Belated Festive Post #2 – Smoking Bishop & Eggnog

“A merry Christmas, Bob!” said Scrooge, with an earnestness that could not be mistaken, as he clapped him on the back. “A merrier Christmas, Bob, my good fellow, than I have given you, for many a year! I’ll raise your salary, and endeavour to assist your struggling family, and we will discuss your affairs this very afternoon, over a Christmas bowl of smoking bishop, Bob!”

– Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol (1843)

On hearing these words (or a version of) being uttered by Jim Carrey’s animated form towards the end of A Christmas Carol, I was roused from the kind of semi-catatonic state only brought on by the heady combination of Christmas films and too much Stilton. Although this is obviously not the best rendition of A Christmas Carol, I hope you will forgive me.

To clarify, Patrick Stewart is the best Scrooge…although its hard to argue that both the Disney version, featuring a Victorian-ised Scrooge McDuck (Ducktales…a woo-ooo), and the Muppet’s effort with Michael Caine (Michael Caine! Can anyone else believe that? I’d completely forgotten), are not superb efforts in their own right.

Back to Carrey though. It was upon hearing these words that I remembered watching Rick Stein’s A Cornish Christmas for the umpteenth time, specifically the scene where he is sitting huddled in the corner of a dimly lit pub with a saucy maid and big steaming bowl of Smoking Bishop – the true Dickensian festive drink!

I knew I must have it. And Eggnog too of course, because what’s not to like about bourbon and custard?

Smoking Bishop

Russian Roulette - in lieu of a bullet, the disgraced West Ham mug

Russian Roulette – in lieu of a bullet, the disgraced West Ham mug

I was delighted to find this recipe and also the above quote at the very helpful blog The History Kitchen to which I am eternally grateful for providing the Phillips’ family household with this beverage on Christmas Eve. It (nearly) inspired us to go carolling it was that good. But then we played Trivial Pursuit instead which is always going to be hard to beat.

The key part of this is to leave the baked and clove-studded citrus fruit (above) to soak for 24 hours in the red wine before adding in the port. The waft you get when you unveil it after this mulling feels like Father Christmas himself has punched you square on the nose and asked if you’re man enough. In a jovial, good hearted way.

The port, spices, red wine and fruit completely knock the socks off any mulled wine I’ve ever tried. I would seriously recommend giving this a go. I’d even crack this out now during the grim dark nights to enjoy by the fire (or perhaps a hair dryer under the sheets if you’re as environmentally friendly as Laura.)  Bottle up any leftovers in the port bottle and it’ll mature nicely.

Eggnog

I had been wanting to drink this for every Christmas since I can remember. I think its testament to how corpulently lazy I get around this period that I’ve only just managed it in 2014.

Slightly less helpful recipe here as it uses American measurements (it is the HOLIDAY season after all) but just convert it on Google and you’ll be fine.

The forgotten sherry glasses, dragged from the back of the cupboard and bastardised.

The forgotten sherry glasses, dragged from the back of the cupboard and thoroughly bastardised.

I would say that, unlike the Smoking Bishop, this drink isn’t for everyone. If you’re a fan of cold custard (and we are habitual family of such), then you’ll be well away. Vamp up the bourbon measurements though to give that much needed bit of bite.

Egg-static lads

Egg-static lads

 

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Belated Festive Post #1 – Stollen Wreath & Cola Ham

Get in the hole!

Get in the hole!

It would take a bold man to argue that anyone is feeling Christmassy any more. In the midst of a bleak January riddled with guilty drinking and furtive feasting, there is arguably little for our stomachs to look forward to in this fallow month. So, if you will allow, let me take you back to a time when all was well and full of stodge, binging and general merriment…

‘Big D’ (Dad) rules the roost when it comes to the main event in the Phillips’ household over the holiday period; judge, jury and executioner on the 25th without exception. However, this does allow us minnow Phillips’s to have a pop in the kitchen in the run up and usually afterwards for good measure.

This year I thought I’d chip in with something sweet that would also flex my bread making learnings and the ham (a righteous honour once the sole responsibility of provision by Ronnie ‘The Rocket’ Goldfinch, my grandad).

Unless a dish is reasonably tried and tested in our household, it tends to come under major scrutiny even before the ingredients are bought. Anything involving ‘too much red meat’ normally requires draining negotiation with my mum and anything that is initially dismissed by my dad is a long slog to win back around.

The Cola ham certainly raised a few conservative eyebrows around the family, with I think only my little brother giddy at the prospect of meat boiled in sugary syrup. The stollen wreath less so but only because none of us really knew what it entailed, myself included.

Stollen Wreath

As alluded to above, this is basically a big sweet bread with boozy fruit and a marzipan center running through the middle. Niiiiice. You can find the recipe here.

Rum soaked fruit - always a good shout.

Rum soaked fruit – always a good shout.

Despite coming out looking seriously pimping (if I do say so myself), it was surprisingly straightforward to make. Anyone that’s made a loaf of bread before should be able to tackle this with ease.

The only morsel of advice I would offer is when adding the boozed fruit to the dough, use a slotted spoon or even drain it off beforehand. I had to do some emergency flouring halfway through to patch up some very moist dough. To say Jules (mum) would have been unhappy with the mess would be the understatement of the year. And given that we were nearly at the end of the year at the time, she would have been pretty miffed had she known. And Mum, if you’re reading, now you do.

I ended up going a bit rogue in the absence of a small cake tin for the middle, instead using this rather fetching pot which worked a treat:

Cracking with a bit of Eggnog. More on that to follow.

Cracking with a bit of Eggnog. More on that to follow.

Cranberries, pistachios, marzipan, boozy raisins and generous lashings of icing…proper Crimbo in a mouthful.

Cola Ham with Maple & Mustard Glaze

I won’t linger long on this as I feel like I’ve come rather late to the ‘ham boiled in coke’ party and may be preaching to the choir. If you’re yet to give it a go, I’d heartily recommend following this recipe here. It is face-meltingly good.

After a slight malfunction on my part (I cut the strings off before starting to boil) and a swift fix from Big D (manfully locating some string in the garage and retying the ham), we were off. Having chosen a 4 kg behemoth of a specimen, we could barely fit in the pot as it bubbled away, the stock turning a sticky brown, sweet and meaty aromas perforating the air amidst an offensively loud Strictly Come Dancing semi-final.

Following the boiling, it warranted a quick stint in the oven, being reglazed over and over with the maple and mustard in a gluttonous caress. Beltingly good meat; sweet and salty, melt in mouth and a perfect fatty crust.

The conservative eyebrows were firmly put back in their place. Unfortunately for me, I was still destined to be emasculated at the last moment as Big D stepped into carve the spoils. I don’t think that will ever change.

Curry Club 2013 ‘Winter Formal’: Gymkhana

‘Dieu et mon Dahl’
The Curry Club Credo

If you are interested in finding out more about the illustrious history of Curry Club, please click here. For the 2011/2012 full season write up, click here.

The 2012/2013 season started on an impeccably high note. Member Saltieri (incumbent Curry Ace) treated all that attended to a masterclass in curry-based event planning: a 3-pint paddle apiece at The Woodman, an outstanding meal at Varanasi Chefs and a decampment to Bunga Bunga so debauched it would have made its patron saint proud.

The people's champion

The people’s champion

“Best Curry Club ever!”

“That won’t be topped for the rest of the season!”

“Where the hell is Boxing Steve?”

As the Club dispersed into that fateful winter night, unbeknownst to all, these superlatives wielded a double-edged sword. For from this dizzying height, the Club was doomed to wander the proverbial wilderness for the rest of the season. A few spatterings here and there to the odd curry house, but with no real direction or sense of purpose. Member Dirtbox deserves an honourable mention here for his valiant attempts to maintain the banner in turbulent winds.

What a hero

Hero

However, the Club (and indeed man himself) did not get to where it is today by dwelling on past mistakes. The only thing to salvage the situation and rub a soothing cumin-based salve into open wounds was, of course, a winter formal for the festive season. One that would promise a bountiful 2014; a year of goodwill to all men and plenty of well-spiced Dhansaks.

And where better a location than Gymkhana? A self-described fusion of the Colonial Raj and modern British cuisine that has been the recipient of stellar reviews across the board. My favourite here by Jay Rayner who asks the more than appropriate question: Why do we balk at spending money on expensive Indian food?

After some predictable naysaying from members Dyson and Glenhole, the date was set for Saturday 7th December.

Like the Bullingdon Club...except with curry, limited prospects and haggling over £20 on the bill

Like the Bullingdon Club…except with curry, limited prospects and haggling over £20 on the bill

The whole experience was certainly a far-cry away from the usual fare. As the Club descended into the dimly lit vault room in the cosy bowels of the venue, even member Glenhole was momentarily silenced by the resplendent décor.

New member Danger Fleming chose to open proceedings with an off the cuff speech. He later shared his extensive notes with me so I could prepare my own between the Gilafi Pheasant Seekh Kebab and Kasoori Turkey Tikka. I post them below in their entirety in case anyone else is ever in need of emergency speech preparation techniques:

– Welcome
– Thank Johnny (mispelt)
– Something about curry

Amid some unusual but refreshing cocktails such as The Spice Monopoly and the Ooty Town Gimlet, member Kev led the Club through the Curry Prayer which was respectfully observed by all. It was then that the six course tasting menu (preceeded, thankfully, by a healthy smattering of poppadoms and chutney) came thick and fast.

Aside from the aforementioned Kebab and Tikka, the Club noshed down Potato Chat, Lasooni Wild Tiger Prawns (a firm favourite), Kid Goat Methi Keema, Suckling Pig Vindaloo, Garlic Crab and Saffron Pistachio Kulfi Falooda. Oustanding. Every last morsel spiced to perfection. Everyone in harmonious agreement.

However, grizzled patrons of the Club will know better than anyone that discord is rarely struck amongst the food. But member politics prove time and time again to be a hotbed, with certain members constantly getting ideas above their meagre station. The self-styled Che Guevara of the lower tables, member Glenhole was insufferable throughout the meal and did not abate in his heckling of the top table throughout proceedings. Needless to say, his presence was artfully struck from the photo above by member Dyson.

'History is written by the top table.'

‘History is written by the top table.’

After the food and many half-baked speeches, it was onto karoake for some dulcet renditions of Rocketman, Oasis and a very peculiar song that member Danger chose and no one else knew the words to.

A resounding evening that has reaffirmed the foundations that the Club was built on. Bring on January!

Member Skinny Pete will of course start the 2014 season at -1 points for bringing a bird along.

Pheasant, liver and a rude awakening

A couple of Saturdays ago, I had made plans to have some of the chaps round for dinner. It would be an all male affair and I was keen that the food reflect this. Having watched Braveheart only a few days before (which unbelievably Laura, 26, had never seen), I could not think of a more suitable theme than Scottish.

I also wanted game to play a part. Another forbidden meat group during our midweek cooking, a dispute I often cry freedom from as I cut into yet another chicken breast.

It didn’t take me long to find the perfect recipe. One that I envisioned garnering sagely nods of approval in a dimly lit room, around a table strewn with empty glasses, heroic tales and half-baked banter.

Golden Pheasant & Chicken Liver Hash, with a Rack of Lamb and Pearl Barley Risotto

Golden Pheasant & Chicken Liver Hash, with a Rack of Lamb and Pearl Barley Risotto

It so happened that the Saturday coincided with us house hunting in East Dulwich so I took the opportunity to drop in on a butchers that I have often admired from afar but never actually been inside. William Rose Butchers on Lordship Lane.

Even though the queue was fairly sizeable (and having been back I realise now that it is every Saturday), to say I was not disappointed would be a serious understatement.

Can you spot the pale ghost of Lordship Lane?

Can you spot the pale ghost of Lordship Lane? (hint: its not the ginger kid)

Not only was the selection top drawer, the meat enticing and the produce all locally sourced but the real winner for me was the service. Incredibly helpful, friendly and (despite it being absolutely rammed) still very much up for a chat. Very different from our local butcher Moen & Sons that I’ve fallen out of love with over the two and a bit years I’ve lived in Clapham.

After some pootling around houses and down potential roads, we ducked into The Palmerston (top pub) for a swift half, me clutching my pound of flesh.

The food that evening I thought turned out rather well with the pearl barley risotto packing the surprise package. Creamy, cheesy and with a bit of al dente chew that tends to get lost a little in a lot of regular riced risottos when they are overdone even slightly.

Have to say the pheasant and liver hash with a twist of bitter marmalade at the end really reminded me that Christmas wasn’t far around the corner.

Piccalilli (no matter how delicious and homemade) does not go with cheese. Fact.

Piccalilli (no matter how delicious and homemade) does not go with cheese. Fact.

We finished the meal with a cheese board and a bottle of port (sure). I imagine this caused Dyson’s cursory nap minutes later in the lounge. It was a carbon copy of about a year ago when he fell asleep in exactly the same position and fell foul of exactly the same fate.

This is after having his mouth smeared by a chopstick covered with Pain 100% Hot Sauce. My favourite bit is when he tries to drink the candle…