It's a well known secret that Gilbert and George go to the same kebab house in London at least five times a week to eat supper. They have been there two out of the three times I have been recently with arty friends who I want to surprise and impress. Apparently they don't have a kitchen at home so they couldn't cook even if they wanted to. The question is, is it an Installation or not? Whatever it is, the kebabs are cooked on the traditional Mangal open-fire barbecue, the pide bread is freshly made and free, quail is on the menu, the meat is full of flavour and it will only cost you about £10 per head. This, and Gilbert and George, are the reasons I can no longer go to the kebab van on Station Hill after a night out in Bury.
Back from a 3000 mile road trip in the southern states of America I think I am done with pulled pork, fried chicken, catfish, gumbo and cars. I had promised to take Micky to the Daytona 500 for his 60th birthday. You see he's a petrol head and after being married to him for 30 years plus, I have become one too. We set off in search of great food and interesting cars, with a few must stop places like racetracks, the Kennedy Space Centre and Graceland thrown in en route. First stop was Maryland where we ate crab cakes, bought lovely clams and shad roe to cook at home and borrowed a car from a favourite cousin to drive the 800 miles to Florida. We passed through Virginia (the best brown sugar cured bacon and waffles for breakfast) then through North and South Carolina where we bought spiced Cajun boiled peanuts at the Speedway race track. We didn't stop in Georgia but managed to make Daytona for a supper of blackened cat fish at the fun North Turn Restaurant. A week in Daytona gave us time to explore the area, go racing ... every night... and a trip to New Smyrna Beach where Micky found his dream 1961 Chevvy Impala (too expensive) and I found a perfect lobster roll (affordable). Travelling west we headed for Memphis, stopping en route at the amazing Barber Motorsports Museum near Birmingham. The Cops joined us for the buffet breakfast at the hotel. Apparently the cops eat for free in America. They marched in, up to the buffet, helped themselves, ate and left. We had biscuits and gravy. Biscuits are like an English scone, served warm and the gravy is a sausage based thick white sauce, with loads of black pepper in it. Eggs, well, how do you like them? Sunny Side Up (cooked on one side) Over Easy (flipped over) Over Medium, Over Hard
Alabama through to Tennessee bagged a Tripp Country Ham, another catfish sandwich and a peach pie. All from service stations which are the BEST place to buy anything from a cowboy hat to a cheap, but very good cup of coffee. In Memphis we ate fried green tomatoes, not at the Whistle Stop Cafe and then on to Nashville (my new favourite city) for fried HOT chicken. It's delicious. Angry Orchard Cider was another discovery in Nashville. You see, I am Just a Country Girl at Heart. Last meal in Tennessee was in Greeneville in the Appalacian Mountains where we found Stans BBQ. Stan found us too as he came out to see who was ordering all the food in his restaurant. He never gets tourists. Great smoked ribs, beef, corn pudding and homemade lemonade. From the Appalacian Mountains we went on to the Blue Ridge Mountains, in search of bears. Driving up over 3750 feet, Micky not sure about me navigating up in them hills. We saw a lot of red necks, lots of Trump supporters, hilly billies and 'slap ya Mama' cause she don't cook like this no more, found meatloaf with apple sauce at The Swinging Bridge Restaurant. But no bears.
- Little Neck Clams
- Blackened Catfish
- Lobster Roll
- Cajun boiled peanuts
- Cajun boiled peanuts
- Crispy bacon with waffles
- Tripp Country Ham
- Catfish again
- Peach pie
- Stan's chicken wings, ranch dressing, loaded skins
- Stan's bbq ribs with sweet potato (served with brown sugar and butter)
- Up in them hills
- Meatloaf and apple sauce
- Street food vans Washington DC
- Shad roe
- Nashville Fried hot chicken
- Fried green tomatoes Memphis
We had an invitation a couple of weeks ago to review Giraffe in Bury St Edmunds, our local town and full of chain restaurants. We've worked our way through the chains over the years and find them pretty soul-less with below average and uninspiring food, so we weren't exactly jumping up and down at the thought of dinner. But we nipped into town on the evening of the Christmas Fair, took a look around the town, enjoyed a mulled wine on Angel Hill and then wandered over to that ugly Parkway. Once inside though, Giraffe is a very pleasant place with a newly painted tropical themed decor.
The menu is appealing and includes Global Mains, Burgers, Small Plates and Salads, pretty much covering all that is on trend in the fast and casual dining market at the moment. We quizzed Kate, our server, to find out if the food was really made in-house. Yes it is, with fresh ingredients used and prepared on site. I'm not convinced by the chicken potsticker dumplings that I tried but perhaps these come in ready made? But the home-made lemonade was as good as I have had out anywhere, while Johny Cakes tried classic Mojito's (note the plural...) which had a generous measure of Havana Club and were made from fresh limes and mint - not a mix.
Miso Lime grilled salmon was perfectly moist and the Wasabi fried rice a good wholegrain base for the fish. The side of seasonal veg also ticked the healthy box and was served with a nice parsley oil rather than butter. No homemade desserts Kate admitted, but I ordered the apple and passion fruit crumble and she remembered that this was actually made in-house. I didn't want the accompanying ice cream so asked for fresh cream and as none was available a dish of mascarpone was offered instead.
We thought that we would be in and out of Giraffe in an hour or so but we had got really comfortable; we were well looked after and were enjoying the food and the drinks so ended up being the last to leave. Sorry!
I was late and rushing for the 2pm train. I had had nothing to eat so after I found a seat and had put it off for as long as possible I bought a sausage roll. It was worse than the last one I had ten years ago. I don't need to describe it because you can see its flabby, rusky, microwaved self, for yourselves. Abelio Greater Anglia - your crisps have improved, your drinks have improved, now try serving a nice sausage roll?
This year's SuffolkFoodie annual leave was taken on a 48 hour trip to see the best (and probably the most hyped) of the latest London eat-and-drinkeries. Starting at Taberno do Mercardo (via a really nice tea merchants on the way, and only minutes from Liverpool Street station) we had small pretty plates that featured tinned cold monkfish, runner bean 'fritters' on clam broth, cuttlefish with pigs trotters, drippingly soft cheese with toasted bread, prawn rissoles and the runniest custard tart. The waitress was as excited about the food as we were so even with just one glass each of house sparkling rose - shining like a citrine jewel - it was easy to spend half of our budget on the first meal.
So obvious really, mini-fish and chips (I know they do it at parties...) but I've only seen it once here on the street, and it was VERY popular. Why? Because you really really want some but you don't want to throw half of it away. Brilliant - and it won an award. The best ideas are the obvious ones.
We went "In Deep" at the Grapesense wine class this week, we went to South America. We tried Atlantico Sur, Marselan from the Garzon Vineyard in Uruguay. Then we started talking about Uruguay and how it's remembered for Fray Bentos meat pies. Fray Bentos is a large Uruguayan town where the Liebig Company produced tinned meats and beef oxo for export to the UK. The Fray Bentos brand was launched in 1899, initially for corned beef, then later pies. By 1961, when Fray Bentos Steak and Kidney was launched, pie production had shifted to Hackney. From the dozen or so of us at the wine class, no one admitted to having ever eaten one of the pies! I remember my Grandma always had one in her kitchen cupboard but I have never tried one, so for the sake of my Grapesense friends - here is the photo story of the Steak and Ale pie that I bought and ate.
I chose the Steak and Ale pie as it had the highest meat content (25%) and by the way the pastry is 24% so not sure what the rest is?! The smell of the pie still lingers in my kitchen an hour or so later, that kind of school-dinner, cheap chip-shop pie smell, like kidneys cooking, although the pie doesn't have any kidneys in it. The pastry looked revolting when I took the lid off the tin but had an impressive puffiness to it when out of the oven, which soon deflated leaving a soggy under layer. The gravy was very salty with scruffy small pieces of beef that were all on one side of the tin.
Interesting Fray Bentos Facts!
Sales of the pies plummeted during the Falklands War. Uruguay being the neighbour of Argentina.
Sean Bean (the actor) always has a Fray Bentos pie on hand when filming abroad, he loves them.
The empty tin makes a good dog bowl.
- Impressive looking puff pastry out of the oven
- Soggy bottom of the pastry lid
- Small pieces of beef
- Surprising choice of pies at Morrisons
- The deep fill steak and ale pie
- Slimy pastry when opened
Why have we been eating so many burgers? Suddenly everyone in Bury St Edmunds has burgers on the menu so we have been out to try some.
Benson Blakes were the first on the scene and are the established burger and cocktail bar in the town. They have won many awards ( deservedly so) for their offerings and we tried the Caprese (£7.85) a dirty great burger with sweet potato fries. Cocktails are damn good too. Staff are very friendly and the atmosphere lively and fun, especially when a band is playing.
More sedate is Graze Kitchen and Bar, known for their small plate, informal dining and established in the town for high quality, mix and match plates. But now big plates have arrived and include a Graze burger, pickles and chips. (£9.) We drank a bottle of Chenin Blanc from South Africa which was very good and added some small plates to our late evening meal. Service was slick, but annoyingly we were reminded throughout the meal that the kitchen closed at 10pm.
Third up is The Picturehouse cinema in Hatter Street. They serve a build your own burger. Choose a bun, a burger, a side and salad.(£8.80). Note pads and pens are placed on the table for you to write, then place your order at the bar and the burger is delivered to the table. Service is cheerful but it gets a bit busy when a film is about to start, so allow plenty of time to eat first.
Tonight I made Pakora with a bag of out of date spinach which was just begining to wilt. Use any vegetables that you have shrivelling in the bottom of the fridge. Just cut the vegetables into slices, or shred according to their density. Remember that courgettes will cook a lot quicker than chunks of carrot. I have yet to find anyone who doesn't wolf down a plate of these delicious Indian snacks. Gram or Chickpea flour is easy to find, usually with gluten free products on the supermarket shelf, from wholefood shops or anywhere 'ethnic'.
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Delicious Indian snacks which are vegan/vegetarian and gluten free.
6 tbs cold water
- large pinch ground cumin
- large pinch of ground coriander
- 1 small onion finely sliced
- 4 handfuls of spinach leaves roughly chopped
- 1 handful fresh coriander chopped (optional)
- 1 tsp chopped green chilli ( optional)
- good pinch salt
- vegetable oil for frying
- Prepare all of the vegetables. Substitute any vegetables that you don't have with an alternative of your choice. Just about all types of vegetable work.
- Starting at the top of the list of ingredients add all to a large mixing bowl, everything except the oil which is required for frying.
- Mix very well making sure that the vegetables are all coated with a thin layer of batter.
Heat oil in a wok or use a deep fat fryer and drop spoonfools of the vegetables (coated in batter)into the hot oil.
- Cook until browned and the pakora holds its' shape.
- Turn to cook the other side.
- Remove from the oil and drain on kitchen paper.