Pre-dinner Nibbles

My wife is Zimbabwean so I’ve been exposed to Zimbabwean foods which don’t get near the few tourists who go there. Here are some savoury nibbles which I’ve tried there.


These are Madora, moth caterpillars, collected from trees. They are first boiled and then fried. Available from the deli counter in supermarkets! I can’t describe the taste because it’s not very strong but for me it was the texture which stood out (not very nicely). When tried them I put a whole one in my mouth, as everyone does, and bit on it. The inside burst out just like I’d stamped on one on the ground. After that it was hard going, the outside was like leather and despite lots of chewing I couldn’t actually reduce it much. It was like chewing gum.


These are Ishwa, a type of ant or termite, were another matter – quite yummy. They were a bit crisp and again had an indescribable flavour. Eating them is rather like eating shrimps without peeling them, something which didn’t please my wife. She complained that I had legs and feelers stuck between my teeth and it wasn’t a pleasant sight! I liked to nibble them before dinner with a G&T.


I didn’t get to eat the solitary Mandere. This one landed on our outside table at a restaurant and I was told that they were edible but needed to be boiled. When I asked my wife to put it in her handbag so I could boil it at home she refused what I thought was a quite reasonable request!

A Bacon Hock – Part 2

pea soup

Pea Soup made from the boiled hock stock.

600ml Bacon stock
250g Dried green split peas soaked overnight
2 x Shallots (the long, oval, French ones)
2tbs of Olive oil
Salt (only if the Bacon stock is not salty enough) and Pepper

I sweated the chopped shallots in the olive oil, added the soaked peas and stock. Simmered for, here I’m trying to remember, about 30 – 40 minutes until the peas were cooked. I then removed some peas with a slotted spoon and whizzed everything else up with a stick blender before returning the removed intact peas. It tasted great and didn’t require extra salt, just a little black pepper. Before eating a portion for lunch I’ll add one or two chopped Frankfurters, the smokey taste compliments this soup. If I had some left over chopped bacon I’d have used that instead but it was all used up in the Bacon and Mustard Sauce in Puff Pastry dish.

A Bacon Hock

bacon hock

Earlier this week we visited Wareham in Dorset and purchased, amongst other things, a Bacon Hock from Halletts Butchers. We’ve shopped there before and their meat is exceptional, they’re traditional butchers and the meat is from local farms. This Bacon Hock cost the princely sum of £2.29 which is ludicrous for the amount of meat is provided and became last nights dinner.

The bacon hock was first boiled, allowed to cool and then shredded. Next I made a Mustard Sauce using a little of the stock leftover from boiling the hock, added a generous amount of double cream and a tablespoon of whole grain mustard. The sauce was then thickened slightly before mixing in the shredded hock.

Pastry cases were made using Puff Pastry. Just before dinner the pastry cases were warmed in the oven before being filled with the reheated bacon hock in mustard sauce. The filled cases were then served with Peas a la Francaise. Delicious!

Hartnett Holder & Co

Angela Hartnett and Luke Holder’s joint venture restaurant at the Lime Wood Hotel, Beaulieu Road, Lyndhurst. I’ve been wanting to try this restaurant for some time so today we had lunch there ….. a disappointing lunch. I get the feeling that Angela Hartnett’s side of this partnership is the lending of her name rather than actually ever cooking in the kitchen or even deciding what’s on the menu. I fear she may be going the Jamie Oliver route.

The enclosed Courtyard area for drinks is a pleasant enough space in which we had a Kir and a Campari Soda while looking at the lunchtime menu.


When we were seated at the dining table we were asked if we’d like Arancini (Sicilian Fried Risotto Balls) as a nibble before the starters. I assumed that these were being offered as an amuse-bouche so was surprised to see them listed on the final bill as an extra. A bit cheeky really since they’re not listed on the menu.

For starters we chose the Hay Baked Potato with Crab Mayonnaise and the Wild Mushroom Tart with Truffled Scrambled Egg. The Hay Baked Potato was ‘interesting’. A few very tiny new potatoes had been wrapped in hay which was in turn enclosed in a paste case. You cut the case open at the table and ate the potatoes with the crab mayonnaise as a dip. When the case was opened we were met with a smell of a stable, complete with horse. Not unpleasant but definitely wet hay with horse droppings in it! The potatoes on their own tasted good, the crab mayonnaise was good but put the two together and the crab dominated. The potato may just as well have been boiled for all it mattered after they were dipped in the crab mayo. The tart was the best dish of the whole meal because of the sliced black truffle on the scrambled egg which topped the tart. However, this time it was the wild mushroom filling to the tart which suffered being drowned out, this time by the truffle.

For mains we chose the Lamb Belly with Pearl Barley and the Cod. Shortly after ordering my wife was told that the Cod was infact Hake and was she happy with that – no problem. What they didn’t say was that we’d been given yesterday’s menu in error and that the Lamb Belly was Pork Belly today. I only discovered that when the plate was put in front of me. The Pork Belly was surrounded by brown shrimps and chopped gherkins which were giving off very vinegary smells. This is not a combination I fancied at all and had I been shown today’s menu would certainly not have ordered it. The staff were very good about the mistake and exchanged the dish for the Hake. The Hake was perfectly pleasant and just the sort of thing I’d do at home. Not something I’d expect to pay a fairly high price for in a restaurant. The bowl contained a base of spinach topped with olive oil pureed potato and a steamed Hake fillet laid on top with a Salsa Verde Dressing.

Deserts were Walnut Cake and Ice-cream for my wife and the cheese selection for me. I was given three cheeses, a Pecorino, Lancashire and an Italian cheese I’d never heard of nor seen before, it had grape skins in the cheese which made it look a little as if it were a blue cheese which it was not. Well worth trying but not too pleasant.

My wife and I both agreed that we much preferred lunch at The Terrace Restaurant in the Montagu Arms Hotel, Beaulieu, just a couple of miles further along the road.