Search This Blog

Monday, January 29, 2007

Just a dab behind the ears

What do you want for your birthday? What should he pick up in duty free to make you happy?

A bottle of expensive perfume - Eau de Stilton would be perfect.

Isn't it sad that it's ten months till my birthday?

And do you think they make a bubble bath?

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Don't mention the S-word

One of the greatest cheese debates is whether it matters if you make the cheese with raw or pasteurised milk. Food safety and taste are the two main heads on which people argue, but in the case of cheeses that are PDO (protected denomination of origin), it may in fact be a business issue.
I recently tried a new unpasteurised blue cheese. Not just new to me, but an experiment on the part of its makers, it is called Worksop Blue. It is an interesting cheese, not because it is particularly delicious, (the makers are still working on perfecting it), but because it is a possible source of contention with a powerful special interest group.
The little placard that gives information about it in the cheesemongers has a special notice on the back, where only the cheesemongers can see it, warning them not to mention a certain traditional English blue cheese in connection with Worksop Blue.
Stilton is one of a baker’s dozen of British cheese that have the sought-after PDO status, and its definition includes the rule that it must be made of local milk, pasteurised before use. Anything that is not pasteurised is not Stilton and cannot be sold as such.
I’m not sure if the cheesemonger who said he was afraid his enemies would report him to the Stilton Cheese Makers Association, but the fear of what can be done with a cheese iron and a length of cheesewire kept me from enquiring further.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Can't curl but can swim, Stickly Prickley, that's him

Over the last month or so, I've been far too busy cooking and eating to find time for writing on compulsivecook. Among the highlights have been a fabulous roast of beef on Christmas Day, a ten course meal on New Year's Eve near Nice, including a traditional Saarland-style barbecue where the marinaded pork was laid on a circular grill suspended spinning above the coals and a whole heap of foie gras.
I'm hoping to write at greater length about some of these things soon, but in the meantime I want to record my first experience of eating sea-urchin.
Before leaving Nice, we went to a delightful seafood restaurant where not only did we eat a surfeit of delicious oysters (just like the Walrus and the Carpenter), but the very nice waiter was easily persuaded to let me have a single exploratory urchin gratis.
My companions were very discouraging: the one who had actually eaten them before made horrible faces and tried to dissuade me, while the only other prepared to contemplate seafood was keen to watch me eat one but refused to commit to trying it herself.
I might have been daunted by this lack of support but for the family at the next table. This exemplary French family had piles of oysters, whitebait and urchins, and the two boys (both under ten, at a guess) were eagerly competing to get their share of the platter of spiny balls.
So, my sea-urchin.
It came in solitary state on a silver salver. It had been opened already, and it turns out that there is virtually nothing to one of these sea-hedgehogs. A little reddish cruciform strands of slightly chewy slime, salty and sea-tasting, disappeared in seconds. I'm not sure I liked it, exactly, but then I'm not sure I liked my first oyster.
However, given how rarely they seem to be available in my part of the world (North London), it's probably better for me not to cultivate a taste for them.