The Great Scotch Egg Robbery

I was amused by a story in Britain’s Daily Mail last week of how an entire police force in southern England
became the butt of jokes after appealing for witnesses to the theft of a packet of Scotch eggs worth 1.65 British pounds. (Php122).

Scotch egg halved and served with mashed potato, gravy and vegetables

Scotch egg halved and served with mashed potato, gravy and vegetables

A woman was caught on CCTV walking into a shop and picking up these traditional British snacks before eating them and leaving without paying.

The police apparently spent a month investigating the crime before launching an online appeal in a bid to identify the woman.

Scene of the 'great Scotch egg robbery' in southern England

Scene of the ‘great Scotch egg robbery’ in southern England

However, the petty nature of the offence led dozens of web users to mock the force for its over-zealous policing.
Police has now deleted the appeal, after a witness came forward claiming to know who the thief was.

Amusement aside, I was reminded at just how delicious Scotch eggs are – that’s probably why the woman couldn’t resists them.

A Scotch egg consists of a hard boiled egg wrapped in sausage meat, coated in breadcrumbs and fried. There are also mini versions using quail eggs.

Fortnum and Mason, the famous London department store which supplies members of the Royal family, is said to have invented the Scotch egg in 1738.

They are usually a picnic food and home-made, though they can also be served as a main course with gravy and vegetables.

Although it’s a traditional British snack, similar dishes exist around the world including here in the  Philippines. Kwek-kwek are eggs with orange breading sold as street food dipped in vinegar, sweet and sour sauce or gravy.

Kwek Kwek on sale

Kwek Kwek on sale

In the Netherlands and Belgium, Scotch eggs may also be called vogelnestje (‘little bird’s nest’) because they contain an egg.

Brazil also has a dish that is very similar, if not a version, of the Scotch Egg called ‘Bolovo’. It also features an egg in the center but the dough does not contain any meat.

When I’m making pica-pica, this is my Scotch egg recipe.

Scotch eggs - tasty pica-pica a food

Scotch eggs – tasty pica-pica a food

500gr       sausage meat
5              hard boiled eggs, with shells removed
1              large raw egg
Dry breadcrumbs
Pinch of salt, ground pepper, nutmeg
Small quantity of flour
1 tablespoon water

Dust the hard boiled eggs in a little flour. Mix the nutmeg, salt and pepper with the sausage meat and divide into five equal portions. Place on a floured surface. Wrap/mould the sausage meat around the egg, making sure there are no gaps. Beat the egg and water together and coat the meat-covered egg with this and then breadcrumbs (you may have to press the crumbs onto the meat).

Deep fry in hot oil (360F/185C) taking care as you put the eggs into the oil. Cook for about 5/6 minutes. If you don’t have a deep fat fryer, they can be cooked in oil in a frying pan, turning frequently to ensure the meat is fully cooked. Drain and serve hot or allow to cool and keep in a refrigerator for a cold snack later.

English Pork Sausage Meat

1kg          lean pork
500gr       pork belly (fat)
400gr       fresh breadcrumbs
2t             sage
1t             thyme

The Scotch Egg Challenge takes place in England each year

The Scotch Egg Challenge takes place in England each year

Remove any bones or rind from the pork, and pass through a mincer. Mix in the bread and season generously. Pass through the mincer again. Fry a little of the mixture to test for seasoning adding more herbs and pepper if necessary.



Is a picture worth a thousand bites?

Who cares what someone else had for lunch yesterday?

Who cares what someone else had for lunch yesterday?

I know they exist. I have a friend in Bacolod who does it. But I’ve never understood people who want to photograph and document their meals online.

Who on earth could possibly be interested in what someone else had for their lunch yesterday?

And I’ve discovered there’s even a name for these weird people – they’re called ‘Foodstagrammers’. To make matters worse, there are even websites dedicated to them. Perhaps a sign of the times or a fashion that has yet to reach an old codger like me.

But now medical experts are saying that people who obsessively take pictures of what they are eating or cooking and post them online using Instagram, Facebook or Twitter could be ill.

Like so many crazes, this one started in the US. It’s become so popular that many restaurants are banning diners from taking pictures of their food as it disturbs other customers.

Dr Valerie Taylor, chief of psychiatry at Women’s College Hospital at the University of Toronto, says  people who religiously document each meal might be suffering from various psychological issues.

As pretty as a picture

As pretty as a picture

She believes the practice of constantly taking pictures of food and posting them online indicates that a person is beginning to have an unhealthy preoccupation with food which could lead to eating disorders.

“I see clients for whom food has become problematic. They struggle to go out and not have food be the key element of all social interaction: what they eat, when they ate, when they are going to eat again,” said Dr Taylor.

“The concern becomes when all they do is send pictures of food. We take pictures of things that are important to us, and for some people, the food itself becomes central and the rest is background,” she added.

Interestingly, others have linked the consumption of food photography to weight gain. Many have blamed our obsessive preoccupation with food with so many TV food reprograms, food websites and books about food for the bulging waistlines of today’s generation.

And a recent study in the US found that spending a lot of time looking at appetizing food online stimulated the brain and causes people to eat too much. Speaking as a chef who spends hours every day doing just that I think that study is spot on.

As for taking pictures of the meals I make and eat – perish the thought.

Praise the Lard

Yes, I’m out of the closet and have to confess. I cook with lard.

For years lard has been considered a silent killer, but today its really bad public image is being questioned.

In the last few decades we’ve been taught to fear lard so much that you could be forgiven for thinking that eating it was the leading cause of death. But many scientific minds are now re-thinking lard.

Home-made lard - definitely the best

Home-made lard – definitely the best

Some believe the advice we’ve been getting for so long has been wrong. We’re told to eat as little fat as possible, but American science journalist Gary Taubes quotes US government figures showing that nearly half the fat in lard is monounsaturated and this lowers our bad cholesterol and raises our good cholesterol.

“If you replace the carbohydrates in your diet with an equal quantity of lard, it will actually reduce your risk of having a heart attack,” claims Taubes.

Lard - easy to make your own

Lard – easy to make your own

This is good news because food cooked in lard is a lot tastier than food cooked in vegetable fats or oils. My British ancestors had no trouble recognizing its virtues. So central was it to our diet that the room where we stored our food, the larder, was named after it.

Our grannies, who mostly cooked with lard, knew that its great strength was that it coaxed out the flavors of foods.

With its high smoking point and unobtrusive taste, Lard was the ideal fat for roasting, so our grannies roasted potatoes in it. Today, many cooks are starting to use goose and duck fat. This is sold in fancy jars at great expense. But many of the same cooks will not consider lard. Perhaps because the packaging is not sophisticated enough.

And then there’s the name. Lard is hardly romantic. So, what about re-branding it? Pig butter might be a good start.

In Britain, consumption of lard has dropped from 55 grams a week to a mere five, but it’s on the increase. Although lard is readily available in UK supermarkets, it’s highly processed, often hydrogenated and treated with bleaching and deodorizing agents.

It’s not sold in Philippine supermarkets and, in any case the best lard is home-made. I’ve been making my own for several years by rendering pig fat.

This is an easy process. Buy a load of pig fat from a butcher. Cut it into one inch squares, put a quarter of an inch of water in a heavy pan – this stops burning – place the fat in the water and put the pan in a hot oven. After two hours you can pour pure pig fat into a bowl. You can freeze it and it’ll keep for a long time.

Some eminent chefs such as Scotsman Jeremy Lee of London’s Quo Vadis restaurant are great fans of lard especially for roasting potatoes and in pastry. “Lard is up there with goose and duck fat – it’s a very sophisticated ingredient,” Lee says.

Lard was once the fat of choice in many countries. Sadly, its use went into steep decline when it was branded as a health hazard by nutritionists and doctors.

The jury is still out, but it seems lard is enjoying something of a revival.

On a personal note, my very active mother, who was brought up on lard-cooked food and who still occasionally uses it, will celebrate her 92nd birthday in February. And to mark the occasion, perhaps she’ll be celebrating with a tasty full English breakfast cooked in lard.

In praise of the Sausage McMuffin

As a chef, I really shouldn’t be singing the praises of a fast food, but the Sausage McMuffin with Egg is such a tasty bite I feel compelled to single it out as one of the better offerings you’ll find in any fast food joint.

I did ask McDonald’s PR people for some information about this product, but they declined to comment. Can’t think why.

Sausage McMuffin with Egg

Sausage McMuffin with Egg

I was first introduced to this delicious nibble in Hong Kong. Very sensibly, McDo in the former British Crown Colony offers it throughout the day whereas here in the Philippines (and in most countries around the world) it is only served at breakfast time.

Now, I have to ask ‘is that wise?’

McDo is undergoing something of a shake-up after posting its first monthly sales drop in nine years earlier this month, amid a loss of customers to rival chains such as Burger King. McDonald’s global same-store sales fell 2.2 per cent in October.

But, as Britain’s Daily Mail newspaper put it “Don’t expect McDonald’s to rest on its burgers.”

The paper goes on to say that the disappointing sales have led the fast food giant to begin testing new menu items, including three new varieties of its prized Quarter Pounders. It’s also getting ready to launch a new McMuffin made with egg whites.

My contention is that if the Sausage McMuffin with Egg – and other McDo breakfast sandwiches – were offered throughout the day, they’d have many more customers. Believe it or not McDo, there are some customers who simply don’t want a burger and fries.

There’d be me for a start. I rarely get the chance to enjoy one as I have a hearty breakfast at home and I’m not hungry by the time they stop serving them at 10:30am.

I have put this to McDo several times, but their lack of a response would indicate they don’t agree.

For the uninitiated here’s what you get when you a buy a Sausage McMuffin with Egg. It consists of a muffin with a savory sausage (I guess it’s pork) plus a slice of cheese and a fried egg with a hard yolk. It weighs in at around 164 grams. In all some 450 calories. In Bacolod it’s a modest Php75.

Interestingly, McDo calls it an English muffin. I’m English and I’ve never seen an English muffin in England.

I’m not alone in my admiration for this tasty morsel. One American food blogger, Dave, author of Dave’s Cupboard, says the McDonald’s breakfast sandwiches like the Sausage McMuffin with Egg are brilliant – and delicious.

So come on McDo, what about serving these scrumptious breakfast items all day? Who knows, it might even make a difference to your bottom line.

Dying for a burger?

Heat Attack Grill waitresses

Heat Attack Grill waitresses

A woman in her 40s collapsed at the Heart Attack Grill in Las Vegas recently while tucking into a monstrous Double Bypass burger, smoking cigarettes and drinking a margarita. She was found unconscious at the restaurant.

Two months before, a man at the same restaurant suffered a heart attack while dining on an 8,000 calorie Triple Bypass burger with 15 slices of bacon.

Restaurant owner ‘Doctor’ Jon Basso said they’d had a variety of incidents in the past at the hospital-themed burger joint in Las Vegas, but this man’s coronary was their first full-scale medical emergency.

The Triple Bypass Burger - all 8,00 calories of it

The Triple Bypass Burger – all 8,00 calories of it

“He was enjoying his meal when he began experiencing severe cardiac problems”, said Basso. He could hardly talk, and I’m not actually a medical doctor, so I called 911, and they took him to a real hospital. I hear he’s recuperating.”

But these unfortunate events have had little effect on the restaurant’s business – quite the opposite as the place is even more popular than ever as diners are drawn to the giant burgers.

At 10,000 calories, the restaurant’s Quadruple Bypass burger was crowned as the most caloric sandwich on Earth by the Guinness World Records.

Basso defends the provocative names of the high-calorie items on the menu. “Our declared intent is to serve nutritional pornography, like our Fatliner Fries cooked in lard, food so bad for you it’s shocking.

Heart Attack Grill owner Jon Basso

Heart Attack Grill owner Jon Basso

“Our waitresses dress as nurses, our customers are patients and their food order – or prescription – is written on a tag around their

wrists. If you weigh over 350 pounds (159kg), you can eat here for free.”

The restaurant has signs that read ‘This Establishment is Bad for Your health’.

“Unlike cigarettes, I have had warnings labels since day one when we opened in 2005 telling people how bad our food is for you,” Basso told reporters.” I think that skirts any liability we might have.”

The latest victim is recuperating.

Incidentally, last year the restaurant’s 575-pound (261kg), 29-year-old spokesman died.

Negros Marmalade Wins Silver

The silver medal winner

The silver medal winner

A locally-made marmalade has won a silver medal in the international category at the 2012 World Marmalade Championships held recently in England.

The calamansi marmalade with brandy was made by British chef, NDB writer and Bacolod resident Robert Harland. This is the first time the Philippines has been represented at the championships, now in its seventh year.

Harland’s citrusy concoction scored 19 points out of a maximum of 20. He was pipped at the post for the gold medal by an entry from Singaporean Sharon Lee Puay Ming.

Calamansi is not known in Europe and the judges noted the marmalade’s unusual taste, but they liked the flavor. Harland said he intends to enter the competition again next year, but perhaps with a slightly modified recipe using whisky rather than brandy.

The organizers received over 1,700 entries from all corners of the world – a 30 percent increase over 2011, clearly showing that marmalade is as popular as ever.

Robert Harland recently presented Governor Alfredo Marañon with  the first jar of the locally-made Calamansi marmalade with brandy

Robert Harland recently presented Governor Alfredo Marañon with the first jar of the locally-made Calamansi marmalade with brandy

The championships were part of a weekend-long marmalade festival held at the historic Dalemain Estate in England’s Lake District. Over 70,000 British pounds (Php4.7m) was raised for various charities.

Sausages: We Love ‘Em

These days sausage lovers in Bacolod are spoilt for choice. It was hard to find a decent sausage a few years ago, but now the range is

Not the healthiest of foods, but delicious

Not the healthiest of foods, but delicious

vast and these meaty delights, whether a humble Hungarian or a classic Keilbasa, are readily available throughout the city.

But alas, lovers of British sausages – or ‘bangers’ as the Brits call them – are not so lucky. Despite numerous requests, no one is making these British delicacies here.

Sausages are not the healthiest of foods given their high fat content, but they are delicious. And, as the saying goes, moderation in everything, including moderation.

The sausage is the oldest form of processed meat – you could say it was the world’s first convenience food. Historians believe sausages have been around for as long as man has had domesticated animals.

Pigs, which then as now were the main source of most sausages, were domesticated about 5,000BC in Egypt and China and the first sausages were probably made by herders cutting up scraps of meat and sealing them in the intestines of slaughtered animals.

The earliest mention of sausages is in Homer’s The Odyssey from around 850BC, while the Chinese wall paintings of the Han dynasty circa 200BC also show them.

Bacoleños spoilt for choice these days

Bacoleños spoilt for choice these days

The word ‘sausage’ is derived from the Latin ‘salsus’ meaning salted or preserved and it thought the Romans introduced the technique to northern Europe.

By the Middle Ages sausages were to be found in virtually every region of the European continent.

Despite the vast choice shoppers have these days for sausages, some consumers are wary of their high fat content plus some uncertainly as to exactly what bits and pieces and preservatives manufacturers put into their products.

Thus many sausage-lovers are making their own. As an Englishman, who likes the traditional British ‘banger’, I started making my own when I couldn’t convince any local sausage makers to produce a few. I found that sausage-making is not difficult, especially if your food mixer has a stuffer attachment.

The British really do love their sausages. There’s even a British Sausage Appreciation Society designed to raise awareness of delicious tasting quality sausages.

And every November, there’s a British Sausage Week which celebrates the great British Banger and promotes the wide range of sausages currently available in the country.

Highlight of that week is the annual ‘Legendary British Bangers’ competition, which aims to find the country’s most sensational sausages from all areas of the industry, including butchers and supermarkets to pubs and cafes.

Putting Negros on the marmalade map

Preparations are well underway for the 7th World’s Original Marmalade Awards to be held at the historic Dalemain Estate in England’s

Calamansi marmalade with brandy

Calamansi marmalade with brandy

Lake District in February.

And British resident and former Manila Club chef Robert Harland is hoping to put Negros on the international marmalade map with his entry of a special calamansi marmalade with brandy.

“I had heard that one can make a very decent marmalade using calamansi so I decided to have a go”, he said from his home in Bacolod City. “It was excellent, and I decided to add some brandy to give it extra bite.

Potted and ready for the competition

Potted and ready for the competition

“My marmalade will be entered in the international category, but competition promises to be fierce with marmalades coming in from many parts of the world”, he added.

Last year’s international winner lives in the British Virgin Islands. Harland’s entry will be the first ever from the Philippines.

A distinguished panel of experts will judge the entries including leading British jam maker and author Pam Corbin; Walter Scott, boss of top UK preserve company Wilkin & Sons and cookery editor and chef Sarah Randell.

The judges will be searching for the ‘World’s Best’ marmalade. They will also be giving constructive criticism in their bid to improve marmalade making around the world.

Robert Harland presents Negros Occidental Governor Alfredo Marañon with the first jar of the local Calamansi marmalade

Robert Harland presents Negros Occidental Governor Alfredo Marañon with the first jar of the local Calamansi marmalade

Last year the organizers received a record 1,100 entries and more are expected this year. The 2011 ‘Best in Show’ award went to British Environment Minister Lord Henley with his family’s traditional orange recipe.

Calamansi marmalade with brandy

Calamansi marmalade with brandy

His Lordship’s citrusy concoction is now being made commercially and sold at London’s exclusive Fortnum & Mason grocery store.

The awards are part of a two-day Marmalade Festival. There will be workshops from famous foodies Ivan Day and Dan Lepard, a marmalade concert, an array of related activities and even a marmalade church service.

All proceeds from the festival will be donated to two charities – the Hospice at Home and Action Medical Research for Children.

Here is Harland’s recipe for calamansi marmalade with brandy.

Ingredients: 1.5kg calamansi. 1.4kg sugar. Half a cup of good quality brandy.

Preparation time 20 minutes plus standing. Cooking time 2- 2 1/2 hours.

1: For this recipe weigh the empty preserving pan or large saucepan before you start.

2: Put the clamansi fruit in the pan or saucepan with 1.7 liters of water. Bring to the boil. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and simmer for one a half hours or until the fruit is very soft.

3: Remove the fruit from the pan with a slotted spoon and slice very thinly (using a knife or scissors and fork), discarding the pips and reserving any juice. Return the sliced fruit and juice to the pan and weigh it. If necessary, boil the mixture, uncovered, until reduced to about 2kg.

British chef and Bacolod resident Robert Harland "hoping to put Negros on the international marmalade map"'.

British chef and Bacolod resident Robert Harland "hoping to put Negros on the international marmalade map"'.

4: Add the sugar and stir until it has dissolved, then bring to the boil and boil rapidly for about 15 minutes. Remove any scum with a slotted spoon, leave the marmalade to stand for about 15 minutes and then stir gently to distribute the fruit. Stir in the brandy. Leave to set.  If the marmalade is not thick enough reboil for a few minutes until the required set is reached, but don’t forget to add more brandy before potting. Pot and cover.

Adobo Festival in Silay

British chef and NDB winter, Robert Harland (6th left), was the guest lecturer this week at the Institute for Culinary Arts at the University of St. La Salle. Among the dishes he highlighted were British favorites shepherds pie and mulligatawny soup. Also on the menu was his Cinco de Noviembre pudin de pan y mantequilla - which took second place in the dessert category at the recent Adobo Festival in Silay. Pictured here with ICA students and ICA director Chef Richard Ynayan (center)