Friday, 17 June 2011

On a Wing and a Prayer...

It’s been a while my faithful followers, and as such you are within your perfect right to be irritated with yours truly for his lacklustre efforts on the posting front. The only, if poor excuse that I have been ale to give so many disgruntled readers that have approached, called or emailed me is that I have recently started a new job and the desire to do my best there has eclipsed the more leisurely pursuits of writing about what I get up to in my spare time. But rest assured I am back and better than ever. ‘One might call this How to be a Bloody Good Chap: Mark II’ should they be so inclined! Realising that I have a lot of missed time to make up for I will first of all pacify all those impatient food lovers who might have felt that many of my more recent posts had left the culinary arts to one side! So, for your viewing pleasure here is the return of the Bloody Good Chap!!!!
How those words call to mind john wayne's curmudgeonly, ill tempered pilot who saves a plane load of people about to crash land in least, that's how I thought the film went (do correct me if I am wrong!) But to the delight of my more gastronomically inclined readers, this is not a post about another great mid-western actor. Indeed I am going to talk about a mighty wing indeed (Cheap Trick pun for any Top Gun fan) and simultaneously a humble one. A much neglected ingredient yet such a useful one both for the gourmet and the hard up student alike.

With rich, soft flesh and either crisp or gelatinous skin I could only be talking about the chicken wing. Seen ignobly covered in the colonel's finest coating or smothered with bbq sauce, I feel that this wonderful cut has been so often thought of as poor relation to the meatier leg. Perhaps this explains the lack of adventurous cookery that it comes into contact with. Apart from the roux brother's wing and mussel pie (not a firm favourite) and my regular chinese's sichuan chilli hotpot (intense but addictive) I cannot think and other recipes in my collection of books which make good use of the wings on their own.  I must thoroughly disagree with anyone who poo- poos it, the wing done well trumps a leg every time. No barbecue of mine is complete without then.

A wing of quality should have a good proportion of meat and a nice bit of skin. The flesh is on the bone and so suited to slow cooking or roasting and makes a welcome cheap eat in a time when food costs are rising. I purchased 12 from my butcher the other day for a mere 3.00 and was able to make a couple of delicious meals from them for a fraction of the price it would have cost me to use breasts. Going to the supermarket and seeing a large box of the birds' flapper on sale at under £2.00 suggests how undesirable so many find them and how many must go to waste in the production of perfect breasts, thighs and legs. For me the essential mark of a good chicken is the wing, it should be meaty but not flabby and the skin shouldn't be (like January in Chaucer's 'a Merchant's Tale') 'slacke of skine'. 

Like Indiana Jones in 'The Last Crusade' make sure you choose your specimens 'wisely'.  I will not lecture you like Hugh but at the end of the day we all know good from bad and if needs must needs must, after all we do have an economy (and our own tattered finances) to rebuild! Turning rapidly away from any more food-politico incendiary remarks, let us look at some of the wonderful things that can be achieved with a wing.  

Returning to an old post of mine 'Stock dear boy/girl (the latter rarerly used as it sound a bit sinister - something that James Robertson Justice might say!), Stock!', I must briefly say that chick wings, simply roasted with a bit of salt and cracked black pepper make a fine basis for any fonde and are a lot cheaper to boot! I often use them to make a mid-week batch when funds for a really good hen need to be saved for Sunday lunch! Of course, if you cannot wait for the stock then you are more than welcome tuck into the crisp skinned morsels that the roasting produces, decadently dipped into a bowl of leftover gravy!
Another killer use for any wing fan is to use the cut as a substitute in recipes which require more expensive cuts. One of my favourite dishes to knock up is chicken breasts (skin on) roasted with butter, herbs and white wine accompanied with a spaghettini with roasted tomatoes, basil and parmesan. Of course I use the butcher’s best breasts and baby plum tomatoes when I usually make it. However, for those who are feeling the cold pinch of recession might feel that the use of these ingredients is a little extravagant. That is why I devised a cheap and cheerful version which could either be a hearty meal for one or a light lunch for two. I think it also is one of the best ways to cook this cut whilst also flexing your culinary muscles.
Nb. I must stress the importance of using Di Cecco’s Fedelini as your pasta for this recipe as it is just the right thickness for the dish. If you have one extravagance in this dish then it should be this. Also Freshly grated parmesan and not that powdered smegma that you get in plastic shakers!

Ingredients  (for 2)

For Wings
glug of groundnut oil
6 good sized and plumptious Chicken Wings
Handful of fresh mixed herbs from garden/window box (tarragon, rosemary, thyme, parsley)
generous knob butter
Half glass of dry white wine
Maldon Salt and Cracked black pepper

For Spaghetti
3 good sized tomatoes cut into 1/8ths 
glug of olive oil
2 bay leaves
3 whole cloves garlic
Maldon salt and cracked black pepper
Large handful of  freshly grated parmesan
good handful of Fedelini (enough for 2)


Freshly ripped basil

Extra parmesan


1.    preheat oven to 230 Degrees Celsius, chop herbs and lay chicken wings on an oiled roasting tin with plenty of salt and pepper.

2.    when oven is at optimum temperature, sprinkle over the herbs and set in the oven.

  1. Turn down to 190 degrees after 10 minutes and leave for a further 20.

  1. Chop tomatoes, smash garlic, rip bay sprinkle salt and pepper and give a good glug of oil into a small baking tin and set to one side.

  1. Set a large pan of salted water on the hob and bring to the boil.

  1. When wings are crisp and succulent, remove from oven to rest, turn up heat to 230 degrees Celsius and place the tray with the tomatoes in the oven.

  1. When the water is at a boil, remove the wings from the roasting tin to a warm plate, put it on the smallest ring on a high heat and add the butter and wine, cooking until the alcohol has boiled off.

  1. Place the fedelini in the pan and cook for aroungd 4-5 minutes until al dente, draining off and transferring to the tin of deglazed juices.

  1. Stir around and then, removing the sizzling tomatoes from the oven, combine with the pasta in the pan, constantly stirring and add the gated parmesan gradually.

  1. Plate up and serve with plenty of ripped fresh basil and a green salad with a punchy dressing and of course, some extra parmesan and a large glass of good red wine. 

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Cordon Du Chap: Wright Brothers Oyster and Porter House

Wright Brothers Oyster and Porter House
11Stoney Street
Borough Market
London SE1 9AD

Cordon Du Chap (out of a possible five) : ❁❁❁❁

Kicking off the award we have the first of  (I hope) many good reviews. Wright Brothers Oyster and Porter House in Borough Market is a fantastic mainstay off one of the liveliest slices of the capital’s food scene. Nestled alongside Monmouth Coffee House and perched opposite the smoky, chorizo selling barbecue of Brindisia  this purveyor of fine molluscs is a welcome sight to a weary shopper who has seen just about enough boudins, cured meat, cheese and roti de veau to last a lifetime!

As you can imagine I had a productive morning at the market, I had a list of things to buy but as is so often the case, I ended up straying away from it. I had been in the market, trying samples of fresh local produce and testing fruit and veg for firmness when I felt my stomach let out a faint moan. Smells of frying bacon mingled with mulled wine started to make my mouth water and I realised that it was time for lunch!

I would like to say that I stumbled onto Wright Brothers but unfortunately I am a creature of habit and truth be told I had been there a couple of times before. However, in previous visits I had confined myself to a pint of London Porter and half a dozen Fine Claires! Good oysters are not hard to come by in London and therefore I think it would be difficult to base a review on such a limiting collection of shucked shellfish. Therefore, I have waited until now to give my review as my meal on this occasion was slightly more varied than on previous sittings.

One of my favourite things about this restaurant is not only its location but also the clever balance that it strikes between smart and informal. When I was there a fantastic mixture of city stock brokers and market shoppers mingled to sip ice cold Champagne, gobble fat oysters or large platters of fruit de mer whilst the open kitchen buzzed with activity of multiple orders. Then there were the great, unreserved unwashed who occupied themselves with their respective luncheons at the lengthy oak bar which straddled the whole restaurant. It was a Thursday (the new Friday some say) and the place was packed but a helpful waiter helped me find a lone perch at the bar and immediately helped me to a cold glass of Meantime London Porter – a masterful brew made by one of London’s best brewers.

I thought I would stray into unknown waters. I had never had cooked oysters and had been told by many that they were not worth the effort of the chef, however it was a flavour sensation I was yet to experience so I decided to order the exotically titled Oysters in the New Orleans style. I was presented with three tantalising oysters which had been crumbed and then deep fried until golden brown and a generous helping of Tartare Sauce. I can imagine traditionalists harrumphing at the mere thought of this dish but that did not stop it from being utterly delicious! The Oysters were wonderfully briny which went well with the piquant, gherkin and caper laden mayonnaise. This method of cooking, I suppose, was a homage to the Po’ Boys of the Deep South and I thought how good these oysters would have been between two crisp slices of toast, some shredded Iceberg Lettuce and some more Tartare Sauce (Food for thought indeed!).

I went light for my main course as I feel that solo gluttony is a rather unattractive sight and I had a reputation to uphold (however slight it was) – it wouldn’t do to be a Mr Creosote on this occasion! I opted for the traditional fish soup on this occasion which came with some very crisp toasts and a generous portion of both gruyere cheese and rouille (an emulsified hot sauce flavoured with garlic and chilli). I wish I could judge restaurants merely on the quality of their fish soup because so many can’t seem to get it right. Luckily, this was not the case this time. The soup was thick and smooth with a wonderful flavour from a homemade fish stock and fresh seafood. As with all traditional fish soup there was a hint of aniseed which reassured me that they had added a splash of pernod. There was also a wonderful  taste of fresh parsley which added another dimension to the soup and kept it clean and cut through the richness. The toasts were crisp, the gruyere fresh (ie it had not been hanging around too long and allowed to dry out) and the rouille punchy. All in all a great bowl of soup.

So what is there left to say but that my bill was brought speedily and with the minimum amount of fuss! I hope I have inspired you to take a trip there yourselves, the food isn’t fancy but it is fresh and well prepared. The ambience is fantastic and I imagine that it gets quite jolly in the evening when the city breaks for supper! It is not that cheap my meal with one drink came to £18 but I felt that it was worth every penny and there is nothing wrong with treating yourself to a bit of decadence now and then. So hats of the Wright Brothers for a fantastic lunch and a pleasant way to start a string of restaurant reviews rated to the rigorous standards of the Cordon Du Chap