I’m going to be 30 tomorrow and Charles will be too at the beginning of July. I’ve just treated myself to a MacBook (which is how we’re getting a chance to post some content for you again – sorry about the absence but my old Toshiba finally gave up when Cress pushed it off the sofa and bent the charging cable), and it’s got me thinking about that whole bucket list caboodle. But instead of writing you a list of 30 things to do before I’m 30, it’s going to be 30 things to eat before you’re 30 (I mean, it is a food blog, right?!).
1.A Deep Fried Mars Bar People give these such a hard rap, but really you ought to try one. For some reason they’ve become synonymous with ‘Scottish’ cuisine as if we’re all wandering around with them on a Friday lunch time, but I’d be surprised if the average Scot has had more than three in their lifetime, if any. That said, it’s not to be missed. If you’re down with eating ready salted crisps at the same time as a square of Dairy Milk, you should really order one of these bad boys. It’s like that, only hot, and meeting in the middle. Do it. Just do it.
2. Lobster Weirdly, this was Charles’ suggestion. I say weirdly because he is both too tight to actually buy lobster and allergic to fish (apparently) so he won’t be taking part in this one. My Mum, loves lobster. It was the ultimate in 80s decadence. But it’s all a bit too much for me. If you want to cook it properly, you have to be prepared for the wriggling in its bag in the car, the going in the freezer, the squealing and then the decapitation, and after all there’s the removal from the chill, trying not to cut yourself and then attempting to serve it up as something halfway to pretty. In any event, I find it all a bit too sweet and rich. Nevertheless, it should be on this list because, really, it’s for you to make up your own mind about.
3. Caviar Again, this is Charles’ pick, although I’m not sure either of us has had it. It has such a highly regarded cultural status, though, that really we ought to give it a go. Like lobster, it’s a foodstuff that has made its way into common speech so you should at least taste the stuff, right?
4. Snails Tastes like chicken, looks a bit like mussels, generally in a creamy sauce. Do the French actually eat snails or are they just something they can flog to tourists for top dollar?
5. A T-Bone Steak This is another pretty 80s one. Part fillet steak and part sirloin with a bone in the middle, it’s verging on an average supper for Desperate Dan. My Grandad was always keen on the idea of one of these, but surely if one part of the meat is cooked well, the other steak will be all sorts of wrong? Definitely man food.
6. A Really Good Chocolate Cake There’s chocolate cake and there’s chocolate cake and if you’ve had a really good one, you’ll know it. I spent years trying to perfect my recipe and I reckon it’s getting there. You should always have a knockout chocolate cake up your sleeve.
7. A Hendricks Gin & Fever Tree Tonic ‘Nuff said.
8. Freshly Picked Watercress I don’t think I’ve ever knowingly had watercress but Charles and his Dad rave about it. They’re from the South East of England and apparently there was once a watercress farm (?) nearby where they would be able to pick up bags of the stuff, fresh as you like, and apparently it was pretty unmissable.
9. Hot Smoked Salmon on Oban Pier This, clearly, is one of mine. My auntie and uncle used to have a holiday home on the bank of Loch Awe, nestled in the foothills of Ben Cruachan. Spectacular views, barely any TV or mobile reception and 20 minutes from the nearest Tesco. One of the highlights was a Saturday trip to Oban, where there was the most fabulous fresh fish shack on the pier. They sold tremendous langoustines, dressed crabs an wriggly lobsters, but what In remember most is being introduced to hot smoked salmon there. The texture is totally different to regular smoked salmon, given that it’s been cooked and smoked at the same time. It’s beautiful. Although I’m not sure it would taste quite the same if you weren’t pulling your coat up past your ears to ward off the drizzle while watching the ferry come in.
10. Lardy Cake More Englishness here. It’s some sort of risen bread bun type substance, packed with lard and dried fruit. Apparently it’s delicious and best eaten on the first day before it turns stale and while the edges are still crisp. I’m yet to try one, but apparently they’re much healthier than they sound….
11. A Krispy Kreme Doughnut You can love these, hate them, or feel something in between towards them but you really should try them. They’re synthetic, often too sweet and must be eaten fresh, but they’re an American import so we Brits have to go made for them. Our favourites are the Original Glazed, Lemon Meringue and Lotus Caramel Biscoff.
12. A meal at a Michelin Starred Restaurant Charles has got me convinced that this would be somewhat disappointing. And he probably has a point. Overpriced, notoriously small portions, and you can’t always pick what you want to eat. Still, don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it. Surely it’s a life experience you really need to be open to?
13. Lasagne in Rome If you thought you knew lasagne (no matter how delicious your homemade or favourite restaurant’s version is) you won’t know proper lasagne until you’ve eaten it in Italy. It’s a food cliché in some ways, but come on – homemade pasta sheets, Italian tomatoes, cheese and fresh herbs – what’s not to like? Interestingly, the version I had in Rome was constructed with about a dozen layers of pasta and hardly any sauce at all – it was carbalicious and just shows you really need to go back to the source with some things. Interestingly, the best thing I’ve had to eat in Italy was a wild boar ragú pappardelle in Florence….
14. A Proper French Baguette If you’ve ever spent some proper time in France, you’ll be overwhelmed by just how seriously the French take their bread. It’s like a religion and it’s glorious. Fresh every day from the local baker, or from the supermarket at a push (although French supermarkets are a million miles from the ones we’re used to, stocked with shelves of beautiful fresh bread, brioche, pastries, delicate patisserie and exquisite lemon meringue pies. even service station sandwiches are something to behold. What you don’t realise, however, is that the French rarely eat actual proper baguettes (which are much narrower and crispier than the ones we’re used to here), but rather gravitate towards flutes which are broader, longer and have much more soft bready insides than their more famous cousins. And don’t start me on French butter……
15. Any Sort of Portuguese Pastry We’re getting into a bit of a travel theme here, but to be honest you really do need to travel to broaden your gastronomic horizons. I spent a couple of days in Portugal with my Mum a couple of Novembers ago. It was grey, wet and unbelievably cold due to a bitter wind blowing in from the Atlantic. but their Port houses are excellent and one thing I wasn’t expecting was just how good their pastries are. We went in search of shelter from the rain and a hot drink and stumbled into a cafe. Their coffee is strong and short – much like a Turkish coffee – and it takes some getting used to, but I could eat their pastries all day. I know Portuguese custard tarts are pretty famous, but it doesn’t stop there. I had the most divine almond croissant that wasn’t quite a croissant type affair – powdered sugar on top, flaky and buttery and stuffed with almond paste. Don’t visit Portugal without trying at least a couple of their pastries. And their Port of course…
16. Greek Souvlaki Ok, a pause in the globetrotting (although my most memorable Greek food was a red snapper dish at a marina restaurant). Souvlaki looks and tastes wonderful, provided you like pork, bread and yoghurt, you’re in. I’ve made it a couple of times and it always seems a bit odd trying to make the meat turn white with vinegar and lemon juice, and it doesn’t seem like you’re packing in much flavour, but it is typically Greek with lashings of oregano, a skewer and a yoghurt dip. Try Aki’s Kitchen’s recipe for starters.
17. Your Own Homemade Bread You couldn’t expect a list of 30 things to eat before you’re 30 without your own homemade bread, surely? Bread making can take some time to master, but it’s so worth it. Try it on a rainy day and fill your home with the heady scent of fresh bread, then rip it open, barely cool enough to touch and load it up with butter and jam. Just try it. It’s a very satisfying experience. There are many things that just aren’t the same (even from a bakery) than making your own and gobbling them up fresh, and bread has to top that list.
18. A Spaghetti Sandwich This is probably not for everyone (or even for many!) but one of my childhood favourite lunches or snacks was a couple of slices of cheap white sliced bread, buttered and loaded up with hot Heinz spaghetti (you know the stuff that comes in a tin in that bright orange sauce?). It’s messy, it’s childish, it’s fiendishly unhealthy, but by gosh it’s moreish.
19. A Cheese Toastie This is probably one of those things that people will surprise you by saying they’ve never had before, but surely it’s the most basic comfort food. With good bread or bad bread, fresh bread or stale, cheap cheese or luxurious cheese, this is always going to be a winner in my book. Bonus points if you drizzle on some worcestershire sauce.
20. A Dominos in the car It’s not really proper pizza but it can be ruddy delicious. Eaten in the car on the way home from a long day in the city when you’re starving and a little bit chilly, it tastes even better. Or when you’re in the office on a bank holiday and you decide to treat yourselves. Bonus points if you plump for the garlic dip.
21. A Proper Burger Whether you make it or eat it somewhere where they make them properly, a real, honest burger is hard to beat. It needs to be made with good beef so you can serve it up rare, and it should ideally come with bacon, cheese and maybe an egg, a brioche bun and really good chips. Ooh and onion rings. If you eat out and they won’t serve your burger rare, they’re making it with poor quality meat – get out of there!
22. A Freshly Picked Tomato I can’t stand tomatoes, but apparently they taste best when they still smell like the vine and they’re slightly warm from the sun. This one suppose you either grow your own or know someone who does.
23. Homemade Pasta I used to be fairly scathing about fresh pasta, but if you make your own it’s an entirely different beast from the shop bought variety. Ravioli stuffed with your choice of filling, or spaghetti cooked in a buttery, white winey, herby sauce with a little chicken stock – and it really isn’t as hard to make as you would think. You do need a pasta machine though.
24. Your Own Victoria Sandwich Much like a really good chocolate cake, a freshly made Victoria Sandwich stuffed with tasty jam is a thing to behold. Learn how to make your own and you can whip one up whenever you fancy.25. A Freshly Baked Scone See above…. Make them big, make them fluffy and add whatever you fancy (sultanas, cheese, cherries, chocolate..), spread thickly with butter and jam or dollop on some clotted cream. Now pour yourself a cup of Earl Grey
26. An Extreme Steak Sandwich Steak sandwiches used to be in my regular rota when I live on my own. You need a decent ciabatta or baguette, in my opinion. Minute steak works if you have a screaming hot pan. Sprinkle with paprika and serve with fried onions. Charles reckoned the CAU version is about the best you can get.
27. A Meatball Sub The meatball sub is iconic – and after hearing about them on Friends (you know Joey was mad for those) I couldn’t rest until I’d made one, complete with marinara sauce and melted cheese. I’m sure it’ll be on the list if we ever make it to New York.
28. A McDonalds Everyone knows someone who claims to have never had a McDonalds. I could go years without having one and be perfectly ok about it, but really you need to try a cheeseburger, Chicken McNuggets and a McFlurry at some point in your life. Rumour has it that you get fresh fries if you ask for them unsalted.
29. Eggs Benedict This is the king of breakfasts for me. In fact anything with a muffin and poached eggs is pretty excellent, throw in some bacon and you’re right on the money.
30. Exactly What You Fancy, When You Fancy It Tonight, I made burgers and garlic bread pizza. Because we fancies it and we had the materials and ability to make such a thing. It was epic. And that’s what life’s all about.