Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Conference Correspondence.

So sat in my hotel room here getting ready for the Langford Food Industry Conference, the subject of which is nutrition and climate change and how it effects the meat industry.
As I said via twitter, I fell as if I am very much the odd man out here as all the rest of the speakers are either connected heavily to the meat trade or are scientists working in the field of nutrition....then there's me!

The idea is that I am to put meat use into some sort of historical context.....but you could also consider me to be the lightweight 'turn' before the end of the day....yep, it's the graveyard slot as last speaker for me, so I've got to try and keep it snappy and have lots of pictures in my 25 minutes to keep people awake.

As I mentioned last night, apparently I came highly recommended by EBLEX after I did some work for them and a very brief talk a few years I'm certain that I was rubbish during that talk, so some people must either have very rose tinted glasses....or much lower standards than me because I wouldn't have recommended me on the strength of that performance!!

Still, that's all water under the proverbial and today is another talk, fingers crossed and I'll aim to get back to you with a report later today...all things willing that is.


Saturday, 26 June 2010

And There It Was....Gone!

Right, time's up!

That's long enough for my needs and so the poll has now been closed and removed from the earlier post.
Many many thanks to those of you in the UK who took the time to help out...I've not added up the figures yet to see how many of you voted, but percentage wise 89% of you that voted don't own a copy of Mr Oliver's book.

When I get the time I'll let you know what this was actually all about, until then I'll once again say thanks for helping out and get back to that lovely writing.


A Brief Respite From The Writing!

To bring you more writing......doh!

Not really an update, rather a quick post to say that although I'm up to my neck in writing this paper...yes, yes I know, should have done it earlier....I am still keeping an eye on things here as well....just don't expect much for the next few days and certainly nothing of any great length or for thoughts about the past weekend of cookery, at the moment you'll have to forget them...I know I have as meat and it's history is all that is now coursing through my head, having successfully supplanted all previous thoughts on chocolate.

I won't be putting much up here about the paper, even when it's finished as Nottingham University Press will have the exclusive rights to publishing, but I should be able to give you the gist of some of the points in it. Writing it is proving to be extremely useful in fleshing out the other stuff that I have been working on for the past year though, so even if it's driving me potty at the moment it'll all be good in the end.

Of course when it's all finished there's the Power-point presentation based on the paper to put together too....and all before Tuesday, so better get a shift on I suppose!

On top of all of this there is of course the small matter of next weekend's cookery event to look forward to. No great surprises in store, just more of the same plodding along and recording what we do sort of thing, but that has proven to be very rewarding of late, so in a way I'm quite looking forward to it. We shall of course endeavour to keep you all posted through the weekend....and I will probably do likewise for the conference that I have to present the paper at next Wednesday and Thursday too.....the Langford Food Industry Conference...though I don't expect the same scope for amusing pictures and anecdotes as we should get working in the kitchens!
Other stuff to sort out next week and weekend is of course the 2nd event in July...Henry's Honeymoon, or as it has been delicately renamed by a wag...the "jolly boat day"...need to run through the plans in person with the guys, not just via email...then try a couple of different thoughts out....more details as and when we get to sort them out.

So having comprehensively burned the candle at this end of the day, time for some kip I suppose.


Tuesday, 22 June 2010

A Little Help Please!

I would be extremely grateful if you could help out with the paper I'm writing by answering the poll question below.
Whilst I know that you are all probably happy to help, I only need UK residents to answer please. This is fairly important as the paper is about recipe use in the UK and how representative certain books are of cookery as a whole.

I will leave the poll active for a couple of days then lock or remove it as I am only after a very rough sampling, I'll try to change this post as well as update when I do that though.

Many thanks.

Once again UK Residents Only Please!

Do you own a copy of "The Return of the Naked Chef" by Jamie Oliver?



Friday, 18 June 2010

Just A Quickie!

As promised, just time for a brief to be short as I've been burning the candle at both ends over the last week or so and it's all started to catch up with me now and joined up thinking is proving a little tricky tonight.

After a fraught week of computer problems I finally managed to get it all back up and working....but then had to crack on with finishing off the chocolate talk that I ended up giving yesterday at Kensington Palace. All in all it went fairly well, especially the tasting at the end with the chosen recipes of Chocolate Tart and Wine Chocolate taken from John Nott's "Cooks and Confectioners Dictionary" of 1733 going down a storm....even if my pastry was "far too thick", they still ate it all and what was left behind was eagerly claimed by the education department for "further tasting"!!....I certainly wasn't going to bring it home as I can now confidently saw that any desire for eating chocolate ever again has well and truly gone from me now.

I'm still pretty sure that the actual talk could have been miles better than I felt it actually was, but that's probably because I know what got left could also have been a little smoother if my remote control had actually worked, but then I guess that it will teach me to change the batteries or at least check them beforehand won't it? What I must do before I try to forget all I have crammed into my head about chocolate and the rise of chocolate and coffee houses in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries is write up the notes that I made as I know that I won't be able to make head nor tail of the scrawl in a few weeks to try to forget it for now to make room in there for information on meat as I've still got one more paper to finish and another presentation based on it to create....and all before the end of the week, so I guess that I'll be pretty occupied with that...sorry if I don't keep you updated in the meantime, but it's a fairly major paper to produce and when I last was working on it I'd hit a massive mental blockage and got 'stuck', hopefully that will have shifted when I look at it again over the weekend and the words will come flooding out.

Today was a planning meeting for the 2nd event in July (the weekend of 24th-25th), well to be more accurate, the Saturday as that's the big event....called the flotilla event in meetings but with the title "Henry's Honeymoon" it's another river based event with the King and Queen along with two ambassadors arriving by boat and has a whole host of things planned for the day.
As I mentioned on Twitter earlier, lots of broad plans sorted out, but the nitty gritty still needs finalizing, so for now what's the broad idea?
Well, have a look at the HRP website for the roughest of ideas.... but from our perspective the aim of the game is to cook and serve a very simple (time and staff numbers limit this) meal for the King to eat in front of the public inside the Privy Garden sometime between 2.00 p.m. and 4.00 p.m. there are no set times for events during the afternoon...which include a couple of falconry displays amongst other things...with the aim to have a very fluid feeling to the day; because of that the food needs to be ready and waiting from 1.30 p.m. so we'll be starting early in the day, cooking the meal then serving the food out of the kitchens at around 1.15 p.m. The kitchens will then shut down along with the rest of the inside of the Palace (interpretively at least) and the whole team will decamp to the gardens to talk food and cookery with the public that are there.

The King departs by river again at 4.30 p.m (or thereabouts) and we'll then clear the food away and go back to complete the washing up and a well deserved pint! Sunday is not part of the event and will see a return to some experimental stuff...still not too sure what it will involve at the moment, but could well be looking at ideas of service and transportation of food and such like as well as cooking some recipes to record again.

As well as sorting that out there was time for a quick stock check to see what ingredients we are short of as well as a quick peruse of the freezer to check what needs using by the end of this weekend I should also have the final plans for the 1st July weekend sorted too...if I haven't then there'll be trouble as I HAVE to concentrate on the elusive paper next week....if this past week is anything to go by then possibly at the cost of a fair amount of sleep!

Thinking has now ceased so off to bed, will endeavour to add some more info' for you over the weekend....some images from the last weekend or two might be nice eh?

Friday, 11 June 2010

Misplaced Optimism!

Over two days lost to this stupid hard disk upgrade now....arrrrrrghhhh...!*?#@!

The good news is that the disks now seem to be working as they're supposed to, the computer boots up and all the programs are transferred over.
The bad news is that I am now trying to get the stupid machine to re-build some of it's file structure so that all of the data....including all the pictures as well as the talks and paper I'm supposed to be working on.....shows up where it's supposed to be so that I can actually access the data!

It's a 'simple' job that is just taking forever, with goodness knows how many re-boots to get it all working again....fortunately the phone still works so I can still keep you in the loop.

Before all this hassle was started by the disk failure, I had been looking through all of the images from the last two events and was trying to work out if the way I had been taking pictures was the right way to have gone....lots of tedious, step by step shots of just one recipe a day, with the odd shot here and there from the other recipes being prepared and a smattering of general great body of classic shots, just workmanlike drudgery. It struck me that whilst visually fairly boring, they are actually extremely useful especially when combined with the notes that we are trying to make as we go along...although we're not all on the same wavelength with that process at the moment with different people making very different styles of notes.

The pictures really do show where the recipes as cooked match or differ from the recipe as written...combine this with the notes for any salient information or reasons and we are getting the sort of records that will be really useful to us in the future....providing adequate time is taken to label the pictures that is.

Now then, looks like time for another re-boot....images and stuff from the last couple of events as soon as technology permits....


Wednesday, 9 June 2010

To Stewe Mutton

First off, many many thanks to all of you who have taken the time to complete the little survey in the earlier has proved to be most instructive, especially when combined with all the 'usual' information that I have...essentially, the bulk of respondents are new to HELLO! Hopefully you'll stick around for a bit or at least pop in now and then to see how things are ticking along, I can't promise much more than there already is, but hopefully that's interesting enough for you.

I've still got lots to sort out image wise, including a video if I can find where I put the memory card...but that's going to have to take a little bit of a back seat for a day or so as the talks I'm sorting out and the paper I'm writing need to take does sorting out plans for the July weekend and beyond...and add to that the pressing need to replace the main hard drive in the computer and you'll get an idea of how things are at the moment....hectic, still as I said before, all my fault for procrastinating too long!

For now though I've just stuck 22 images up on Flickr that document Robin making the recipe.....

for to stewe mutton.

Take a necke of mutton and a brest to make the broth strong and then scome it cleane/ & when it hath boiled a while take part of the brothe & put it into an other pot & put there to a pounde of reiysyns & let them boyle till thei be tendre then strayne a little brede with the reysyns & the broth altogether/ then chop tyme/ sauery/ and perseley with other small herbes and put in to the mutton then put in the streyned reyiyns with whole prunes/ cloues/ mace/ peper/ saffron and a little salte/ & if ye list ye maie stewe a chiken withall orels sparowes or suche other little birdes.

As is usually the way, Robin didn't follow the recipe exactly as written, both by intention and by mistake...although I don't really think it makes any great difference to the finished dish myself...and you have to remember all of this is done whilst engaging in witty banter/in depth discussion with the public....quite a lot of them again this weekend too, with talk of 3500 ticket sales in one day!

The process that he followed begins by discussing with Robert (in this case) and noting the ingredients needed so that they can all be collected together.

Recipe Conflab

The meat was then chopped into sensible sized pieces and placed in the chosen pot with sufficient water for the job

preparing the neck of mutton

preparing the breast

filling the pot with the mutton

and now the water

The liquid had the scum removed as it formed and was boiled until no more scum formed

the scum rises

It was here that Robin chose to depart slightly from the recipe, mostly because of time (it was near the end of the day by this time) and because of the amount of bones that were present in the neck.
Choosing to remove the meat from the bones

picking off the meat

he let the raisins soak overnight in the broth before returning to finish the dish the next day.
Rather than strain the boiled raisins and bread and add them back to the rest of the stock, he chose to boil the lot then pass it through a sieve...

chopping up the bread

chopping the herbs

straining the mix

I'm pretty sure that the decision to do this was simply a time constraint one....there was plenty of it and he wanted to kill time by passing the mix through the strainer whilst talking to all of our visitors....pretty much a relaxing afternoon I's certainly why he chose to use the wooden pestle for the job as using his hand to push the mix through would have taken far far less time.

After putting the mix back into a clean pot and then adding the final ingredients...the saffron, the salt, the prunes etc. and not forgetting the meat itself....although this seems to have been a waste of time as the flavour had all been extracted and put into the stock, the whole was brought up to heat before serving in a bowl.....the sparrows or other birds were left out as they are optional in the recipe.....and not exactly something we can get hold of to use today.

the finished mutton stewe

It certainly smelt good, but was far too fruity for my tastes....I don't 'do' the meat and fruit combo much any more having overdone it in the past. The rest of the guys tried it and the reception ran from 'hmm, not bad' to 'meh!'
I wouldn't say that we'll not bother doing it again as I'd like to see somebody else's interpretation of the recipe, but I think I can safely say it won't be for a while yet.

Hope that all makes some sense, there are a few different images at the Flikr page which will fill in any missing detail, so pop over and take a look.
As I said at the top, a new hard drive is on the plans for tomorrow, so as soon as that is sorted out I'll get on with sorting the other images and the elusive video too....don't get your hopes up too much for that though, it's only a quickie of Robert trying out a bit of an experiment in shredding chicken meat.


Tuesday, 8 June 2010

A Little Help Please!

It's been quite busy here of late, the statistics for visitors are showing me that a nice number of people are popping in and (hopefully) reading the burble that you find here.
As with visits to all internet sites, the statistics log all sorts of information like the countries you all live in, what times people visit, what site you came to the blog from....nothing unusual in fact and all very informative for me when it comes to planning updates, information and the like. What it doesn't tell me is how many of you are regulars and how many of you have just found this little area on the Internet. For me, that information would be really useful so that I know what sort of things to be telling you's no good telling you the same old stuff if you're all old hands here, likewise, I wouldn't want to assume that you know what I'm on about when this is actually the first time that you've visited.

So, if you wouldn't mind, could you fill in this survey for me....nothing too taxing, but it really would help me out. Ta!

Just.... let you all know that there seems to have been a little more success with the pictures from this last weekend when compared to the week before! The light levels in the kitchen mean that a lens with a suitable aperture needs to be used, which gives me a choice of 2...hooray.
Unfortunately they are both manual focus lenses and it takes me a while to get in the swing of using them...though by the end of the weekend I was getting far more hits than misses. The camera is a little 'iffy' in the way that it tells you that it thinks the picture is in focus...and for some reason going digital seems to mean not having a nice split prism to help with manual and optical focus....all of which is why I was reluctant to post stand alone images from last weekend and as with then, I don't have a huge number from the last couple of days either.

What I do have need a little tweaking to get the best from them...which is going to take a bit of time, but just to prove that I did actually do something this past two weekends.....

An other broth recipe

rough and ready pie

spice pots

Will endeavour to post more for your delight on and some recipes too.


Sunday, 6 June 2010

Another Lunchtime Update For You.

Another opportunity has presented itself for a swift cuppa and a sitdown, so a little time to update you on the work being done today by the guys in the kitchen.

Robin is finishing off his mutton stew that he began yesterday....tastes very fruity, very meaty....not to my taste, but I can see why the rest of the team would be all over it!
As you may have noticed from the tweets, there's tripe in abundance which Marc H is trying to make nice...good luck with that seems to be the popular thoughts...and Robert is starting a recipe to stew capons in white fact he's sat here discussing it with me as I type. It's slightly complicated as the broth is a marrow broth and the bones are rather large and it takes a fair amount of boiling....all of which is looking like he may have been better off if I'd put it on the schedule for yesterday so that there was time to get the whole dish finished....still, about three and a half hours left in the day, so who knows what will happen when the fat lady sings!

Off to take some more images now.


Saturday, 5 June 2010

The Day Today

Would you believe it, time for a cup of tea and a little break, so an opportunity to give you a quick update about the cookery.

Carter and Pick are once again showing just how easy some of the recipes really are and how simple they are to cook at home......this is at one end of the kitchen and Jorge is at the other end, chatting about meals, manners and dining.
In the middle the guys are hard at it cooking recipes and chatting to the public. It's been a fairly constant flow of people since we started, not frantic, but certainly full most of the time.

Robert is running round working on a chicken recipe called Bleaw Manger...and seems once again to be loving the opportunity to have a crack at the cookery. Robin is trying out a mutton stew dish and Marc H is cooking A Dish In The Guise Of Beyond The Sea! sounds a lot more exotic than it actually is, a mutton and onion stew, cooked in red wine with spices. We've done it before (well Robert has at least) and it's pretty tasty, can't see why it wouldn't be this time, but the proof of the pudding as they say.....

Time for tea is now over, so back to the grind....


What Did I Say?

3 days isn't enough time to get your head straight!
I got to work to find that I'd left both my lunch and evening meal behind, so have been subsisting on Robins good will......and the hot dogs that he brought! Not only that, but it seems that I haven't got a phone charger with me either, so will have to resort to the complicated use of a laptop to charge my phone at some time tomorrow...apologies if this leads to a short period of no news for you all.

Add to this the fact that certain items that were cancelled still turned up in the food delivery and a less than successful meeting this afternoon and it looks like we were doomed today!

Still, the forecast is good if you like that sort of weather, so hopefully we should see a good number of visitors to the Palace tomorrow and Sunday, even if they stay in the gardens and don't come to see us in the kitchens.
Almost all new recipes for us this weekend, so losts to keep us interested...even if tripe figures heavily in our plans.

More news tomorrow via Twitter and here.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Plan Ahe

Forward planning....I've not got it! I'll tell you this, three days is not enough between events...either to recover or to finish all the stuff that I had to get done!!

No sympathy needed, it's all my own fault for not keeping an eye on things or the date, so as well as the cookery and planning for July, there's an adult ed' session on chocolate to sort out for a fortnights time, including a tasting session and Power Point presentation; along with a paper on meat in history with a deadline at the end of the well as its associated apologies if I miss stuff out that was'll get to see it eventually.

Looking through all the images that I took over the last weekend, all 433 of them, there are actually none that stand alone, that need little description or that don't form part of a larger picture (no pun intended!). This is exactly as it should be though as the images weren't taken for the blog, but to record the stages in the recipes that we cooked, their use to show you is actually incidental to their true purpose...and to be honest, most are out of focus.
That's not to say that I'm not going to be uploading them for you, it's just that there is a lot of work needed in presenting them in a meaningful fashion and there simply isn't time for that right now.....plenty of material for posts through the month though, without having to resort to the archives of yesteryear.

Now, what about this next weekend?

Well it should run pretty much like last weekend with the exceptions that there will be no roasting due to a lack of washing up facilities and we will have Jorge back from the 1470's and into the 1540' with more bodies on the ground there should be plenty of us to go around between the public...assuming that we get any.
I'd post a list of what is planned, but I left it in the office last week, so I'll try to update you all with that tomorrow; what I do know is that we won't be making the recipe for jelly that I had planned as the butcher cannot supply the requisite ingredients. It's looking very much like the change in ownership of the company has lead to less likelihood of us being able to get any of the stranger meat ingredients that we have had in the past....too much trouble for too little return perhaps?

Not sure who is going to be recording the work this time, it was supposed to be back to Robert, but he said that he had such a good time last week that he wants to do it again, so it could be me...we left it that we'd make a decision tomorrow. If it's Robert then posts as and when I can get time and a signal...if it's me then fingers crossed a few more regular tweets throughout the day and updates should anything odd, unusual, funny or life threatening happen, but that always assumes that technology doesn't let me down again...curse you O2 and your flaky Internet gateway!!!


Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Chekyns In Like Paest...The Video.

Well the images are safely restored to the hard drive, but as I said earlier I'm only posting the video tonight as I need to sleep after the long weekend...It's not the physical part that exhausts, it's the mental stuff, all that talking and trying to remember facts and figures over and over an then put it into context for the person asking the question as well as packaging it in a way that suits them....really takes it out of you!!

Anyway, the video (which took an age to upload !!)...what's it all about?

The recipe is, as with most that we are cooking at the moment, comes from the Propre New Booke of Cokery from 1545 and is a recipe for a chicken dish that may be a pie...or may not be....but I'll leave that discussion to another post. The important thing for now is that a chicken is cooked in pastry....I think that the recipe itself warrants it's own separate blog post and there won't be time this week for that, so bear with me and I'll get to it after the next weekend of cookery; that will also give me time to go through our respective thoughts on the dish with the rest of the guys.

The video is simply Robin putting the chicken, which has been seasoned with ginger along with butter (which he spread onto the bird for ease of handling) and barberries, into the paste. The paste itself is a complicated story as it comes from the recipe prior to in the book, one for a pie of green apples....I'll post the full details with the post on this recipe next's fairly complex and a little confusing, with what looks to be a possible error in the text and we have had mixed results with our interpretations...either massively short and crumbly, like a shortbread...which has been very difficult to raise or drive out, or ridiculously stretchy....which doesn't raise but will drive out and then wrap around the chicken, as is the case here. Still no real idea if this is correct or not as the recipe uses the word coffyn, but there is a possibility that the chicken is supposed to be removed from the paste at the end...if so then is it important that it's a pie or is it simply a container to keep the liquids and flavour in?

Still, more of that next week.....for now, on with the rather boring video and away to sleep for me.....there is no sound by the way, too many people chattering for it to be any use.


Appetite For Destruction!

OK, so form a queue to call me stupid....and more so than usual!

A lack of joined up thinking and the use of the shift key instead of the ctrl key when selecting files for making some space means that I've deleted the backup of this weekends images....doh!

It's no big problem as I tend towards the 'belt and braces' type of backing up when it comes to the computer and I only deleted files that I had already got another backup of, just not in the primary backup location...however it does mean a brief delay in posting pictures and an update as I'm letting the PC do it's thing in terms of restoring the images from the network backup and leaving it alone so that it can do the job a little quicker, in reality it's just me being fussy and liking things in their place, but I'd started the process before I noticed what the time was....there's a fair bit to restore because I habitually shoot RAW files which are a lot larger than the JPEG's that get uploaded for you to see....thankfully I still have the phone to post this via.

New plan will be to post the video that I took on Sunday and give a full update with images tomorrow as it's looking like I won't have a lot of time to post if I want to get sufficient beauty sleep to recover from the funny comments needed thank you.

Fingers crossed a new post within the hour.