Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Foul birds and fair game

I woke up with a very sore head on Monday morning after our Sunday afternoon celebrations. We weren’t actually celebrating anything at all, just prolonging the weekend and warding off the Sunday evening
blues. Several gin & tonics – with Bombay Saphire brought back from duty free at Milan airport - and a bottle of wine accompanied the roasted Guinea Fowl – not a good idea as I was starting a new job on Monday teaching a Japanese business man. I recall smoking a sheesha later on in the evening – with the pipe which I brought back from Dubai – and watching an episode of the A-Team. The only thing I recall is BA Baracus calling Murdock a fool several times and an exploding Chinese restaurant. We both woke up on the settee in the early hours and went to bed. In The morning I woke up feeling so hungover that a visit from the grim reaper would have been more than welcome. I saw a pile of clothes on the floor, unstuck my tongue from the roof of my mouth and contemplated not going to work. I brushed my teeth and immediately puked several times – something which I haven’t done since my teens. Who said rock and roll’s dead?

The Guinea Fowl was delicious - I used a River Café recipe using vermouth, milk and a large lemon inserted into the parson’s nose. This delicious bird only cost 2.99 which makes me wonder why people prefer to eat tasteless supermarket chickens injected with water. When I was growing up the Sunday roast was usually a pheasant shot by my Grandad which I've mentioned in a previous post. I've got such happy memories of going out with him, flat cap and rifle over his shoulder, patrolling the grounds for a glimse of the beautifully coloured birds. He would also shoot rabbits through the letterbox (far more humane than transporting them in cramped conditions to the abbatoir - I hasten to add before the animal rights people get on their high horse). This all happened at Rangemoor Hall, a grade II listed stately home just outside Burton-on-Trent where my Grandad was once the caretaker - Robbie Williams has apparently put in a bid for a wing which has been converted into luxury apartments selling at a cool 1.5 million.

Back on the subject of meat, at Christmas we had goose which was delicious - the remains looked like something out of a horror film - and much nicer than a dry old Turkey which most people seem to eat only once a year. Another one of my favourite dishes is my Dad’s venison stew – he soaks the venison overnight in a bottle of red wine making the meat so tender it melts in your mouth. People really should experiment a bit more with meat. I’ve decided I want to sabotage most supermarket chickens in favour of free range, corn fed or Marks & Spencers Oakham free range chicken from the fine county of Leicestershire where I was born. Let’s see just how long it lasts……

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

A Turkish Delight

Turkish food is fast becoming one of my favourites. Influenced by both European and Asian cooking, it is one of the most varied cuisines in the world. The combination of meat, fish, salad, rice and pitta, preceded by meze is delicious and healthy. Apparently there are over 100 ways to cook aubergines (my favourite vegetable) so I’m looking forward to eventually tasting them all. I’m going to an Anatolian restaurant Tas Pide next week to try their version of pizza.

I ‘celebrated’ getting a year older at the weekend with a group of friends at the excellent Efes 2. Tasteless décor, live Turkish music and belly dancing are an unlikely combination for a great night out, but the food is amazing. We were greeted at the door by a waiter with a moustache to rival Tom Selleck’s and were lead down gloomy stairs to our table. We ordered house wine and Efes beers and waited for our menus which seemed to take a long time as a few waiters preferred to huddle in the corner apparently discussing something. One of the waiters eventually approached me and asked if we wanted the set menu. Since no one seemed interested in a desert or tea/coffee, I politely declined which seemed to annoy him so he asked me again. I would have liked to have said to him in Turkish “which part of no ‘we don’t want the set menu’ don’t you understand” but alas, my knowledge of Turkish doesn’t stretch that far. At this point we realised that he must have been told by his boss to persuade the gullable pissed group to go for the set menu.

Half demolished Yojurti main course

When the starters of mixed mezes did arrive, the only disappointment was that they weren’t as big as they had been on previous visits - we embarrassingly told everyone to order this to share. It proved to be enough though as the main courses were pretty big. The plates of meze consisted of delicious hummus and various spicy dips served with warm pitta. The piece de resistance however was the Arnavut Cigeri, pieces of liver and onions cooked in paprika which provoked mixed reactions – you either love liver or you hate it. I also ate some of a friend's kidney (from his plate) which at the time I said I liked – I was just showing off. When it comes to eating internal organs, I draw the line at liver.

Turkish live entertainment

For the main course I ordered yogurti which was a tasty mixture of different Koftas with salad, yogurt and pitta bread. As we were eating, the live music started. It sounded fantastic and the singer showed wonderful vocal talent hitting high and low notes effortlessly. Waiters dragged a few of us up to dance but none stayed on the dancefloor longer than 10 seconds as we hadn’t quite had enough wine. The belly dancer appeared after a while and danced around the room whilst Turkish looking extras from Goodfellas tucked 10 pound notes into her skirt. Suddenly the bill appeared which we hadn’t asked for – a shame since we probably would’ve stayed a bit longer and had a few more drinks.

Waiters try to get the girls to dance

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Burberry and Berlusconi

I’ve just got back from five days in Milan as a visit to my Grandma was long overdue. We had a great time, exploring the bars of the trendy Brera area, watching AC Milan snatch a 3-0 win in the last 15 minutes at the superb San Siro and sniggering at the old women tottering along with pooches and dead racoons on their backs. When I was little I loved Italy and everything about it but as I’m becoming older, I’m becoming more cynical about what I believed was once a perfect country – it would seem the rose tinted specs are clearing. This is the country that claims to be the fashion capital of the world – what I see now is a bunch of clones dressed in black wearing sunglasses in all weathers clutching matching Louis Vuitton bags. The chav phenomena clearly hasn’t reached Italy yet either as Burberry still have a booming business.

Milanese baby chavs can shop here

With the Italian elections looming you can’t turn a corner without seeing an election poster with Berlusconi’s orange face grinning back at you. The right coalition government are trying to grab every opportunity to stay in power with last minute appeals declaring ‘no to homosexual marriages, no to immigrants’ and ‘what kind of life would it be if the left got in?’ A much better one I would say.

This is the country that has given us some of the best food and wine in the world, reliable cheap transport and a good education system. Yet ignorance still prevails. I was shocked to hear my 20 year old cousin declare that all the Albanians should be sent back to their own country as it’s not her problem. Fair enough, the crime rate in Milan has escalated since the immigrants started coming but even if they do rape, steal and generally cause trouble - as is the common view -surely it’s not as simple as just sending them back. It’s scary hearing a young person with such blinkered racist views. What ever happened to charity? This is the home of the head of the Catholic church after all. It seems obvious to me that the problem is rife because the immigrants aren’t offered enough jobs and help. If you visit Italy you’ll admire the warmth and hospitality of the people, their sense of humour and good spirit - with this in mind, it surprises me to hear such bigoted opinions. Don’t get me wrong, I still love this country despite all its faults but I can’t understand why Italians can’t think for themselves. Surely its obvious that the right wing government is inciting hatred and racism and if something isn’t done soon I dread to think what will happen. Is Italy moving back towards a fascist state?