Food & drink | The Guardian

Latest Food & drink news, comment and analysis from the Guardian, the world's leading liberal voice

Halal meat, vegan feasts: how care caterers meet diverse dietary needs

Thu, 23 Feb 2017 08:49:50 GMT

Catering for special diets is an area of increasing concern in social care, but some providers are stepping up to the plate

Social care caterers are serving up everything from halal meat to dairy-free milk to meet increasingly diverse dietary needs.

So that people can eat what they want, and what they require nutritionally, some care homes are partnering with community groups to mark occasions such as Eid and Ramadan, to ensure authentic Jewish cuisine is on the daily menu, and to throw vegan festivals.

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Claire Ptak’s quick recipe for ice-cream sundaes

Sat, 11 Feb 2017 06:00:08 GMT

This week, we’re giving everyday vanilla ice-cream a makeover. Behold it transformed into a sundae with blood oranges and caramel, or – combined with another sweet staple, digestive biscuits – into the sandwich of dreams

My mother was a prolific baker – still is, actually – so we almost always had a baked pie or chocolate cake on the go. But on the rare occasion that the cupboard was bare, my dad would drive down to the local grocery store to buy vanilla Häagen-Dazs and Hershey’s chocolate syrup. By the time he returned from the two-mile journey, the ice-cream was in the perfect state of softness.

To make sundaes, all we had to do was use the can opener to pierce the top of the Hershey’s tin in two places – I remember loving the sound it made as it punctured the metal, releasing an ooze of chocolate syrup. My dad used to add salted peanuts to his sundae and mom liked walnuts on hers. My brother and I went for plain, but really there was nothing plain about these special ice-cream nights.

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Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipes for Valentine’s Day

Sat, 11 Feb 2017 09:00:11 GMT

Ditch the candles and flowers this 14 February, and cook from the heart instead

I love cooking and eating, and I love my loved one, but I’m no good at all with a heart-shaped menu, candlelit table and flowers. Valentine’s Day is, in fact, the only night of the year when I’m likely to shun my love of cooking and eating, and opt instead for a makeshift supper of popcorn (albeit for two) at the local cinema.

There’ll be no candles and flowers round at mine, then, but just in case we don’t make it to the cinema, today’s recipes are the kind of dishes I’ll be making. The gnocchi is for the kids I love (in memory of my grandmother); the meatballs are for the man I love (in memory of the food I ate growing up); and the bright pink sorbet is my concession to the fact that I can’t possibly write a column that features the word “love” quite so many times and be a complete killjoy.

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Four sweet pie recipes, plus three seasonal variations on each

Sat, 18 Feb 2017 06:00:32 GMT

Cook asked four of our favourite chefs to give us the recipe for their favourite sweet pie for cold days, with three seasonal variations so you can now indulge in it all year round ...

Imen McDonnell, farmette.ie

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Drink: there’s a tea to suit every meal

Thu, 23 Feb 2017 17:00:08 GMT

Speciality leaf teas are as complex as wine, so it makes sense to pair them with food in a similar way

Even if you resumed drinking for February, you may have resolved to consume less alcohol, so the problem remains: what do you do on the days you’re not drinking? Enter an unlikely candidate: tea. And by that I don’t mean a mug of builders’ (though there’s nothing wrong with that), but a drink that has a similar complexity to wine.

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Margaret River: the Australian wine region that’s now big on beer

Thu, 23 Feb 2017 06:30:07 GMT

This part of south-west Australia is known for great cabernets and chardonnays but could soon have as many craft breweries as it does vineyards

Three hours’ drive south of Perth, amid forests of century-old karri trees and kangaroo-filled grasslands, is the town of Margaret River, centre of south-west Australia’s wine country. Or is it?

Recently, this region has been showing a growing interest in beer. In the past year, a handful of microbreweries have started jostling for space among elegant vineyards, which account for 3% of Australia’s annual wine production. And they’re churning out locally brewed boutique beer that’s just as well-regarded as the cabernet and sémillon/sauvignon blanc blends that Margaret River sells by the premium caseload around the world.

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Kitchen gadgets review: Dexam stuffed burger press – a mangled patty dribbling cheese

Wed, 15 Feb 2017 10:00:09 GMT

If this unnecessary gadget is at the heart of your kitchen, I shudder to think what’s at the back of your cupboard

The Dexam stuffed burger press (£7, Ocado) is a plastic clamshell with concave plate. Hollows one of two mince-filled hemispheres ready for stuffing, which are then pressed together and fried.

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Chop Chop, Edinburgh: restaurant review

Sun, 19 Feb 2017 06:00:00 GMT

Jian Wang’s Chinese restaurant is a shrine to the most perfect little dumplings…

Chop Chop, 248 Morrison Street, Edinburgh EH3 8DT (0131 221 1155). Meal for two, including drinks and service: £30-50.

At a time of great political uncertainty it’s natural that we should search for the things that unify rather than divide us. There are the obvious markers, like our desires: for safety and warmth, for belonging and the type of sex that doesn’t make us cringe when we recall it. There’s language in general, and inventive expletives in particular, and a ravenous hunger for products made by Apple. Then again, there’s also Samsung. So that doesn’t get us very far, does it?

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Yotam Ottolenghi’s Taiwanese recipes

Sat, 18 Feb 2017 09:00:35 GMT

Ready, steady, wok… Create a stir in the kitchen with a Taiwanese feast

Iwould love to feast the night away at one of Taipei’s many food markets. Freshly made dumplings, bowls of hot noodles, fried chicken, sticky rice, Chinese tea eggs, oyster omelette, fermented tofu, mochi balls… I’d be the one arriving very early and leaving very late. But I recently experienced the next best thing when my friend Garry Bar-Chang (whose mum is Taiwanese) cooked a bunch of chilli-, ginger- and garlic-heavy Taiwanese dishes for the Ottolenghi team. We were all expecting steamed buns, but instead we got a beef soup with an unbelievably deep flavour and three lip-smacking (and burning) stir-fries. He shared his kitchen secrets with me; get frying.

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A day in the life of Scott’s, Britain’s grandest restaurant

Sun, 15 Jan 2017 09:30:12 GMT

At Scott’s in Mayfair, the VIP diners arrive with bodyguards and the kitchen spends £45,000 on fresh fish every week. Jay Rayner goes behind the scenes

  • Click here to get the Observer and the Guardian for half price

It doesn’t matter how glamorous the performance; backstage is never pretty. At a little after seven on a weekday morning the chaos of backstage at Scott’s in Mayfair has expanded on to the pavement of Mount Street outside. Yesterday’s linen, bundled up in red cloth sacks, sits alongside crates of empty glass bottles. There are bales of cardboard from boxes that once contained all the ingredients cooked here, and crammed bins. A kitchen porter oversees the industrial-scale dumb waiter that trundles it all up to street level from the basement alcove where it was stored last night. Witness: the debris of London’s finest fish suppers.

And so begins what will be an 18-hour day in the long life of one of London’s landmark restaurants, the biggest of big West End shows. What the diners see is the performance, full of grace and artful choreography. But if you can get behind the scenes, and few do, you’ll find a massive crew: of cooks (obviously) but also of kitchen porters and suppliers, of junior waiters and managers, fine-tuning the experience in real time. You don’t notice them when you’re a customer, which is as it should be. You’re not supposed to. But a trip here backstage reveals the inner working of an elegant albeit complex machine, all in the service of pleasure. There’s no point pretending. A meal at Scott’s is expensive. A bill of £100 a head is not uncommon. What you’re paying for is what you never see.

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OFM’s classic cookbooks: Claudia Roden’s Book of Middle Eastern Food

Sun, 19 Feb 2017 09:30:04 GMT

Claudia Roden’s Book of Middle Eastern Food is as much an evocative set of stories as a list of great recipes. Yotam Ottolenghi introduces the cookbook that never fails to inspire him

A Book of Middle Eastern Food was published in 1968, the year of my birth, yet I have only started using it in the past decade, 40 years on, when I began writing about food. I say use because this is what I do with Claudia Roden’s books. I use them. Beyond the evocative stories and buoyant style, beyond the comprehensive list of dishes and unfailing set of instructions – there is always information, hard information, meticulously collected, compellingly assembled, lovingly told. It is these reliable and interconnected facts – covering history, geography and ethnography – that draw me to all of her work. I can rely on them as references in my own writing and they never fail to inspire me to create.

You would naturally think, then, that there is some sort of irony in Claudia’s assertion in the introduction to the1985 extended edition of this book, titled A New Book of Middle Eastern Food, that “this is not a scholarly book”, even perhaps a bit of false modesty. Well, not an iota of either.

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Date like Posh and David Beckham – with the help of a Harvester car park

Mon, 30 Jan 2017 13:32:11 GMT

The former footballer revealed that he courted Victoria in the car park of the roadside restaurant. With privacy and an unlimited salad bar, what more could you want?

In the 75th anniversary edition of BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs, David Beckham revealed that when he and Victoria began their courtship, they met in secret in his “amazing bright blue” BMW. “I drove down, I picked her up,” he confessed to Kirsty Young of those heady days. “We used to sit in a Harvester car park and we just used to kiss, of course, and spend time together.”

Although the rest of us may not have Simon Fuller forcing us to conduct our relationships in secret (or indeed an amazing bright blue BMW), we can at least drive to a Harvester car park with someone we fancy. The question is, how should we date when we get there?

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Rachel Roddy’s pan-roasted pork chops with sage, juniper and polenta

Tue, 21 Feb 2017 12:00:04 GMT

Revered by the ancients for its cure-all properties, the silvery leaves of sage add a distinctive pungency to white beans, pumpkin and, here, pork and polenta

There is an ancient phrase that says, “Why should a man die who has sage in his garden?” I would like to alter this: “Why should a man die who has sage in his garden, or in a pot on his, or her, kitchen shelf?” Actually, as I write this, far from home, the plant is in the sink. The inch of water has probably long been drunk, so the dusty branches and moleskin leaves will be parched and crisp. The woman may not die, but in her hands, the plant might.

The generic name for sage, Salvia officinalis, is derived from the Latin salvere, to save or cure – hence the proverb. The ancient Romans used sage as a general tonic, believing its properties to be many, from soothing sore throats, joints and snake bites to sharpening minds. A medieval tradition says the growth of sage in the garden is a sign of the prosperity of the house. If my plant stranded in the sink is anything to go by, our future is looking parched.

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Michelin men: Claude Bosi, Terence Conran and the return of Bibendum

Sun, 19 Feb 2017 08:30:03 GMT

Bibendum has been a London landmark for 30 years. Now, with its relaunch, it is up to chef Claude Bosi to bring the stars home

In the gutted upstairs room of Bibendum on London’s Fulham Road, I’m suddenly feeling my age. The flagship Conran restaurant is in the process of a makeover. Floors and walls have been stripped and the famous Michelin blue stained-glass windows and great arched conservatory glass roof look down on an interior of rubble and scaffold. The windowless kitchen behind the cathedral-like dining room has been half-removed by the contractors giving it the look of a medieval vault. I’m surveying its gloom with Claude Bosi, recently installed as the new head chef for the restaurant’s reopening in April. Bosi, who won his first Michelin star at 26, and still carries that forward-looking sense of exuberant possibility, points to the few tiles that still cling stubbornly to the kitchen walls, as if at a cave painting: “Most of this stuff is from 1987!” he suggests, marvelling at the antiquity.

Bibendum opened that year, the year I first moved to London, and since that obviously doesn’t seem much more than five minutes ago, it’s hard not to take his marvelling a bit personally. Squint and the dining room itself feels like a monument to those beginnings. 1987 was the first full year of Nigel Lawson’s Big Bang, when, for better and worse, London determinedly rehashed itself as an outward looking global city, at ease with foreign money and foreign culture. The deregulation was the starting gun of a different kind of confidence, one which wanted to adopt the lifestyle of European capitals. That openness was symbolised most clearly, perhaps, in a trio of new restaurants which opened almost simultaneously. Rowley Leigh’s Kensington Place, the inspirational River Café of Ruth Rogers and Rose Gray, and Bibendum itself, which were united in celebrating a joie de vivre that had, up until then, most often seemed the preserve of life across the Channel.

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Anna Jones’s recipes for Valentine’s Day

Mon, 13 Feb 2017 12:00:13 GMT

Eschew the elaborate cliches and keep Valentine’s Day a straightforward – but delicious, and plentiful – affair with spaghetti and squash ‘meatballs’ and chocolate pots

Valentine’s Day is so often shunned, but I do think there is something to it: it’s a day to celebrate love – though not necessarily of the romantic kind. On 14 February, I’ve cooked for friends, my sister, my parents and, some years, very happily just for myself.

This is what I’ll cook at home on Valentine’s Day this year, with little ceremony but lots of flavour – the very opposite of a restaurant teeming with couples who order from a love-themed set menu.

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Cocktail of the week: Yellow paint recipe

Fri, 10 Feb 2017 17:00:13 GMT

Wrap your tastebuds round this: sweet, floral flavour, with a tingle thrown in

This is more or less an update on the classic daiquiri. The elderflower’s sweet, floral flavour is balanced by the mustard’s aroma and warmth, which creates a tingle on the tongue. Serves one.

20ml spiced rum (such as Sailor Jerry)
20ml Havana Club three-year-old rum
15ml lemon juice
15ml elderflower cordial
½ tsp readymade mustard – Colman’s, of course (or to taste)

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The best of Bangkok: readers’ travel tips

Thu, 16 Feb 2017 06:30:33 GMT

From a condom-themed restaurant to a very sobering medical museum, a snake farm and ubiquitous markets, the frenetic Thai capital is a cornucopia of delights

  • Enter next week’s competition – the best tip wins a £200 hotel voucher

Try Cabbages and Condoms, a restaurant in the Sukhumvit district opened in conjunction with the government’s Population and Community Development Association, which promotes family planning across Thailand. In the restaurant, this translates as interior design: “flourishes” such as extravagant condom light fittings, surrealist condom trellis artworks and – frankly ominous – condom sentries guarding the entrance. Menu was outstanding.
pda.or.th
theggondorf

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Children's sugar intake equals five doughnuts a day, campaigners say

Fri, 24 Feb 2017 00:01:17 GMT

Obesity Health Alliance calls for food and drink makers to cut ‘hidden’ sugar to curb dangerous obesity among young people

Children and young people are consuming the equivalent of 20 chocolate chip biscuits a day in sugar, according to anti-obesity campaigners.

The calculations by the Obesity Health Alliance have led to renewed calls for food and soft drinks manufacturers to make their products healthier to cut the number of dangerously overweight children. They want urgent action to reduce the amount of “hidden” sugar in many common foodstuffs.

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Penne saving: polite children secure discount at Italian restaurant

Tue, 14 Feb 2017 15:24:37 GMT

Owner of wine bar in Padua hopes 5% price cut will encourage parents to rein-in children who disturb other diners

An Italian restaurateur fed up with his customers’ lunches being interrupted by rowdy children has come up with a novel solution: a discount for well-behaved families.

Antonio Ferrari, who owns a wine bar in the northern city of Padua that caters to families on Sundays, came up with the idea when he spotted a party of 11 at one of his tables, including five children sitting “with much composure”.

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A peculiarly British beast: a recipe for handmade pork pie | Meet the producer

Fri, 17 Feb 2017 12:00:09 GMT

Handmade pork pies are a far cry from the shop-bought version, says specialist Sarah Pettegree. Made with fresh meat and hand-filled, they’re an utterly different animal.

  • See below for Cook’s supermarket pork pie taste test!

“Do different” is a Norfolk motto: based on the old Norfolk adage “the people of Norfolk dew things different”. If I had a tattoo, that might be it.

I actually grew up in the Midlands – traditional pork pie country – beside a canal, in what was then a small village inhabited mostly by a mixture of farming families and engineers who commuted to the industrial towns nearby. On Saturdays, I had piano lessons on Albert Street in Rugby. There was just enough space in the tiny front room for Mrs Bradwick, who knitted in time throughout, a vast grand piano and me.

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Meet the people who eat 10 portions of fruit and vegetables a day

Fri, 24 Feb 2017 06:49:49 GMT

After scientists recommended eating 800g a day to prevent early death, readers tell us how they get so much greens in their diet

Forget five a day, now it’s all about getting 10 portions of fruit and vegetables into your diet. That is according to scientists who say doing this could prevent up to 7.8 million premature deaths worldwide.

But how do you make sure you get your 10 a day (about 800g of fruit and veg)? We asked those of you who already consume this amount. Here is a selection of responses.

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The grape-nuts of wrath: Delia’s key lime pie palaver | The Delia project

Fri, 17 Feb 2017 12:30:10 GMT

Who knew an obscure breakfast cereal would be the vital ingredient to avoid a sludgy pud?

I’ve invented a new dish: it’s called Delia’s key lime pudding. What you do is, you make the filling to Delia’s key lime pie, try to make the base, fail, try again, fail again, cry, eat the filling and pronounce it a success.

Yes, Delia’s key lime pie is a game of two halves. The filling is simplicity itself. Put your egg yolks and lime zest into a bowl, whisk for two minutes, add condensed milk, whisk for a further four minutes, add lime juice, whisk again, then pour it into the biscuit base and whack it in the oven for 20 minutes, or until it feels just about set.

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How to make Delia’s ‘cheese on toast for posh people’ | The Delia Project

Fri, 24 Feb 2017 12:00:31 GMT

Perfect for the surprise vegetarian guest, Welsh rarebit looks a lot more effort than it is – even for a cheese refusenik

As readers with long memories and a taste for nursing grudges will know, I am not a cheese fan. This can be a problem because, as readers with strong feelings and access to my postal address have told me, repeatedly, a good cheese can rescue even the least promising of leftovers.

They’re not wrong. From time to time, people will buy me books with titles like The Busy Cook, The Skinflint Chef, or Look, All I Know About You Is You Write About Food But It Felt Awkward To Turn Up Without A Present, OK? and I am struck by the fact that many of these time-saving, money-saving or effort-saving recipes can effectively be boiled down to “grab whatever crap you’ve got left in the fridge and melt cheese over it.”

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Cocktail of the week: the bartender’s breakfast recipe

Fri, 17 Feb 2017 17:00:16 GMT

Ease yourself into the day with this

A mild take on the bloody mary that swaps the usual heat and spice for more mellow flavours, making it an ideal start to a long day. Serves one.

4 cherry tomatoes
3 basil leaves (save 1 to garnish)
1 small pinch ground coriander
1 small pinch celery salt
1 pinch freshly ground black pepper
3 chives, roughly chopped
25ml vodka (Stolichnaya, for preference)
2 olives, to garnish
1 sun-dried tomato, to garnish

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Rachel Roddy’s take on classic cheese and onion pie recipe | A kitchen in Rome

Wed, 15 Feb 2017 12:31:15 GMT

A childhood spent pulling pints in an Oldham pub while Granny and her sister baked food for the punters gave me a recurring hankering for a proper cheese and onion pie, favourite jukebox hits and a glass of old-fashioned bitter

By the age of eight, I could pull a pint of bitter. I needed to stand on a chair and then to use all my weight, almost dangling from the pump in order to pull it down and release the deep amber liquid into the dimpled pint pot. Granny or Uncle Colin would be behind me, telling me to go steady and watch the head, catching the pump as it lurched back, putting a hand under the glass just in case.

I was better at dropping lemon quarters in an inch of gin, its fierce juniper scent making my nose twitch. I was better still at impaling cocktail cherries on toothpicks for Babycham, or my own tame snowball, which I would drink sitting up at the bar with my brother, wreathed in cigarette smoke, legs swinging from the high stool in time to songs we didn’t really understand: “If you want my body, and you think I’m sexy, come on sugar let me know...”

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Four friends on a mission to teach the young to cook | Matt Munday

Sun, 12 Feb 2017 06:00:37 GMT

A growing number of people have no idea how to make a meal. But that could soon change, finds Matt Munday

Though we live in a world of street food pop-ups, rock-star chefs and Instagrammed baps, home-cooking is on the wane, declining by 54% in the past 30 years. The same survey (of 4,000 Brits) also found that young people don’t have the skills to cook a week’s worth of meals; and one in four has no interest in cooking at all.

In an east London attic studio, four millennials are leading the fightback against kitchen apathy, in an attempt to bridge what they call “the cooking gap”: the disparity between food-lovers and food-makers. They are trained chef Ben Ebbrell, 29, and his friends Barry Taylor, 29, Jamie Spafford and Mike Huttlestone, both 30. They went to school together in Hertfordshire and now run SORTEDFood, a YouTube channel that has grown into one of the world’s leading social media cooking brands.

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10 of the best restaurants in Lyon – chosen by the experts

Fri, 17 Feb 2017 06:30:02 GMT

France’s gastronomic capital is famous for traditional cooking, but a new wave of chefs is now reinventing the classics. Chefs and insiders select their favourite Lyon restaurants old and new

  • San Sebastián’s best restaurants – the experts’ choice

Locals carry knives in Lyon, not for a fight but to cut off a slice of cured sausage, taste some pheasant pâté, rosette or a creamy St Marcellin cheese. Sunday mornings are reserved for a stroll around Les Halles Paul Bocuse, the giant indoor food emporium named after Lyon’s most famous chef. Local bouchon restaurants still offer the robust recipes of Les Mères (the first female chefs), lovingly prepared in the most traditional way. Yet a new guard of inventive chefs – many of whom have trained outside France – is back in Lyon, bringing flair and fusion and being made surprisingly welcome in this very traditional gastronomic spot. I was in Lyon for the 16th Bocuse d’Or, the biennial international chefs’ Olympics (won this time by the US) and caught up with 10 food experts for their pick of the city’s best restaurants.

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How to surf the organic food boom on the cheap

Mon, 20 Feb 2017 15:10:30 GMT

Sales for pesticide-free produce are flourishing, with Aldi and Lidl getting in on the trend. Here’s how to stock up on inexpensive chocolate and budget peanut butter

So much for the view that organic food is just a navel-gazing lifestyle preoccupation for the neurotic rich. The latest UK market figures show that sales for organic produce are booming – at their strongest in a decade – with a 15% hike last year at Tesco alone.

In growth terms, organic is now outperforming the non-organic grocery market, contradicting cynics who said that at the first whiff of austerity we would ditch high-minded concerns about animal welfare, pesticides and the planet, and join the cheap food scrum.

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Food in books: pig cheeks from Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

Thu, 23 Feb 2017 18:38:00 GMT

Unctuous and tender, pig cheeks are less popular now as a cut than past times. Kate Young brings them back in style, to celebrate a meal from Sarah Waters’s Victorian novel

The supper was a pig’s head, stuffed at the ears - a favourite of mine, and got in my honour... An ear apiece, for Mr Ibbs and Gentleman; the snout for John and Dainty; and the cheeks, that were the tenderest parts, for herself and for me.

Fingersmith, Sarah Waters

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The weekend cook: Ken Yamada’s recipes for cod teriyaki and miso lamb

Fri, 10 Feb 2017 17:00:14 GMT

Spectacular Japanese main courses you can make at home

This is my final column standing in for Tommi, and I hope you’ve enjoyed it as much as I have. To mark the occasion, here are a couple of heavyweight dishes.

Teriyaki is now as well known outside Japan as sushi or ramen, and it’s one of my favourite ways to cook. The key ingredients, as with so many Japanese dishes, are soy, sake and mirin, and they combine here to make a sauce that goes as well with meat and veg as with fish. I always make a big bottle and keep it in the fridge, because that way it’s easy to knock up a fab supper in minutes.

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Judging Great British Bake Off would be my dream, says Prue Leith

Tue, 14 Feb 2017 17:19:43 GMT

Presenter and restaurateur said to be lined up as judge alongside Paul Hollywood when BBC show moves to Channel 4

The restaurateur, presenter and cookery writer Prue Leith has said judging The Great British Bake Off would be her “dream” following reports she was being lined up to replace Mary Berry when the show returns on Channel 4 later this year.

Sources told the Sun on Monday evening that Leith was seen as a “like for like” replacement for Berry, who chose to stay with the BBC after Bake Off makers Love Productions signed a £25m a year deal to take the show to Channel 4.

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The 5th annual OFM 50: what we love about food in 2017

Sun, 19 Feb 2017 08:00:03 GMT

From a revered French chef to Singapore’s salted eggs, Monica Galetti’s new restaurant to Japanese vending machines: 50 of Observer Food Monthly’s favourite things (in no particular order)

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Recipes for a Hollywood bake-off | Ruby bakes

Sat, 28 Nov 2015 05:59:01 GMT

In her last column for Cook, Ruby turns to the silver screen for inspiration with a recipe for treacle and ginger pancakes with ice-cream – ideal for breakfast à la Little Miss Sunshine – and a Clueless take on the ideal chocolate cookie

This is my final baking column in Cook. The past couple of years spent writing these recipes for the Guardian have been really special. I’ve been able to share with you the highs and lows, the triumphs and total flops, of my experiments in baking. It’s a constant challenge to come up with recipes that are inventive but still approachable, that don’t need a plethora of weird and wonderful ingredients, but which still take me out of my comfort zone, and teach me (and you, I hope) something new.

Related: Ruby Tandoh's sweet dough recipe | Ruby bakes

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A Philadelphia cheesesteak sandwich for vegans

Sun, 19 Feb 2017 12:30:08 GMT

Cafes and food carts in the city of brotherly love extend the caring to farm animals by making meat- and dairy-free versions of the classic sandwich

A few things are obligatory for visitors to Philadelphia: run up the Art Museum steps, Rocky-style; rap the entire Fresh Prince of Bel Air theme; and eat a Philly cheesesteak. What many do not realise is that Philly is also a centre for vegan dining – so much so that the vegan Philly cheesesteak is now a thing. Yes it sounds like a contradiction, but that hasn’t stopped Philadelphians from taking plant-based versions of this usually meat- and dairy-laden sandwich to heart.

In downtown Philly, Blackbird Pizzeria uses seitan, a wheat gluten, to replace the meat, and dairy-free cheese whiz to recreate the slippery creamy texture. They’re not the only ones playing around with the classic. Round the corner, Govinda’s does a vegan chicken cheesesteak, and if you’re willing to track down Jerry’s Kitchen, a food truck usually parked at 33rd and Arch on the Drexel University campus, you’ll find another seitan variation.

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Vasco & Piero’s Pavilion, London W1: ‘This Soho old-timer is rammed’ – restaurant review

Fri, 10 Feb 2017 14:00:02 GMT

No fireworks, no dishes created for social media, no mouthy chefs poncing about: no wonder it’s such a success

There’s a chill wind whistling around the capital. The award-winning gastropub has had to close its doors. The branché Provençal place in Exmouth Market has disappeared, in its place one of the new breed of coffee chains. A Michelin star couldn’t save the Soho stalwart. That indie meat joint I always meant to get to: gone. Even restaurant titans are suffering: Jamie Oliver blaming Brexit for the closure of six of his outlets. (Food lovers, however, are not so sure that it’s just Brexit that’s to blame.)

London, always rapacious, looks set to be even less hospitable to restaurants in 2017. Yes, Brexit will have an impact, not only on staffing but on ingredient costs. Big-paying companies, the lifeblood of the biz, are making plans to shuffle off. A recent study suggested that as many as four in 10 restaurants will have to shutter if rents and rates continue to increase at their current unholy speed – a predicted further 20% come April. With margins calculated at a miserly 10%, only the heroic or the foolhardy are launching into this most unstable of industries.

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Nigel Slater’s black pudding, baked apples and celeriac mash recipe

Sun, 19 Feb 2017 12:00:07 GMT

Vienna’s much-loved classic ‘heaven and earth’ dish is the inspiration for a delicious winter warmer

Late last year I took a trip to Vienna. I ate well enough – simply, heartily even – choosing my daily restaurant purely by the length of its queue. The most memorable meal of all was a straightforward plate of black pudding with mashed potato and apple sauce. It was a Viennese version of the much-loved German himmel und erde, the “heaven and earth”. I have cooked it at home, both in its classic form and, more often, as a rearrangement of its ingredients.

Sometimes I slice the apples and brown them in butter rather than make them into a sauce. On another night, I will cook all three elements in the same shallow pan – a black pudding, potato and apple fry-up. I remember, too, a red apple and new potato salad with hot slices of pudding straight from the pan.

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Recipes are to cooking as listicles are to journalism: they're intrinsically flawed | Adam Liaw

Wed, 22 Feb 2017 23:49:20 GMT

With respect to the excellent Jamie Oliver, making a simple dish that’s over and done with in under an hour is a very inefficient way to cook

Recipes are the listicles of the food world, and I say this as one who has written more than his fair share of both recipes and listicles.

Both are short, incomplete collections of vaguely interesting but not entirely useful information designed for ease of consumption, but which ultimately convey very little of the knowledge required for their purpose.

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Thomasina Miers: the ultimate roast chicken and six other easy recipes

Sat, 18 Feb 2017 08:00:34 GMT

The chef and former MasterChef winner is happiest cooking at home. In an exclusive extract from her new book, she shares her favourite starters and main courses

Over the years, I have spent thousands of happy hours – as a child, student, twentysomething singleton and now a mother of three – in the company of those I love, sitting around a kitchen table. I have thrown last-minute parties for 40 people to celebrate my birthday, dinners that have grown from six to 14 in the space of a day, and breakfasts when neighbours have just popped in for some eggs, pancakes and company. It’s how I nurture those closest to me: having a house of happy, well-fed people makes me happy, too.

These dishes are achievable for any home cook. I write not as a chef or entrepreneur, nor as a MasterChef winner, but as a busy working woman. These recipes should not only satisfy (and sometimes impress), but also fill your kitchen with great smells and a sense of adventure. It’s amazing how a few spices can transform a simple recipe; equally, sometimes all you want is a perfect poached egg to make yourself feel whole.

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Which simple recipes should your children be able to cook? | Jay Rayner

Thu, 16 Feb 2017 12:00:02 GMT

By the time you pack them off to university, a good tomato sauce and a roast chicken are a must. The perfect hollandaise? Not so much

Recently, I came home to find the remnants of a hollandaise sauce smeared across the inside of a kitchen bowl. I ran my finger through what was left. It was perfect: foamy and rich with that necessary acidity. Apparently my 17-year-old son had knocked it up from watching YouTube videos. Not long before, I had introduced him to the glories of eggs benedict. (Look, he’s a restaurant critic’s child. What do you expect?) He wanted to eat one so Googled the instructions for the sauce. He had no idea that it’s tricky to get the temperature of the bain-marie right, so the eggs don’t curdle as you whisk them. He just did it. Sometimes ignorance can be a wonderful thing.

Nobody needs to know how to make the perfect hollandaise. But it got me thinking. My son is preparing for his A-levels. If all goes to plan, he’ll be off to university come the autumn. Surely good parenting, albeit of the belly-obsessed kind, demands that you send your progeny out into the world armed with some key recipes? Partly it’s about survival. You need to know how to stretch a budget. But it’s also about providing comfort, both for yourself and others.

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Nigel Slater’s winter citrus recipes

Mon, 20 Feb 2017 08:00:32 GMT

Winter citrus adds colour to the dark days of February. Refresh your plate with lemon, grapefruit and blood orange

Citrus fruit makes the heart sing, it brightens, refreshes and uplifts: a thick, bittersweet orange curd; a salad of bitter leaves and pink grapefruit made piquant with tiny capers; a light, cooling ceviche of sea bass and blood orange, or cold-weather main dish of Italian boiling sausage, slow-cooked potatoes and lemons. There is no better time for those clean, vivid citrus flavours than now – frost on the hedges, the scent of lemon zest in the air.

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Monday’s best TV: Silent Witness; The Affair; First Dates Hotel

Mon, 02 Jan 2017 06:20:17 GMT

The venerable forensics drama tackles the refugee crisis; Noah faces his demons; and maître’d Fred swaps a restaurant for a guesthouse in the south of France

Cooking to drive away the mid-winter blues. Dave and Si present a new weekday series devoted to dishes that imbue feelings of warmth and contentment. We begin with recipes that conjure up the past, such as a Lancashire hotpot like the one Dave’s mum used to make. For his part, Si opts to bake pissaladière, an onion-heavy, pizza-like tart that recalls a French holiday. Probably not for those whose new year’s resolutions involve dieting. Jonathan Wright

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Rising popularity of Indian restaurants - archive, 24 January 1957

Tue, 24 Jan 2017 05:30:38 GMT

24 January 1957: There must be about a dozen in the Manchester district, at least a hundred in London, and they are spreading over the rest of the country fast

When you have missed the homeward bus, the shops have brilliant windows but locked doors, and the pavements are greasy black with rain a Northern city can be an inhospitable place. Once there was nothing to do and nowhere to go: now there are Indian restaurants.

In the middle of every night, Sunday or weekday, when the cafes and steak houses are shut and their waiters asleep, egg pilao and Madras chicken curry, Bhuna Gosht, Kofta, Jelabi, and Poppadum are coming to birth, filling and astonishing the mouths of those who always miss buses, all over Britain. Provision, naturally, is made for the few who dislike being astonished at table: they can order fried eggs or cups of unsuccessful white coffee tinged with charcoal, but the cooks, temperamentally, cannot put their hearts into a chip. The number of Indian restaurants in this country is hard to discover. There must be about a dozen in the Manchester district. There are certainly at least a hundred in London, and they are spreading over the rest of the country fast, to towns as unlikely as Northampton.

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TV's hits and misses in 2016: MasterChef, Eurovision and Please Like Me

Sat, 31 Dec 2016 01:37:25 GMT

Bachelor Richie Strahan sparked fan fury, Kourtney Kardashian stayed silent and Q&A weighed in on Shakespeare

It was one of those made-for-TV talking points: Heston Blumenthal’s “verjus in egg”. This year’s MasterChef finalists had five-and-a-half hours in which to make the intricate dessert, described here by Blumenthal’s executive chef: “Really, really technical work with chocolate tempering at least twice in terms of making the shell and … the secondary panna cotta … a fluid gel with Gellan gum that was for the runny yolk”. The recipe has 91 steps. Matt Sinclair’s split apart after he missed one and Elena Duggan was crowned the winner. Some 2.52m Australians tuned in. – EH

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‘Restaurants have taught me who I am’

Sun, 15 Jan 2017 10:30:13 GMT

From work breakfasts with her editor to arguments over oysters with an ex-boyfriend, eating out has been an education for novelist Kathleen Alcott

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You can tell everything about a person, says a common piece of wisdom, by how he or she treats the waiter. It’s a dependable and convenient yardstick, given how the bistro tables and corner booths are, very often, the places where we decide upon whom we let into our lives – acquaintances who might become dear friends, depending on how urged we feel to linger on after the bill has been dropped; those we may choose as colleagues, gauging by whether their ideas are so dull we require a second coffee; dates who remain just that, failing somehow to attach to our ideas about the futures we’ve imagined. Beyond bantering with the staff or failing to, forgiving the waitress her misstep or snapping at her for it, there’s another element of our comportment as diners that serves as a kind of shorthand: the public element of the transaction ends up serving as a kind of censor, limiting the largeness of our expression but placing a premium on the smallest of gestures and phrases. In the expensive cities where I’ve spent all my adult life, where the luxury of the space to cook is rare and a halfway point between subway stops seems the only polite solution, white tablecloths and Edison bulbs and pale green espresso machines have almost always been the backdrop when I have chosen people, and likewise when I have let them go.

Shortly after I arrived in New York, 22, the ragtag child of hippies, a girl who had never learned to use a fork and knife quite correctly, I sold my first novel and began attending the sort of meals I’d rarely been able to afford before. The first came as a surprise; my editor called late one afternoon to let me know that the house’s publisher, an imposing and rigorous woman with an interrogative Belgian accent, happened to be in town from Boston the next morning. Could I have breakfast at the ungodly hour of 8am, somewhere uptown? I have always been the type of person who remains monosyllabic until noon, but I agreed, with the kind of excitement I have never felt before or since. It seemed I had entered the next part of my life. I wore a pencil skirt striped vertically in blue and white and a short-sleeved secretary blouse in peach silk and some absurd purple suede flats, still convinced glamour was something that waved and winked from every angle. Early to arrive in the empty dining room, I sat alone at a pristine table in the deepening morning light and watched the water glasses take on the greens of the park across the street. When they showed up, both towering over me at six feet, my editor hugged me but the publisher only shook my hand. It was the first in a series of what could only be described as appraisals. My coffee had only just appeared when the publisher, who had spent the first 20 years of her career as a Lacanian psychoanalyst, looked at me with the scrutiny of a fairytale stepmother before launching a missile into the conversation. Jacques Lacan, I had read, believed the heart of the matter could be reached in under three minutes; this woman apparently believed she could trim that down to 30 seconds. Our orders not yet taken, she asked, in reference to my novel, which concerned two children who grow up as neighbours and enter a sexual relationship too early, “What happened to you? Incest?” It makes me laugh now to think of it, having to address that query before I was even caffeinated, but at the time I was nailed to my chair, actually apologising, “No, actually, but …” flailing to provide the biographical summary that would explain my dark little book. What did I learn there – besides that I didn’t trust the Lacanian method? That I was afraid of a person who could speak so freely before espresso, that I communed best with those who were soft and gentle in a conversation’s opening notes. In the many lunches I shared with my first editor after that, we babied each other upon greeting, complimenting earrings and taking quick squeezes of the other’s hands, and it was in that way we developed the space in which we could truly discuss the work before us. She also never winced when I sent a fork clattering to the floor or managed to leave a little childish halo of breadcrumbs around my plate, but rather asked for a new utensil and swiped a napkin across the table I’d littered without a word, small acts of elegant kindness for which I’ll always be grateful. It is those who cringe easily, or ask for a more appropriate spoon to stir their americano, or apologise for the volume of the music, who are the most likely to prove rigid and pedantic colleagues. To put it another way, I would never do business with anyone who would never drink wine out of a plastic cup.

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Home comforts: the Italian hotel giving refugees a showcase for their culinary skills

Thu, 16 Feb 2017 14:17:41 GMT

Part of a government project, Villaggio La Brocchi is a hotel focused on helping refugees – and by allowing them to shape the menu gives guests a taste of east Africa amid the Tuscan hills

In the Tuscan countryside north of Florence, the scent of ginger, cardamon, cloves and other exotic spices fill the air. Come evening, guests dining on a terrace overlooking hills, olive groves and medieval hamlets will tuck into a traditional east African spread: injera flatbreads topped with vegetables or meat and spiced with saffron, ginger and curcuma; sambusa – fried dumplings stuffed with lentils or meat; or perhaps zigini – hot tomato stew from Eritrea made with lamb or beef, and seasoned with berbere spice mix. The incongruous meal is prepared by Sara Tagi, a 28-year-old Ethiopian chef at Ethnos restaurant in Villaggio La Brocchi.

The classic Tuscan views from the village draw visitors, but the main attractions are the food and the chance to meet and mingle with refugees from Africa, Armenia, Syria, Lebanon and Kosovo.

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Drink: Valentine’s Day tipples that won’t make you cringe with embarrassment

Thu, 09 Feb 2017 17:00:28 GMT

Valentine’s Day often brings out the worst in producers, but this year there are more than a few drinks that won’t make you recoil at their tweeness or sweetness

If you follow this column regularly, you may have noticed that I veer between gratifying readers who want to celebrate Valentine’s Day with as much razzmatazz as possible and those who just wish it would go away. This year, it’s the former – and, thankfully for me, there are for once some interesting new drinks to write about.

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Northern Territory holiday guide: culinary adventures

Mon, 20 Feb 2017 22:18:26 GMT

From witchetty grubs to sapodillas, crocodile meat to laksa, the variety of food and drink on offer in the Top End is rich

• Northern Territory: regional guide

While not renowned as a culinary destination, the Northern Territory offers plenty of adventures for foodies willing to try bush-tucker delights or deep dive into the tropical fruits and flavours of the Top End. For lovers of seafood, locally caught wild barramundi is plentiful, and is often cooked in native lemon myrtle or with chilli and ginger – a nod to the rich Aboriginal and Asian heritage of the region.

Here are my 10 unmissable food and wine experiences in the territory.

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Stanley Tucci’s nostalgic recipe for Calabrian eggs poached in tomato sauce | A Taste of Home

Fri, 24 Feb 2017 12:00:31 GMT

Fridays were Dad’s night to cook, recalls Stanley Tucci – when the family would gather on old stools round the formica-topped table and tuck into sweet-smelling eggs poached in a tomato sauce, mopped up with hunks of bread

I grew up in Katonah, New York, but my family are of Calabrian heritage, so our homecooked food always had a southern Italian character. Really, it’s the stupidly simply stuff that’s most evocative, like steak oreganata, pounded and sauteed with a little olive oil, butter, garlic, oregano; or pasta with garlic; or Sunday ragu and meatballs. My mom would get up early to start the ragu, slow cooking the sauce with pork or beef ribs, then we’d go to church – before we realised that church is pointless – and then come home to eat it, strewn over pasta, followed by the meatballs (not to eat them in that order would be crass).

Related: Q&A: Stanley Tucci – ‘I would like to say sorry to my late wife'

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Nigel Slater’s chickpeas and spiced tomato sauce recipe

Tue, 21 Feb 2017 12:00:03 GMT

Get your pulses going with a soft and sweet, nutty and crunchy, quick and easy vegetarian supper

Peel and thinly slice 2 cloves of garlic. Peel a 40g knob of ginger and cut it into matchsticks. Finely chop 1 medium hot red chilli. Warm 2 tbsp of groundnut oil in a saucepan, add the garlic, ginger and chilli and fry for 2 or 3 minutes over a moderate heat, until the garlic is pale gold.

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Nigel Slater’s broth, greens and barley

Tue, 14 Feb 2017 12:00:04 GMT

A hearty, meaty, grain and greens dish for a cold day

Remove any juicy pieces of meat from the bones of the Sunday roast (pork, lamb, chicken, whatever) and reserve. Put the bones into a large pot, pour in enough water to come two-thirds of the way up the pan then bring to the boil. Add 1 onion, halved, 8 black peppercorns, 1 tsp of coriander seeds, a carrot or two, a stick of celery, a couple of bay leaves and 3 star anise flowers. Turn the heat down so the liquid bubbles calmly and partially cover with a lid. Leave for 45-60 minutes.

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Life, death and steak ’n’ kidney pie – a recipe for remembrance

Thu, 16 Feb 2017 14:38:22 GMT

In this extract from Adventures of a Terribly Greedy Girl, Kay Plunkett-Hogge recounts how she came to terms with the passing of her mother with the healing warmth of her favourite dish

They wheeled out a trolley covered in tattered, stained sheets, which the attendant plucked off with a practised flourish. She wore mismatched clothes. A summer skirt with a novelty sweater and open-toed sandals. It was January, for God’s sake. Her arms were stiffly crossed over her chest in a poor imitation of piety. Her skin was grey and waxen, her eyes blue pools staring into nothing. The family gathered to drop warm tears on to her cold cheeks. All except me.

It was the last time I saw my mother.

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Dan Barber’s long-term mission: to change food and farming for ever

Sun, 15 Jan 2017 10:00:12 GMT

America’s philosopher chef won over a president to his vision of sustainability. And now he’s bringing it to Britain

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Four or five mornings a week Dan Barber drives out from his home in Manhattan to Blue Hill at Stone Barns, his celebrated restaurant in the Pocatino Hills, north of New York. On a good day the journey takes just under an hour. Barber, 47, is America’s pre-eminent philosopher chef. He has the reed-thin rigour of a stoic and the endlessly curious palate of a hedonist. He is on a cheerfully insane, one-man mission not only to serve some of the best-tasting food in America, but also to change the way America farms and eats for ever. It would be fair to say this mission is much more than a full-time job.

I’d said good night to Barber late the previous evening in the tiny galley kitchen of his Manhattan restaurant – also called Blue Hill – where he had laboured to create one of the most innovative and memorable meals I’d ever eaten and from which he was heading home to the apartment a couple of blocks away where he lives with his wife and two daughters, aged three and one. I’d caught up with him again at 7am at the Green Market at Union Square where he was eagle-eyeing what was new, chatting with old-friend farmers and buying carefully selected boxes of red, yellow and sour cherries and baby fava beans and bunches of the coveted salty Italian herb agretti. Some of that produce was now in the back of his car.

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Mary Berry says she was never asked to go with Bake Off to C4

Tue, 21 Feb 2017 00:01:00 GMT

Celebrity cook says she didn’t have a meeting with broadcaster but had already decided to stay loyal to BBC

Mary Berry has said she was not formally offered the chance to stay with The Great British Bake Off when it moved from the BBC to Channel 4 last year.

Restaurateur and writer Prue Leith is expected to take Berry’s role as a judge on the new-look show, which is due to air later this year, and has been described as a “like for like” replacement designed to smooth the transition for viewers.

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Food waste is a scandal, but to blame it on millennials is nonsense | Nell Frizzell

Mon, 13 Feb 2017 09:39:11 GMT

Instagram snaps of dinner aren’t the cause: for that, look to an intensive farming and supermarket culture that has divorced people from how food is produced

When I die, I would like to be buried in a large, biodegradable, click-n-lock Tupperware coffin, my hair glistening beneath a rubber-seal lid, my feet resting against the firm clear sides like a pair of carrot batons. I want to be remembered in death precisely as I was when I lived: absolutely up to my armpits in leftovers.

Because, despite the temptation to blame my generation for every problem going, from political apathy to air pollution, not all millennials waste all food. You may have seen the news that “time-poor millennials” are “preoccupied by the visual presentation of food” while “failing to plan meals, buying too much and then throwing it away”. Which may be true. It certainly is true that the UK churns out 15m tonnes of food waste a year – of which 7m tonnes come from households. This is inexcusable. Particularly when so much of the food we throw away is flown in, creating serious CO2 emissions, from countries facing their own food scarcity or economic uncertainty.

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Why the price could be right for craft beer | Letters

Fri, 10 Feb 2017 19:24:36 GMT

It might be a good idea for Bob Proctor (The dangers of jumping on a craft beer bandwagon, Letters, 4 February) to check with his local pub’s landlord and find out what container this “overpriced craft beer” comes in. If it is a KeyKeg, a disposable, plastic pressurised container often used by small independent brewers, it would explain the price increase. Beer is delivered in a cask or keg, both either steel or, more recently, hard plastic. These are both expected to be returned to the brewery, which will reuse them. KeyKegs are non-returnable, so the cost of packaging must be passed on to the pub, which then passes the cost on to the consumer. If you understand the difference between beer and cask-conditioned real ale, look into KeyKegs: they may seem like the enemy, but they’re doing real ale a real favour.
Chris Gent
Stockport

Join the debate – email guardian.letters@theguardian.com

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Jeremy Lee: a cook and his books

Thu, 23 Feb 2017 12:30:03 GMT

Cookbooks are a dime a dozen nowadays, but Elizabeth David’s works, and those of her contemporaries, have timeless appeal. Chef Jeremy Lee celebrates the writers that still lure him into the kitchen

My parents liked to read, cook and eat, quite liked their brood and made efforts to have us all at the table every day. In the kitchen, a small pile of cookery books (pulled from laden shelves), with a pad and a pencil for notes, awaited my mother’s interest.

To this day this is how I love to read a book: at home, surrounded by piles of this, that and the other. I sometimes find my finger, as my mother’s did, tap-tap-tapping at a recipe on a page.

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The Plough at Scalby, North Yorkshire: hotel review

Sun, 19 Feb 2017 11:00:06 GMT

The one thing missing from this stretch of Yorkshire coast has been a good place to stay. This refurbished pub has rectified that, and is a boon for walkers

The stretch of coast between Scarborough and Robin Hood’s Bay must be one of England’s finest. And yet, despite those two places seeing plenty of visitors, this leg of the coastal path certainly isn’t overly busy. Why? It’s not for lack of loveliness: there’s the bay at Hayburn Wyke, plus geological marvels and endless big vistas from the rollercoaster of a path. It was only when I tried to plan a multi-day walk up the coast that I understood: there is very little accommodation to choose from.

So, when I reach the recently refurbished Plough at Scalby, I am excited. Scalby is only a couple miles north of Scarborough, but that means I can have an early breakfast and be on the beach at Burniston, examining the famous dinosaur footprints, as the sun rises over the North Sea. From there, I will yomp north up the Cleveland Way coastal path to Robin Hood’s Bay, 13 miles away – a decent stretch for a relatively short winter’s day.

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Tamal Ray’s healthy lunch recipes: noodle pots and dal with flatbreads

Wed, 22 Feb 2017 11:40:13 GMT

Try these simple dishes for a satisfyingly filling midday meal with no carb coma

“There’s something different about you!” bellowed a smiling colleague I hadn’t seen in a while as I stepped on to the ward. “Have you been hitting the gym? Or eating more?” The awkward pause that followed confirmed it was the latter. So began my 2017. Towards the end of 2016, I had fallen into bad habits and was surviving on a diet consisting mainly of milk chocolate and hula hoops. Without any time to devote to packed lunches, I was forced to seek out healthy and filling food in NHS canteens; as scarce as empty beds are on the wards. Things didn’t improve over the festive period with the abundance of sweets, cheese and paté. Still, I wasn’t quite prepared for the boost my inevitable January self-loathing was given a few days later by the bombshell, from the NHS BMI calculator, telling me that I needed to lose 18.7kg to be my ideal body weight. 18.7kg. That’s basically an entire child I’m carting around all day.

It is time for a change then – of diet, but even more so of habits. And top of the list is lunch. I’m not sure why I stopped making home-made noodle pots but, rediscovering them now, I have realised they are the perfect work lunch. Just add hot water and you have a satisfyingly filling meal without the afternoon food coma that can accompany stodgier choices. They do take a bit of prep, but I usually make three or four at a time and keep them in the fridge until needed. They’re infinitely customisable, too; I have made them with the leftovers from a roast dinner: scrapings of gravy from the roasting tray and a handful of chopped onion, mange tout and chilli. The only thing I need to do on the day is remember to actually take one to work. Lentils are another tool on my quest for a healthy, filling lunch. Ubiquitous across India, they appear in all manner of different dals, from coconut infusions in the south to the rich, slow cooked dal makhani of the north. This particular recipe will be familiar to Bengalis; it’s a variation of the everyday dal eaten in many households. Much to the bewilderment of my parents, I couldn’t stand it as a child. There really isn’t much to hate; it’s a simple, nourishing dish, usually served with rice as an accompaniment to all manner of more exciting vegetable, fish and meat dishes. Just as I am unable to explain my childhood disdain for it, so too am I the craving I have for it now. Perhaps it’s that its simplicity is a perfect antidote to the excesses of winter. Or maybe it is that every nutty spoonful brings a smile to my face as I remember all those times my parents tried to coax me to try a little. Or maybe it just reminds me of home.

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The Big Painting Challenge review – a bit of an abstract mess

Mon, 13 Feb 2017 07:20:07 GMT

In trying not to be The Great British Bake Off, the show paints itself into a corner. Plus: Hull reveals its cultural charms

Ah yes, The Great British Paint Off – sorry, I mean The Big Painting Challenge (BBC1, Sunday). This is the one that became a bone of contention between the BBC and Love Productions. Love said it was a copy of a quite successful show about baking it does. The BBC said it wasn’t. Love took its masterpiece away, to hang in Gallery Channel 4 instead.

What are they talking about though? It’s completely different. OK, a diverse bunch of enthusiastic amateurs are set a couple of timed tasks, which are judged by experts, then someone gets sent home. But one is Great and the other is Big, and it’s whisks and spoons v brushes and palettes ... See, very little in common.

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The 50 best breakfast places in the UK

Sun, 15 Jan 2017 06:00:08 GMT

Breakfasts in Britain are among the best in the world. Here – region by region – are the very finest places to start your day

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MasterChef judge John Torode leaves hospital after riding accident

Wed, 28 Dec 2016 10:18:09 GMT

Australian chef’s partner, Lisa Faulkner, thanks staff at London hospital and says he is bruised but ‘well and happy’

The MasterChef judge John Torode has left hospital after a “lucky escape” in a riding accident.

A photo posted on Instagram of Torode, 51, in a hospital bed sparked concern for the Australian chef’s wellbeing. Lisa Faulkner, his partner, wrote that he was “very bruised” and thanked the staff of St Mary’s hospital in Paddington, west London.

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The pick of Provence: David Williams

Sun, 19 Feb 2017 06:00:00 GMT

For wine lovers, and particularly those who like French wine, Bandol produces some gorgeous bottles. Here are two to treat yourself with. Plus, a cheaper week-night offering using the mourvèdre grape

Domaine Tempier Bandol, France 2013 (from £23, The Wine Society; Lay & Wheeler; Uncorked) For a certain generation of foodies, Provence’s Domaine Tempier will always have a special significance. The estate was a favourite of those celebrated shapers of the British and American conception of the Provencal good life, the food writers Richard Olney and Elizabeth David and Californian chef Alice Waters. And like them, its name became synonymous, from the 1970s on, with the Mediterranean idyll of long lunches of daube de boeuf on sun-dappled terraces. The red wines – deep and meaty and fragrant with rosemary, thyme and lavender – still play on that appeal. And whether it’s the stunning set of three special cuvees from special plots of the Peyraud family vineyard in the Bandol appellation, or the original vineyard blend, their special charm remains intact.

La Bastide Blanche Bandol, France 2013 (£14.79, Waitrose) If Tempier is the standout name in the post-impressionist postcard land of Bandol, other estates are also capable of making wines that team very well with a David or Olney recipe that’s been bubbling away for hours in a Le Creuset pot. Thanks in no small part to the work of the Peyraud family over the last half-century, Bandol’s producers have become masters of mourvèdre, a grape that tends to play second fiddle elsewhere in southern France, but which seems to have an affinity with the specific play of light, land and coastal breeze to the east of Cassis and Marseille. The leathery complexity of Château de Pibarnon Bandol 2012 (£32, Joseph Barnes Wines) is a match for Tempier, while La Bastide Blanche offers a lot of dark and savoury intensity for the money.

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Coming soon: turnips are the new kale

Mon, 20 Feb 2017 08:00:32 GMT

The iceberg lettuce shortage is only the beginning. Brexit will have a huge effect on the food we buy. Best to fall back on some great British veg

I must be honest. I can’t say that I’m suffering too much, in this, the Great Iceberg Lettuce Shortage. Even before I discovered that at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, they serve a dish called Mr Trump’s Wedge Salad (of which iceberg lettuce is, we hope and pray, the primary ingredient), I wasn’t too keen on the stuff. But in any case, in these parts there’s no sign at all of a crisis. My local corner shop currently has three outside it, albeit a touch yellow at the edges, and the amazing greengrocer up the road – the one that was once in Vogue – still has trays of the things, not to mention all the other veg (aubergines, broccoli, courgettes) of which the bad weather in Spain is supposed to be depriving us. What does this mean? Is the Great Iceberg Lettuce Shortage an example of fake news? Or is it just that I live in a place where people would rather eat rocket?

Let’s assume, though, that somewhere desperate lettuce hounds are indeed waving 50-quid notes at supermarket staff. Aren’t such shortages in reality a good thing? As experts (I know, I know) such as Professor Tim Lang of City University have already taken the trouble to point out, Brexit is likely to have a momentous effect on the food we buy. Food stocks in Britain are low: an estimated three to five days’ worth; our self-sufficiency stands at only 61%; we get 30% of our food from the EU. Meanwhile, a lot of what we do produce here is picked and packaged by foreign workers. In the long term, we need to start worrying about the way food production affects climate change and vice versa. In the short term, prices are likely to rise dramatically. Basically, we need to start thinking about food security pronto, and if it’s the want of a bowl of winter ratatouille that focuses minds, then so be it.

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René Redzepi on Noma’s last supper – and what comes next

Sun, 15 Jan 2017 08:00:10 GMT

The decade’s greatest restaurant will serve its final meal next month. Head chef René Redzepi talks about his new restaurant that will again revolutionise cooking – Noma 2.0

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On the night in 2009 when his restaurant reached No 3 on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, René Redzepi’s thoughts turned to aviation. “It was a great moment,” he recalls. “But it also felt like that moment when you’re on a plane after it takes off, and you’re at 10,000 feet, and you’re wondering, is this where we level off? Or are we going to start climbing again?”

As it turned out, the climb for Noma had hardly begun: in the coming years, the restaurant would top the list four times, and Redzepi would launch several projects that would, in important ways, change the very nature of being a chef. But seven years, three international pop-ups, and one momentous decision later, the question remains as relevant to him as ever. René Redzepi is still wondering about the climb.

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Wine: how to go Australian without breaking the bank

Thu, 16 Feb 2017 17:00:08 GMT

The Australian wine revolution has one catch: the prices. But it is still possible to pick up a top-class bottle for less than £10

You can find just about any grape variety in Australia these days, so innovative and diverse is its winemaking scene. That’s good news, you’d think, but there is a catch: some pretty steep prices. I made it my mission at a recent Australia Day tasting to see what the country could deliver for under £10, a challenge that one of the big boys didn’t even bother rising to: Treasury Wine Estates, owner of Seppelts and Penfolds, had nothing under that figure on show.

I mentioned the mid-price shiraz revival a couple of months ago, but it’s worth revisiting Australian chardonnay, too, not least because it’s much fresher, cleaner and more citrussy than it was in the 1990s. Wines such as Hardy’s William Hardy Limestone Coast Chardonnay 2016 (£6.50 Tesco; 13.5% abv) and McGuigan’s Reserve Chardonnay 2015 (£6 Morrisons, £6.98 Asda, £7 Sainsbury’s; 12.5% abv) have none of those cloying tinned peach and clumsy oak flavours that turned so many people off the grape. (The lusciously creamy 13.5% abv McGuigan Founder’s Series Adelaide Hills Chardonnay 2015 is even better, but at £11 at Sainsbury’s, it’s just over the £10 mark. Snap it up if you ever see it on promotion.)

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How to make the perfect vegetable biryani

Thu, 16 Feb 2017 08:45:36 GMT

This Indian classic stands or falls on the quality of the rice. Once you’ve got that, there’s a wealth of options for your vegetables, spices, cooking method and even garnish. But can you really have a biryani without meat?

Biryani, the Indian rice dish, is, like so many classics, disputed territory. Traditionally credited to the Mughal court that ruled over much of modern-day India from the 16th century until the British Raj, its popularity in the southern states has given some credence to the idea that it was brought there by Arab traders. Whatever the truth, the dish is now popular nationwide, and the two most famous iterations come from Lucknow, in the north-west, often said to be more delicate, and Hyderabad, further south, which trades in spicier fare. Neither, it must be admitted, specialise in vegetable biryani; mutton is the most common variety, although chicken is also popular – Rajyasree Sen, writing in the Wall Street Journal, cautions visitors not to be “fooled by people who pass off vegetable pulao as biryani. There’s no such thing. It’s as much an oxymoron as chicken steak.” Yet vegetable biryani certainly is a thing among India’s 500 million vegetarians – and if Madhur Jaffrey says it’s a thing, it’s a thing, OK? But … how do you make it?

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‘Dubrovnik is just as magical as when I visited aged 10’

Fri, 17 Feb 2017 13:13:01 GMT

The old Croatian city, which inspired Annabelle Thorpe’s first novel, weathered the war of the 1990s and has emerged as glamorous as before

Dubrovnik is as eternal as Venice. There are those who say it has become a victim of its own success – flooded with cruise ships and Game of Thrones fans. To me, this misses the point: at different times it has been Roman, Byzantine and Venetian; it’s withstood wars and sieges, and emerged as glamorous and unbowed as ever. Ridiculously beautiful but still real, it remains as magical to me now as when I first visited in 1981, aged 10.

During the Balkan wars, I remember watching the siege of Dubrovnik on the news. It seemed impossible that it was the same place where we’d had happy family holidays. It became a location in my first novel, which tells the story of Miro Denkovic and his family, and how their lives are changed forever by the war. Watching the city’s rebirth over the past 20 years has been wonderful.

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The Great British Bake Off to return to TV screens in 2017

Wed, 25 Jan 2017 22:26:56 GMT

BBC waives right to prevent C4 relaunching show until at least 2018, saying a dispute would be undignified

The Great British Bake Off will return to television screens this year, it has been confirmed, after the BBC agreed to waive its right to force Channel 4 to hold off until 2018 at the earliest.

The BBC, which lost the rights to the programme last September after its rival broadcaster bid a reported £25m per year, said it wished the show well.

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How to make the perfect Eccles cakes

Thu, 23 Feb 2017 08:15:01 GMT

This traditional northern treat is crisp and filled with dried fruit – but which fruit? And should they be nestled in flaky or puff pastry?

Before the whoopee pie and the red velvet, before even the Victoria sandwich, there was the Eccles cake, and its less famous friends from Banbury and Chorley – a “fruit-filled pastry, 60-80mm diameter, 20mm deep”, according to Laura Mason and Catherine Brown’s invaluable guide, The Taste of Britain. Law’s Grocer’s Manual of 1902 declares that although there is “no definite recipe … the great guiding principle” of this “sort of currant sandwich” is “sweetness and lightness”. Which, as anyone who has ever purchased a plastic-wrapped example in a railway station will attest, is not reliably the case. As with so many pastries (for the Eccles cake is, in reality, certainly not a cake), freshness is key – and unless you’re lucky enough to live near a decent bakery, that means getting out the rolling pin yourself.

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A day in the life of Scott's restaurant - in pictures

Mon, 16 Jan 2017 10:44:46 GMT

Photographer Antonio Olmos steps behind the scenes at Britain’s grandest restaurant

  • Jay Rayner’s day at Scott’s
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How to eat: porridge

Tue, 21 Feb 2017 12:20:03 GMT

This month, How to Eat is wading into the quagmire that is porridge. Must the oats be pinhead? Is a wooden bowl essential? And are bacon, eggs and cacao nibs really acceptable toppings?

Porridge is a subject about which seemingly every detail is mired in controversy. Take, for instance, its origin myth. Robert Burns may have hymned “the halesome parritch, chief o’ Scotia’s food” and George Orwell, sarcastically, called it Scotland’s gift to the world. But porridge is no more Scottish than Rod Stewart. Nor is it necessarily directly descended from medieval English pottage, as the Oxford Companion To Food claims. Southern Europeans were drying and grinding oats 32,000 years ago. In 1001 variations globally, porridge has always been with us.

Then there is the issue of the grains, with numerous factions pushing the case for pinhead, coarse, jumbo or rolled oats, with a vociferousness that the average Trotskyist would find, “a bit much”. And that is before, in this age of porridge temples such as London’s 26 Grains, we get into retro-futurist, post-oat ingredients such as amaranth, spelt and black quinoa.

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From sea to plate: how plastic got into our fish

Tue, 14 Feb 2017 17:04:00 GMT

Eight million tonnes of waste plastic ends up in the sea each year. Fish eat it - and then we do. How bad is it for us?

It’s enough to make you cry over your moules frites. Scientists at Ghent University in Belgium recently calculated that shellfish lovers are eating up to 11,000 plastic fragments in their seafood each year. We absorb fewer than 1%, but they will still accumulate in the body over time. The findings affect all Europeans, but, as the most voracious consumers of mussels, the Belgians were deemed to be most exposed. Britons should sympathise – last August, the results of a study by Plymouth University caused a stir when it was reported that plastic was found in a third of UK-caught fish, including cod, haddock, mackerel and shellfish. Now, UK supermarkets are being lobbied to create plastic-free aisles by the campaign group A Plastic Planet, as a feature-length documentary, A Plastic Ocean, is released in Britain this week.

We are finally paying attention to the pollution that has plagued our seas for years – the government is considering a refundable deposit on plastic bottles, and pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson recently switched from plastic to paper stems on its cotton buds. Evidently, there’s nothing like serving plastic up on a dinner plate to focus the mind.

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Nigel Slater’s Brussels sprout, apple and clementine salad recipe

Sun, 12 Feb 2017 12:00:06 GMT

Greens at this time of year tend to be worthy. But add some zest and you’ll have a dish filled with brightness

I refuse to buy into the idea that February and March are flat months, the “hungry gap” where there is nothing of interest in the shops with which to cook. I rather enjoy seeing piles of citrus fruits against quiet, grey skies and boxes of purple sprouting, the asparagus of the brassica family, stacked at the greengrocers. The Brussels are still sweet, there are Jerusalem artichokes, leeks and still a few golden-fleshed squash about. Anyway, we are stuck with it so we had better get on with it.

A dressing made with honey and clementine zest removes all notion of worthiness

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Kitchen gadgets review: coconut grater – an ugly pleasure of the flesh

Wed, 22 Feb 2017 15:18:28 GMT

Its suction foot and serrated spokes look hideous but this device works well, producing a creamy bounty to sex up curry or cake, ice-cream or fish fries

Suction-footed shaft supporting a hand-cranked rotary coconut grater (£14.99, Coconutty.co.uk). Separates flesh from shell within bisected coconuts.

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Breakfast brought us the metre of metrication | Brief letters

Wed, 22 Feb 2017 19:43:31 GMT

Baby boomers | Bisexual partnerships | Tracking devices | Co-op’s cornflake rhymes | Currant pastries

Baby boomers are wrongly accused yet again (Letters, 21 February). According to Ipsos Mori, the total of boomers who voted Labour, Lib Dem or Green in the 2015 general election is greater than the number who voted Tory. Remember that the boomer generation includes the radical students of 1968, the early feminist and gay liberation movements, the anti-apartheid campaign, the founding of Amnesty, Third World First, and many other such movements and organisations.
Pam Lunn
Kenilworth, Warwickshire

• Personally, I wouldn’t want to enter into a marriage or a civil partnership (Court rules against mixed-sex civil partnerships but pair vow to appeal, 21 February). However, as a bisexual, I find it ludicrous that I could do either with a woman but could only marry a man.
Ria Hopkinson
London

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Anna Jones’s recipes for two winter pies | The modern cook

Mon, 20 Feb 2017 12:00:08 GMT

Warm up by topping a spiced lentil pie with comforting mash or cover a hearty vegetable and cheese pie with crisp celeriac rosti...

Walks – bracing ones across beaches and dunes – filled this last week. Long stretches of sand lined with pine forests on one side and the tempting sea on the other. With the car in sight, we surrendered our toes to the glassy water and splashed our way along the seashore, kicking droplets into the winter sunshine with each step. Back at the car, our rolled-up trousers damp and our toes like ice, we thawed out with tea and a snap of dark chocolate. On the drive home I was fixated on pie, topped with deep comforting mash, which I fantasised about eating with a spoon.

In less than an hour, we were spooning cumin and mustard seed-spiced pie from our laps, a comforting cloud-like crust of mashed cauliflower on top of a rich lentil ragu, cooked until the lentils are almost soft. Its warmth soon spread all the way to our feet.

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Spanish MPs give Junior MasterChef a roasting over late-night time slot

Tue, 21 Feb 2017 14:48:08 GMT

Spain’s version of TV show accused of exacerbating problem of tired children in an already seriously underslept country

Take one child, fatigue gently with lessons and homework, expose to a televisual phenomenon until long after midnight, then leave to rest for as long as possible, preferably overnight. Refresh with tears of tiredness and repeat.

The Spanish version of Junior MasterChef may have proved hugely popular, but some politicians believe its very late scheduling is a recipe for yet more lost shuteye in a country that is already seriously underslept.

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Forget five a day, eat 10 portions of fruit and veg to cut risk of early death

Thu, 23 Feb 2017 00:01:48 GMT

Scientists say even just 2.5 portions daily can lower chance of heart disease, stroke, cancer and premature death

Five portions of fruit and veg a day is good for you, but 10 is much better and could prevent up to 7.8 million premature deaths worldwide every year, say scientists.

The findings of the study led by Imperial College London may dismay the two in three adults who struggle to manage three or four portions – perhaps some tomatoes in a sandwich at lunchtime, an apple and a few spoonfuls of peas at dinner.

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Prue Leith: can the culinary legend fill Mary Berry’s boots on Bake Off?

Tue, 14 Feb 2017 14:46:08 GMT

Channel 4 has reportedly lined up the veteran restaurateur to judge GBBO. Could she be the perfect foil to Paul Hollywood?

Name: Prue Leith.

Age: 76.

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Nadiya Hussain: ‘Mum never used the oven – she stored pans in it’

Sat, 31 Dec 2016 14:00:29 GMT

The author and broadcaster, 32, on baking, writing and saying no to fishfingers

My life is all work, no relaxation. I sleep when I can; I eat if it’s there. But I love it. I am cooking, I’m baking, I’m writing. And I have the luxury of being able to go home to a beautiful family. If I’m stressed and tired, my kids have a way of making everything light-hearted and fun.

It was weird watching this year’s Bake Off. When you see other people in the tent, it feels like they’re imposters: why are they in our tent? It’s as if they’ve broken into your house and you’re watching them on CCTV. You also know how stressed they feel, so it’s really hard to watch.

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Think Argentina is all about steak? A seafood fix at El Muelle will make you think again

Wed, 15 Feb 2017 13:33:07 GMT

Escape noisy Buenos Aires for this elegant seafood restaurant overlooking the river. You’ll wonder why porteños aren’t all beating a path there

When you’ve had your fill of steak and chaos in downtown Buenos Aires, the place to come for respite, a seafood fix and a sundowner overlooking the River Plate is Club de Pescadores (Fisherman’s Club). You could call it a local secret, but everyone knows it’s there – perched on its own pier opposite the city’s secondary airport. It’s more that few people bother to make the trip.

More fool them, because this isolated building is something special. With its pointed tower, mansard roof and leaded windows, it looks more like a haunted mansion at an old English seaside resort than an Argentinian fishing club. But though it looks forbidding, you don’t have to be a member to have a nose around; just book a table in its seafood restaurant, El Muelle, which is open to all.

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How do you spot a hipster wine?

Sun, 19 Feb 2017 10:00:05 GMT

Some wines have pseudo counter-cultural stylings, but give them a chance – you might just love them

Now that hipster has come to mean anything vaguely to do with young people, you can add hipster wine to the clothes, music and coffee shops. But whereas in most cases hipster has, through overuse, become all but meaningless, when it comes to wine it’s actually quite useful. The word itself might be annoying, but in wine it sums up a genuine change in approach, a change that has been, for the most part, a force for good.

What do I mean by hipster wine? How would you spot one? Well I don’t just mean wine made by hipsters, although many of the wines in the burgeoning genre I’m trying to define are made by men and women in their 20s and 30s who fit the stereotype: beards, plaid shirts, social media smarts and ease with the words “authentic” and “artisanal”.

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Wines for Valentine’s Day | David Williams

Sun, 12 Feb 2017 05:59:36 GMT

Nothing says romance in a glass better than pink bubbles. Here are three pretty bottles of fizz to get you in the mood for love

Domaine Badoz Crémant du Jura Rosé Brut, France NV (£19.90, The Sampler) I’ve never drunk pink champagne on Valentine’s Day, but judging by the various promotions on the stuff in the shops, quite a few people do, and there are worse ways of spending Tuesday evening than sharing a bottle of one the classics of the genre: the graceful Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Rosé Brut NV (down to £43.99 from £58.99, Waitrose) or the gossamer, soft, red-berry prettiness of Billecart-Salmon Rosé NV (from £60, Laithwaites). Marks & Sparks’ raspberry-scented pink house fizz, Oudinot Rosé NV, is also good value on its offer price of £24 (reduced from £28), although my own French choice would take me away from the Champagne region to Badoz’s floral, gently tangy, racy Jura rosé.

Jansz Tasmania Premium Rosé, Australia NV (£17.50, Oddbins) Good pink bubbles are now created all over the world, and Australia’s equivalent to the Champagne region is cool, green Tasmania, home of Jansz, a deliciously strawberry and cream rosé blend from the three traditional champagne grapes (pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot meunier). Chile has been slower to master bubbles, but I like the crisp, snappy Santa Digna Estelado Rosé NV (£9.95, Amps) made by Spanish producer Torres from the fashionable local país grape variety. Kent’s Hush Heath Estate is perhaps England’s best practitioner of the sparkling rosé arts, with wines such as the citrus, redcurrant and hedgerow-scented Balfour 1503 Rosé Brut NV (from £19.99, Majestic).

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