Monday 30 August 2010

Fungal Foray

The fruits of the forest floor are ancient organisms capable of so many different things. They're the re-generators of life that occasionally take one too. You have to know what you're picking and I wouldn't advise eating these. The Fly Agaric is the hallucinogen of choice for reindeer and their herders, the latter drink it through the formers urine, once all the really bad stuff has been filtered out. It was these chaps, not magic, that got Santa's reindeer flying.

I was musing on this, and other assorted nonsense, while walking through forestry near Aberfoyle. Maybe I'd got it wrong? That quasi mystical feeling that now is the time. For the past few years I've never failed, but now, whilst finding plenty of pretty specimens, my true quarry was proving elusive. Too early in the year, too late?

Then suddenly an urge to look in a different direction...

Bingo! These porcini were in pretty good nick, one almost perfect... and both smelt amazing.

Rounding a corner I bagged my next lot.

Chanterelles this time, managed to pick nearly two kilos before the hunter became the hunted. A haze of midges descended and started eating me alive. I scarpered.

Stopped off in 'The Aberfoyle Butcher' for a couple of popseye steaks from local cows. Terroir and all that. Back home sautéed some garlic to golden then threw in the sliced porcini.

After five minutes added a little stock and cream, then cooked for five minutes more. The steaks were cooked and kept warm while the pan was deglazed with a little light red wine

Then put the porcini into the same pan with a little Parmesan. Heated it all through. Served up with 'healthy' oven chips... slice and par boil potatoes for 3 minutes. Drain and lay on a baking tray to steam dry for ten minutes. Rub with a tablespoon of olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt and pop into a hot oven, 210 C, for about 15 - 20 minutes. Works every time. In my excitement I forgot to photograph the wine. It was a Loire gamay from The Wine Society. £7.95 and delicious. Click here for details.

The porcini sauce was incredible and would work well with turbot too. An utterly beguiling aroma that grew from within for half an hour after eating. The scents of the forest floor just kept coming back through my nasal passages. I know that sounds weird, but believe me, it was very enjoyable and, I'm pretty certain, a hell of a lot nicer than reindeer piss.

Sunday 22 August 2010

Nurture the Nuts

Normal is such a hateful word. So run of the mill, average and mundane. Given a choice, who chooses normal? If money was no object would you drive a Fiesta, live in Woking and shop at Tesco? Yet the desire for conformity, to 'not stand out', to be 'just like everybody else' has gone viral. Walk down any High Street in Britain. Look at the shops, the way people dress... capitalism can't even be arsed creating the illusion of choice anymore. It's all gone stale.

I'm waiting for the backlash, it has to come soon. The first time I hear... "Oh, if only I was abnormal, life would be so much more fun"... I'll be popping a cork in celebration and it won't be champagne.

It'll be something life affirmingly odd like this absolutely beguiling Savennieres.

It smells of honey dribbled on hot buttered toast with a hint of foosty old cellar. The colour's deep and oxidised and you'd expect it to be sweet. But it's not, because despite tasting uncannily like golden syrup, it's bone dry.

Utterly weird and totally delicious. Normal is an illusion created to sell product. Don't believe the hype.

It cost just £9.99 from Inverarity One to One on Bath Street. A wonderful little wine shop, tucked down at basement level and run by the very smiley, and extremely knowledgeable Pete. Aside from splendid oddities, this is also the best place in Glasgow to buy good bottles for special occasions. They also stock a fine range of cigars in their walk in humidor.

Inverarity One to One
158a Bath Street
G2 4HU
0141 221 5121

Saturday 14 August 2010

The Wee Hurrie, Troon

This isn't just any fish and chip shop... this is a MacCallums the Fishmonger fish and chip shop. To find it just keep driving all the way to the dock in Troon harbour. There isn't any sineage until you're right on top of the place and even then there's not much.

A seemingly pointless lane closure meant I arrived an hour late and absolutely famished.

Everything here, and there's a lot, is cooked to order, so it's probably best not to be in a wee hurry... or starving. It was a long ten minutes before I finally spied my squid tempura being lifted out of the fryer.

Troon's what they call a 'working' harbour. Presumably as opposed to an 'unemployed' or 'retired' harbour.

As I munched away someone popped out from one of the trawlers to meet a guy stumbling down the dock.

"Awe, Davey man, sorry, ended up a 3 bottles of JD night! Totally forgot I was supposed to drop this off". I glanced up and judging by his face he was telling the truth.

The squid was delicious. Nice bite giving way to melt in the mouth tenderness. It wasn't tempura batter but tasty nonetheless.

As I went back to the car an old guy sporting a Pringle sweater came up, "I say, do you know what that ship over there is unloading?"... "No, I was just taking a picture, but I reckon that the ship sized pile of timber on the dock might be a clue!"... "But you don't ACTUALLY know?"... "No". He seemed genuinely annoyed. I could almost hear him thinking... what is the world coming to? People hanging around harbours without even basic shipping knowledge, a chip shop selling squid... he pulled a face and shuffled off.

'Wee Hurrie'
The Harbour,
Harbour Road,
KA10 6DH
01292 319 339

Sunday 8 August 2010

Tinto Tapas Bar

The Southside of Glasgow is littered with amusing place names. 'Strathbungo' could have been one of the wombles, 'Crossmyloof' sounds like something you'd ask for round the back of a railway station, 'Pollokshaws' an unpleasant affliction and 'Mount Florida' an offer only the brave would consider.
The whole area is a complete mystery to most Westenders and tends to get sneered at like a hicky cousin. For a long time that wasn't without some justification. There was a place in Shawlands called The Granary that sold wine by the glass, a Greek Taverna rumoured to have an espresso machine... and... well not a lot else. Things are improving.

Tinto's situated on Battlefield Road. As a ten year old boy I couldn't have imagined a more perfect address.

At 7.30 on a Saturday it was just getting busy, it quickly became very busy. As they searched for the reservation I spotted a barman topping up somebody else's half finished almonds, he handed them to the waitress who brought them with us to the table.

Anyone who has ever read what's to be found in communal bar offerings will understand why I like to get to know someone before they go rummaging around in my nuts.

The wines are well chosen and decently priced. You can't go wrong with Navarra and this melon fruited refresher was good value for £13. After that we moved onto their jugs of house red. Again about £13, but this time for a litre and it's plonkably quaffable.

The food's good and actually manages to taste Spanish at times. Highlights were caramelised scallops, crispy fried sea bass, home made chicken croquettes and kidneys with wild mushrooms.

Their Fabada Asturiana had a whiff of the tin but was still pretty tasty. My favourite dish wasn't really a dish at all but two ingredients that went well together. Braised celery and 12 month old Manchego cheese. Delicious.

Now the real test of any Spanish place is the calamari. Tinto's was... well I've no idea because it was so cut so thinly it was impossible to taste. At least the batter's good, a triumph of light tempura-like crunchiness. Finished off with a nice Crema Catalana, which was really a Creme Brulee, and a cracking espresso. The staff were friendly and despite being packed the food didn't take long.

We left the Battlefield and wandered off, rather appropriately, towards the 'Pollock War Heroes Social Club' for a spot of Ska.

Seems we'd got the nights muddled and ended up downing social club measures of Southern Comfort whilst dancing to the sound of a high energy disco. My, how war heroes and Southsiders are changing.

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