A kind of Foodie Sort of a Blog Post

Ok. It happens to all bloggers and all writers. Even the greats like Hemingway and Dickens, they too had a moment when the blank paper stared back and them and nothing, just nothing came back.

Of course in the case of both Hemingway and Dickens, whatever moments they had in the course of writing, they overcame them, they wrote and went on to ever greater success, which is why many years later here we are talking about them.

These days one way to beat the blank screen problem is to do a search in your favourite search engine and look for blog prompts. Yes, there are plenty of those blogs around that tell us amateurs how to blog and how to write and just what to write about. I searched and found a post that gave me 189 creative blog post ideas. 189, pity they couldn’t have rounded it off at 190 or even 200 but hey, that’s just me being picky.,

A lot of those 189 blog ideas I have already done, and I had come up with the ideas all by myself with no help from ‘how to’ blogging sites but ideas 151 through to 162 actually got me thinking. They were all about food so without further ado, here’s a few thoughts on food:

Blog idea 156: How did I start cooking?

The first dish I ever made was probably soup. Now I don’t mean that I actually made the soup, after all, I was only about 6 so give me some credit. No what I actually did was I opened a can of tomato soup, warmed it up on the hob, poured it into a dish, got myself a spoon and sat down and ate and felt, well, pretty proud of myself. These days some 56 years later, tomato soup is still one of my favourites. It’s a sort of comfort food I suppose, tasting the same taste from all those years ago is a soothing relaxing feeling, a feel good, comforting feeling. I even choose soup today in restaurants and one of my favourite soups is from our local Italian restaurant here in sunny St Annes, Allegria. They do a lovely tasty minestrone soup with lovely chunks of vegetables in there. One important accompaniment to soup is tasty fresh bread. Which reminds me, I do have my very own bread making machine on top of the cupboard and it’s high time I pulled it down and made some bread.

The first actual cooking I ever did was a boiled egg but I don’t think I ever really did anything more about cooking until I left home and was forced to fend for myself.

Blog post idea 151: share a regional recipe.

Bacon and eggs hot off the Higgins grill!

Well, I’m not sure about that but here is a recipe regional to anyone in the UK, bacon and eggs. Now bacon and eggs is just one of my favourite meals ever and just recently I happen to have started producing a top-notch plate of this dish by digging out my George Foreman fat-free grill. Yes, I bought one years ago just before my divorce and my grill has lain untouched in a box in my mum’s spare room for many a year until on one epic search of my ‘stuff’ -I was actually looking for a VHS video but that’s a whole other blog- I came across my grill.

So here’s what you do. Crank up the grill, this is easy, just plug it in. Open it up and slap on a sausage. (OK that makes it bacon, sausage and eggs!) Give it a chance to get going and make sure (big tip coming up) your little fat collector is in place at the bottom of the grill otherwise your kitchen top is going to get covered in fat. After a while do a visual check on the sausage and when you think it is beginning to look good, slap in a couple of rashers of bacon. At the same time, get the kettle on because that boiling water will come in handy soon.

Check those rashers and flip them over and then get a pan filled with boiling water from the kettle. This is also a good time to get the teapot warmed. Next step, get that water to a good simmer, give it a stir and drop in your egg.  Check those rashers and sausages, if they are looking good, switch off your grill but just leave everything in there to keep warm. Make the tea. Pour. Serve your eggs and bacon when ready and if you have a tomato handy, slap that in the grill round about the time you dropped the egg  into the water. Serve with fresh bread or toast. Season to taste. Result, perfection on a plate.

Blog Post Idea 162: Share a post about a cooking experience that failed.

Hey I’m writing a blog post here, not a book. How long have you got?

Blog Post 153: Talk about the History of a Dish.

Well, one of my favourite dishes is chilli, or chilli con carne to give it its proper name. It originated in Mexico. Chilli spread to San Antonio in Texas and as the town was a tourist destination the dish spread rapidly through the area. In 1977 it was designated as the official dish of Texas but how it got to the UK I haven’t got a clue.

I started making chilli in the 1980’s and I like to think I make a pretty mean chilli. In fact, I think it’s high time I nipped down the supermarket, picked up the ingredients and got a smokin’ hot chilli cranked up!

When I moved into a new house in a small avenue in Merseyside in the 1990’s all our neighbours were about the same age and all nice and friendly people, or so we thought. My next door neighbour invited us for a barbecue and I noticed that by the barby was a large pan of chilli bubbling away. My neighbour’s wife commented ‘don’t go near that, it’s just the rubbish that Mike cooks!‘ However it turned out I had met a fellow chilli lover and Mike and I regularly swapped chilli recipes and tasted each others new batch of the dish.

Yes, how things changed in that street! We fell out with next door (number 2) because of a crazy incident involving cats. You can read all about it in this post about the Cat Wars where it turned out Stella’s cat was spending far too much time at Mike’s. Mike didn’t like it that we had told Stella (number 8) but actually we told Elaine (number 3) across the road and it was she who had told Stella. Elaine didn’t like it that we had told Mike that she told Stella and that was another friendship out of the window.

One day we went to a barbecue at Shirley’s (number 6). It was not a great affair and they soon ran out of lager. Dan, Shirley’s husband asked for a whip round to get some lagers so I chipped in a fiver. ‘What do you want?’ he asked. ‘Anything but Carling’ I replied as Carling is my least favourite beer. 15 minutes later Dan was back with the lagers. It was a really hot day and I had been keeping the barby going while Dan was away. He handed me a lager in a glass which was strange because up till then we had been drinking out of cans. I took a long slurp of the beer and it was not nice, not nice lager at all. Turns out, Dan had bought a crate of Carling and thought he could fool me with the lager in a glass trick so then he and I got into a dispute as I had specifically requested him not to buy me any Carling. I demanded my fiver back (naturally under the circumstances) and after some heated words we left when Shirley gave me a refund. That was another neighbour we fell out with. No wonder they all later moved away. Pity really because not long after I found this great new chilli recipe that I wanted to tell Mike about.

159. Review a Cook Book

I do have quite a few cook books and I think I really have to thank Ken Hom for my interest in cooking. Back in the 1980’s I became really hooked on his quick stir fry methods of cooking and I bought a wok and started stir frying. In recent years one of my favourite TV chefs is probably Jamie Oliver. OK, sometimes he comes across as a bit of a lad, a bit of a geezer as they say but at the heart of what he does is a love of good food, fresh produce and healthy eating. He produced a great chilli recently on one of his 15 minute meal shows and his cookery programmes, like his books are snappy and vibrant. I own a couple of his books and they are always handy when I want to cook something new or even just for a few tips when I’m in a culinary quandary.

Blog Idea 158. Try Something New (And Write Your Thoughts About It)

Not so long ago, Liz and I stayed in Edinburgh. We weren’t in the centre, we were parked down by the sea front in a spot where motorhomes could park for free. It was well away from the centre of the city and we knew we were in for a walk or a bus ride to get to a restaurant however, just by the parking area was a rather nice restaurant. It appeared to me to be rather focussed on fish, not my favourite food by any means but we decided to give it a try. Liz chose something thoroughly fishy and I had calamari (OK some fishy things are acceptable if not too fishy) and followed it up with a lentil curry. The waiter assured me I would love the dish and it was nice, in fact it tasted more like a chilli than a curry to me. Now I think of it, add a little more chilli and some meat and it would have been perfect!

Blog Idea 190: Plug your book and Sign Off.

Floating in Space is a novel set in Manchester, 1977. Click the links at the top of the page to buy or for more information.

The Giorgio Factor and other Dining Stories.


I really do love dining out. I think it’s one of life’s great pleasures, not that I’m a food gourmet or anything, in fact I’ve got pretty simple tastes in food. Give me a nice bottle of red, tasty food and good service and I’m a happy man.

Some years ago Liz and I used to frequent a lovely Italian restaurant in St Annes. It was a great place. It was only small and a little basic and I got the impression that in a former life it used to be a small shop. It was called, well, I won’t say the name but the owner was a guy called, actually, I’m not going to say his name either.

It was a lovely rustic place and when it was quiet the owner would say to me, ‘Steve, tell me what you want, whatever it is I’ll make it, even if it’s not on the menu. If I have the ingredients, I’ll make it for you.’ That was rather nice of him and I hope his offer was because we were friends and not because I was difficult to please.

One of his waiters was a guy called Giorgio. He was a really nice fella but as a waiter, pretty useless. More than two people in the restaurant and he’d start to flap, big style. He’d bring us a menu and then, well that was all he could do really. We’d order a bottle of wine and when it never arrived we’d have to prompt him by waving empty glasses at him. The main course would come and there’d be no cutlery. One time they had this other waitress who was Italian and spoke no English. Another couple would enter the restaurant and before Giorgio could get himself together the trainee waitress seated them and had taken their drinks order. Giorgio ambled over, asked what could he get them to drink just as the drinks were actually arriving! We do miss Giorgio and that lovely restaurant. Ever time you spoke to him he would say, in a strong Italian accent, ‘you’re welcome.’ He rarely did anything but he always said ‘you’re welcome!’

One day the restaurant sadly closed down and the owner started up a new place in Blackpool. When we visited a while ago I noticed Giorgio had not made the transition to the new premises. Pity, he did make us laugh. Anyway, when we dine out these days at somewhere new we sometimes try and spot which waiter has the Giorgio factor.

In Casa Carlos this week in Lanzarote, the main contender for this week’s Giorgio award was a lady that was determined to pour our wine. One of our pet hates is the waiter who tries to pour our wine when we are not ready. In fact, we don’t want the waiter pouring our wine at all. OK, he, or she, can do that initial pour after the opening of the wine and the tasting ritual but after that, leave us alone. We pour the wine only when we are ready and not before. Well, in Casa Carlos we fended this lady off a number of times when she made a raid on our table in a vain attempt to pour our wine. No, ‘get back’ we told her. Liz tried to fool her by hiding our bottle on the low window sill behind our table. Ha, we thought, try and get our wine there!

However, just as we were chatting and I had shovelled in a mouthful of barbecued steak the waitress homed in from our blind side, swerving silently towards us like a ninja but just at the last second Liz spotted her, grabbed the wine and said ‘no thank you’ firmly. You have got to be firm with these Spanish waitresses.

Tapas at the Blue Note Restaurant, nice but a little on the small side . .

When we first arrived in Lanzarote some years ago our first restaurant port of call was a place called the Blue Note, a classy jazz bar restaurant in the Marina Rubicon area of Playa Blanca. We were pretty starving so we ordered a few tapas. Sadly they were of the rather small minimalist type, you know, three meatballs to a plate. We had ordered six tapas but they were so small when we had eaten them we were still hungry. Next port of call was Cafe Berrugo. OK, we get the picture we thought, tapas plates are small in Lanzarote. We ordered four plates of tapas and two beers, then, thought, is that enough? Waiter, portion of fries please. Ten minutes later, the tapas arrive and guess what? They are massive plates! How can we eat this lot and the fries?

We have since become regulars at Cafe Berrugo. The waiters know us and what we like, for instance they always give out complimentary nuts to the English and olives to the locals. However, we have gradually shown them that some English people actually eat olives. Oscar, our favourite waiter looks after us and always serves us the vino tinto at room temperature. Our other favourite waiter is a guy we just call Good Morning as he always bellows out ‘good morning’ when customers arrive, whatever the time of day! It’s always nice to finish the night here with a complimentary shot of ice cold vodka caramel before getting our coats on and waving goodbye with a cheery ‘good morning’!

One final dining story: Here in Lanzarote the last few days have been a little stormy, however one day the heavens cleared and the sun shone again. The forecast had said heavy rain but what the heck! We were in barbecuing mood so we cranked up the coals and prepared the meat and salad. Yes, it was a lovely barby. Just at the end, literally as I was taking my last bite of a lovely burger and despite the sky in the west being clear and blue, the sky above and to the east darkened. It reminded me, like a lot of things in life, of a film I’d seen years ago. It was a space disaster movie from the seventies or eighties. The one where the crew need to launch to save the guys on the space station but Cape Kennedy is hemmed in by a storm. Well this hurricane passes directly over and the rescue mission launches through the eye of the storm, just like how we had our barbecue in the nick of time before the heavens opened.

What the heck was that film? If you know, answers on a postcard please!


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Restaurants I have Known and one or two Memorable Meals!

 

Restaurants I have known and one or twoGoing out for a meal has to be one of the great pleasures in life. It’s certainly one of my favourite things to do. There are many things that make for a great dining experience. The food of course is the important factor but it’s not just that. The restaurant and the atmosphere play a big part. The location too, is important and the table, but after the food the most important thing is service.

St Annes and Lytham have some wonderful restaurants embracing various food cultures. There is Anatolia serving Turkish food, The Greek Flame serving, not unsurprisingly, Greek food. The Marrakech has a lovely Moroccan menu. Woks Cooking in Lytham is my favourite Chinese eating house and Ego, also in Lytham serves Mediterranean food with a smile and outstanding service.

One of my all-time favourite meals was at my favourite French restaurant not far from Calais in a place we found on a country road, miles from anywhere. Liz and I stopped there many years ago for an early evening meal. For starters I chose celery soup and Liz ordered the pate.
I was a little disappointed with the rather small dish that was presented to me but then a huge tureen of soup arrived which was wonderful and produced about four small servings, one of which went to Liz while I sampled her pate which was full of rustic flavours and was perfect served with fresh French bread.
The main course was a simple omelette, light and fluffy with a fresh salad and Liz’s fish was lovely with a creamy curry like sauce, unusual for French country cooking.

Another great French restaurant is in Saumur, my favourite French town. Again, I don’t know the name of it and it’s always hard to find, in fact we usually tend to stumble upon it after walking around for a while. It’s a small restaurant that spills out on the pavement and I do so love those three lovely courses that French restaurants serve; starter, main and a cheese course, served with red wine and plenty of crusty bread. There is no rush in a French restaurant and there’s plenty of time to watch life and people pass by as you dine.

IMGA0302Tapas are pretty fashionable in the UK these days and we sampled some lovely tapas at the Blue Note restaurant at the Marina Rubicon in Playa Blanca earlier this year. The highlight was the Canarian potatoes served with mojo sauce, lovely.

Yes, I’ve come a long way as a diner from the Plaza Cafe in Manchester where my friends and I used to call in the early hours of Sunday morning after a late night drinking and chatting up the girls. The Plaza served curry and there were three options: mild, hot, and suicide! Yes, how we used to laugh as we called up “Three suicides please!”

A lot of people seem to think I’m a fast eater. I’m not sure if I am but if that is the case; it surely comes from late night curries like the one above. If you are with six boozed up guys and you want something to eat, you have to grab it and get it on your plate as soon as possible otherwise you might just end up with nothing but a plateful of rice as my friends used to clear the table faster than a horde of locusts.

My one hate of restaurants though is this. Do waiters lie in wait for me to take a big mouthful of food before coming to the table? Many times I’ll try my food then nibble on small portions just in case the waiter approaches. When I finally think, ok, he’s not coming over, I’ll shovel in a good mouthful and out of nowhere a waiter is sure to appear.
“Is everything all right for you sir?”
All I can usually do is nod and try to mime someone enjoying their meal . .


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