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Food & drink | The Guardian

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

A showstopping chocolate cake recipe | King of puddings

Sat, 24 Jun 2017 11:00:06 GMT

There is something of the Scarlet Pimpernel about this luscious chocolate cake: an aristocratic Gallic gateau that takes the breath away

It happens every time. Nothing quiets the din of a great gathering, albeit briefly, like the appearance of chocolate cake. What music does to soothe a savage breast, so too does a chocolate cake with its ability to make the eyes of a crowd mist over. It inspires the familiar questions: how good is it? Is this even better than the last one? Was the chocolate skimped on? Is the chocolate the best, or bulked out with Scotbloc? And the answers are always the same. Very! Yes! No! Absolutely not!

My Mum made a very fine chocolate cake, particularly to celebrate my sister’s birthday – the same one every year. While her family made much joyful hullaballoo at the table, Mum added the finishing touches to the cake – a great affair, chocolate on chocolate on chocolate, with much cream. God, it was good. The very definition of scrumptious, the birthday treat deluxe. No death by chocolate here: this was life-enhancing stuff.

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Ruby Tandoh criticises celebrity cooks for 'suspicious silence' over election

Thu, 08 Jun 2017 15:55:14 GMT

Former Bake Off contestant suggests TV stars such as Jamie Oliver and Paul Hollywood fear damaging cookbook sales

Ruby Tandoh, a former contestant on The Great British Bake Off, has criticised fellow celebrity cooks for staying quiet about the general election.

Tandoh, who was a runner-up in the show in 2013 and has since established herself as a cook and a commentator on food and mental health issues, chastised Jamie Oliver, Nigel Slater, Nigella Lawson, the Hairy Bikers and Bake Off judge Paul Hollywood for not speaking out about politics.

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Sue Perkins: ‘I love live TV. It’s like water, it flows’

Sun, 14 May 2017 06:00:08 GMT

After stepping away from Bake Off, Sue Perkins is heading down the Ganges for the BBC and hosting the TV Baftas. She talks to Jay Rayner about stepping into Graham Norton’s shoes, why she is in therapy and what she owes television

Sue Perkins is learning how to be a national treasure, and it’s clearly a full-time job. The day we meet she has just come from spending a couple of hours in the company of Kirsty Young for Radio 4. “There are two gigs that have been defining for me,” she says, over a steaming mug of green tea in a fancy hotel bar opposite Broadcasting House. “One was the first time I got to do Just a Minute. The other one is today when I recorded Desert Island Discs.” She fires off one of her sweet toothy grins. She will not be drawn on any of her record choices – it will be broadcast in the summer. “But it was a privilege to be asked. It’s contemplative. You get to interrogate your life.”

For three months I’d go off to a stately home, play whist with Mary Berry, see my friends and meet great bakers

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Kitchen gadgets review: Swan Vintage Teasmade – liquid is sluicing in the direction of my head

Wed, 21 Jun 2017 06:00:22 GMT

It’s 6.30am and I’m woken by turbulence and shrill peeping. Should this maid really still be in domestic service?

Swan Vintage Teasmade (£49.99, Argos). Alarm-rigged, immersion-heated tank plumbed into adjoining chamber. When activated, steam pressure forces boiling liquid via duct into a positioned jug.

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Anna Hansen’s kitchen: ‘it works perfectly. But I’ve only one regret’ | My kitchen

Sat, 24 Jun 2017 11:00:06 GMT

Chef Anna Hansen finally got to design her own kitchen. The result? She likes everything but the kitchen sink ...

We didn’t have to do a lot of work to the house when we bought it in 2014, but we did. Strangely, when faced with the possibility of designing my own kitchen, I realised I wasn’t actually sure what I wanted. It took a while to work it out, but we got there: it works perfectly.

I’ve only one regret – the second sink we installed in the island, next to the hob – for straining and rinsing and filling pots – should have been a bit bigger. The thing I love most, weirdly, is the other sink. Everything fits in it – baking trays, big pots, we even bathe our daughter Sonia in it. We did when she was a baby (obviously we cleaned the sink out before and after) and she still fits in it now – she’s three. I also love the dark green splashback – it’s just glass painted on the back, with mirror paper applied.

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A recipe for salted chocolate cookies from the kitchen of Miles Kirby | A cook's kitchen

Sat, 03 Jun 2017 09:00:02 GMT

Caravan’s Miles Kirby battles tea-towel towers in pursuit of a clutter-free cooking space ... to make these chocolate butter cookies

We redid our kitchen about two years ago, when my partner, René, was pregnant with Marlon. The building work wrapped up the day before we got back from the hospital with him. We somehow always seem to do that – we didn’t have a working bathroom when we got back from the hospital with our eldest, Eli; not a great idea with a newborn … The house is an east London terrace with an alley down the side. We pushed out a metre to the side, and extended at the back. In the summertime, the doors on to the yard are open the whole time – it’s a real antipodean thing I guess. I love that I can see all the way from the front door out into the back garden. And I love that the kids can run around while we’re working in the kitchen.

It’s really important to me to include my kids in the kitchen, and to build up a food culture for them: a celebration of eating together. We try to do pasta Sundays – we make the dough together and roll it out, then eat it together with friends. They really love it.

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Bake Off auction seeks to whip up sponsorship bidding frenzy

Thu, 20 Apr 2017 15:15:30 GMT

On your marks, get set, bid … Channel 4 invites 350 ad execs to auction with £8m starting price threatening TalkTalk’s £10m record deal for X Factor

Channel 4 has kicked off the search for a sponsor for The Great British Bake Off with a pitch to more than 350 advertising executives and some of the UK’s biggest spending brands, as the broadcaster looks to rake in more than £25m a year from the biggest show on British TV.

The broadcaster pulled out all the stops for the event, the largest it has ever held to promote an individual show, with two of the programme’s presenters, Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith, roped in to aid the charm offensive held at Channel 4’s London headquarters on Thursday.

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Wine: orange is the new white

Thu, 22 Jun 2017 16:00:04 GMT

Orange wine is beginning to make a real mark on our drinking scene

We pride ourselves in this country on our openness to new influences, but when it comes to orange wine, Canada has the edge. I’ve just spent a few days in Montreal, where practically every restaurant (OK, not Tim Hortons) lists orange wines; one place I went to, Nora Gray, had 10. The quality-control board in Ontario has even drawn up regulations for skin contact wines – wines where the grapes are left in contact with the skins; it’s the first in the world to create such a code.

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In pictures: A Neapolitan dinner, with Rachel Roddy

Thu, 22 Jun 2017 14:36:47 GMT

A southern Italian restaurant, along with Guardian Cook columnist Rachel Roddy, puts on a dinner themed on the books of Elena Ferrante, celebrating the transformative power of books and food in aid of the Worldreader charity. Read more about it here...

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No tip for you: restaurants move toward hospitality-included menus

Mon, 22 May 2017 06:00:16 GMT

As the industry tries to make pay more fair, efforts to end the tipping habit have been complicated by the impending raises in minimum wage in many states

“Hmmm,” was the considered opinion of a member of the waitstaff at Manhattan’s Union Square Cafe last week when asked about working for a set wage, not tips. “It’s good to know how much is coming in,” the staff member later reconsidered. “Not so good if you need to make cash fast.”

A little over 18 months ago, restaurateur Danny Meyer announced that the famed cafe, as well as other full-service restaurants in Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group, would phase out tipping, ending a practice that Meyer said has roots in slavery. The news sparked a national discussion on tipping in a country where gratuities have embedded themselves in the national culture.

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Vegans, vegetarians and now… reducetarians

Sun, 25 Jun 2017 05:00:21 GMT

For anyone who has tried to cut out meat entirely and failed, there’s a new movement which tries to take a more pragmatic approach

Unlike drinking, exercise and home cooking, being vegetarian is seen as a black-and-white deal. You either are or you aren’t. Go meat free all year and you’re a vegetarian; eat one chicken burger on New Year’s Eve and you’ve failed.

According to the Vegan Society, there were three and a half times as many vegans in 2016 as 10 years earlier. The NHS states that more than 1.2 million people in the UK are vegetarian. And a YouGov survey found that 25% of people in Britain have cut back how much meat they eat. Despite this, too many of us still hold on to the idea that to eat less meat means nothing unless you can manage to eat no meat at all.

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American whiskey a go go: UK downing record amounts of US spirit

Fri, 16 Jun 2017 16:07:13 GMT

Britons consume more than 1m litres of bourbon, rye and other American whiskeys a month, with sales passing £1bn in 2016

Forget gin, British drinkers are now drinking record amounts of American whiskey, with sales topping more than a £1bn for the first time.

Whiskey is the UK’s fastest growing tipple as Britons drink more than 1m litres of the spirit every month. As a result sales grew 9% in 2016, compared with 7% for gin and a decline of 1% for scotch, the domestic rival to Jack Daniels, Maker’s Mark and Jim Beam.

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France road trip: La Rochelle, Cognac and the Atlantic coast islands

Sat, 17 Jun 2017 11:30:37 GMT

Great seafood, Roman remains and a pine-fringed, cycle-friendly island are among the highlights of this leisurely paced two-week route
See the Perpignan and Spanish border, and Lyon to Nice road trips

La Rochelle is a lively, sparkling seaside town with a great reputation for seafood, three urban beaches and the best vieux port on the French Atlantic. Spend a day strolling under the arcades of the rue du Palais, exploring the maritime museum, and the aquarium, open until 11pm in the summer. Spend the late afternoon watching the pleasure boats and the evening on the seafront, eating a platter of shellfish. Sleep at Des Tours à La Rochelle, a family-run chambres d’hôtes with a pool, five minutes’ drive from the centre (doubles from €75 B&B, each named after one of La Rochelle’s medieval stone towers).

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Sir Peter Blake: ‘All a country has is its culture; the rest is infrastructure’

Sun, 21 May 2017 11:00:03 GMT

On the eve of Sgt Pepper’s half-century, the pop artist shares stories of his classic album sleeve, snubbing Warhol and why he hasn’t paid a bill in Mr Chow for 50 years

I meet Sir Peter Blake in Mr Chow, the institution of a Chinese restaurant opposite One Hyde Park, where flats sell for £75m. Blake knew the restaurant’s eponymous owner in leaner times. He first met Michael Chow, he explains as we sit down, when the restaurateur was living on a camp bed in the garage of the painter Victor Pasmore by the Thames at Chiswick. Blake and his friend Richard Lin went to supper in the garage, a glorious meal that Chow cooked on a single paraffin burner on the dirt floor. Both Lin and Chow were artists and political refugees from Mao’s China, where Michael’s father had been a leading performer in the Peking Opera. Ten years after that meal, in 1967, Blake was a guest of honour at the opening of this restaurant; Chow later opened in Beverly Hills and New York.

To decorate the restaurant back then, Chow invited his artist friends to donate paintings for the walls in exchange for food. Blake was then at the height of his fame as a pop artist in the year of Sgt Pepper; among other things he made a portrait of Chow as part of his “wrestlers series” (Frisco and Lorenzo Wong and Wildman Mr Chow). The deal proved a good one on both sides. Blake’s paintings have only increased in value, and his tab has never run out. (The same cannot be said for another, nameless, artist. “He ate his share in two weeks,” Blake says. “He brought 20 people a night and drank the best champagne and that was that. With me, it has gone on for ever.”)

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How to cook Swedish-style baked leeks and beef rydberg on an open fire | Book extract

Wed, 21 Jun 2017 08:00:25 GMT

Nordic cooking is simpler than you think. As this Swedish chef says, all you need is a wood fire and an iron pan to make these recipes from his book, Food From The Fire

Before the arrival of the electric cooker, fire, wood and iron were the holy trinity of the Swedish kitchen. I grew up in Järpen, a small village in the north of Sweden. My parents would take us to the mountains, and we’d cook over a fire pit. As a young chef, though, I became passionate about Italian olive oil, French braised chicken and molecular gastronomy – serving dishes, in my first restaurant, such as “asparagus clouds”. I could hardly have got any further away from the rustic slow cooking of the Jämtland forests.

And then I spent the summer of 2011 with my family in a cabin on the island of Ingarö in the Stockholm archipelago. My wife Katarina had just had our first child, our son Vinston. I wandered around on the island and pondered, like a gloomy character from a Bergman film staring at the trees, and remembered the open-fire cooking of my childhood. I chopped down some of the birches I had stared at and made a fire pit. For the whole summer, it was our family kitchen – it never went out. Most of the time we grilled in the usual way, on a grate, but one day I didn’t have enough patience and just whacked a cast-iron pan straight into the flames. The fire sizzled and sparked around the pan; the force of the heat knocked me back; and the flavours of the food … what depth! The image of an analogue fine-dining restaurant developed in my mind, a place where everything was cooked over fire, like in the old days.

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Cocktail of the week: little dragon

Tue, 20 Jun 2017 16:00:05 GMT

This is two drinks in one: a refreshingly herby aperitif, or top with tonic for a proper summer cooler

Tarragon has a glorious lemony aroma with anise and basil tones, and its name derives from the French “estragon”, meaning “little dragon” (hence the name of this drink). Serve as it is for a light pre-dinner refresher, or in a tall glass over ice and topped with tonic for a glorious summer evening drink. Serves one.

50ml London dry gin (I’d use Beefeater, Bombay Sapphire or Tanqueray)
20ml fresh lemon juice
20ml sugar syrup (made with 50:50 water: caster sugar)
Three long tarragon leaves

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Madame D, London E1: ‘Consider every fibre of my palate fully stimulated’ – restaurant review | Marina O’Loughlin

Fri, 23 Jun 2017 13:00:25 GMT

It’s not often I come out of a restaurant and immediately want to go back to eat the rest of the shortish menu. Possibly all by myself

You could be forgiven for suspecting Madame D to be a concept in search of a restaurant. Of being the output of some kind of ideas incubator team feverishly poring over a list of recent London successes – the one where they cook northern Thai food over fire, the one where they put duck in doughnuts, the one where the pizza is made with seawater, the one where all the food is ball-shaped – in search of something to tumesce the tastebuds of a jaded capital, something that hasn’t already been done.

You could. And, I confess, when I heard the phrase “Himalayan sharing plates”, I sure as hell did. I also heard the words “communal tables” and “above a pub”, and felt about as enthusiastic as I’d be about a night drinking bitter at the cricket club with Piers Morgan. But then I realised it comes from the same team as the rather wonderful Gunpowder. And now, having been there, all suspicion has fled. I’m too busy being excited about the food.

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'The journey' has ruined nearly all reality TV – apart from MasterChef

Thu, 11 May 2017 11:50:29 GMT

MasterChef still feels fresh where most reality shows have gone stale … because it focuses not on sob stories but on sheer talent (with a pea jus reduction)

MasterChef as we know it today is all sweaty, high-pressured, big-budget drama. The success of a confit duck with porridge gel and a pea jus reduction hangs in the balance, accompanied by soaring strings, fast cuts and Gregg Wallace in the background salivating over the word “pudding” as he dreams of a well-whipped meringue. It’s been on for eight weeks, almost every night, and it’s one of the few competitive reality shows that manages to grip at every stage. I have a theory that you can split most people who watch TV involving some element of competition into two types: those who prefer the early audition stages, where enthusiastic amateurs either shine or spectacularly fluff it, and those who prefer it towards the end, when the spotlight is on talent and graft. But MasterChef exists just outside of that divide – and it’s because of the way it treats “the journey”.

The journey is the crux of most modern reality TV. It’s the path taken by a contestant to get to where they are today, based on two things: how they develop over the course of the series, but more crucially, the life they had before they brought their talents to the great British viewing public. It took a while for the journey to truly infiltrate British TV. When reality pioneer Big Brother started in 2000, it was just a group of relatively nice people hanging out in a house for 64 days. The worst thing that happened was Nick cheating by writing the names of people he thought should be evicted on a scrap of paper. He became a national hate figure with the new and menacing prefix “Nasty”. What was absent, though, was much of a journey. Yes, they’d had lives before, and sometimes they talked about them, but there was little sense that they had learned something huge about themselves by appearing on the telly. This changed in the second series, when the massively popular Brian Dowling won. Dowling had come out as gay to his parents only two weeks before the show and much of his appeal came from the notion that the Big Brother experience had irrevocably changed his life. He had been on the journey.

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Nigel Slater’s new potatoes recipes

Sun, 18 Jun 2017 11:00:05 GMT

The season’s sweet and nutty new potatoes are like buried treasure, and all the better for a coating of soil

I spotted a sack of tiny Jersey potatoes this week, their flaky skins still coated with a layer of the island’s soil. It is rare to find them unwashed in my neck of the woods. I don’t want my fragile new potatoes (Jersey or otherwise) tumbled around in a giant washing machine, then wrapped in plastic. “It’s what the customers want,” I hear. Well, not this one.

Crack the skins of the new spuds to let the dressing seep into the sweet, young flesh

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Nigel Slater’s ham, apricots and dill recipe

Tue, 20 Jun 2017 11:00:57 GMT

Salty ham, sweet apricots and fresh fronds of dill – weeknight perfection

Halve 6 apricots and remove their stones. Melt 40g of butter in a shallow pan, add the apricots and let them cook over a moderate heat for 4 or 5 minutes until tender. Carefully lift them out on to a plate.

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Tbilisi titbits: the Georgian dumpling from the hills

Sun, 11 Jun 2017 11:00:53 GMT

These parcels of meat or veg are wolfed down as enthusiastically in Tbilisi as in the countryside, and washed down with beer and a shot of vodka

Centuries of invading empires have left Tbilisi, capital of Georgia, with a pleasantly eclectic palate, so perhaps it’s not surprising that the national dish, khinkali, is said to have come from 13th-century Mongol warriors.

Khinkali look like a chunky cousin of the Taiwanese soup dumpling, xiaolongbao. Most commonly filled with a beef-pork mince mix, herbs and a little water, the parcels are steamed to create a moreish broth within.

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Classic Spanish recipes from Nieves Barragán Mohacho

Sun, 18 Jun 2017 11:00:05 GMT

The former Barrafina chef shares recipes from her new cookbook, Sabor including Galician octopus and a Riojan chorizo and potato stew

Eighteen years ago, a young woman called Nieves Barragán Mohacho left Santurtzi, the small Basque town where she had grown up and lived all her life, and travelled to London to take up an offer of work in the kitchen at the Barbican branch of the French chain Simply Nico (a friend’s boyfriend was its sous chef). This wasn’t, by any stretch of the imagination, her dream job. Unable to speak English, and without any previous experience, the only position available to her was that of kitchen porter, which meant she spent her days – and what long days they were – cleaning salad and peeling potatoes. But even as she waited for the night bus home to her room in Crystal Palace, bone-tired after a 16-hour shift, Barragán was unable to shake off a powerful sense that this vast and lonely city was exactly where she was meant to be. “I haven’t even started yet,” she would say, when her mother enquired how much longer she was planning on staying. 

“Can you imagine it?” she asks, when we meet in a pub in Borough Market at that enchanted summer hour when the stall holders outside are just winding up, and the office workers and City boys are just piling in. “I had to change buses in Brixton at one in the morning, which was not something I told my mum. It was hard. I was the only girl in the kitchen, and sometimes the guys liked to make … jokes. I was working six days a week, trying to learn English as I went along and meanwhile speaking to the other staff mostly in French. But I wanted it so much. I needed action. I didn’t mind the work at all. Whatever I was asked to do, I would become the fastest at it. I was only a porter for three or four months. One day, someone [more senior] wasn’t there, and I was, and I was ready.” Over the next 18 months, she worked her way through every section. “Wow! So much new information. Here were fruit and vegetables I’d never seen before in my life. I started to taste different flavours, to understand the way colour works on a plate.” 

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Yotam Ottolenghi’s chilli butter recipes

Sat, 17 Jun 2017 08:00:32 GMT

A slick of melted butter flavoured with chilli can make even the humblest of platefuls feel special

In cooking, as in life outside the kitchen, it’s the small touches that can make a big difference: that final drizzle of olive oil, for example, some finely grated lemon zest, a sprinkle of toasted seeds – those are the little gestures that go a long way to make a dish feel special.

In a similar vein, the addition of a few chilli flakes to melted, slightly browned butter for drizzling over a plate of food is the culinary equivalent of turning up on the doorstep midweek with both arms full of flowers. It makes an instant event of any dish: grilled corn, poached eggs on toast, wilted greens or summer squash soup.

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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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Gregg Wallace and John Torode’s ‘friendship’: putdowns don’t get tougher than this

Mon, 03 Apr 2017 11:46:07 GMT

We all thought the MasterChef hosts were great pals – until the Australian shattered the illusion. Sadly, it seems it was news to Gregg, too

Name: John Torode.

Age: 51.

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Cocktail of the week: beetroot collins recipe

Fri, 16 Jun 2017 16:00:13 GMT

Give a traditional collins a DIY-flavoured vodka twist

Flavoured vodka is very easy to make. You need only 70ml per serving here, but it’s not worth making in much smaller quantities than this.

For the beetroot vodka
200ml vodka
55ml honey syrup (1:1 honey: water, warmed until the honey melts)
1 raw beetroot, sliced
12.5g allspice, cracked

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The Half Moon, Herne Hill, London: hotel review

Fri, 16 Jun 2017 05:30:00 GMT

This beautifully restored south London pub has fabulous rooms, a great vibe and some top ales. What a shame the generic food doesn’t hit the same heights

Dylan Thomas drank here and may have stumbled upon the title for Under Milk Wood while standing in the pub doorway and looking across the street to the sign for Milkwood Road, which is still there. In its heyday, U2, the Police and Van Morrison played the Half Moon’s back room, and even Frank Sinatra once gave an impromptu set when he popped in to see his chauffeur.

But by the time it closed in 2013, after being flooded by a burst water main, the old pub was more notorious than famous, a soulless den of dodgy London geezers swilling vapid lager. It was boarded up for nearly four years, but the walls of this grand late-Victorian pile hold too much history, it was too dear a local landmark and, crucially, it sits in too affluent an area of south London to stay closed for long. Its cracking location is between cool Brixton and leafy Dulwich Village, and it’s on the doorstep of Herne Hill station (less than 15 minutes to Victoria and the City), and Brockwell park and lido.

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Tastes familiar: first official shot of new Bake Off presenters

Thu, 13 Apr 2017 23:01:17 GMT

Publicity photo of The Great British Bake Off lineup follows a tried and tested recipe

The Great British Bake Off, once reincarnated in its new home at Channel 4, would “stay exactly the same”, Paul Hollywood said last year, and a quick glance at the first publicity shot for the new series would suggest he has a point.

There is a table topped with homely linen and laden with baked goods. A warm yet authoritative older woman smiles in a faintly alarming jacket, while a chap displaying a white beard and an inch too much chest twinkles at the camera. Between them are a blonde and a brunette looking both earnest and ironic, as if to say: yes, this is all just a little bit silly, but aren’t cakes lovely?

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Police investigating A-League grand final fracas involving George Calombaris

Mon, 08 May 2017 02:49:17 GMT

MasterChef judge, who pushed a man, expressing regret for his actions, which he said were in response to abuse aimed at his family

New South Wales Police have said that they are investigating the fracas that saw celebrity chef George Calombaris shove a football fan in the stands at Allianz Stadium following Sunday’s A-League grand final.

Calombaris, the MasterChef judge and avid Melbourne Victory fan, was on the pitch at the conclusion of the match – which Victory lost to Sydney FC in a penalty shootout – when he reacted to something said in the crowd.

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Nigel Slater’s light summer recipes

Mon, 19 Jun 2017 07:00:29 GMT

Yogurt adds a cool note to summer eating, as a herby highlight to chicken, or a lighter raspberry fool to end the day. Plus, how to make your own labneh

If there is a theme running through this summer’s cooking it is that of yogurt and its strained and lightly salted cousin labneh. At breakfast, I prefer the wake-up-call sharpness of sheep’s milk yoghurt, often with a glowing puree of alphonso mango and a lightly sweetened compote of blueberries or blackcurrants. Used as replacement for some of the cream in a fruit fool, the refreshingly acidic notes of goat’s milk yogurt flatters the flavours of apricots, strawberries and raspberries, as well as making the dessert less rich. Homemade labneh, made with thick yogurt left to strain overnight through a muslin, has been in my fridge all summer long. I use it as it comes, or with basil and mint threaded through and maybe a little black pepper. Cold for the fridge it accompanies lamb and chicken from the grill, and last week I used it to stuff aubergines with shredded cucumber and garlic. The blander, sweeter cow’s milk variety can be used for this.

Homemade labneh, made with thick yogurt left to strain overnight through a muslin, has been in my fridge all summer long

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Gin tonic: the rare botanicals giving the spirit a South African twist

Sun, 18 Jun 2017 11:30:06 GMT

South Africa’s Western Cape is home to thousands of unique plant species infusing a new range of gins

The global gin renaissance continues apace, and the Western Cape is turning into an unlikely trendsetter, as a new wave of gin makers gives the age-old spirit a South African twist. It’s less about juniper and more about endemic botanicals plucked straight from the Cape Floral Region, home to more than 9,000 plant species, nearly 70% of which grow nowhere else on earth.

Inverroche was the first brand to experiment with varieties of fynbos – a family of fine-leaved shrubs with distinct terroirs – chosen for their unique tastes and aromas. In 2011, it launched a few bottles of three handcrafted gins – Classic, with limestone fynbos; Verdant, with mountainous fynbos, and Amber, with coastal fynbos. Now it’s producing 18,000 bottles a month, and exporting to 15 countries.

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A Ferrante feast: a night out in support of global literacy

Thu, 22 Jun 2017 14:48:51 GMT

Elena Ferrante’s books evoke Naples in all its drama, and inspired a Neapolitan fundraising feast for Worldreader, in the heart of urban London – testament to the power of food and literature to do good

See the photo gallery here!

A group of clamorous punters gather around a table on the cobbles. They’ve come to the pavement to escape the heat of the kitchen. Dodging crates of tomatoes, waiters dole out dishes piled high with fried things – mozzarella, prawns, courgette flowers – and bruschetta. The voice of Fred Buscaglione crackles from a speaker, just-heard over calls for Campari and the clatter of plates.

You’d be forgiven for thinking we were in Italy. Yet this is east London, just off Columbia Road. We are at Campania & Jones, a southern Italian restaurant housed in a 19th-century dairy, which, like the wardrobe to Narnia, feels like a magic gateway to Naples. This evening, the restaurant, Cook editor Mina Holland, columnist Rachel Roddy and myself are collaborating on a dinner (see gallery) celebrating the transformative power of books and food in aid of the Worldreader charity.

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Noble: restaurant review

Sun, 25 Jun 2017 05:00:20 GMT

There’s an art to not showing off, and when your food is this good, you don’t need to shout about it. Jay Rayner heads to Noble, just outside Belfast

Noble, 27a Church Road, Holywood, County Down BT18 9BU (028 9042 5655). Meal for two, including drinks and service: £90

It’s one of those midsummer’s evenings in Northern Ireland when dusk lingers, as if ambivalent to the concept of night ever falling. The roads are shower slicked and the verges smell of earth and damp and the deepest green. We are in Holywood, the tidy commuter town just outside Belfast, and from an upstairs window overlooking the shopping parade comes the music of happy people lost in their chatter. Let that be your guide, because you’re unlikely to spot Noble otherwise. It is marked only by a street-level doorway; that, and some stupendous cooking.

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Novel recipes: Rock cakes from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

Fri, 23 Jun 2017 05:30:16 GMT

With the 20th anniversary of JK Rowling’s first book looming, Kate Young bakes a batch of rock cakes – hopefully better than the ones Hagrid feeds to Harry...

  • Scroll down to read the recipe

‘This is Ron,’ Harry told Hagrid, who was pouring boiling water into a large teapot and putting rock cakes onto a plate.

‘Another Weasley, eh?’ said Hagrid, glancing at Ron’s freckles. ‘I spent half me life chasin’ your brothers away from the Forest.’

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, JK Rowling

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The alt city guide to Glasgow

Thu, 15 Jun 2017 05:30:31 GMT

A network of indie galleries, clubs, restaurants and bars has created a robust creative scene in Scotland’s largest city, where talent is allowed time to flourish

Richard McMaster, keyboard player in the Glasgow band Golden Teacher, is trying to explain why the city’s underground tends to shun media attention. “Scenes get hyped-up and go wrong but, because there’s no media here the way there is in London, things happen slowly and organically. There’s a community in Glasgow doing things for the right reasons: because they love music.” He is instinctively wary: “In many ways, even this discussion makes me feel uncomfortable.”

Music, the visual arts and that DIY approach go hand-in-hand in Glasgow and you can trace that back to punk

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50 best summer wines for 2017

Sun, 18 Jun 2017 11:00:05 GMT

Drinks for a barbecue, a posh dinner – or just something to uncork on a lazy sunny afternoon? Here are the perfect choices for every budget

Château Louvignes Gaillac, France 2016 (£6.49, Lidl)
From the Tarn region of south-west France, a gentle, character-filled bargain of a dry white made from local varieties mauzac, len de l’el and muscadelle that offers a lively mix of crisp green apple and spring meadow, floral freshness.

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Yotam Ottolenghi’s strawberry recipes

Sat, 24 Jun 2017 08:00:02 GMT

This summer, think outside the box when cooking Britain’s favourite seasonal fruit

Think of summer food, and chances are you’re picturing strawberries – a tart, perhaps, or just with cream or ice-cream. The link between the fruit and the season is perfect but predictable, so, rather than conjuring up yet more images of picnics and Pimm’s, I want to talk about the inspiration behind today’s recipe for strawberry ketchup.

I came up with the idea earlier this year, when we were preparing for an afternoon tea at a pop-up in Selfridges. The pop-up, called wastED, was the brainchild of Dan Barber from Blue Hill Farm in New York, a great chef, a big thinker and a man on a mission – a revolutionary mission to completely rethink our attitude to the food we routinely waste.

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The best secret beaches, pubs and places to stay in the UK

Tue, 20 Jun 2017 05:30:02 GMT

For those who like to keep things low-key, our writers recommend lovely, quiet coastal spots, cosy pubs and boltholes with superb views

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Andrew McConnell's lobster roll recipe

Fri, 16 Jun 2017 22:35:15 GMT

The chef shares one of the dishes that have made Melbourne’s Supernormal restaurant so popular

  • Andrew McConnell’s sauteed mushrooms with crisp rice cakes recipe

A staple on the Supernormal menu, this is a little bit of luxe in a bun. It is the subtle balance of ingredients that make it a real treat. The bun to filling ratio is important; about one small lobster or crayfish should makes six rolls.

The crucial aspect of the serving of these is the timing. When you plan on serving the rolls, have all your prepared ingredients lined up on the bench ready to go. As the toasted buns come from the oven, quickly build your lobster rolls. The magic is in the contrasting temperatures – quickly serving the rolls means that the warm buns are filled with the cool sweet lobster and mayonnaise.

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Family life: My daughters’ ‘happy birthday’ toilet; Midnight Blue by ELO; My brother Peter’s Welsh rarebit

Sat, 17 Jun 2017 05:45:30 GMT

Readers’ favourite photographs, songs and recipes

This is a photo of my two daughters, Rachel and Kirsten, when they were aged five and seven. They are now 23 and 25. It was taken on their dad’s 34th birthday. We were living in a rented flat in Edinburgh, to which we had moved not long before. We had come back from Penzance in Cornwall, where the girls were both born, to Edinburgh where their dad and I are from. They were excited about their dad’s birthday and wanted to do something special for him.

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Sausages and greens Napoli-style from Rachel Roddy | A kitchen in Rome

Wed, 21 Jun 2017 12:19:38 GMT

Elena Ferrante’s novels evoke the Neapolitan city in all its drama, including the food, and inspire a charity cucina povera feast of succulent greens and juicy sausages typical of the region

“Sometimes we saw him climbing up the scaffolding of new buildings that were rising floor by floor, or in a hat made of newspaper, in the sun, eating bread with sausage and greens during his lunch break...”

Even though it is the first of four Neapolitan Novels, finishing My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante left me bereft – or, as my nine-year-old self once said, “end-of-book lonely”. Also it left me feeling guilty: I galloped through the last 60 pages in much the same way I often eat food – greedily and not really chewing properly. What happened between Fernando and Silvio Solara? Why was Marcello wearing the shoes Stefano bought? Answers – and no doubt more questions – would come with book two, which could be bought from the English bookshop near the Spanish steps... It was only 4:30pm: I had more than enough time to get there. Or was that hasty? I would read the last 40 pages again. On the train to Naples.

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‘There’s nothing I like more than cooking outdoors’ | A cook’s kitchen

Sat, 24 Jun 2017 09:00:03 GMT

This makeshift alfresco kitchen kitted up with Argentine asado gear suits grill chef Steve Horrell perfectly

We live in a 200-year-old barn in Somerset we are renovating. Opposite, we have another long barn with an old tin roof, oak posts and white stone gables, which we are slowly doing up too. While the renovations are happening, we’re using the outdoor area in front of it as something of a summer kitchen space.

There’s nothing I like more than cooking outdoors: the firewood, the weather conditions and the ingredients are always different. I love all the variables.

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The nation's new nanny? Prue Leith on Bake Off, Jamie Oliver and clean eating

Wed, 17 May 2017 11:04:29 GMT

Mary Berry’s replacement is ‘thrilled’ to be the new judge on The Great British Bake Off – but she is even happier to talk about parenting, sexism and ageism

People, says Prue Leith, sitting in her spectacular kitchen, still think of her as a cook. She is surrounded by a mind-boggling array of bottles and jars, utensils and several food processors. “I haven’t written a recipe for 25 years,” she says. Instead, she has been writing novels (she is working on her eighth), but people keep wanting to talk about food. “It’s my own fault, because I go on doing telly. I think I’m going to be forced back into cookery writing.” She doesn’t sound disappointed.

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

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Spicy apricots in syrup with lemon thin dippers by Jeremy Lee | King of puddings

Sat, 17 Jun 2017 09:00:34 GMT

Early, orange-blushing apricots are a little bitter in their purest form, but a joy poached in a richly spiced syrup with lemony biscuits to dip in.

It is quite a thought that the rascally serpent might have tempted Eve with an apricot – it always seemed unjust to me that the apple took the rap for that caper.

Pivotal events aside, there is always great joy in the land when the first apricots arrive – rarely ripe, not quite perfumed ... their flesh might still be that bit too firm, but their marvellous orange blush proves to be nonetheless irresistible. And invariably unripe apricots beat far-too-early cherries, hands down.

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Gin with a twist: South Australian distilleries stir in native ingredients

Mon, 12 Jun 2017 00:40:11 GMT

Gin is having a moment in South Australia, Brigid Delaney discovered, as a slew of small batch distilleries serve up their own take on the classic spirit

When I hear my gin tasting day is to start before lunchtime, I feel a little queasy.

Spending the day tasting wine is one thing. To contemplate how I’ll be after a day of shots, drams, gin and tonics and martinis doesn’t bear thinking about.

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Andrew McConnell's gingerbread pudding recipe

Fri, 23 Jun 2017 22:18:44 GMT

The chef shares one of the dishes that has made Melbourne’s Supernormal restaurant so popular

  • Andrew McConnell’s lobster roll recipe

I have time for most types of pudding in the winter but a pudding that contains ginger and treacle is another story. I love the aromatic addition of the spices. The pear brings a lovely texture and freshness. The deal breaker though is the chunks of candied stem ginger. Coming across these chunks of chewy sweet ginger in the pudding is a real treat.

A cinch to knock up and pop into the oven as you sit down to dinner, if you can’t be bothered poaching pears to add to the pudding, don’t. It is equally delicious without them.

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10 questions for the 'world's most feared' restaurant critic Jay Rayner | Lucy Clark

Thu, 18 May 2017 01:44:58 GMT

The Observer critic, MasterChef judge, musician and comic – whose review of the Paris restaurant Le Cinq went viral – is bringing his one-man show to Australia

1. In light of your blistering review of Le Cinq in Paris, you have been called the “world’s most feared” restaurant critic. What do restaurateurs and chefs really have to fear about Jay Rayner?

If they are confident in what they’re doing and have a robust clientele, they have absolutely nothing to fear. I am not some assassin, lying in wait with the sharpened stiletto. The problems kick in when what they are offering could be perceived as poor value. Then I get very cross, not least because it gives the joys of eating out a bad name.

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‘I’m a mad collector of glug glug jugs. Whenever I see one I don’t have, I swipe it’ | A cook’s kitchen

Fri, 19 May 2017 11:00:05 GMT

Antique refrigerators, Elizabeth David’s pestle and mortar, and the quirkiest objets d’art fascinate chef Mark Hix

Until last December, I’d always lived in Shoreditch in London. Moving to Bermondsey was my first foray south of the Thames. When I bought this place there were lots of new brick partitions and a giant jacuzzi in the middle of one of the rooms. I gutted it, opening it up into an open-plan kitchen, dining and living space. I took all the false walls back to bare brick, pulled up the cracked resin floor and replaced it with the floorboards and tiles you see here now.

The wooden piece of furniture behind me is a French fridge of sorts from the 19th century. My restaurant refrigeration guy found it in a flea market in Paris. The central compartment would originally have held a big block of ice, which would chill the rest of the cabinet ... now it’s my negroni cupboard. We’ve converted it into compartmentalised refrigeration with lots of cubby holes for, variously, glassware, spirits, dairy and condiments.

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Havener’s Bar & Grill, Fowey, Cornwall: B&B review

Fri, 09 Jun 2017 10:09:31 GMT

Teething problems over, this south Cornwall restaurant with rooms now offers cosy stays and refined pub grub that rival its riverside setting for the feelgood factor

Things didn’t get off to a very good start at Havener’s Bar and Grill in Fowey when it opened last summer. It was the height of the season, the staff were inexperienced, the volume of diners overwhelming, the reviews not good – despite the prized harbourside location.

Rob Pepperell, general manager, says so himself: “We opened too soon and we learned a lesson. It went horribly wrong.”

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How to bake the perfect strawberry tart

Thu, 15 Jun 2017 05:00:31 GMT

Sometimes summer’s finest fruit needs no more than a dollop of dairy – but what if the occasion calls for something a little more dramatic?

Strawberries, as a rule, are above cooking. The season for really good fruit is so short, and that fruit’s perfume so very delicate, that to gild the lily with anything other than a dollop of dairy would be sacrilege – as soon as it meets heat, that fresh acidity is gone for good. If you want to cook a strawberry, use this jam recipe. Occasionally, however, the occasion demands something a little fancier than a dish of fruit and cream – like a classic fruit tart, that pretty stalwart of the French patisserie with its shiny berries and crisp golden pastry. But what’s the best way to dress up summer’s first and, arguably, finest fruit without spoiling it?

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BBC faces ITV cook-off as James Martin preps Saturday Kitchen rival

Fri, 12 May 2017 16:25:17 GMT

Former star of BBC1’s brunch-time staple says ITV’s Saturday Morning with James Martin will take ‘unexpected turns’

Celebrity chef James Martin made his name as the presenter of BBC1’s Saturday Kitchen, offering famous guests their idea of “food heaven” or “food hell” for 10 years before hanging up his apron in 2016.

Now the chef will be serving the latter to his former employer every weekend, as he returns to screens to present a brunchtime ITV show to rival Saturday Kitchen.

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Check the loos and snack beforehand: golden rules of restaurant dining

Mon, 29 May 2017 15:02:29 GMT

Gordon Ramsay says you should haggle over wine and avoid the specials – but there are better way to guarantee a good meal

Gordon Ramsay has a new TV show to promote, so he’s effing and blinding and pronouncing like his career depends on it (and maybe it does, because Big Sweary, as this paper’s Marina O’Loughlin calls him, is no longer flavour of the month).

On Monday we learned his rules for eating out: never order the specials, haggle over wine and be wary of the waiter’s boasts, such as “our famous lasagne”. He also asks for a table for three when there are only two dining – or does he mean two people and one big ego?

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Family life: My dad and grandad with Don the dog; Beethoven’s Rondo; Pat’s pavlova

Sat, 24 Jun 2017 05:45:03 GMT

Readers’ favourite photographs, songs and recipes

The little boy in the pram is my father, Bernard Templeman Farr, born 1919, the gentleman is his father, Walter James Templeman Farr. The dog is Don. They are outside Farr’s, a dancing academy in Kings Road, Chelsea, London, where they also lived. Walter Farr and his wife, Gladys, were keen Temperance movement supporters and would not countenance alcohol on the premises, but were famed for the quality of their freshly ground coffee. The front of the shop sold soft drinks, sweets and chocolates. In the basement was a large hall (once a shooting gallery), where a band played. The dance schools were popular with girls who worked in service as dance was seen as a safe and acceptable social activity.

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Brent Savage's vegetarian recipes: salted cucumbers and carrots with quinoa and kale

Mon, 12 Jun 2017 00:01:31 GMT

The chef of vegetarian bistro Yellow shares three impressive but easy-to-make recipes to celebrate World Meat Free Day

For years, Sydney’s Bentley restaurant was the go-to destination for vegan and vegetarian diners looking for something more exciting than the proverbial mushroom risotto. Chef Brent Savage, who credits his vegetarian wife with giving him an insight into the challenges of finding great vegetarian food in Sydney, demonstrated just how delicious and interesting vegetarian dishes could be.

In 2013 he opened vegetarian bistro Yellow in Potts Point, Sydney, to great acclaim. At the time, he said: “I was excited about the opportunity to collaborate with my growers to showcase vegetables as the star on the plate – rather than playing second fiddle to a piece of protein.”

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People in poverty don’t just need feeding. They should have the dignity of a good meal

Thu, 15 Jun 2017 11:00:38 GMT

Those who use street kitchens and food banks deserve more than our sympathy

Recently my attention was drawn to a homeless man in Manchester who describes himself as the Jay Rayner of the streets. He was interviewed as part of Matt White’s brilliant Manchester food podcast Fodder, in an episode raising awareness of those sleeping rough in the city, and how they are fed. White found the man – he calls himself Rachel, a reaction to being bullied as a kid for looking like a girl – in the queue at Not Just Soup. It’s a street kitchen for the homeless which gets the city’s restaurants to cook up full meals for those with nowhere else to go. These dishes are not merely the oft-talked-up wonders contrived from leftovers and scraps; they’re the good stuff. Rachel gives a five out of 10 if the food is properly cooked, rising to six or seven if it is nutritionally balanced, to an eight or above if it’s exceptional. And he will give these scores direct to the cooks’ faces. Harsh.

My first thought: this is a bit weird. My job as a restaurant critic is surely a function of excess? Food reviews are only relevant when there’s little else in life to worry about. If you’ve got nowhere to sleep and are dependent on handouts, reviews are irrelevant. Rachel put me right on that one. Not Just Soup was, he said, “the calmest and least violent soup kitchen in the city”. Why was that, White asked. “People feel dignified by this. I think people come here and feel like somebody gives a damn, that somebody has made an effort to cook for them.”

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‘The rhythm of Jamaica has always had an influence on my music’

Fri, 16 Jun 2017 11:32:20 GMT

Growing up, saxophonist YolanDa Brown’s Jamaican parents always told her their homeland was like paradise – and the food, beaches, culture and music were everything she’d dreamed of

In Jamaica you’re immediately hit by the music and the smell of food. The rhythm of Jamaica has always had an influence on my music. My dad had a fantastic record collection and played everything from reggae to funk to jazz to soul – but reggae is the rhythm that naturally makes me feel good. It makes me smile.

My parents are Jamaican and came to England when they were young. A lot of the stories were about their childhoods: bright stories … it sounded like paradise. I first visited when I was 17 – playing for the Jamaican prime minister in Port Antonio – and it did live up to the stories. Jamaicans are very inquisitive; they like to know about you, and you want to be involved.

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All in a roe: the secret of Sardinia’s bottarga

Sun, 04 Jun 2017 11:30:22 GMT

Cabras lagoon in the island’s south-west is home to prized bottarga, cured and air-dried grey mullet roe that’s perfect as a nibble or grated over pasta

Still think spaghetti carbonara is best made with bacon – or pancetta if you’re being authentic? One taste of the Buzzi brothers’ version at their A Galaia restaurant in Carloforte, Sardinia, and the piggy version will probably never cut it again. That’s because they make their carbonara with bottarga, the cured, air-dried roe of grey mullet (in Sicily they use tuna).

Thought to have been introduced by the Phoenicians 3,000 years ago, bottarga (from the Arabic battarikh) is made in several places around the Med, but the variety made in the Cabras lagoon in the west of Sardinia, is regarded by many as the best.

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Portion control was mum’s mantra – with one glorious exception

Sat, 24 Jun 2017 05:30:03 GMT

My mathematician Quaker mother controlled food strictly, but she took the brakes off once a year – in an explosion of chocolate and marzipan

Food, as you’ll have gathered by now, was stringently portion-controlled in our family. The one time in the year Mum slightly let go was at Easter, which is probably why it’s still my favourite festival. What she thought would happen if we ate as much as we wanted on a regular basis was never explored, but on Good Friday morning we got two whole hot cross buns each. As for the miracle of Easter Sunday: for you, it may be Jesus rising from the dead, but for me it will always be stuffing my face with chocolate, by permission, all day.

And Easter was where my father got to do his bit for the family chocolate habit. The Germans aren’t renowned for making chocolate as the Swiss and the Belgians are, but eating it is something else; and Easter is a bigger deal over there. For one, their eggs are laid not by a boring bunny, but by a big, fat loony hare, more promiscuous and more profligate.

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The best of barbera | David Williams

Sun, 18 Jun 2017 04:59:03 GMT

Barolo and Barbaresco are the big bucks offerings from Piedmont, but to enjoy all the flavour of the Nebbiolo grape at a fraction of the price barbera is the one to go for

Asda Extra Special Barbera d’Asti, Piedmont, Italy 2014 (£5.48) Nebbiolo may be the grape variety behind Piedmont’s strongest claims for red wine greatness. But for those of us that baulk at the price of the big names of Barolo and Barbaresco, barbera has to be the northwest Italian region’s most useful export. Certainly, if you’re looking for the kind of food-friendly red wine that comes with enough robust fruit, acidity and grip to match tomato-based Italian cuisine from meaty ragu to pizza, then barbera is almost always the best-priced option in a supermarket range. From the recent round of tastings of the grocers’ wine ranges, Asda’s Extra Special version is bold, bright, and plum-tangy; while, even better, The Co-op’s slick Irresistible Barbera 2014 (£6.99) has keen, fragrant ripe black fruit with a mouthwatering rasp of sour plum.

Bruno Rocca Barbera d’Alba 2014 (Clos & Cru, Slurp) Not all barbera producers in Piedmont believe the variety’s potential is limited to happily cheap gluggability. Some are much more ambitious, even, occasionally over-ambitious, muffling barbera’s natural verve with a dead weight of toasty oak barrel flavour. But in the right hands – usually attached to winemakers who also have a reputation for nebbiolo – barbera can certainly make something that justifies barolo-like prices. Barbaresco’s Rocca family makes a particularly fine, pure version that combines raciness with plump fresh fruit, violets and spice. While Barolo-based Elvio Cogno Barbera d’Alba Pre-Phylloxera 2014 (£34.30, Lay & Wheeler) makes use of very old (more than 100 years old) vines that survived the devastating 19th-century root-eating vine plague of phylloxera aphids, for its gorgeously plush, polished layers of flavour.

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How to eat: shepherd's pie

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 10:20:53 GMT

This month, How to Eat is settling down on the sofa with a steaming plate of shepherd’s pie, peas and diced carrots, a mug of tea and, naturally, a slice of thickly buttered bread for mopping up. How else would you eat this meal?

It is not often that one might feel sorry for Jeffrey Archer. But his revulsion at the state of the shepherd’s pie at HMP Belmarsh, as described in A Prison Diary, Hell, Volume I, is surely vivid enough to elicit that rare flicker of sympathy? “The meat, if it is meat, is glued to the potato, and then deposited on your plastic plate in one large blob, resembling a Turner prize entry,” he shuddered.

Man can suffer many indignities in life but when you find yourself in a situation where no one can be bothered to make even a half-decent shepherd’s pie for you – the subject of this month’s How to Eat [HTE] – then you have surely hit rock-bottom. After all, it is not difficult to assemble, which may explain why this hardy northern dish (developed in sheep-farming country long after la-di-dah cottage pie and the mysterious gamekeeper’s version), has become one of Britain’s foremost comfort foods. It is both spoonable self-medication and something that the clumsiest kitchen clot can knock up.

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Crémant, more fizz for your buck

Sun, 25 Jun 2017 04:59:20 GMT

There’s more to French sparkling wine than champagne, and these days growers from other regions give the famous names a real run for their money

Lidl Crémant de Bourgogne, France NV (£7.99, Lidl) Champagne so dominates the view of French sparkling wine that it rather obscures other regions with their own long-standing interpretations of the fizz tradition. But in recent years the quality of crémant wines made in the same bottle-fermented way as those in the northern region has improved enormously, while remaining significantly cheaper to buy. Burgundy, a region that works with the same grape varieties (chardonnay and pinot noir) as in Champagne, is one of the best sources for wines that are much more than a fizzy facsimile of the supposed Real Thing – and Lidl’s version, which adds aligoté and gamay to the mix, is a soft, creamy, brioche-flavoured bargain.

Cave de Turckheim Mayerling Brut Crémant d’Alsace NV (from £12.95, Slurp) Crémant de Bourgogne isn’t just about beating champagne on price. Some small-scale producers are making wines that hope to rival champenois growers for a real sense of place, such as the dry, racy, blossomy Domaine la Croix Montjoie Crémant de Bourgogne Brut NV (from £17.95, Berry Bros & Rudd). Staying in eastern France, both Alsace and the Jura are home to accomplished crémant creators, ranging from the subtly honeyed, good-value Mayerling Brut made from pinot blanc by the co-op in the Alsace village of Turckheim to the complex ripe, tangy apple, nuts and minerals of Jura chardonnay Château Bethanie Crémant du Jura Brut NV (£17.95, Vin Cognito).

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The weekend cook: Thomasina Miers’ recipes for spatchcocked lemon chicken and peach cake

Fri, 23 Jun 2017 16:00:34 GMT

Spatchcocking exposes much more of the surface of a chicken to the heat source, and all but guarantees crisp, juicy results

Cooking on an open fire has been a major trend in restaurants around the world for a while now. Last month, I was in Tulum, Mexico, on a research trip, and visited Hartwood, where the heat from the kitchen was extraordinary, as was the depth of flavour of its food. Meanwhile, I’ve heard so much from chef friends about Ekstedt in Stockholm that I am determined to visit as soon as I can.

It is, I think, our Neanderthal love of fire that draws us to this type of cooking, but it doesn’t have to be rudimentary. Take today’s chicken: it is a great (and easy) skill to learn how to spatchcock a bird, not least because it means you expose much more of its surface area to the flame, and so maximise its flavour; the Greek-inspired marinade is a glorious way to souse any bird. For pudding, I recommend a peach cake that’s sweet, juicy and heady with the flavours of summer.

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Jo Brand to return as host of Bake Off spin??off as it moves to Channel 4

Thu, 20 Apr 2017 17:02:07 GMT

Comedian’s fronting of Extra Slice will be seen as boost to broadcaster, which failed to retain most of original Bake Off lineup

Jo Brand is to return as host of the Great British Bake Off spinoff An Extra Slice when the show debuts on Channel 4 later this year.

The Brand-fronted programme, which previously aired on BBC2, will stick with the familiar format of celebrity guests discussing that week’s episode of Bake Off and critiquing culinary creations brought in by fans, as well as interviews with each week’s departing contestant and unseen footage.

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That looks off, mate: why craft beer lovers are falling for murky ales

Sun, 18 Jun 2017 14:00:09 GMT

New techniques producing hazy, unfiltered beers preserve flavour and add silken textures, claim brewers. But how can you tell if you’ve been sold a bad pint?

For decades, there has been a transparent consensus among beer drinkers that a perfect pint must look crystal-clear. But as Britain begins to embrace murky beer, that shibboleth suddenly looks shaky.

From Cornwall’s Verdant Brewing to Pilot in Edinburgh, many UK breweries are now making opaque, milky-looking beers. “Murky” is a blossoming cult phenomenon, complete with its own backlash (#murkshaming) and ardent critics. Nonetheless, in craft beer bars, murk is fast becoming the new normal.

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Cocktail of the week: Neo 75 – recipe

Fri, 23 Jun 2017 16:00:34 GMT

A British take on the classic French 75 from bar menu of the Anglo team’s new bistro

A British twist on the classic French 75. Serves one.

35ml English cider brandy
15ml lemon juice, plus a twist of zest to garnish
1 tsp sugar
Sparkling wine, to top, and preferably British to keep to the theme (we use Nutbourne Nutty Brut 2013)

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Modern tribes: the serial complainer

Sat, 27 May 2017 07:00:21 GMT

Yes I am complaining. See, you just have to take control. I don’t care if it’s embarrassing, that’s what they depend on, people being too shy to make a fuss

Is that fish dry, it looks dry, yuck, just send it back. Go on, I would, look, if you don’t want to, I will, doesn’t matter that you’ve already eaten most of it, they’re just taking advantage because they know they can. Waiter! Can you go and tell the chef my friend’s fish is disgustingly dry, go on, take it away, and while you’re at it, my meat was cold, disgraceful, the sauce was congealing by the time it got here, practically made me retch, see, I had to leave those peas. OK, pea.

Yes, I would like you to tell him that, yes, I am complaining. See, you just have to take control, I don’t care if it’s embarrassing, that’s what they depend on, people being too shy to make a fuss, that’s why I do it. You might call it serial complaining, I call it standing up for consumer rights, did I tell you about that time I got them to take off four puddings? When they didn’t fix a wobbly table? Same with the tiny portions in that so-called gastro pub, thoroughly spoiled the meal, but at least they won’t try it on with someone else, we got two complimentary brandies.

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How halal meat became big business

Sat, 24 Jun 2017 22:30:12 GMT

Demand from Muslim millennials combined with public disaffection over recent food scandals sees Islamic food go mainstream

On an industrial estate on the outskirts of Swansea, a small revolution is taking place. Lewis Pies, a family firm that has been making British staples such as beef and onion pies, traditional pasties and sausage rolls for more than 80 years, has turned over a third of its business to halal products over the past decade to meet burgeoning demand. According to the managing director Wilf Lewis, halal is the future. “As a business, you set greyhounds off, and this is the one that’s running fastest,” he says. “We could get to the point during the next decade where halal is the majority of what we produce.”

Lewis Pies is part of a rapidly expanding market that reflects the demands of the growing Muslim population. The spending power of Muslim millennials, and their mix of faith and consumerism, is driving the trend.

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Crispy chicken thighs, curry chips, and spicy tofu with fried eggs | Guest cook

Sat, 24 Jun 2017 09:00:03 GMT

Sichuan pepper and chilli turn tofu with fried eggs into a mean hangover cure, while cardamom and fennel make finger-licking crispy chicken thighs

I grew up in Colliers Wood, two stops from the southern end of the Northern line. Just one stop north lies Tooting Broadway, where there are large and vibrant Indian and Pakistani communities. Whenever the Tiernan clan had something to celebrate, or wanted to eat somewhere fancy, we would go to Samrat Tandoori, a curry house on Mitcham Lane. The scent of stewing, exotic spices that wafted from the restaurant, intensifying as we got closer to the door, is an enduring memory, as is the warm welcome we always received. They treated us like family and made us feel special. Our waiter would pull out our chairs, endure all the tweaks and additions to our order (we always ordered the same thing, a bit off-menu, every single time), and help us with our coats when we stood up to leave, presenting my mum with a rose. The hot towels after our curry and the extra After Eights all made the experience all the more magical. What service!

But what we loved most was – obviously – the food. Everything had so much flavour. Sweet, salty, spice. I remember everything about those meals. Watching a waiter stride towards our table holding a sizzling platter piled high with tandoori chicken, spitting and hissing, still thrills me.

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