Caesar Salad Dressing

Caesar salad model

One of the mainstays of a summertime menu should be a Caesar Salad.  It is quick and easy to make, and very tasty and satisfying.

But Caesar dressing, like salad cream, is one of those things that everyone uses but no one seems to know how to make.  Yet it is remarkably easy if you scour the internet for the correct recipes.

 

You will need:

Two large tablespoons of Mayonnaise

One and a half teaspoons of Dijon mustard

One teaspoon of Olive oil

Salt and pepper

One teaspoon of vinegar

Half a teaspoon of garlic paste

Half a teaspoon of lemon juice

Two Anchovies

To make the dressing you can use a whisk and a bowl, and chop the anchovies very fine or you can use a blender, like I do.

Caesar dressing in blender

I add the ingredients to a blender and blend for thirty seconds to a minute.  Transfer to a small dish and place in a fridge for half an hour.  This gives the flavours time to blend and the mixture starts to set.

When you need it, add the mixture to a mixing bowl with the ingredients for a Caesar salad and mix well.

Caesar dressing in pot

 

 

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Shredded Chilli Beef

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One of my recent discoveries is the earthy, meaty taste of shredded beef.  It tastes great on it’s own on a bread bun or used in Chilli con Carne.

There is no real way of making it quickly, it is something of a labour of love that takes a whole day.  You can cook it in  slow cooker, or a large, thick based pot with a lid.

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Ingredients include:

One large Beef brisket

A thumb sized piece of Ginger

Two red chillies, both cut in half

One onion, red or white.

Half a bulb of Garlic

A half pint of Beef stock

Worcestershire sauce

A tablespoon of Dijon mustard

One teaspoon of mustard seeds, one of Papika, one of Cinnamon, one of salt and pepper, one of chilli flakes, and half a teaspoon of cumin.

Feel free to swap some of the seasoning for anything you prefer.  Go mad and experiment, it is all part of he fun.

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Take the mustard and various seasoning and place them in a mixing bowl.  Stir them well with a spoon and push them up the edges of the bowl.

Remove the Beef brisket from the packaging and rinse it well under cold water.  Then place it in the mixing bowl and roll it around until it is completely covered in the mustard and seasoning mix.  Leave it to rest for about an hour.

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Place the stock pot on a very low heat, 90 degrees maximum, add the beef stock.

Roughly chop the garlic, chillies and ginger into dice-sized chunks.  Place them in the stock pot. Peel the onion, chop it into wedges and add it to the pot.  Add two tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce.

Carefully place the Beef in the pot or slow cooker, and cover.  And leave it for 24 hours.

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When 24 hours are up you remove the beef, drain it, and place it on a chopping board.  To shred it, you an pull it apart using forks or even your bare fingers.  Take care as the beef will be hot.  How you serve it is up to you.  How about on a brioche bun with Dijon mustard mayonnaise and onion rings?

Or, best of all, use it as a base for the best Chilli con Carne you will ever taste?  Enjoy.

 

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Nick’s Southern Fried Chicken

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Fried chicken is one of those classic foods that has become part of our staple diet, for hungry revellers and people on the move.

But sometimes food hygiene standards can slip, and your local fried chicken restaurant can be a short cut to agonizing food poisoning.

But is it really hard to make Southern Fried chicken yourself?  Absolutely not!  And here is how.

Switch your grill on full, and also your deep fat fryer, until it is up to temperature.

Take one whole chicken breast and slice it horizontally, almost all the way through.  Now unfold it, so that it looks like butterfly wings  This is why we call it ‘butterflying’.  Grill the chicken on full heat on both sides until the pink is completely gone and the chicken is slightly brown around the edges.

Take one egg, break it into a wide bowl.  Whisk well with a little water.

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Next you need Chicken seasoning.  There are loads of different variations on the market, or make your own.  As a base, I use this stuff, you can get it from virtually any supermarket, and it is very cheap.Add to this fine breadcrumbs, Cayenne pepper, Cinnamon,Oregano, Cajun spices or whatever the hell you like.  Make it your own, just keep adding to it over the months, and keep it in a Tupperware tub.

Using tongs, dip the cooked chicken in the egg wash, then in the chicken seasoning.  And repeat once more, to be sure the chicken is completely covered.

Using the tongs again, place the chicken gently in the fryer and allow it to cook for thirty seconds to a minute.  After this, remove the chicken and place it on a plate covered in kitchen roll to absorb the excess fat.

Your chicken is now ready to eat.  You can have it on a bun, with a slice of tomato and mayonnaise.  You can slice it up and put it on a pizza or salad, or however you like.

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I have a new writing job

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Hi guys and girls,

Just to let you know I now have a new job writing for a local website called Birmingham Favourites

I am still working as a Chef, doing nothing too special, but I have a few untersting new recipes to show you soon.

Best wishes

Nick

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Spicy Pulled Pork

This is a recipe my better half found on the internet and adapted it to her own preferences.  It takes 24 hours to simmer slowly but it is most definitely worth the wait.  The pulled pork is perfect for a cold winters night.

You will need an electric slow cooker or a large pan on a very low heat.

Two onions

Half a bulb of garlic

Half a pint of pork stock

One tablespoon of dark brown sugar

Half a tablespoon of chilli flakes

One tablespoon of salt

Half a teaspoon of ground cumin

Quarter of a teaspoon of ground cinnamon

One fresh pork shoulder with the netting removed

Firstly blend all the dry herbs, salt and sugar together in a bowl and set to one side.  These you will need later.

Next peel and thinly slice the onions and garlic and place in the bottom of the dish of the slow cooker

Next wash you hands again very carefully.  Take your pork shoulder joint and rinse it carefully in cold water.

While it is still damp, rub the whole thing thoroughly in the dry herbs

Place it in the dish of the slow cooker on top of the bed of onions and garlic.  Then pour the pork stock around the shoulder.

Finally cover and leave it to simmer for 24 hours.

By this time tomorrow it will be lovely and soft inside and out, and very tasty indeed.

Serve how you wish, be it on a bap or on a plate with potatoes and vegetables with more gravy.

Enjoy

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Mushroom Rissotto

This is my slight variation of a traditional creamy Rissotto recipe familiar to those you may find in Continental Europe.

You will need the following ingredients:

One large punnet of Mushrooms

One large Mushroom for decoration

Pancetta or diced bacon

Two sticks of celery, diced.

Chicken stock

Shaved Parmesan

Single cream

Seasoning

Risotto Rice

Dice up your mushrooms and celery and set them to one side.

Take a thick based, high sided double handed pan with a lid.  Place on a hob at about 180c with just a small teaspoon of olive oil.  Also, set your oven to 180c.

Add the Pancetta and stir gently until it browns slightly.  The fat will melt off it and into the pan.  This will add to the taste nicely.

Add the celery and mushrooms.  Hack them down with a spatula.  After a few minutes the mushrooms will shrink and absorb some of the fat from the Pancetta.

Meanwhile, you will take the large mushroom, and cut it into four pieces.  Place it in a small ovenware dish with a little oil and black pepper.

Next add a pint and a half of chicken stock and allow to simmer for ten minutes.

Add a cup and a half of Rissotto rice and stir well.

Next add a good handful of parmesan cheese and 250ml of single cream.  Continue to stir well. (ignore the wine in the photo, you drink that!)

Place the lid on the pot and place into the oven.  Leave it for 40 minutes.  Check it after every ten minutes to be sure the rice is not sticking to the bottom and the mixture is not too thick or drying.  If so, add a small drop of warm water.

After 40 minutes remove the Rissotto from the oven and allow it to set on a pan stand.  Transfer some to a dish and serve with crusty bread.

Enjoy.

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Where to go during Valentine’s Weekend

Well it is that time of year again folks, when Saint Valentine spreads his annual magic.

Valentine’s Weekend is one of those strange feast days.  Do it right and you escape revenge for another year.  Do it wrong and the topic will be raised during every argument.  So don’t leave anything to chance.

It used to be a huge rush to book a table on one day which could often prove inconvenient.  Now it is marketed as a weekend, which splits up the huge surge of restaurant bookings.

Firstly, for a novel little gift, Krispy Kreme in the Bullring is doing a special heart-shaped doughnut for Valentine’s  day.  Be quick or they will be gone.

So for the big night there is one place I can recommend you start.  Island Bar, the fabulously well known cocktail bar on Birimgham’s Suffolk Street, is producing their very own Valentine’s day cocktail.  It contains Frangelico, chocolate, and a little Island Bar know-how.

For the dining out experience take her somewhere made for the occasion.  Tease her by saying you will take her somewhere she will love.

Loves Restaurant is fast becoming something of a Birmingham hot-spot.  Run by the husband and wife team Steve and Claire Love, Chef and Host, respectively, it has now been awarded three AA Rosettes.

Owing to time constraints I have been unable to review it myself.  However I do have positive reviews from Rickie Josen, who has eaten in some of the best restaurants all over Europe and even New York.  She is a lady who knows good food and service when she sees it.

Looking over their Valentine’s menu the highlights, for me anyway, are Teriyaki Trout, Cotswold Pork Belly, and Mango Tonka Bean Pannacotta.  For more details check out their website via the link above.

Good luck Birmingham, have a great Valentine’s day, and then get ready for Mother’s Day.  And then Easter.

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Birmingham Christmas Market

Since I arrived in the Midlands I have been spoiled for choice when it comes to places to eat, Birmingham in particular excels itself as a centre of culinary excellence.

So when I heard that Birmingham would be holding a Christmas Market I knew it would be good.  Birmingham, incidently, is twinned with Frankfurt.

Now in it’s tenth year, the Birmingham Christmas Market encompasses over a mile of pavement and no less than 180 stalls.  Starting on New Street, it carries on all the way up through the town square and well on to Broad Street.

It has more than thirty stalls dedicated to crafts and art, but the real reason to go is for the food!

From candied nuts to hot chestnuts, chocolate coated marshmellows to personalized cookie gifts, they have it all.  The smells alone are fantastic, and put you in a more positive frame of mind than you may have been of late.

In short, the place is fantastically christmassy and exciting.

The German chocolate stalls were an abundance of Alpine chocolate, and not a Toblerone bar in sight.  They had wonderful, mysterious brands with strange names and fantastic tastes to explore.

I had not had roast chestnuts since I was a boy.  One time I tried to bake some in the over but forgot to slit them first.  It sounded like someone was throwing bangers in my kitchen.  They have a strange, sweet yet nutty taste.

The Beer tent was a real Bavarian experience, with real steins or mugs to drink the beer out of.  You pay a deposit for the mug, before you think of slipping it in your bag.

They do real hot chocolate too, and I mean the thick rich stuff that you rarely see in Britain.  Let it cool before drinking or it can burn your throat.  Or if you can’t wait, ask for a cup of water to wash it down, like they do in the Med.

Further back I found a Carribean stall (Ah, that must be far west Germany then), and near the end a small Fish and Chip van proudly flying the flag for Britain!  Well you can’t argue with tradition.

So I definitely recommend the Christmas fair as a day out for all the family.  My advice it to arrive early, and park in the Market end of town.  Please mind your bags and wallets in congested areas.  The nearest toilets are in the coffee shops and department stores.  I did not note any first aid post.

Bu don’t worry about all that, just enjoy a pre-christmas day out.  God knows we need one.

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The Gastrocard

Dining out is rarely a cheap affair, this we all know.  If you dine out frequently, for pleasure or business entertaining, the bills will soon pile up.

In the current economic climate this can present a serious problem, unless you either eat in the cheapest places or dine at home.  So what do you do?

Luckily Geoff Abbott and Trevor Land have come up with a viable solution for those in need of one.  The Gastrocard was launched in the West Midlands only a few years ago and quickly found favour with frequent diners, who were immensely pleased with the prospect of up to 25% off their total bill.  Nor was the Gastrocard limited to just a few restaurants, there are several dozen in the Birmingham area alone.  Now it is also accepted in a growing number of leisure facilities and tourist attractions.

Their recent innovation is to persuade car dealers to purchase their own branded Gastrocards as a client hospitality ‘lifestyle’ option.

So I caught up with the pair to ask them a few questions:

How did the idea come about?

Trevor Land, ex-Exhibitions manager at the Birmingham NEC, and I both enjoy food and love the West Midlands.  We were both fed up with the media saying that the only place for food was in London, and the general poor press that the West Midlands gets.

In fact Birmingham has more Michelin-starred restaurants than any other English city outside London and a choice of more than 200 places to dine.  Birmingham has plenty of reason to be proud of it’s culinary scene.

This, together with the difficult economic climate, means that restaurants are looking at more ‘bums on eats’ and most individuals and businesses are looking to save money – so why not combine the two?

Who is the Gastrocard initiative aimed at?

It is aimed at local up-market restaurants – we avoid chains such as Pizza Express.  We don’t charge the restaurants a penny.  It is free but the quid pro quo is that they make an offer of their choosing to Gastrocard members which is NOT available to walk-ins.  They can tailor the offer to their quieter shifts – offers range from 10-25% off the food bill, free wine, or 50% off the wine when dining A la Carte.  It is finally up to the restaurant.  Since we are online the offer can be changed to immediate effect.

Our Revenue comes from sales of Gastrocards to individuals and corporates, membership organisations, etc.  These may have their own branded cards.

Has it expanded rapidly?

We now have over three hundred restaurants on board.  Most in the wider West Midlands and we are now looking to go national.  We have five thousand members, again mostly in the Midlands.

What is your objective for the rest of the year?

To broaden our national coverage through a network of ‘resellers’ and to add the ability for Gastrocard members to make savings on meat, wine and other specialist foods.

Do you plan on international success?

We are certainly considering Northern Ireland, the Irish Republic and the Channel Islands.

Are there any limitations on the card at this time?

We are in the process of being able to offer Gastrocard members savings on meat purchased from Aubrey Allen – voted Chef’s number 1 Butcher, and another 500-600 local specialist food producers spread across the UK.  This list will be added to with complimentary products on an ongoing basis.

For more answers please check out their FAQ page by clicking here

I would like to take this opportunity to wish Geoff and Trevor the best of luck and may they bring us cheaper and more frequent dining opportunities in the future.

So please check out http://www.gastrocard.co.uk for special offers at a restaurant near you soon.

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De Vere to open a new Academy in Coventry

Good news for school leavers in the West Midlands, the De Vere Academy opens for business in September 2011.

De Vere hotels are one of the most luxurious hotel chains in Britain, employing highly trained staff by the thousands.  They run nearly a hundred hotels over five different brands, incorporating destination hotels, venues, luxury lodges and golf resorts.

The success of the hotel industry is wholly reliant on the abilities of the staff it employs as the directors of De Vere realized this at a very early stage.  This remains one of their greatest selling point as an employer.  A couple of years ago De Vere opened a new type of academy to encourage and inspire hospitality stars of the future through the provision of work based learning.  De Vere academy offers two options to 16-24 year olds.  Option 1 is to join Customer services.  Option 2 is a Professional cookery apprenticeship.  Now there are nine academies up and down the country, including three in London.

A potential recruit must show potential.  Tenacity and an aptitude for learning are just the beginning.  They must also develop a thick skin and a willingness to carry on when the workload starts to pile up.  They must be willing to sacrifice a lot of time.  Evenings, weekend and bank holidays off become a distant memory.  But in the hospitality industry you work hard and play hard.  Your friends are the people around you, they are the ones you relax with on your day off.

A graduate of 21 will find themselves in a position more advantageous than many of the University graduate trainees.  While the uni students were learning the theory, the academy students were learning on the job.  The uni students paid thousands in course fees, the academics paid their own way, working hard for a small wage.  By the time the uni students clock in for the first time, the academics have years of service under their belt.  And this is the important thing:  The uni students are fresh faces.  By then the academics will know their fellow employees well, having built up working relationships through good times and bad.  These relationships will be important to them in future years.

Why do I know this?  The forerunner of the De Vere academy was the Technical Apprenticeship scheme, with whom I served for years for years.  It gave me an solid start in the hospitality trade, without which, a lot of my later achievements would not have been a success.

What was it like as an apprentice?  Well it was tough, mentally, physically and emotionally.  It took up my whole life, but it was fun too.  The training camps, which took place, in those days, at a hotel in Coventry were the scene of much frivolity.  Our final event, the climax of the training, was a Jacobean banquet, was a huge success.  In the new format a a De Vere apprentice works five days a week, eight hours  a day with two days out on a work placement. The work placement is not only with De Vere but with any business in the area.  They are still looking after their graduates six months after they have finished their training.

I had a few questions to put to Kellie Rixon, the MD of the De Vere academy:

How is the academy funded?

This is a public-private initiative.  We work in conjunction with the National Apprentice Service, our own De Vere group, industry partners and local government.

Do you have any more expansion planned?

Our first De Vere academy was launched in Stockport in 2010.  We now have academies in Crewe, Milton Keynes, Liverpool and Wirral.  We open Coventry and the West End later this year.  Next year we will be opening in Leeds and Brighton.  Our aim is to train 10,000 people over the next years.

Does De Vere hotels still take University Granduates as Trainee Managers?

Yes, our scheme for graduates goes from strength to strength with our divisional brands.

So the addition of the Academy to the West Midlands is a great boost for  an area that held the highest unemployment in the country for the last year.  It gives hope to a generation of school leavers that are entering an economy devoid of many opportunities.

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Posted in Inroducing | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments