8 – Rabbit: Head to Tail

Taking it Apart and Putting it Together Again

rabbit-slicedFor the second episode of my TV series, Christoffel Cooks, the TV company asked me to cook “something different”. As if my Roast Roadkill which I cooked in the first programme wasn’t different enough. But I bit my tongue and agreed.

I suggested rabbit, but before I could explain the full concept – not as you will have ever seen it cooked before – my co-presenter, Ainsley Harricot was laughing and scoffing that rabbit was about as different as Neapolitan ice cream.

At this point, I took the producer to one side and suggested I cook it without Ainsley being aware of exactly how I was doing it. That way, he would eat it “as a customer would see it”. The producer liked that idea.

Cue carte-blanche pour moi.

I started by making some black jelly and put it in the fridge to set. More on that later.

Then I set about the rabbit, skinning it carefully, removing the nose, feet, ears and tail and putting them to one side. Then I gutted it and fried the heart, kidneys and liver in a wine reduction. (The liver is a real delicacy!) I cut up the meat from the body, fried it with shallots and baby vegetables and minced some of it to make a tartare. Then I wrapped the fur back around the cooked meat and, along with the ears, sewed it up with invisible cotton. Before (almost) finally scooping out the rabbit’s brains and eyes, seasoning them, adding a pinch of paprika and placing them back where they had come from. To complete the effect, I stuck the rabbit’s feet back under its body, using edible glue, and the bobtail back on its rear end.

Then the pièce de résistance: you may have noticed I did not replace the original nose. Instead, I retrieved the black jelly and using a modelling knife, placed it where the rabbit’s nose had been. Thus, every time you moved the rabbit, the nose wiggled as if it was still in a Sussex field and not on an exquisite dinner plate.

Done. Rabbit: cooked and re-assembled it so it looked as good as new. Nose-to-tail eating at its most extreme. Especially the nose.

Then I served it to Ainsley.

As I said, he hadn’t been told what I was doing so he didn’t know what to expect as he tucked in. He ate the main meat, got through the offal and, to be fair to him, tried sucking the feet. I didn’t encourage him to eat the eyes; I thought that was a step too far – after he gagged on the brains. There were also these pitiful cries emanating from him every time the rabbit’s nose wobbled. Before it fell off onto his plate.

Could be interesting to see what sort of response this programme gets when it airs.

7 – Interview with the Gecko Hunter

One of our most popular dishes is our Amazonian Gecko, and I have been asked where we source our ingredients. So it was fortuitous that the latest edition of Huntin’ Monthly magazine has an interview with our supplier, Steve “3 fingers” Jackson.

Here is a copy of that interview.

geckohunterinterview

At this point, I would like to point out that Steve has never visited the Smoked Sausage to try my Amazonian Gecko so I don’t know where he ate it. Maybe in the Amazon over an open fire or something. Because I promise you, if he had eaten my version then he would not be calling it shit. Not unless he wanted to become Steve “2 fingers” Jackson.

6 – The Bologna Pony

BolognaPony1About 5 miles up the road from The Smoked Sausage is another restaurant: The Bologna Pony. It is owned by Chef Carotene Half and I think he has it in for me.

As you might guess, Carotene sells modern Italian food: think alternative cuts of meat, risottos and pastas with challenging accompaniments. He has Italian art on the walls and Italian Jazz music in his dining room. Disappointingly, I have to admit his food isn’t bad. I visited it once, last year, in disguise. (Red-hair wig, Zapata moustache, thick Irish accent – I don’t think anyone could have known it was me).

Carotene lives with his wife and mother-in-law. And keeps his mistress next door. Very twenty-first century. He is loud, expressive and, I am told, very charming. One of my regular customers told me that he visited The Bologna Pony just at the time Tyger Wood was caught playing away, and Carotene said to him: “Ah, that Tyger Wood, he is mad! Why does he want to cheat on his wife? I mean, look at her – she is beautiful. Now, if she was ugly then I would understand…”

As I said, I don’t think he likes me. I am sure it was him who reported me to the health inspectors at my previous restaurant. However, there are also rumours that Half has a “Family” connection so I need to be careful. I only want to find a dismembered horse’s head on my dinner plate – not in my bed.

However, all that said, I got home tonight to find a message from him on my answer machine; but it’s too late to call now. I wonder what he wants?

5 – Angry Customers

15422664_XSOn Saturday night we had one of those customers who thinks it is cool to complain. A lot – And loudly. Well let me tell you, he picked the wrong restaurant to do that in.

You can tell the sort as soon as they walk in. In fact, you’ve probably seen his sort before: so cool in his eyes that he wears a huge, patterned shirt with at least the top 3 buttons undone, Armani jeans with a massive Diesel buckle, a huge f***-off watch which is so heavy I am surprised he can even lift his arm to w*** and usually some horrendous footwear he probably calls boots but look to me as if he nicked them off a pixie.

And he talks constantly, loudly and arrogantly. He slouches, smiles insouciantly at his girlfriend and clicked his fingers at Gordon, my head waiter, which let me tell you is taking your life in your hands.

Then he made his fatal mistake. He sent back the Amazonian Gecko, saying it was under-cooked (WTF does he know if a Gecko is under-cooked?!) and asked to speak to the chef. Which was absolutely bloody fine with me.

There are 3 ways I have used over the years to deal with such people:

  1. Steal their wallet and then make them wash-up. I don’t actually recommend this anymore since my court case. And we only used this approach when we had Jonno, one of our waiters who had spent a couple of years doing time for HRH. The basis was that he would finger the customer’s wallet and then when the customer found he couldn’t pay, we made the goon wash-up. It gave us great satisfaction but I did sometimes start to feel a bit sorry for any ex-dining companion who would be left alone with a glass of tap water. Plus, invariably the customer was crap at washing up so we would have to do it again anyway.
  2. Get their car towed away and only tell them this was happening just as it was being towed off. Again, I’m wary of the legal position of this one now. But it works a treat. It wasn’t difficult to spot the customer’s car – often they’d leave their keys ostentatiously on the table anyway, and if not then you can guess what they are driving 9 times out of 10.
  3. Suggest they arm-wrestle one of my waitresses. This is my current approach and is very popular amongst my staff and other customers. It works like this: Me to customer: “If you are not happy, I suggest you arm wrestle Yan, one of our waitresses. If you win, the meal’s on us, if you lose…” and I jerk my thumb towards the front door. The customer looks across at the waitress I am indicating. Yan is a 5 foot 2 Chinese girl and looks like she wouldn’t hurt an ant. So there is no way the customer can say no and lose face, so he accepts the challenge. Unfortunately for him, Yan could arm wrestle a bear and win. As I said, the other customers love it and the customer has to slink off with his tail between his legs.

Having said all that, what I would really like to do is to take a custard pie and just slam it in the customer’s face. That would be the very best approach. I am consulting my lawyer at this moment as to whether this is viable.

4 -The British Rail Experience (UK Food Review)

Great news! The food critics from UK Food Review visited The Smoked Sausage and have written a gushing review of one of our more radical dishes, “The British Rail Experience”. Here it is in all its glory below.

BRExperience_Review2

 

 

3 – Food Critics

literary gourmet

If there is one group of people who aren’t fit to walk this earth, and who should have definitely been on board Douglas Adams’ spaceship of useless people, then it is this bunch: they don’t have any specialist knowledge, they delight in criticising anything which isn’t new or trendy and they clearly can’t cook themselves. Pretentious, supercilious, sycophantic, pompous: these are how I describe them when I am being nice.

Who am I talking about? Yes, that’s right: food critics. <make’s spitting sound>

I mean, really: what do they actually do? Really? Come into a restaurant, eat, drink wine, go blah blah blah and leave – and then write about their experience. Couldn’t anyone do that?! Couldn’t someone write a computer program to emulate that, just inserting appropriate words such as ‘ravishing’, ‘magnetising’ and ‘pulchritudinous’?

It’s not as if they have to do a 4 year degree to become a food critic, or sit annual qualifications to make sure they know an emulsion from a foam. They don’t even eat half their food a lot of the time – they just look at it and pass transcendent comments.

The worst of it, of course, is that they can make or even break a restaurant with their prose. What is actually a crap or average eating house can be elevated to new heights based on their words of wisdom, and what might be a fantastic and inventive restaurant can be shot down in flames, never to have the patronage it deserves.

Not that I care. Really. I don’t. I don’t mind if I never get an A list restaurant critic at the Sausage, and I don’t need any 5 star review of my astonishing creations. I know how good my food is and my customers know how good my food is. That’s what matters.

Words are mere garnish.

Food critics. Pah. Did you know that an anagram of ‘restaurant critic’ is Satanic Cur Triter? Says everything you need to know about them.

PS If you want a second opinion, I give you… Anton Ego.