The Roux brothers are always reliable for finesse, quality, and attention to detail. Your palette is never overwhelmed, but always happy. A tasting menu shouldn’t make you feel dizzy, I reckon. The subtlety of flavours was matched only by the exceptional service and I left feeling like a better person. Sort of like the opposite of the feeling you get when walking out of MacDonalds (which I always liken to finishing a Cambodian ‘experience day’ blowing up cows with bazookas – fun, messy, but terribly wrong)
-Dave, I’ve gone deaf
-Tom. What you need is more chilli.
-What the fuck are you talking about, didn’t you hear me? I’m fucking lip-reading
-I know. Trust me. Have some more chilli
-Okay. I just pissed I think. Or maybe it’s just my thighs bleeding
-Good stuff, this is really super good curry. I’m oscillating between the Earth and Mars.
-What? Sorry, I couldn’t see your lips
-Tom, have some of this psychedelic chilli sauce
-Dave, the waiters are looking at us like reprobates. It’s not like we are eating crack
-I am eating crack.
-Don’t you mean extra hot chicken Phal with extra chilli, with chopped Naga chilli on the side?
-Yes, Tom, yes.
-Right. I want more wine
-Tom, you know what we need is this special chilli my mate Angstrum heard about. It is only grown in a cave near Taunton under special hydronic lights
-You can’t have hydroponic lights
-Yes you can Tom. I have smelled them.
-Right. What the fuck is going on? I think I just heard something snap. Did you hear that? Like a pinging thong on a cold, fat thigh
-We need to get our hands on this chilli, Tom. It is forty-three times hotter than a Naga. It is called the Psychic Shitstorm
-Dave, that sounds like the time we drove back from that free party at seven in the morning and almost got into a fight with that pompous bitch in Jodhpurs
-What a twat
-Waiter, can we have another plate of chopped green chilli please? And some more bottles of wine? Thank you. Look at that mad fucker
Making Yorkshire Pudding is easier and quicker than buying pre-made. It is also yields incomparably better puddings- like the difference between freshly fried and microwave chips, instant and fresh coffee, or a nice bottle of Laphroaig and that cleaning stuff I get from the garage down the road when I am really desperate. As with pork crackling recipes, I have noticed there is a lot of useless methodology circulated by otherwise perfectly respectable chefs and food writers. And again, as with pork crackling, I have endeavoured to boil off the nonsense and reduce the watery stock of fable down to a poignant syrup of practical advice.
QUICK SUMMARY RECIPE FOR IMPATIENT BROWSERS:
- Make batter: A. Put some plain flour in a bowl (no point measuring – see below) B. Crack in an egg, and whisk to a smooth stiff paste- preferably no thinner than thick porridge. If it is too dry, add more egg (and then flour), if it is too runny, just add more flour C. Whisk in milk until the batter is the consistency of double cream
- Get metal receptacle for your pudding (the shape affects the manner in which the pudding will rise). Does not need preheating or anything like that, despite what you may have heard (see below)
- Add oil (roasting fat is best but not vital) to cooking receptacle. Again, despite popular myths, no preheating is required (see below). Add more oil than you think- the batter needs to be covered. At least 1 cm deep oil is a good guide
- Pour batter into tin / receptacle. It is best to pour into centre of oil. Do not pour in too much: the batter should be floating in a coat of oil like a big yolk in albumin
- Place in a 200˚C oven. Do not open the door until puddings have puffed and set- they will go a light brown on top where the oven is hottest. Should take 15-20 minutes
puddings rise fast but then collapse quickly
- Use a higher proportion of egg in the batter. Egg makes it hold.
- The oven is too hot: the pudding rises too fast and it wont cook through before they start to burn. The heat needs time to penetrate to the cooler centre of the batter while not burning the outside. Reduce the heat (next time)
Pudding is too crunchy, even chalky, or a wee bit plasticky
- Use a lower proportion of egg / higher proportion of milk in the batter
-You are eating a poor quality toy, not your Yorkshire pudding
Don’t bother weighing the flour. After a couple of times you will know roughly how much to use. The final consistency of the batter is all that matters, and that is determined by the amount of milk you add. This can only be done by feel- trying to measure the milk according to some recipe is only going to leave the end result to chance.
The amount of flour you use really only determines how much wastage you have at the end. This is only worth worrying about when you have got the technique down. Although I hate food wastage In general, I see it as something of a necessary evil when learning and practising. It is only a little dairy down the drain for the minute.
Determining the amount of flour is like choosing the size of a canvas before you start painting. Maybe.
Okay, if you want me to be specific, start with a mug full of flour. Or a small mango sized heap. God, just put some flour in a bowl, you’ll get the hang of it.
The proportion of egg you use affects how much the pudding rises and how solid it is at the end of cooking.
Why not use all egg then? The puddings would be massive and light!
Well the problem is that the puddings will become too hard and chalky, and the flavour is not as nice – I think it should have an element of creamy pancake to it. Using milk to thin the mixture from paste to batter imparts just enough flavour and softens the texture, but not enough to make the puds collapse too easily.
On your tin / receptacle:
Some people like lots of little puddings, some like one big one. In my experience it is determined by whatever is to hand. Obviously it is easier to divide lots of individual puddings between lots of people, and the texture will be more uniform due to the lower ratio of volume to surface area, allowing more consistent heat penetration and less difference between cooking times of surface and centre. however, it can be nice to do massive Yorkshires. Why not serve all your roast beef and veg and gravy in one massive mediaeval pudding? Or a Sunday roast wrap, rolled up in a big Yorkshire pudding? Maybe thats going a little too far…
Inevitably the centre of these big ones wont be as uniformly crisp as with smaller ones, but I quite like having that pancake texture in the middle.
Non-stick and non-non-stick: no difference due to the amount of oil you should be using. However, non-stick surfaces can be useful for cleaning off those inevitable burnt on drips from your ladle…
You can try different vessels for different effects. For example, here is a quick Yorkshire made in a blini pan:
Essentially you will find that the initial profile of the batter in the vessel will determine how the pudding expands. Imagine it like first of all setting a balloon which you then inflate.
EVERY recipe I have ever seen insists on preheating the tin and oil, probably till smoking or sizzling or something.
I have never found this to make a difference at all. My Yorkshires always rise and cook perfectly without pre-heating. The idea, I suppose is that the oil is supposed to seal the batter which then expands like a balloon.
But batter does not mix with the oil, unless you give it a stir. Metal and oil heat up very quickly and are closer to the source of heat, so there will be a thermal differential due to the physical nature of the cooking apparatus.
If your oven is at the right temperature, then Yorkshire puddings will cook in a about 15-20mins, in my experience. Mind, different ovens behave differently which can affect cooking time. This can depend on factors like shape and air circulation.
As you will want to serve the puddings fresh from the oven, it is a good idea to put them in just when your roast has been taken out to rest. Remember it is hotter at the top shelf. Don’t put them too high in the oven or when they rise they’ll squash against the top, of course.
On general method:
Blindly following a tight recipe will rarely work, unless you get lucky. Cooking is not like assembling flat pack furniture (thank God). There are all sorts of factors which vary – the size of eggs, ambient temperatures etc.). It is a good idea to have at least a bit of a grasp of what is going on so you can adapt.
The success of a Yorkshire pudding batter is dependent upon its consistency. It can take quite subtle adjustments to get it right, bet when you know what you are looking for it will be easy. Experiment, and learn from mistakes is my motto.
Puerto Banus is not known for its modesty. It is a pretty bling place crawling with Ferraris and Lamborghinis, and the port always has a fairly overwhelming haul of outrageous luxury yachts in its moorings.
You can really start to feel sick of the excess, but you know you are dealing with a really sick mind when you find this for sale:
Yes, that’s right – for the brat who has every conceivable thing already, why not shock even Mammon with your vulgarity and buy her a diamante encrusted Hannah Montana Wii for a grand. Shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit. This was on sale in El Corte Ingles – a mall packed with unsellable miles of racks of expensive clothing – it makes you gag and boggle (aka baggling).
The consumer culture is massive on the Costa del Sol. Mind there are some upsides, namely in terms of food. The supermarket, Hipercor, puts even Whole Foods to shame (well, not in the fresh meat section). Have a look at the outrageous Iberico Ham department (!!), fresh seafood counters and the good 40m of cheese counterage. Foodies could spend some time here…
Ice cream was invented in Sicily. Probably adapted from Arabic Sharbat, the Romans used snow from Etna to extravagantly cool themselves in Summer. It was a good way to piss off the Ioneses next door. And ice cream is excellent here today.
But unfortunately, modern-day Sicilians are responsible for an unholy bastardisation. Ice cream in a bap.
They like sweet foods here, like cannoli. They like putting odd things in baps here too, like chick pea fritter (panella). But can you imagine a soft white bap mountained with ice cream, and the sight of a fat man slurping the soggy flaps of lardy bread at the end? I was so alarmed I hid behind a plant. I forgot to take a photo.
This way of eating ice cream seems to be all the rage in San Vito lo Capo, which is Sicily’s equivalent of Blackpool. One thing the town could learn from it’s English counterpart is that speedos on men are highly distasteful. But the men here, of all shapes and sizes love to gently peacock around town in nothing but a skimpy pair of swimming pants, licking the remains of an ice cream-in-a-bun. It was fearful when I got caught in a crowd of them in a café. Being crushed in the clammy throng made me feel like I had been thrust into the midst of a hectic frog-spawning session.
But these things aside, I love Sicily. It may not be as refined as northern Italy, but it is wild and rugged and real. I feel like I am driving into a western, cruising the flower-lined coastal motorway between mountains and the turquoise sea. Sergio Leone knew what he was doing when he made his spaghetti westerns. Sicily feels lawless, dramatic, and cinematic.
After 2500 miles, we have reached the furthest point in our grand tour. It feels further than that from Britain in terms of culture. Fewer constraints, less stress, more sun, more freedom. A good place for people to find their individuality. I miss quite a few things about London and Britain- family, friends, idiotic sports, complaining, fine queuing practices. But more than anything I miss a good curry.
A lot is said about Italian driving. The clichés are generally true, especially around Naples. There is a lot of breakneck tailgating; you make as many lanes as you can fit into of the carriageway; you only follow the laws you can’t get away with breaking, which are very scant; you drive as though you are drunk even if you aren’t. But I actually feel quite comfortable on the roads here. Not because I’m drunk. Because it is a system which hands responsibility to the individual to negotiate other individuals, rather than an abstract set of laws.
The south of Italy is fundamentally different from the north, it is often said. I have a suspicion that it even shuns the metric system in favour of imperial miles, having seen the way they interpret the speed limit signs. Driving is indeed chaotic, I would probably even say combative, in character, but in some ways it is simpler and more natural.
Your responsibility is to those in front of you, you keep your wits about you, and drive like the aliens have landed. You expect the car in front to do anything at any given moment, so you are prepared. Many cars here drive around with their wing mirrors folded in (they only get in the way, and why would you want to see behind you anyway?). If you want to overtake someone, you simply nudge their rear bumper and they move over. No problem. Unlike Britain, where moving over for someone defers status to them, and is considered an admission of abject wimpiness, like letting them torture your dog for giggles. Not so in Italy, where getting somewhere fast is highly respected and condoned. Why else was a car invented?
A good tip for the foreign driver who finds themselves in the midst of a shit-strike on the Neapolitan roads is to go offensive or snort some ether. I personally like to throw everyone off guard by using my indicators when manoeuvring. This really confuses them in Naples. “What the fuck is this crazy English bastard doing with those funny little lights on the side of his car? Hang on, is his car about to blow up? I’ve heard those English drivers take driving really personally! Get down!’ Don’t worry about driving on the wrong side of the road either, it won’t really get you in trouble unless you are on the motorway (I genuinely heard some Italian holiday-makers discussing driving in Sicily, saying the Sicilians must think they are in England, driving on the left all the time!).
Pizza is excellent is Naples, as might be expected in the city which created it. We ate in the restaurant which apparently invented Margherita pizza. I actually preferred the Marinara myself- simply tomato, garlic and basil and no mozzarella it is nice and light. Like espresso coffee, it is much better suited to 35C summers.
We stay in an agritourism guest house, with a memorable view over the whole bay of Naples. Producer/hostelry establishments such as this are growing in popularity. They produce lots of their own food. They have groaning olive groves, and they pulverise basil for pesto and tomatoes for passata in the mornings.
Check out these Mafia who ate at the table next to us one evening. There are lots of villas on this side of the bay of Naples, their gates guarded by dodgy looking crews who dislike having their pictures taken.
The Amalfi coast is one hell of a natural beauty spot. You have to see it and breathe it for yourself- endless uncurling coves of flowers, grottoes, and cliffs. The sea is crisp turquoise, the mountains are lush, the lemons are as big as melons. I could lounge here for a while.
Florence shall forever be known as the home of artistic genius, the cradle of the Renaissance, the fountainhead of western thought and culture. So I thought I should write about the way they do beefsteaks here.
Thick. Crisp on the outside, bloody as a Primark sale on the inside. Served simply without any sauce, no bullshit. Perhaps you could have some lemon juice, oil, or pepper at most. Fantastic t-bones and rumps allowed to show off their natural flavour, not stifled by any pretensions to improving on nature’s work.
I first had bistecca Fiorentina when I was a kid, and my dad laughed that it was bigger than my head. It is still the best way of eating steak, in my opinion, but never quite the same outside of Florence.
Florentine food is quintessentially unpretentious. They try and show off the natural quality of their produce with almost an arrogant minimalism- as though they don’t believe they need to do anything fussy because they simply have the best ingredients available to man in their city. They might well be right.
Their cannellini beans, for example, are served boiled with just the addition of salt and olive oil, and can be plumper and sweeter than grapes. Why piss about with seven layers of stock preparations like the French grand style cuisine? More important to eat healthy, delicious food every meal as standard.
So go and try the bistecca, let the blood run down your neck like a prancing cannibal in orgy of blood and wine with beans on the side. Which is coincidentally the context originally described by the phrase ‘La dolce vita’.