, so they know what’s in your food. Please feel free to
enquire, or inform the catering team of any food allergies you may
have.The catering team are always happy to help.

Opening hours
08:00 – 19:00 Monday – Thursday
08:00 – 16:00 Friday