Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Chicken Choila and Muscle Marys

Ask and you shall receive. Or whinge on social meeja enough and someone will finally tut and sigh and say - "Alright, I'll feed you fer gawd sake, now shut the fudge up!"

And lo, it is with great happiness and joy that I can announce that someone has stepped up to the plate and provided some hearty food for my plate, the plate that I keep safely locked away in my drawer at the office (yes, that plate).

After floundering in the wilderness for nigh on three years, I finally received some grub last week, to help curb my appetite whilst working the night shift in my other life as a print monkey. All thanks to food writer and Indiachocoholic, Zoe Perrett, who slaps the keyboard to produce long, complicated words for her blog Culinary Adventures of The Spice Scribe (amongst many other places on t'internet and in print)

So yes Where's My Pork Chop? is back in town! Hoorah!

Now, in an effort to keep the momentum going forward, I am going to try to restrict the meandering preamble to these posts, I think that's what bogged me down in the past. And I am going to focus more on producing  short succinct verdicts on the food rustled up for my delectation.

But we do need to kick off from somewhere so I met Zoe in Kettners, Soho, last Thursday. Not for shampoo mind but to have a squiz at Aldi's forthcoming Christmas range. If a preview of chrimbo food and goodies held in high summer sounds weird, it is. When the sun is blasting, your head is roasting and a small bead of sweat is trickling down the inside of your thigh, the last thing any sane person should want to do is to march into a stuffy building to nibble on a mince pie. However, all the supermarchés do it around this time of year and they are quite enjoyable; in a bizarre, batshit sort of way. Wandering around rooms, full of festive cheer and glitzy balls, with platters full of congealing appetizers and cadaverous turkeys set about the place is a vicarious thrill. The over-riding feeling being that this shouldn't be happening. Not now. Not in July.

The goodie bags are ...good though and it is nice to get a sneak peek at what is going to be hitting the shelves in December. Sorry I mean November....... no wait October...... (September?). Whatever. You can be sure that you will always spy something quirky and innovative from the development team at these things. Like goose braised in Stilton for instance, with a port and cranberry stuffing and topped with prawn cocktail. And glazed, in orange brandy. For a laugh, next year I am going to go in full  wooly regalia. Father Christmas hat, scarf, gloves, snowman jumper, the whole caboodle. There might be the inherent danger of passing out in the heat though and falling straight onto the vol-au-vent display. Hey, I might not even get invited.

What is even more fun though is 'sleb spotting at these events. There will always be someone working the room, a chef or fooooood presenter acting as a brand ambassador to extol the virtues of their client's champion Christmas puddings for *ahem* a small fee. At Aldi's Christmas show, they had Michelin chef Jean-Christophe Novelli on board for a bit of gallic flair and admittedly, Zoe and I spent a good part of our time nonchalantly walking past him, pretending to be without a clue. You know, the way you are supposed to act around 'slebs. Still he sidled up to us and we got chatting and had quite a cracking conversation really. About the food on display, the surprising quality of the food and also, quelle surprise, about the man himself. Being Fronch (sic) Jean was a bit of a charmer but he was also refreshingly honest. About his humble background, praising the opportunities afforded him in this country, highlighting a stark contrast back home, when the proverbial door was shut in his face.

I rather warmed to the man on that sweaty afternoon but when he switched tact and started getting down to the business of evaluating my physique, I began to feel nervous.

"You work out, huh?"

"Um, not really."

"Sure you do, what do you like to do in ze gym?"

And then he stared deeply into my eyes. Imagining for a second that he was after a partner to puff, pant and spot along with (and then to perhaps exchange a bit of towel snapping in the showers after) I meekly told him that the only time I ever worked my guns was when I picked my children up. Because like, I am married. To a woman. With children.

Perhaps I totally misread the situation. Perhaps it was being in the presence of Jean's deep, intense, primal sensuality. Perhaps that got to me. He is Fronch (sic) after all. But it freaked me out to such an extent that we soon skedaddled after that. Me dragging Zoe by the arm and down the stairs, snatching an Aldi bag and a big bunch of flowers on the way out. Once outside on the pavement, I breathed a sigh of relief and Zoe, slightly perplexed, chirruped "S'pose you want your pork chop then me ol' china!" She handed a plastic bag over, gabbling some information and then waltzed off in search of another Christmas show. I think Zoe had another 2 or 3 lined up actually and by the end of the day, I suspect that her arms must have easily grown by another 2 inches in length.

Of course, I have now gone on for far too long and at this stage we must, MUST, get to the nitty gritty of what Zoe supplied for my din dins that night. Well, like I said, I really didn't catch much of what she said. I knew that there was a spicy chicken curry of some description. I knew there was a  rice salad that could be warmed up or eaten cold. And I knew that I had some sort of vegetable accompaniment, that could be watered down with some boiled water to create a sort of soup. So, in all honesty I didn't know exactly what I was eating and I did have to get back to her via email but this is what she made and this is my critique.

The main component then was chicken choila, a dish of Nepalese origin and made according to her mate Ranjiv's recipe (who runs a supperclub). Laden with shredded poultry and coriander, heavily spiced with mustard seed oil and fenugreek seeds (cooked until black) and most curious of all, served cold, this bar snack was absolutely delicious. Packed with aromatic Sichuan pepper, it was fiery but thankfully not too intense, at least not for my taste buds and I can see this going down a storm as an alternative dish for picnic. To be eaten in the sunshine, whilst drinking cold beer. Really good.

Likewise, the rice salad, or flattened, beaten rice, or poha as it is known was also top notch. Adhering again to a snackish theme, this crunchy pot of rice, dessicated coconut, curry leaves, ginger and asafoetida (the flatulence killer) was messy to eat but very tasty indeed. By all accounts, I've got some poha at home. Zoe reminded me that there was some in my box of Natco ingredients that I should have used to create a recipe post to promote the charity Find Your Feet a couple of months ago. Which was sneaky of her because now I feel like a total shit as I still haven't done anything about it. Still, it's good to know that I can make the stuff at home and most importantly, I can still post about FIND YOUR FEET Zoe! *slaps own considerably large forehead*

Sadly, the final element, the vegetable side that could be warmed up, souped up or applied as a face mask, was for me the fly in the ointment that prevented full marks across the board for Zoe. I did actually give it a quick blast in the ol' microwave, to counterbalance the coolness of the previous pots. I mean a proper dinner isn't a proper dinner unless you've got something hot inside you but in the immortal words of James Brown, it was too funky, too funky for me. I couldn't quite work out what was amiss really but there was a flavour profile in this dish that really didn't agree. When I found out from Zoe that she had put some roasted pumpkin into the mix, along with spinach, tomato and raw onion, my belligerence to it sort of made sense. I am not really a big fan of pumpkin and to be frank, Zoe really should have checked with me first before handing over a free meal. I mean what was she thinking?

I jest of course and would just like to say thanks Ms Perrett, for supplying an almost fantastic contribution to WMPC and for kick starting things again. I owe you big time so how does a few kilos of homegrown spuds delivered in carrier bags sound? To really stretch those arms and have your knuckles drag along the floor?

Just the way mine do.

Fancy feeding me and having your food fiendishly picked and sniffed at by me? In return for potatoes of course (or something else). If so, email me at foodurchin@gmail.com

Monday, 7 July 2014

I should really, really bring back #WMPC.........

.................because this was my dinner in the office tonight

Bag of absolute shite
 I feel appalled and ashamed with myself so, anyone out there game?

(For the synopsis, check this post or read through the blog to get an idea of what #WMPC is about)

I did have some very nice Picota cherries though