3 Years of Foodie Rich!
Do you know what, whilst on the train home last week, I realised something; I’ve been writing at Leigh-on-sea.com for three years this month! Yeah 3 years! Where the hell has that time gone! What a journey it’s been. I’ve written about burgers, pies, bagels, steaks, pizza’s, even 3 Michelin started restaurants and travels abroad. I’ve pretty much loved em all, well some more than others. But it’s not just the food, it’s the people I’ve met along the way. I’ve been honoured to chat with some quite amazing people. Chefs, restaurant owners, sommeliers and other bloggers. If it wasn’t for my writing, we’d of never ‘chewed the fat’! Yep, it’s been one heck of a 36 months!
I’ve opened up to you guys a little too, letting you in to my foodie world. I suppose I portray this image of a guy and his wife scouring our little corner of Essex, sampling fine food and supping equally fine drink? Yes, it is a little bit like this, but not every day. I feel after 3 years of writing we’ve become pretty well acquainted, so It’s about time I spoke of my guilty pleasures! Think of this as confession time. It’s time I made public those dirty, lude, foodie moments I’ve been hiding for all these years! Believe me, this is gonna take all the courage I’ve got to speak of these dark secrets lurking at the back of my mind.
So, what the heck, let’s get started with this. Two words ‘Drunken Food’! This is as dirty as it gets! We’ve all been there right? 2am, you’re on the other side of copious amounts of alcohol, and you just can’t resist the over lit neon glow of the kebab shop. Like moths to a light bulb, the weekend pisshead is drawn to this late-night eatery. What’s it gonna be?? Chips with burger sauce? Why do kebab shops insist on pairing so called burger sauce with deep fried, mass manufactured, processed potato? And why do they call it burger sauce? It’s just a pink, vinegary gloopy condiment which in my view has no place on a burger let alone chips; what’s wrong with good old classic ketchup?? So, no, I’m not having those apparent chips or a mystery meat burger.
There’s something far more appealing to satisfy my intoxicated foodie cravings. This is the ultimate in pissed up late night gastronomy; a Doner kebab! What’s in that rotating hunk of meat? I dunno? They elegantly describe it as ‘ground lamb, lightly seasoned and grilled on a spit’; sounds glam eh? My arse! This is all sorts of lesser than lesser cuts, together with discarded bone and gristle mushed together and moulded on a spike. Placed in the window for all to gaze at in awe, this lump unknown meat slowly rotates dripping the fat and grease from within. Sounds lovely? But, after you’ve lost count of how many beers and shots you’ve had, it’s bloody irresistible! The thinly sliced ‘supposed’ meat is crammed in to a pitta, topped with salad and chilli sauce. So how do we tackle this? Your typical late night reveller would just discard the salad on to the pavement, pick up the grease soaked pitta and cram it in. Fat and chilli sauce drip down your chin and cover your hands, but who cares, this king of late night dirty food hits the spot time after time.
You may think it a little odd devoting a whole blog entry to a seemingly rather revolting food product. But its not just me who can’t resist a Doner kebab. One of my all-time food heroes, Anthony Bourdain, dedicated almost an entire episode of a food show to this wonder of the Turkish Empire, he loves em. But it’s the guilt which gets me. You can’t help feeling shame and a sense of remorse after scoffing one down in a drunken stupor. The next morning not only do you wake with the hangover from hell, you have that guilt lodged in your head, and that dirty dirty memory of what went on only a few hours earlier. ‘But it felt so right at the time’ you tell yourself, trying to justify that drunken impulse moment. It doesn’t work. The taste of regret still sticks to the roof of your mouth; well I say regret its generally congealed grease and a severe stench of onions on your breath! As the guilt builds, you stand in the shower scrubbing and scrubbing, will I ever shift this shame you wonder. Forget all that, life’s too short to wallow in that kebab guilt, just take it on the chin and man up. Take my advice; brush your teeth, have a bacon sarni and head to the nearest pub for hair of the dog and a good old Sunday roast; trust me it works a treat.
So drunk late-night food, although dirty and completely wrong, is justified in my opinion! But, I’m gonna take this one step further; There is such a thing as a sober Doner kebab! I know I know, this is wrong on all levels; when your pissed yes; but sober? What the hell am I thinking! But I’ve done it! I say sober, normally I’m a little lubricated, but by no means at the level of 2am on a Sunday morning! I’ve got the likes of Just Eat or Deliveroo to thank for this. I can just sit in the comfort of my own home, press a few buttons on my iPhone, and voila; a man appears on my door step with a hot steaming juicy (actually no, normally greasy) kebab! I would only recommend this to the real kebab aficionados amongst us. Why? Well, you actually get to see and properly taste the thing. The verdict? Surprisingly its not too bad. If you just eat the meat, salad and chilli sauce it passes as a perfectly respectable meal. Do not ever eat the pitta. When your pissed you don’t care, but, in a sober state you really get to see the true extent of the Doners greasiness. Just use the pitta as a sponge to soak up all that grease!
The Doner kebab is held in high regard the world over. In Germany they can’t get enough of them. whilst in Berlin recently, I found a ‘Doner Kebab Tour’! Yep, a tour of the city’s finest kebaberies. I mentioned earlier Anthony Bourdain, a legendary chef and food writer. He rates the New York kebab as the best in the world. And don’t forget the Greeks, they’ve got Gyros. Pretty much the same as a Doner but made with pork. However, my finest kebab moment was in Melbourne. Lou and I where on the other side of a few cold ones, and the kebab cravings had kicked in. By chance we stumbled across a shop with an open charcoal grill where a huge hunk of lamb was slowly rotating. These guys carved the lamb, wacked it in a wrap with salad, yoghurt and chilli sauce. Absolutely amazing! But Kebabs are now going all posh. Just take a look around. In Leigh we’ve got two sit down Turkish joints, not to mention Baboush. What about Istanbul in Southend and Westcliff, or Shish in Chalkwell. Oh, and one of my favourites ‘The Terrace’ situated on the hallowed ground of the late Ali Baba’s; The kebab house where my love affair began. So, instead of this being dirty pissed up late night food, it’s now being served in smart comfortable restaurants.
Why not try making your own at home? I do this all the time. If you have a Weber Kettle BBQ there’s no excuse not to try this. Get the charcoal going (or wood), push it to the side, place a lamb shoulder over to the cool side of the BBQ (not over the fire). Put the lid on, and leave for at least four hours, or until the meat falls away from the bone. Make a chilli sauce (or buy one!) I like to roast peppers, chillies, cumin seeds, fennel seeds and garlic. Bash it up in a pestle and mortar adding loads of olive oil, lemon juice and a little honey for sweetness. Chop up some white cabbage, onion and parsley. Mix together with salt, pepper, and good olive oil. Fill a pitta with the lamb, add some chilli sauce and top with the cabbage slaw. Now that my friends is one hell of a kebab!
So, there you go, to recognise my 3rd year anniversary at Leigh-on-Sea.com, I celebrate the Doner Kebab! A bit strange I know, but they deserve some recognition. Yes, this is the food of late night revellers looking for some sustenance to soak up all that booze. But, its undergone a bit of a revolution too. Its origins date back years and is now being bought back to its former glory in a number of kebab inspired restaurants. I love it all; be it a dirty drunken chow down, maybe an evening with Lou at ‘Istanbul’, or my legendary DIY Doner at home. I can’t get enough of this culinary gift from the Ottomans.
To read all of Rich's previous mouth watering reviews click here