Monday, February 27, 2006

Harden those arteries!


After Saturday’s beer festival, let’s not forget the forthcoming Leeds Beer, Cider & Perry Festival on the 16th, 17th and 18th March in the Pudsey Civic Hall.

Sun 26 Feb 2006

A very funny (odd) food day today.

The morning was supposed to start with a big cooked breakfast until we discovered the bread was stale and, somewhat shockingly, we were up before the shops were open. Quite a bit of humming and ha-ing about what to do … but we procrastinated for long enough and realised that we were too hungry to wait for the shops to open, to go and buy the bread, and then to come back and cook breakfast. We also realised that the greasy spoon on the other side of the road was open.

So we started the day with the £3.75 all day breakfast at the Eastgate Café (it’s on Eastgate, opposite the British Gas centre). For your money you get 2 fried eggs, 2 (fried) sausages, 2 rashers of bacon, 2 slices of toast, beans, tomato and mushrooms AND a cup of either tea or coffee. Obviously brilliant hangover food – wasted as neither of us actually had a hangover. Nonetheless a lovely breakfast. Everything about a good full English is a guilty pleasure. Instant coffee with not quite enough milk. Sausages that are dense and scarily smooth and uniform in their filling. Sausages that are fried! Dubious mushrooms. A couple of spoonfuls of heated tinned tomato. Toast which is not quite as hot as you’d have it at home. All stuff you just normally wouldn’t eat and yet, when it all comes together in a breakfast it’s an absolute joy!

Well fed and happy from breakfast the next culinary (not using the word at all advisedly) stop was for a coffee while walking into town from Headingley. It seems that by about half 2 on a Sunday afternoon Leeds’ student population has awoken and ensconced itself in every single café in both Headingley and Hyde Park. After much head scratching and road crossing we found ourselves in Chichini on Hyde Park Corner. It looks more like a sandwich bar than a café and the coffee was absolutely nothing to write home about. While not ostensibly bad it wasn’t good either …

Hoping for an improvement on the food front (and, in my case, still recovering from those god awful pork scratchings) preparations started for the very tasty sounding salt crusted prawns with garlic, ginger and chilli from Australian Gourmet Traveller’s January edition. I am tempted not to repeat the process here as the outcome was less than ideal. However, we did come up with an alternative which we’re going to try out in a couple of weeks’ time.

In the interest of culinary rigour here is how NOT to make your salt crusted prawns. We took our prawns and de-legged and de-headed them and removed their little guts. We then blanched them in boiling salted water for about 30 seconds and refreshed them with cold water. We dried them and dusted them with cornflour and salt and then we deep fried them (in batches) and drained on kitchen towel. We then heated some sunflower oil and chilli oil and added crushed garlic, sliced chilli and grated ginger and gave it a quick stir fry. At this point things went wrong as the recipe called for ¼ cup of salt to be added. Since these were, after all, salt crusted prawns, the salt went in, followed by the prawns, some sliced spring onion and a splash of shaoxing rice wine. Then serve up with rice and soy sauce on the side. See how tasty it looks!

BLEAH! The salt was totally overwhelming! There was much face pulling, deconstruction of the dish, reconstruction of a much better dish and ultimately, while all the prawns were eaten, much discarding of the SALT and remainder of the sauce. How disappointing!!!

To add to this, the gewurztraminer we’d picked out to go with the food was not a great wine (which will teach us for buying wine from Morrisons).

We’ll give this one a rest next weekend but I (at least) am determined to make my version of it in about a fortnight’s time!

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Sunday, February 26, 2006

Beer! Again!

A truly food and drink action packed weekend ...

Sat 25 Feb 2006

We kick started the weekend with a late lunch at Tampopo, on South Parade. After my last experience at a noodle bar I wasn't too sure about this but went along with an open mind, not having eaten here since 2003. I was quite surprised by how expensive the main menu is - £7.95 for a chicken mee goreng (or £8.50 for the prawn option) is really quite steep, although they do offer 'express' set menus which are considerably better value for money. For £6.95 I was able to have the mee goreng and a small serving of pork gyoza (3 pieces). I added on a bowl of miso. The miso was white miso and not particularly interesting at all - a few bit of seaweed and a lot of finely sliced spring onion - no tofu at all - really quite dull and bland. The gyoza were OK - I've reached the conclusion that the best (and safest!) gyoza are homemade - I found the wrappers a bit on the chewy/undercooked side and the filling rather too heavy on the pork and not enough other flavours. The mee goreng was quite good - I was starving so I did devour it in record time (and douse myself as well as my food with chilli oil) but the vegetables in the dish were fresh and the noodles were properly cooked. All this washed down with an Asahi.

By the way - when it comes to Japanese beers I'm constantly disappointed by the fact that those available in the UK are, predominantly, brewed either here or in the EU and not actually imported. I'm also stuffed because I am, at present, refusing to drink Kirin (thanks to the Lion Nathan attempts to take over Coopers) - so my choice is between Asahi and Sapporo (both usually very good beers).

Anyway, I came away from Tampopo thinking that I'd be relatively happy to go back and eat their express deal again - if I sort of had to but I doubt I'll be suggesting a rapid return. Basic, standard super fast noodle food - ho hum.

The evening saw us jump on the train and head off to Saltaire and the CAMRA Bradford Beer Festival. I love beer festivals and while Andy is positively cool about the thought of drinking real ale the festivals usual have a 'Foreign Beers' bar to keep the lager drinkers happy. So while Andy ploughed his way through an interesting range of German beers (and a phenomenal amount of cash) I was focussing on the really quite comprehensive representation of local breweries.

My drinking list (all halves!) was as follows:

1. The Mordue Black Midden Stout from North Shields, T&W. Coming in at just 4.4% I was hoping this would be a gentle introduction to the evening's drinking but by the end of my half, which I enjoyed I might add, I realised that this was not really a session beer (yes, probably stout as a rule isn't anyway). Although initially enthusiastic about this beer I actually enjoyed my second beer a lot more, though Andy did prefer this one's taste. I've just had a quick look at their website and I know that I've enjoyed a pint of their Workie Ticket beer quite recently - I think it was the other week when I had dinner at the Reliance.

2. For my second beer I moved a bit closer to home and to a beer from the Wharfedale brewery. A half pint of Silk's Folly, coming in at 4.5%. The beer programme suggested this was a porter-style beer but the sign at the festival said Stout. Whatever. I enjoyed this beer more than the Mordue - it smelt absolutely fantastic (Andy preferred the smell) - but a quick look at the brewery's website suggests that it's not a beer they usually have in production, so I guess there's no point in looking out for it to make up your own mind.

3. We moved to the upstairs hall (beers A-F) and I decided to switch from dark to light and went for the Aviator Ale from the Dent brewery, in Cowgill, Sedburgh, Dent (??) in Cumbria. This selection was based on the fact that Andy's dentist was in Sedburgh. The tasting notes say "medium bodied amber ale with strong citrus and hoppy flavours" - which is pretty accurate - and at just 4.0% this would make a great session beer. I noted that I was quite a fan!

4. Quick nip back to Yorkshire for the Brown Cow Jack Frost - a pale ale at 4.2%. I quite enjoyed this beer too although my notes are less than fulsome on this ...

5. Off to Cumbria again for the Hawkshead Red (4.2%). Having had a Hawkshead Bitter in Cartmel once (and very very much enjoying it - to the extent that I'm still talking about it) I was actually really quite disappointed in this beer - deciding that it was OK but a bit tasteless (please appreciate that by this point I was, effectively, on my third pint, so I will be happy to be corrected). This beer did at least serve to wash down some rather nasty pork scratchings.

6. Last beer of the night was Roosters Oyster Stout (from Knaresborough) - the programme description read 'soft, silky stout' - so who was I to refuse? I did enjoy this but can't say anything interesting about it.

You can see from my pretty limited tasting that the North in general was well represented at this beer festival. As always, it was a well organised and smoothly run affair - though I do think in the pork scratchings department they need lessons from the good people who organised the last Woking Beer Festival.

After all that typing - I'm thirsty - time to head to the pub!
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Friday, February 24, 2006

Soup in the snow!

Thurs 23 Feb 2006

Since I am in the throes of house moving I am busy trying to use up lots of things which is how I arrived at last night’s excellent (if I say so myself!) dinner. I had spinach left over from last week’s chicken gratin and a bulb of fennel floating around as well as potatoes and onions to use up. It was also snowing so the obvious thing to make was soup

Heat some olive oil in a pan and add one finely sliced onion and a few cloves of garlic to taste (I used 2). After a bit add a finely sliced bulb of fennel and let it all cook for a bit before adding about 100g of spinach leaves. Once the spinach has wilted (you may need to add a little water) add three small peeled chopped potatoes and some vegetable stock.

Bring this all to the boil then reduce to a simmer and leave it while the potatoes cook. Whizzy up with your stab mixer and season with some pepper. Serve with a spoonful of plain yogurt.

This tasted fantastic and the colour is quite amazing. Although it did prompt the question at work this morning about who had the pond scum in the fridge!!!!!!

The sheer simplicity of this really makes me wonder why there is any market at all for tinned (or any other type of ready made) soups. OK – I used a stock cube but there are plenty of fresh stocks available now and even most stock cubes are quite good – but the whole thing took me probably about half an hour. I knew exactly what was in it (stock cube excepted) and something which cost next to nothing to put together will do me for two dinners and a lunch. I am a HUGE fan of soups (something that will probably become quite apparent!) – you can be totally creative, they take hardly any time, cost naff all and are (in the main) really healthy! What is there not to like?

When I am next trying to use up some spinach and fennel I think a good alternative would be to add some pearl barley and not bother whizzing it up. I had torn the spinach leaves as I added them but if you were really keen you could shred them and it would look quite pretty with the little bits of fennel, onion, strips of spinach and the pearl barley. Mmmm … or you could add some soup pasta … and I’m a bit irritated I thought of that just now as I do actually have some to use up!

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Thursday, February 23, 2006

Some news ...

Thurs 23 Feb 2006

A couple of things coming up ...

This weekend the Bradford Beer Festival takes place in Victoria Hall, Saltaire. Expect a full report (with photos) early next wekk.

The Pork Pie Appreciation Society is on the look out for a Master Pork Pie Maker - the competition is held in Ripponden, West Yorks on 25 March.

And ... it's National Pubs Week. I think this is a somewhat tenuous excuse to go forth and drink beer ...
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Monday, February 20, 2006

Lots of rich food

Sun 19 Feb 2006

The eating of the great chicken gratin was preceded by making the patatas bravas, the original recipe for which you’ll find in the February Australian Gourmet Traveller. The major modification we made was the omission of the white wine from the spicy tomato sauce (absence of wine in house and presence of monstrous hangover driving this decision).

So – heat some olive oil in a pan and add an onion and three cloves of garlic, all finely chopped. Sweat this down and then add a tin of chopped tomatoes, some crushed chilli and a bay leaf. Let this cook down.

For the potatoes, peel and chop your potatoes into little cubes. Heat some olive oil in a pan and add the potato pieces. Cook this, turning over the pieces of potato until done.

Serve the potatoes with the spicy sauce.

The patatas bravas and sauce were delicious but I did find the chicken gratin something of a disappointment. The cheese sauce totally overwhelmed and swamped everything else. In some respects I thought the sauce could have done without the addition of the mustard. Perhaps it would have been better to use a basic tomato sauce, as above, as the base sauce and just have the cheese sauce on top. Because the dish contains both leeks and spinach you are unlikely to be serving a plethora of additional vegetables with this which means you have even less to cut through the cheese sauce. There are lots of ways you could muck around with this dish to make it a lot lot better: I’d be tempted to serve the leeks in the cheese sauce by themselves and do something completely different with the chicken and spinach.

So, after pushing my chicken around my plate and dissecting what exactly I thought was wrong with it Andy announced that he liked it. I certainly won’t be making it in this form again … though I did like the cheese sauce and I don’t think it would take a lot to strike a better balance between the richness of the sauce and what should be the clean lines of the chicken & spinach.

Sat 18 Feb 2006

Some happy baking today! I love making cakes so any excuse is always welcome – and I was taking some afternoon tea with me on a visit to an elderly relative.

The inspiration for this came from the current Sainsbury’s magazine, and the result was a fab, sticky, super rich little number. Of course, personally I don’t think you can go wrong if you’re making something with dates and coffee …

So … take 375 grams of roughly chopped dates and soak in 310 mL of boiling water. The recipe calls for adding a teaspoon of instant coffee granules but in future I’ll be using 310 mL of freshly brewed coffee. I also added a teaspoon of baking powder. Mix it all up and let sit.

In your food processor mix up 75 gm of butter, 225 gm caster sugar, 1 egg and a teaspoon of vanilla extract. Add dates and their liquid and 275 gm of plain flour, a pinch of salt and a teaspoon and a half of baking powder. Whizzy up and then add 100 g of pecan nuts. My food processor is a bit of a machine – although I’d chopped the dates first I didn’t chop the nuts and it wasn’t a problem – work out if you want discernible nuts and dates and go from there.

I’d lined my roasting dish with tin foil and tipped the mixture in and baked in an oven preheated to 190C for probably about 45 minutes. You want the top to be firm, you want it risen and you want the skewer to come out clean. Allow it to cool in the tin.

I was a wee bit pressed for time so I tipped it out onto a rack and iced it with some (real) coffee icing (melt some butter in a pan, take the pan off the heat, add icing sugar and coffee until you have enough icing). Cut it up into little squares and job’s a good’un! Scoff with a good cup of coffee!

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Friday, February 17, 2006

More calorific goodness

Wed 16 Feb 2006

More home cooking, in the shape of a chicken, leek and spinach gratin. Obviously we’re not aiming for a low fat/low cal/low cholesterol week here …

This is based on the recipe appearing in the most recent Sainsbury’s Magazine. I am consistently surprised by the number of many relatively simple and interesting ideas I find in supermarket magazines – this probably sounds a bit condescending, but my food magazine of choice, Australian Gourmet Traveller, provides loads of entertaining ideas but is definitely aimed at those who have a bit of time to do the shopping and necessary prep. The supermarket magazines tend to be much more store cupboard based (I guess that’s where they make their profits!).

Since this is undoubtedly calorie laden it’s definitely not a mid week meal … in my case it’s going to be eaten as a late lunch on Sunday, after a nice long walk.

Poach some chicken in milk seasoned with pepper and nutmeg. The original recipe said chicken breasts but I used chicken thighs (skinned & boned). I did this for several reasons. I think chicken thighs are a slightly more interesting meat and can hold their own a bit better in dishes where they’re competing with other flavours and textures. Also, the supermarket was offering me organic thighs for about half the price of the free range this and that (but not organic) breasts. I am not entirely convinced about eating any chicken (not since reading Not On The Label by Felicity Lawrence) so I’m a teensy bit paranoid about buying it. Bring the milk to the boil – but don’t start messing around with your camera trying to take arty photos of the kitchen because milk sits on the stove, looking innocent, for ages and then, in an instant, turns into some rabid beast frothing at the mouth – then turn down the heat and add the chicken and simmer for a bit.

Take a couple of leeks, clean & trim them and then slice them (on the diagonal) into reasonably thick chunks – maybe a cm or so thick. Steam these for a few minutes – until they are soft.

Remove the chicken from the milk and start on the white sauce. In a pan melt about 50g of unsalted butter. Once the butter is melted remove the pan from the heat and stir in about 50g of plain flour. Once well combined start adding the milk from the poaching – add it a ladleful at a time and mix it in well. Once all the milk is all added and combined put the pan back on the heat and bring to the boil. Boil briefly (for a minute), making sure you stir all the time. Turn off the heat and add in about 100g of grated cheddar cheese and stir until the cheese is all melted (you might need a little bit of heat for this). Stir in a good couple of tablespoons of Dijon mustard. You should also be tasting this to make sure you have actually cooked out the flour. I started tasting before I added the cheese. Add in the leeks and a good handle of chopped chives.

In a frying pan heat some oil (I used sunflower) and wilt some spinach (I used about 100g – partly because I get so bored of dealing with spinach so quickly!).

Add a layer of the cheese & leek sauce mix to a baking dish (27x? in my case) and then add the spinach, then layer the chicken thighs and finish with a layer of cheese & leek sauce. Sprinkle generously with more grated cheddar and chives. Bake at about 180C for about half an hour – til bubbling and brown.

I’ll report back when we actually eat this but it looks good and the cheese sauce was damn tasty!

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Thursday, February 16, 2006

How much does this hobby cost?

Thurs 16 Feb 2006

An item on slashfood this morning suggested that Britons are likely to spend over £300 each eating out in the coming year. It didn't reference a source but it did set me wondering about this figure, which seemed pretty low. A really flash meal out is easily £100+ per person and a 'nice' meal out you're looking at at least £50 per person ... or is that just me?! I decided not to try to think about how much I've personally spent eating out this year (and I certainly won't be keeping track in some kind of depressing experiment!). I have, however, invested a few moments in having a google ...

Figures published in August 2005 by IGD suggest that we're looking at just under £571 each ... probably a bit more like it ... and figures published by the British Nutrition Foundation for the same period are roughly the same. But somehow, the Daily Mirror came up with £1250 each (based on about £25 a week, figures from Mintel).

Maybe I should be keeping track of how much I'm spending ...
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Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Giant Pie

I've been talking about making a pie for a while now and finally got around to it this evening, and it was THE KING OF PIES!!!

Mmmmm, pie

Acres of short-crust pastry filled with chicken, bacon and leeks. Damn tasty and not bad for my first effort at pie making. To repeat this feat of culinary mastery, you will need:

Frozen shortcrust pastry
3 Chicken Breasts
1 Pack Unsmoked Back Bacon
1/2 Onion
2 Leeks
1 Tin condensed chicken soup
1 Egg
A very big dish

Chopped veg.
Dice the onion and bacon and fry it in a little oil until the onion goes clear.

Cooked meat
Chop the chicken into bite-sized pieces and add to the pan. Add a lot of ground pepper and cook for about 5 minutes.
Chop the leeks and add to the pan for a further five minutes.
Reduce the heat and add the chicken soup and about the same amount of milk. Stir thoroughly.

Pie filling
Grease a pie dish and roll out enough pastry to line and cover it. Pour the filling and add the top.
Cut two small holes in the top and brush with a beaten egg.

Before cooking
Cook at 200&C for about 30 minutes or until the pastry is browned.

That's it. A tasty pie for a hungry chap. No, I didn't eat it all in one go.
After cooking
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Complaints, Complaints

Tues 14 Feb 2006

We've had a complaint ... apparently this blog reads a bit too much like 'what we do' which is boring ... well, we all have boring weeks!

Anyway, to try to liven things up we're going to try adding pictures ... and here's a taste of what's coming ... Andy may or may not report on a chicken & leek pie (quite possibly the most talked about pie ever!) and we should also be eating a chicken, leek & spinach gratin with patatas bravas and some pecan and date squares. It's a week in the kitchen!
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Monday, February 13, 2006

Rather a lot of beer

Not a riveting week in terms of eating ... and a rather southern focus ...

Wed 8 Feb 2006

Not a happy day in my food history ... as I suffered only my second ever bout of food poisoning. Since I am in the middle of complaining to the restaurant I can't name names but dinner out at a chain noodle bar in Guildford, Surrey turned me into a rather sick girl. The doctor told me it would quieten my appetite down for a couple of days but fortunately it wasn't the case ...

Fri 10 Feb 2006

Cooking at home and on the agenda a 'country style' fennel and potato tart - inspired by Wine Spectator. I liked the sound of this as it used bread rather than pastry for the tart's base - though I made the mistake of using nasty mass produced bread instead of 'proper' bread - next time I'll go for something nice and holey, like ciabatta. Otherwise ... finely slice an onion and a bulb of fennel and sweat in some butter until it all softens. Add some sliced peeled potato (about 5 mm thick), cover with milk and simmer until the potato is tender.

Lightly grease a baking dish and toast and butter your bread. Line the baking dish with the bread (buttered side down). Beat some eggs (I used three and all of this was going in a 26cm baking dish) and when the potato is tender add some of the hot milk from the potato to the eggs, beating away. Once you've warmed the eggs up a bit add the eggs to the potato mixture on the stove. The eggs will start to scramble, so keep stirring while you do this. Once you've mixed it all the way through tip into the baking dish and smooth out the top. Finish off with loads of grated cheese (I was a bit stingy on this count apparently) and bake in a hot oven for about 15 minutes - until it's all bubbling away.

Because of the milk content it's quite a loose mixture, so don't wait for it to firm up like a frittata.

The Wine Spectator recommended drinking a young shiraz with this but I went for a 2002 Dr Loosen Erdener Treppchen Kabinett riesling. The wine was fragrant (and delicious) and matched the egg and fennel combination well.

Sat 11 Feb 2006

No smart eating tonight either ... a high tea of scrambled eggs, smoked salmon, bacon and toast followed by a night out in London at the Warwick - which basically involved drinking beer. :)

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Monday, February 06, 2006

Duck, sausage and lots of potato

Sat 04 Feb 2006

Nice early start this morning (like 0430) in order to get up to Leeds ... so by mid afternoon I was easily in the mood for some food ... after wandering around the market for a while (visiting Todd's, buying wild boar sausages) hunger pangs got the better of us ... somewhere in aisle C you can find an excellent Indian take away type place ... two big meat samosas for £1.70 and a pile of chilli pakora ... absolutely delicious ... probably how life in Leeds should really be ... sitting outside the market, in the cold, eating a hot samosa and dodging the oil running off it ... mmm ...

By about 1630 it was beer o'clock so we headed to the North Bar - it was really busy! I guess I'm normally in there a lot earlier (um, that sounds quite bad but it's not really ...) so I had to do a bit of tactical loitering and table grabbing, which worked out OK. A lot of people (well, my mates) tell me that it has quite a high table turnover so you never have to really worry ... I'm sceptical ...

Since my New Year's resolution was to drink every beer on North's beer list I had to press on. I'm doing a dismal job so far - Brugs Tarwebier (good), De Koninck (OK). Next on the list is a 9% Chimay which is hardly how you want to start off your evening ... so I opted for a Palm which smelt great but was pretty watery and tasteless. After that my experimentation was over and I reverted to drinking Coopers Sparkling ... mmm ... Suggested the Little Creatures Pale Ale to a couple of people who seemed to like it as they kept on drinking it. Must make note to be stronger next time and try to stick to the beer list ...

Eventually we got hungry and wandered off to find some food. Since half of the party was some form of vegetarian Hansa's was our first stop - but it was full to bursting so we kind of fell next door into the Reliance.

It was also pretty rammed but we put our names down for a table, found some people some of us knew and chatted to them and had more beers while we waited. I really enjoyed my pint of Flintlock (obviously, my taste buds were in fine form by this point) and it managed to last me the whole meal ...

I've tried to eat at the Reliance once before - at lunchtime when the menu struck me as being pretty uninspiring. However, sitting upstairs in the restaurant at dinner was completely different. I think I changed my mind a few times before setting on confit duck leg with black pudding mash, which was on the specials board. It was lovely! I think it would have been even better sober, with wine and if they'd flipped the leg over and crisped up its skin in a hot pan before serving it. The black pudding, which I was informed was supplied by Ackroyd's of York, was really delicious.

Other people ate ... ham hock with this, that and mash, a fish dish and a bean pie. Everyone polished off their food and there were no complaints ... so I'll be going back (sober, for a 'proper' meal). To be honest - it was probably a bit of a waste going there after having already been drinking ...

Sun 05 Feb 2006

No eating out today. Built up an appetite by going for a walk along the river - all the way down to the Morrisons in Kirkstall. Despite being very close to the Mill Race we ended up catching a bus back into town and sorting ourselves out for our dinner.

Dinner was sausages with onion gravy and mash (potatoes being rather a theme of the weekend). We had a Rick Stein recipe to massacre. We'd bought a bottle (from Oddbins, on Albion Street - it was about £1.30) of Williams Black Ale which was going to help us out on the gravy front. So, into the wok went some vege oil and some butter. Once that was melted and hot we added a massive, finely sliced onion and sprinkled over a bit of sugar. The idea was to cook this slowly for ages to get it good and caramelised. Of course, impatience always kicks in - we tried leaving it alone and ignoring it, we tried upping the temperature ... and then we gave up (the onion had started to take on some colour by this point, and it was nice and soft) so in went a teaspoon of flour that we cooked off before adding about half a star anise and a couple of cloves and a couple of bayleaves, most of the Black Ale and some beef stock. The temperature went up again to reduce this all down and we paid attention to things like making mashed potato (no words of wisdom on this ... I personally think the best mashed potato is made with a potato ricer and I also think you're supposed to cook the potatoes with their skins on to prevent them soaking up water ... but I wasn't in charge of this bit) and grilling up the sausages.

The general consensus was that the dish was a success - although I think that we might have made a bit of a mistake in our choice of beer. Although the ale was great to drink (rich, dark, chocolatey) I'm not sure it was the right thing for the gravy - it seemed to have a bit of a slightly bitter after taste. I think next time I'll try a different beer (maybe Guinness?) and see what happens. We weren't sure if it were the beer or the star anise or the cloves ...

Oh ... and it was washed down with a De Bortoli Cab Merlot 2004 - which was a good match.
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