Great British Waste (of Time) Menu

Having watched all 90 excruciating minutes of Great British Waste Menu last night I feel compelled to blog, mainly as catharsis. What a shocking waste of time for anyone unfortunate enough to sit through it. I really feel strongly that the BBC’s public service remit is not being served well by such a frivolous and pointless load of excrement. What was so wrong with it, why has this riled you so much, I can hear all five readers of my blog asking me? OK, here goes.

Why is waste bad? Ooh, we waste all this food, it’s terrible. Well that’s a hypothesis, now prove it. Common sense tells us that sticking a chicken in a nasty little barn, feeding it antibiotics and biscuits for 12 weeks, killing it, wrapping it in plastic, driving it to Woking, then Birmingham, then back to Woking, sticking it on a shelf, waiting for it to be bought, taken home, realising actually you are eating out with friends the next three nights and then chucking it away, MIGHT be a bad idea. But why? I mean, WHY EXACTLY. The Moebius strip like commentary was no help, continuously looping about how waste is terrible, how we throw so much away, and look at all those nice gem lettuces getting their faces ploughed into a field, and look at all this fish, and why doesn’t anyone eat these lovely ox pancreases. Oh its terrible, there’s a lovely meal in all that rubbish. Some fucking facts please! For example, I would imagine that chucking loads of food away probably equates to a load of CO2 emissions that were unnecessary. How much? What is the impact? Is there a working solution. Remember that growing plants is also a carbon sink (you will remember that plants eat carbon dioxide and shit out oxygen and glucose). The programme at no point deemed us intelligent enough to be treated to any kind of treatise on why waste is bad. Although it probably is.

I’m really confused, what are you talking about? Half the time the narrator was jabbering on about how the chefs could make a fantastic, wonderful meal from the contents of a bin. Look at this pineapple, its been flown thousands of miles and ended up in this bin! OK, but isn’t this the same Great British Menu strand that preaches the importance local and seasonal food. Is it now ethically OK to import anything you like, as long as it sits in a bin before ending up on a Michelin-starred plate of food? I’m really confused. Similarly the narrator nearly wet himself when Richard Corrigan got a crate of slip soles. “There’s no market for them” came the tedious refrain from the fishermen who obviously haven’t looked for a market for them – I’d fucking buy them! I note that the excellent Sportsman at Whitstable also puts them on their menu. But the narrator decided to caveat that it might be a bit bad to catch and eat young fish (slip soles being little baby soles). So OK, we shouldn’t catch them, but we have caught them, so might as well make a banquet out of them.

The competition wasn’t real. All of the decent dishes were made out of food that wasn’t out of date, wasn’t necessarily going to be chucked away. “You can have this topside of beef, we probably won’t use it” is not the same as food waste. This is some kind of proto-food waste living in a kind of Schrodinger’s metaverse where someone may or may not eat it. We’ll take it just in case it is going to be thrown away then. Additionally, the ox tongues and what-not that went into Matt Tebbutt’s starter might have been sold for dog food – well that’s also not the same as throwing it away is it? Anyway, I’d happily eat some ox tongue if you’ve got any spare.

That stuff in a supermarket bin was horrible even before it went in the bin. Stop going on about “all this lovely bread” that’s going to waste. That supermarket bread was a vile abomination the day it went on sale and its no bloody better having sat in a bin for 36 hours is it? Ditto almost everything else they pulled out of the bin. You wouldn’t be getting excited about these tasteless tomatoes and courgettes when they were for sale, so why are you getting excited now they are covered in an unidentifiable biofilm?

The food safety woman has an easy job. “Oh, I’m happy with this, its sort of cold, go for it” – I suppose the worst that could happen is that Oliver Peyton and a bunch of supermarket people might come down with a diarrhoeal illness and that’s not exactly a disaster.

Supermarkets are a bit evil, but no worse than we are. All these supermarkets are apparently obsessed with uniformity and have strict specifications for products. Actually we knew this back in 1992 and it isn’t news now because Prue Leith has got involved. Prue Leith I should add being responsible for some truly awful conference catering I have had the misfortune to experience. I do have a bone to pick with supermarkets though – they spend all their time getting the perfect size, shape, colour and texture tomato but still they taste bollocks. Sort it out please.

We don’t need a cooking competition to know that Simon Rimmer is shit at cooking. This is amply demonstrated by the execrable Something for the Weekend (Sundays, BBC2) where he cooks rubbish recipes and gurns on a weekly basis. We know that Angela Hartnett is going to cook some ravioli, she always does. I do like Richard Corrigan and Matt Tebbutt seems inoffensive enough. But what’s the point of a cooking competition between top chefs who are cooking shit found in a bin? This is a pointless addition to the show. And I already pointed out its rigged because most of the ingredients are perfectly fine and were never destined from the bin. And Oliver Peyton’s now getting upset because some of the food is a bit rubbish? Who cares? Who’s bloody idea was any of this? What is going on?

What stuff got thrown away from the Great British Waste Menu? Hannah kept on pointing at the decorative bins full of fruit saying “I bet those get thrown away after the show”. What about all the food that got collected but not cooked? I counted plenty. I think they should go to the landfill, collect it and force feed it to whoever conceived this absolutely useless programme.

I’m going to stop now, this has been cathartic and its going up with minimal editing because I have real work to do.

Beefy, beefy


Beef is in the news right now, but again for all the wrong reasons (check out the devil eyes!).

What’s so bad about cloning a cow? You’d have to assume its a bloody good one for someone to bother. Anyway, the way they breed cows right now isn’t exactly as nature intended.

Personally I can see no clear reason why a cloned cow entering the food chain is a cause for hand-wringing. But I’m looking forward to when we can grow steaks in a vat so I don’t have to feel so guilty about the bit when they get a pressurised bolt struck into their skull.

Right now we still have to get our steak the old-fashioned way. To me that means picking a good breed which had a good diet and good animal welfare. Plus it needs the attention of a decent butcher who understands how to cut, age and package the meat (vac-packing is a no-no, the blood taints the meat).

It makes sense to me that outdoor-reared beef which eats grass would give the best steak. But if you want steaks packed with marbling, grain does the trick. Many people are prepared to pay top dollar for Kobe (Wagyu) beef but I have gone off the idea since reading this article by M. Blanc. It may be that animals treated well don’t taste better, but at least the knowledge helps reduces the guilt factor of settling down to eating them.

I’ve read about the beef from Jack O’Shea for some time now and been very keen to try it. I usually get beef from Roger Brown who sources Longhorn from Quenby Hall or Longhorn directly from Richard Vaughan at Huntsham Farm. But with Hannah visiting London on a regular basis recently this gave me an excellent opportunity to try some of Jack’s stuff from his Selfridges outlet.

As expected, this shit ain’t cheap. In fact its seriously expensive. But even at the prices he charges you can still eat better (much better) and more cheaply at home than at your local, shitty French/Italian chain restaurant. So who’s counting.

First up, cote de boeuf – or ribeye on the bone – or cowboy steak according to their website. This is one of the ultimate steak cuts, along with T-bone. My local butcher much to my disappointment either won’t or can’t do this for me.

Jack will. The breed is Black Angus. The ageing is a minimum of 28 days. I’d already some of his ribeye, ‘barley-finished’, which was pretty tremendous but this took it to another level. They also do USDA prime rib which is supposed to be amazing (although to be honest, the steaks we had in America, for example at Peter Luger’s in New York didn’t blow me away).

First impressions were mixed: certainly an impressive looking piece of meat, probably enough for 3 hungry people, with loads of fat (its ribeye) and decent marbling, but it was surprisingly bright red colour. I’d understood well aged meat to be take on a darker red/purple colour, at least according to Hugh’s writing in his excellent meat book.

This cut deserves serious treatment. I got it out of the fridge a couple of hours early to bring to temperature and gave it a little salt rub. To maximise flavour I decided I would grill it over an extremely hot charcoal BBQ and finish it off in a hot oven. I gave it a full 25 minute rest so ensure the juices would be evenly distributed.

It also deserved some top-notch veg; I used Simon Hopkinson’s recipe for pots dauphinoise (briefly, rinse and dry the potatoes, cook the slices in a pan with milk, double, cream, garlic and seasoning until nearly cooked, then bake in the oven for 40 minutes – great result every time) and my quick version of peas a la francaise (cook your peas, braise some little gem lettuce with garlic in oil, add peas, finish with mint).

The leftovers went in the next day’s steak sandwich, improved with mustard, Maldon salt and the Formula 1.

But the beef story, it don’t end there!

Beef short ribs are the trendy thing to eat these days, I’ve seen them described somewhere as the beef version of lamb shanks and in the States they are on every menu. Not yet popular here but wait for it. It’s the bit of the rib you can’t really roast (too thin) or turn into steaks (not sure why). God knows what we do with it usually in this country, perhaps give it to a clone army of dogs?

It’s chock full of marbled fat so needs a slow braise to render that down. For dish one I braised them in the oven with stock veg, red wine and beef stock. Served with mash and mustard on the side plus the carrots.

Right now the leftover remains are being turned into a proper ragu for pasta papardelle. Ask for “Jacob’s ladder” at your local butcher.