Saturday, 22 January 2011

Death of the Montezuma Orangutang!


Argh. Something is afoot in my world as a lover of dark orange-flavoured chocolate. Yes I know that’s a pretty niche type of interest, but I feel compelled to vent!

Above, you will see my favourite chocolate bar ever. It has been killed off. Montezuma Chocolates, who in my opinion make some of the most delicious dark chocolate in the Western hemisphere, have decided to discontinue their Orangutan, the Yorkie-sized dark chocolate bar flavoured with orange. How very dare they! Why would anyone do such a thing? What were they thinking?

I used to go to the Montezuma shop in Spitalfields when I worked nearby and load up on 10 bars in one go so that I had a stash of them in the house, and I would sit eating one slowly as a treat after a bad day, making each square last as long as possible. The Orangutan tasted so darned good – a classy, glossy dark choc flavoured with tart orange oil, silky in texture and with a lovely aftertaste, formed in satisfyingly big chunks (hence the Yorkie comparison). It made Green & Black’s Maya Gold orange/spice chocolate seem sickly and over-sweetened in comparison. (You see, I have a thing about dark orange choc!)

But now the bar has been discontinued! I actually requested some Orangutan bars on my Christmas list, before I knew of this monstrous calamity, and my husband had to beg a sales assistant to find some in the storeroom. Seeing the desperation on his face, she very kindly tore open some gift packs to prise the remaining ones out.  I now have two-and-a-half bars left – IN THE WORLD.

Montezuma’s please explain to me why you have removed this bar from your range? What possessed you to keep  ‘Space Hopper’ and ‘Gourmet Gorilla’ instead of ‘Orangutan’?  I can’t find a replacement that will match it (and believe me, I have looked)… what the hell am I going to do? Sit here with a Terry’s Chocolate Orange and sulk?

Well, for starters, I’m going to email them this…

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Blood orange and grapefruit jelly


Argh - why is it that jelly is such a royal pain in the arse to make? Every single recipe I've tried gives a specific number of gelatine sheets to use, and the jelly never EVER sets. The recipe I tried below (tsk tsk Nigel Slater) was no exception - it took three attempts to get it right. I thought I was going mad, effing and blinding and stomping around my kitchen in the early hours. I mean, how many flipping sheets of gelatine does one jelly need? Apparently the confusion occurs because chefs use a different size of sheet, but my gripe is that food recipe editors should realise that ordinary punters wouldn't use catering sized ones. We just buy the regular Supercook ones in the supermarket. Anyway. Rant over.

A really great fruit to make a jelly with is the blood orange. Blood oranges are in season right now. Don’t hang about, though – you can only get them for a couple of months a year, and they’re really worth snapping up. Really nice ones, I think, come from Sicily – you can get great organic ones from small growers there. In terms of flavour, blood oranges are slightly more perfumed than regular oranges; some have dark red flesh, others are a mottled mixture of red and orange, and some are just orange coloured on the inside. Part of the fun is unpeeling one to see how dark the segments are inside, then squeezing out the vivid juice. The only clue on a blood orange’s skin that the inside might be red coloured is a little red blush or mottling, otherwise they look exactly the same, albeit a bit smaller than normal oranges.

Uses? You can make a very grown up vodka and blood orange cocktail (fresh juice and voddy) and in terms of desserts I got the idea to make a posh fruit jelly for a dinner party. Jelly is such a great pud to make for a dinner party – it wibbles on the spoon, feels nostalgic, but if you make your own with fresh fruit juice, it’s very grown up!

This jelly came in very handy when I had to provide the pudding course at a mate’s dinner party (a sort of pot luck supper where everyone brings a course) because you can carry it across London on the tube in your bag and it won’t break or spill, it’ll just wobble amusingly.

Blood orange and grapefruit jelly

Based on a recipe by Nigel Slater; serves 8

You will need:

10 – 12 cardamom pods
1 litre fresh blood orange and pink grapefruit juice (it's nice to use a bit more blood orange juice than grapefruit - approx 1.5 kilos blood oranges and a couple of pink grapefruits)
Juice of half a lemon
Juice of half a lime
3 tbsp caster sugar
6 slices of peel taken from one of the blood oranges (if you use organic, you don’t have to worry about pesticides on the skin)
12 - 15 sheets of Supercook gelatine

Bash open the cardamom pods in a pestle and mortar and extract the black seeds. Juice the fruits, then put the juice of the oranges, grapefruit, lemon and lime in a stainless steel saucepan, add the cardamom seeds, sugar and the strips of orange peel. Stir until the sugar has dissolved, taste to check it's sweet enough, if not add a bit more sugar, then bring almost to the boil before turning off the heat and putting the lid on, letting the liquid cool down for about 20 minutes.



Meanwhile, soak the gelatine leaves in water until floppy, then when the juice mixture has cooled down a bit (but still warm) add the gelatine to it and stir until dissolved. Pour the jelly mixture through a sieve to remove any seeds or peel, into either moulds, wine glasses or a large bowl and leave to set in the fridge overnight.

You could serve the jelly on its own, or with some nice shortbread and a blob of vanilla ice cream or double cream.


Normally I would have put the jelly in individual glasses or moulds, but as I had to carry it across London, a big bowl had to do. Tastes the same, innit!

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

A rotten fishy business


Last night I watched ‘Hugh’s Fish Fight’ on Channel 4 – where Hugh Fearnley Whittingtsall lifted the lid on the shocking state of the UK fishing industry. He interviewed fishermen on their boats around the UK who were furious at having to throw around HALF their catch overboard, also known as ‘discard’, to meet absurd and outdated government regulations.

I was horrified – I knew the fishing industry was in dire straits, but I had no idea that BY LAW fishermen were forced to throw much of their catch overboard to meet certain quotas. What a disgusting waste of food. Not to mention the environmental havoc that this wreaks on the over-trawled oceans.

It made for very powerful and compelling viewing – the fishermen, fishmongers and fish processors were all sickened by the laws which have been in place for many years, and many felt depressed and angry. Hugh looked as sickened as they did. It makes no sense whatsoever to have these quotas in place.

Watch the programme here

And, for the love of haddock, cod and mackerel, please sign Hugh’s petition to get the law changed here

There are fantastic Channel 4 programmes on fish airing all this week, with Hugh taking on the state of the global fishing industry tonight at 9pm…

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

The perfect ‘99’



I recently chanced upon a fantastic ice cream kiosk in West Bay, Dorset, manned by twinkly husband and wife team, Margaret and John. They’ve been selling ice cream in this very spot for the past 42 years, whatever the weather. (I think the Bassett Hound wants an ice cream).

Don’t Margaret and John look nice? I like the way John lets his lady get on with chatting with all the punters, looking wise in the background, smirking behind his hand:


I didn’t really need an ice cream that day – I’d been festively overdoing it for at least two weeks, grabbing at hunks of cake, cheese and fistfuls of chocolate as though they were the only three food groups left on the planet. But I couldn’t resist a peek at the ice creams, despite being three shades away from developing gout, to have a browse and a chat with Margaret.

“We’ve been selling ice cream here for 42 years,” she said in a tiny birdlike voice. “We were with Wall’s for years, but when they got taken over by Unilever, they stopped sending their reps round, so we now get our ice cream from a small family business who make it in the New Forest instead.” Hurrah for them, I say!

Margaret tempted me with a free sample, cranking up the ancient looking and noisy ice cream machine in the corner, filling the cornet up with vanilla swirls. She then turned the whole ice cream upside down to prove to me that this wasn’t just any old 99-style frozen dessert – this was good quality stuff that held its own, not collapsing in a pappy mess. And it tasted absolutely delicious – really creamy, solid but soft, proper vanilla. Bloody flippin’ gorgeous. You wouldn’t find any gelatine, potato starch or engine oil thickening up this here ‘99 – this was the total shiz:


I totally fell in love with this kiosk – it felt like a portal to happy bygone seaside days of the 1950s (just in my head, mind – I wasn’t alive then!). But of course, when I asked Margaret and John whether they’d be happy with me taking their photographs, she laughed: “What are you going to do with them, put them up on the internet?” Hah!

Here are a few more pics…

Signage from the outside:


Margaret shows me her flavours – somehow I think it’s a good plan to stick to plain ole vanilla:


Margaret does the biz; John wishes us a ‘happy new year’ :


Two tremendously elated punters, my friends A and P:


Seriously, what better thing to do on a blustery and freezing cold day in January than to stroll down the beachside in West Bay and buy a ‘99 and a cup of tea from Margaret and John?

New Forest Ice Cream