Monthly Archives: November 2014

Send in the Tarts

There are definitely not enough tarts in my life, so here goes. Often the thought of handling pastry in this insane climate is off-putting. There is always aircon I suppose, but I have dreams of a walk in pantry, (and nightmares of dying polar bears).

I usually go for 6oz plain flour to 3oz of butter (i.e. 2:1) for shortcrust pastry. In this heat, the key is being FAST. I had 2 tarts planned and doubled this (so 12/6oz). So the kenwood is ready to go (should freeze the K beater first….), and the butter is cut into wee cubes and put in the bowl with the flour. Incidentally, I don’t think there is any need to sift- I think this used to get the weevils out. Though until I get my pantry, maybe I should?

Anyhoo, lowish speed on the mixer or you have a butter flour bomb, until the butter is broken to crumbs. You could roll this between finger and thumb, but it’s too hot. Now get a jug with ice water mix. Get the mixer going at a reasonable speed, and very slowly start pouring the iced water (not any ice), into the whirring mixture, somewhere in the middle i.e. between the rim of the bowl and the centre of the bowel. As soon as larger clumps appear STOP. This will only be a few tablespoons/ 30ml or so. I should video this really shouldn’t I. Quickly compress with your non-sweaty hands into a ball, wrap in cling film, (OK, glad wrap), and put in the fridge for an hour. I’m not sure of the evidence basis for this but I want it cold as heck, and this has just warmed up a bit.

Alastair Little, an influence from my youth, suggests cutting the pastry to fit the pastry tin


from the deepest darkest nineties…..



So you have a big slab of pastry- cut it into thickish slices as above- though I would in future cut it into thinner to get more coverage. You then need to mould it into the pastry tin.



And hopefully you end up with this. I also reinforced the corners a bit, though on this pastry tin, the sides are low and at an angle- take care with vertical sides. A flopped in pastry edge in the oven is heart breaking.

Prick the base with a fork to stop air trapping, and in she goes at 180C, until solid. Take care not to brown the pastry. When it’s almost done, brush a milk/ egg mixture over the pastry and put back in. Floppy sides is one thing, but a leaky tart is devastating.



So finally, let’s fill yer tart.

Take one crab pot, put a bit of pigs head in it. Leave in a muddy mangrove tidal creek over a high tide, and hey presto, mud crabs.

One I boiled upside down and removed the wee legs after 3 mins and the big claws after 5-6. The main body obviously takes a lot longer (think of boiling an egg- mmmm, maybe there’s a market for a colour changing crab timer….).

It’s worth taking the time to get all the meat out of the body- there is a lot of very good white stuff to be had when you get rid of the gills and poke it all out. Keep it cool, and add a load of chopped tarragon, salt, white pepper, 2 eggs and 300ml of double cream and some sweated shallots. Add all the soft brown stuff in the shell too, though there wasn’t as much as you might find in a UK crab, intertingly. Stir it up and pour it into the pastry case. This is best done whilst it’s half out the oven on a sliding grid or you will spill it.




Next filling was an idea from Shona after we opened some petit sapin a bit late to find it was over the edge of ripeness. There was a French baker, Bertrand, in Edinburgh who used to get the over ripe cheeses from the nearby cheese monger and make sublime tarts with them.

Petit Sapin is the pasteurised (therefore allowed in Oz) version of the most amazing cheese I think there is- Vacherin Mont D’or, from the Franche Comte region of France. This is a bucket list cheese- DO NOT DIE BEFORE TRYING IT. It’s made in winter and is wrapped in a strip of spruce bark. It is truly stunning.



So, in it all went, and 3 eggs and a bit less cream. Shallots and black pepper.


Baked at 130C until no wobble/ ripple when given a nudge.



Oh yes, here’s some fennel seeds on the base I scattered before pressing the pastry down for the crab tart.





A crisp chardonnay here perchance? And the odd droplet of Tabasco. Why not.


Bloody Nora-drenaline feast

The very fine butchers of Katherine ‘Eat beef ya bastard’ fame has some zany produce, not least litre containers of pigs blood. Now, when I bought this, I also bought some back fat with the plan to make some black pudding, something as yet unexplored. Cut to about 2 years later……

jones meat k

There is a bit of a lack of fine black stuff round these parts, so when needs must, refer to Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. Now I have to say I love Hugh a great deal, but his quantities for black pudding seemed a bit awry- 2litres of blood and 500g EACH of pearl barley and oatmeal, and 1kg of back fat, and 1kg of onions.image

I have to say I I didn’t weigh a thing. I soaked a cup of pinhead oatmeal overnight and then de-skinned the back fat, possibly 250-300g, and it looked about right. In it all went with a tablespoon of salt, a big grind of white and black pepper and a line of allspice (snort).


This is where it got a bit like a bad resus- pour in the blood. It’s interesting what the sight of a lot of blood does- I did warn my son, and I wish I hadn’t  fed him the line, but he wasn’t keen. He did take about 30 photos of me wrestling with the stuff though.


The Jug o’ blood (Pub name?)


Black hole

After clogging up one funnel I created one out of a Ginger cordial bottle, chopped off to make a cone, which worked pretty bloody well (there I go again). After tying one end of the casings up, it filled up like a dream to produce the coiled black hole- no light was coming out of this. Amazing. It was a bit fiddly to get rid of the air, which I didn’t succeed at 100%, but 95%…..

Now, one tip from Hugh was to gently poach them, but more importantly, when they burst, a little bit of you dies…..


Blood bath

So, bring on the gadget, yes, the sous vide. How about 80C- why not, that should clot the blood.



Lo and behold it worked- by the time the temperature was back up to 80C, they felt pretty solid, so out they came.


Insanely Beautiful

Beast 2 is keen, but no1, despite his liking for it as a toddler wasn’t quite so enamered. Steve and I enjoyed a post MTB ride snack, shown, Fresh bread, big coffee, marmalade, OJ and Worcester sauce. Wow.

So next time? May s few onions and perhaps a French style boudin with lots of cream? Or Spanish style with rice a smoked paprika?? Getting hungry just thinking about this……

Offensive. What does this mean?

I could post this on my work medical blog, but it’s work, and I may get into trouble, so I’ll post on my food blog. Because I can.

There has been a re-emergence of the Cricoidgate scandal of 2014, whereupon a most prolific and upstanding proponent of the FOAM world, Dr Cliff Reid wrote a brief discourse around his views of the continued use of cricoid pressure in emergency airway management arena. He used the acronym R.E.T.A.R.D to summarise this. I can’t even recall the exact expansion of this, but people were OFFENDED. Essentially, the equally prolific and wonderful Dr Minh Le Cong was not pleased as he was a proponent of it’s use based on current expert practice from our gaseous colleagues.

There was a lot of talk about being offended. I tweeted a Stephen Fry interview in there, and I believe Dr Nicholas Chrimes later suggested this ‘offensive’ discourse was ‘just semantics’. Or something like that.

Well, I would like to explore this a little further.

Nicholas has now ended up feeling the offensive wrath of EMS_junkie, who has shown equal disdain for his use of the word ‘zealot’.

Now, a quick disclaimer- my other half (SB) is a philosophy graduate, and we’ve spent 20+ years ‘discussing’. Incidentally, she’s irritatingly rather good at biostatistics, and I need to thank her for the romantic pillow talk on this very topic.

I’ll just pick a bone about ‘just semantics’, as Dr Chrimes has used it again in the recent twitter dialogue. I would suggest that phrase just semantics’ doesn’t make sense, given that (linguistic) semantics is about meaning, as well as other branches in psychology and computer science. I might need my French speaking philosophy other half to assist with the rest of the wikipedia entry.

Anyway, back to Stephen Fry’s comment, that the statement “I am offended by that” is essentially a whine; a statement with no meaning.

Here’s a situation we considered from an actual occurrence. A meal with a number of friends and colleagues, and someone at the table cracks a joke about paedophiles/ paedophilia. Where are we now on the Fry ‘offense is meaningless’ position?

SB raised the idea that really it is an emotional reaction. Being offended as an emotional reaction? So to deny that is as logical as to deny someone isn’t sad, or angry etc. I think this is a useful concept. We may not really understand the reason for the ‘offense’ but it is there. What about the dinner party case? Or indeed the casually racist remark in a hospital meeting, or a member of staff in an open area in the department, or a patient who states ‘I’m glad I’ve got you doc, at least you speak English?’.

The offence may indeed stem from anger, but here it is not really the anger of being offended, it is the anger of someone stating something you feel to be morally wrong, (to open a whole new can of philosphical worms).

And this emotional reaction should be considered distinct from the message of the argument, in the case of Cricoidgate, that the application of cricoid pressure is perhaps a position of dogma, but even worse, it is a position that is potentially doing harm. It is therefore understandable that to get the point across, to draw attention to the other persons seemingly contradictory  point of view, an offensive strategy might be required. Perhaps, to go on the offensive?

Of course it then reminds us of the military or sporting connotation, which is one of attack. And this was SBs point again, it can be (or perceived to be) an attack on a person.

And this where doctors might feel this differently to say a scientist, who might feel somewhat less invested in a certain ‘practice’. When that practice is critiqued, it is perhaps more likely to cause some kind of emotional reaction. In fact I bristled at a skull X-ray I ordered being critiqued the other day. Personally I feel there is a role, and it’s a well thought and logical decision process to me, so I reacted to this. We all do.

So what to do in the case of the racist remark at work, or the paedophile joke at the dinner table. I think the former is easier, unless you’re colleagues are drunk. But an immediate comment stating that is not a reasonable thing to say, possibly with an apology, is probably required, without the emotion.

The dinner table guest should probably get the same swift unemotional comment and not be invited again.

And the blog post/ Twitter comment?

Well, now we are in new territory, as the instant thought, witty cutback, etc etc becomes essentially irreversible and re-tweetable with countless edits and mis-contexts as woeful as an ABC radio news edit.

Let’s just have a chat over a pint……..