Welcome to The Shuck. A love letter to food, drink and life.
Let’s start from the beginning. If you’re reading this very first broadcast then there’s a 99.9% chance that you already know me pretty well - hi, Mum! But I should probably explain why we’re here and what this is all about.
I love to write. I love to make drinks. I love to cook. And I love to feed people.
I cook to show love, I mix a drink to celebrate, and I deep fry things when I’m sad. And now I’d like to write about that.
Not many people who eat with me now would believe it, but I used to be a very fussy eater. I’d turn my nose up at a sandwich that had butter on it (now I see bread as an accompaniment to butter) and I’d wretch at the sight of salmon (now I rip heads off prawns with pure delight, extra points for slurping the juicy brains). But over my years at university, I started to cook, and experiment. Suddenly I discovered a whole new side of myself. It probably started out as a way to soothe myself in times of trouble, but became a vehicle for so much more.
My mum was a great cook. I sadly couldn’t tell you if this is still true as I now proudly hog the hob whenever I go home to visit, showing my mum and Chris P how much I care by piling my latest creations high on the dining table. Always with multiple condiments in tow. My memories of mum’s cooking feature big casserole dishes of unctuous, creamy chicken topped with a layer of perfectly crisp smashed Tayto crisps which created a satisfying crunch akin to plunging the depths of a creme brulee. Things as rich as darkly-coloured, slow cooked beef curries and as simple as her perfect coleslaw (that I’ve still never managed to match) are studded across my memories growing up. We did also have a ‘Takeaway Phase’, but that’s a story for another day.
When I first moved to London, my world of flavour exploded. I’d try anything I was offered and quickly built up a library in my head of taste combinations I loved. If a dish in a restaurant blew me away, I’d spend the next weekend in the kitchen recreating it myself. I’ve never followed recipes (this could explain why I am, and always will be, a terrible baker), choosing to follow my nose instead.
I’ve been lucky enough to eat in some of the best restaurants in the world but I’m happy to report that most of the morsels on my “top 5 mouthfuls of all time” list (we’ll come back to that another day) have been devoured in backstreet gems discovered by accident or recommended by a friend.
I’ll always love going out for meals and drinks - but if I’m really honest, I’m never happier than when those that I love are under one roof, tucking into food I’ve made and sipping on a drink I’ve whipped up. Feeding people is how I show love. And now I’d like to share some of that with you, through words.
Welcome to The Shuck.
A TASTY MORSEL | Fried sage & anchovy stuffed olives.
I ate something like these tasty, overly salty (no snack can really be ‘overly salty’ IMO) stuffed olives back in 2012 and it took me about 3 years to figure out how to make them properly. I will happily spend the 40 mins it takes to make them (fiddly little buggers), just to devour them in 2 minutes flat. The process is meditative and the results heavenly.
Pitted Queen olives (I’m a fan of the big juicy Perellos and use the aesthetically pleasing empty tins to store things in afterwards)
Breadcrumbs (any will do but Panko give that extra Crunch)
Finely chop anchovies and sage (you want about double the volume of sage to anchovy), stuff generously inside the olives (I find a toothpick helps to cram it all in there). Coat in flour, douse in egg and then cover in breadcrumbs. Get your vegetable oil searing hot (you need about 2 inches in the bottom of a deep, heavy pan) and then use a slotted spoon to dunk the coated olives in the oil. It only takes about 30 seconds to crisp them up. Remove and sit on paper towels to degrease. I like to throw a couple of the smaller sage leaves into the oil at the end for a quick garnish that tastes as good as it looks.
Coming next, my patented (not yet, but maybe one day) smokey Rob Roy.
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