Archive for July, 2009

Superwoman by E J Catering

July 31, 2009

Confit is a cooking term used to describe slowly braising a piece of duck, goose or pork in its own fat and storing it in a pot covered in the same fat to preserve it.  Confit is one of the oldest forms of cooking and preserving. This technique is still very popular in many a good kitchen and the result is a meat which is extremely tender and full of flavour.  This is why this technique is so good for a meat that is too tough to just roast.

It originates from the south-western region of France. Neighbouring regions and chefs world wide have their own confit specialties. A confit should be stored in an earthenware pot to not allow light in and can be kept for a long time safely marinating in its flavour.  Traditionally a confit is served with a cassoulet of beans, chicory salad or cabbage. It is a cheap country style dish but carries a gastronomic stamp.

This week we made confit of duck for 60 wedding guests and served it with a pumpkin and potato dauphinois, a white bean cassoulet and each table was given a dressed chicory and walnut salad. 

To prepare our duck legs we used our bratt pan. It is an ugly, chunky piece of catering equipment but one of my favourites.  It’s a large cast iron pan half a meter square and maybe a foot deep that has a couple of gas elements that run the whole length below.  Once the gas is turned on the heat is evenly distributed and it was perfect for slowly braising our duck legs.  The bratt pan in our kitchen is rarely off this time of year as it is also the perfect bit of kit for poaching 80 peaches, sealing 40 salmon fillets, stewing a 20 kilo boeuf bourgignon to name just a few hefty tasks.   The first time I ever came across a bratt pan was when I was about 19 and was doing a week agency work cheffing at an army barracks where I fried 750 eggs for the breakfast service to the smartly dressed hungry sergeants and privates!

Confit of Duck

4 Duck legs

½ the weight of the duck on the bones in fat

Rock salt

Fresh thyme or rosemary

Course black pepper

6 Squashed garlic cloves

 Season the meat and marinade over night.  Wash the excess salt away in the morning and slowly melt the fat in a braising pan, place the duck legs into the fat with the garlic and fresh herbs and gently simmer – braise for 3 hours until the meat feels like it would fall off the bone but will not.

Remove the legs and store in an earthenware pot in the solidified fat for up to a month.

When ready to eat, clean off the excess fat and place into a hot roasting oven 250oc for 25 minutes until crisp and serve with the above suggestions.

My wedding guests were thrilled with this honest dish and one lady virtually gnawed her bones clean!

A whine about Tesco Wine

July 28, 2009

I’m seriously hacked off with Tesco Wine. 

At the beginning of July I ordered some half price champagne from Tesco Direct.  I bought it to celebrate Super Nannie’s wedding (see earlier blog) and so I ordered rather a lot plus some white and red wine.    I was pleased with myself for having achieved something while simultaneously eating my lunch.  That was one thing at least I could  tick off my list. 

A word of explanation about my list.  It is a big list.  Huge.  In fact it is so huge I am unable to reduce it to paper.  If  I actually try to write down the list of things I have to do the sheer number of items overwhelms me.   Also,  if I start a list, it somehow starts to run away with me and transforms itself from jobs like “take kids to dentist/hairdressers/shoe shop;  buy J cloths; ring plumber re underperforming shower;” to ambitions like “learn Spanish: get fit; read War and Peace.”   This is not good.  I can’t fit in the jobs let alone the ambitions.  Better to carry the list round in my head.

Anyway, I digress, much like my lists.  The champagne was due to arrive the following Sunday.  It did not.  The wine arrived but no champagne.   The delivery man was very clear that he had delivered all that he had been given to deliver me.  He showed me his delivery list.  He was right – no champagne listed on there next to my name.  I asked him if I could photocopy the list as proof no champagne had been received.  He reluctantly handed me his list.    No wonder he was reluctant – there was a little note next to the address after mine urging the delivery man to “use the extra two minutes allocated to this delivery to welcome the customer to Tesco direct.”  Poor man didn’t have time to hang around waiting for my photocopier to warm up.  Note to other Superwomen:  Don’t be offended if your Tesco delivery man doesn’t make small talk – poor man just ain’t got the time.

I phoned Tesco immediately to say the champagne had not arrived.  I was told they would look into it and call me back.  They didn’t.  I called again the next day.  Again I was told they would look into it and call me back.  They didn’t.    On the fifth phone call when still no one had called me back I cancelled my order and asked for my money back.  Tesco refunded me but with a lesser amount than I’d paid.  A sixth phone call finally secured a full refund.

So here I am, three weeks away from Super Nannie’s wedding day and with no champagne.    An item that I thought had been ticked off my (mental) list has reinstated itself.  Worse, along the way it created six other jobs on the list in the form of phone calls.  My list is breeding!   I can’t be doing with one step forward,  six steps back.    When it comes to my list and to quote a big arrogant supermarket that doesn’t call you back when it says it will – Every Little Helps.    This time I’m going to Majestic.

Do you need to be a Superbitch to get ahead?

July 23, 2009

According to recent research by German academic Guido Heineck of the Institute for Employment Research in Nuremberg you are more likely to be promoted if you are aggressive, single-minded and none too kind to your colleages and underlings.  Ruthless ambition and singlemindedness are the qualities you need to get ahead.   Women who not only work hard but also don’t care what others think of them are the ones who get the top jobs.   According to Mr Heineck, women who adopt a more masculine approach to their work earn up to 4% more than their more passive colleagues.

Whoa!  Back up there a bit Mr Heineck.    You mean to say that for trampling over your colleagues all you get is up to 4% more salary?    So Nasty Superbitch who blows her own trumpet at every opportunity will earn £31,200 while Sweet Girl who remembers her colleagues’ birthdays and bothers to show the work experience students how to operate the photocopier gets £30,000?  And that difference is taxed?  I know which type of person I’d rather be and also which type of person I’d rather work with.  Think Sigourney Weaver v Melanie Griffith in the film Working Girl (if you are old enough to remember that far back).

Us working girls don’t need Superbitches as bosses.  What we need are women who act as role models and use their positions of power to inspire and encourage other women to succeed.  Women who are defined by Marilyn Davidson, a professor of work psychology at Manchester Business School, as Alpha Females.   Empathetic, inspiring women who are high achievers but who also believe in giving something back and in acting as mentors rather than reducing their direct reports to tears.   Who are willing to admit that juggling a career, kids and a relationship is really rather difficult and that “having it all” is probably not possible unless, that is, you are referring to guzzling an entire bottle of Sauvignon Blanc all to yourself.   In short what we need are Superwomen, who give junior Superwomen the self esteem and inspiration to keep on keeping on.

Go Alpha Females go!

G’dai to the Ashes

July 15, 2009

I don’t like cricket, oh no, I love it….

Whichever side of the divide you are on, you could not have failed to notice that last week the Ashes (a cricket match between England and Australia for the totally uninitiated) came to Cardiff and that this was a VERY BIG DEAL.  The Western Mail’s front page actually said “Come on England. ” In the media world of Pontcanna that headline from Wales’ national newspaper brought more traffic to a standstill than the 16,000 English and Australian cricket fans descending on Sophia Gardens for five days.

Anyway, there was a lot of whingeing about the Ashes coming to Wales and the SWALEC stadium not being up to the job.  Mostly from English people it must be said.  The Australians didn’t seem to mind at all and all those signs saying “G’dai o Gymru” and “Old South Wales welcomes New South Wales” must have made them feel at home.  That and the fact they come here to watch rugby anyway. 

You’ll be glad to know that  it all went off very well.  The pitch worked, lots of people arrived and then left again without too many delays and there was lots of singing.  The  match ended in a draw, amid more complaining, this time from the Aussies, that the English team had indulged in unsportsmanlike time wasting.  But even if the result was a draw for England and Australia the outcome was definitely a win for Wales, with Cardiff and the SWALEC stadium having shown themselves more than capable of hosting another top level international sporting event.

 The Ashes being in Cardiff certainly increased the number of Welsh people attending the event.  Die hard rugby and football fans who would never ordinarily have considered going to watch England v Australia at cricket went along because it was in our city and – well,  it would have been rude not to, wouldn’t it?  A number of desks at Superwoman towers stood empty over the five days as their inhabitants sloped off to see what all the fuss was about.   They reported back that it was a very enjoyable day out and boy can Katherine Jenkins sing.  Rhydian Roberts in his silver foil suit not so much. 

Of course, events like the Ashes are not just about sport.  They’re about business.   The five day event is estimated to have generated revenue of between £85m and £116m and the hotels of Cardiff were delighted to be fully booked.  By 7pm on Saturday night streams of people wearing Australian flags, hats with corks and five people dressed in banana suits (why?) were traipsing through Cardiff City Centre in search of more beer.  The bars and restaurants were doing a roaring trade and the chip shops and kebab shops were full to bursting.  People who hadn’t even been to the cricket but were in Cardiff for a normal Saturday night out were hollering “G’day” at each other and pronouncing themselves to be “Oztralian” in strong Valleys accents.  There was, it has to be said, a slight edge of aggression in the air due to a lot of people being on the outside of £xm worth of increased alcohol expenditure but given the money was being spent  in Cardiff  a little bit of drunken aggro was a small price to pay.

Here’s hoping that the Ashes come back to Cardiff again and that in the meantime all the people who woke up in Cardiff hotels with a hangover on Sunday morning were thinking what a great place Cardiff is for a night out and how they’re going to come back very soon for a proper visit to Wales.

Lessons from Life

July 8, 2009

Lessons from Life

  1. Life is far too short to waste it hating anyone
  2. Your job won’t take care of you when you are sick; your friends and family will, so stay in touch
  3. You don’t have to win every argument, you can agree to disagree
  4. When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile
  5. Don’t compare your life with others, you have no idea what their journey is all about
  6. If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn’t be in it
  7. Take a deep breath, it calms the mind
  8. Get rid of anything that isn’t useful, beautiful or doesn’t make you smile
  9. What other people think of you is none of your business
  10. However good or bad a situation is, it will change
  11. Your children love you whatever you wear
  12. All that truly matters in the end is that you loved
  13. Envy is a waste of time, you already have all you need
  14. Forgive everyone everything
  15. Look at every so-called disaster and ask the question “In five years time, will this matter?”
  16. When in doubt, just take the next small step
  17. Life isn’t fair, but it’s still good
  18. It’s never too late to have a happy childhood, but the second one is up to you and no-one else
  19. Use the nice sheets, wear the sexy lingerie, burn those pretty candles; don’t save them for a special occasion. Today is special
  20. Don’t  take yourself too seriously, no-one else does