Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Of Mice and Men ...

... and rats, cockroaches, silverfish and all things that you really don't want to find in your pub.

This piece appeared in the Independent newspaper on 21/11/11 "Infestation Nation" and it strikes me that with the reduction in public services under HMG's austerity program that we as publicans and sometime caterers should use our usually high standards of hygiene to add to our pubs' USPs.

All too often you can switch on the telly and see news articles and "grime-fighter" shows where they point up the horrendous conditions that exist in many restaurants (especially take-aways if you care to dignify their operations as restaurants) and the threat to public health poorly run establishments pose. 

Seldom do public houses feature in the media in these stories and we should trumpet our efforts to keep the British public safe from pest-borne disease. 

Now more than ever, with so much pressure on our industry we should be looking for ways to talk up our successes (both the glamorous and the indelicate).

If you think you've got an infestation that needs dealing with and you need a local contractor go to The British Pest Control Association - you'll find a register there and general information that might help.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

The Game's Afoot ...

... well not so much a foot as a shoulder, a shoulder of venison that is.

Kindly donated by a friend who had no idea what to do with it, I agreed to use the meat in an old recipe I have for a venison and smoked sausage casserole. For added good measure, for those dining with us who wanted an additional sauce (some people need to mask the gaminess of it all) I also dug out an old recipe for redcurrant and port sauce - not only good with game but also a great compliment to chicken and turkey and can be served warmed of cold.

For the venison, once the meat was stripped from the bone and trimmed of as much fat and sinew as possible and diced I marinated the meat (about 1.5 kg) over-night in the fridge with a couple of table spoons of olive oil, some chopped garlic, 100 gm of fresh redcurrants, a teaspoon of finely chopped root ginger, a good sprig of Thyme and half a bottle of Castle Rock's Elsie Mo - a full bodied and very flavoursome beer. (Save the other half for the casserole if you can resist the temptation, if not go buy 2 bottles in, 1 for the cooking, 1 for the drinking!)

Next day I popped the venison (drained from the marinate) into some olive oil in a flame proof casserole dish on the hob to brown and seal the meat, diced 4 rashers of unsmoked bacon and 400gm of smoked pork sausage to add to this glorious meat fest. Once it was all nicely browned, I removed the meats and kept the juices in the dish to sweat a couple of large finely chopped onions, 2 large diced carrots, 500gm of button mushrooms and 500gm of diced white potatoes.

Once everything was nicely coated in the juices I added about 100gm of plain flour, the marinate and the remainder of the beer and turned up the heat until it was just simmering, keeping it moving to prevent the flour lumping. Then I put all the meat back in and put the whole lot in a pre-heated oven at 165C for three hours, taking out on the hour to stir gently and keep anything sticking to the bottom of the dish.

For the accompanying sauce I took the juice from a large lemon and a large orange and reserved. Then I finely sliced half the skins of both fruits and put to boiling water for about 5 minutes (you need to cook them until the skins are soft). Once softened refresh them under cold running water. Now take a quarter bottle of port, the reserved lemon and orange juice and slowly bring to the boil, once boiling reduce to a simmer. Now take a small jar of redcurrant jelly (Asda do a brilliant one with added port for a quid) and continue simmering until the jelly has melted, stirring all the while. Take 100gm of redcurrants, the blanched lemon and orange skins and a teaspoon of chopped root ginger and add to the mix, simmer for another 10 minutes or so and then allow to cool. 

For both the casserole and the sauce you can substitute fresh cranberries if you like, I've prepared both versions and they are both equally toothsome.

I served the casserole and redcurrant sauce with diced and roasted potatoes with chopped curly parsley and steamed savoy cabbage. 

Even for a couple of guests who hadn't eaten venison before this lovely autumn dish was well received.

I've not priced this one up in the usual way as the meat was free and I was cooking at home, however, had I been buying everything I would have spent about £26 on the ingredients. The recipe above would serve 8.

If you've never cooked venison or considered serving it to your customers I think the method I employed is a great way to introduce some game to your menu, the richness of the beer gravy and the sharpness of the redcurrants are a great juxtaposition of flavours and all in all it proves that game can go on the menu at a price that your customers can afford.

(Profuse apologies for the Sherlock Holmes reference hence the piccy, seemed like a good pun at the time!)

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Time for a change?

Further thoughts on my post in October on energy costs ...

If you are changing supplier to get a more favourable deal then checking your meter readings at the point of supply change is really important.

If you would like to know more about getting the right deal then see my article on my website about things every Business Electricity & Gas customer needs to know.

For advice and tips on devising and implementing an energy saving strategy see my article on how to control and reduce your utility costs on my website.