9 December 2011: Special Guest Blog!

Today I have  a special guest blog from.........Pip Taylor. Yes that is my name but not me. I 'met' Pip (virtually anyway) some time ago when he sent me an email. I think he was upset that I had taken his domain name! But we have been in email contact ever since from oppostite sides of the world and I have to say that not only is Pip far more interesting than me and a much, much, much better gardener and forager but he is also a wonderful, adventurous and resouceful cook. I quite like having Pip to share my name with (although apologies Pip as you are not getting my domain name!) and I hope you will enjoy reading his blog and recipes. Check out his own site http://www.grytpype.co.uk/Home.html for more info on his glorious allotment garden, recipes, photos and links.


Why is it that something I might really enjoy eating can cause utter revulsion in another? Excepting abstention for religious, cultural, allergic and sentimental reasons, why is it that I can salivate over the mere thought of opening the door of my greenhouse and sinking my teeth into just picked juicy tomato whilst others would baulk at the thought?

There are just two items of food that I find difficult to eat: one is a cheap brand of whisky, all the other brands I enjoy, and fruit cake. The reason is that in both cases I rather overindulged in them at one time and was violently ill. The mere smell of either reminds me of painful regurgitation.

Why, I may ask, are people so against certain types of food even though they have never had a bad reaction to them? One of the main reasons, today, especially amongst the young, is peer pressure. It is fashionable, when confronted with a new experience to exclaim “Yuck! How disgusting”, even if the person actually found the experience to be to the contrary. It is important that they do not stand out from the crowd and therefore the default reaction is preferred. This habit is often carried over into adult life. I have first hand experience of this: My wife, Jacky, had made some scones with black olives for my work lunch box. A rather gluttonous acquaintance of ours visited us unannounced and shortly after Jacky had offered her the plate of scones most were devoured. She was evidently enjoying them. When asked she was told that the black bits were olives. She immediately screwed up her face and exclaimed how she hated olives! and returned a half eaten scone to the plate. There is, also, self preservation whereby the brain, confronted with something unusual; perhaps of a strange texture or strong flavour, instructs the mouth to jettison the morsel as it may well be poisonous.

I have just finished a three year course in desensitisation against wasp venom. Here the venom is injected at a very low dosage and slowly increased over time till the body is desensitised and able to withstand the equivalent of two stings. It occurred to me that a similar method could be used, not for food allergies which it is already, but for food dislikes. I decided to try, with Jacky’s permission, to “desensitise” her to olives which she proclaimed to be the most vile of all foods. But, she admitted, olives aught to be something she should like. Over a period of time Jacky tried very small amounts of olives with the same result; utter revulsion. Then one day, to her surprise, she found one olive to be “Not too bad”. Now she is a complete convert, rather a connoisseur and makes a bee line for the olive counter in any Delicatessen. She is never without olives.

It is difficult to explain to a person that the food they utterly reject could be something that they could really enjoy. To them it’s a bit like saying to a eunuch: “You should try sexual intercourse, you might enjoy it.” Strange analogy, I know, but that’s the best I can do for now.

If only people could be more open to desensitisation and not rejecting food out of hand purely because of preconceived expectations, I think more people would discover the joys of food and not be a slave to it. It is better to live to eat rather than eat to live in my opinion.


If you’re lucky to have friends that shoot or beat during the winter months you may be lucky enough to get hold of a brace of woodcock. If you have to buy a brace you may pay as much as £20. Woodcock is up there with the best of the game birds but if you like to eat a hearty meal you may wish to have a brace for yourself as they are quite small.
Woodcock is a small wading bird much sort after by game hunters for the sport. It’s rather unfortunate that some shooters are not interested in the birds after they’re shot and the birds are either left where they fall or are thrown to the ferrets. I’m a great believer that a shooter should make sure that all that he shoots will be consumed as a mark of respect for the animal. I obtained a brace of woodcock from a friend who’s a beater and he shares my views on the subject. My brace would have been left where it fell so he was grateful for me taking them.
It is recommended that the intestines of the birds be fried up and made into a paté as with woodcocks on toast. This may seem rather repulsive but the birds evacuate their bowels on take off. Presumably to lighten the load! We didn’t utilise the intestines this time but did use the hears and livers.
If you have the gratin with the woodcocks you will need to prepare this and have it in the oven for about one hour before the birds.
50/50 peeled artichokes and potatoes sliced
vegetable stock
streaky bacon or pancetta
grated nutmeg,
grated cheese topping
Take a pie dish and estimate how much artichoke/potato slices you will need and prepare them. (Artichokes are best sliced length ways.)
Get the oven on at about 180º or gas mark 4.
Butter the inside of the dish then place a mixed layer of artichoke and potato on the bottom and grate over some cheese. Spot with some butter, season and grate over some nutmeg. Repeat till you reach near the rim of the dish and finish off with the cheese layer. Pour in the stock till you can just see it rising up under the top layer. Cover and bake for an hour. Uncover and brown off at about 200º gas mark 6 for ten minutes.
On uncovering the woodcock should go in.
Brace of woodcock prepared (Leave the head on and push the beak through slits made in the leg muscles. This helps keep things together.)
One sweet and crisp winter cabbage
Smoked bacon chopped finely and two rashers for wrapping the birds
woodcock hearts and livers chopped
First, if they have not been already done, you should prepare the woodcock. Use the intestines if you wish or discard if not. Take the hearts and livers and finely chop, place to one side. Fry the finely chopped bacon and add the hearts and livers. Take a sweet winter cabbage such as Greyhound and slice finely and add the bacon mixture and season. Place the cabbage mixture in a shallow dish (see photo) and add the stock so the cabbage is almost covered. Take the birds, season inside and out, wrap in bacon and place on the top of the cabbage. Place in the hot oven with the gratin for the last fifteen minutes. This will give rare birds. Add another five minutes if you prefer your birds spoiled!
Woodcock on its bed of cabbage and ready to go into the oven.
Woodcock and gratin ready to serve.

Thanks Pip!