Sunday, 5 January 2014

Is It Sad To Be Excited Over A Sausage Roll

In Newcastle-upon-Tyne several years ago a survey was conducted where people were asked to list what they would most like to see to improve their city. One of the top answers was thay they would like more Greggs. Yes - Greggs bakers shops. The purveyor of the North East's favourite food - pies, pasties and sausage rolls.

Having my awkward heart condition and being the proud owner of three stents, my rehabilitation nurse advised that we shouldn't make a habit that we should eat this sort of food sparingly as it contained the wrong sort of fats. This is nothing against Greggs. They are a great company, kind employers, generous to the community via their charity foundation and even having discount shops in poorer areas. their products are deservedly popular and well made.

But I now confine myself to a couple of sausage rolls a year. Therefore they have to be different - even using that often misused word 'artisan'.

Two excite me greatly.

The first is from Tebay Service Station on the M6 in Cumbria, near Shap Summit. The second is from Crinnions in Lanchester. Why? Three things - top quality pork, light pastry and strong use of herbs. They just melt. Taste the difference - to snatch another conglomerate's strap line. You really can.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Too Hot To Handle

I was in an excellent take-away in Newcastle the other night, when it was impossible not to listen to the fraught discussion going on over the phone between the chef and an angry customer. It was all over the hotness of a curry and what the customer ordered.

'I wanted the sweet one, not the hot one,' said the customer.

'But you ordered the Punjabi.'

It ended in an impasse with no action on one side and the promise of further action on the other.

It is reason for all the foods sold such as Chinese, Indian, Italian and even Sushi have to be toned down to an acceptable English taste. Therefore Lemon Chicken is bland and would not be found on a menu in China because they historically don't grow lemons in that part of the world. The most popular Indian curries tend to be Korma or Chicken Tikka Masala which are mild and buttery. Balti is an invention of the Bangladeshi community in Wolverhampton and the faux Chicken Parmesan or Parmo was first thought up in Middlesbrough. Sushi is far bigger in the UK and there is too much rice used which is due to European mouth sizes being larger than Japanese and possibly the supermarkets profit margins.

Of course the language barriers will always exist ..... especially when ordering liver pizzas -

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Staincliffe Hotel - Canoes, Panama, Warmth and Fresh Fish

The Staincliffe? Why do I like it?

A not too beautiful Victorian pile on the seafront at Seaton Carew. They've done everything over the years to take away the historic grandeur of the place, including the latest of removing the giant revolving doors which instantly sent me back to my childhood and I was tempted to revolve around several times. Perhaps that is why they are now gone - idiots like me gave them a health and safety headache and a large maintenance bill too.

I have seen the hotel change from a dour, damask laden family venue to a Gothic meets Dracula themes to a silvery contemporary phase to its present toned down modern look. The hotel has a sense of humour, Even today you can eat in the Canoe Bar or the Darwin Room, a reference to the most notable resident of Seaton Carew who faked his own death in 2002 in a canoe accident and eventually hoofed it to Central America.

'Welcome To Seaton Canoe Twinned with Panama' .... read a sign erected by a local joker when the town was the centre of worldwide media interest.

I love Seaton Carew. It is popular of course, these days as Middlesbrough and County Durham's seaside resort. It was originally a small fishing village which grew as wealthy Darlington Quakers liked to holiday there. So there are some grand Victorian houses, greens, squares and hotels along the front. There is also a magnificent art deco bus station and shelters, along the lines of the now demolished Gallowgate bus station in Newcastle. On a clear day you can look down the coast and over the multiple smoke belching chinmeys of the ICI chemical works it is possible to see Whitby.

The Staincliffe is at the top of the town, the Hartlepool end. It has a warm atmosphere, particularly on a raw windy day, sitting in the Canoe Bar gives a sense of wellbeing and security whilst looking out on the grey, choppy North Sea. The staff are as friendly and welcoming as you could wish for and the food is simple pub fare but well cooked. The fish is particularly good and fresh. It is inexpensive - perhaps a couple of pounds more than the fish and chip shop but that's acceptable for a hotel.

That's why I like it. I wouldn't mind having a permanent table there for lunch.

Self Indulgent, Over Indulgent, Healthily Indulgent? The Accidental Bus Driver's Guide To A Good Tasty Life

Over-indulgence led me to having three stents inserted into my heart. I asked my consultant hopefully whether my heart disease was due to family history, genetic weakness or bad luck.

'No,' he replied, 'in your case it is just 40 years of too good living.'

After heart rehabilitation classes, I am now far more careful about what I eat and the exercise I take. The nurses said nothing is prohibited; obviously some foods are very bad for you and advisable in very small amounts or as treats but generally if you eat more fresh greens and fruit and less fatty foods and fried things - life will be good.

So I have started this guide, as I have always loved food and love simple food, fresh and well cooked. Paying for pink tablecloths and linen napkins does not interest me. The rest of the world goes out to eat for the best food. Why can't Britain be the same?

Thanks to the vast array of different cultures in Britain these days, there is a wide variety of wonderful foods available. Fresh, healthy, lovingly prepared and served by friendly people. The venue can be a shed - as long as the food is not compromised.

There will be some places which serve fried food, but based on the sensible advice that fish and chips are fine as a treat and not food for everyday of the week, then this is fine. A little of what you fancy ... but you won't find mass conglomerate food chains, doughnut drive-throughs, Sunday carveries or any fusion here.

Food is for all. I hope you like the eclectic taste.