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And he used to be such a nice, quiet boy

Archive for August 2010

Dinner is Sorted

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In my student years cooking meant beans on toast or pot noodle or a kebab if you were flush.  How times change.

The advent of celebrity cooks and the evolution of media along with cheaper, more available products means the Great British culinary tradition is alive and more well than ever.

It was at college that Ben Ebbrell and Barry Taylor first came up with a plan for a student cook book.  It started in the pub (well, naturally) with a few recipes written down on a beer mat.  Post pub cooking experiments followed (always fun) and the prototype  cookbook was drawn up.

It was a far from exclusive club, they invited everybody to join their crew, anybody who could cook, or thought they could, or wanted to learn, or just the curious.  Suddenly dozens of kitchen virgins became budding cooks overnight.  And all this just from a little energy and enthusiasm.

They got together with designers, photographers, writers and media representatives and came up with the beautifully designed Sorted Cookbook.

And their skills don’t stop at main courses, they do mouth watering desserts and vodka jellies too.  In short these guys and girls have some serious skills and they are the future of the British food industry.

Most recently they got a big thumbs up from Raymond Blanc, who was quoted as saying:

“Encouraging young people to enjoy and appreciate food is a personal passion. I am delighted to support this book, it is full of great recipes for students to start their culinary adventure.”

So I had a few questions for Mr Ebbrell and the gang.

What is the secret to your popularity?

It’s difficult to say why people enjoy watching our videos and using our cookbooks so much. But we believe it’s because we strip away any nonsense and just deliver the bits you need without all the fuss. It’s all pretty raw, honest and light-hearted too, dotted with jokes, innuendoes and banter. We have a lot of fun making SORTED and I reckon that comes across on screen and in the images of the book.

Was some of your initial cookery experiments alcohol fuelled?

Cooking for myself as a chef is a profession, so obviously I steer clear of alcohol in proper kitchens. But the beautiful thing about SORTED and when I cook with the rest of the crew is that it is heavily focussed on everyday life and social occasions. It goes without saying that many of these have had the odd beer or two to get things going. Have you seen our chicken quesadilla party food (www.sortedfood.com/chickenquesadilla) or our adult, alcohol-fuelled jellies (www.sortedfood.com/adultjelly)?

Have you entered any cookery contests?

SORTED isn’t really about competing or showing off. Instead we open our arms to all young novice cooks. It’s more about sharing and all getting stuck in to create a lot of fun in the kitchen with mates. Having said that, personally I did enter a competition on the GoodFood Channel’s ‘Market Kitchen’ last year. It was a talent search competition looking to find a new TV chef and after a week of gruelling food based tasks and presenting I came out on top. http://uktv.co.uk/food/chef/aid/613549

Have any of your team gone on to work in any famous restaurants?

What you may have noticed about our recipe videos and profiles on our website is that essentially we’re just a bunch of old school mates. I’m the only chef involved but that is great proof that you don’t need an armoury of skills and dedication to knock up some really tasty grub. What you do need is an enthusiasm to experiment, try stuff out and have a few laughs in the kitchen. The rest is easy. So no, I’m the only one who’s worked in top restaurants, hotels and cooked for the occasional celebrity but that doesn’t mean that as a crew we don’t know how to churn our meal after meal of quick, simple, tasty grub heavily seasoned with banter!

Who are your cooking heroes?

I’m a big fan of chefs who cook from the heart. Using basic, fresh everyday ingredients and not having to do too much with them to create stunningly simple food. Rick Stein, James Martin and Jamie Oliver all do this so well. I can only hope that some of SORTED’s recipe will give them a run for their money too. What do you reckon?

Does cooking improve your chances of getting a hot woman?

Being able to throw together an impressive meal for that special someone is always a handy skill to have up your sleeve. And it doesn’t have to be as tricky as the end result may suggest. A few simple ideas cooked up with some personal flair and charisma is all you should need to blow the socks off of your hot date! 😉 How about trying our vanilla panacotta to seal the deal at the end of meal? (www.sortedfood.com/vanillapanacotta)

So if all this has whetted your appetite then check out Ben and his gang at:

www.sortedfood.com

 

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Written by Nick Gilmartin

August 31, 2010 at 10:31 pm

Get a taste of the Hotpots

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It isn’t often you see people in flat caps outside a pub in Nuneaton in this day and age.  To wear one outside The Crew bar may be perceived as looking for a good kicking.

But, in honour of Lancashire’ finest folk band, the good people of Nuneaton  made an exception.

The Lancashire Hotpots are a modern day folk band who have been gaining a steady following all over north and central England.  Their upbeat, sing-a-long tunes deal with modern issues, such as Chavs, Emo types, Ikea, chips, and myspace.

They are also fiercely proud of their heritage, talking the talk and dressing like tinkers.  They came with a following of about a dozen, all dressed the part.  But what did the people of Nuneaton think of them?

Although a bit wary at first, and unsure of the accent, they soon got into the spirit of the evening, which was just to have fun, dance and sing along.  Soon they were dancing, conga-ing and joining in like honorary Lancastrians.

The Lancashire Hotpots are Bernard Thresher, Bob Wriggles, Dickie Ticker, Billy McCartney (“The only thing to come out of Merseyside that’s working”), and Kenny Body.  A founder member, Willie Eckerslike, passed away in May, aged only 38.

They were formed in December 2006 in Saint Helens, Lancashire.  They soon became favourites on local radio and played several open-air festivals.  In later years they featured on Colin Murray’s show on Radio One.

Their latest album, Criminal Record, is due for release later this year.

http://www.myspace.com/thelancashirehotpots

Copyright Nick Gilmartin 2010

Written by Nick Gilmartin

August 27, 2010 at 9:24 pm

Posted in music

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Chase Gin Cocktail Competition

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Well I’ll tell you why I like Mondays, because I tend to end up sampling some gorgeous drinks courtesy of the best Bar tenders in the Midlands.

And this week was no exception.  Williams Chase Gin provided the sponsorship for the latest round of the Midlands Mixology competition.  This month there was a much larger turn-out, with Bartenders turning up from all over Birmingham.  Eleven contestants in total.

Chris Hoy set the running with a blush coloured drink with a fair head of froth.  He was the only one to use a highball glass.

Others were very creative with their drink ware.  One guy used a hollowed out apple.  Bex O Neill used a strange hybrid of cocktail glass and tea cup.  Where she found them I know not.

A rare shot of Ash Lambert smiling

Ash Lambert suffered no disasters this month and produced his drink with ease.  It was a three tone drink with a frothy head and a slightly bitter edge.

Egg white seems to be the ingredient of choice at the minute and was used in several of the cocktails entered.  This was a cause for concern for Rob Wood, the official, who reminded everybody that raw egg can be dangerous and should be emasculated before consumption, by adding sugar.

Contestant continued to enter, even as the competition was going on, the last man producing a slightly ad-hoc pink concoction that, to my surprise, was rather tasty.

But the winner, on his home turf, was Amen Snare Johal.  His amazing drink had caught the taste-buds of the judges with it’s bursts of flavour and colour.  The guy was naturally ecstatic, there was no calming him down for nearly half an hour.

Still it was a good opportunity to network, meet fellow drink enthusiasts, ok alcoholics, and learn new tricks and tips.  Good day had by all.

Check out:

http://www.chasedistillery.co.uk/williamsgin.htm

Written by Nick Gilmartin

August 23, 2010 at 9:19 pm

I quit!

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Actually I havn’t but boy have I thought about it a lot lately.

But the art of telling someone where to stick their job has been taken to a whole new level this week.

Firstly, ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce Steven Slater, air steward.  Now dealing with the general public in transit is a stressful occupation.  We have all seen airline, the rows, the idiots and so on, but we never had to deal with it personally.  Steve did it every working day.

Steve was having a  bad time anyway, lets make that clear.  He had family worries and really could do without two women arguing over an overhead locker as the plane taxied to a halt at JFK airport.  He went over to intervene but was told in no uncertain terms where to get off.

At this point the red mist descended.

Steve tore off his nasty airline tie, grabbed the microphone and launched into an expletive-laden tirade against the two women and the airline industry in general.  After which he grabbed a very well earned beer, opened the door, pulled the inflatable chute and slid his way to freedom.  Geezer!

Sadly he was arrested at his home a few hours later on charges of criminal mischief, reckless endangerment and other crimes against fun.  He is currently on bail and awaiting trial.

To support his case follow this link:

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Free-Steven-Slater/144193358941536?ref=search

But my gold medal for sticking it to the man has to go to this little sweetheart.  All we know is her name is Jenny and she was having a lot of hassle at the firm of brokers where she worked.  Just follow the pictures all the way down.

A round of applause please!

For more funny stuff please check out http://www.thechive.com so I don’t feel too bad about stealing their photos.

If workplace stress is causing you hell please do get help.  Just don’t ask me for a job.

Written by Nick Gilmartin

August 11, 2010 at 6:21 pm

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Bacardi Training

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This drinking on a Monday afternoon business is becoming a bit of a habit.

This week I was off to Nottingham on a quest to improve my cocktail knowledge .  I was directed to a small doorway with a Chinese lantern over it on a side street.  So far so seedy, but who is complaining, right?

Deep in the catacombs of Nottingham town I found myself in a bar that had been turned partly into a film studio.  Gathered in the room were some of my fellow Brummies and one or two luminaries of the Bartending world.

The boss on the day was Laura Samra, account manager for Bacardi.  She introduced the lecturers for the day, none other than Alex Turner and Ben Reed.

Now these two Gentlemen are what you would call Bartending Royalty.  Formerly of the International Playboy Bartenders, they have expanded to set up companies of their own.  They have traveled the world and worked in some of the best bars and clubs on earth.  Lucky sods.

The first hour was dedicated to how to set up the bar to optimize efficiency.  It sounds simple but if you start off with properly prepared equipment you will have an easier night.  That means clean jiggers, proper tools, enough clean glasses, good size pieces of ice, enough garnish and enough change.

Or to use my mnemonic, C-I-G-S-S.  To explain:

Change, Ice and lemon, Glasses, Staff and Stock.  Your five main priorities.

From there Ben Reed took over the lecture.  His topic was the effects of Alcohol on the body.  Frankly it dispelled a lot of the myths of what we view as hangover cures.  Basically there arn’t any.  Your body will absorb the alcohol as slowly as it likes and sod anything else.

We also saw this video explaining why drinking and driving really isn’t a good idea:

He went into detail of which parts of the body are affected by alcohol and exactly how.

After lunch in the impressive Coco Tang cafe it was back to class, and this was the fun bit.

For the next hour and a half we were taught ten of the greatest cocktails from around the world.  Some of the training was done via video screen and the practical demonstrations were done behind the bar in the room.  Each of us had a turn at making a drink with the aid of the country’s best bartenders.

My first effort was the classic Bloody Mary.  Traditionally made with vodka and tomato juice, I blend it with cracked black pepper, salt, and a variety of sauces.  Some shake it, some just stick in in the glass and stir.  I like to shake it.

The Louisiana Jam really caught the attention of my tastebuds.  This is a potent meeting of Southern Comfort, mint, apricot jam, lemon and sugar mix.  You mix them up in a jam jar with ice and serve with more crushed ice.  And, oh boy, is it good?  It’s good.

The Negroni was a cocktail I didn’t instantly fall in love with.  It is made from Campari, an exceptionally bitter Italian liquor, originally made as a health tonic.  Into it you add soda and sweet red vermouth.  Add ice and a good slice of orange.

The Mojito is one of my favourite cocktails to drink, but my least favourite to make, as it is such a faffy affair.  But the end result is a crisp clean drink that slips down just a little too easily.

The Paloma came next.  I could tell you what was in it, but I won’t.  Instead I will hand you over to an expert:

After class we took a break and had a look around Nottingham town, and explored a few of it’s bars.  Brass Monkey was the first on our tour, a small, very cocktail orientated bar managed by Christian Tyrel.  In 2008 he was chosen as Nottingham’s best bartender, in it’s best bar, no less.  Go see him, his drinks are amazing.

The last place we saw was truly an experience.  Bad Juju bar is a real, honest to goodness Tiki lounge, complete with shelves full of strange exotic rums, strange exotic bar staff, and Carribean themed decor.  The drinks they made there were strange and amazing, with flaming oranges sitting on top of the drink served in a pint glass.

It was while drinking a Zombie that I finally sat down with Ben Reed for a quick chat:

At that point I had to leave, which was a terrible shame, but my parking fee was now upwards of £20.  But hey, what a way to spend the day.  Cocktail training with the Jedi masters of the trade, getting to taste their drinks, and going for drinks after.

I am starting to remember why I like this bartending lark.

Written by Nick Gilmartin

August 4, 2010 at 1:41 am

Posted in Food and Drink

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