One way and another I have done more and more writing over the last few years and I’m really enjoying having time to focus on this. I am contributing regularly to magazines such as the Caterer and Just About Dorset, but the blog is a chance to cover more diverse subjects – visits to growers, some of our travels, new recipes, occasional book reviews and some pieces about the work I am doing are a few areas I will be covering.
The guest blog section is where I prevail on friends and colleagues, most of them in the food industry, to share their thoughts, stories and experiences with us. Exciting, vibrant and diverse are words I’d use to sum things up on the guest blog and it isn’t all food related either!
I want to say a massive “thank you” to all those who have agreed to participate and I am sure that these contributions will be a big part of the interest in this website. Lots of these people have their own websites, blogs and books so please follow the links to see much more. If you are interested in guest blogging please email me at russell@CreativeAboutCuisine.com
We have just delivered the first half of the book and are really excited that the publishers have confirmed Matt Inwood as the designer. Jon and I have also released the first of a few teaser videos…
Razor Clams with herb crumb, lemon and parsley butter
These are a little fiddly to prepare but for this particular recipe all the prep can be done in advance so it will take the pressure off! Once the clams are steamed open, the meat will pull easily from the shell and the inedible parts can be cut away.
Lay the clam flat on the board with the rounder end to the left, cut this off close to the dark sac. Lift the frilly wing up and slice off the cylindrical piece of meat with the pointed end. Now trim the wing away from the dark sac. Scrape off any odd bits of sand as you go.
Now the meat can be sliced into half centimetre pieces ready to use. If you’re unsure at any point, the internet has plenty of useful videos on fish and shellfish preparation.
Serves 4 as a starter
For the clams
- 1kg live razor clams, thoroughly washed
- 75ml white wine
For the butter
- 50g unsalted butter
- ½ lemon, grated zest only
- 1 dsp lemon juice
- freshly ground black pepper
- reduced clam cooking liquid
- 1 dsp chopped flat leaf parsley
For the crumb
- 1 tbs olive oil
- 1 clove of garlic, smashed
- 40g day old bread, preferably a rustic loaf, torn into pieces.
- 1 tbs chopped flat leaf parsley
Before you start cooking the clams, have a roasting tin of ice ready to chill them as soon as they are cooked.
To cook the clams, heat a large casserole or sauté pan that has a tight fitting lid. When really hot, drop in the clams and pour in the wine. Put the lid on immediately and steam over a high heat for 1 minute until the clams are open. Use tongs to drop the clams onto the ice. Pass the cooking liquid through a fine sieve into a small clean pan and reduce until syrupy. Allow to cool. Prepare the clams as described above and then chill the sliced meat for a few minutes.
Beat the butter together with the lemon zest, juice and a few grinds of pepper. Gradually beat in the clam cooking liquid, checking for seasoning as you go. The liquid will be salty so stop when the butter is well seasoned. Add the parsley and mix in the clam flesh.
Select eight of the largest and best looking shells, give them a scrub and then place in a pan of water and bring to the boil to sterilise. Drain and dry off. Allow to cool.
For the crumb, heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a small pan and add the garlic. Cook, turning frequently, to make a garlicky oil. Don’t let the garlic go beyond golden or it will start to take on some bitter notes. Blitz the bread with the parsley, garlic and oil to make coarse breadcrumbs.
Fill the clam shells with the buttery clam meat and top with the breadcrumbs, grill under a hot grill for 2 minutes until bubbling and golden. Serve immediately with lemon wedges and bread for mopping up the juices.
“Right, so you’re a food blogger writing about food bloggers writing about food? Well, er yes, but hear me out…” is how the conversation might have gone if I’d given Russell the opportunity to comment on this piece. But I didn’t. Thankfully, he’s far too busy doing real foodie stuff, so publish and be damned, I say.
I’ve been blogging about food for a little over four years now. If you’ve ever read the Well Seasoned blog you’ll know the story of our business, so I won’t repeat it here, but suffice to say that the ability to publish updates to our audience in an instant gave us a freedom that previous generations of entrepreneurs never enjoyed. Being able to tell our story, in near-real-time, and share the ups and downs of launching a food start-up, was a truly exciting and liberating experience.
Blogs, and social media generally, have democratised writing across the globe and in no sector is this truer than food. Once the preserve of a handful of lofty newspaper critics, food writing is now for everyone and, with the advent of sites like Tripadvisor and Squaremeal, everyone is a critic – literally. The internet is awash with people writing about ingredients, restaurants and cooking. Anyone with access to a computer can be published worldwide and for free – no need for a pre-existing audience or any demand for your work. Build it and they will come (provided you have the right Search Engine Optimisation).
The problem is that this democracy comes at a price. Critical oversight and quality control are the innocent victims of this bloodless (if you discount the black pudding) revolution. With so many authors churning out text and pictures, it can be difficult, if not impossible, to find the good stuff.
Is anyone really interested in seeing a dimly lit, out of focus shot of your breakfast, with optional inane caption, such as “Mmmm!” or its brother-in-bore “Yummm!!!” (the number of exclamation marks usually being directly and inversely proportional to the quality of photo)? And yet social media allows you to spew it onto the net without any check on quality and certainly without the benefit of a watchful publisher saying, “Umm, are we sure we want to go with “scrummy” as an adjective again?”
We all crave affirmation – it is part of the human condition – but social media brings out the worst in us. Anyone who publishes a blog, has a Twitter account or a Facebook page will know (whether they admit it or not) the sense of satisfaction when a tweet is retweeted, a post Liked or a blog comment received, and it’s all too easy for our writing to descend into a quest for those validations.
That’s why a poor quality picture of eggs benedict and glib accompanying caption have become the all-too-common mark of the foodie affirmation junkie. It has the highest reward-to-effort ratio: Click/apply Instagram filter/Yummm!! = 5 undiscerning ‘Likes’. It’s the quick fix, high-sugar, low-carb snack of the social media world.
So, what’s the alternative to this blogosphere junk food? Naturally, it’s fine dining; well written, descriptive prose accompanied by high quality photography and recipe writing. If you post a shonky picture of your cherry cheesecake with the caption “I LOVE cherries!”, I might give it a passing ogle but I definitely won’t respect it in the morning. But write about why cherries are the taste of summer for you, of childhood memories and hazy, long evenings, and accompany it with a well-composed evocative photograph, then not only will I Like your post, I’ll check back tomorrow to see if you’ve written another one. As the saying goes, “Give a man a fish recipe and he will feed himself. Give him a structured blog piece about how you caught that fish, what it smelled, looked and tasted like, and you feed his timeline for a lifetime (or his morning commute, whichever is shorter)“.
It’s a well-known (if not actually scientifically-tested) fact that 90% of cookbooks are never used and 90% of people who watch Jamie, Delia and Hugh cooking their way round Britain never actually make a damn thing they see. We like reading them and watching them and convincing ourselves we could live like them if we wanted, but we really don’t have time tonight so let’s just order a pizza. The same goes for blogs and social media feeds – the good ones sell an entire lifestyle, not just a snapshot. To me, food means very little unless I know its connections – Where did it come from? Who grew it? How did it end up on your plate? I want you tell me how you yearned for that dry spring day to forage elderflowers, how you enjoyed that fresh mackerel barbecued on the beach just as the midsummer sun set, or how your toddler wiped his bogies on the chocolate cake minutes before you served it to the vicar. It’s all part of the story and for social media to be interesting, the story is a vital ingredient – yet so often absent.
So, now time to put my elderberry-stained hands up – I’m acutely conscious that I need to heed my own advice here. I’m as guilty as anyone when it comes to amateurish efforts, poor photography and attention seeking. But I do try, and I do think we owe it to ourselves, as writers (of all kinds, whether professional, amateur, virtual or in print), to be the best we can in the time we have available. Before we next hit that “Publish”, “Tweet” or “Post” button, catapulting our latest musings into foodie cyberspace for the world to read, let’s make sure we’ve given it our best shot.
Oh, I nearly forgot. Here’s a picture of my breakfast. Yummm!!!!!
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