I was in Lunya on Thursday to buy cheese to eat whilst sat down listening to the new and final David Bowie album. I had managed to secure a copy on pristine black vinyl and we were going to give it some proper cogitation. By the corner of the counter there was a whicker basket filled with bunches of calcots held together with black tape – yours at 8 for £2.00. They were too great a temptation so I bought £4.00’s worth.

One of my favourite cookbooks is a book on Catalan Cooking by Colman Andrews. It was first published in 1988 and was then republished in 1997. It was the republishing that brought it to my attention by way of an article that appeared in one of the Sunday papers. The book was given to me as a Christmas present that year and since then it has become suitably tatty and stained. It has in it my favourite recipe for stuffing a turkey which involves sherry and black pudding, a fantastically evocative description of the La Boqueria Market and a half dozen pages given over to the calcot.

A calcot is basically a large leek sized spring onion that has been grown in trenches packed up with earth to blanch the thick bulbous stems. Colman Andrews describes how they are eaten in a festival atmosphere cooked over open flames so the outer layers are charred and blackened. Once cooked they are wrapped in newspapers to steam. To eat you peel of the burnt layers of skin to get to the soft sweet centre, this is then dipped into a pungent sauce and lowered into the mouth. A bib helps.

Back at home I had thought I would have a go cooking my 16 calcots over the BBQ. There is something satisfying in lighting up a BBQ in the dark of January but they strong wind and driving rain meant that it was not a particularly practical option so I had to make to with the grill.

It worked reasonably well although I am not sure they came out as black as they should have been.

The pungent sauce was made with roasted hazelnuts, roasted red peppers, a whole blanched bulb of garlic, a dash of cayenne pepper, a tablespoon of tomato sauce and olive oil. All this was crushed to a satisfying pulp in a heavy pestle and mortar.

We ate it all with fried potatoes, chicken in paprika, lamb chops and chickpeas with spinach. We also had a couple of razor clams which also had to be lowered into the mouth.

Very good it was all too. We listened to Royal Trux and Make Up. Scuzzed up rock’n’soul. Made to be played loud.


Guilty pleasures

The Eagles have long been a guilty pleasure of sorts that has never extended beyond a couple of songs from Desperado and the knowledge they were mates with Warren Zevon so can’t have been all bad.


When the news came through last week that Glenn Frey had died I had in the back of my mind that somewhere I had a recipe that he had set out for the perfect Texas Chilli. It was in a Christmas present from years back called The Rock’n’roll Cookbook. With the benefit of hindsight I suspect they regret the page given over to Gary Glitter and his recipe for Spaghetti Glitterarti.

It took a while to find the book but it was eventually located on a top shelf. When I found the recipe for Texas Chilli it transpired that it was Don Henley’s as opposed to Glenn Frey’s, which I suspect goes a long way towards summing up The Eagles.



Before eating  the chilli we went for a walk along the beach off The Gunshot at Leasowe.




There were boxes of tomatoes stacked up on my left as I walked into the grocers this morning. Kazim made me taste one, they were so good, he said. It wasn’t long since I had cleaned my teeth and it tasted sharp against the mouthwash of mint. £3.99 a box, he said. So I bought one.

We had some of them for lunch sliced and stuffed in warm pitta with onions and chicken, cucumber, yogurt and hot chilli sauce.


I will cook the rest of them down tomorrow and use them to bolster an Eagle themed chilli sauce.

This evening I cooked a handful of them as part of a seafood pasta. Mussels, squid, prawns and scallops cooked with their own juices with a couple of razor clams thrown in for those who enjoy chewing on salty rubber bands. There was olive oil as well together with garlic, chilli and white wine and all held together with a bag of tagliatelle.

Now listening to Ray Charles doing his modern sounds in country music. Is there a cooler record anywhere?


Xic Lo

Going through my old restaurant bills last night I realised I was missing a tranche of bills from when we went to Australia five years ago, then I remembered they had gone into a separate folder. I dug them out, smoothed out the creases and stuck them in.

The highlight was the bill for the meal we had at a Vietnamese restaurant on Thomas Street, Sydney called Xic Lo.  I can’t read what it says on the bill but I remembered I ate Spring Rolls, including the vegetarian rolls that had been ordered by someone else, and quail glazed in a sweet sauce.

Touring Google I was pleased to see it is still going and that the quail are still on the menu.

We are heading back to Sydney in two months time so we should be going back. I hope that the bill still comes scribbled out.