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

Red wines for Valentine’s Day | Fiona Beckett on wine

Wed, 14 Feb 2018 12:00:46 GMT

Let’s ditch the bubbles and rosé this Valentine’s Day ...

I sometimes think we’re led by what supermarkets think we ought to drink, rather than by what we actually fancy. For Valentine’s Day, for example, that more often than not means anything pink and preferably fizzy, champagne being the obvious choice. But is that what you or your loved one really wants?

Recent research shows that consumers regard red wine as the most relaxing drink, but despite red being as legitimate a Valentine’s colour as pink, red is rarely seen as a romantic choice, with the exception of rather half-hearted injunctions to buy Saint-Amour, one of the least interesting of the Beaujolais crus.

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Thomasina Miers' recipe for winter lamb salad

Fri, 16 Feb 2018 13:00:47 GMT

The salty, garlicky dressing on a crunchy seasonal salad makes a great foil for grilled lamb

While it’s tempting to eat only warm food in cold weather, sometimes something fresh and crunchy is called for, even if there’s a gale blowing. Add some warmth with spices or garlic, say, and you have a proper winter salad. The word salad, incidentally, means ‘salted herbs or vegetables’, so salad is named after its dressing, not the veg in the bowl; in other words, a salad without a dressing isn’t a salad at all. That also applies to these lamb leg steaks (a much cheaper alternative to chops), which just wouldn’t be the same without their garlicky, rosemary-scented marinade.

Related: Rachel Roddy’s recipe for lamb chops with greens

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Anna Jones’s swede recipes

Mon, 05 Feb 2018 12:00:02 GMT

This humble root is often sidelined, but its versatility means it deserves a chance to shine centre stage

Swede: humble, hearty and, to lots of people, a bit boring. For many years, my sole experience was neeps on Burns Night, or as part of a triumvirate of mashes, school dinner-style. But these two-tone beauties, vibrant purple and off-white, so often reached over for more easygoing parsnips or sweet potatoes, are worth your attention in their own right. They roast as well as they mash and pair brilliantly with spice, especially those with a smoky undertone – smoked paprika, chipotle, cumin, black pepper – which stand up to its sweet backnotes. Cut into batons and roasted, it makes a great alternative to chips, too. Here are two recipes that I cook on repeat.

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Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipes for using up leftover bread

Sat, 03 Feb 2018 09:00:54 GMT

Don’t chuck out that stale bread. Instead, repurpose it into a hearty main course or sumptuous pudding

Home bakers rarely throw away bread. This makes total sense: so much effort goes into making a loaf that it’s madness to chuck out anything that doesn’t make it to the table or lunchbox before going stale. The same should apply to any bread, really: there are plenty of ways to use up leftovers, from breadcrumbs and salads to puddings and today’s “lasagne”, in which the starch in the bread soaks up the stock to create the creamy consistency of traditional lasagne. And it’s not the only trick: here are three to try.

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Not so fresh: why Jamie Oliver’s restaurants lost their bite

Sat, 17 Feb 2018 10:09:54 GMT

The chef’s chains are facing a crisis on the high street. Where did it all go wrong?

Jools Oliver, wife of the celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, set social media abuzz in December when she posted pictures of the couple’s £9m home. The seven-bedroom, Grade II-listed property in London’s rarefied Hampstead was as sumptuous as might be expected for a chef who has built a £150m fortune from a business spanning books, TV, endorsements and restaurants.

But as Jools’s followers admired the fruits of Oliver’s success, he was battling to save Jamie’s Italian, the centrepiece of his restaurant division. In December, Oliver pumped £3m of his own money into the business, and in January the chain said it would close 12 of its 37 UK branches, as part of a rescue deal with its creditors to keep trading.

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Adam Liaw: I've finally got my makeup down to the core essentials

Tue, 28 Nov 2017 23:59:55 GMT

For our series Beauty and the books, the cook discusses the nostalgia of fragrance and the thesaurus he can’t put down

A former lawyer turned MasterChef winner, Adam Liaw is known for his Asian fusion recipes and hosting SBS’s Destination Flavour. He talks about finally getting his TV makeup down to the bare essentials, the nostalgia of fragrance and how a Japanese manga series taught him more than he expected.

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Can burgundy on a budget ever hit the spot? | Fiona Beckett on wine

Fri, 02 Feb 2018 16:00:33 GMT

Weather continues to limit the availability of good, affordable burgundies – but some quality wines are there to be snapped up by the wily drinker

Like a first love, the first wine you fall for stays with you for ever. For me, like many other wine writers, it was great burgundy, which is unfortunately a taste that’s impossible to indulge on anything other than a City boy’s salary.

That situation has been exacerbated by the fact that burgundy has been having a torrid time of late. Thanks – or, rather, no thanks – to the region having been hit by hailstorms and frost over the last couple of vintages, volumes of the top wines are down and prices inevitably up (and not helped by our current exchange rate – thanks, Theresa).

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Mario Batali taking leave from restaurant empire after claims of sexual misconduct

Mon, 11 Dec 2017 19:50:27 GMT

The celebrity chef said ‘I take full responsibility and am deeply sorry for any pain I have caused’ after at least four women reported incidents

The chef Mario Batali has surrendered oversight of daily operations at his restaurant empire following reports of sexual misconduct over a period of at least 20 years.

The online site Eater New York, part of Vox Media, reported on Monday that the incidents involve at least four women, three of whom worked for Batali. One of the women said Batali groped her chest after wine had spilled on her shirt. Another said he grabbed her from behind and held her tightly against his body.

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The Quorn revolution: the rise of ultra-processed fake meat

Mon, 12 Feb 2018 14:39:29 GMT

It was reported last week that Quorn is on course to become a billion-dollar business. It is part of a booming industry of meat alternatives – but many of these products are a far cry from the idea of a natural, plant-based diet

What exactly is Quorn? I have been asked that question regularly for more than 30 years. This may be a reflection of the general population’s scientific illiteracy, but most people remain hazy about the composition of Quorn – even those who eat it regularly. However, many of us are prepared to accept this understanding gap because Quorn seems to be on the right side of the prevailing food paradigm, which holds that eating meat, fish, dairy and eggs is a redneck habit that has had its day, one that amounts to propagating cruelty and environmental ruin and will lead to dire consequences for human health. On the other hand, “plant food” – an appealing neologism for vegetarian and vegan that owes its intellectual heft to US food writer Michael Pollan’s maxim “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants” – is riding high on a wave of moral purity and an extravagant “feed the world and save the planet” promise.

The short explanation is that Quorn is a “mycoprotein” fermented in vats from a fungus found in soil. A fuller – but still heavily truncated – one is that it is made from a strain of the soil mould Fusarium venenatum by fermenting it, then adding glucose, fixed nitrogen, vitamins and minerals and heat-treating it to remove excess levels of ribonucleic acid. (In other words, it is a long way from what the phrase “plant food” may seem to denote.)

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How to make the perfect dan dan noodles | Felicity Cloake

Fri, 16 Feb 2018 06:00:37 GMT

A quick noodle dish laced with smoky chilli oil and tingly Sichuan pepper is the ideal choice for Chinese new year

If you’re not familiar with dan dan noodles, or if you’ve had this fiery, aromatic and addictively savoury snack in a restaurant but never made it yourself, this column will change your life. Named for the cry of the itinerant vendors who once roamed the streets of Chengdu with the tools of their trade slung on a bamboo pole – or dan – across their shoulders, dan dan noodles, as Fuchsia Dunlop explains, are traditionally served in small portions, “just enough to ease the hunger of scholars working late or mahjong players gambling into the night”, and should be eaten quickly, while the noodles are still hot and the fried topping crisp.

Liberally laced with the smoky chilli oil and numbing pepper for which Sichuan province is famous, they’re a fabulous winter warmer, and the ideal supplement to your Chinese New Year feast, should you be celebrating, noodles being a traditional symbol of longevity. Polish off a couple of tangerines for luck afterwards, and the Year of the Dog is sure to be a good one.

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How to cook the perfect vindaloo | Felicity Cloake

Thu, 08 Feb 2018 12:00:26 GMT

Vindaloo is a tangy Goan dish with sweet spices, not the familiar British chilli-eating contest. If you want the real version, here’s how to make it

The peculiar place of vindaloo, a fierily fragrant speciality of Goa in popular culture can be summed up by the 1998 World Cup football anthem of the same name, whose irritatingly catchy chorus references the curry no fewer than 11 times. As the Observer pointed out, its authors, the “prank art collective” Fat Les, “persuaded, among others, a lot of xenophobic, racist Little England football supporters to celebrate an item of Indian cuisine as a quintessential expression of Englishness”. This is despite Goa having been a former Portuguese colony and one of the few parts of India that never saw British rule.

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Thomasina Miers’ easy recipe for brussels sprout gratin with fennel salami

Fri, 09 Feb 2018 14:00:00 GMT

Give sprouts a new lease of life with this creamy simple supper

When it has been this cold and grey for so long, it’s hard to shake yourself from the winter torpor. Thank goodness, then, for the optimism of the pagans: Imbolc, or St Brigid’s Day, is a Gaelic festival at the start of February, halfway between the winter solstice and spring equinox. It’s a celebration of the first signs of spring, and milk-based dishes traditionally mark the occasion. In keeping with that, here’s a creamy-rich gratin studded with salami. Perfect fodder to spoil yourself, and to welcome the lengthening days.

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Felicity Cloake’s marmalade recipe | Felicity Cloake’s masterclass

Mon, 12 Feb 2018 09:00:52 GMT

Seville orange season is almost over, so now’s your last chance to get peeling

If you don’t make marmalade now, you’ll have missed your chance for another year, because the all-too-brief Seville orange season is almost over. Fortunately, it’s a surprisingly simple task for a lazy day at home, filling the house with a gorgeous, zesty scent, and the cook with smug satisfaction at the months of pleasure to come.

1kg Seville oranges
1 unwaxed lemon
1kg soft light brown sugar
1kg white sugar
1 piece clean muslin
8 x 450ml jars, or assorted jars of equivalent volume

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How to eat flowers without poisoning yourself

Thu, 15 Feb 2018 07:00:09 GMT

I spent a week adding a floral touch to my meals – but if you don’t know what you’re doing, swiping flowers from the meadow can be a risky business


There are ups and downs in the world of edible flowers. By her own admission, Jan Billington, who grows and sells them from her organic farm in Devon, “smells amazing”. On the downside, she is regularly stung by Italian honey bees and is badly allergic, “although it’s just a matter of swelling”, she says. “It goes down eventually.”

Billington sells seasonal flowers to chefs and cocktail-makers, but more recently she has begun selling to amateur cooks who are hoping to inject a little personality into their cooking. Edible flowers are in the spotlight, or rather the polytunnels (thanks to the frost), because of Instagram, where they are used to zhoosh up food shots, and because of the rise of veganism, where they provide a bit of textural variation.

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Parsons, London: ‘Food you can’t forget’ – restaurant review

Sun, 04 Feb 2018 06:00:19 GMT

With its affordable small plates and classic fish dishes, lunch at Parsons is a real catch

Parsons, 39 Endell Street, London WC2H 9BA (020 3422 0211). Meal for two, including wine and service £60 to £90

It was the chips that sealed it. The croquettes played a part, as did the brown crab pissaladière. Oh, and the clam chowder. We’ll come back to those. But the chips. I only ordered them out of duty and commitment. Parsons is a small fish restaurant, recently opened by the team behind the wine-based bistro 10 Cases. It occupies a tight space on the same street as the mothership in London’s Covent Garden, its walls tiled in utilitarian white with details picked out in Victorian jade. There are square mirrors, dangly globe lights, small tables, high counters and, at the end, a tiny open kitchen. If I didn’t know it was a new fit-out, I might have guessed it was a repurposed pie shop or a retired public convenience. One or the other.

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Henry’s, Bath: ‘A thoroughly lovely expression of the owner’ – restaurant review | Jay Rayner

Sun, 11 Feb 2018 06:00:20 GMT

Don’t worry about data capture, all Henry’s in Bath wants is to cook the food it believes in

Henry’s, 4 Saville Row, Bath BA1 2QP (01225 780055). Meal for two, including wine and service: £90 to £110

Recently I took part in a conference event on the future of the dining experience. Or should I say “experience”? It felt like inverted commas were everywhere. It was all about “data capture” and “personalisation”. Us diners will trade gems of information for a meal that most closely matches our aspirations for it. Much of this was an extrapolation of what already happens. The request for information on allergies and dietary issues has become de rigueur. At best it saves people from going into anaphylactic shock over the grilled shrimp, which really can ruin dinner. At worst it’s a licence for picky eaters, trying to control the world around them through their dreary eating habits, just as they did when they were toddlers.

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Where are all the Kiwi wines? | Fiona Beckett

Thu, 08 Feb 2018 16:00:31 GMT

New Zealand makes some of most consistent wines around, and not just that ubiquitous sauvignon. So why are they so thin on the ground right now?

I didn’t spot it at the time, but there was a dearth of New Zealand wines at the most recent supermarket tastings. Whether that was because the shops didn’t have much to offer except sauvignon blanc and thought we were bored by it (I am, for one), or whether it was a question of expense, I’m not sure: prices have definitely been creeping up, but then New Zealand isn’t exactly alone on that front.

Their absence is odd, though, because the country consistently produces some of the most reliable wines around, with great pinots and excellent, aromatic whites joining that ubiquitous sauvignon. There are even hefty reds, mainly from the Hawkes Bay area on the North Island, where syrah has found an ideal home. The deliciously peppery Terrace Edge Syrah 2015 (£25 Vintage Roots; 14.5% abv), from North Canterbury, say, would certainly hit the spot for fans of the northern Rhône (and it’s on a par price-wise).

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Six of the best pancake recipes

Tue, 13 Feb 2018 19:25:31 GMT

The only recipes you need to sweeten up your pancake day, from a classic crepe with lemon and sugar to beetroot drop scones and a custard-filled stack

Prep 10-15 min
Cook 2 min per pancake
Makes 18

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A Valentine's Day cocktail: Bitter and twisted – recipe

Wed, 14 Feb 2018 11:00:45 GMT

A judicious pick-me-up for the discerning drinker on Valentine’s Day

Bitters are very grown-up drinks, so this one’s for any self-respecting adult, whether coupled up or single, who regards Valentine’s Day with the contempt it deserves. It’s also ridiculously easy to make, so is ideal if you need to drown your sorrows on the 14th, too.

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Channel 4 hits sweet spot with Bake Off as it seeks new sponsor

Fri, 26 Jan 2018 18:06:10 GMT

Broadcaster raises cost to £5m making series most lucrative for broadcaster since Big Brother

Channel 4 is on the hunt for a new sponsor for The Great British Bake Off at a pumped up price, after the new-look show defied critics and proved to be the broadcaster’s biggest hit in decades.

Sponsors Lyle’s golden syrup and baking product maker Dr Oetker are understood not to be seeking to renew their one-year deal, which turned out to be a bargain given the huge success of Channel 4’s first series.

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Anna Jones’s winter citrus salad recipe| The Modern Cook

Mon, 12 Feb 2018 12:00:56 GMT

Seasonal citrus takes centre stage in this salad of sweet oranges and bitter leaves, and in a simple south Indian lemon pickle to enjoy year-round

Now is the time for citrus. Clementines, blood oranges, heady bergamots, perfect leafy lemons, plump grapefruit, blush and Seville oranges all abound. Citrus is ever-present in my cooking, most often lemon or lime, but during this time of plenty I’ll dress my salads in a vinaigrette made with clementines. Or I’ll throw a halved blood orange into my tray of vegetables, then once its edges have browned and its fruit has turned jammy, I’ll squeeze its juice over the veg. But this week, citrus gets top billing: a salad of sharp-sweet oranges and crisp bitter lettuces; and an ultra-simple lemon pickle inspired by south India. Pickling the season’s lemons makes them a year-round favourite to enjoy with curries, stews and flatbreads.

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OFM Awards 2017: Best Sunday Lunch – the runners-up

Sun, 15 Oct 2017 10:00:28 GMT

OFM readers vote for their favourite roasts – from well-hung beef in Wales to whole suckling pig in Nottingham

Blacklock, Soho
This chophouse scooped this award last year for its superlative roasts. Joints are slow-roasted over coals, there’s a £20 all-in meat platter, and you can wash it all down with a breakfast martini.
24 Great Windmill St, W1D 7LG; 020 3441 6996

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Ruby Tandoh’s recipe for cherry blondies with bay cream | The Sweet Spot

Sat, 17 Feb 2018 12:00:14 GMT

Beautify your brownies with these grown-up blondies spiced up with citrus and cherries

Usually I like to take a recipe straight to its basest form: opera cake? Make that a chocolate sponge. Towering croquembouche? Serve ‘em a nice eclair instead. These blondies are unusual for me, then, because for once I’ve taken something a bit saccharine and naff and made it classier. Brought to life with citrussy cardamom and plump cherries, these avoid the cloying sweetness of traditional blondies, while the bay-infused cream adds a subtle aniseed warmth. They might only be brownies with a wig on, but they taste a million bucks.

Prep 20 mins
Cook 30-35 mins
Serves 12

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2017's best restaurant – Pidgin, east London

Sun, 15 Oct 2017 10:00:28 GMT

Their menu changes weekly and no dish is repeated – the winner, as voted by OFM readers, is a small restaurant that’s big on creativity

When the public ballot opened for this year’s Best Restaurant, James Ramsden sent a tweet to his then near-17,000 followers: “If you vote for Pidgin in the #ofmawards I’ll personally empty your dishwasher.” Now the east London restaurant he co-owns has won – by some margin, as it happens – does he not regret making that offer?

The 31-year-old Ramsden laughs. “Yeah, it was actually a fairly clumsily written tweet, but I’m glad it was, because it was meant to say ‘…for a year’. As far as is practical, though, I will honour the offer. I mean, it’s a bit of a weird thing to do, to call me up and say …”

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Tamal Ray’s recipe for scones with green kiwi fruit jam

Tue, 06 Feb 2018 06:00:01 GMT

An unconventional, tart jam is just the thing to spread liberally on warm, homemade scones

The humble kiwi fruit occupies an unfairly neglected position in the minds of most home cooks. Before a 20th-century rebranding by savvy New Zealand farmers, it was known as the Chinese gooseberry, but beyond the tartness of flavour and the acid-green flesh, the comparison to gooseberries might seem a bit far-fetched. Once cooked down into a jam, however, the taste is uncannily familiar. Perfect for a batch of scones fresh from the oven.

This is one of the easiest jams I’ve ever made. I’d usually rely on my trusty kitchen thermometer to reassure me that it has reached the correct temperature to set properly, but that’s currently out of action, so I had to rely on more traditional methods instead. The combination of fruits are so full of pectin (responsible for the jelly-ish consistency of jam) that it’s virtually impossible to undercook. Your efforts will be rewarded with a deliciously tart jam, speckled attractively with little black seeds.

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Salt, Stratford-upon-Avon: ‘I want this restaurant to be great’ | Jay Rayner

Sun, 15 Oct 2017 05:00:21 GMT

Paul Foster won top awards as a young chef, now he’s got his own place in the Midlands. And Jay feels fully vindicated

Salt, 8 Church Street, Stratford-upon-Avon CV37 6HB (01789 263 566). Meal for two, including drinks and service: £70-£110

Paul Foster is living other chefs’ fantasies. He has the thing they all want: the small but perfectly formed restaurant where he can be himself. From a distance he has made this look effortless. I’m sure it wasn’t. I first ate his food at a hotel in Suffolk I had never heard of back in 2011, where he was ravaging the river banks for ingredients, pairing roasted chicken wings with brown shrimps and laying pieces of hake on swollen beads of bright green tapioca, flavoured with fiery wild watercress so it looked like frogspawn. There was a poise and balance to his cooking that won him a bunch of awards, including the Observer Food Monthly young chef of the year award. Which is obviously The Only Award Worth Winning.

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Cocktail of the week: 10 Greek Street’s port and rum negroni

Fri, 09 Feb 2018 15:00:11 GMT

A classy way to use up any liquor leftovers

Serves 1

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Indian Accent, London W1: restaurant review | Grace Dent

Fri, 26 Jan 2018 13:00:40 GMT

Our new restaurant critic calls in on Indian Accent, a stylish newcomer to Mayfair

• Indian Accent 16 Albemarle Street, London W1, 207-629-9802. Open Mon-Sat, noon-2pm, 5.30-10pm. Lunch £25/£30 for two/three courses, dinner £55/£65 for three/four courses, all plus drinks and service.

Over the past 500 or so restaurants I’ve been to, I’ve developed a shorthand for places like Indian Accent: the scribble “OPM”, or Other People’s Money. As in, if you find yourself in Mayfair drubbing through someone else’s expense account, well, I cannot recommend Manish Mehrotra’s teensy-weensy blue cheese naan enough. His style of naan, smaller than a Farley’s rusk and thinner than a slice of Mother’s Pride, appears as an amuse-bouche with a Lilliputian pewter jug of curried coconut sipping sauce. Pinky in the air. Glug, glug. It is a cutting stereotype that all northern women love gravy, but at this, Mehrotra’s third opening (after New Delhi and New York), I drank curry sauce elegantly, as an aperitif, and I bloody loved it.

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Wines and whisky for Burns Night | David Williams

Sun, 21 Jan 2018 05:59:13 GMT

Haggis, neeps and tatties don’t taste the same without a wee dram to toast Scotland’s most famous poet

Les Calèches de Lanessan, Haut-Médoc, Bordeaux, France 2011 (from £16.99, T Wright Wine; Rodney Fletcher Vintners; Wood Winters) What to drink on Burns Night, an evening that offers a welcome fizzle of festivity in the January murk, even for Sassanachs? Whisky, of course, and you can find a dram or two below. For drinking with the haggis, however, another drink, one with which the Scots have strong historical links, makes an equally satisfying match. The wines of Bordeaux have had favoured status north of the border since the Auld Alliance between Scotland and France began in 1295, with Scots merchants enjoying the pick of the best barrels over their English rivals. Clarets to consider for this year’s celebration on Thursday include the mellow, cedary savouriness of Les Calèches de Lanessan, or the youthfully exuberant crunchiness of Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Claret 2015 (£7).

Champagne Lanson Extra Age Brut, France NV (from £45, Marks & Spencer; Laithwaites) Most restaurants and hotels putting on Burns suppers will offer sparkling wine as a toasting alternative for those who don’t have the taste – or constitution – for whisky. If you’re celebrating at home, and money is not too much of an object, Veuve Clicquot Extra Old Extra Brut NV (from £67.50, Harrods, Champagne Direct) is an outstandingly graceful, filigree blend of older wines from a producer with a slightly tangential Scottish link: its oldest existing bottle (an 1893 vintage) was found locked in a cupboard in a castle on the Isle of Mull a decade ago. In a similar style, Lanson’s Extra Age Brut blends three fine vintages for invigorating creamy elegance, while Aldi Exquisite Crémant de Jura, France (£7.99) is a lipsmacking bargain fizz.

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Nigel Slater’s za’atar lamb recipe

Tue, 06 Feb 2018 12:00:00 GMT

Pomegranate powered, highly spicy, heavily herby bulgur and lamb cutlets

Mix 2 tbsp of olive oil with 2 tbsp of za’atar spice mix. Brush over 6 lamb cutlets and set aside.

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Another Place, Ullswater, Cumbria: ‘Undressed rocket? That's just trolling’ – restaurant review

Fri, 02 Feb 2018 13:00:29 GMT

This chic mini-resort in Cumbria is serving up food that’s much less glamorous than the decor

While searching along unlit, winding byroads for Another Place, Ullswater’s new multimillion-pound “lifestyle hotel”, I realised that I’ll always feel conflicted when the Lake District tries to do “modern” hospitality. The lion’s share of Lakeland hotels are a paean to chintz, antimacassars and joy-free service, and they’re this way for a reason. Most are family-owned, decaying piles on fellsides, and battered by sideways sleet for 10 months of the year. Most require umpteen million quids’ worth of love to modernise to a standard anything a Soho House member could tolerate. And most are in the hands of locals lacking the nerve or impetus to modernise, yet simultaneously furious when tourists want keto-friendly avo toast with fast wifi to document their soft southern faces scoffing it.

Yes, the Lakes has The Samling, The Forest Side, L’Enclume and a few other Michelin-chasing, artsy-fartsy spots, but this level of vision is rare and, crucially, there is no middle ground. While Soho Farmhouse in Oxfordshire is cluttered daily with moneyed millennials and fancy families riding bikes, drinking Old Tom martinis and eating vegan wood-roasted cauliflower with roscoff onion, my home county Cumbria draws a blank. Another Place – stupid, confusing name, if you ask me – is an attempt to fill the gap, transforming the snoozesome Rampsbeck Hotel into a 40-room mini-resort with a spa, 20m pool, plus the option of kayaking and sailing on the lake. Oh, and wild swimming – the new cool, southern term for doing the breaststroke anywhere that doesn’t smell of anti-verruca disinfectant.

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Rachel Roddy’s recipe for a potato and porcini bake

Tue, 06 Feb 2018 12:00:00 GMT

A few waxy potatoes, a handful of dried mushrooms and a glug of whole milk make for a homely, warming plateful that’s fit for king and pauper alike

Having spent three days ill in bed, putting three potatoes into the oven felt like quite an achievement. As did the scent that filled the flat with a kind of “husky wellbeing”, even though I felt far from it. You have to marvel at the transformation of baked potatoes, and with so little effort: from cool hardness to edible, a chewy jacket and soft insides.

Every time baked potatoes are cut open with a puff of steam, a discussion takes place in our house: that of olive oil versus butter, as if we were defending our own garden. My partner Vincenzo is for olive oil, the deep-green elixir that we buy from a Sicilian friend called Pina in tin cans the size of a toddler, our biggest expense and kitchen fuel. I am not saying he is wrong. I am right, though, in believing that, when it comes to a baked potato, a slice of butter mashed into the already buttery flesh is best. Salt and pepper on top. I can measure my life in baked potatoes and still eat them in exactly the way I did as a child, the ritualistic mashing and scooping motion, the extra butter slid into the empty skin, the final pinch to close it, like a taco.

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Rachel Roddy’s recipe for pasta cacio e pepe | A kitchen in Rome

Tue, 13 Feb 2018 12:00:14 GMT

You always remember your first time: Rachel Roddy hails the classic Roman three-ingredient pasta dish

Of all the classic Roman pasta dishes, cacio e pepe was the one I tasted first – and still the one I like best. It has just three ingredients: pasta, cacio (aka pecorino romano) and freshly cracked black pepper. In cooking, though, the pasta creates another ingredient: the cloudy cooking water slightly thickened with starch that has seeped from the pasta as it boils. This cooking water is a sort of culinary negotiator, melting and then emulsifying the cheese into rich, creamy sauce on the strands of pasta.

Unsurprisingly, there are as many ways and opinions about how best to make a cacio e pepe as there are cooks. Some like to add a little olive oil; others have ways with double boilers and grated ice, which, as far as I can see, require the almost gloopy starchy water of a trattoria pasta cooker and the wrists of a chef. But one thing people seem to agree on is that the enemy of cacio e pepe is chilly china – that is, cold plates – which can make the cheese clump into almost plasticine-like blobs from which there is no coming back. Happily, it is an enemy easily overcome by warming the vessel in question. Most agree, too, that the smaller the quantity, the better the result. With this in mind, here are two ways to prepare two main-course portions of cacio e pepe.

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Paul Hollywood: A Baker’s Life review – all about his great passions: baking, and himself

Tue, 28 Nov 2017 06:00:01 GMT

This vanity project perks up when old blue eyes gets down to some fancy baking – and Prue, Sandi and Noel turn up

Paul Hollywood has a new show, a great British spin-off. It’s about his great passions: baking, and himself. It’s called Paul Hollywood: A Baker’s Life (Channel 4). The timing might not be ideal, a show about his life outside the Great British Bake Off, coming soon after announcing the split from his wife. It’s difficult to watch without a bit of that in mind.

She doesn’t feature, and he doesn’t mention Mrs H. He does talk about another painful separation though – from Mary, Mel and Sue, when the Bake Off moved from the BBC to Channel 4. And in this one he was the victim, apparently. “For the three of them to walk away from me, and walk away from the tent, it felt like they’d abandoned the Bake Off,” he says. “Three people walked out of the tent, and one person stayed. Why am I getting called a traitor?”

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Roganic, London W1: ‘Already a place for chefs, bloggers and blaggers’ – restaurant review | Grace Dent

Fri, 09 Feb 2018 13:00:04 GMT

L’Enclume’s new sister restaurant in London is a multi-course expedition that inspires and alarms in equal measure

On entering Roganic, it was clear I needed a new false name for booking tables. “Mitford”, after my beloved Nancy (not her Hitler-loving fruitcake sister Unity) had lasted exactly four critical ambushes before being sussed and spread across hospitality’s intelligence network. Actually, that makes the chef grapevine sound far too chic and diligent. In reality, it’s just chefs lying about at 3am in mildewed underpants screaming, “That bitch!” into WhatsApp group chats.

But I live for this mayhem. I pitched up at Roganic on a Saturday night to find the staff suspiciously alert, with several of them huddled behind reception like the cast of Meerkat Manor sensing a Kalahari thunderstorm. Well played: it’s their job to find stuff like this out, after all. This restaurant, which is both the Second Coming of a much rhapsodised former pop-up and a spin-off of Michelin-bestowed Cumbrian mecca L’Enclume, opened just a month ago. Due to chef/owner Simon Rogan’s rep as a scene leader and striver for high standards, it’s already one of those places that chefs, writers, bloggers, blaggers and miscellaneous food chunterers are expressing vocal intention to visit in 2018. They yearn, they’ll tell you, to experience Rogan’s seaweed custard with caviar, his millet pudding laced with Stichelton and his scallop with gooseberry.

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Nigel Slater’s fettuccine with fennel and prawns

Tue, 13 Feb 2018 12:00:14 GMT

A gloriously quick and tasty supper which you can have on the table within minutes of walking through the door

Slice 2 medium-sized fennel bulbs in half and then into thin slices. Melt 30g of butter and warm in a deep-sided shallow pan with 3 tbsp of olive oil. Add the fennel and the juice from half a lemon. Cover with a lid and leave to cook over a low to moderate heat for a good 20 minutes, until the fennel is soft and translucent. An occasional stir is all to the good.

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Turmeric coronation chicken pancakes and banana crepes recipes | Yotam Ottolenghi

Sat, 10 Feb 2018 09:00:55 GMT

Fun DIY pancakes that little hands can fill themselves, and a more grown-up boozy banana crepe for pancake day

In my house, most days are pancake days. My freezer is stocked up with cooked crepes (an ingenious idea I nicked off a friend) that take minutes to warm up from frozen in the morning and spread with whatever’s in the cupboard; unsurprisingly, Nutella is my two sons’ most popular choice by far. So for actual pancake day, I’m thinking something less everyday: a whole meal revolving around DIY pancake assembly. Get everyone together, roll up your sleeves and get stuffing.

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Nigel Slater’s seafood with bacon recipes

Sun, 18 Feb 2018 06:00:36 GMT

Classic surf and turf – each flavour boosts the power of the other

I have always liked what cured meat does to seafood. The fish seems to appreciate the saltiness of the bacon, as if pining for the sea. This week, my local fishmonger had a rather handsome hake. Well, handsome compared to, say, a monkfish. I bought four fine hake steaks. The Spanish eat a lot of hake – in fact half of all the hake consumed in Europe. Back in the kitchen I looked to them for inspiration and found it.

Fish seems to appreciate the saltiness of the bacon, as if pining for the sea

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Meera Sodha’s recipe for vegan kimchi pancakes

Mon, 12 Feb 2018 13:30:57 GMT

Salty, spicy and sour Korean jeon pancakes made with kimchi are a delicious savoury vegan alternative on pancake day

I discovered kimchi only a few months ago, but when I did, there were fireworks. I nearly ate a whole jar of Kim Kong kimchi in a single salty, spicy and sour sitting. Then I went in search of recipes that would justify buying more, and became acquainted with the kimchi jeon at Oshibi, a Korean restaurant in York. A jeon is a forgiving pancake that absorbs tofu and most vegetables, but still becomes crisp, given enough time in the pan.

Related: Meera Sodha’s potato and cabbage curry | The New Vegan

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Can I cook like ... Henry VIII? | Stephen Bush

Sat, 10 Feb 2018 08:00:53 GMT

Our columnist discovers eating like a king can be a royal pain in the oven

Act like a king, get treated like a king: that’s one of the eyebrow-raising claims made in Robert Greene’s 1998 self-help book, The 48 Laws of Power. I’ve got my eyes on a pay rise, so I thought that eating like a king might help. And who could be more kingly than Henry VIII?

In the Tudor era, high society ate a great deal of meat – game, for the most part – and fruit. I hit two immediate snags: the first, as anyone reading this with even a basic knowledge of where their food comes from could tell me, is that there is a game season and February doesn’t fall in it. (Apparently, you have to give the pheasants a break from being shot at, so they can go away, get counseling and have babies for you to shoot at next year.)

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