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Friday, 15 February 2013

Pub landlords must keep food source records

As predicted, pub grub supplier Brake Bros is amongst those duped by the horsemeat scandal. Pub daily the Morning Advertiser has printed advice from m'learned friends about responsibility for the scam, and made clear that under EU law it is always the final seller in the chain, the one who sells to the consumer, who is responsible for ensuring that the product is exactly what it says on the tin. Pub landlords are therefore responsible for keeping records of the sources of the ingredients in everything it sells - from a packet of Pork scratchings to a Brake Bros lasagne. Good news perhaps for the growing numbers of gastro pubs using locally sourced raw ingredients who will find the process far simpler than those trying to secure the required paperwork for a box of frozen meat pies from the cash and carry. 

At least the predicted tsunami of Romanian workers won't be short of good home cooking


You can understand why West Smithfield hasn't been listed. Architecturally, it's simply wrong; it's as though the ground and first floors were designed by a frustrated young draughtsman under the yoke of a fiercely puritanical senior who suddenly fell ill, allowing a comic and overblown explosion of baroque frivolity for the pediment and dormers. It's simply silly. Still, it doesn't deserve demolition just because it's ugly. Owned by the Corporation of London and closed now for ten years, the latest proposals for its future come from Henderson Investments who are opposed by 'conservation and community groups'. 

Henderson would rather fill the whole footprint with office blocks but have produced what they imagine is a compromise, with office block towers rising through the centres of the three market blocks surrounded by a ground floor fringe of the existing outer building ranges. To tackle the kind of 'conservation and community groups' active around Farringdon and Clerkenwell, they propose marketing this space as 'Neal's Yard type' butchers, bakers, delis and cheesemongers. Good call. Neal's Yard is still the weird middle-class home of women who make curd cheese using their own placenta as a starter culture, hand-knitters of yoghurt sandals and vendors of joss-stick flavoured sweets like little piles of lambs' vomit. The 'conservation and community groups' will have none of it (though, I guess, secretly tempted ) and are demanding traditional markets with exhibition and event space.

Personally, I reckon they're both right. You need a backbone of commercial development to pay for the rest, but perhaps not as much as Henderson want. The locals are perhaps looking at Smithfield becoming another Camden Lock or Spitalfields, both of which only really come alive at the weekend. But both proposals ignore the unique advantage of the location - wide, accessible streets with broad covered cross-streets ideal for high volume vehicle movements - deliveries, collections, loading and unloading. Nowhere else in the City's crowded mediaeval street pattern does this exist, and even across the river around Borough Market the vehicle access is abysmal. This asset would be wasted on office blocks or aromatherapeutic cheese shops. Of equal importance is a development for West Smithfield that maintains the viability of East Smithfield as a working meat market - now moreso than ever. Neither set of proposals does so as they stand. 

The City is likely to look at the planning application in the next few months. Feel free to let them have your views.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Sorry, food SHOULD cost more - to save money

This is not, of course, supermarket bacon - it's real bacon, not the sodden dripping swollen waterlogged slops from Tesco or the Co-op. Not only does it not shrink to a third the size during grilling, it cooks in about a quarter the time, not needing to boil-off all the added water before starting to grill. And it tastes infinitely better. Cost per cooked ounce, including energy cost, I'd guess is about the same as the supermarket mess. Likewise flabby sloppy chicken breasts or pork joints the consistency of fresh builder's mortar pumped up with added water. Who the hell do they think they're kidding? 

And even the cats won't touch those Vietnamese giant prawns sold so cheaply and grown so quickly on a diet of human faeces. Cold-water Atlantic every time. And forget farmed Salmon that tastes of rank stale weevil-infested meal, processed chicken products using chicken from Brazil or Thailand, any 'fresh' meat that can't be frozen, rancid cow's milk sold as 'Cravendale' so finely homogenised that human taste buds can't detect the rotten fat particles of ten-day old milk, anything that says 'reformed from ...' on the label and all sausages of unknown provenance. 

If you take the processed gloop away, even petty-gourmands such as I can dine well and cheaply; a net of fresh mussels with home-baked bread spread thickly with butter feeds two for about £1.20 each, Savoy cabbage and Polish Boczek make a quick filling and wholesome soup for about £1 a head - both this week's supper dishes here at Raedwald Towers, just simple food in season.

If the 'food industry' and all it's nasty gloopish Frankenstein output needs to be policed and regulated then let the industry bear the whole costs of such regulation; fresh mussels, cabbages and wheat flour produced domestically shouldn't have to. And it may even, in the long term, save money. 

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Scotland to lose weather?

Why should other nations free-ride on the work of British boffins? That at least is the reasoning behind the latest ratchet in the war of words against Scottish independence, with a reminder that after independence Scotland would either need to start it's own Met Office or go without weather. BBC viewers will have been familiar with the way in which Ireland has lived without having any weather for many years;

And not only weather. Passports, driving licenses, financial regulation and customs and border control. New stamps with thistles and a new Scots poond at parity with the Euro will be needed. With a way to go until the poll, expect much more of the same.

Monday, 11 February 2013

Romanian, Irish, Italian or Polish gee-gees?

There's a local Indian takeaway that has on the menu 'Meat curry - £4.95; Named meat curry £5.95'. I'd always assumed it meant if you took his choice of chicken, beef or lamb rather than yours you got a discount. Now I'm not so sure. It seems that for some years all of us who have ever eaten processed meat products - pies, sausages, burgers, supermarket ready-meals, pub lasagne - have almost certainly eaten horse. I wouldn't even rule out supermarket mince. As for Frankfurters, the manufacturers actually admit making these from pigs' eyelids, gums, lips, nipples and sphincters, so the addition of a little horse-meat would actually raise the quality of the raw ingredients. 

As Richard North has pointed out on EuReferendum, it seems likely that this is organised crime working on a continental scale and taking full advantage of the EU's fundamental free movement of goods principles. Containers of ciggies or cognac attract all sort of official attention, but no-one pays attention to twenty tonnes of frozen ground meat.

You may detect a certain lack of outrage here and this is because my beef consumption has been 95% prepared by me from fresh identifiable whole pieces of meat. And even though I've bought fresh supermarket mince to date, the purchase of a kitchen mincer (below) will allow me instead to process myself the cheap pieces of skirt or shin from the local butchers that I usually use for gulas

And as for the FSA, their obsession with the minutae of health-fascist campaigning for 'healthy' food traffic-light labelling and the like has left the goal wide open for this greater adulteration. Perhaps a few sackings at the top are due.