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  1. I'm a real big fan of spit-roasted meats, too, especially chicken (who can resist those rotating, dripping banks of chickens in any market in France?). In fact, many years ago we had a brilliant home oven that gave just such results. Of course it was French - Scholtes - and it had a fantastic, never-fail spit. We eventually changed the oven for a 90cm Smeg and we chose this in part because it too had a spit. However I'm afraid to say that the Smeg turned out to be a toy and simply not man enough for the task. Problem, it seems, was that the drive was not direct - that is, the motor was accessed through the back wall of the oven, so it meant that power was transferred through a gearing mechanism to make it change direction to drive the spit horizontally across the width of the oven. The chicken would invariably flop around (no matter how carefully positioned) and sometimes the mechanism would jump off, the chicken would stop turning, and, if we didn't notice this in time, then the chicken would burn. We finally got fed up with the Smeg - for this and numerous other reasons, notably because the heating element kept burning out. We replaced it with an oven from of all places New Zealand - a Fisher Paykel. This is both a fantastic oven and also a great oven for spit roasting. It too is a 90cm oven, which means we can thread two chickens on the spit and it is more than up to the task of turning them both without effort. As suggested I usually put one chicken breast up, the other breast down and this works well. But even with just one bird, it turns evenly without the flopping about. I think it is because the motor doesn't have to struggle. No counterweights are necessary. And the results are mouthwateringly superb - crispy, bubbly skin, juicy, moist meat - sometimes we put diced potatoes underneath to catch all the fat and juices. Delicious.
  2. Pop-up restaurants are happening not just in London but all over the country. It's a fascinating development. Here's a great resource. We ourselves have been doing a sort of monthly 'pop-up' in Devon that has proved very popular. We cook in our domestic kitchen at home and carry the food across the road to a wine cellar to serve around 35. Marc
  3. Chris, cooked the three whole loins last night. Your guestimate timing was pretty well spot-on. As it was something like 12 kgs of meat, albeit in three different pieces shaped as described above, I still thought it would take way longer. The three loins went into a low oven (140C), and I was very surprised to reach 150F after less than 2 hours (my oven is C, my meat thermometer F). The meat had first been char-grilled on a gas grill, then I oven-braised in wine and balsamic vinegar on a bed of onions and rosemary. Since it was done way earlier than I had anticipated, I covered the pan in aluminium foil, and kept it warm in a very low oven (85C) for another two hours. Reduced the liquid, sliced thickly, spooned over the juices: still incredibly moist and succulent. In fact everyone raved about it. Here's a photo: Thanks, everyone, for the help!
  4. Thanks for this, all excellent advice. I do use a meat thermometer and am happy with around the 140-150 mark. The pork comes from a freerange farm 3 miles down the road from where I live - there's still a bit of fat in and around the loin and when slow-roasted it shouldn't dry out, unless overcooked. What I am really looking for is a ballpark figure for time when slow roasting 3 pieces of loin (long and relatively thin in diameter as described above) that together weigh around 15lbs in a slow oven of around 250F. 1 1/2 to 2 hours seems a bit on the short side, Chris. I recently cooked a similarly shaped rolled belly from the same source in an even lower oven - 85C: 4 hours it was edible though still firm, but after another 2 it was melting and almost falling apart. So I'm thinking around the 3-4 hour mark for the loin in the slightly hotter oven. Of course if it cooks earlier, I'll pull it, but I need to plan the timing for serving and don't want it sitting around warming for a couple of hours.
  5. Advice on roasting times for meat is usually given in minutes per pound/kilo. But in my experience, the shape of the joint in question often is more important than the total weight, and it is therefore difficult to calculate. For example, one could have same weight in roasting joints of pork of vastly different shape - a long, narrow rolled loin versus a big hunk of leg or shoulder, less long but much wider in girth. The leg will take longer because of the time needed for heat to penetrate to the interior. I wonder if anyone can give me some advice. I am planning to slow-roast 3 whole boned loins of pork at the same time in a single tray. I have asked the butcher to take the skin off (which I will cook separately for the crackling) and roll and tie the joints. I plan to first char-grill the outside on the bbq (this give a great smoky flavour) then will place all three in a large catering pan on top of a generous bed of sliced onions, a bottle of red Italian wine and lots of fresh rosemary. Each loin weighs about 5-6 lbs so a total of about 15lbs of meat. Each will be about 15-17 inches in length and about 4-5 inches in diameter, so long, but not very wide or thick pieces. I'd like to slow roast in a fan oven at around 250-275 degrees F (120-140 C). It's important that the loin (which is quite lean) does not dry out. Can anyone give advice on overall cooking times? Many thanks Marc
  6. Amazing photos. Very impressive. The "porcine pedaler (beta version)" is brilliant! Bravo. Marc
  7. Cycling and eating, my sort of travelling. Nice descriptions, Gary (would have liked to know a little more about those 140 miles, can't quite figure out how you managed the mileage between those long lunches, dinners, afternoon snoozes with all that lovely wine . . .). I haven't been to the Chianti Classico for a few years and you've made me want to jump on a plane in Bristol tomorrow (with my Colnago in a bike bag). We're coming up, after all, to the best time of year to be in Tuscany (to be just about anywhere in Italy, come to think of it), as the grapes come in (we used to live outside of Florence in the Carmignano wine zone and have the fondest memories of this magical moment of the year). And there is no better way to explore Italy than on two wheels.
  8. Nice to read about both cycling and truffles/mushrooms in the same posts. I was in Turin last week for Terra Madre, and was put up in Susa. It reminded me of when I cycled from England to Italy, and descended from France via the Moncenisio pass. We bombed down that 20km descent and I remember passing through Susa at breakneck speed, en route to Alba. Speaking of which, we took the train down to Alba on Sunday and Monday (yesterday). On Sunday, the town was absolutely heaving, never seen so many people there for the Fiera. This was my first visit to the new truffle fair hall on the edge of town. It was crazy. We went with a winemaker friend, Mario Fontana of Cascina Fontana. One of the trifolau was a relative of his, and he sold some friends some good truffles, certainly said they were local. But the price was very high, 450 euros an etto! I bought a small truffle myself yesterday at Tartufi Morra in Alba. Alessandro Bonino told me that this year is even worse than last year! Nonetheless, now back home in a very wintry Devon, we'll enjoy this Langhe treat tomorrow night, probably simply on tajarin noodles or on fried or scrambled eggs. Marc
  9. My mother taught me the joy of cooking, that even if you are unhappy, eating well - not fancily but generously - is one of the daily pleasures that can make life worth living, that can make us feel good. Mom was a great intuitive cook, and no one was better able to throw together the most delicious everyday meals from whatever ingredients were at hand, even the most frugal. This stemmed above all from her generosity of spirit, and the desire to enjoy the company of family and friends around her table, eating, talking, laughing, arguing - living. We may be considered better cooks, 'fancier' cooks, but how I miss her generous spontaneity, how I miss those wonderful family meals. Marc
  10. Hi Phil, glad you enjoyed the fish and scallops. I agree about the chips, though, they are rather indifferent in comparison to the incredible fish. Yes, the courtyard shuts when Darts Farm closes. We live no more than 4-5 minutes away by car (or 15 minutes by foot). That's just about close enough to get the fish & chips home still piping hot - and not soggy (with lid of cardboard box open so that it does steam while being transported). But it's a risky business, I tell you. One of my friends lives marginally closer (so say 3 minutes away), and in eagerness to get said fish & chips home, he actually had a car accident driving down his own street (not his fault, he claims, though he does acknowledge that he was in a state of 'distracted urgency'). Next time you're back down this way, make sure and have a pint at the nearby Bridge Inn. Marc
  11. The Fish Shed at Darts Farm - only two miles off the M5 motorway exit Exeter Services (about 1 hour 45 minutes from Padstow - and about the same from Bath) - for probably as good fish and chips as you will find anywhere. Fisherman David Kerley brings in fish straight off the boats at Exmouth, has a wet fish counter, and fries or grills any fish you like to order. Battered diver's scallops are to die for. Local sea bass is good grilled, but even better batter-fried - incredibly meltingly sweet (David makes a very light beer batter). You can eat outside in the courtyard, inside in Darts Farm, or in your car if you only want to make a quick pit-stop. Definitely worth a detour - in fact a destination in itself. For an even better treat, pick up your fish and chips from the Fish Shed, then continue down the same road no more than a half mile to The Bridge Inn, an historic pub (the only pub the Queen has ever visited) serving outstanding cask ales. Sit outside with your fish and chips by the banks of the Clyst together with a pint of light Branoc ale from the Branscombe Brewery. Hard to beat that... For food lovers, Darts Farm is an incredible one-stop food emporium that deserves to be visited. To reach Darts Farm and the Fish Shed, exit M5 south at Exeter Services - turn left from slip road, then right at next roundabout signposted Exmouth, carry on through mini-roundabout to another roundabout - by St George and the Dragon pub - turn right, Darts Farm is just down the hill on the right. The Bridge Inn is a half mile further down the same road. Marc
  12. This year's Exeter Festival of South West England Food and Drink 2008 was definitely the best ever. The Festival Conference this year saw the launch of an important new initiative to link the South West with Tuscany as food regions and the Festival itself was really brilliant. The Castle Courtyard where the chef demos took place was expanded and became a much more central feature, and on the Friday night a 'Festival After Dark' event was staged, with live music, cookery demos (with Michael Caines and James Nathan, MasterChef 2008). The 3 days of the Festival itself were great, the usual array of really outstanding local and regional producers, good things to taste and eat, plus a glittering array of celebrity chefs all strutting their stuff in the Cookery Theatre. I was involved with the Slow Food Devon tent, and this was incredibly popular, with Peter Greig of Piper's Farm cooking his own outstanding Red Ruby beef alongside Tuscan friends Simone and Michela, who made some amazing focaccia. Here's my report and pictures.
  13. Just back yesterday from a therapeutic short winter break to the Algarve. Two old favourites that are most definitely worth a considerable detour: Marisqueira Rui in Silves, possibly the greatest shellfish shack in the world. We were there two days ago and it was just as good as ever. Here's an account I wrote some years ago, still an accurate account of the experience. Another not to be missed favourite is Sudeste in Ferragudo, a quayside, wholly informal restaurant that simply serves the best charcoal-grilled fish you will ever eat anywhere. This is quite a claim, I realise, but how can it be any better? The fishing boats return with a haul of fish tossed up directly from boat to restaurant. What I like best about Sudeste is that they always have big fish - so that the sea bass or stone bass or gilt-head bream that you order is always thick and meaty. Best to come in a group and order one giant fish to share for the whole table. The accompaniments are the simple classics. Perhaps a platter of ameijôas - clams - to start, and of course baskets of fantastic sourdough bread, simple boiled potatoes, platters of tomato and onion salad. Nothing else. Nothing to take away from the sea-fresh perfection of the fish, expertly cleaned, butterflied, and cooked over charcoal until just done. We usually go in summer, around the coast by boat, the sea journey only adding to the anticipation and enjoyment of the meal. But you can easily reach Ferrugado by car (it's just across the estuary from Portimão) and believe me, it really is worth a detour. Here's an account from a few years back. Nothing will have changed. Of course the Algarve has many fine international restaurants, and we've been to many over the past 30 years. But these days, for our taste, we prefer places like Rui and Sudeste where the Algarve's incredible bounty from the sea is prepared with such outstanding skill and expertise. Never underestimate the deliciousness of simplicity! Marc
  14. Hi Tim, While I think your mission to stomp out pomposity in food writing is admirable, I'm not convinced that the term flavour profile (or its close relative taste profile) is always necessarily an egregious affectation. A flavour or taste profile to me can signify a complex whole that goes beyond mere flavour or taste to encompass a tone or style of a dish, its balance, mouthfeel, weight or structure, all elements that may go beyond mere flavour or taste. Of course, I may simply be trying to defend the indefensible, for as it happens, I'll put my hand up and 'fess: an article of mine on matching wines and foods published just this month uses the very offending phrase (mea culpa, mea culpa, I'm wearing my hair shirt as I write this): The sentence reads fine if I were to replace 'taste profiles' with 'tastes' but it doesn't quite have the same meaning to me. Well, there, I've outed myself, guess I'd better go and sulk off to my local eaterie... Marc
  15. Nice job, Bob. Sitting here over breakfast in Devon, England (one minute pouring with rain, the next brilliantly sunny - looking across the Exe estuary to the green green hills of Haldon), reading your excellent written quest for Indian food in Buenos Aires, Argentina is somehow strangely uplifting: connecting us around the world (and around the breakfast table) through "fascinating faraway traditions and flavors, thru means of one of humanity’s first arts: the art of cooking".
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