"It's not much but it's ours"

Sunday, June 29, 2008


They call Alabama the Crimson Tide
Call me Deacon Blues

I’ve got a beef and it’s a big one. This time a piece of bavette (aka skirt, aka flank), from master butcher Jack O’Shea (see Dos Hermanos passim). There was some fantastic looking Onglet on offer as well but the lure of a cut I’d never cooked before proved just too much.

Booty safely in hand (always a good thing) I hurried home to start preparations. I now find salting my steaks beforehand works really well. It doesn’t affect how succulent the steak ends up and I always end up with a good crust. Bavette is quite big in surface area and is relatively thin for a steak so I had to use my big grill pan and get it searingly hot before the cooking could begin.

I haven’t made a béarnaise sauce for years but I thought a rich and buttery sauce might make a good foil to a big beefy steak. I’d heard all sort of horror stories about split sauces or worse, scrambled eggs, but it was pretty straightforward. The resulting sauce could have been a tad looser in consistency but the taste was excellent.

Once the grill was white hot the steak was slapped on. One of the nice things about cuts like Onglet and Bavette is that the lack of external fat means the kitchen and adjoining rooms don’t become as smoky as an Amsterdam Café. A minute or so for each side was enough and, following my usual routine, the steak was stuck in the low oven for a few minutes.

Not unexpectedly the beef was terrific. Similar to Onglet, the taste is much stronger and the texture more interesting than the usual cuts. As suggested on the Jack O’Shea site this cut would also work for fajitas (think the extreme variety, as you’d get at a Chotchkie’s say).

There was a little bit on the side as well - a couple of roasted marrow bones (natch), a lightly dressed watercress salad – and a bottle of Rosada from Muga. A nice nod to DH’s recent trip to Haro.

The only possible improvement would have been some chips. Maybe next time.

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Monday, June 23, 2008


When Black Friday comes
I'm gonna dig myself a hole

It was my own fault really. At the start of the week I’d bought a big Rib Steak from Jack O’Shea’s in Knightsbridge. Aged for forty days and nights, marvellously marbled and allied to my sure-fire method for cooking steak it meant I had a frankly unbeatable tea and a piece of meat that would be difficult to better in any restaurant. You could say that the stakes had been raised.

Yet a few days later, here I was, yearning for more beef. There was Hawksmoor nearby. But that would mean a cocktail or two, starters, a huge steak, a couple of sides, too much wine and a pud – ice cream of course. A major undertaking no doubt. That and the fact I always feel the need to bring the latest restaurant news to our blog’s small but loyal band of readers meant I decided to give recent arrival and nabe joint Green Door a go. Of course, being called Green Door meant I had the Shakin Stevens hit, very annoyingly, playing in the jukebox of my head as I sauntered along.

I didn’t have high expectations for Green Door. Why ? Well, it’s part of a chain for a start. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but usually is. The sister branch is in that well known gastronomic hotspot South Kensington. Has anything decent ever come out of SW7 ? Although I admit, I did like Daquise about twenty-five years ago but I was in love with one of the Polish waitresses and it was cheap. Finally and most ominously Green Door is bang in the heart of the City where the number edible meals I’ve had over the years comfortably fits on the fingers of one hand and they were a bit shaky (see what I did there) until I’d had a drink or two.

Even so I admired the chutzpah with which they bigged themselves up (“The Finest in Contemporary Dining”, “The Best Steaks in London”). Surely, they wouldn’t let me down. They didn’t, but only insofar as my very low expectations were well and truly met and in places fallen well short of. Sterling work people.

Where can I start on how mediocre this place is ? The décor which would only appear slick and sophisticated to people who grew up going to McDonalds or a Aberdeen Angus Steakhouse on special occasions. Loud and thudding music from yesteryear issued forth from a cheap soundsystem. I did ask for it to be turned down but it soon crept up in volume again.

For a steakhouse the list of slabs of meat is mundane: fillet, sirloin, rib eye and a NY strip (whatever happened to good old rump ?) and they all max out at a relatively puny 12oz. I know not everyone wants a big steak at lunch but was this all they really had ? It was all I was getting so I went with the rib eye.

First some Crab Cakes. Within their battered carapace there did appear to be some crab but it didn’t have any of the taste of that shellfish. Odd. They were the sort of thing you might get at a corporate finger buffet – which will be familiar if you work in that world.

My steak wasn’t great. It didn’t have the requested char just some hatch-markings from the grill which I suppose is how all the other steaks come. It did come rare as requested but hadn’t really been rested enough. It boasted six weeks ageing but tasted more like six minutes. There is something essentially dispiriting about eating a lump of undistinguished protein and as dispiriting experiences go this one was right up there. It wasn’t exactly bad, just not very good. Which, as I said before, was what I expected. But sometimes, just sometimes it’s nice to surprised.

Chips were workaday, probably frozen, but looked a lot better than the frites. There was some creamed spinach that wasn’t and a very peculiar béarnaise sauce that was thin and pale and not very interesting (a bit like Kate Moss). I only mention the wine because the taste reminded me of that old joke about making love on a punt.

Green door, what's that secret you're keeping ? Believe me Shaky, some things are better off not knowing.

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Sunday, June 22, 2008


I have been down in Andalucia for exactly a month, working on the book

In that time, it has been “Groundhog Day” every day.

Wake up, breakfast, write, swim, write, lunch, write, supper, write, Smallville (terribly sorry, but I don’t have many English channels) sleep

So, this weekend, with the first draft of EAT MY GLOBE just about completed, I decided to take a weekend off and enjoy myself.

I headed down to Fuengiorola yesterday, to the local market and bought a leg of baby lamb, which I was delighted to find came with a little testicle attached. With it, a crescent of perfect morcilla de Ronda, not sloppy like its Leon cousin or plumped with rice as its more famous Burgos relative. But, spicy and redolent of Andalucia’s Moorish heritage.

A little snack before hand of some Costialla Iberico, slow cooked so the meat began to fall off the bone. Washed down with a cold Cruzcampo. Then on to the Morcilla served with a Protos Crianza 2004, with lots of vanilla to counterpoint to the spice.

The leg was, if I say so myself, rather good. Crispy skinned and pink inside, I served with a luke warm ratatouille with plenty of local garlic.

Now, I am on the balcony of the apartment with a rather too large glass of Carlos Primera watching a gaggle of twenty some things, in skimpy bikinis, play volley ball.

I may have almost finished the book, but I may never come home.

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Monday, June 16, 2008


I was scrapin' bottom
Gropin' in the dark

For one reason or another it’s been a while since I’ve had a typical Dos Hermanos Sunday and even though HS wasn’t available I decided to put things to right today.

First a leisurely walk to Apostrophe for my usual double Macchiato and Cinnamon Swirl followed by a brief wander around the markets in the areas between Spitalfields and Brick Lane.

There are a number of new restaurants being built this year the most notable of which are The Luxe from John Torode and The Bouchon Breton. Less notably there will also be branches of Gourmet Burger Kitchen , Wagamama (groan), and La Tasca (please kill me now). And with that Spitalfields will be well and truly Covent Garden’d.

A swift walk home, The Dan on the stereo and fix myself a Beefeater Dry Martini. I’d shoved all the fixings and stemware in the freezer before going out so everything was good and cold. Nothing worse than a warm DM.

The meat of the day was a Loin of Pork from Northfield Farm in Borough Market. Like cooking steak I’ve got my procedure down pat so it’s pretty failsafe.

First make sure the skin is scored properly – they sometimes don’t do it properly in the butchers. Dry the skin with some kitchen towel and massage a bit of Olive Oil in. Apply a sprinkling of fine table salt that will get in the cracks and rub that in as well. Add final sprinkling of coarser Maldon Sea Salt. I sometimes sprinkle some crushed fennel seeds or juniper berries on as well.

I usually poke holes in between the fat and the flesh and poke in some sage and shreds of garlic but this time I just rested the joint on a bunch of sage and some crushed cloves of garlic. I bunched up some foil to get the skin level so that it crisped evenly.

Following the teachings of St. Hugh of Fearnley-Whittingstall, the patron saint of meat and meat products – the joint went into a hot oven (220C) to get the crackling going then the heat was turned down to about 160C for the rest of the cooking time. Followed by plenty of rest, of course (not for me - for the joint, stupid).

Meanwhile I made a Bramley Apple Sauce which I do without sugar - I like the tartness - but to which I added some shredded sage, cloves and crushed cardamom.

For my greens I had a packet of Pimientos de Padron knocking around (as one does) which made the meal somewhat Iberian.

And that was it. A nice Rioja to go with the pork and some English Strawberries to pick at. A little aguardiente (don’t mid if I do) followed to aid digestion. Perfect, really.

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Saturday, June 14, 2008


It's a total biosphere
The farm in the back
(Cabaret Voltaire Remix)

I suppose it was inevitable that those days, where my most pressing issue was where to go for lunch, would come to an end and I would be thrown back into the savage world of wage slavery that is the modern workplace. Or in my case treading the boards again: in rep at a small theatre under the Tinsley Viaduct, playing the part of Pale in a new production of Lanford Wilson's Burn This (“Goddamn this fuckin' place”).

By way of celebration I needed no coercing in returning for lunch at my favourite table of the moment: the Hart Brother’s Quo Vadis in Soho. I’d written about it a couple of weeks ago and how it pushed all the right buttons as far as I was concerned: good ingredients, precisely cooked; on the ball service, comfortable dining room. Attention to all details, in other words.

Lunch on this day started off with some Sea Urchin or its gonads to be more precise. Sea Urchin is up there with Caviar and Percebes in terms of its price and also how it divides people into those who ‘get it’ and those who don’t. Like all seafood it needs to be extremely fresh.

This example was excellent: creamy, rich and briny with a slight sweetness. It didn’t need any accompaniment. I was transported back several years to a meal with the younger Hermano at Sushi Yasuda in NYC, considered by many the best place for Sushi in the US. We were sitting at the corner of the bar - Yasuda-san’s station - and because we had expressed a love of Uni, at the end of a tremendous Omakase he comped us big spoonfuls of the stuff. He explained , with a wink, that they were “for the weekend”. Yes, he did know HS was my brother (I think).

Whitebait was the exemplar of this dish. Fresh little fish had been lightly coated in the harina especial para freir or special flour that the Spanish use for preparing fish for frying. It’s USP is that it doesn’t suck up the oil. This fact combined with good technique meant that the coating was crisp and grease free.

The kitchen at Quo Vadis really has a knack with their timing of meat and fish dishes. My Veal Cutlet was cooked so the flesh had just the barest trace of pink. Covered in a little well-judged sage jus, it was of notably good quality. It sat on a small blob of smooth, creamy pommes puree.

On the side were some more of those great chips – although they weren’t quite up to standard of the first batch I’d eaten – and a fresh, simple salad of shaved fennel and heirloom tomatoes.

A pud of Profiteroles could only have been improved by serving the little jug of dark, bitter, Chocolate sauce hot instead of lukewarm. It needed to provide a better contrast with the cold Vanilla ice cream inside the choux pastry buns.

Afterwards, I had a double espresso and rued the absence of the homemade Pacharán or artisanal Orujo Blanco that the Hart’s serve at Barrafina.

So, four different dishes to last time and I’m very happy to report it’s still all good. Keep up the fine work, boys.

Anyway, I’m off now to get in character and brew myself a pot of that nice orange pekoe tea.

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Thursday, June 12, 2008


And when you smile for the camera
I know they're gonna love it

Rosie Sykes was the engine behind one of DH’s favourestest restaurants The Sutton Arms. A simple unassuming dining room above a pub in Clerkenwell, it was a sort of (very superior) canteen that I went to whenever I finished work at a late hour and had a hunger that needed assuaging. Despite the kitchen being not much bigger than a domestic version there was a constantly changing menu which provided plenty of choice and always reflected the seasons long before ‘seasonality’ became voguish.

There would be always be delicious homemade bread to start, then a little amuse. Starters might be a dense, rich Chicken Liver Parfait with a big Veal Chop to follow and then maybe a zingy Lemon Possett accompanied with homemade shortbread for pud. If I couldn’t finish a whole bottle of wine John, the friendly front of house would store it away, ready for my next visit.

The highlight of the year would be the Christmas Party where about thirty like-minded food obsessives would cram into the little room and Rosie would not only come up with a choice of lovely dishes for each course (a huge tranche of Brill lives long in the memory) but she would even bake some water biscuits to go with the huge slabs of cheese we brought along. Happy days indeed.

In the intervening years Rosie has become somewhat of a peripatetic chef and it’s probably not an exaggeration to say that if you’ve eaten out in London over the past five years you would have eaten Rosie’s food. To top it all she’s now gone and written a book with Polly Russell and Zoe Heron.

To call The Kitchen Revolution a cookbook is a bit like calling a Chuletón de Buey from the famed Galician Carne Roja beef a 'steak’. It’s actually a complete system for buying and cooking for a whole year. Chock full of recipes that look straightforward to prepare and that will produce stuff that you’d actually want to eat (how could you not love a dish called Giant Sausage Roll) it’s the perfect answer to the eternal dilemma of “What shall we eat today ?”. Well, it’s an eternal dilemma in the Dos Hermanos household – that’s why I bought a copy. Oh, and you can access recipes and shopping list online here.

The launch of The Kitchen Revolution was in a fine looking hall called The Tab Centre. This 19th century building was built by the Shoreditch Tabernacle Baptist Church and for many years provided a meeting place for the local East End community. It continues that role today as an arts and community centre and for tonight as a venue large enough to host the multitude of friends, family and liggers (that'll be me, then) who turned up to celebrate publication.

Food was simple, robust and generous (that'll be me, again): truckles of cheese, fine homemade soda bread, bowls of radishes and tomatoes with salsa verde and cheese straws. There was also plenty of wine, beer and jugs of elderflower cordial to wash it all down with.

I think I can safely say that a good time was had by all.

PS Apologies for the even worse than usual photos - it's pretty hard to snap away when you're holding a large glass of Burgundy (white) and chomping on an enormous cheese straw.

PPS And good luck to Rosie on her next venture !

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Tuesday, June 10, 2008



There is precious little point having a blog if you can't use it to big up yourself every now and again.

So, while it is a little quieter at the moment and with not a bushel in sight to hide a light under, here is a shameless plug for my book.

This is the (almost) final cover for the US edition of EAT MY GLOBE to be published by The Free Press (part of Simon & Scuster) in May 2009

I like it and can't wait to see what the British publishers come up with.

Now, I had better get on with delivering the bloody thing

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Friday, June 06, 2008


I wait - I smoke
I stare into my coke

For my sins, during the late seventies, I went to Essex University near Colchester. Ah, those were the days: rent strikes, occupying the admin offices, endless debates about Zionism. Quite an eye opener for a young innocent like myself. Things change, though and on the University’s website under the entry for October 1978 (when I started) it said:

1978 October - The University Nursery opens.

Funny – I don’t remember that at all.

I haven’t really been out that way for a few years – a tailback on the A12 doesn’t really count – so it seemed like a good destination for a HP day out in the country. I’d heard some good things about The Sun Inn in Dedham so one brief train and taxi ride later I was in the heart of Constable country.

It is ridiculously picturesque out here especially on a sunny day. You can see why the area gets so many tourists. Round every corner is a scene that could be in one of Constable’s paintings. All this natural beauty and general pleasantness put me in a very good mood.

This good mood continued after arriving at the Sun Inn and getting stuck into a great pint of Brewer’s Gold from Crouch Vale, a brewer based just down the road in Chelmsford. Unfortunately, that was as good as things were going to get during the afternoon.

The menu at The Sun Inn is based very firmly in Italy which should be a very good thing as we pass from Spring to Summer. Traditional Italian cuisine is all about the ingredients and relies on sympathetic cooking to not muck things up too much.

I did say that I wasn’t in any hurry so there was no rush for my food. There was obviously some breakdown in communication as my Antipasti and starter were both brought together. Having a FOH would have helped a lot here. As the antipasti section was cold I started with what was billed as Pea and Wet Garlic Soup. Odd then that was no sign of any peas. There were some broad beans - a little early in the season - but they had been cooked to death. The whole thing was dull and one-note.

The Antipasti was an even bigger disappointment. Apart from the Oyster and the ok Speck which the kitchen would really have to try hard to screw up, it was pretty bad. Where to start ? How about cold unskinned tomatoes on cold hard bread masquerading as a bruschetta. Fridge-fresh, rock-hard Chicken Livers on the same bread as before described as crostino. Grilled Lamb Belly was a thin slice of very fatty rolled meat.. Hands up any thing worse than cold lamb fat ? Marinated Brill – a messy, fishy mush. I got a bonus as well, some gritty wild mushrooms straight from the fridge.

Everything tasted as if it had been cooked several days before. This should have been twice the price and cooked ten times better. It was cheap, it tasted cheap and nasty.

Salt Marsh Lamb Chops were a bit better. Three generous chops were meaty beaty big and bouncy but they were well done when I was told they’d come medium rare. The fat, though good, could have done with a bit more rendering. In fact I decided that I’d rather have had smaller, nicely trimmed and more accurately cooked specimens than the behemoths served up. There really is no pleasing me.

The chops sat on a greasy mush of tomatoes and aubergine that a fresher would turn their nose up at. For no discernible reason a flower and some unchopped parsley had been thrown in as well.

I went to the bathrooms but they were flooded – I managed to use one of the toilets but then there wasn’t any soap in the dispensers. I wouldn’t normally mention this but I wanted to convey how dismal the whole experience was. And the thing was nobody seemed to give a damn. I ducked out before pud.

When I go on my weekend jaunts the return journey is usually a pleasant one. My belly will be full of good food. I’ll have a nice little buzz after a few glasses of wine and I can normally expect an hour or so kip on the train back. All I got from this visit was a big bill for taxi and train and indigestion from the big lumps of fat I’d just ingested (I know, I know – all self-inflicted). Still it’s going to have to be a bloody good restaurant that tempts me back to Essex.

PS Manningtree station had a nice little bar on the platform where the bald-headed, bare-chested locals hang. I joined them in drowning whatever disappointments life had flung at us.

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Thursday, June 05, 2008


Those of you who have been following the blog for a while will know that, about 18 months ago we had a very successful DINE WITH DOS HERMANOS supper at Hawksmoor where much meat was consumed, along with vats of wine and even a specially created DOS HERMANOS punch

Now, it's time to do it again.

After a brief consultation with HP, we thought a cracking location would be New Tayyabs in Whitechapel, where we can fight over grilled lamb chops and laugh at people who bring lousy bottles of wine from the local corner shop.

Although we never need an excuse for a good night out, we will also be celebrating the end of the EAT MY GLOBE trip and the fact that, by then, I will have handed the manuscript in and be in need of a good stiff drink.

As before, there will also be some top prizes on offer including DH reaching deep into their ever emptying pockets to pay for one lucky diner. We give so that others may live.

So, if you want to join us, please get in touch by e-mail at so I can look at dates and numbers

See you in August, I hope

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