Category Archives: Food

BBQ Beer Chicken

One of my bucket list items were checked off last week when we had the sunny weather that seems to have deserted us in recent days. I have always wanted to BBQ a whole chicken and since the purchase of the Jamie Oliver kettle BBQ I couldn’t wait to try it.

There is a handy device that I purchased from B&Q for cooking chicken on a BBQ. It allows you to place a can of beer on a metal plate which is under some metal arms. The chicken slides over the arms which allows the can of beer to sit inside the chicken. As the chicken is cooking on the BBQ the can of beer allows the chicken to maintain it’s moisture preventing a dry chicken.

The beauty is it allows the chicken to crisp up nicely on the outside whilst giving the chicken an amazing flavour. I used a can of Hobgoblin which is a favourite Ruby Ale of mine. The medium sized chicken took just over 2 hours to BBQ cook and the smells coming from the Kettle BBQ were delightful.

I used a couple of bags of self lighting charcoal to create a white hot base which heated up to a suitable temperature after 30 mins. The photos below show the stages explained above. The beauty cooking with the can of Ruby Ale is the chicken melted away from the bone when carving it. This is the best way to cook chicken and it is certainly something I’ll be doing again.

1. The chicken in place on device with Hobgoblin can sat under it.
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2. The chicken after an hour on the Kettle BBQ, it’s starting to brown.

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3. Just over two hours later and it’s ready to come off the BBQ.

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4. Carved up and ready to eat.

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This is an amazing way to cook chicken and one that could be replicated when entertaining a group of friends. It’s certainly more cost effective than that of burgers and sausages.

DarcyB

Towcester Food & Drink Festival

The weekend of the 7th/8th June saw the inaugural Towcester Food and Drink festival which was held at Towcester Racecourse. This was the first time I’ve been to the venue and the sunshine was out in force after the mid morning thunder storms. This event was extra special because one of our family members had his homemade cider on sale after receiving the seal of approval from the organiser of the event.

Situated amongst the iconic Racecourse there were plenty of Food Tents showing off a fine selection of locally produced produce including cheeses, cakes, pickles and spices. There were cooking demonstrations and live music creating a varied number of things to see and experience.
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At the Champagne Bar Andy had his Cider on sale. His dry cider was called “Two Faced” which came in at a tasty 6.5% ABV. This was a truly awesome achievement, one that we are all extremely proud of. On the Saturday Andy sold just over half of his bottles and the remainder were cleared out by the large crowds on Sunday. Up against some well known and established local Ciders, Andy held his own and looked very much at home next to them. Selling at £3.50 a bottle I asked a couple of people who purchased Two Faced what they thought of his cider.

“This is really nice, it tastes fresh and I’ll certainly be buying another bottle today”

“I do like dry cider and this one ticks the right boxes”

One guy joked when I asked him how he found the cider, he replied by saying in the bar through that door. He must have thought I was trying to sell him life insurance! A very funny line if ever I heard one.

The evening saw us take part in the Towcester Food Festivals “Real Ale Trail” the event allowed customers to purchase a glass tankard and visit five local pubs/restaurants to try out new ales. These were provided by Crispin who had organised the festival over the weekend. For £7.50 we were set to have 5 x free quarter pints followed by another half at the Towcester Mill Brewery, our new tap house.

We had some great tasters of Golden Ales and some Darker Ales. Sadly one venue didn’t buy into the spirit of this event. The Plough is a pub we have not visited before and it’s safe to say the way they made us feel as we entered the venue was not pleasant. They told us that they had sold out of the Ale and were not prepared to give us an alternative. Apparently according to the rather bullish lady who greeted us “they weren’t big enough to give us another option” the near packed front bar was a very poor alibi to her claim.

Needless to say I’d like to thank the barman at The Brave Old Oak who had ran out of Pitstop (Silverstone Brewery) who gave us a couple of other options, thank you. The numbers taking part suggested that there was a good take up on the offer to sample local Real Ales, so that was a positive. I would also like to thank The Dolphin Cafe who made us feel extremely welcome in comfortable surroundings. The evening concluded at our new local tap house, the Towcester Mill.

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As we arrived at a packed Towcester Mill we were able to sit under the moonlight amongst the peaceful fields the Mill is set within. The odd bat flickered across the moons beams in a lovely tranquil atmosphere. This was certainly the best place to conclude this night and we enjoyed the last hour in the bar as the temperature started to drop.

This is our new favourite pub and one place we will certainly be enjoying our weekend evenings in. I would like to thank Crispin for an amazing food festival which has put Towcester on the map. I would also like to congratulate Andy on his successful debut launching Two Faced. It has been a pretty decent experience, The Plough aside!

DarcyB

York City Adventure – Part 1

We decided to take advantage of the late May Bank Holiday break and packed up the tent for the first camping trip of 2014. The Destination was York, to revisit a city I fell in love with in my early teenage years. I’d hoped to study at Askern Bryan in York for my Diploma before a change of events put that dream to bed. Despite this disappointment I have always loved this city and couldn’t wait to explore it properly with my fiancé.

The weather forecast was mixed which suited us perfectly. This kept changing as we drove up the M1, M18 and finally the A1 as we were greeted by Wagtail Park and the hardest of grounds to pitch our tent on. We were asked to bring Rock Pegs which on first inspection seemed like overkill. It wasn’t until I cockily hit a standard peg into the lush green grass that I discovered it was merely a topping. What lay under this welcoming layer was a silt filled, rocky mixture of quarry type material. After a dash to the local camping shop we had enough rock pegs to erect our tent and canopy securely.
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By the time we’d pitched the tent and got camp set up it was too late to wander too far away. There was a lovely fishing lake close by which we walked around and after we’d cooked some chili and drank a couple of beers we watched a film and called it a night. It wasn’t the coldest of nights, however as it was our first camping trip in nearly 9 months we needed to acclimatize. We survived the night and after a late breakfast which comprised of a bacon roll we headed into York.

The Park & Ride is quite simply excellent value for money. To park the car and get a return ticket cost £2.70 each which is far cheaper than parking in the city centre. We used the Sunday afternoon to explore the streets of the city as well as sampling some of the local food and ales. We walked up the Shambles which is a quaint cobbled narrow street lined with shops on both sides. The hustle and bustle of the bank holiday crowd evident and we were caught on a wave of visitors.

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We had our Sunday Beef Roast at The Golden Fleece which is the oldest pub in York. It is also the most haunted pub in the city, a claim backed up by the Most Haunted crew, who spent a weekend filming here in the pub/hotel. The place itself is typically quirky and feels very welcoming. There are a couple of skeletons that sit at the bar on a stool and also in the pub garden. All of the floors are wonky and slanted, so much so that my pint of ale was slanted and the gravy was trying to escape from my plate. A quickly constructed defensive wall using my mashed potato prevented any casualties. When we sat for dinner my fiancé did feel a cold sensation next to her side which hung around for a few minutes. It certainly backed up the claims of the owners and many guests who have stayed there.

We had a walk around Parliament Street which is the widest most open street in York and also had a tour of the York baths. This was conducted by a very knowledgeable Canadian historian by the name of Ryan, who not only told us about the Roman Baths in York, but also covered wars, deaths, Christianity and many other topics. By the time we left this small room which gathering heat the longer we stayed down there we were gasping the fresh air to celebrate our freedom. Joking aside it was well worth the £3.50 it cost plus a small contribution to Ryan’s education costs!

By a friends recommendation (thanks Aimee) we went to an off license called The House of the Trembling Madness. Above this there was also a bar which quite simply oozed class and style. The decor comprised of stuffed animals and randomly placed gothic designs framed by some stunning timber open framed roof trusses and beams. The place was busy and the small number of chairs and tables filled. The bar was small and quaint and the food smelled delightful. We helped ourselves to a couple of IPA’s and shopped till we dropped as I was reunited with some of my favourite Australian beers imported in their shop.

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We returned to camp just before the forecasted rain and had a very chilled out Sunday night. We ate some cheese and crackers and watched Taken 2 and the first half of American Hustle. Following on from last nights shock chill factor I put on an extra layer in an effort to get a warm comfortable nights sleep to get me in good stead for Mondays day of adventure. Historical visits, walks, haunted sightings and more local pubs awaited us, we certainly had a lot planned!

One final York related story before I bring this 1st Part of the blog to a conclusion. There are cats all over the city on various buildings. It is said that any building that is graced with the presence of a cat, is a happy place. We spotted a couple of these cats with one been on the front of The Golden Fleece Pub. Based on this story, I think it’s safe to say that my fiancé encountered a good happy spirit!

To be continued…….

DarcyB

Towcester Beer Festival 2014

This weekend saw the much anticipated Towcester Beer Festival return to Towcester Rugby Club. The annual event is into it’s 5th year and the weather didn’t disappoint for those joining in. The event has grown in popularity because it gives those keen to try new real ales the opportunity to do so and with over 60 types on offer it is unmissable.

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Crispin “The Festival Man” Slee brought 60 real ales to the table with the addition of 30 real ciders. There was also an opportunity to try some local bottled ciders on the Saturday and Sunday. There was a fine selection of Food on offer as well and the Gurkha Curry once again went down a treat. The Sausage Sarnies and Burgers were also a success as those requiring some ballast to keep them going were looked after in style.

Friday evening generated a real buzz of excitement amongst the crowd there who were keen to start early. Despite the nip in the air as the sun went in there were those brave enough to sit out on the open area neatly laid out with tables and benches. By Saturday this area was awash of people all enjoying the combination of drinks and sun.

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Saturday and Sunday also saw live music from local musicians including the Rock School as well as bouncy castles and face painting. There was a lovely atmosphere with those enjoying the sunshine that graced the Rugby Club.

Back to the Ales and our friends at a Towcester Mill Brewery were showcasing their Blonde number Mill Race. This 3.9% ABV Ale is brewed using Pilsner malt which gave it a pale blonde appearance whilst delivering a grapefruit and herbal finish. We started with this and it didn’t disappoint and ensured the tasting session started in a positive fashion. Towcester Mill Brewery opens in May so it’s not long until we can grace their new bar to try some of their other Ales.

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There were many different breweries to try from, some local and some not so local. We enjoyed in particular Crazy Daze, a Golden 5.5% ABV ale from Potbelly brewery in Kettering, Northants. The Local Whittlebury brewery also had a presence and my favourite Amber Ale was called Green Dragon 4.4% ABV which offered a strong bitter finish created using a combination of Sovereign and Challenger Hops. Silverstone brewery offered a lovely Golden Ale called Skidmark which delivered a fruity, floral aroma with a citrus taste. This came in at 4.2% ABV using a mixture of three hops, which was very nice.

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In conclusion the Towcester Beer Festival has once again been a resounding success. I am truly grateful that as locals we have the opportunity to attend something this exciting on our door steps. The venue was well set out and the variety available was so diverse. It was clear from the 2,000 + people who attended over the three days that it was enjoyable and the sunshine capped it off well.

Please add me on Untappd my username is markyjb to check out my reviews of Ales tried so far.

DarcyB

Aldi value shames Tesco

Today we made a decision to give Aldi a try for our weekly shopping following a number of recent television adverts claiming they sell British Assured fresh meat. We are usually keen to shop by convenience and having a Tesco only ten minutes away by foot has always meant Tesco have been our preferred choice. Today we broke the mould and tried an alternative option.

Aldi is a smart conveniently laid out store and the fact it was busy confirmed that many others had already made the change. For this weekly shop comparison we have compared like for like and where necessary the price has been adjusted accordingly (15 fish fingers v 14 fish fingers as an example) to ensure a fair price comparison is used.

We were quite interested to see if there really is a difference and the results were quite simply staggering. Before going into the results, our Shopping List comprised of the following items:-

The Shopping List

CLEANING PRODUCTS
15 Large Floor Wipes
40 Surface Anti-Bacterial Wipes
Kitchen Rolls (120 Sheets per Roll)
Own Brand Toilet Cleaner (Adjusted)
FRUIT & VEGGIES
Broccoli Stalk
Peppers (3 Pack)
White Seedless Grapes (500g)
Carrots (1kg Bag)
Apples (Bag)
Rocket (Bag)
Classic Salad (Bag)
Frozen Garden Peas (1kg Bag)
MEAT
Smoked Back Bacon (14 Rashers)
Fish Cakes (Twin Pack)
Seasoned Medium Chicken (1.5kg)
Minced Meat (750g)
Chicken Thighs (Pack – Adjusted)
FROZEN FOOD
Brains Faggots (Pack of 4)
Breaded Cod (Pack of 4)
Fish Fingers (Own Brand – Adjusted)
TINNED PRODUCTS
Chickpeas (Tin)
Kidney Beans (Tin)
FRESH PRODUCTS
Milk Semi-Skimmed (4 Pints)
Large Eggs (10 Box)
Garlic Bread Baguette (1)
DRINKS
Hobgoblin Ale (2)
Hopping Hare Ale (2)
OTHER ITEMS
Small box of Freezer Bags (Adjusted)

The list above has been calculated to be completely comparable to ensure fairness is achieved. I was keen to understand how different the savings could be and set a bench mark of around 10% however the result was staggering.

Aldi were cheaper on all but 1 item out of the total of 28 items purchased on our shopping list, this was the Twin Pack of fish cakes. There was 1 item where both Aldi and Tesco were identical on price, this was the Kitchen Roll. All of the remaining 26 items were cheaper at Aldi.

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The Big Differences

A Pack of 40 Anti-Bacterial surface wipes cost 75p at Aldi compared to £1.25 at Tesco, a difference of 75%

A 500g pack of White Seedless Grapes cost £1.39 at Aldi compared to £2.00 at Tesco, a difference of around 40%

10 Large Eggs cost £1.15 at Aldi compared to £2.00 at Tesco, a difference of 85%

A 1kg Pack of Carrots cost 59p at Aldi compared to 99p at Tesco, a difference of nearly 70%

The packet of Classic Salad once adjusted to be compatible costs 79p at Aldi compared to £2.14 at Tesco (200g) which is a staggering 150% more!

A tin of Kidney Beans (400g) at Aldi cost 25p compared to 55p at Tesco, over twice the price.

A seasoned Medium 1.5kg Fresh Chicken cost £3.99 at Aldi compared to £6.00 at Tesco, which is 33% more.

Frozen Garden Peas (1kg) cost 99p at Aldi compared to £1.60 at Tesco, a difference of 60%

Frozen own brand Fish Fingers once adjusted cost nearly three times the price at Tesco which is shocking.

The bottled Ales were 25p cheaper per bottle despite Tesco having a 4 for £6 deal on.

The Overall Savings

Based on the total shopping list, Aldi came in at £38.40 v Tesco at £52.37. Aldi offered a saving of £13.97 which is the equivalent of 50p per item bought. This is an overall price difference of around a third, this is a huge saving.

In this exercise it shows that swapping to Aldi has made a big difference on this shop. It is worth saying that Tesco are cheaper for Cheese which we didn’t include.

Oh just in case you though I’d missed it, the difference on a 4 pint carton of Semi Skimmed Milk was 5p in Aldi’s favour.

Next week we will compare the weekly shop to Waitrose.

DarcyB