Paul’s Caul from France…Bonjour my cheese eating friends

We have finally arrived at our destination, our new home and our place of work for the next five months, we speak of course of the beautiful alpine village of Meribel.

Now at first we weren’t completely sure where we were, as we flew from Heathrow to Geneva then we were greeted by a lovely group of our fellow workers and our new boss, all of which are as English as you get. Now, if your picturing chimney sweeps and small street kids from the set of Oliver twist then think again, English they be but cockney slags they are not. Then it was into several work vehicles and on to a 2 plus hour drive to France (so they tell us), but up to this point I still hadn’t heard or seen any Frenchman. Was this an elaborate rouse, were we now smack bang in the middle of the international world of sex slavery? Well with fingers crossed and baited breath we sat there hoping to soon meet our slavers or maybe they prefer captors, not really sure I’m down with the lingo at all, but regardless we were soon to arrive somewhere and we had driven up a hill or two, so either of the previous outcomes are at this point possible.

As it so happens Karen our new boss wasn’t head of a sex ring, in fact she and her Husband Michael run a very top end chalet business, which contrary to popular opinion is nothing like the very bottom end sex slavery world, although they do both service people… Fact!

So we arrived in the very picturesque town of Meribel, the lack of white stuff was the first thing that caught me by surprise as we were here to work for the ski season, not the slide down destroying all your gear on mud and rock season, but we were here early and as Kevin Costner once said “build it and they will come” now either he was talking about brothels or he was a very wise man, most likely the latter and for this particular occasion I’m hoping for the best, and am confident that the precipitation that is inevitable will sooner rather than later come in the form of snow.

A fuck off big bag of Yorkshire tea
A fuck off big bag of Yorkshire tea

The second surprise of the season was the largest fuck off bag of Yorkshire tea I’d ever seen, not quite the French experience we’d expected but a lovely surprise.

The third surprise of the evening was being driven up the mountain in the back of utes. This was a brilliant way to get to know your fellow workmates, but having a large Manchester lad called Grant firmly wedged in-between my legs was still a shock to the system. Now I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy it but it was a shock. We arrived at the Refuge as it was aptly called, then the crazy cardigan wearing drivers of the manically driven utes changed out of their cardies and into their pinnies and in that second become our hosts. It was magical and off putting all at the same time. Within seconds bottles with no labels were being dished out willy nilly, the fondue pots on the tables were lit giving us a small clue to what was about to come… I knew we were either having cheese fondue or that this crazy French folk had skimped on the heating bill.

Cheese here is off the hook -  Reblochon de Savoie
Cheese here is off the hook – Reblochon de Savoie

The fondue arrived in all cheesy glory. A cheese fondue is a thing of beauty; it’s like having a shit ton of cheese and small grill at you table, it allows food not normally associated with melted cheese to become acquainted, it is basically a get together for food form all over the place to meet this nice guy called melted cheese… and if for some reason they don’t get on, then Mr Melty Melty McCheese just drowns them in love and love always wins in the end.

This particular fondue was no exception, although the creators had not added the small amount of corn flour needed to bind the wine and cheese together leaving us fishing for pockets of molten protein, but that just added to the game. Just to be clear the game was gather as much cheese on the wooden spoon as you think possible then lift it from the cheesy depths and if you rise form the pot with nothing then ye shall be mocked by all (Liam was terrible at this game), now this was my kind of game. Props for the game were potatoes, salumi of various types and bread, always bread in this country, nothing is complete with a French stick or just a stick as they call it here.

Parfait
Parfait

With dinner complete and a very successful first night of bonding complete we walked back down the mountain, this was by far less bumpy and felt quite a lot safer then our journey up.

Over the next few weeks we set about training, they have 5 chalets here in town and each has its own Chef and chalet manager, as well as drivers, chalet assistants, masseurs and nannies. So they really do a stand up job of making sure everyone knows what is expected of them and what everyone else is meant to be doing. They manage to do all of this whilst allowing everyone to drink, eat and be incredibly social all at the same time, this is impressive as most people coming out here to work seem to think that there genitals will explode if they are not in contact with someone else asap. So the next game called ‘sleep with fucking everyone’ begins and I can’t see the end of this game in sight.

Vanilla bean ice cream, brandy snap & cookie crumbs, raspberry coulis, freeze dried raspberries
Vanilla bean ice cream, brandy snap & cookie crumbs, raspberry coulis, freeze dried raspberries

But for me this training meant I got to work along side some amazing chefs and share knowledge as well as actually getting to try their food, and believe me these boys can cook. So it was full testosterone mode engaged and cocks were out, massive fuck off cave man stick were being swung around, but fuck me it was a great laugh. This hit its crest at a dinner which myself and three other chefs cooked for. We were drunk as sailors by the first course and to be quite honest I have no idea how mains and dessert even got plated, all I do know is I served main course naked and Grant tried to snort a serve of pudding. But we made it through and still have jobs for the season… hooray!

As for everyone else we work with, they are all made up of consummate professionals and are an absolute pleasure to work with and in turn try their hardest to sleep with each other, so the game continues.

Naked Pauly… Chefs drinking lots of booze is going to end in a good/bad situation… depending on how you look at it
Naked Pauly… Multiple chefs drinking lots of booze is together always going to end in a good/bad situation… depending on how you look at it

I really do feel that we are going to have a great season of creating some amazing food, memories and friends.

Paul’s Caul… Kris’ Birthday Quackalicious Jenga

Kris’ birthday quackalicous jenga.

So I get the text saying that it’s “Kris’ 40th next week and I need some dinner suggestion?” This was from my wonderful sister Zoe, and Kris, as you can most likely piece together, is my brother in law… so this pleased me as I love them both dearly, and Zoe is also pretty decent in the kitchen so I could suggest anything and she’d have a crack, or in this case a quack!

Yes I truly reckon that’s the worst joke to date that I have typed and placed in front of your eyeholes… I‘m better than that, I wouldn’t normally worry about such poultry matters but I have always said “no foul no game”… booyah triple bird pun!!!!

(Not entirely sure on reading that back whether I have proved anything at all)

Any who back to the mission to feed Kris so he’ll stop freaking out about being 40, yes 40 years out is not the new 50 as most 40 year olds have you believe, no it is in fact still 40 and that is getting on in anyone’s language.

So what to cook?

Do we cook his favourite?

Shall we do something visually spectacular?

Strippers?

Stick with the classics?

Well I’ll tell you what we’re going to cook and it will very quickly become his favourite, as it is visually spectacular and strips away all the rules where classic cant be fucked with, as they can/should/must be tweaked and played with as that is what being a chef is all about…. It is mixture of a few classic dishes and styles of cooking, still kept simple as not to lose its warmth.

Society makes us conform to names for dishes, it dictates that I should call this dish…

‘Duck leg confit on a bed of steamed Asian greens, hand cut chips served with a sour cherry sauce’

Well that sounds like bollocks!

I want to call it…

‘Mr Crispy and his sour mates play jenga’

But I may settle for…

‘Crispy skin duck confit, sour cherry greens, thrice cooked spud jenga’

With the naming of said dish complete I shall give you the recipes and hope you all embrace Mr Crispy into your life.

Duck confit
4 duck legs (Maryland)
rock salt
aromatics (star anise, bay leaves, garlic, thyme)
Enough duck fat to cover (1lt perhaps, remember you can never have enough duck fat on hand)
• Salt the duck legs over night, then wash salt off and dry the legs really, really well. Pat dry with paper.
• Heat fat with aromats, in this instance use 2 bay leaves, 2 star anise, 1 cinnamon (chilli if you want 1 dried would work best)
• In a high sided dish place legs and cover with warm fat, make sure completely covered and place in the oven covered and cook for 3-5 hours at 110c
• Check if cooked by carefully pulling out and you will know as the meat has to close to falling off the bone
• Once there just pull out legs and carefully place on a wire rack out of the fat to cool.
• Strain fat and once leg is cooled pour the fat back over it.
• When you come to actually cooking and serving, you will need to clean fat off. They don’t have to be completely cleaned as you will be cooking in fat anyway.
• Just heat a bit of the stored fat in a pan so you have at least a 1cm of fat in base of pan, place the legs very carefully in the smoking hot fat (they will spit so be careful) and once they settle down check to see its well crispy then quickly flip over for a second.
• Remove from pan and cook in a hot oven for 5-10 until hot.
• Serve ☺

Sour cherry sauce (the tits)
2 shallots
4 shitake (or any mushroom if you don’t like strong mushie)
50 ml red wine vinegar (pedro ximinez vinegar would be best)
100 ml port
5 g sugar
1 star anise
½ cinnamon quill
1 cardamon
200 ml stock (chicken, duck, veg, whatever… could just be water)

180g sour cherry from jar or tin (get the best)
• Whack everything but the cherries in a pot and simmer for 20 minutes
• Pour the sauce over the chopped up cherries and gently heat before serving
• This sauce is nice without the cherries and just toss the sauce around steamed kai lan or brocolini

Thrice cooked duck fat jenga
4 large royal blue spuds (cooked in skin and only just cook)
normal deep fryer
duck fat
salt
• Square off the cooked spud and cut into 4 massive chips, one cut down the center lengthways then cut each half again lengthways and job done
• Fry off once in a deep fryer with oil, but only just get a crust then drain and cool
• For serving shallow fry in duck fat until crispy as fuck
• Salt those crispy homeboys.

For final plate up I recommend, stacking chips like jenga to one side of plate, then get some steamed kai lan and cherries and toss them in the sauce and make that into an insanely tasty bed for Mr Crispy.

Enjoy your Birthday Kris, love ya brother

Foodisthebestshitever reunion dinner/pissup part 2… Paul’s Caul and a nice spice rub

So Lauren and I have been on holiday for just over a week and have drank and eaten our way around southern Queensland and northern NSW, so would expect us to be well conditioned in the art of drunken eating… well it would seem that assumption was incorrect.

Yesterday we arrived in Byron bay and shopped to our hearts content buying nearly every t-shirt in town, then at about 1.40pm we where picked up by no other then G-bags McFilthy mouth and Jennee… yes that’s right we finally made it to the home of Foodisthebestshitever, and no we hadn’t become avatars of ourselves and fallen into the interweb, we were on our way to the Bexhill home of the Stockdale’s.

It had been several years since my last visit to these parts in fact I believe it was for their wedding in 2005 and I had assumed they were still living in the same house, once again I assumed incorrectly, as they had moved into a very cool abode that is filled with love and built with fairy dust, or at least that’s what the local population of filthy hippies would have you believe. So upon arrival I was greeted by the young Stockdale’s and then the magic began, like out of Disney movie or a page of a fairy tale, a character I’d only ever read about appeared before my very eyes… Dr Chris was a real boy, Geppetto had created an older more vet like boy this time.

I was given a brief tour of the grounds, dogs, ducks and chickens where seemingly Omni-present and tasty products that grow where also in abundance.

I must admit by this stage we where only three beers deep each but with all the magic in the air it did start to get blurry around about now…

Jennee and Lauren left us whilst they drove to get some grey goose (vodka) I clarified that only because in these parts you could most likely just as easily pop down the road to get an actual grey goose, but that how ever would make a very untasty caprioska.

So with the simple twist of a cap shit went side ways, the remarkably normal act of pouring red fluid into a stemmed vessel caused the world to come of its axis… Its was about now that G-bags ripped out a pork belly on the bone, cut it in half and whacked it in a pot of water and simmered the shit out of it… it was at this point I realized we where already in a cook off and I was playing away from home in a land I was not familiar with, scared? Yes I was scared… but I had a trick up my sleeve, it came in the form of a many bottles of wine.

G-bags lit the chiminea, yet more unfamiliar territory for me, and he graciously let me in on what he was prepping to do with his pork belly… he was keeping the belly untainted with ingredients and cooking it free of flavourings, or as I choose to call it PLAIN! But that’s where the plain jokes ended as he had chosen to make his famous ‘three flavour sauce’ or as I like to call it ‘crazy sauce’ and I can’t explain how fucking tasty that shit is, I was hating that god damn sauce, how was I going to trump such a delicious sauce?

Pauly tastes the three flavour crazy sauce
Pauly tastes the three flavour crazy sauce
Disgusting
Disgusting
Many lost memories are contained in this bottle
Many lost memories are contained in this bottle

So they I was scared alone and tipsy to say the least, so like a lost child from Narnia I opened the cupboard hoping for a hidden world to appear, but alas no talking lions that had a perchant for young children or freaky fucking bowed legged goat people all I had was every spice known to man and a can of lentils… now in reality there was much more in the cupboard but I’m lazy and like a challenge so lentils it is.

I made a banging spice mix for basting purposes it went a little something like this…

Pork belly spice rub
4 star anise
1 tablespoon mixed peppercorn
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
4 dried red chilli
*fry then grind the shit out of the top four in a mortar and pestle
2 tablespoons dark soy
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger
*mix all together and whack still warm belly in mix to absorb goodness.

Lentil coconut & herb thing
The girls now arrived back and the drinks keep a flowing and I started to chop ingredients up one by one like a half assed Noah… of course I begun with 1 diced onion and a few cloves of garlic gently sautéed off with a touch off salt.
Then a crossed path with a couple off small sweet potato so I diced them up small and whacked them in the pot, once they had got a bit off heat in them I poured in the remainder of a bottle of marsala approx. 1 cup and cooked till it disappeared. I had come to think that I needed more moisture so I opened a can of chopped tomatoes and in the pot that went along with the drained and washed lentils (two tins in the end) and then allowed all of these items to get to know each other whilst slowing cooking away for 10-15 minutes… I went to find some herbs to help with the flavour as at present it didn’t stand a chance against ‘crazy sauce’ (most likely this would be Graeme’s Indian name)… I found and used a little thyme, oregano and rosemary all just finely chopped and tossed in the pot, stirred and seasoned with salt and lots of it.
This is where I left the pot with the heat off and the lentils tasting alright, not bad but definitely not brilliant.
So I drank and started cooking and basting my belly…every now and again I’d pop in the kitchen dip my finger in both the crazy sauce and my not so crazy lentils, and I’ll be honest I wasn’t happy at all with how I was doing in this challenge… but I was by now very very drunk which I was quite proud of.
Then I decided, fuck it, I was going to put a can of coconut cream in it and in turn it then must have fish sauce and a little sugar to help with the transition. This all worked extremely well and I feel that it was in the delicious but not even in the same ball park as ‘crazy sauce’, but fuck him its his house let him have this one.

Now I’ll not entirely sure what went on for the next few hours but there are a few photos to help fill in the gaps, our belly’s both cooked supremely well on the open fire and all sides, sauces and accompaniments were served in some form or another…we ate and not much longer after that the girls in there very inebriated state vanished like young boys innocence at a catholic school camp, leaving just the lads, now we seemed to of gained an extra person during the evening and I’ll be honest I have no idea who he was, but he left along with Dr Chris just after the girls so lets just pretend he was never there, cool, sorted ☺

Next thing I know I awoke with a belting head ache and vague memories of telling G-bags he looks like the guys who sell the big issue… but I do have an over whelming sense that good times where had by all that crossed our path. Love this place, love these people and without a doubt Foodisthebestshitever.

…and follow that up with a great soup and throwing-of-the-glove by Pauly

PAUL’S CAUL

Supposedly I’m meant to write about food.

Word on the street is I’m meant to be writing about food… maybe I have a tendency to get a little carried away with a rant here and an opinion there, but I figured that’s why you love me. Now it has also come to my attention that Graeme and I may very well be writing this purely for ourselves as I have no evidence that any of you are real. So I’d like to conduct a small experiment, I will write this blog chock-a-block full of food goodness with a recipe to finish it. But I want photographic evidence that someone has actually cooked something at least similar to my recipe.

Have we got a deal?

Well have we?

What’s that, this is not what you signed up for and would prefer that I stop pretending I’m having a discussion with you… fair enough.

So lets walk over to the fridge and see what’s in there for us to use, hopefully by now this small exercise doesn’t end with you looking at a few cans of beer, some margarine, a withered half lemon and a chunk of poorly glad wrapped cheese which by all accounts is more closely related to wood rather than a dairy product.

Lets just pretend that’s there is a few onions, some celery and a couple of other veggie’s (you should always have onions and celery). What we are going to make is a soup. For me a soup is such a brilliant way to get involved in the kitchen, it teaches you so many basic cooking techniques that can be used in a variety of other areas of the kitchen.

Just about every soup starts of the same way, with a couple of onions and a few sticks of celery sweat off in either oil or butter with a pinch of salt…

Now I’m not going to go through the whole recipe here, what I want to do is get the overall concept to you and later I’ll write down a recipe for you, but by then you shouldn’t need one…

Back to the pot, simply whack in whatever is in the fridge (no not the half lemon and wood cheese) I mean a zucchini or a sweet potato, left over cauliflower, a couple of rashers of bacon and some tomatoes. You can even spread your gathering as far as the cupboard and grab some tinned corn, tomatoes or beans… there is literally so much scope when searching for soup ingredients.

Just make sure you stick to a few flavours and don’t get to carried away, and if it’s so old you weren’t going to eat it, don’t think boiling it will magically make it better.

Now for some flavor, this is the best part of the process, this can make or break the soup, your flavouring arsenal should consist of spices, herbs, stocks even vinegars… but most importantly you must never forget the salt and pepper. And if in doubt finish with some cream, that stuff makes everything taste better.

Here’s one of my favourite soups for you to have a crack at…

Now don’t forget I require feedback, do you like the recipe? Would you like me to talk more about world politics? Is it rants you want about random topics?

We aren’t mind readers… or are we???

No, we’re definitely not.

Potato, mushroom, leek and miso

2 onions sliced
2 sticks of celery sliced
2 cloves of garlic
1 large leek sliced
1 ½ cups mushrooms sliced
4 potatoes peeled & sliced
1 tablespoon miso
5 sprigs of thyme (leaves removed and stalks disguarded)
2 litres of chicken stock or veg stock
1 cup white wine
1 cup pouring cream
50g butter
50ml olive oil
Salt
White pepper
• Place butter and oil in a medium sized pot, add the onion, leek and celery with a pinch of salt and cook until they start to caramelize…
• Add the garlic, miso, thyme and white wine and then reduce wine by half…
• Add the potatoes and stock then simmer for an hour or until the potatoes are soft…
• Blend the soup with a stick blender and add cream, check seasoning and pass through a strainer…
• Serve immediately with heaps of crusty bread and butter.