Friday, 7 December 2012

A Bit of A Boar - Wild Boar Ragù

Winter has well and truly set in now. The evidence is inescapable; from the deep cracks in my fingers through to the blisteringly cold, yet stunningly beautiful frosty mornings. It is a season I once deplored for its bleakness and darkness, which has now won my affections through blazing log fires and the Christmas spirit. And, of course, it's food and drink. The season of squashes and game has endeared itself to me very simply through its beautiful flavours.

Friday, 16 November 2012

What's Hot in November

Ha, so much for the “regular monthly post” that I promised. Anyhow, following on from July's deceitful introduction, here's what's hot in November...

1. The Game's Afoot

Autumn used to be a time I despised – as a lover of warm weather and balmy days spent in the woods, the demise of summer was always a bitter experience. This year I haven't minded so much though, partly because there was no summer to end in the first place, and secondly because of the wonders of the game season. The rich, meaty flavours of the likes of boar, pheasant and hare make for wonderful eating. And let's not forget the array vegetable delights on offer too – butternut squash and mushrooms are a favourite of mine. Check out what's in season on this rather handy website:

Too good to eat. Almost. Image from RSPB.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Breville VKJ267 Still Hot Kettle Review

My family, or my parents at least, are not the types to buy the latest high-tech domestic gadgets. A lot of the utilities in the kitchen are a good 30 years old, as 'things were built to a better quality back then'. I always wondered whether this was a simple excuse for not splashing on the latest flash gadget, but now I'm not so sure.

When our 12-year old (cheap) kettle finally broke down last September, I expected my mother to return from the shops with something economical and functional (i.e. without the touch-screens and GPS systems that kettles are probably equipped with these days). Imagine my surprise, then, when she produced a brand-spanking-new Breville VKJ267 Still Hot Kettle in chrome and glossy black. It was not so much a flash gadget as a glow one: undoubtedly the coolest feature (or should I say hottest?) was the illumination.

Awkward little Breville - The silver version of our flash but troublesome kettle.

Monday, 8 October 2012

3 Nights in Marrakech - Part 3

Day 3 - Atlas Exploration and Berber Brews 

Continued from Part 2

We met our driver, Kalid, at 09:00 in the hotel foyer. I had been looking forward to today since we arrived in Morocco, and as we hit the roads and drove away from the city, excitement mounted. We were headed in the direction of the Atlas mountains in a 4x4, where we were to be given a tour of part of the mountains, meet some Berber people and more. Kalid kept us chatting as we drove along the long straight roads, past multiple hotels under construction, through flat, arid plains, past many roadside garden centres, and slowly but surely up towards the foot of the mountains.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

3 Nights in Marrakech - Part 2

Day 2 - Square Lakes and Luscious Lamb

Continued from Part 1

First hotel breakfast today, and I was pleasantly surprised by the buffet on offer. The highlight was a square pancake that was made using lots of oil, and finished with a drizzle of honey or syrup. I had seen them in the souks yesterday and was curious. They turned out to be delicious – infinitely preferable to scrambled eggs. The other 'must try' of the foods on offer was fig jam on toast. Had to wait a while for this as one of the other guests stole my toast. It was worth the wait though.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

3 Nights In Marrakech - Part 1

Day 1  - Crossing Roads, Couscous and Carnage - Medina Madness

A truly liberating feeling surfaced as we began trekking down the wide, smoothly tarmacked road towards the Medina. To our immediate left lay some well maintained gardens, the vivid green of the bushes and plants a marvel considering the arid conditions, and to our right, across the road, lay flat desert-like plains dotted with palm trees and cactus', that seemed to run all the way to the invisible distant Atlas Mountains. The sun beat down upon us mercilessly from a cloudless sky and a few camels looked on at us nonchalantly.

Monday, 17 September 2012

The Pocket Bakery - Live at the Doodle Bar

I'm in Battersea, sitting in the passenger seat of the navy blue Audi A4 belonging to hack-supremo Dominic Prince, lovingly cradling a tray of hot, oven-fresh, cherry tomato and rosemary focaccia bread. I have held focaccia before in my time, but the reason for my tender manner today is that I had carefully, and with great pride, placed every half tomato (seeds and juice removed) into the soft unbaked dough the night before. And the smell that is now gently wafting from it. Oh, the smell.

Our destination is the Doodle Bar and our mission is simple; the Pocket Bakery is due to open here for the second time ever, selling a variety of fresh, 100% home baked, breads, rolls, pies, cakes and pastries. And we're a little behind schedule.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Bedgebury Taste Fest

On Saturday the 18th of July the Taste Fest came to Bedgebury, so I decided to pop over and have a butchers. Rather than write a yawn-inducing report on all the standard olive oils, curry pastes and vinegars that were on offer, I think I'll just stick to the photos this time. Have a gander:

Nigel Brown in the demo theatre.

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

What's Hot in July...

Inspired by a combination of Dirt Magazine's Friday Randoms (but a little less random) and Ms Khoo's regular 'Loves, Likes, Bits and Bobs' blog post, 'What's Hot in July' is essentially a periodic summary of what foodie things I've done, eaten and encountered over the past Month; a small collection of websites, pictures, restaurants, recipes and reads. Take a look (and maybe a bite):

1. Rachel Khoo's Blog

Seeing as I mentioned her above, I might as well start with everyone's favourite French-English-Austro-Malay-Chinese lady's blog. A simple, readable and startlingly regularly updated site, full of interesting images and stories from the life and travels of the charming new face of BBC's food. I particularly enjoy the aforementioned 'Loves, Likes, Bits and Bobs' post.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Jamie's Ministry of Food Review

The Concept

For one starting university, beginning life on one's own for the first time, there are a plethora of student cookbooks available. For one reason or another, none of them appealed to me and, snagged by the McKenna-esq tagline of 'Anyone can learn to cook in 24 hours', I ended up with a copy of this book. Jamie's Ministry of Food came hand in hand with a television series of the same name that later gave birth to it's American daughter Jamie's Food Revolution.

The aim of the book is simple. It is 'to empower you to learn how to cook as quickly and easily as possible' through 'picking a whole load of recipes that we all love to eat and giving you [Jamie's] versions of them.' Nothing unreasonable about that, I'm sure you'll agree.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Raymond Blanc at Whaca and the SRA


Emerging from the bowels of London into the dizzying streets of Canary Wharf, all signs of sun and blue sky had disappeared. Dark, thick clouds rolled threateningly through the sky releasing their first fat drops on all the hard-pressed senior executives who were standing around busily smoking cigarettes and hitting on their secretaries.

So why am I here? Raymond Blanc had emerged from the depths of Oxfordshire to cook at the Wahaca Street Kitchen Van Thing in Canary Wharf with Thomasina Miers. The reason for the appearance of the French star was chiefly to promote the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA), of which he is the newly crowned president.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Are Supermarkets Making Us Stupid?

A couple of weeks ago, the Metro published a worrying article. This is not news in itself; they do this everyday, but the article in question was particularly worrying to the food-minded amongst us.

One in three of 16 - 23 year olds, the article suggested, don't have the foggiest that bacon comes from a pig. Based on a survey of 2000 adults, other concerning results included that one third also don't know  that an egg comes from a chicken or that milk comes from a cow.

What the Metro didn't answer, however, was who is to blame for this farce-of-a-gap in general knowledge. How is it possible to reach adulthood without knowing the origins of milk?

I suppose the easiest direction in which to point the finger is education. As ever, if in doubt, blame the curriculum. I, however, say blame it on the parents. And the supermarkets.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Creamy Pea and Anchovy Pasta

A Store Cupboard Superstar

I don't often find myself out on a limb when it comes to dinner time, as I am quite sad in militarily planning my week's meals in advance. The other week, however, it happened, and I found myself floundering around in the store cupboards, fridge and freezer bemoaning the thought of a very dull dinner. In actuality, I surprised myself with what was available. The dish below is the result. It was a true Oliver-esque case of 'whack in a splash of this, a dollop that and a big knob of bu''er' (actually no butter was involved; I just couldn't resist a sprinkling of Essex-ish) and turned out rather well. 

What I like about it is that it's so flexible – almost everything is substitutable. Any type of pasta will do. No peas? Don't panic. No anchovies? Add a few prawns instead. No cream? No worries. It might not taste quite as silky and rich, but will still be ace. In a way, store cupboard cooking, for the student with very limited space at least, is a bit like a watered down MasterChef Invention Test. Look at what's in front of you and, with a bit of creativity, you can have a show-stopping dish.

Friday, 1 June 2012

Demand for Local Produce in the Current Economic Climate

For one of my recent journalism assignments I had to make a short video news feature. The crtieria was simple; it had to be a newsworthy story, it had to be less than five minutes long, and it had to be written, filmed, directed, presented, edited and produced by me. Simple, but a rather tall order nonetheless.

Of course, my mind leapt straight to food, and the first thing that came to mind was the recent (at the time of thinking) slump in sales at Tesco over the Christmas period. My next thought was the general trend towards increased consumption of local, organic and artisan produce over the past few years. My third thought was that it would be great to film at a vibrant market, such as Borough.

Monday, 7 May 2012

Franco Manca Review

“It had better be a flipping good pizza!” I loudly grumbled, stepping once again into the bitterly freezing night air. Another painful twenty minute walk later and we at last arrived at our destination: Franco Manca, Chiswick.

Time and money are always in short supply for the busy student, and as a result I hadn't eaten out in quite a while. After a brief discussion with some friends, we decided it was about time we went out for a good old chomping jaunt again. The question was, where to eat? We had decided we could afford to give up an evening, but the question remained as to where one could indulge in some fine London eating without sacrificing the entirety of one's student loan in the process.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Raspberry Vinegar Mojito

I was idly perusing the aisles at the BBC Good Food Show Spring when I spotted it. Amongst the usual hoards of olive oils, curry pastes, chilli jams and the occasional flavoured vodka (yawn), was the Drury and Alldis of Thornwood stand.

The first thing that caught my eye was the live bee hive on their stand. And then it was the beautiful bottles they use for their oils and vinegars. Finally, my eyes fell on the stunning rosé hue of the Sweet English Raspberry Vinegar. Really? It had to be given a go. The taste was every bit as good as the look; sour as a vinegar should be, yet complimented by a delightful sweet raspberry kick.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

A History of Food in 100 Recipes

Today marks the release of the book of William Sitwell's A History of Food in 100 Recipes. It is a book that I have been eagerly anticipating for many months – since August 2011 to be precise – for several reasons.

“Coming from a family of writers,” said Sitwell at the launch of his book last night, “writing a book was something that I had always wanted to do.”

“My great great grandfather, Sir George Sitwell” – who wrote notable works such as The Introduction of The Peacock to Western Gardens, Sitwell joked – “wrote a book called The History of the Fork. When I discovered this I said 'how dare he tread on my territory!' But I have included a chapter on the history of the fork nonetheless.”

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

I've Given Up Being Healthy for Lent...

Don't become a slave to this innocent looking wheel...

Although Christian, I have never really given anything up for Lent. This is not because I am simply too weak-willed and indulgent to deny myself any kind of luxury for forty days, it is just that somehow I have never felt the need to.

Different people give up different things, whether that be chocolate, sweets, crisps, alcohol, and even television or Facebook – basically anything unhealthy and addictive. Some do it for the love of a challenge, some for a bit of fun and the shake-up of every day banality, whilst others do it for the gratification and sense of self-control that it effuses. But I've decided to give up something quite different, and for quite different reasons too. I have given up being healthy. Well, almost.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

In Praise of the Pancake

I have always had a preference for Pancake Day, or Shrove Tuesday, over that of St. Valentine. There could be several reasons for this. Perhaps it is because I make a better pancake than I do a Valentine. Perhaps it is my Dutch heritage. Most of all though, there is something that is just solid and dependable about the humble pancake.

Looking at Valentine's Day, it reminds me of a chocolate fondant. It looks lovely and tastes gorgeous, with its soft sponge and warm indulgent chocolate filling, but it's not particularly strong or stable, is easy to get wrong, and for all its delight it just isn't that healthy. The slightest push and what you thought was a sturdy exterior gives way to goo. Pure deception.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Please Hold the Line...

One may have noticed that there has been a significant lack of activity on this blog of late. There is a reason for this; and instead of the usual general incompetence on my part, this time it is my graduate photography project.

The project, which you can read about by following the above link, involves me researching, writing and photographing a book, amongst other things, and has to be completed by the beginning of May - which means things are hectically busy at the moment. Oh for the stereotypical student life, eh?

As a result, it means I won't be able to pay much attention to this blog; I won't have time to pick the weeds and mow the lawn of this little corner of the interweb, so to speak. I will of course continue to cook and eat (I may cease to exist if I don't), but I just probably won't have the time to write.

But don't worry, it's not the end, it's more a case of 'please hold the line' than anything else. For about three months, if you could be so patient...