Deliciousness Inversely Proportional to Price

Saturday 16/4/2005

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Diary and Notes

I'm still in Salisbury and me and my friends have decided that tonight is the night to cook up an absolute treat - something really quite special, no expense spared, anything we want we can have.

In order to accommodate this spending extravaganza we went shopping flushed with cash and boy did we spend (or more accurately Phil spent, I hid). We bought some really thick veal shanks (about £5.00 per person), some really top quality Belgian chocolates, a bottle of ten year old port, some good wine, fresh herbs - everything a Jonny could wish for. We even went to Waitrose in order to buy cakes (they have a really posh cake counter) and chose the ones that looked the best, irrespective of the massive price tag - oh and some Cornish pilchards - how's that for expense?


Yes, pilchards. Those little fish that nobody eats anymore because we were forced to eat canned ones as children and remember them being disgusting. They're often sold as (and were in this case) Cornish sardines as it sounds more acceptable, but the pilchard is slightly bigger than a sardine and has none of the mystique associated with holidays in Portugal or Spain. It's a working man's fish, a fish of the people, it's fantastic, and not expensive at all.

So it was pilchards to begin with, then the osso bucco (and don't start that jumper wearing, pipe smoking, tree hugging "Anyone who eats veal is a monster." stuff with me, I'm not talking veal crate veal, simply ordinary calf, it's no different to eating lamb - English veal calves walk free in the fields and aren't deprived of sunlight or exercise nor force fed milk), then the Waitrose cakes then cheese, then chocolates, wonderful.

Phil did the pilchards piri piri style and they were fantastic. A hint of lemon and chilli but fresh and fishy, quite perfect. My osso bucco was fine but needed another half an hour - plus Sarah's piece was fatty (for the price you'd expect them to be perfect). I was hoping this dish would be better, I've cooked it a few times before and it's normally one of the greatest taste sensations I know - today's was OK but the pilchards were better. The cakes were really bad and hardly got eaten, a real triumph of style over substance. The cheese was fantastic (a Dovedale Blue and some Lancashire) and the chocolates were as good as any I've had.

So Phil's tuppeny-happeny pilchards outdid my super-expensive veal shanks and the Waitrose cakes for a fraction of the price and effort. It was a great meal and I'm sounding perhaps a little critical but when you build something up with this much expectation it's hard to be impressed.

Sing ho for the pilchard I say, my fishy treat for the day.

Cake Blog

Amaretto and coffee cake from Waitrose: This looked fantastic - really top notch, but wasn't very good and I would not recommend it.


  • Piri-Piri Pilchards
  • Rocket and Tomato Salad
  • Crusty French Bread

  • Osso Bucco
  • Roast Potatoes
  • Amaretto and Coffee Cake

  • Cheese and Port

  • Coffee and Mints


    Piri-Piri Pilchards
    3 Cornish Pilchards
    3 Hot Chillies
    1 Lemon
    1 Clove Garlic
    Few Sprigs Thyme
    Salt and Pepper
    Olive Oil
    Ossu Bucco (Braised Veal Shanks)
    3 Large Veal Shanks (Jarret de veau)
    3 Shallots
    9 Baby Carrots
    1 Clove Garlic
    300ml Chicken Stock
    300ml White Wine
    Olive Oil
    Bunch Fresh Thyme
    Salt and Pepper
    15g Flour
    15g Butter


  • Pilchards: Cut slices in the pilchards down to the bone. Make a marinade with the zest of the lemon, the chopped chilli, roughly chopped garlic, the juice of the lemon, a little olive oil, the fresh thyme and some salt and pepper. Marinade for about 2 hours then grill for 3 minutes per side.
  • Osso Bucco: Chop the shallots and mince the garlic. Sweat in a little olive oil then add the veal, wine, carrots (top and tailed), thyme and stock. Bubble for a few minutes then put the lid on a simmer for 2 hours (longer would have been better). When the veal is falling off the bone remove the meat and carrots and keep warm. Mix the butter and flour to a paste (beurre meuniere) and add a little blob at a time to the simmering liquid. Stir with each addition and when the sauce thickens, simmer for a few more minutes, stirring continuously, then serve with the meat.


    *All quantities are very approximate and for three people

    Photographs © Phil Evans 2005