Saturday Kitchen alert

(by peter)

Sometimes, your day just doesn’t pan out how you expected.

While this can be a bad thing, I’m happy to say that yesterday, filming for Saturday Kitchen in a blustery, squally and bitterly cold Fareham, it made for a brilliant day out.

We kicked off by sampling various full-bodied reds in Asda shortly after 8:30am. The assistant manager turned up, ostensibly to check if we were OK (really to see if we were behaving ourselves) and left with a confounded expression.

We were in Asda to choose a wine for a beautiful duck dish being cooked by Glynn Purnell, of the famous Midlands eatery Purnell’s. It involves coating roast duck breast in a charcoal licorice, serving with tamarind and lime juice, plated with rocket and green beans.

I don’t want to spill the beans on the wine I went for so instead I’ll just warn you to watch out for any fluffy Easter bunnies or strange people wearing rabbit ears in the back of shot.

Enough said.

Then it was off to M&S to find a wine for Galton Blackiston’s (he of the very fine Morston Hall) roast double loin of lamb with braised shallots and herb purée.

(I love the word “double” in any recipe title. It instantly fills me with mouth-watering anticipation.)

The wine was duly found, tasted, expounded upon (it’s a cracker) – and of course there was more jiggery pokery, this time with a large chocolate duck and motorised Easter chicks (don’t ask).

But the really fun stuff started when the M&S staff invited us up to their canteen for a sandwich lunch – which turned into something of a party, fuelled by plentiful coffee and a feast of chocolate duck (sacrificed post-shooting in the name of lunch) and Percy Pigs.

For me, this lunch was an education.

I’d never heard of Percy Pig. I didn’t know these sweeties were something of a cult phenomenon, with their own Facebook page and Wikipedia entry, together with many rival imitations and variants in markets including Canada, Holland, France and Australia.

Apparently, they are one of M&S’s biggest selling food product lines (along with chocolate biscuit assortment packs).

Our cameraman James Cook, director Andy Clarke and the assembled M&S staff were aghast to hear of my ignorance.

One M&S lady nipped straight downstairs (quite a way) and re-appeared, puffing, with an armful of bags. This was to be my Percy Pig education – an extensive comparative sampling of the various different Percy Pig products that M&S do.

As far as I can remember (Percy Pig devotees please forgive me), these included the following (tasting notes somewhat tongue in cheek; I’ve restrained myself from adding scores…):

  • The standard PP classics (chewy, light-textured, very pleasant)
  • The new “reversy” ones (James knowledgeably pronounced that these were “a bit too chewy” for his taste)
  • The “Phizzy pig tails” (too sour for most but for me, raised in fizzy cola bottles, these tangy, fizzy numbers were very moreish)
  • The small Percy Piglets (I brought a bag of these home; I claimed they were for my daughter, but really I suspect they might be eaten by the adults)
  • Percy Pig & Pals – cola and grape-flavoured – pretty good I thought

And, as far as my caffeine-and-sugar-rush brain allows me to remember, that was about it.

(Thanks to Amanda and all her lovely ladies at the Fareham M&S for a brilliantly entertaining lunch.)

On the way to the Royal Armouries at Fort Nelson, our next shooting venue, I was bouncing off the walls.

But it was just as well I arrived buzzing with mental energy, because the next task in front of me was to fire several rounds from a 25-pounder Howitzer in the general direction of Portsmouth.

The firing of this gun is a regular event, but on occasions they do allow members of the public (even ones like me) to have a go.

I was instructed to keep my hands firmly to myself until told otherwise. Other than that, I had a great time, firing off a few blank rounds while attempting to keep a straight face delivering lines to camera.

Later, I was also told that this particular model of gun saw most of its active service in North Africa and Korea, while this actual gun was last used in an SAS training operation in Oman in 1972, a situation which turned hostile when the squad came under insurgent fire, whereupon the gun was used in anger and one of the SAS team was killed.

I’m glad I was told that information after I’d finished because it made me feel somewhat odd about the whole experience.

Although we fairly rushed in and out, I’d thoroughly recommend a visit to the Royal Armouries for anyone in the area. It’s free to get in and there’s a great museum as well as all the various guns and shells (some of which defy belief – the insanely large mortar gun with boulder-sized shells, originally designed for use to shell Sebastopol in the Crimean war, typifies this).

It’s both terrifying and fascinating.

Plus you can see the firing of the aforementioned gun, and even do it yourself if you want to book in (I believe there’s a fee for this normally).

There’s also a “Powderkeg Café”. Didn’t try it, but how can you resist a café with a name like that?!

For all of this fun and more, don’t forget to tune in to BBC1 this coming Easter Saturday morning (3rd April 2010) at the slightly later-than-normal time of 10.30am.

We may even find time to feature some wine in there…