‘Me, you and a dog called Boo’

•August 18, 2018 • Leave a Comment

A message popped up on Facebook, Kady a Broadcasting assistant from BBC Three Counties Radio had tracked me down. In essence would I like to go on Nick Coffer’s afternoon show to talk about last years shenanigans, my words not hers.

Now, I’m not sure whether it was the witticisms (is that even a real word) or the impressive quality of the authentic Tiramisu that accompanied me to the studio in downtown Dunstable. Keira (12) made the Tiramisu and bloody good it was too, the recipes in the book really are child’s play!

I was asked if I’d like to return in a few weeks to be part of the popular weekend kitchen show. This is pre-recorded on Wednesdays and goes out between 11 – 1pm on the following Sunday.

This week was my fourth appearance in 8 months and I’ve got to say I thoroughly enjoy it. I always try to take along dishes that are accessible for listeners and it would be amiss if they didn’t have a link back to sometime in the saddle. Tartiflette, chocolate mousse, churros, parmesan sables, Caponata all come with suitable narrative.

Nick the host teases out the best. In truth even though he is a double author himself, he has quite a story of stay at home dad to DJ  that you really need to check out. Gratefully he always seems very keen to promote the book and says lots of eloquent things about me and my food. I have got a face for radio, that’s a compliment right ?

Have we sold anymore books from these appearances, is the charities website suddenly hit by a tsunami of clicks securing one of the limited print run? – It’s hard to say but there are only 146 left, scratch that; 145, Saira ordered one during the show !

Have my followers grown on my Instagram or Twitter feeds, have I had any golden offers since to ride or cook? No and negative.

What it has done, and far more importantly, has introduced me to a small group of wonderful people that like me are truly passionate about great food. When I say great, I mean full of stories, no fuss just unadulterated flavour, cuisine not just for picture books.

People like my co guest this week, Saira Hamilton; Chef, food writer and presenter and lest not forget runner up from Masterchef in 2013. A lovely lady, and not just because she ordered the book!

Luke Garnsworthy, owner of Crockers chefs table, a small but perfectly formed restaurant in Tring, with further Masterchef connections as his head chef Scott Barnard (2015 Professional Master chef finalist) heads up the kitchen.

Sima Milligan from khana cookery, who offer Indian cookery classes and by all accounts a small takeaway business in Hemel Hempstead to be super proud of.

If we lived close to this new town with the magic roundabout it would be our default ‘ruby’ choice for sure,

Christian Maund the self-titled ‘Big mad cooking dad’. That guy knows about the joy of eating and no I’m not focusing on the BIG part of his title, anyone who comes to the show with a bolognaise baked into a focaccia understands the joy of eating.

I’ve just mentioned a few, all with very different backgrounds and styles, but we all share the same DNA we can enthusiastically wax lyrical about delicious ingredients.

It’s not just two hours of food chat and listening to us grazing, there are some familiar and slightly, umm how should I put it, obscure tracks interspersed from the musical menu vaults. These include the curiously titled ‘Me and you and a dog called Boo’ by Lobo a song from when I was conceived in the 70’s just in case you, like me needed to look it up.

Nick, like most of us needs a family summer break, so we pre-recorded this one to go out on the 26th August. If you are pottering around the house or prepping your Sunday roast, tune in and give it a go and not just because you love Lobo’s back catalogue, I don’t judge. x

Still a few copies of “Back in the Saddle” left Click here for more info 

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Game on !

•August 12, 2018 • Leave a Comment

Today is the 12th August, the Glorious Twelfth, a day marking the first of the game season. ‘Stand-Down’ and put that rifle back in the gun cabinet as there will be an observed ceasefire for a further 24hrs until normal service resumes on Monday 13th this year. It is illegal to shoot game birds on a Sunday in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, it isn’t however in Scotland, but the custom is still observed.

This year stocks are predicted to be the lowest for over a decade, grouse population has been badly affected by the harsh winter, their primary feed being heather was freeze-dried and then baked dry during the summer. It saw female birds in poor condition when they laid their eggs and then their chicks also struggled to find food.

Grouse, regarded as the “king” of game birds are highly prized, they reach incredible speeds of up to 70 miles an hour often keeping relatively low to the ground as they fly making shooting challenging. It’s needless to say a pricey past time as well, many of the shoots can set hunters back hundreds of pounds.

The season is short lasting until the 10th December, however generally the popularity of the bird declines well before this date in line with the early eye wateringly expensive prices of this highly prized menu item.

The task of shipping the freshly shot grouse to the UK’s top restaurants was once the privilege of Parachute Regiment display team, The Red Devils who could be seen floating through the air, birds tied to feet, to get the first delivery to The Savoy by dinnertime.  Animal rights activists rightly put this to an end in 1991, the job is now reserved to game dealers, shooting enthusiasts and the chefs themselves, who more often than not begin frantically plucking and prepping the birds in the back of the van tearing their way down to London leaving a flurry of feathers on the M1 in their wake!

There is nothing else like it, grouse has a rich unique flavour even among game birds. Traditionally it would be hung until an intensely gamey flavour developed, but these days tastes have changed and the birds are hung for less time allowing the game flavour to develop but it is much less intense, which I feel widens the audience.

So you’ve got your grouse what do you do with it, I guess I can appraise you as well as anyone, the Bird was the catalyst for this very blog back in December 2012,

Anyway enough typing heres a recipe to try –

Roast Breast of Grouse, Gem lettuce, crispy bacon, toasted pecans, caramelised salsify puree, blackberry sauce

serves 4

4 Grouse

12 Blackberries

75g Pecans- broken

2 ea Baby Gem Lettuce, cut into 1/4s and washed

8 Rashers (Good quality streaky bacon)

2 large Potatoes (maris pipers)

500ml Brown Chicken Stock

75ml red wine

40g Soft Butter

350gm salsify

50gm butter

Pre heat the oven to 180˚C,

Remove the wishbones and legs from the grouse. Rub the breasts with some softened butter and season all over and inside the carcass with salt and black pepper. Lay two rashers of streaky bacon across the breasts and tie gently around to hold the bacon in place and keep the birds’ shape. Let the birds come up to room temperature, this will help to cook them evenly.

Chop the legs roughly and fry in a pan with a splash of oil, until golden, add dark chicken stock and simmer for 30 minutes, pass through a sieve and reserve

Peel the potatoes and using a mandolin cut them into fine slices (think crisps). If you have a ridge cutter it is nice to make some waffle versions, but hey it’s not a deal breaker. Leave in some cold water for 15 minutes to get the starch out.

Wash and peel the salsify, and wash again, chop into 2cm pieces and in a pan with a lid, caramelise over a medium heat in 50grams of butter until soft and golden (about 15 minutes)

Dry the potatoes really well and deep fry at 130°C for 2 minutes to par cook them, remove from the oil and turn the temperature up to 165°C, ready to give them a second dip.

Finish the salsify puree, add 75ml of water and simmer briefly, puree in a blender until silky, season with lemon juice and salt to taste.

Place the grouse on a thick bottomed roasting tray, and cook in the hot oven for 16-18 minutes, basting half way through and turning the tray. You want to cook them rare, like pigeon, certainly don’t go over medium rare or the flesh will become grey and taste livery. Once out of the oven remove the birds from the tray and allow them to rest for 10 minutes.

Add the red wine to the roasting tray and scrape all the sticky debris off the bottom, simmer until reduced by 2/3 add the reserved sauce and simmer until naturally thickened to form the finished sauce, pass through a fine sieve

Give the potatoes their final fry for 1-2 minutes, or until a light golden, drain on absorbent towel and season lightly with fine sea salt.

Remove the crispy bacon from the breasts of the grouse and chop finely add to a pan with 20 gm of butter and the broken pecan nuts, over a medium heat for 1 minute, add the gem wedges and coat well in the butter add a splash of water and place on a tight fitting lid for 30 seconds

Place the blackberries in the sauce to warm.

Serve the bird whole if you prefer, however I fillet the breasts off the carcass, and remove the skin. Serve the breasts on a warm plate with the gem lettuce, sauce and puree, serve the warm game chips to share

Still a few copies of “Back in the Saddle” left Click here for more info 

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‘Back in the Saddle’

•August 7, 2018 • Leave a Comment

I struggled at school, there I’ve said it, in truth I’m not embarrassed. It has probably defined me in my older years, given me a steely sense of determination.

With an unruly mop of Gandalf white hair I dreamt big as a youngster but didn’t quite have the tools or the belief at my disposal, I wish I could go back and tell him it would all be ok, well sort of.

It’s been pretty well documented that I dreamt of being a pro cyclist in my younger years, I look back often with regret that the opportunities that I had as an Espoir (u23) to race in Belgium which I didn’t explore further.

A life at the stove beckoned although I didn’t give up racing, but it was certainly harder racing at the weekends against household names, Boardman, Yates, Tanner and the like after 60hrs minimum on your feet.

I gave up road racing at the age of 29 which coincided with me taking a career defining role as Exec Chef at the historic Lloyd’s of London building. Each day felt like a ‘classic’ in its own right and on my day off there was only a gentle ride to refocus on a challenging week ahead.

I joked in an interview 14 years later that to succeed in looking after Lloyd’s 4 kitchens, took stubborn steely determination whilst working through a broken bone in my foot and a CHRONIC TEAR of my ACL in my right knee that I hadn’t discovered until 2015.

It was that year that changed me. I had won the prize of National Chef of the year in 2013 a dream come true, to be in the ‘Hall of Fame’ including previous winners Gordon Ramsay was the pinnacle of my cooking career that began with washing up and flipping burgers at McDonalds.

I leveraged that to great effect, no I didn’t have a place with my name above the door, I rode the Tour de France one day ahead of the pros with Geoff Thomas, raising over £65k in the process. Another childhood dream ticked off. Albeit with no number pinned on my jersey, however I did race a certain 7 time winner for “Shits & Giggles…”

Fast forward to 2017 & Doug McKinnon (one of the crazy few from ’15) suggested that why not go again but 3 times as big, that’s right the Giro, Tour, Vuelta sandwich something that less than 50 Pro’s have taken on in a year. A quartet was formed, Geoff, James Maltin, Doug & Myself.

My idea to supplement fundraising for this epic 6490 mile 63 day journey was to write a BOOK.  I’ve never written a book and I’m sure reading the start of this piece you can probably understand why!

But all chefs have a book in them and this was to be mine, a 288 page coffee table book with recipes, stories & images inspired by the journey. Generously supported by my employers BaxterStorey saw that 100% of the sale would go directly to Cureleukeamia- almost unheard of. To date alongside Justgiving donations my contribution to the charity pot is £165k something I’m prouder of than the cycling alone.

The success didn’t stop there, the elite team of Anthony Hodgson as publisher from Face publications, Adrian Franklin on food photography & ‘Digi’ Dave Hayward  with his wonderful images on location, coupled with my narrative and ramblings, we had a unique book. SOLD singularly through the WEBSITE and with Doug’s wife Wendy taking up the role of director of sales on behalf of the charity, it has been well received, actually far more than we realised as it has been awarded Two World Gourmand Awards in China.

With now less than 175 copies left you can see for yourself and in doing so, feel good about your purchase as the £30 sale goes towards potentially saving someone’s life.

It’s right about now that challenges are planned for the year ahead. At present I don’t have one, however I know that I am a better version of myself personally and professionally once I have a goal, until then …

Hx

Maltesers

•July 31, 2018 • 2 Comments

I have an uneasy sense of deja vu, the time is 10.30pm and I could almost be hurriedly typing one of my 3Tour daily blogs in bed in southern Spain after being crisped up in the scorching sun. However I’m in Malta, the Maltese island of Gozo to be exact. We arrived here yesterday after a few days on the mainland. Elsie’s asleep, Tracie & Keira are trying to tap into a British tv stream over limited Wi-fi to find out who’s won; no not the Tour, we all know that’s Geraint Thomas by now, I’m talking Love island!

I promised myself, this would just be a quick hello, I wouldn’t ramble on too much considering this is the first blog for over 7 months.

Why so long you may ask, I’m guessing the answer is or at least was, what have I got to write about ?There is no stage of 224 km over iconic mountain passes or a descent where I gained a speed of over 100kph, foolish considering there were no closed roads especially in the Austarius where on a blind bend I got a real good close up of some local cattle & all whilst raising a substantial sum for charity.

Now that’s exciting stuff to type and read about, or at least for me.

The reason for typing on this tiny Iphone screen was the conversation which followed during a mediocre, half chilled bottle of white wine sipped with a second family we’ve travelled with.

‘What’s next, after last year ?’

Always the age old question, this time posed by Sion, ‘why no more blogs ?’ The tongue somewhat loosened and lubricated by the wine was a melancholic response & a spill of frustration.

‘You definitely need to start typing some of this down, even if just bits and pieces’ he coached.

After some rambling, we concluded the new blog would about general life experiences, work travel etc.

So here I am, it’s morning now after a restless nights sleep, following on from our first night in a B&B in a town called Xewkija, no idea how to pronounce it but apparently sounds like Shakira! Rustic charm, you know what I mean. uncomfortable beds, rough flaky walls, a thin magnolia shower curtain, from movies of an era long forgotten, & on a noisy road, probably the only main road on the island. Basic at best apart from the price! We’re staying here because we were conned by Oleg, a Russian property magnate / ‘Faux owner’ that cancelled our booking at another location just two weeks before we were due to fly out, he conned, we estimated over 50 people, luckily we’ve just been credited not by him you understand but ‘Booking.com’ so I’ve got another axe to grind, but all’s ok as the girls have found a kitten.

It’s 7.30am now, and am in need for coffee, but I fear the worst, dreading the thought of a cup of instant bitter coffee from granules to match the surroundings. Breakfast awaits & I nervously answer its call.

This was, a bridging blog piece a link to cover the leave of absence from the excited blogs of the cycling ‘me’ to the now … what’s next, no one knows, especially me, but it’s time to recalibrate at the very least and go and find it.

Bye for now

Hx

Reflections of 2017

•December 21, 2017 • 1 Comment

You can’t have failed to notice that Christmas is less than a handful of advent chocolates away and another year end is just a few days away, and what a year 2017 has been for so many reasons, so time for some reflections.

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JANUARY We announced our intention to ride all Three Grand Tours fFor the Charity CureLeukaemia.
The year didn’t start off the way I’d have hoped. An ACL deficient knee, a slippery astroturf pitch and a stubborn mind are not always the best of combinations. A pivot shift and a visit to the specialist threatened to derail the challenge before I’d done any real meaningful training. Conservative measures were the way forward, however I would never be able to run again properly, and as for football, well I wasn’t particularly good at that game, that’s why I started riding in my teens in the first place.
FEBRUARY A few days away in Majorca. Although I wasn’t ready for the physical work load it was also just what was needed, a few long steady rides, with a couple of mountains thrown in for good measure.
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31st MARCH, I left my position to take up a charity sabbatical and handed over the reigns of the kitchen to my number two, an odd feeling and a step almost into the unknown.
APRIL 1st yep April Fools Day, maybe not the best day to start with a blank piece of paper and begin to write a book, but that was the day.
MAY  well ‘May The Fourth‘ to be exact, Star Wars day. The Giro d’Italia in its centenary year started in Sardinia, 3 weeks of riding through some of the toughest terrain, luckily the force was with us. As 3600km and over 50,000m of climbing was on the menu along with some awe inspiring scenery and delicious food that would feature in the book.
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JUNE a very busy month of training, recipe writing, photography and some much needed family time.
JULY was mostly spent riding through the five mountain regions and terroir of France trying to keep in front of Chris Froome as the Tour was on the agenda. Riding the hexagon of France is always a special time, even more so when you factor in one day before the pros and the big mountain climbs are filled with expectant supporters.
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AUGUST was a Family break driving down through some of the regions I had ridden in past few weeks, plus some days spent in San Sebastian with Spanish cuisine advance homework for the book.
Then on the 17th I left for the final chapter the tour of Spain
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SEPTEMBER La Vuelta finished in Madrid on the 11th, and it was finished, 10,403km through seven countries and over 133,000m of climbing.
But there was the small matter of a book to be completed.
I also surpassed my personal fund-raising target of £50k, an unbelievable figure once again, and I have many to thank.
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OCTOBER Photos were in place, recipes were finished and photographed, text was written, it was then down to Anthony Hodgson from Face to work his magic. An exhaustive amount of editing, re-editing and discussion took place and then it was time, the big red “Go to Print’  flashing button was pushed. Due to the short turn around to get the book out before Christmas it would be printed in Verona, Italy and costs aside it would be so  far more polished as this is like high fashion where the top printing took place.
NOVEMBER like days of yesteryear when you would be wishing the weeks away as a child until Christmas morning, well I was on a six week count down until a different kind of Santa would make a big delivery of 3500 books on the 21st November.
Priced at £30, this 280 page coffee table book with BaxterStorey’s generous support sees 100% of the sale go direct to the Charity MORE DETAILS HERE
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DECEMBER Proud to say that Tracie has completed her goal for the year and graduated in Thai yoga Massage, if you are in or around the Broxbourne area, look her up, I can personally highly recommend her! Thai Yoga Massage
We are almost full circle; the shortest day of the year and I have many hours of GOPro footage from the time on the bike, therefore I’m trying to teach myself something new, and iMovie it is.
I’ve set up a Youtube channel and even created a trailer – please do check it out, all soooooo dramatic, it’s got music and everything!

I’ve also captured one of our 9 year old Elsie making a very simple tasty carrot soup-

Next year I’ll be looking at a series of simple cooking demos with the girls so please do subscribe to my Channel its free to do so.  I promise I won’t make you watch all the videos, but it would be great if you was there from the beginning to see how they improve (well hopefully).  I know as always I can count on your feedback, so do please leave a comment under each video.
2018 and beyond, who knows what the future holds but one thing is for sure, I very much doubt there will be another year that will compete with this one for so many reasons.
‘The Best food comes from the Heart…!’ ♥

‘Real’ Madrid

•September 15, 2017 • Leave a Comment

We’ve made it, a 10,700km journey that we planned back in October 2016. Starting with a single pedal revolution on May 4th come to an end as we rolled into Madrid on Saturday 8th September.
Life changing for us all, but hopefully it is our efforts on the bike that have provoked interest in sponsorship that will be even more life changing to the cancer community.

For me as I type, I have a window of just over three weeks to finish the charity book. Life has slowed already from dare devil descents of over 100km an hour, gurning up steep mountain passes, long afternoons of furnace like temperatures, or worse the torrential rain that we had in Spain on at least two stages.

I’m going to miss it, not just the actual riding my bike, but always training for that goal something to focus on outside of the comfort zone, doing something meaningful with the strength in your legs and the air in your lungs.

There were huge emotional hugs from the girls as we were greeted at the finish not just by our own families but by some of the riders who had joined us in France for a couple of days.

Whats next? Well I don’t even know that myself, normality will be difficult to adjust to for sure. I’m preparing myself for the come down. I’ve got to detrain the body, after so many months of making demands on it, to suddenly stop isn’t just foolish it’s actually dangerous. The now willowy figure that felt strong and comfortable on two wheels feels almost strangely frail now. Even the simplest tasks of walking to the station to catch the train for meetings in London left me with a sore back. If there is a sleeping challenge then I’d like to sign up for the next week or so as I’ve got a bit of catching up to do after so many nights in different hotels.

To Geoff, Doug and James we have shared something incredible, through tiredness and sometimes frustration we didn’t always see eye to eye, but one thing is undeniable, we done good, I love you guys x

Finally, to my extended family on the road, ‘The crew’ Morts, Sarah, Zara, Bob, Jim, PJ, Doctor Dale and of course Digi who documented it in images. Also a special mention to Damian and Steve who joined us in France, and Katie in Spain. Those 63 days we spent on the roads of Europe together will be a lasting memory, I thank you all dearly for your time, patience and contribution to the cause. x

‘Angry Lu’

•September 8, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Stage 20; 117km;
Corvera De Asturias- Alto de L’Angliru

Two first category climbs through some beautiful scenic countryside to soften us up and then the killer blow – Angliru, one of the hardest in any of the three grand Tours. Thiswas the last climb of the challenge so I wanted to give it the respect it deserved and take it on full gas.

The first 6km were an ‘easy’ 7-10%, it seems almost flippant to say that but after riding 10,400km through Italy and France the body had been conditioned to just accept what was thrown at it.
I was able to get on top of my gear 34×28 comfortably (I’ve since learned that the pros would be far more sensible and chose a 32 sprocket).
When during the second half the gradients approached 13% the steep climbs that we had ridden in La Vuelta had prepared me for the worst and I continued on, super motivated to put a time on the board.


Then where the pros would have one more gear to choose as the final 3kms at the infamous Cueña les Cabres

The slopes were so steep reaching just under 24%,or in layman terms 1 in 4 for a long stretch, it was like wrestling a bear rather than riding a bike as I struggled with these steep ramps.

Lungs and legs were burning but the pain would disappear as I reached the top. The patients and yet to be diagnosed future cancer suffers don’t have the luxury of getting off the bike and recovering after a few minutes, I reflected on this very fact and the reason why we put ourselves through such torture every day to help find a cure.
I’m a bike rider; always was, but it’s still far from easy. After a climb like today I look at my team mates, Doug, Geoff and James not only how they have grown stronger but what they have put their bodies through over the last 3 Tours, it’s slight lunacy.

The road was closed to vehicles in preparation for tomorrow so I summited alone. At the top there was a mixture of relief and emotion that it was almost over. This was the last big test and I had it’s measure, with the fatigue of 20 stages, I’d still managed a more than acceptable 140th all time best on Strava, not too shabby!

I rolled down to support the team and rode up again the final 3 km for some extra punishment with the skipper to give him some moral support.

A random fellow struggler on one of the lesser steep 18% bits

This climb famously during stage 15 in 2002, riders climbed the Angliru in rain. Team cars stalled on the steepest part, some unable to restart because their tyres slipped on messages painted by fans. Riders were caught behind them and others had to ride with flat tyres because mechanics could not reach them. David Millar crashed three times and protested by handing in his race number a metre from the line.

We’ve got a 451km drive to the outskirts of Madrid.
Tracie and the girls have just landed and I can’t wait to see them at the finish tomorrow, these three weeks have gone on for so long.

Day 63 will be the one we dared not dream of when just over a year ago this crazy challenge was conceived.

We started in Sardinia on May Fourth, Star Wars day and like every good Jedi the force was with me (us all)

Photos by Digi Dave

If you would like to donate then here’s my page-
https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/HaydenGroves3TourChallenge
Thanks from all at Cureleukeamia