Archive for the ‘Food’ Category
“A quarter of a million quid,” says Andy Appleton, the head chef at Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen restaurant in Cornwall. “That’s what we spent on the refurbishment. Can’t believe we forgot something.” He is standing next to a door on which is sellotaped a piece of paper saying “Ladies”.
Apart from this omission, the restaurant is ready. The old graffiti-style murals have been whitewashed; a curved, tiled bar snakes out into the waiting area; the kitchen has been redesigned; and – most importantly – there is a long, wooden table dedicated purely to antipasti.
“It’s a more relaxed, approachable way of eating,” says Andy. “I’m happier having a few dishes and a few drinks, watching the world go by, than sitting down for a formal meal. Antipasti are getting really popular. People feel very comfortable feasting on a selection of different dishes.”
From the restaurant’s point of view, it makes sense. Tables at Fifteen must be booked up to a year in advance, but the new antipasti table is available for people who just want to drop in. But there is a wider trend towards “feasting” as well. High street restaurants like Zizzi have an extensive antipasti menu, Marks & Spencer produces a ready-made “antipasti platter”, and many notable eateries, like Polpo in London, are placing an increasing emphasis on small dishes.
According to Russell Norman, the founder of Polpo, this is due to influences from a variety of cuisines. “In northern Italy you get cicheti, small savoury mouthfuls ordered one by one,” he says. “Spanish food has been served this way for a very long time. In Greece they have mezze, and there is a similar style of eating throughout the Mediterranean and parts of north Africa.” Continue reading on the Telegraph website
This week, a billion and a half people around the world will celebrate the dawn of the Chinese Year of the Water Snake. There will be fireworks, lion dances, and – most importantly – sumptuous, traditional food.
“New Year is such a big family occasion in China that the transport system clogs up with everybody travelling home for the festive meal,” says Fuchsia Dunlop, Britain’s foremost expert on Chinese cooking. “In rural areas, they slaughter a pig especially and feast on big chunks of meat. People have fish, because the word for ‘fish’ sounds like the word for ‘abundance’, and New Year cake, which sounds like the word for ‘strong’. The main thing is to have a table groaning with food.”
Britain has long had a love affair with Chinese cuisine, and the upcoming New Year offers the perfect opportunity to learn some authentic recipes. The centrepiece of the festive meal, particularly in northern China, is traditional dumplings (shui jiao). This iconic, dim-sum-style dish is a staple of Chinese home cooking, and is popular in fashionable Chinese restaurants in Britain. But as it is rare to find a non-Chinese person who can make it at home, it is guaranteed to make an impressive addition to one’s culinary repertoire.
“Chinese families make dumplings together, from the kids to the grannies,” says Fuchsia. “Dumplings can be a complete meal in themselves, as they contain carbohydrate, veg and meat. They can also be served as a starter, or a snack. Some regions have a tradition of making huge, oversized dumplings for New Year.”
In a kitchen in central London, we make a start. Continue reading on the Telegraph website
Christmas is coming, and the goose is getting fat. Definitely the goose, not the turkey. “I’ve always been a bit sceptical of turkeys,” says Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. “I struck it from our Christmas menu a while ago, in favour of goose. But this year, I thought I’d give it another go.”
So he got in a few turkey poults – he rears all his own meat, obviously – and at first, all went according to plan.
“They were coming along very nicely,” he says, almost licking his lips. “They were more than half grown, and looking great, and I was starting to get really excited. But the fox had other ideas. So now we’re back to goose.” He leans forward, conspiratorially. “Though what a fox really likes,” he says, “is a duck.”
It is 8:30am – Hugh is an early riser – and we are sitting at a dining table in central London. Here and there are signs of the season: a fluff of tinsel, the occasional card. But we are not here to talk about Christmas. We’re concerned with what comes afterwards.
“In my family, leftovers were the best bit,” says Hugh. “My mum would never roast a lamb without following it with fantastic shepherd’s pie, never roast a chicken without making a stock, and never cook beef without doing lovely beef sandwiches the next day. She has never thrown away a scrap of meat in her life, and that’s been instilled in me.”
At the heart of Christmas is a paradox. Huge effort goes into the festive lunch, but it’s over pretty quickly. Then there are piles of leftovers to eat, and hordes of family to feed. Leftovers, arguably, are more important than the meal itself, but people rarely focus on them. Unless, that is, they’re from River Cottage. “We’ve done a leftovers night before,” says Hugh. “I think restaurants should have a leftover section on a menu. I mean, lots of everybody’s favourite dishes are leftover dishes.”
His new book, Three Good Things on a Plate, is particularly suited to cooking with leftovers. “So many of our favourite plates of food are composed of three contrasting and complimentary elements,” he explains. “Fish, chips and peas. Scones with jam and cream. Bacon, bread and ketchup. If you know which combinations work, you can start to improvise, shuffling one ingredient for another. The idea is to stimulate your creativity, and boost your confidence in the kitchen so you can work with what you’ve got.”
One example, he says, is “a bit of crunch, a bit of vegetable, a bit of fruit”. That might be grilled fennel, clementines and toasted pumpkin seeds – a great way to reduce that mound of Christmas clementines. Or it might be raw celeriac, cut into thin matchsticks, tossed with cold, cooked Puy lentils, and “perked up” with the raisins left over from making the Christmas pudding. “Soak the raisins in warm apple juice or water,” says Hugh, “and let them plump up for an hour or so. The syrupy liquor that’s left can be used for the dressing, with a bit of mustardy cider vinegar to sharpen it up.” These salads also go well with rich meats. Like leftover goose, for instance. Continue reading on the Telegraph website
How not to ruin a turkey: advice from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall before Christmas (Telegraph online)
When I met Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall in London, it wasn’t to talk about Christmas. It was to pick his brains on creative ways to use the Christmas leftovers, which is an entirely different affair. You can read all about his leftovers recipes in the Sunday Telegraph this weekend, accompanied by a competition to win a cookery class for two at River Cottage. In the meantime, however – as a taster, if you will – here are Hugh’s thoughts on how not to ruin a turkey.
“A turkey,” he says, “will give you this spectacular moment when the bird is brought to the table. But from then on it’s frustration and tears for the cook. The problem is that the legs and breast cook at different speeds, particularly when you’re using free range. These birds have been around for months, and those legs have been heaving this fairly hefty weight around, so they’re strong, tough muscles that cook more slowly than the breast.
“This gives you a dilemma. On the one hand, you could cook the bird through so the legs are properly done, and risk drying out the breast. On the other, you could keep the breast moist and end up with legs that are still very tough and a bit bloody on the inside. Continue reading on the Telegraph website
The weather is glorious when I step off the two-carriage train at Caersws in the heart of rural Wales. It has been along journey, and I am in need of a drink. John Martin, a 45-yearold procurement consultant, has driven to the station to collect me. He is wearing a Tshirt with a “Waen Brewery” logo, but the brewery is not his business. It belongs to his wife, Sue Hayward.
The Waen Brewery is an astonishing story of success. Sue, a hobbyist beer maker, founded it in 2009, and within three years it had tripled in size in terms of output, turnover and physical space. The brewery occupies 2,000 sq ft and produces 540 gallons of beer per week. As we bounce along country lanes, John explains that this output is still nowhere near enough to meet demand. Sue has just invested £30,000 in new brewing equipment, which will increase the beer production capacity threefold.
In the brewery’s large warehouse space there is a bar at one end, and wooden vats bubbling everywhere. Sue is standing behind the bar when we arrive; she catches my eye, and I see that she has already started pulling my pint. Around her are several other women sitting on bar stools, all of whom run breweries up and down the country. I have been allowed to attend a secret meeting of an underground group of female beer brewers – or “brewsters”, as they like to be called – which meets every few weeks to share recipes and techniques. The group, organised on social networking sites, is known as Project Venus. Continue reading on the Telegraph website
Morelli’s ice cream parlour is frozen in time. The interior – all faded pink Formica and Art Deco chic – has remained unchanged for decades. Their product, too, has stayed the same: at Morelli’s, the old-fashioned sundae still reigns. My favourite, the signature Knickerbocker Glory, comes complete with a kitsch furry monkey dangling from the straw, as has been the way since time immemorial.
“The business was started in 1907 by my great grandfather, Guiseppe Morelli,” says Bibi Morelli, a fourth generation ice cream maker who now runs the operation in Broadstairs, east Kent. “We want to keep everything exactly the same, to preserve the traditional, British seaside atmosphere.”
The formula seems to be working. Such is the popularity of the Morelli brand that in 2003 they opened a branch in Harrod’s, which has been “a roaring success”. Other branches followed; there are eight around the world, from Kuwait to Monaco, with a further five on the way. Continue reading on the Telegraph website
There is nothing more British than a biscuit. Whether the summer heralds torrential rain or blazing sunshine, we have a biscuit to match. Grey and gloomy skies? Shortbread, gingerbread and squashed fly biscuits it is. Soaring temperatures and sun lotion? Bring out the lady’s kisses and ice-cream sandwiches (or “sliders”, as they are known in Scotland). Whatever the weather, a Brit without a biscuit is like a dodger without the jam.
These recipes, and a great many more, are presented with panache in the aptly named book Biscuit, by Miranda Gore Browne, who was a finalist from The Great British Bake Off in 2010. This is a comprehensive guide to the art of biscuitery, featuring everything from “biscuits for beginners” through to “celebration biscuits” and, rather wonderfully, “almost healthy biscuits”. The Sunday Telegraph joined Miranda in her kitchen in West Sussex to observe her in action.
“I thought we’d start off with good old jammy dodgers,” says Miranda, arranging ingredients on the table. “They’re colourful, cheery and fun, and they bring a smile to everyone’s face.” Perfect, that is, for cheering up the children hunched under a tree during a rainy country walk.
Watching Miranda at work means picking up little iced gems of practical wisdom. For example: softening butter. “If you use the microwave, the butter goes oily,” she says. “Then you get annoying little puddles when you bake it.” She fills a bowl with lukewarm water, which she refers to as a “baby bath” (she has a new baby called Henry) and floats the butter in it. “It softens naturally, evenly and quickly,” she explains. Continue reading on the Telegraph website
Tom Parker Bowles is in a philosophical mood. “People give up sex, they give up booze, but nobody can give up eating,” he muses, unpacking our hamper. “Food is the basis of civilisation. It contains the entire history of a country.” He pauses to unveil a tortilla. “Then again,” he adds, “perhaps I’m just greedy.”
We are sitting – rather uncomfortably – on a blanket in Hyde Park, almost within sight of Buckingham Palace. The sky is overcast and there are a few spots of British rain. Parker Bowles, 37, dressed in a dandyish velvet jacket, is dabbing his brow. “I’ve been rushing around trying to get hold of some eels,” he explains. “For the salad.”
This is not going to be your normal picnic. Cucumber sandwiches? Sausage rolls? Forget it. A picnic à la Parker Bowles involves cold tortilla, kipper pâté, fennel and orange salad, and a Californian Zinfandel rosé. Oh, and that smoked eel and bacon salad. Continue reading on the Telegraph website
“My husband retired from his City job when he was 45,” says Sarah Driver as she noses her car up a steep country lane near the village of Alfriston, East Sussex. “I was terrified that he’d just be sneaking around the house with nothing to do, making a nuisance of himself for 40 years. So when he said he had signed up for a full-time course in viniculture, I was delighted. Little did I know the scale of his ambition.”
As we reach the crown of the hill, a green and pleasant Sussex landscape is revealed: a sun-soaked, slanting bowl of 600 acres, protected from the prevailing winds by an escarpment of National Trust land. In the distance, blue and magnificent, is the English Channel. This is the Rathfinny Estate, which the Drivers bought in October 2010 for around £4 million. Under Mark Driver’s stewardship, it will soon be England’s largest vineyard.
To most people, the words “English” and “wine” (like “French” and “Pimm’s”) should never be used in the same sentence. The idea conjures up images of Sixties Babycham, or of dodgy elderflower plonk brewed in bathrooms by dandruffy men with flowery shirts and unkempt beards. Not exactly the epitome of sophistication.
“Disgusting!” says Driver when we meet. “That’s what English wine was like 20 years ago. But these days it’s a different story. Our sparkling wine has now officially been recognised as world class.”
Over the past eight years, English sparkling wine producers have won more international awards than any other country. In 2010, Sussex-based Ridgeview won the esteemed Decanter award, the first time it had ever been awarded to a non-French producer. In the same year, Nyetimber’s Classic Cuvée, a sparkling wine also made in Sussex, beat the likes of Bollinger and Pommery to win the award for best in the world. A similar accolade was given to Cornwall-based Camel Valley in 2009, and to Ridgeview in 2005.
“Climate change has meant that over the last 20 years, southern England has come to share the same climate as the Champagne area,” Driver explains. “We already have almost identical chalky soil, as Rathfinny lies on the same band of chalk that forms the Paris Basin. Now this is reflected in our wines. This is the time for English fizz.” Continue reading on the Telegraph website
City people believe that pigs can fly. At least, that’s if Anne Cianchi, one of the founders of the independent pig farm, Emma’s Pigs, is to be believed. “Many people have absolutely no idea where their food comes from,” she says. “At farmers’ markets, we often get asked for pork wings.”
This, she says, is symptomatic of the modern trend towards packaged, processed food. In contrast, emblematic of the counter-trend – in which more and more people are seeking to reconnect with their food’s origins – is Emma’s Pigs’ “pig-your-own” service.
Here’s how it works. You pick a piglet. The farm sends you monthly photographs of it, and updates you on its progress. You can even come and visit. Six to seven months later, once you have indicated how you want the meat butchered, piggy arrives on your doorstep in a polystyrene box.
Demand for the service, Anne says, is growing. Similarly, as modern man strives to reforge the broken links of his food chain, butchery courses are springing up all over the place – even in the heart of the city. Off London’s fashionable Marylebone High Street, for example, can be found the Ginger Pig meat shop, where people congregate by night to be initiated into the ancient art of butchery. Some participants are dreaming of rearing pigs in the countryside; others are considering putting their skills into practice on the kitchen table. The majority, however, simply want to regain a hands-on insight into meat: where it comes from, the different types of cuts, how to wield a knife properly, and how to tell the good from the bad. And, given reports that Austerity Britain is swapping beef for pork, amateur butchery is more popular than ever.
On the evening that I attended a course at the Ginger Pig, it started off on the wrong foot. One of the participants, a chap called Andy Brampton who worked at the All England Tennis Club, volunteered to take the carcass down from the hook. As he hoisted it over his shoulder, one of the trotters scythed through the air and nearly knocked out a 21-year-old engineer called Gemma. In response, our jolly instructor hammed it up. “That’s what we like,” he said. “Start as you mean to go on.” Continue reading on the Telegraph website