Monday, 21 October 2013

Not Quite Four Weddings & A Funeral

So it’s been a while since I last rambled, moaned, whined, ranted or whatever you want to call it. Most of you were probably glad to see the back of the ‘here’s this week's blog – read it if you want’ tweets. Well sorry to disappoint.

I was the never the most prolific blogger, ten posts and bang I was gone. To be honest prolific has never been a word associated with me, thinking back there was that one season for Wigton Moor Under 9’s where I scored about 30 goals. But as they say even a blind squirrel finds a nut occasionally.

Why the hiatus then? Three months and no expletives fired in the direction of TV chefs or councils? It’s not like there hasn’t been plenty of ammunition. Listening to my favourite baking lothario make yummy noises in the direction of a dough-eyed philosophy student can surely only be one more muffin tasting away from landing him in trouble of the Yewtree kind. (See what I did with dough, clever hey?!)

No not even that, which in the past would have given me weeks worth of material, could stir me from my inactivity.

Here goes then.

My last attempt at this blogging lark saw me waiting for the council to make a decision as to whether or not I deserved a place in their market. Well after about four months of little or no contact they finally told me I’d been successful. Not quite the 4-6 week timescale but then did we really believe local government would work to a deadline?

By this time I’d decided to look elsewhere for premises not actually thinking I’d get the place in the market.

The paperwork was signed and my tenure as premier pie maker in Leeds was to begin on 26th July 2013. Here’s where things took a slight turn for the worse.

This next part of the story isn’t a 'woe is me' cry for attention nor is it some macabre marketing ploy.

Slight turn for the worse may be an understatement, as my Dad died on July 23rd 2013.

There we have it 3 days before I was due to open the business and on Mrs.L and my 13th Wedding Anniversary.

Not that these events have any bearing on anything, I mean stating the bleeding obvious but there’s really never a good time to lose a parent.

Though the timing of the wedding anniversary did lead me to wonder if it was the final comment on me marrying a non Jewish girl, I’m joking of course. My parents have always liked Mrs.L far more than they like their miserable grumpy son.

At the point of his death and until very recently everything pretty much stopped, for the first time in a very long time I ran out of words. Nothing seemed very funny anymore.

I don’t do emotion, I’m not very good at it but this did kick me right in the nuts.

It led to a period of reflection and I guess made me question my own mortality.

Leading to two answers :-

Firstly I am getting old, something which has been reiterated to me today when my barber suggested he ‘tidy up’ my eyebrows, a service I thought reserved for the more senior patrons.

Secondly I don’t believe in God, not that I’m getting into this one it’s a personal (non) belief and I don’t hold anything against anyone that does. That’s not strictly true but calling all believers fools seems a bit harsh and I wouldn’t want to offend. I would but won’t.

I did find that it’s probably harder not to believe than it is to believe especially at a time like that.

As I said this isn’t a "My Dad Died So Buy A Pie" marketing ploy, no that comes later.

A month later I managed to open. 

Feedback has been good, if you discount the guy who tweeted to say his pie contained dog excrement and onion. I resisted the urge to say it was the special of the week. I try to keep a modicum of professionalism on my business twitter feed.

Things were going well until the Scarlet Fever hit, sounds like something out of a 19th Century novel doesn’t it? Sadly not. I actually managed to contract Scarlet Fever, fuck knows how or where from. Head to toe in a rash and laid up with a course of Penicillin for 10 days. I felt sorry for myself, while many people asked whether Rickets, TB or Small Pox would be next?

So there you have it the story of my blogging absence, apologies that this isn’t funny, although many may argue that there’s no change there then.

I’m back open now, the adage what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger seems to hold some truth. Death and disease haven’t stopped me and fingers crossed there won’t be any famine.

Here comes the gratuitous plug in the form of our catchphrase, “Eat Pie So My Kids Don’t Have To!” The poor buggers get the leftovers each week it’s got to the stage where they’d rather go hungry than see another Chicken, Ham & Leek.

A recipe for this blog has been a tough call, should it be pie related or something for my old man? Obviously the latter won. (Pie related doesn’t sound quite right, what could possibly be pie related apart from pie? – good to see I still know how to waffle.)

In fact bollocks to it, there’s no recipe this week. 

Go and buy Fish and Chips from your favourite Chippy, cover them in salt, vinegar and ketchup. Serve with white bread and butter and drink a cup of tea. Afterwards go and smoke a cigarette. 

It’s what my dad would have done and it never did him any harm. Oh, on second thoughts, don’t smoke and eat fish and chips in moderation.


Me & Dad the late 70's

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Pie Dreams & Cake

Lemon Butter Cake

Well you could say it’s been an odd couple of weeks but odd doesn’t really do it justice.
No I haven’t encountered extra large babies again leaving me speechless or attended parties at soft play centres which would no doubt have had me turning the air blue.
N’s School Sports day did provide some light relief. It’s a small village school and parents are encouraged to attend and give moral support.
N did well managing to finish in the top 3 in all events. This may have been down in no small part to the fact that there are only 3 girls in her class but who am I to piss on anyone’s bonfire? Don’t answer that.
She did however win the egg and spoon race, so all the hours of training we’d put in weren’t in vain.
In her age race my younger daughter M sprinted to a 30 yard victory over the other nursery children, she’s pretty much a year older and double the size of the rest and as she went on the G of Go the others stood on the start line either crying or filling their nappies.
I looked on proudly, trying not to be one of ‘those’ dads who takes the sporting endeavour of their child a little too seriously, I failed. Apparently booing the other kids and then unfurling the union flag and doing a lap of honour around the cricket pitch with your 4 year old in celebration isn’t the done thing, who knew?
Unfortunately I was cajoled into taking part in the Dad’s race and as I took my place alongside the others, all young skinny bastards, I heard the little voice saying – Don’t fuck up, don’t embarrass your daughters, don’t pull a hamstring, don’t slip another disc. Ok I may be a hypochondriac but it comes with my heritage.
Needless to say riddled with these self-doubts I didn’t win although I did avoid the ignominy of last place beating someone’s grandad. I think a ‘short head’ is the sporting phrase used to describe my margin of ‘victory’ over him. In your face old man!
No my odd couple of weeks actually involves something a little more important.
I’ve resigned from work and am now officially jobless.
Please don’t worry this isn’t some thinly veiled cry for help or a begging blog for you to send money so the family Vino don’t go hungry. It’s safe to read on.
Do people really believe and respond to those emails you receive? You know the ones informing you of inherited cash or asking for help and that the person will pay you back as soon as they’re back on their feet? One hit my inbox a few months ago telling me I’d been left £120k to help me continue my wonderful Evangelical Christian work. I mean I may be a lot of things but a preacher of the good book definitely isn’t one of them.
That said I am quite happy to attach my bank details to the bottom of this blog and if you feel that you’d like to spare a few quid I’m not too proud to accept.
No this was an actual conscious decision to leave a steady job with a good income but that said, a job that left me thoroughly miserable and if I’m being honest it would probably have been easier to live with Saddam in his bunker than me for the past few months.
So on a level of keeping my sanity it was an easy decision to make however on the level of not knowing if I’m going to have to sell the girls to Madonna to pay the mortgage leaves me a little petrified if the truth be told. The main problem with this is I’m not sure the girls are ethnic enough for Madge.
I haven’t quit without a plan for the future. That would be completely bat shit crazy.
I have a dream. Now I’d like to say this is as grand as Martin Luther King Jnr’s dream of a racial equality for all. It’s not.
No mine is the lesser known I have a dream speech, given to various friends and relatives over the last few months, one where I tell people my dream of making Pies and Cakes for a living.
I’d also like to say it was initially as well received as MLK’s speech. It wasn’t.
I am however happy to report that Mrs. Vino is fully behind the venture, it was hard for her to see the job I was doing making me ill. Though I think really she likes the idea of being married to Little Ribston’s very own Alan Sugar, either that or she really loves to eat pie and a lot of it.
So the last few weeks have seen product development in full swing. Pies and cakes are being baked on a daily basis and waistlines are expanding. I’ve also been distributing them to anyone with a mouth that wants it filling for free and funnily enough there are plenty of those around.
I should be able to give you further information and news once the Council fulfills its commitment to process my food application in the timeframe they set. Although if having a very close friend working for the Council is anything to go by I’m not filled with confidence that this will happen and I’m not holding my breath. Not that I’m bashing the Council in any way I’m sure they’re very productive on the days that they do some work.
The sign that will hopefully one day hang over the door

In honour of my prospective venture here’s a lemon butter cake recipe that may adorn my menu in the near future.
It’s from Dan Lepard, yes I know I go on about him a little too much which obviously has nothing to do with him responding to me on twitter but trust me his recipes are really very good.
Lemon Butter Cake
2 Medium Eggs – Separated
150g Caster Sugar
100g Unsalted Butter – Melted
125g Condensed Milk
100ml Lemon Juice
Grated Zest of 2 Large Lemons
275g Plain Flour
2 Tsp Baking Powder
Grated Zest of 1 Large Lemon
100g Icing Sugar
25ml Lemon Juice
Set the oven to 180c
Line a Loaf tin – preferably 19cm long, I used what I had and it was perfectly fine.
Beat the separated egg whites with an electric mixter until they’re frothy and then gradually add 25g of Caster Sugar and whisk to a soft meringue consistency.
In a different bowl beat the egg yolks, remaining caster sugar, melted butter, condensed milk, lemon zest and juice.
I didn’t grate the zest if I’m honest I just I zester and had short strips of the zest – it made no difference.
Sift the flour and baking powder into the mixture and beat until smooth.
Fold the egg whites in to this carefully and quickly as not to lose the air from the mixture.
Spoon into your tin then smooth the mixture out.
Bake for 40 – 50 minutes or until a skewer comes out with only a few crumbs. Mine took just under 40 minutes but then again my oven enjoys cremating things.
Let your cake cool and then ice it.
To make the icing beat the zest, icing sugar and lemon juice in a bowl until smooth and cover the top of the cake. If you don’t let it cool the icing becomes runnier and will come down the sides of the cake as well. I know this from experience.

Follow me on twitter @Vino_73

Friday, 14 June 2013

The Great Leeds Bake Off

This Saturday saw the Family Vino attend the inaugural Great Leeds Bake off to celebrate the Leeds Loves Food festival. Belts were loosened in anticipation and daughter M was ready to run a critical eye and mouth over the entries. Mary Berry has nothing on my 4 year old who will readily critique my efforts, happily telling me they’re too dry or tasteless – of course having already consumed 3 pieces.
The preview said to join us at The Arch Cafe for an afternoon of cake delights, to enjoy eating competition cakes and drinking lots of Yorkshire Tea – two slices or ten slices, eat as much as you like!
I viewed this more as a challenge than a tagline so skipped breakfast and lunch in readiness. In the interests of research I intended to sample as many entries as possible; it wasn’t just gluttony, though the fact I wore elasticated trousers may say differently.
Now I have to confess I didn’t enter, this may come as surprise to those who follow me on Twitter and Instagram and are bored senseless with my seemingly endless cake tweets and photos.
I’d like to be able to give a grand excuse as to my baking absence but I can’t. Plain and simple I bottled it.
Anyone who has read my blog will know my feelings on cake competitions. According to the local W I I’m annually the second best baker in the village, I could say that doesn’t rancor with me but I’m not going to lie to you.
The Arch Cafe is in the Grade 2 listed Bradbury Building, adjacent to St. Johns Church. The building also encompasses the newly refurbished head office of Age UK Leeds who own the cafe, and all the profits go directly to support their work with older people.
The competition itself comprised of 3 categories: -
Leeds Loves Food
Vintage / Retro
The criteria for the competition was that the cakes would be judged primarily on taste and interpretation of the category rather than the aesthetics.
The judges were Clandestine Cake Club founder and cake recipe book author, Lynn Hill, and Masterchef Vivek Singh Kashiwale of the 1875 Restaurant in Menston.
The support shown was fantastic and the organisers wanted me to give special mention to the sponsors who donated fabulous prizes for the winners and for the raffle, namely Clandestine Cake Club, 1875 Restaurant, Hobbycraft, Greggs, Tate and Lyle, and Yorkshire Tea.
In total there were 36 cakes entered across the 3 categories, which I have to say was a great effort and made me feel less guilty for not entering myself.
The entrants were as wide ranging as had been hoped, from 5 year old children upwards. One entrant, Jon Clarke, was even accompanied by a BBC3 camera crew documenting his journey from working at a doughnut shop in the Metro Centre to becoming a baker. This will be broadcast later in the year.
True to their word and the brief the judges sampled each and every entry, revealing they had to taste some twice, just to make sure. I think the phrase Lynn used was sugar rush after judging had finished. There may have been more eye-catching cakes but the winners were indeed chosen for their taste.
Once the winners had been announced we got to dive in and dive we did – headlong into Chocolate, Coffee, Saffron, Raspberry, Beetroot, Carrot ….you name the cake and I’m pretty sure it was there. To be honest I lost count of the number we tried and think N and M would still be there, faces awash with buttercream, had we not dragged them away.
Most of all it was a fun event, with a great spirit of community, for a good cause raising in excess of £500 for Age UK Leeds. Who needs to climb Kilimanjaro to raise money for charity? I’d rather eat cake all day long. As Mrs. Vino commented, there are definitely worse ways to spend a Saturday afternoon.
So well done to all concerned and here’s to next years Great Leeds Bake Off, who knows I may even put my reputation on the line next time.
The Full piece with photos can be found here The Culture Vulture

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Revenge Is A Dish Best Served Cold - Cheesecake

It’s been a quiet week really, nothing happening out of the norm, nothing that really got my juices flowing I was even considering sparing you the chore of reading this old shite.

I say that, there’ve been the obvious stresses of daily life that for some reason take some comedic series of events for me but hey ho.

There was a child’s birthday party, we all know how much I love those, where I encountered the biggest baby I’ve ever seen. This isn’t an exaggeration and I’m not trying to be mean but this lad was huge a behemoth if you will. He must have been a sextuplet but ate his five siblings as a post breakfast snack. I took a picture but Mrs. Vino said that was going a step too far. I couldn’t stop staring though, like some Curio in a turn of the century Travelling Circus.

Very much like the time I was sunbathing and an attractive woman was by the pool, she only had one leg, I tried so hard not to look as I walked back to our apartment but failed miserably my eyes boring into her and the words “one leg, one leg, one leg” ringing in my brain. What can I say, I don’t get out much, rather I shouldn’t be allowed out much.

Nothing has really got my juices flowing on the TV, yes I know the Apprentice is back on but I don’t watch it.

You’d think it would be right up my street, I mean me and The Sugar have so much in common. Both born into the Jewish faith, backgrounds in sales, a predisposition for grumpiness and both have faces like an old bulldog licking piss off a thistle.

Come to think of it I’ll have to check if Mum made any trips down to London in the 70’s, that rich old bugger could be my Dad and I may be in line for a few quid to not sell my story.

This is of course completely fabricated, more worrying is the fact Mummy Vino was given free tickets to Top of The Pops in her youth by a popular DJ in Leeds and my uncontrollable urge to jangle jewelry, wear tracksuits and smoke cigars. 

11 Years Ago in Vegas

Anyway there’s my usual digression, back to the Apprentice, I can’t watch it. Not because as a twitter friend suggested they remind me of me. Simply put they’re a bunch of cocks (maybe they do remind me of me), I think that’s the collective noun for the contemptible arses that try and ‘win’ the poisoned chalice. There aren’t enough swear words available to me in the English language to be able to watch it and without the naughty words spilling forth from my mouth I fear the anger may bubble up to a level where my head would explode and I would die. Fear of death has to be a good enough reason not to watch surely?

By now you’re probably asking yourselves why I'm wittering on at you? Why the change of heart? What could possibly spark me into picking up my virtual pen?

Only the classes being announced for the W I Open Produce & Handicrafts show taking place in the Village Hall Saturday 14th September 2013. That's bloody what!

If that wasn't enough which it is, there is more. A tale of revenge, retribution, unfinished business, call it what you will.

Let’s just say me and the blue rinsed old dears of the Women’s Institute have got previous!

More of that later.

You may have rightly gathered that Village life is very quiet and uneventful, putting aside the perennial swingers nights, car keys in the middle and all that.

Our Village doesn’t have a pub, this wasn’t a consideration when we were buying I was pretty much tee total at that time, nowadays I’m never more than 3 feet from alcohol at any given time.

There’s no shop, with the phone box being utilised to sell eggs and produce from.

There’s Table Tennis club on a Monday, I’ve already said too much about this, the first rule of table tennis club is….

Think a darker Royston Vasey and you won’t go far wrong, we’ve lived here 8 years and people didn't talk to us for the first 5.

It’s a beautiful place to live, nice and quiet with a lovely park on our doorstep. This does throw up a slight problem for me at this time of year as the cows are back.

Those cud-chewing motherfuckers scare the bejeesus out of me. I’m sure they’ve got it in for me, I’m not being delusional. I think they can smell cow on me, or to put it bluntly, steak. They can sense the amount of meat I’ve consumed in my life and want payback. 

To be honest I don’t even know if they’ve got teeth. How stupid is that? I’m an adult who doesn’t know if cows have teeth. What I do know is that they’re bloody big and every time I set foot in the park they want to kill me.

Yes as Mrs. Vino says I’m a townie at heart and although I try I’m not great at country living, it’s taken me 8 years to succumb to buying a pair of wellies, now the sheep are worried, there’s no escape.

Anyway back to the show, obviously due to the lack of anything going on this is THE biggest event in the village diary.

There are 35 Classes with prizes awarded in each, 1st, 2nd & 3rd, there is an overall Best in Show and a Reserve Best in Show.

These classes are varied and encompass, produce, flower, flower arranging, preserves, baking, handicraft and children’s classes.

The rules within each are very specific and you will be disqualified for not adhering to them. There are also some odd ones, a collection of herbs displayed in an unusual container no larger than 15 inches. I found out last year that having a few sprigs of rosemary hanging out of your arse is frowned upon, only being good enough for 3rd prize.

To say it’s competitive is an understatement, people have committed unspeakable crimes for a 1st prize certificate. One competitor carries a tape measure and reports her fellow competitors to the judges should they contravene any guidelines. My neighbour’s collection of 3 types of vegetables was thrown out because of her grassing him up and he has never entered again.

My issue is two second prizes, second prizes???? You’ve all seen my cakes there is no way they were second prize entries. No the only explanation is that judging is fixed, rigged, bent whatever you want to call it.

Two years running I’ve been beaten by an 80 year old, once in the Victoria Sponge class and the following year in the Gateaux Class. Now I’ll admit refusing to accept my certificate, like it was an MBE I was turning down as a political statement then upturning the baking exhibit table, may have been a slight overreaction but I cannot stand corruption.

Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely, yes W I judges I’m pointing my finger at you. They’re the rural mafia, think Mary Berry meets Tony Soprano but meaner. It’s ok raising money for charity and all that but deep down I know there lies a dark underbelly.

This year will be different, this year will be my year. Watch this space a first prize certificate will be adorning the walls of Vino’s Kitchen. Even if I have to steal one.

The recipe this week should really be an entry for the show but there’s not a chance I’m sharing this. I know there is a very slim chance that out of the 3 people that read this any of you will be entering the show but I’m not willing to take the risk.

So here’s a favourite recipe of mine, it’s a Hugh Fearnley baked cheesecake with some of the steps removed. It’s amazing, although you can feel your arteries clogging with every mouthful.

New York Cheesecake


For the base
100g butter –15g softened and 85g melted
170g digestive biscuits
1 tbsp caster sugar

Pinch of flaky sea salt
For the filling

200g caster sugar

3 tbsp plain flour

Pinch of flaky sea salt

900g full-fat soft cream cheese, at room temperature

200ml sour cream

2 tsp vanilla extract

3 large eggs, plus 1 yolk


Heat the oven to 190C
Generously grease the base and sides of a 23cm springform cake tin with the soft butter, line the base with baking paper and butter the paper
Wrap the cake tin in several layers of tinfoil – it needs to encase the tin completely, with no holes or gaps, because you're going to cook the cheesecake in a bain-marie and you don't want any water to sneak in at the base and ruin it – I have only once succeeded to stop water getting in once and it hasn’t ruined it. Try a foil and oven proof cling film combo , it may be the only way
Next make the crust
Put the biscuits into a food processor with the sugar and salt
Pulse to fine crumbs
Pour the melted butter through the feed tube and pulse until the mixture looks like wet sand
Press it into the bottom of the cake tin in an even layer (use the bottom of a glass to smooth it out)
Bake for 10-12 minutes until firm, then leave to cool on a wire rack
Reduce the oven temperature to 170c
Whisk together the sugar, flour and salt
In a mixer or a large mixing bowl with a handheld electric mixer, beat the soft cheese until light and fluffy, scraping down the bowl and beaters a couple of times
With the mixer on low, beat in a third of the sugar mixture, then half the sour cream
Repeat, then beat in the last of the sugar mixture
Beat in the vanilla extract
Beat in the eggs one at a time, and the yolk, beating well after each addition, until smooth and creamy
Brush the inside of the cake tin above the biscuit base with more butter and place in a roasting tin
Pour the filling into the cake tin
Put the roasting tin in the oven and pour in boiling water to come halfway up the outside of the cake tin
Bake for an hour and a half to an hour and three-quarters, until just set in the centre
Let the cake cool
Refrigerate overnight
Run a thin-bladed knife around the sides of the tin to loosen any stuck edges, then release the sides of the tin

Carefully slide the cheesecake on to a plate and gently slide the parchment out from underneath – I have never achieved this, I slice the cake and making sure I don’t get the paper