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Posts posted by Marco_Polo

  1. Bonk has quite a different meaning in other countries........

    and as such is something that is rarely avoided-indeed it is often actively pursued  :raz:

    Sam's quite right, where I live bonk does indeed have more than one meaning. But we cyclists like to think that we can multi-task. :biggrin:

    I cycle a lot, mostly for 2-4 hour rides two or three times a week, plus a number of century and century-plus rides throughout the year (fortunately we can cycle year round here). Eating on a bike is something I've had to learn to do mainly from trial and error. Up to two hours, or say 35-40 miles, I can get away without eating. My legs should have just enough in them and I'll then try and eat as soon as I'm off the bike (I would ideally carry an energy drink like Lucozade Sport). However, even for this short distance it's good insurance to carry a banana or a flapjack. If the ride is any longer, then I'll either have planned to carry food with me or else we'd be looking to have a stop somewhere en route, usually in a caff for tea, cakes or something hot.

    I have indeed bonked (on the bike) - when the real thing happens, it's quite horrible: your legs just go completely and though you may be able to turn the pedals, there is no power at all. Quite simply you are out of gas. This is uncomfortable in the extreme, especially if you find yourself miles from anywhere and you have no other way of getting back, save pedalling. Such an experience, for a diabetic, I'm sure, could be very dangerous.

    The key I've found is eating regularly, to the clock. I like to have a bite or a nibble of something every hour, on the hour, while on the bike for longer rides. Flapjacks (what we call granola bar type things - the best are homemade) are great long-burning fuel as they are made with oats, honey, dried fruit etc. Quite concentrated, too, so you can have one in your pocket and just pull it out for a munch as you are going.

    I'm afraid I'm not at all scientific about this and the good thing is that cyclists - unlike runners and swimmers - can ingest and digest large calorific intakes and continue to exercise (not at highest intensity) without discomfort. That means you don't need to buy the fancy and expensive performance fuels that triathletes for example may need to shell out for. In fact I HATE all cycling/performance specific 'food' such as Powerbars and carbo powders that you mix in your drinks bottle. I have resorted to sucking down a sachet of gel 10 minutes or so before a monster climb or when really desperate and nearly on empty. The result is fast acting but shortlived. On long rides I always carry two water bottles and drink regularly - again the key is to drink before you are thirsty.

    I went through a phase of carrying beef jerky and it made a good change, tasty and savoury, but you need to drink lots with it and I'm not sure it was a really great energy source. Trail mix (MMs, salted peanuts, raisins) is good to have on hand. Real food seems best to me especially on long rides. Sandwiches such as egg salad or tuna work for me, while one of the best caff meals round here is tinned baked beans on brown bread toast washed down with mugs of strong tea with milk and sugar. When you are really knackered, it's one of the best meals you can have. Honest!

    On a very long ride in France (1200k) I ate regular French cafeteria food, four times a day, and just drank plain water the whole way. The food was good and I consumed it in prodigious quantity, then waddled back on the bike and set off again.

    Good luck and enjoy your cycling. It's a beautiful day here and Bank Holiday Monday so I'm looking forward to a ride on to Dartmoor.


  2. Marc - did you make it?

    Hi Richard,

    I went on Friday, the first day. It was incredibly crowded from the moment it opened to the public, much larger crowds then the previous years. The chef demos seemed all to be well supported and there was a good line up. There were some 80 mainly small, artisan producers in the Food Pavilion. Favourites include Well Hung Meat (outstanding organic South Devon beef, traditional breed lamb and pork); South Devon Chilli Farm (the chilli chocolate is seriously addictive); Ashridge Vintage sparkling cider (scrumpy with a difference, made by the laborious traditional method of secondary fermentation in the bottle - a new addition is the Devon Blush, flavoured with blackberry liqueur); Bramley & Gage sloe gin; hot smoked salmon from Mike's Smokehouse; Burt's chips (new favourite flavour: lobster and chilli!); Suzanne's fruit vinegars (sweet, syrupy, made from fresh fruits, colourful and delicious). I missed the press breakfast (supplied by Effings) but ate a duck burger (which could have been a pork burger, not very ducky at all); a hunk of delicious organic pork from Kenniford's hog roast (my favourite pork butcher, farm shop just a few miles from where I live); a good, hefty doorstop chicken sandwich with lowfat lime mayo on thick hand-cut granary from the Westcountry Café, plus numerous tastes of this and that. I had a pint of Branoc in the beer tent, tastes of English wine from Manstree and Down St Mary, a flute of Ashridge sparkling cider, a passable cappuccino. I did not have a gin and tonic from the Plymouth Gin Palace, though it was inviting enough - but I'm not a gin drinker.

    I've lived in Exeter for over 25 years and frankly for most of this time, the city (and indeed the region) has been something of a blackhole food wise. In the past, whenever we'd go up to London, we'd have to return laden with goodies from Soho - Camisa and from the Chinese supermarkets on Lisle Street - that simply weren't available here. That has all changed now. Devon, as this show demonstrated, has become a serious food area, the source of really outstanding produce and food products. Michael Caines has stated that "The South West has the best larder in Europe." There are now a number of good restaurants in Exeter and surrounds; we can eat as well here as virtually anywhere. We can source great food - local as well as international - from any number of good places, such as Effings, Bon Gout, Darts Farm, cheeses from Country Cheeses, as well as direct from good farm shops such as Kenniford. Our organic vegetables are delivered weekly from nearby Riverford. Good food is accessible and all around us!

    The many thousands who supported the Exeter Festival of South West England Food and Drink are certainly indication that people here are more interested in food than ever before - no, not just rich foodies but ordinary Devon people. The stallholders were selling heaps of good food to take home and prepare, so, in spite of assertions elsewhere, people are cooking, ordinary people do care about real food, food made with passion, food that is not mass produced, food that is better and more tasty and more enjoyable to eat. And food that is better for us.

    The Festival was a huge success (again) and hopefully it has now established itself as a permanent annual event at the end of March. So put the date in your 2007 diary now and don't miss it!


  3. It got me thinking about trying it with other meats as it can be hard (and expensive) to buy beef meant for eating raw. Last night I made it with horse meat!

    Wow, Kristin, that looks absolutely amazing! I've only had horse a few times (in Italy) and found the meat quite rich and rather sweet. This would seem to go well, I imagine, with the pungent seasonings, the sweetness marrying well with the deeper flavours of the soy and garlic. Do you eat horse often and is it widely available in Japan? Of course it's unobtainable in England. And even in France I think the boucheries chevalines are these days on the decline (though you still see them in cities and small towns alike, with the golden horse head marking them out).


  4. Hi Richard,

    Thanks for bringing this topic to the fore. I've been to the Exeter Festival of South West England Food and Drink (gosh, that's a mouthful of a title, isn't it?) and reported on the first year here. I'm definitely looking forward to it again as this event has already established itself as an outstanding regional food and drink festival highlighting the best artisan produce and products; the region's top chefs, who gather in the cookery theatre for some highly entertaining demos (I wonder if I saw you last year?), an area devoted to children and food, and an excellent beer tent. It all takes place in Exeter's central Rougemont Gardens, and if the sun shines it is really worth visiting - there is a great deal to taste, see and do.

    This year, an important addition to the festival is a conference on food, farming and tourism, South West Excellence. This will look at a number of important issues and the relationship between food producers, the hospitality industry and tourism (one of the South West's most important industries). In these days when traceability is a buzzword and when food and drink have become important motives for travelling to an area or region, it's a timely topic. I hope to attend part of this (it takes place on Thur 30 March, the day before the Festival itself begins) and there are some interesting keynote speakers, including Clarissa Dickson Wright, chef Michael Caines, and representatives from farming and tourism who will present case studies.


  5. Not strictly a lager, Erica, but O'Hanlons Brewery in Whimple, Devon (not far from where I live) makes a very quenching bottled wheat beer that would be worth trying. O'Hanlons is a good, local, relatively new small brewery that is making really distinctive beers. Following the demise of Eldridge Pope (one of Britain's great regional brewery, located in Dorchester), O'Hanlons seems to have acquired the recipes and rights to famous beers such as Royal Oak and the outrageously strong bottled Thomas Hardy's Ale. I haven't tried the latter, though I do have a few vintage bottles of the original dating back to the 80s and 90s. However, I have to say, sadly, that for those of us who loved Eldridge Pope's draught Royal Oak as one of the finest cask-conditioned classics ever brewed, the new version is a pale shadow of its former self. But that takes nothing away from the quality of the beers O'Hanlons are brewing: simply that an iconic classic ale such as Royal Oak is more than merely a beer recipe: it's the result of myriad factors, the unique yeast ("the soul of a beer," the head brewer at Eldridge Pope once told me), the Dorchester water, no doubt the source and quality of the malted barley and hops, and much else. Thus, it simply can't be transplanted elsewhere and recreated faithfully to satisfy or replicate the original and real thing, in my opinion (even acknowledging that memory is a fickle and imprecise thing - for Royal Oak to me brings back fond summer recollections of 'three pint sails' down the Exe to the Turf Locks in Exminster. Why three pints? Tack downriver into the stiff sea breeze, moor up and have a pint; have the second pint and you risk a lull in the wind; but stay for the third, and trust that the evening land breeze will kick in, for a brisk three-pint-sail back home - oh, those were the days!).


  6. Tonight we had kuksu...

    Great job, Kathy, that looks really delicious and just the right balance of toppings to soup and noodles. My grandmother would approve! I too love the contrast of the deeply flavoured and rich with the fresh and crunchy.


  7. I'm afraid this is totally cheating but I couldn't resist. My friend and neighbour english winegrower Geoff Bowen (of Pebblebed Wines) just went out to visit another great friend Mario Fontana of Cascina Fontana in the wine hills of Barolo to help with the potatura (winter pruning) and other work in the cantina. On his return, Mario sent him back with some agnolotti al plin for us which we enjoyed last night. What a wonderful and vivid taste of Le Langhe! These little ravioli-like stuffed paste are filled with a mixture of veal, spinach, parmigiano reggiano and then hand-pinched together ('al plin'). We cooked briefly then simply bathed the pasta in melted, unsalted butter in which we'd infused some chopped sage and rosemary. Topped of course with parmigiano reggiano. Agnolotti al plin are very typical of the Barolo wine zone, so we accompanied this delicious primo with, what else, a bottle of Mario's own Cascina Fontana Barolo 2000.


    [edited] PS Italians are nothing if not precise. Mario has just this minute emailed me the following: Mi fa piacere che gli agnolotti vi siano piaciuti anche se era meglio non usare il rosmarino e la salvia insieme ma "o"il rosmarino oppure la salvia, scusami forse non mi sono spiegato bene. What this translates is Mario telling me what a bonehead I was to use both sage and rosemary - one or t'other, per cortesia not both. My response: "Erano buonissimi lo stesso!"

    PPS The Barolo 2000 is very good, Kevin, but not in a classic way. 2000 was not the greatest year in Le Langhe, but the upside is that this is a Barolo that is very supple and approachable even now. Smooth and velvety with softly sweet tannins, and with the delicate and sometimes rather haunting aromas of Nebbiolo beginning to emerge. But lacking the true power and the glory of Barolo from a great year.

  8. I have plugged in a timer to to the wall plug/socket for our Rancilio S26. This causes the machine to switch on at 6am and off at 11pm. Start the day (usually at around 6.30) with drawing off steaming water for tea. Cappuccino with breakfast and mid-morning; espresso after lunch; tea in the afternoon. Evenings, we usually draw off some of the hot water for one reason or another while cooking. After dinner we may have a de-caff espresso. Before going to bed, we have mugs of mint tea. So it gets used all day long and it really would be a pain to have to wait for it to heat up everytime we wanted it. My engineer has told me that it will not cause any more wear and tear. Since it's a commercial machine, he says, it is very underused at this level and that many restaurants and commercial outlets leave their machines always on.

  9. I don't understand the concept of excess starch in noodles, since they're a starchy item. Please explain.

    Cooking the noodles separately then rinsing removes the surface starch that comes out in cooking and which would otherwise cause them to stick together.

    It's the same with washing rice before cooking. I can remember my grandmother filling the pot or rice cooker with rice, adding water, whooshng it around and around with her hands. The water turns milky from the 'excess' starch washed off, she drains it away, fills again, washes, rinses and does it all again. Maybe five, six times until the water is clear. Then she'd leave the rice to soak for an hour or two before cooking. It's still the way I cook rice myself.

    Anybody else wash and soak rice before cooking?

  10. i have a question about asian noodle soups in general.

    unlike many pasta-based soups (i'm thinking italian and american traditions here), in asian noodle soup recipes, one doesn't tend to put dry noodles into the soup and let them cook there, but rather cook them separately, and then pour the soup over them. 

    why is this?

    Cooking the noodles separately then rinsing under cold water both keeps the cooking broth clear and clean (very important) and also removes excess starch from the noodles.

  11. Yook hwe is probably my favorite dish in the world and if I ever had to choose one last meal this would be it.

    Hi Kristin, I'm entirely with you on this. Yuk hoe is absolutely awesome and far better than any other steak tartare concoction. Your restaurant examples sound incredible. I like to make yuk hoe at home.

    For me, yuk hoe is furthermore evidence that genetic culinary roots run deep. My Korean grandmother used to recall that when I was just a young boy of 5 or 6, I'd follow her around her kitchen in LA, reaching into the cooking pot to snitch pieces of raw, marinading bulgogi beef to gnaw and devour, just so. Years later, she chuckled and told me that I always had yangban tastes. For how else could I have known or even cared that such raw, marinaded meat was a classic anju or drinking nibble. It seems that her father, my great-grandfather, particularly enjoyed yuk hoe as a chaser after downing cups of soju in their summer house in the cool mountains of Sochang, between Pusan and Ulsan...

    Halmoni would have agreed with the comments above: rump was her preferred cut of meat as she found fillet or sirloin too softly textured for yuk hoe. Incidentally, for those timid souls who are wary of eating raw meat, her tip was to serve with bowls of steaming white rice. For those who cared to, the strips of meat could be laid briefly on the rice to 'cook' it ever so slightly.

    The key to making yuk hoe is, as already mentioned, in the slicing. I certainly don't like it served frozen or even slightly frozen. However Halmoni would place the meat in the freezer simply to stiffen it up to aid in slicing. It is essential to use the best, preferably organic meat from a reliable butcher. The meat must be trimmed of every scrap of gristle, fat or sinew. Then slice across the grain into thin slices, then cut these slices into the thinnest matchstick strips possible. Mix with marinade ingredients - soy sauce; sesame oil; peeled, crushed and finely chopped garlic; finely grated ginger; a little sugar; a little rice wine; some toasted sesame seeds; heaps of freshly ground black pepper. Massage these seasonings into the strips of meat, mixing well with the hands. Form into a loose ball, and chill in the fridge for an hour or two before serving.

    Presentation is important. Peel, core and thinly slice some Korean pear, then cut into thin matchsticks. Arrange on a plate so that the matchsticks of pear come out from the centre like spokes to form a circular pattern. Place the meat, still in a losely formed ball, on top of the pear strips in the centre. Garnish with shredded spring onion and toasted sesame seeds.


  12. i've never participated in a cook-off before, but marco_polo, you inspired me...

    i made similar condiments for it--the omelet, the pickled cucumbers, some carrots in ginger/soy/sesame, some watercress instead of spinach. and of course kimchi.

    i'm going to make the real thing next time, because i know it'll be significantly better.  but thank you for the inspiration anyway.

    Hi mrbigjas, good job, it sounds great. Let us know how you get on next time.

  13. Hi Kristin, you can make kuksu easily with Japanese wheat noodles such as somen which are, I believe, almost identical to son myon. If I haven't got somen, I'll use udon. And *confession confession* if I haven't got either I've even been known to use spaghettini - hey, remember, please, this is homestyle cooking and the key really is the kalbitang broth and the variety of the delicious toppings. The noodles, important though they are, are a delicious and slippery slurp!


  14. Here's my illustrated step-by-step for the kuksu.


    Kuksu is a classic of the Korean kitchen, and an excellent one-dish meal, combining noodles in rich broth with an array of garnishes that can be as extensive as you like: marinaded, char-grilled meats, a variety of different namuls (crunchy vegetable salads), shreds of seaweed or stips of fried egg, kim chi of course, darn near any other panchan that you care to use. Everyone, I imagine, makes it their own way. This is the way my mother always did it.

    Technical note: I've tried to keep the pictures small to load fast, and they are not always completely sharp as I took them with camera set on aperture priority to avoid using flash.

    Homestyle Kuksu - Korean 'spaghetti'

    First make your broth. As noted above, this is often the key to a great noodle soup.


    I like to use top rib, an inexpensive cut of meat that makes a really rich and flavourful broth.


    First, I cut out the best of the rib meat, to butterfly for char-grilling; the meat that is left on the bone is for the broth.


    I marinade both the butterflied meat as well as the meat on the bones in the classic Korean barbeque mixture of plenty of chopped garlic, ginger, soy sauce, toasted sesame seeds, scallions, sugar and sesame oil. Get stuck in and massage the meat with your hands. Korean cooking is nothing if not hands on: this is the best way to ensure that all the wonderful, pungent flavours mix in well. It's best to marinade for a good few hours or even overnight.


    To make the kalbitang or rib broth first fry off the marinaded meat on the bone, then add water to cover. Bring to the simmer, skim, and allow to cook until the broth is flavourful and the meat tender. First frying the marinaded meat, my Korean grandmother always said, is the way to make the best, richest flavoured kalbitang. The soya, garlic, ginger and sugar marinade caramelises when it hits the pan and the broth has a good, deep rich colour and flavour.

    Meanwhile prepare the condiments.


    I love crunchy, sharp, hot and sweet cucumber namul! Slice a cucumber or two as thinly as possible, place in a bowl, add plenty of salt, cover with water and leave for a quarter of an hour or so. Rinse off salt, squeeze out all the water from the cukes, then dress with rice vinegar, sugar to taste and a good spoon or two of coarse ground chilli powder (I use Portuguese piri piri).


    Next, beat an egg or two (one at a time) and fry to make very thin omelettes. Roll up, and slice into shreds.


    Also steam some spinach, squeeze out all the moisture, and dress with cho jang - vinegar dipping sauce, made with soy sauce, vinegar, a little sugar and sesame oil. In addition to the cucumber, spinach and egg strips, I like to garnish with shredded scallions, some chopped cilantro and some toasted sesame seeds (toast sesame seeds in a skillet, then add sea salt and grind coarsely in a mortar and pestle).


    The noodles should be son myon - Korean wheat vermicelli. Boil until done, then refresh under cold water.


    Meanwhile char-grill or fry the kalbi or marinaded rib meat.


    Everything should now be ready for assembly.


    Take a bowl of noodles...


    Add a ladle or two of the rich kalbitang broth. Then garnish with the dressed cucumbers, spinach, strips of egg and char-grilled rib meat. Sprinkle a little toasted sesame seed on top.


    Crunch, crunch, slurp, slurp. Enjoy!

  15. This cook-off thread, as always, is inspirational! And what a wonderful topic: Asian noodle soups!

    It has kick-started me to prepare one of my all-time favourite dishes, kuksu, or, as we always called it in my home, Korean 'spaghetti'. Homestyle kuksu, as made by my mother (who's version was, of course, always THE BEST), is a big bowl of slippery, white son myon or Korean vermicelli noodles swimming in homemade kalbitang beef broth and garnished with Korean barbecued meat - bulgogi or kalbi; strips of egg; sharp, vinegary cucumbers; soy-dressed spinach or watercress namul; and toasted sesame seeds.

    Here a picture of last night's dinner:


    For me, this is food for the soul: there is nothing better.

    I will post some step-by-step pics showing my method as soon as I can. It's about as simple as can be.


  16. "By popular demand", Mary has written up the terrine recipe:
    Terrine des fruits

    Mary's the real cook in our house. She's written six food books--and she bakes! :biggrin:

    For fans of both John AND Mary, I can't help but point you to another site that includes recipes from both of them: John's thoughts and method for his tried and tested home version of Southern barbecue with as an added bonus Mary's pineapple rice salad. John's approach here is similar to his approach for cassoulet in perfecting a way to achieve authentic results in a home kitchen. It's one of my all-time favorites! But that, of course, is another story.

  17. Denouement

    What a magnificent birthday feast, made all the richer by first and over the course of days following your perambulations around London to source your ingredients - and at the same time your efforts to eat for Britain - followed by descriptions and images of your detailed and precise preparations. This is surely great cooking, void of all pretention, complex and multi-layered, a bubbling pot of comfort, shared with Mary and your closest friends. If life is a moveable feast, then you have truly shared a delicious slice of yours with all of us, wherever in the world we may happen to be located. I truly felt that I was around the table with you and Mary. Bravissimi to you both!


    PS How was that magnificent Bandol?

    PPS Do tell us more about the lighthouse.

  18. Well, I'm not going to lose any sleep over this. As a cyclist who rides regularly, often at high intensity and sometimes over extreme duration, I have personally found caffeine to be beneficial. In fact, it's long been accepted amongst the cycling fraternity that caffeine can actually aid performance - in The Cyclists Training Bible by Joe Friel, he quotes the author of a recent study who says 'caffeine causes a complex chemical change in the muscles that stimulates more forceful contractions during a longer period of time than without it...most have found that caffeine spares muscle glycogen during endurance exercise.'

    You can, these days, find studies that are wholly contradictory, of course. But in my personal experience a double shot of espresso (made by myself) before a hard, hilly ride does give me a boost up the hills. And once, before a very long ride (Paris-Brest-Paris) I weaned myself off of caffeine for the week before the event, and thus when I came to drink coffee, I found it had a more powerful effect, not necessarily in aiding performance, but simply in helping to keep me awake while riding through the night.

    Now as for alcohol, sadly that most definitely has an immediate detrimental effect for me - my legs simply turn to jelly.

    However, a friend of mine ran the Marathon du Médoc this year which takes place through the wine and châteaux country of Bordeaux's Médoc. Apparently there are more than 20 stops along the way offering, no, not l'eau minerale, but vin de Bordeaux, in some cases grands crus classés served in elegant crystal goblets. He managed to make some 11 stops over the course of the 26 miles and his time was no worse than in other marathons. His only regret was not stopping more!



    John, the menu looks just TERRIFIC. Understated gluttony: that to me is real class. Hope you and your lucky friends have a great day. We'll certainly be with you and Mary in spirit - and dammit, I hope there's still a dribble of that Domaine de Tempier Bandol 1988 rattling around next time we meet...what a perfect wine to accompany the cassoulet. Don't drink too much of that l'eau normale de Londres!

    Just as an aside, after your tip about the availability of Mirabel Osler's 'The Elusive Truffle' for 1p on Amazon.co.uk, I ordered it - at, what, 12.30am Friday, the post above will confirm - that is yesterday morning. It has already arrived today, and all for the princely, quite unbelievable sum, including postage and packing, of £2.76. What a delicious, delightful bargain this is, a veritable rich and bubbling cassoulet of words!


  20. Very impressive!

    Each year at Christmas lunch, my brother-in-law's party trick is to pouch as many brussel sprouts as he can, stuffing each into his mouth one at a time to the gleeful delight and cries from the younger nephews and nieces seated around the long table. The sprouts must have been a little bigger this year because he only managed 16. More to the point, he usually munches and swallows the lot, to everyone's disgust/admiration (mine especially, since I have trouble eating even a single sprout). But this year, he struggled to swallow, hastily excused himself and rushed to the loo. He returned some five minutes later, sproutless and looking rather flushed. He didn't say so, but my guess is that he vomited the lot.

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