Saturday, 5 June 2010

Green Eyed Monster

Many well informed commentators on food will give you the opinion that the concept of grazing in restaurants in the UK, sampling lots of dishes from tasting menus and sharing your plate with your fellow diner comes from an evolved appreciation of tapas, dim sum, mezze and the like. This could not be further from the truth. Yes Heston, in part you may also be responsible, you may well have pioneered the 20 course blow out but there are darker forces at work here. What many people don't realise is that the government had to do something to combat a social illness that was slowing creeping into our collective consciousness and affecting our behaviour towards each other. Forget binge drinking, forget ASBOs, forget Ant and Dec. No the real problem that threatened to undermine the very foundations of this great nation was food jealousy. Simply put, as we began to dine out more and more, we became more and more competitive. And worst still we began to covet our neighbour's Osso Bucco.

You may recall this situation. You go out to a restaurant with a group of friends, family or maybe it was just you and your partner. You peruse the menu, spending a good five minutes um-ing and ah-ing before making your selection. You then listen to everyone else's choice with a squint in your eye and a lump in your throat. Your dishes come up and immediately you scan all the plates. You then realise that your choice was shit and that you really should have gone for that pork and ham terrine that your best mate is just about to tuck into. He looks at you, smirks and winks triumphantly. You become enraged and toss a bread roll at his head. He throws a fork back at yours. You both leap at each other and roll around the floor, smashing the place up, chaos ensues. For a period of time in the 90's this kind of scene was commonplace in restaurants throughout the land and something had to be done. You see as a result of this antisocial behaviour, costs to the NHS started to spiral out of control, the catering industry began to suffer tremendously and the burgeoning food revolution was in serious danger of being snuffed out altogether. Until the government stepped in with Deliah Smith as special advisor and they came up with the idea of grazing so people could feel at ease with sharing and therefore prevent food jealousy and the violence connected with it.........

........of course this is all a bunch of horlicks. When I was formulating in my head how to write up my WMPC swap with Garlic Confit, my own personal foible of food jealousy popped up and a sorry incident from the past. When it comes to eating out, in all shape and form, I simply hate it when someone chooses better than me. And Mr Garlic Confit (as he wishes to be known throughout this post) pipped me way past the post when we met up nearly a month ago.

It was a glorious day, Election Day in fact but we won't go into that and I had arranged to meet GC in Leather Lane at Daddy Donkey. This was another one of those blind dates where I had never met the blogger before so spent a good few minutes hanging around before noticing this chap in the winding queue staring at me in that "er, it is you isn't it?" manner. Spying a bulging bag at his side, I leap frogged over the barrier, shook hands and we immediately kicked off with conversation about food. Within seconds I could tell that GC was passionate about the stuff (in fact GC did you say you'd trained as a chef, I can't remember) and was quite enthralled by his sidelines and projects. Wednesday Night Curry being one of them where he regularly invites strangers via an email lottery (or via Twitter) into his house where he'll knock them up a tasty and authentic ruby. Other schemes involve running cookery classes at schools local to him, teaching children and parents alike to cook which is a wonderfully magnanimous project. One madcap endeavour more closer to my heart was GC's approach to laying on an enormous paella for parties. Ever wonder what to do with that huge pan you lugged all the way back from Valencia? Simply plonk it on a wheelbarrow full of glowing charcoal, add several bags of calasparra and several other ingredients of course and away you go. This is something I shall definitely be having a crack at in the future.

So anyway, like I said we were having a fair old natter. When we finally stopped and had stationed ourselves by a wall in the sunshine to chow down on the Mexican goodies that I had paid for, I asked GC what he chose. I hadn't really paid any attention up until that point. "Oh, I got the Three Amigoes, you get the best of everything then" he replied. As he said that I have to be honest and say that I couldn't help feel the wet fart of disappointment as I stared down at my fat, bulbous Daddy-D with black beans and chilli sauce running over my mitts. Damn it! Why didn't I see that? I think it was the "best of everything" that got me. And that smug grin. And that flick of the dark, black mane of his. And was too late, I could feel the Hulk within ready to burst out and roar "you bastard! you picked better than me!" I started to shake, I started to quiver. My frown pitched forward, my lower lip dropped down on my chin, I began to sneer. But then at the perfect moment, GC piped up and said "I suppose you should have a look at what I've made you, you've got a nice bottle of wine in there by the way" motioning to the bag at our feet.

And then suddenly, all was well.

Funny that.

In all seriousness, despite that very brief spell of green eyed food monster, it was great to meet up with Mr Garlic Confit and it was a shame that we had to cut lunch short to get back to our offices. Hopefully we'll meet up again soon so that I can pick his brains further but most importantly, for the purposes of this review, what did the man cook for me? Well as it was Election Day, his contribution focused on the vivid colours of red, green and yellow namely Seared Tuna with Anchovy Marinated Courgette, Radish and Home Dried Tomato Salad along with Lemon, Chilli and Radish Leaf Baby Potatoes. Oh and he threw an Alphonso Mango into the mix for dessert. As you can see, there was no introduction of any kind of shade of blue. Whether GC was making a political statement here I am not entirely sure but his meal was fantastic. The instruction for the tuna was to sear all sides in dry pan on all sides for 45 seconds and it came out perfect, meaty, succulent and obviously very fresh. GC had made the right decision not to mess around with it too much by giving it just a light seasoning. His anchovy marinade gave a lovely twist to the courgette which had been sliced into strips, delicate and fresh which contrasted well the the crunch of the radish. And the potato salad was very good too, combinations of lemon and chilli always works well in my book although the radish leaves left me a little bit nonplussed. All in all it was really a beautiful looking, summery meal. GC proposed that whilst cutting up and eating the very orange flesh of the mango, I should sing Glen Medeiros' "Nothings Gonna Change My Love For You" which I didn't get at first. But can you believe it, this was my first Alphonso and as the juice ran off my chin, a flashback of first love came flooding back. The sweet perfume also helped, reminding me of Zoe Downey who gave me my first french kiss at a school disco. No doubt, the Hawaiian smoothy was number one way back then. Oh and lest I should forget that bottle of wine, a pale floral rose from Provence which also sang to me in mysterious ways, seriously good.

So thanks Mr Garlic Confit, thanks for the memories and thanks for your contribution.

Seared Tuna with Anchovy Marinated Courgette, Radish and Home Dried Tomato Salad along with Lemon, Chilli and Radish Leaf Baby Potatoes

Sweeter than Zoe Downey's kiss

The menu

Wine stops Hulk appearing


  1. You had never tried an alphonso mango until this point? Shame on you? Didn't you read my ode to Alphonsos last year? Didn't that inspire you to try them sooner?

  2. What! WHAT!! You had never tried an Alphonso before now. And i thought ending up in Basildon was bad... I hope you enjoyed the subtle sweet nectar contained within those sunshine yellow skins. But be warned, it won;t be long before you'll be fighting your way to the front of the queue, you arms weighed down with boxes of the wonderful beasties.

    The meal looks great - simple and delicious. I particularly like the sound of the courgettes. Uh-oh, I can feel the green tide rising... Gimmie!

  3. I have my own case of the green eyed monster looking at that meal! The tuna looks just gorgeous and a bottle of rose to sink it with! Well, the WMPC bar has been raised.

  4. Kavey - I sink my head in shame

    The Grubworm - oh not you as well!

    Helen - Yes, I should have really capitalised on the wine, yes wine please, keep giving me wine, helps get you a fantastic review