Filling The Old Pie-Hole

One of my childhood comfort foods was the venerable (to Brits) steak ‘n kidney pie (my Murkin Readers can pause here for regurgitation purposes). Basically no larger than a fistful, it’s as advertised: pieces of steak and kidney smothered in gravy, all encapsulated in flaky pastry. As a starving boarding school pupil, it saved me from death on many an occasion when purchased from the school “tuck” shop during First Break (recess).

Most takeout places in Britishland serve these things hot, and they are pretty much a staple snack dish, along with chicken pies, pork pies, Cornish pasties (too much veg., not enough meat) and variants such as steak ‘n potato and steak ‘n onion.

However, if you’re looking for something to eat at home, i.e. something that can be bought at a supermarket, then pickings are slim; for reasons which escape me, the supermarket pies are almost all dreadful regardless of store name — Tesco, Sainsbury and even Waitrose have nothing to brag about when it comes to pies.

I thought all was lost until only a few days ago, when I discovered this magnificent item in the fridge at Sainsbury, of all places:

(“Pukka” is a derivative of an Indian word which means “the real thing” — and is it ever.)

Pukka makes other pies, but I don’t know which or how many, because I only had eyes for this type. I bought one, and took it home without any high expectations — but oh joy, was I ever wrong!

Large pieces of tender meat (no gristle), lovely savory gravy and crispy pastry, warmed in the Aga for only a few minutes: if I’d bought half a dozen I’d have eaten them all in one sitting. The Cook at FM Towers also likes them, and tells me that their other offerings are likewise splendid, so there you have it.

This has been a Public Service Announcement from Kim, and will help anyone traveling to Britishland hereafter. No need to thank me, it’s all part of the service.

Comfort Food

I’ve put on weight in the month or so that I’ve been Over Here, mostly because I’ve been enjoying the foods of my childhood (South Africa, a onetime British colony, had a partial-Brit cuisine). Yup: we’re talking sausage rolls, steak ‘n kidney pies, porridge, fish ‘n chips, Full English breakfasts and of course, the occasional chocolate bar (Fry’s Turkish Delight) not readily available in Murka.

Then there’s been Wadworth 6x beer, which was not a childhood comfort food, but is definitely my adult one.

And speaking of comfort food, I’ve rediscovered the excellence of Southern Comfort as an evening aperitif. Southern Comfort was my bedside tipple of choice back when I was a professional musician (Cliff Notes: rock musician, in my early twenties, during the 1970s — of course I had a favorite bedside tipple). The best thing about Southern Comfort (Suthies, as we used to call it) is that I don’t need ice — in fact, I prefer it at room temperature which, as any fule kno, is cooler in Britishland than  in Texas.

Of course, I was shocked to discover that during my long layoff from Suthies that the manufacturer had gone and changed the label from its elegant antebellum design to something more “modern” that is, well, terrible.

      

In fact, when searching for Southern Comfort on the liquor store shelves, I missed it completely because I was looking for the bottle on the left when in fact the disgusting new one was right in front of me. Worse yet, the pathetic little new cap means that you can no longer use the long gold cap of old as a shot-glass. If I can somehow find an old bottle in decent condition, I’m going to use it as a decanter.

And of course they’ve added a whole slew of new variants — “ginger”, “lemon” and so on, none of which I have any intention of trying.

I hate change.

I know: Southern Comfort is less of a whiskey than it is a liqueur. I don’t care about the designation, I only care about the taste, which is lovely. Also, it enables me to more or less keep up with the drinking rate of Mr. Free Market and The Englishman, which would cause even accomplished booze hounds like Dylan Thomas or Peter O’Toole to fall over.

And it’s an excellent accompaniment to a late-night bacon buttie — yet another comfort food of my childhood:

I’m gonna need three airline seats to carry my fat ass back to Dallas…

Dinner

…last night, before heading off for yet another piece of Friday Night Unpleasantness at the King’s Arms with The Englishman:

When I say I’m a “meat-and-potatoes” man, this is what I mean. A decent filet spiced with Salt Lick Rub (imported from the great state of Texas), and potatoes roasted in goose fat. It took 35 minutes in the Aga to create it.

In case you’re wondering, I had Free Market Towers to myself last night; Mrs. FM was off sailing, Mr. FM was doing Capitalist Things in (I think) the Far East somewhere, and the staff had the night off to recover from the Friday Floggings.

Food was courtesy of Waitrose. If I had one of these emporia near my house, I’d weigh 500lbs in a month.

Oh, Now They’re Good For You

Longtime Readers will recall that I don’t actually believe any medical studies anymore, because it seems that their advice changes weekly, and almost always contradicts their previous advice. After all the frenzied warnings about saturated fats, therefore, I find this article to be just the latest in a long line of articles telling us that this, finally, cross-my-heart pinkie-swear, is the definitive list of things to eat and to avoid.

Only this time, I’m going to half-believe them — and I hasten to add, my belief applies only to me — because I tend to listen to my body (not all the time, but mostly) when I start to crave certain types of food for no reason. When I realized that I had a blood pressure problem, I started taking Diovan just like the doctor told me to, because high blood pressure is a known killer of men. At the same time, however, I started to notice that I was hungry for certain foods in which I’d hitherto never much shown much interest — and surprise, surprise, almost all of them are on the list in the above article:

Oily fish – Don’t let the high calorie content of the likes of salmon and mackerel fool you, they are rich in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids
Avocado – These fruits are rich in oleic acid, a fat that reduces blood pressure
Full-fat yoghurt – Containing probiotic bacteria which supports your digestive health, be sure to buy natural, full-fat yoghurt with no added sugar
Nuts – A handful of almonds a day can lower LDL (the bad cholesterol) and assist with blood sugar control
Butter – Rich in Vitamins A and D as well as fatty acids, butter can increase good cholesterol. Opt for unprocessed, organic varieties.

I’ve always eaten butter and never margarine, because margarine tastes like shit and I could not bring myself to believe that the body has a system to process something that is 100% manufactured. But other than butter, I’ve found myself eating more and more of the others — and by that I mean eating them regularly, not in large quantities.

Whereas before I’d never eaten avocado, after my trip to Chile (where they use it like butter) I came home and now eat an avo at least once a week.

Cashew nuts were on sale at Sam’s Club for a ridiculously low price some time ago: I bought a 5-lb container of the stuff, and now eat a large handful almost every day of the week. (I have a bag next to my writing chair right now, as a matter of fact.)

I mentioned a while ago that I am hopelessly addicted to Noosa yogurt, and I’ve been trying desperately to find an alternative Over Here, without success. I do eat another brand (Noosa isn’t available here, apparently), and while the “Scottish raspberry” stuff is tasty, I don’t crave it like I do the Australian-formula yogurt.

My love of fish — albeit in fish ‘n chips format — is too well documented to bear repeating here. Suffice it to say that I most often find myself not eating much of the batter, but all of the fish. Thanks to my gastric band, I can only eat but a couple of chips anyway.

And I’ve always preferred red meat to processed meat; since I came Over Here, I haven’t eaten hamburger or anything like it even once. Mr. Free Market is a dab hand with the Weber — he doesn’t let the staff near it — and red meat is therefore de rigueur as a meal choice, as is Mrs. FM’s baked salmon by way of her Aga oven.

I leave it to others to judge the value of a Full English Breakfast such as I consumed on Sunday morning:

Okay, maybe the chipolata sausages are processed meat, but I don’t care because they were delicious, and both they and the bacon were baked, not fried. And the fried bread was made with beef fat, not vegetable oil. I could have eaten six slices… but thank goodness for the gastric band. (Thanks to the latter, by the way, it takes me close to half an hour to eat a plate of food like this one, and most of the time I can’t finish it anyway.)

I know, the eggs were scrambled and not fried, but they tasted wonderful. And eggs, unlike the doomsayers wailed, are really good for you — which you’d know if you’d already read the linked article above.

As I said, this is how I feel about food, for me. Your own situation may cause your opinion to vary, and it probably should. So if you want to wolf down an American-style adaptation of the Full English, be my guest.

But that will probably kill ya.

Saturday Morning, Again

Ah yes… last night.

Pretty much the same cast of characters (The Englishman and Reader John M. — Mr. Free Market had to stay late at work: celebratory drinks after some successful capitalist venture, no doubt), the same products of Messrs. Wadworth and Company, same wonderful fun, same pub. Same final result, of course.

Back when the skull-hobgoblins have finished their Happy Dance…

Random Comment

Good grief, but that Waddington 6X is wonderful stuff. If I could, I’d set up an IV line thereof into my arm.

Yes, it’s Mr. FM’s backyard… the pool is just behind the hedge, and the staff cottages are on the other side of the garage all the way at the bottom end of the estate. The slave bell (or as it’s known here, the “summoning bell”) is right behind me.

Also: we’re talking steak & kidney pies and sausage rolls, as per Jack Spratt’s in Devizes:

Comfort foods. How I’ve missed them. Next up: fish & chips.

Fortunately, as the estate’s official Dog Walker is still recovering from his earlier whipping, Mrs. FM has appointed me Interim Dog Walker — and it’s a damn good thing that the walk is about 2 miles, otherwise I’d weigh 500lbs by the end of the month, easily.

Must go now; the boot-boy is about to get whipped, and I want to watch.