7 Jun 2009

Pandora’s Pantry

LONDON OFFERS a Pandora’s Box of ingredients. I harbour a particular fascination for back of store freezers in its more dubious shops. Looking for ‘hope’, I have found a foodie’s farrago. From calf's brain, carp and blubber to Nigerian snail and God-willing, something’s, rather than someone’s genitalia!
A friend recently organised lunch to celebrate a near miss with inappropriate employment. Trialling at a celebrity Chef’s eatery, he found transient staff including a black-eyed, liberally bruised Chef in the job for two days, pictures and descriptions of the major critics (as if only they warrant a decent meal – or perhaps Strychnine), a Larousse of dishes described by wipe-clean pictograms, and a preference for pre-portioned, pre-cooked dishes (the desserts being the least appetising culprits). Chips came pre-cut.
Whilst the venue concerned calls itself foremost a pub, and accepting sous-vide can bear positive results, and that chiselling chips is frankly laborious, my friend’s criticism, as an aspiring chef was that the kitchen atmosphere was de-skilling and therefore de-motivating.
From an E1 chest freezer, he excavated these alarming prawn-stars, alleged to originate from the warm waters off Madagascar. First he flambéed their armour in brandy, simmering-out a stock. Their obstinate, aged flesh – mutton of the decapods – was then severed into cuttlefish ink tinted paella. Once absorbed, the rich stock sweetened the project.
Far away from dubious chiller cabinets sapping the capital’s circuits, we also enjoyed water buffalo rib eyes from Laverstoke Park (in his interview, Francesco Mazzei mentions their Mozzarella). We chose frying, resulting in steaks that were clean, tender and easy to chew. Seeking more of a crust, I would be tempted to barbecue them next time, scattering coals with wood chips. Wild Willow seems an appropriate variety – good for ‘meats and sea foods that are delicate in flavour’ according to fanatical web site, ‘Barbecue Party’.
Incidentally, Laverstoke Park seemed to capture people’s imagination with their docile buffalo ‘Petal’, at last month’s Real Food Festival. I took this amusing photo of Raymond Blanc OBE and Paul Kelly (Corporate Affairs, ASDA) at the opening ‘Future of Food’ debate. Some called it a pantomime. ‘Civilian’ blog, ‘Famine or Feast’ provides thoughtful commentary.

Labels: , ,