Beer of the month, October 2015

A busy month for beers. 46 different beers and ciders sampled this month, including plenty from Yorkshire (last month’s trip to Skipton), and quite a few from Hampshire, as well as a few from further afield.

First up in the list is Lagunitas Day Time Fractional IPA, full of super hoppy goodness, an excellent grapefruit hit, and perfect paleness. One of the best IPAs I’ve had all year, picked up during our trip to Southwold.

Next we come to a pint of Cydonia from Vibrant Forest brewery at the Filly Inn – a hoppy and fruity super hit, excellent cycling refreshment.

IMG_3770

Another home drink next, a bottle of 1643 Puritan from Two Cocks brewery. This had coffee, caramel, chocolate and liquorice combined for a big hit of complexity. Very drinkable and not too heavy, the season of the stout has begun.

In second place, we have a bottle of Mariana Trench from Weird Beard brewery. This was sampled at the Fox & Hounds in Lyndhurst (great pub) and is another example of hoppy loveliness from the beardy boys.

IMG_3775

There was only ever going to be one winner this month. As soon as I saw this in the fridge at the Fox & Hounds in Lyndhurst, I had a feeling that Cwtch by Tiny Rebel would be this month’s victor.

IMG_3767

Not hard to see why this was champion beer of Britain this year. Hoppy redness, just fantastic. It’s going to be in the top five at the end of the year, I’m fairly certain of that.

Orange and sultana cake

This cake is a bit of a favourite. It’s quick and easy and always popular. If you’re having a cake sale, this is usually a good seller, perfect if you are raising funds for charity. Oh, and it tastes great too.

You will need:-

230g soft margarine
230g caster sugar
280g self-raising flour
2tsp baking powder
4 eggs
280g sultanas
grated rinds of 2 oranges
15g demerara sugar

This is a very simple recipe, and there’s not much too it. Away we go.

First, heat your oven to 180C. Whilst it is warming up, grease and line the base of a rectangular cake tin. I use these loaf tin liners from Lakeland (when flattened out they fit my tin perfectly) but greaseproof paper will do just fine. A tin around 30cm long and 24cm wide is about right.

Top baking tip coming up. To prevent your sultanas sinking to the bottom of your cake, toss them in a tablespoon of flour first, before mixing with the other ingredients. This works best if you are baking the mixture straight away – if you leave it around for a short while, they will start to sink again.

Put all of the ingredients into a bowl (leave out the demerara sugar as that’s for the topping) and mix together well. I do this by hand with a spoon, but you can use any form of electric mixing aid if you prefer.

Pour the mixture into your tin and wobble the tin a few times to level it. Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes, remove from the oven, and sprinkle the top with the demerara sugar before returning it to the oven for around 15 minutes (all ovens vary). The cake should shrink away from the sides of the tin and spring back in the centre if you press it lightly with your fingers. Leave to cool in the tin until you are ready to turn it out. This will cut into 12 generous squares of cake.

Nottingham Knight, Ruddington

A trip out tonight to catch up with a few friends. We are often to be found in random pubs around our 3 local counties, at events organised by others. This takes you to lots of interesting places, but when your group grows in size, sometimes only chain pubs will do, as they can usually cope with a group of 20-30 people all arriving at different times, and ordering (or not) food.

I say usually, because that didn’t really work out tonight. They had lost the booking from the event organiser, so 20 or so people were about to turn up without a booking. The pub was very busy (half term week) but it was big enough to cope, although they looked a little worried at 20 or more unexpected guests.

There was a reasonable wait for food, at least 30 minutes in our case, and longer for some of the others. Usually, that’s ok, because you can always enjoy another drink. But there was nothing of note on offer here, Greene King IPA (an insult to IPAs) and Abbot (meh). So an overpriced Coke it was, not doing much to encourage the non-drinker here. At least it had a wedge of lime in it, which is always welcome.

Classic pub fodder on offer on the menu, the pulled pork burger was sufficient, although those fries were somewhat resemblant of the 1980s frozen classic from McCain, Stringfellows. No messing around with garnishes here, just burger topped with pulled pork, some fries, a leaf of salad under the burger, and a couple of very average onion rings. The very definition of fodder.

They then managed to make a mess of someone else’s order, bringing out a gammon steak that was too small, and missing lots of the accompaniments. The rest of the meal eventually turned up.

We won’t be rushing back, the Nottingham Knight is not MOFAD approved.

For those who don’t remember Stringfellows…

150th post!

Another milestone reached. As with previous milestones (100 and 50), it doesn’t seem all that long ago since I was writing about them. A varied range of topics has come up since August, including the IKEA cafe, several great pubs in the New Forest such as the Royal Oak, Fritham, The Crowell Arms in Romsey, and the lovely Fox and Hounds in Lyndhurst.

Pub of the month and beer of the month are still going strong and the “walking tour of Skipton” (definitely not a pub crawl) generated five new posts including the merits of chips in a pint glass at The Castle.

A few brewery visits have been squeezed in, such as Box Steam brewery, as well as a few handy farm shops like Keelham farm shop in Thornton.

I’ve also managed the odd recipe, including one of my favourite cakes, the chocolate truffle cake as well as some instructions for sloe gin. We are off to pick our sloes this weekend, hope there are some left!

We have discovered Settle, which has loads of great pubs, with the Talbot Arms being our favourite so far (it was August’s pub of the month).

IMG_3548

The write up of Raphael’s pizza is the new top article with 100 views and Triple Pork Nirvana continues to be the most popular page, spreading the word of pork (it’s still the first result on Google if you search for the term!) As well as the UK, the US, Australia,  France and Italy, we now have visitors from Spain, Japan, Portugal and New Zealand.

The Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/TheMOFAD is still proving popular and you can find the Minister on Twitter @The_MOFAD, where 232 people are already enjoying the content of over 1,300 tweets.

Lots more to come from the Minister of Food & Drink! So many places to eat and drink, so little time. There are at least another 30 blog posts in the queue! And there will be another one later on tonight!

The special seasonal sandwich has arrived…

The day is upon us. The special sandwich that you can only buy for a couple of months in shops has arrived. This is the Ginsters example, but there are many others. What is the logic behind this? Why wouldn’t I want to enjoy these flavours at other times of the year? I do want that. I love a turkey sandwich. But I will have to make my own for the other ten months of the year, as it appears that a turkey-based sandwich is only commercially viable during November and December.

Apart from the obvious association with Christmas dinner, turkey isn’t exactly a wintry food. Lean, white meat is not really something to get you through the colder months. A hearty beef stew or some kind of thick and chunky soup, perhaps. But turkey should really be something you have all through the year. It seems that the corporations that provide pre-packaged foods don’t subscribe to that theory.

Enjoy your mass-produced turkey sandwich while you can.

IKEA, Nottingham. Honestly.

I should not be writing this. We should not have been eating here. Tonight, we were supposed to be off to a Back to the Future themed event and pub quiz at a very nearby pub. The evil Swedish empire put paid to that.

As IKEA was very close to our intended destination, we popped in to sort out a few bits and pieces, returning a couple of items (you have 365 days to do so, which is rather generous) and then buying a few bits and pieces (no tealights).

You wouldn’t think it could take 45 minutes to take a mattress topper down from a shelf and deliver it to 2, waiting, hungry, customers. Sadly, it does. So, when the clock strikes eight, and you’ve still not eaten, there’s not much choice. You have to give in and go and get some meatballs from the cafe, and then go home having missed your pub quiz.

There is other food here. There’s always other food. But no-one comes here for that. It’s meatballs all the way. They do fish? Great. A steak special? Fine. Enough already. Just hand over the meatballs. And chips. And creamy gravy stuff. And berries. That is what IKEA is all about.

You can pay extra for some peas if you want. This is never going to encourage healthier eating. Who is going to pay extra for peas? This is IKEA. They don’t do things like you and I. They are different.

It’s £3.80 for ten meatballs. It’s quick, it’s tasty, it’s good value. This is not lovingly prepared, free-range, organic meat like you get from your local farmer. This is mass-produced stuff that is the same wherever you go. It’s fast food and easy, it’s just a shame that we should have been somewhere else. I leave you with Mitch Benn’s IKEA song…

The Apple Tree, West Bridgford, October 2015

Another night out with friends, and another pub quiz. For the second time since April, the original line up of My Pointless Friend Richard return for another crack at some prize money. But first, some food and drink. There initially appeared to be lots of ales on, but on close inspection, quite a few of them had finished, and some other lines were being cleaned. They obviously hadn’t heard that I would be visiting. So it was a pint of Brains’ The Rev James, which is better in the pub than it is in the bottle (clear glass bottles do ales no favours).

Plenty of chat and gossip to catch up on, and then dinner arrives. A pub classic of chicken and chips, very juicy chicken, good chips, a few leaves, a nice BBQ sauce and a dash of coleslaw. This is chain pub dining done right. Everyone enjoyed their meals.

Due to the joys of chain pub dining offers, a pudding was also on the cards tonight, and as I have mentioned many times before, chocolate is the first choice.  A very nice chocolate brownie, with chocolate shavings and chocolate sauce. Choccy goodness!

Finally, we come to the pub quiz. A travesty. We should have won the first round (each round carries a prize). We presented a set of correct answers (this quiz is in a Blockbusters style format, last seen at The Harts Head in Giggleswick. Sadly, one of the answers was marked as wrong because the wrong answer was on the printout (chain pubs often use chain quizzes). Despite a couple of challenges, the management’s decision was final, so we was robbed, and didn’t get quite close enough in the other rounds.

An enjoyable evening of quizzing, and a good meal. MOFAD approved and we’ll be back for another quiz soon!

The Greenwood Tree, Lyndhurst

A different kind of day for our last full day of holiday. After yesterday’s walk (which was longer than anticipated), Mrs MOFAD was not up to doing a final cycle ride. So we had a change of plans. I did a solo cycle ride in the morning, retracing much of Thursday’s ride. It was an enjoyable final blast around the Forest, and I completed it much faster than I was expecting, so was back in time for a cup of tea before we popped out for lunch.

Mrs MOFAD chose The Greenwood Tree, as it was somewhere we had been on a previous stay in Lyndhurst. We arrived just after 2pm, and the lunchtime rush seemed to be easing, but there was quite a wait before someone came to serve us. If you’re having a busy time, abandon your “we must take orders at the table” policy and switch to “please order your food at the till”.

The wait didn’t stop there, as a little while after we’d ordered we were then informed that there would be a 30-40 minute wait for food.

As you can see from the picture below:-

I hadn’t ordered a complex meal. The “New Forest Ploughman’s lunch” (the pork pie earns it this epithet) is a pretty simple thing to put together, and only the part-baked baguette needs a few minutes of cooking before it is ready to eat.

The cheese was tasty, the pie was good, although yesterday’s ploughman’s lunch at the Royal Oak was better. That weird waxy paper also confused me. It appears to be there to save on washing up, and rather detracts from the meal when some pickle or vinegar or salad dressing makes it a bit soggy.

It was ok, but if you have the choice, pop over the road to the Fox & Hounds instead. Their food is much better, as is their ale selection 🙂

Passage to India, Lyndhurst

As I’ve mentioned before, when having a curry we generally go for a takeaway in order to enjoy our own choice of alcohol accompaniment (curry houses still haven’t cottoned on to the power of IPA or decent cider to be a great drink to go with their tasty food). Tonight was no different, with Passage to India our takeaway destination, just a few minutes walk from where we have been staying in Lyndhurst this week.

First choice of ale tonight was this Morrison’s IPA, brewed by Marston’s. Surely the perfect curry partner? But no, what a tragedy. No hops. Not pale. Perfectly drinkable, but it is in no way shape or form an IPA. So not much good with my curry.

To the curry. Achari chicken, which is a bit of a favourite of mine. Achari (also spelt achaar or achar) means pickle – essentially this is chicken cooked with pickling spices and/or some of the pickle itself, such as lime pickle or mango pickle. This gives something very aromatic, and very tasty. I am a lover of lime pickle, so a curry which has lumps of lime in it is alright by me. Very nice indeed!

To accompany, a coriander naan, which was cooked to perfection. There were also free poppadoms, which is always a nice bonus.

Other liquid accompaniments were this Pistonhead Full Amber, a hoppy and full flavoured amber lager, better than so many IPAs, and certainly my favourite Swedish export – way better than that famous Scandinavian lager.

Mrs MOFAD selected this Aspall Premier Cru cider, another very good cider from Aspall, bringing back memories of our trip to Suffolk.

To finish off the evening, something a little more Autumnal, Shepherd Neame Spooks Ale, full of roasty, nutty, malty and biscuit flavours.

A definite approval for Passage to India, a very nice curry indeed – you can also eat in if you wish.

The Royal Oak, Fritham

No sandwiches!

No chips!

No soup (until the clocks go back in 10 days or so)!

This is the good old-fashioned English pub. It dates back to the 1600s apparently (with some late 19th century additions). It’s tiny, three small rooms with room for 10 or 12 people in each, but with a massive beer garden outside. And it’s probably fair to say that it hasn’t changed in decades, which is not a bad thing.

A great selection of cask ales are to be found behind the bar, from their very own Royal Oak, brewed by Bowman’s, to local favourites Ringwood Best and Flack Manor Double Drop. You’ll also find ales from Vibrant Forest brewery, Urban Island, Stonehenge Ales and many more in their ever-rotating selection, all poured direct from the cask.

My choice today was a pint of Parabolic by 8 Arch brewing company from just over the border in Dorset. A nice hoppy pale ale, and perfect with my lunch…

If you want a pulled pork baguette and some curly fries, you won’t find that here. As mentioned earlier, there are no sandwiches. There are no chips. You’ll find different quiches each day, local sausages, and lots of varieties of ploughman’s lunch. From the classics of ham and cheese to smoked mackerel, pork pie or home made pate, there are plenty of options. Served up with nice fresh bread, warm from the oven, a selection of leaves, tomato, cucumber, half an apple, and pickled onion – not your classic pickling onion, but whole onions pickled and then thinly sliced.

A cracking little pub from a bygone era. It’s in the middle of nowhere, but it is always packed out. It doesn’t need potato wedges and southern fried chicken wraps, it will continue to thrive on doing very simple things very well. Recommended if you fancy a trip back in time.