Bensoir! It's me, Benjamin. I like to eat and drink. And cook. And write.

You may have read stuff I've written elsewhere, but here on my own blog as Ben Viveur I'm liberated from the editorial shackles of others, so pretty much anything goes.

BV is about enjoying real food and drink in the real world. I showcase recipes that taste awesome, but which can be created by mere mortals without the need for tons of specialist equipment and a doctorate in food science. And as a critic I tend to review relaxed establishments that you might visit on a whim without having to sell your first-born, rather than hugely expensive restaurants and style bars in the middle of nowhere with a velvet rope barrier, a stringent dress code and a six-month waiting list!

There's plenty of robust opinion, commentary on the world of food and drink, and lots of swearing, so look away now if you're easily offended. Otherwise, tuck your bib in, fill your glass and turbo-charge your tastebuds. We're going for a ride... Ben Appetit!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Spring in my step, Hole in my shoe

The only real downside of my visit to the West End for expressionist art and a big sloppy burger the other day is that it marked the end of my shoes. My beloved, trusty comfortable shoes!

I knew the one on my right foot was just one short walk away from wearing through, and Tuesday's aggressive rainfall finally did for it as pavement puddles squelchified my sock through the hole, forcing me to finally give up on them. Reluctantly.

‘But the left one still works OK!’ I protested in vain to Mrs B-V, who had had the foresight to line up an acceptable replacement pair which assumed service the following day.

Apparently it’s Spring, but it’s cold, it’s rainy and it validates my long-held theory that people who get unduly bothered about the Weather failing to behave predictably but who still try to organise their lives or their shoes around Nature’s Clock are twats.

I have a bad reputation for clinging to threadbare footwear for way too long, in complete defiance of the passing seasons, but it’s not my fault that new shoes are never as comfortable as ones you’ve worn in, is it? Where’s the incentive to change?!?

I’ve also developed a (good) reputation for hearty, ‘Winter’ food (like my Boston Baked Beans and Porty Pig with Stilton mash), but I do have a little tip for this time of year as well.

New potatoes are alright when cooked in the traditional way. You know, boiled whole, with butter, possibly a few chives or black pepper. Quite pleasant.

But nobody is ever going get wildly excited about them, are they?

Nobody comes back from a restaurant proclaiming that 'OMG, the new potatoes are like so, totally, TO DIE FOR!!11one1'.

And nobody misses new potatoes when they're gone in the same way, for example, that they might miss their old shoes.

The taste of Spring
So, having realised this a few years ago, I decided that baby new potatoes needed to grow the fuck up, and so devised a recipe that roasts them with three different kinds of garlic. Oh yes.

I cooked up the first 2012 batch of these bad boys the other day, along with some simple but stunning pork chops in a sweet, mustard sauce.

Mrs B-V enjoyed the meal so much she actually stopped banging on about me wearing out my shoes for a few minutes!

The great thing about these potatoes is that while they're a versatile accompaniment to a huge range of meat or fish dishes, they also work in complete, solitary isolation. You could serve a big plate of these garlicky bastards as party food if you have guests over, and I guarantee they'll be gone within minutes.

(That's the potatoes, not the guests, obviously.)

Mustard-glazed chops

This is an extremely simple dish to cook, and while you can marinade in advance, the flavours are so robust that you don’t need to.


Pork chops, 2 per person (unless you can find really big ones)
English mustard
Apple juice
, cloudy, not from concentrate
Sea salt
Garlic salt
Black pepper


Mix up the apple juice, mustard, garlic salt, black pepper and cumin to make your glaze (you can go easy on the cumin, and aim for about a 60-40 dilute ratio between the apple juice and everything else – not too liquidy)

Prick the flesh of the chops several times with a fork, and soak them in the glaze, ensuring that they are liberally coated and the glaze has gone through the little holes.

Arrange side by side in an oven dish so that the fat is upturned, and sprinkle with a little sea salt.

Cook for 45 minutes at about 200 C, or until browned and the fat is crispy. Turn and re-glaze the sides of the chops mid-way through cooking.

Serve with a green vegetable such as spinach or green beans, and Garlic-roasted New potatoes.

Garlic-roasted New potatoes

Ingredients: (makes 2-3 large servings or 4-5 smaller ones)

Baby new potatoes, 15-20, cut in half. Do NOT remove the skins!
Garlic, one bulb, half the cloves kept whole, the other half peeled and smushed up
Garlic salt
Black pepper
Herbes de Provence

Olive oil

Ready for the oven...

Plunge your potato halves into boiling water for a few seconds, then drain and dry them with some kitchen towel.

Rub a roasting tin (or baking tray with sides) with one of the peeled garlic cloves, then place the potatoes in there - closely together, but not piled up, and try to avoid having inside edges pointing downwards.

Arrange the whole garlic cloves strategically across the potatoes, and do likewise with several small knobs of butter.

Sprinkle garlic salt, black pepper and herbes de Provence over the potatoes, then finally mix your smushed garlic in with a little olive oil and drizzle it all over everything, ensuring that all your potatoes have at least some coverage.

Whack in the oven at around 200 C, until the potatoes are brown, crispy and delicious, which will probably take around 40 minutes.

For best results, remove from the oven at least once during cooking to baste them with the garlicy, buttery oil which will have accumulated beneath them.

Enjoy while hot and fresh!

1 comment:

Comments are always welcomed and encouraged, especially interesting, thought-provoking contributions and outrageous suggestions.