Next up in the ‘Food Blogging Community’ series is the very entertaining, very adventurous and, if his blog is anything to go by, very hungry, Danny, the Food Urchin.
Name: Danny aka Food Urchin
Blogging since: March 2009
Location: Essex…….London…… no Essex…….oh somewhere in between
Blog address: www.foodurchin.blogspot.com
How did you get into this blogging lark?.
Robert Carrier came to me in a dream one night and told me “if I cook and write about it, they will come”.
Right…so tell us about your blog.
Well the byline for Food Urchin is ‘the trials and tribulations of a keen cook, food lover and novice allotmenteer’ which pretty much sums up the blog. Except I haven’t written any posts about the allotment for a long time (the committee took an injunction out to prevent any more lurid tales about life amongst the cabbages and beetroot going further)
But by and large, the blog is about my adventures in food, combining family life, recipes and reviews with a liberal sprinkling of humour and self-depreciation.
Have I told you about ‘Where’s My Pork Chop?’ yet?
Well ‘Where’s My Pork Chop?’ is a little side blogging project I’ve got going where I invite fellow bloggers to feed me in exchange for wine, lunch, produce from the allotment or whatever comes to hand. It’s a kind of foodie swap shop but without Noel Edmunds. And once I have tucked away my fellow blogger’s offering, I then give them an honest appraisal of their food. Well sort of as I do have tendency to go off on a tangent but it’s been very enjoyable so far, meeting lots of different people from all walks off life. And eating their food. It has fallen into the doldrums recently simply because I haven’t been making much of an effort to contact people but I would like to get it all kick started again soon…………….er Julia, would you like to take part?
If you can convince Noel Edmunds to host then I’m in. So, what keeps you motivated to blog?
I don’t post as often as I’d like, due to time constraints with work, family life, Twitter, laziness etc etc but it’s very satisfying when I do, that sense of accomplishment. That’s what keeps me going. And getting comments, that’s always nice. Oh and plus there’s the prospect that one day, the life of the Food Urchin will be turned into a film with Brad Pitt in the lead role. One day.
You’re a big Twit…sorry, I mean you’re a big user of Twitter; what do you think of the interaction on Twitter compared with the blog and how do the two fit together?
HA! For a second there, I thought you were calling me a twit………….oh you were? Oh.
Yes I am a big fan of Twitter and probably spend far too much time on there. Personally I like the sense of community that has grown and evolved on Twitter, especially amongst all the foodies that are on there. Plus it really is a valuable resource for sharing information and finding out stuff. For instance, if I am looking for an unusual ingredient for a recipe, Twitter is my first port of call because someone out there will have the answer and I’ll respect that opinion over a search say on Google.
There are similar parallels with blogging but obviously the immediacy isn’t there. However, the two fit perfectly when it comes to announcing and promoting new posts because Twitter gives you a captive audience.
I am going to stop there because I am starting to spout off like some social media guru. And I am not really a social media guru.
What can we look forward to on Food Urchin over the coming months?
More of the same really and hopefully more often, I would like to up the ante a bit because I do enjoy the writing. I am going to try and concentrate on a bit more on family cooking adventures and I also want to highlight what’s going on food wise in the fair county of Essex. And oh yes, I shall also be giving an account of the high and lows of running a supper club.
A supper club? Wow, that’s quite a venture, how will you fit it in with everything else?
I’ve been meaning to run a supper club for a while but as you say, it’s quite a venture and it’s not like I have loads of time on my hands. But I’ve finally decided to take the bull by the horns and so the first Food Urchin supper club which will be held at my local theatre, The Brentwood Theatre (in Brentwood, naturally) and then every month afterwards at Urchin Mansions. Details of the first night can be found here and I hope that it’s the start of something exciting. There will be an emphasis on using produce from around Essex and from the allotment once the season is in full swing. I also have a couple of interesting ideas in the pipeline, one of them being based upon a ‘buried’ theme, cooking and serving Kleftiko in proper old school style. So watch this space.
It does sound very exciting, I look forward to hearing all about it. Before we say goodbye, can you share a typical ‘Food Urchin’ recipe with us?
I am not entirely sure if there is a typical ‘Food Urchin’ recipe but here is one that I hold close to my heart which is a posh version of pie and mash (you know the East End roll aaaht the barrel type). I was brought up on the stuff and firmly believe it to be manna from heaven.
Posh Pie and Mash
Serves 2 (but there’s usually plenty left over)
For the Pie and Mash
450gms of braising steak, cut into chunks
250gms puff pastry
1 onion, finely chopped
125gms chestnut mushrooms, finely sliced
5 large potatoes (maris piper), peeled and cut into even pieces
200 mls Guinness
200 mls stock (I used Marigold vegetable bouillon)
2 small bay leaves
3 springs of thyme
1 tbs of tomato puree
salt and pepper
1 egg, beaten
For the liquor
8 oysters, shucked (save the ‘juices’ with the oyster flesh in a bowl)
tub of jellied eels
500 mls water
large bunch of parsley, chopped
salt and pepper
1 tsp of malt vinegar
First pre-heat oven to 160 degrees centigrade then melt some butter in a casserole dish, add the onion and mushroom and gently fry until soft, then remove from the dish. Coat the braising steak in seasoned flour, add to the pan and brown the meat until well coloured.
Return the mushrooms and onions to the dish and then add the stock, Guinness, bay, thyme, tomato puree, a good splash of worcestershire sauce and any remaining flour. Stir and bring to the boil and then cover with a lid and place in the oven for 1 and half to 2 hours.
Take the casserole dish out and if nice and tender, shred the braising steak with two forks. If there is still a lot of liquid, put back in the oven for half an hour. The aim is to get a thick meaty mix that will hold together when constructing the ‘open’ pie. Put to one side and keep warm
After about an hour in of cooking the steak, place potatoes in saucepan, cover with water, bring to boil and then simmer for 20 minutes. Drain and then add liberal amounts of butter and a splash of milk, mash with masher. Put to one side and keep warm. (That just felt like teaching my grandma to suck eggs)
Turn the oven up to 200 degrees centigrade and roll out puff pasty on a floured surface to the thickness of a pound coin, cut one circle out per person, making sure that it is slightly larger then the Blue Peter inspired ring. Put on a flat baking tray and brush with beaten egg and then place in the oven for 10 mins or until the pastry has puffed up nice and fluffy.
Empty the tub of jellied eels into a saucepan, pour over cold water and bring the boil, then simmer for about 10 minutes until reduced by a third. Pour the stock into a jug using a sieve to catch the eel meat and bones. Then using same saucepan, melt some butter and add flour to make a roux, then gradually add the eel stock back into the pan, stirring all the time, bringing to the boil. When it starts to thicken add the parsley, a couple of twists of salt and pepper and the vinegar.
Bring the heat down to simmer and place the oysters along with the juices in the liquor to poach for 3-4 minutes
Now it’s time to plate up. Place the ring in the middle of the plate and spoon the mashed potato up about till half way, smoothing the surface over with the back of the spoon. Then add the thick steak mixture until it reaches the top, again smoothing over. Slowly and surely lift the ring up, leaving the meat and potato firmly in place. Gently place a puff pastry lid on top.
Remove the oysters from the pan and position around the outside and then pour the remaining liquor around the outside of the open pie and over the oyster, tidying the rim of the plate if necessary.
Serve with a liberal dashing of extra vinegar and white pepper.