Dogs Dinner

I have been wondering why my food photos look rubbish and I’ve identified 2 main reasons;

  1. I want my meal on the plate and in my mouth ASAP in the best condition to pay correct deference to the food and consume it as close to an ideal state as possible.
  2. By the time I decide to send someone a photo because my meal is tasting delicious I’ve eaten quite a lot, and sometimes, all of it.

I’m also partial to a nice glass of wine and I’m carried away by a great meal. I recently read that the Balinese believe that eating is a very private and personal experience and they often do it alone, almost communing with their animist gods. I can relate to that.

As a result of 1 & 2 (and to a lesser extent wine) I don’t have any ‘Nigella/M&S TV ad/Best Thing I Ever Ate food glamour shots Food Network (even if I’m full to the rafters, I start watching and am I’m absolutely starving at the end). Instead I have a tiny and pointless library of images with empty plates, awful smeared grey colours or worst of all idiotic gurning!


Take the steaks as an example. I’m constantly banging on to all my colleagues and friends (foreign and domestic) that the best beef in the world is to be found in Britain (patriotic cheering). Steaks are the ultimate and purest expression of beef but the finest are never found in supermarkets and rarely to be found in butchers (please withhold your howls of derision and recommend any truly great purveyors of meat). Instead the farmers markets which dot the country are my choice as the place to buy a good steak. I know these markets have a hessian sack Birkenstock reputation but if you can take some time, go for a wander with or without the kids, you have every chance to find and talk to the producer of a really decent steak. Instead of gobbling down masses of average meat I treat myself maximum (ONCE a week to a decent chicken from the butcher which feeds the family for 3 days) ONCE a month to a rib eye, rump, occasionally sirloin, or best of all onglet or bavette (generally called Skirt) which is the steak with the best quality/price relationship.

Skirt steak is the tastiest and half the price of the ‘nobler’ cuts from the top of the animal; it is the ‘Secreto Iberico’ of the beef world. Secreto Iberico is a highly marbled cut from behind the shoulder blade of the Iberico pig which crisps on the outside and melts in the middle. By Iberico I mean real Iberico; 100% genetic outdoor reared for 12 months eat it rare Iberico, the 5% of production which deserves the title after running about and scoffing acorns, and I DO NOT mean the ‘shown-a-picture-of-an-acorn-on-the-way-to-the-big-house-iberico’ which most of the market, and especially foreigners, are fobbed off and deluded with.

The Iberico Pig

The other great advantage of Skirt steak is that it must be served rare or it becomes tough which is great for me as I like black-and-blue (an American friend once said when asked how he liked his steak “just cut off its horns and clean out its ass”) and this requirement for rare puts people off and keeps a lid on the price.

I can’t even remember what Heston told me to do with a steak when he was on telly recently; leave it open in the fridge for some days, turn it every 15 seconds. I just get it home and leave it on the side until dinner time then season heavily and griddle hot with all the windows open for 2-3 minutes each side. Sometimes I griddle some red peppers and toss them with a few sweet sour Gaeta olives [my current fave] or just have a salad with microplaned parmesan [and ubiquitous knuckle shaving]  or I might make a Scooby snack monster sandwich. I found this recipe last year and its easy, flexible and tastes great A Dinner Party  If I have a bit of time and the right ingredients then chimichurri is de rigeur, I sometimes throw in a few black olives for a deeper flavour. Alternatively I almost always have Tapenade knocking about in the fridge so I chop some parsley, mix it in and let the resulting pasta down with lots of olive oil and lemon juice. If friends come over I might roast the squash or two. For a celebration [christmas, birthday, valentine etc] I might make Tagliata with rosemary potatoes Channel 4 Recipe which is quick and easy and delicious. So wheres the evidence ? Exhibit A shows what happens when the steaks have cooked and rested; they get eaten. Occasionally I remember to take a photo of either an empty plate or a half empty plate. Rubbish.

Another recent example; Mr Jay Rayner was kind enough to share his love of sausages baked on mushrooms and onions (and bacon) in OFM on 18.03.12.

My lovely wife was away visiting her mother and she’d taken the kids. I was free to indulge in as much chilli as my tongue surfing addiction can handle and so was born the Thai curried peanut butter parsnip gratin featured previously (looks like a plate of sick) which I found the remnants of in the oven as it warmed up to 180 degrees in preparation for receiving sausage delight. Into the oven flew a tray with 1 sliced onion and 2 big handfuls of sliced mushrooms doused in rosemary salt [a christmas gift from lovely wife’s mother], olive oil and cheap balsamic. I agree with Leon Book 2 that white button mushrooms would be a delicacy if they were more expensive Love Food. Approx. 30 minutes later I topped the allium & fungus base with sausages and studded liberally with whole garlic cloves, gave it another 20 minutes and finished with pancetta which I allowed to crisp for as long as I could stand to stare through the oven door. The resultant dinner was pork nirvana; the bangers had pieces of black pudding in, the wafer thin bacon melted and the sweet caramelised pan scrapings were an out-of-this-world thermolysed brown sauce for my sausages.

I’ve always loved sausage and onion sandwiches with brown sauce, particularly quick and very easy using Nuremberger sausages which are little finger sized IGP white sausages made by a small number of German producers, to slightly different secret recipes. Some are stocked in LIDL at a very reasonable price (produced by the president of Bayern Munich FC, Uli Hoeness, I think) and my favourite but expensive variants were sold under Helen Browning Sausages . The most romantic story of their origin is clever medieval merchants who would pass the sausages through the keyholes of the great locked gates of Nuremberg to hungry travellers who arrived after dark. I also read that a citizen of Nuremberg was sentenced to life imprisonment in the 1300’s and all he asked for was 2 Nuremberg sausages per day which he ate for the next 30 years, I can’t see that record being broken. The price is likely to rise soon as a result of tensions with Iran (!!!) as the best sheep casings are Iranian and true Nurembergers must be filled into sheep casings.

Anyway, back to my kitchen, and next days’ lunch was said same sausage bake dropped into a hot frying pan, a hole made in the middle, an egg cracked in and slowly fried and the resulting whole scraped onto a plate and devoured. Another sensory triumph and another foul picture with the visual appeal of a greasy spoon photo menu, inversely proportional to taste and smell of the dish. The running yolk looks particularly rank and brought everything together wonderfully.

The last category of images I have are those taken near or at the end of a splendid meal where I’ve come round and realised that I should like to have a record for posterity. This is the most flattering I could find. Oh Dear.

PS I enjoyed a splendid meal recently at a quirky restaurant Aumbrey Restaurant and I managed to take a reasonable snap and the trick it seems to be sobriety.  

Tagged with: 

Italian, Olives, Recipes, Lifestyle, Wine