Food Blogs

Yummy Christmas Leftovers

Darinas Saturday Letter - Sat, 12/27/2014 - 16:18

What is it about leftovers that brings a glint to my eyes? I can think of so many ways to use up tasty bits. You can give them an Asian, Mexican or Middle Eastern twist, or just keep it traditional – all can be delicious. I hate to waste even a scrap of delicious food and can think of a zillion yummy ways to reincarnate it.

If you have some juicy morsels of turkey left over, why not try Christmas Couscous Salad with Pomegranate Seeds and Pistachio Nuts or Boxing Day Pie with lots of fluffy mash on top. Chop up the turkey carcass and pop into a pot with a couple of chunks of onion, carrot, a couple of celery stalks, the green part of leeks and some little bunches of fresh herbs, thyme, parsley stalks, maybe a sprig of tarragon and a few peppercorns, no salt and cover with cold water and simmer for 2 to 3 hours on a low heat to make a delicious turkey broth which can be used as a basis for soup or  Turkey, Orzo, Pea and Spring Onion Broth.

Ham or bacon can of course be used in a myriad of ways, even added to a simple frittata, risotto or scrambled egg.  I love cheddar cheese and ham bread pudding which also uses up stale bread and scraps of dry cheese in a delicious moreish way.

Mexican tostadas and quesadillas are a terrific vehicle for all kinds of yummy scraps. Left over cold potatoes can be made into Finca Buenvino Mini Tortillas, see my column on 26th April 2014,  so delicious and moreish that you’ll want to cook potatoes especially to make them.

Brussels sprouts keep well and make great salads as well as soups.

Leftover Ballymaloe mincemeat keeps for years but you may want to try mincemeat and Bramley apple meringue tart. Throw a fistful of leftover cranberries into scones or a fruit or make a delicious tart or pear and cranberry chutney.

Stale bread can be made into breadcrumbs for croque monsieur, French toast and knights of Windsor, of course no apologies need to be made for Panettone or bread and butter pudding.

Left over vegetables make a comforting soup or a vegetable gratin. There’s just no end to the delicious reincarnations you can make that will win compliments for your ingenuity.

All the recipes mentioned here come from Darina Allen’s A Simply Delicious Christmas published by Gill and Macmillan, here are a selection for you to try.


Turkey, Orzo, Pea and Spring Onion Broth

This broth can be the basis of a flavoursome light soup to use up delicious morsels of cooked poultry.

Serves 6

1 litre (1 ¾ pints)well-flavoured turkey, chicken or pheasant stock

pinch of chilli flakes (optional)

50g (2oz) orzo pasta

2 tender stalks celery, finely sliced at an angle

150 – 175g (5 – 6 oz) shredded cooked turkey, chicken or pheasant

110g (4oz) frozen peas

4 – 6 spring onions, sliced at an angle

lots of fresh coriander and/or fresh mint


Bring the stock to the boil; add the orzo, celery and chilli flakes. Cook for approximately 10 minutes or until the pasta is just cooked, add the peas and shredded turkey. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cook for 3 or 4 minutes, correct the seasoning. Ladle into soup bowls, sprinkle with lots of spring onion and fresh coriander and/or mint.



Christmas Couscous Salad with Pomegranate Seeds and Pistachio Nuts

Serves 2-3

How did we cooks manage before we could access juicy pomegranates?


600g (1 1/4lb) leftover roast turkey, chicken or goose

450ml (16fl oz/2 cups) chicken stock

175g (6oz) couscous

2 tablespoons (2 1/2 American tablespoons) pumpkin seeds

2 tablespoons (2 1/2 American tablespoons) dried cranberries or cherries

2 tablespoons (2 1/2 American tablespoons) golden sultanas

2 tablespoons (2 1/2 American tablespoons) pistachio nuts

salt and freshly ground black pepper

lots of fresh mint leaves

seeds from 1 pomegranate (keep a few back for garnish)

4 heaped tablespoons (5 American tablespoons) yoghurt

pomegranate molasses


Pour the boiling chicken stock over the couscous, cover and allow to plump up until the water has been fully absorbed.  Chicken stock gives more flavour but if you haven’t any to hand use boiling water.


Shred the fresh cooked turkey, chicken or goose into bite-size pieces. Put it into a mixing bowl with the pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries or cherries, fat golden sultanas and shelled pistachios.  Season generously with salt, pepper and coarsely chopped mint leaves then add the pomegranate seeds.


Fluff up the couscous with a fork, sprinkle lots of coarsely chopped mint leaves and pomegranate seeds over the top, then fold in the dry ingredients and freshly squeezed lime juice.  Top with a few dollops of yoghurt, a generous trickle of pomegranate molasses, lots of fresh mint leaves, and a scattering of pomegranate seeds.


Inspired by Nigel Slater.


St Stephen’s or Boxing Day Pie 

Try to keep some left-over turkey and ham for this delicious pie – it’s the most scrumptious way to use up left-overs and can be topped with fluffy mashed potatoes or a puff pastry lid.

Serves 12

900 g (2lbs) cold organic or free-range turkey meat, including the diced crispy skin

450 g (1lb) cold ham or bacon

30 g (1oz) butter

1-2 teasp. grated fresh ginger (optional)

340 g (12oz) chopped onion

225 g (8oz) flat mushrooms or button if flats are not available

1 clove of garlic

900 ml (30 fl.oz) well flavoured turkey stock or 568ml (20 fl oz) stock and 300 ml/10 fl.oz) turkey gravy

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

1 tablespoon chopped chives

2 teaspoons fresh marjoram or tarragon if available

150 ml (¼ pint) cream

450 g (1lb) puff or flaky pastry or 900g (2lb) Duchesse or mashed Potato


2 x 1.1 L/2 pint) capacity pie dishes


Cut the turkey and ham into 1 inch (2.5 cm) approx. pieces.  Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan, add the chopped onions and ginger if using, cover and sweat for about 10 minutes until they are soft but not coloured.  Meanwhile wash and slice the mushrooms.  When the onions are soft, stir in the garlic and remove to a plate.  Increase the heat and cook the sliced mushrooms, a few at a time.  Season with salt and freshly-ground pepper and add to the onions and garlic.  Toss the cold turkey and ham in the hot saucepan, using a little extra butter if necessary; add to the mushrooms and onion.  De-glaze the saucepan with the turkey stock.  Add the cream and chopped herbs.  Bring it to the boil, thicken with roux, add the meat, mushrooms and onions and simmer for 5 minutes.  Taste and correct the seasoning.

Fill into the pie dishes, and pipe rosettes of potato all over the top.  Bake in a moderate oven, 190C/375F/regulo 5, for 15-20 minutes or until the potato is golden and the pie is bubbling.

Alternatively, if you would like to have a pastry crust, allow the filling to get quite cold.  Roll out the pastry to about 1/8-inch (3 mm) thickness, then cut a strip from around the edge the same width as the lip of the pie dish.  Brush the edge of the dish with water and press the strip of pastry firmly down onto it; wet the top of the strip again.  Cut the pastry into an oval just slightly larger than the pie dish.  Press this down onto the wet border, flute the edges of the pastry with a knife and then scallop them at 1 inch (2.5 cm) approx. intervals.  Roll out the trimmings and cut into leaves to decorate the top.  Make a hole in the centre to allow the steam to escape while cooking.

Brush with egg wash and bake in a preheated oven, 250C/475F/regulo 9, for 10 minutes; then turn the heat down to moderate, 180C/350F/regulo 4, for 20-25 minutes or until the pastry is cooked through and the pie is bubbling.

Serve with a good green salad.

Cheddar Cheese and Ham Bread Pudding

Bread and Butter pudding can be sweet or savoury, try this one, even just with cheese, but if you have a little cooked ham or bacon it’s even better, it makes a tasty economical supper for 3 or 4 hungry people.


Serves 6

50g (2oz) very soft butter (for buttering the bread and greasing the dish)

6 slices of good white bread (1-2cm/½-¾ inch thick approx.), crusts removed – about 100g (3½oz) prepared weight

110g (4oz) mature Cheddar, coarsely grated

175- 225g (6-8oz) cooked ham, diced in 7mm (⅓ inch) cubes approx.

3 medium free-range eggs

450ml (16fl oz) milk

3-4 teaspoons thyme leaves, chopped

A generous pinch of mace

1½ teaspoons Dijon mustard

salt and freshly ground black pepper


1 litre (1¾ pint) ovenproof soufflé dish.


Grease the soufflé dish with soft or melted butter.


Then butter slices of bread and cut into roughly 2.5cm (1inch) squares.  Put into the dish, add the grated cheese and ham and toss to combine.


Whisk the eggs well.  Add the milk, thyme leaves, mace and Dijon mustard and continue to whisk for a minute or two.  Season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Pour over the bread, cheese and ham mixture.  Cover and pop in the refrigerator for a couple of hours or even overnight.


The next day, preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 and bake the soufflé for 40 minutes or until puffed up and golden like a soufflé.


Serve with a green salad.


Another great way to use up leftover turkey chicken, guinea fowl or pheasant, you’ll be wishing you cooked a bigger turkey.

Tostadas are a favourite snack in Mexico, the filling varies according to the area, it can be beef, chicken, pork, turkey, crab or just vegetables.  The filling is always piled high so Tostadas are always quite a challenge to eat elegantly but what the heck they taste delicious!


Serves 8


8 tortillas, they ought to be corn tortillas but wheat flour tortillas can be substituted.

225g (8ozs) refried beans, optional

1/2 iceberg lettuce, shredded

110-175g (4-6ozs) cooked turkey or chicken breast or leg, shredded

1 sliced chilli, optional

4 very ripe tomatoes, sliced

1 avocado or Guacamole

4 tablespoons spring onion

3 tablespoons sour cream

50-110g (2-4ozs) grated Cheddar cheese

Sea salt


Deep fry the tortillas in hot oil until crisp and golden, drain on kitchen paper.  Put each tortilla on a hot plate, spread with a little warm refried beans and then top with some crunchy lettuce, shredded chicken breast, guacamole and so on.

Finish off with a blob of sour cream and a sprinkling of cheddar cheese and a few chives. If you don’t have refried beans to hand, just omit them. The tostadas will still be delicious.

Serve immediately.   In Mexico Tostadas are considered to be finger food – you’ll need both hands!


Mincemeat and Apple Meringue Tart

Serves 10-12


A wonderful Christmassy Tart and also a particularly good way to use up leftover mincemeat.


The pastry is made by the creaming method so people who are convinced that they suffer from ‘hot hands’ don’t have to worry about rubbing in the butter. Use it for a variety of fruit tarts. It can be difficult to handle when its first made and benefits from being chilled for at least an hour. Better still, if rested overnight.



175g (6oz) white flour

25g (1oz) caster sugar

10g (1/2oz) icing sugar

1 egg, beaten



450g (1lb) mincemeat – see recipe (p.00)

700g (1 1/2lbs) Bramley apples



3 egg whites

175g (6ozs) caster sugar


Egg wash


1 x 9 inch (23cm) deep tart tin


Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.


First make the pastry in the usual way. Beat the butter and sugar together by hand or in a food mixer (no need to over cream). Add the egg and beat for several minutes. Reduce the speed and mix in the flour. Turn out onto a piece of floured greaseproof paper, flatten into a round wrap and chill. This pastry needs to be chilled for at least 1 hour otherwise it is difficult to handle.

Bake the tart base blind for about 25 minutes in the preheated oven or until pale and golden, remove the beans and paper.


Brush the prebaked tart shell with a little beaten egg and pop back into the oven for 5-minutes or until almost cooked. Cool. Reduce the temperature to 130ºC/250ºF/Gas mark 1/2.


Peel and core the apples. Cut into 1 inch (2.5cm) chunks. Place in a sauté pan with a tight fitting lid. Put on a very low heat and cook until the apples have broken down 25- 30 minutes approx. It should be tart to counteract the sweetness of the mincemeat and meringue.


Whisk the egg whites with the caster sugar until it reaches stiff peaks. Spread the apple puree over the cooked pastry base, spoon the mincemeat over the apple. Top with the meringue fluffing into peaks. Return to the oven and cook for 1 hour until the meringue is crisp. Cool on a wire rack and serve with a bowl of softly whipped cream.


Mincemeat and Bramley Apple Tart

Omit the meringue and just cover the tart with another layer of pastry, decorate with stars, holly leaves and berries, or whatever takes your fancy.  Brush with egg wash and bake.


Hot Tips:

The Lettercollum Cookbook. Karen Austin has published her much anticipated cookbook of Lettercollum recipes at last. It is mostly vegetarian but her delicious weekly fish dinners have also slipped in. Karen Austin and Con McLoughlin occasionally enjoy a little chorizo with their beans so these are also included. A charming book with photos by Arna Rún Rúnarsdóttir.  The Lettercollum Cookbook was published by Onstream.


It’s the Little Things, Francis Brennan’s Guide to Life. Francis Brennan is terrifically good company, erudite and witty with a razor sharp eye for detail. His new book is a guide to modern manners  and etiquette.  A timely reminder at a time when many have forgotten the joy of sitting around the kitchen table with family and friends not to speak of how to fold napkins, interact with waiting staff or arrange the towels for guests. A best seller over the Christmas season.


Categories: Darinas Blog

The seven stages of Christmas leftovers

Guardian Food Blog - Thu, 12/25/2014 - 00:05

At Christmas, you do not need a calendar. You can tell what day it is by the leftovers you are eating. Need a time-check? Then simply consult our guide, accurate to within two hours.

Over Christmas, you do not need a calendar or even a clock. You can tell what day it is just by looking at what you are eating and, particularly, how you are dealing with the leftovers. For a week, all bets are off, as day-to-day eating habits are replaced by an apparent food-based free-for-all which, in fact, is as predictable as repeats of The Snowman. Should you at any point feel discombobulated by the season and find yourself wondering what day it is, simply consult our handy seven stages of Christmas leftovers: guaranteed accurate to within two hours.

21.21, 25 Dec Despite the fact that you stuffed yourself to the point of intestinal tearing just hours earlier, you are back in the kitchen. You are not hungry, no, but feel like you should have something, lest you wake up in the night with a gnawing hunger. You might have a ham, some good cheese and coleslaw ready, but, more likely, will re-eat Christmas dinner, only condensing all its components – chipolatas, cold roasties, even a dab of gravy – into a sandwich. So deadened are your tastebuds at this point that, suddenly, the cranberry and orange stuffing that tasted so disgusting earlier is now a bright spark in this otherwise stuffed, sleepy torpor.

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Christmas dinner abroad: what expats miss most

Guardian Food Blog - Wed, 12/24/2014 - 08:00
If you live overseas, or go away for Christmas, which festive fare do you crave? Or are you happy to be far from turkey, sprouts and all the trimmings?

Whether you long for mince pies, figgy pudding, pigs-in-blankets or roast turkey, festive cravings are a powerful thing – particularly when you are spending Christmas overseas. Honor Marks, Simon Woods and their 12-year-old daughter Holly Woods have lived near the Mediterranean coast of south-west France for eight years. Marks says: “Christmas is a huge deal for expats.” The family runs the Maison de la Roche gite in the village of Ferrals-les-Corbières and, after much trial and error, they have now perfected a British “turkey and all the trimmings” Christmas among the vineyards.

“When we first came, it was a lot more difficult to get Christmassy things,” says Marks. “These days it is easier; we have friends that send us stuff, or bring it out for us, and there are more and more Christmas markets where there is often a British stall selling the essentials such as mince pies and crackers.”

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The truth about alcohol, from gin tears to champagne hangovers

Guardian Food Blog - Tue, 12/23/2014 - 10:59

Do different drinks have different effects on your mood, why do funny-coloured drinks make you more drunk and what causes the worse hangovers?

I’ll never forget the rubbish party I attended at a youth club when I was a fledgling teen. There was music, high jinks and a bowl of fruit punch as big as a duck pond. The youth leaders thought it would be amusing to tell us that the punch was alcoholic. It had an oddly musty taste, which turned out to be brandy flavouring, and sure enough, the leaders stood back and watched the room descend into animalistic chaos.

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Turkey soup: what goes in yours?

Guardian Food Blog - Mon, 12/22/2014 - 08:00

A soup made from Christmas leftovers can be simple, or spicy, or creamy; light or bulked out with grains, noodles or potatoes; made meatier with ham or more virtuous with sprouts … Share your favourite recipe

I sometimes wonder what the best part of roasting a chicken is: the Sunday lunch, or the fragrant, warming soup later in the week. I have no such issues when it comes to turkey. Family tradition dictates that we have turkey rather than goose at Christmas, but even as it arrives at the festive table, burnished and steaming, I’m thinking more fondly of the broth that will follow than the bird currently being carved. So fondly that on short Christmas visits, I have been known to swipe the carcass and take it home with me.

I had my favourite turkey soup, the one I’m always trying to replicate, in a small cafe in Montpelier, Bristol. The broth was tasty and well seasoned, dotted with shreds of pale turkey, pink cubes of ham, vibrant orange discs of carrot and translucent leeks in pale green rounds. Nearly 15 years later, I can still taste its clean, simple flavours.

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Christmas – Food Intolerances

Darinas Saturday Letter - Sat, 12/20/2014 - 16:09

Even if you love all the razzmatazz, Christmas is certainly ‘a bit of work’ and can be a deeply stressful time for the cook or chef. This is exacerbated even further if you yourself or a member of the family have one or several food allergies or intolerances. Until relatively recently I never heard of anyone who had a food allergy or intolerance even though the Ballymaloe Cookery School has been in operation for thirty years and Ballymaloe House is celebrating its fiftieth year. The problem has really gathered momentum in the last decade. Nowadays between one quarter and a third of our students report a food allergy or intolerance on their booking form.

There is a very important distinction to be made between food allergies and food intolerance. The former can be life threatening e.g. a peanut allergy, the latter may cause varying degrees of discomfort.

Back to Christmas…

The cause of all this will be the subject of another article in the New Year, but meanwhile I’ve had many requests for festive recipes suitable for vegetarians and diabetics, (recipes with low sugar options for those with blood sugar balancing issues) and those on a wheat free or  dairy free diet.

My first bit of advice is to source as much local, organic, biodynamic and chemical free food as possible. You will be amazed at the difference that one change can make. Eat less meat but splurge on better quality. Gorge on organic vegetables and whole grains lightly cooked or in salads. You will need much less to feel satisfied, don’t just believe me, try for yourself. Butter is a beautiful natural product but people who are dairy intolerant can substitute olive oil, coconut oil or some other oils in all recipes for soups and even cakes. A bottle of beautiful extra virgin olive oil is a shortcut to flavour and health.

Coeliacs or those with a gluten intolerance don’t have to feel deprived; the turkey stuffing can be made with gluten free breadcrumbs, as can the delicious Gluten-Free Mummy’s Plum Pudding with Boozy Sauce on my website, There’s also a recipe for Debbie Shaw’s delicious gluten free bread. Vegetarians will enjoy the chunky vegetable soup or watercress, blood orange and new seasons Toonsbridge mozzarella salad. How about Smoked Gubbeen and pearl barley, cucumber, pomegranate and toasted almond salad for the main course? Diabetics of course need to be careful not to cause an insulin spike. Jerusalem artichoke soup is the highest in insulin of any vegetable, this vital ingredient promotes healthy gut flora. This soup is suitable not just for vegetarians but also coeliacs and those with a dairy intolerance provided olive oil is substituted.

Made with coconut milk, Asian ceviche (dairy-free) is one of my all-time favourites. A plate of Irish smoked fish or seafood also makes a delicious starter (a larger portion will make a substantial main course). Diabetics must avoid sugar or any of the sugar substitutes that raise blood sugar levels, however a little coconut flower sugar or maple syrup occasionally can be allowed so why not try Debbie Shaw’s raw chocamoca tart with espresso syrup or her mini Christmas plum puddings. The latter will also delight the growing number of raw food afficandos. The real joys of these recipes apart from the delicious taste is that there is no oven required

Medjool dates are a real treat enjoy them with blue cheese or in combination with oranges and fresh mint.

Recipes from Darina Allen’s Simply Delicious Christmas published by Gill and Macmillan.


Watercress, Blood Orange and New Seasons Toonsbridge Mozzarella Salad

The rich West Cork pasture that the buffalos feed on gives the Toonsbridge Mozzarella its quintessentially Irish taste. A few beautiful fresh ingredients put together simply make an irresistible starter.


Serves 4


2-3 balls of fresh Toonsbridge Mozzarella

2 blood oranges

a bunch of fresh watercress

2-3 tablespoons (2 1/2 – 4 American tablespoons) Irish honey

a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

some coarsely ground black pepper

50g (2oz) unskinned almonds, toasted and sliced


Toast the almonds in a preheated oven 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 for 10-15 minutes.  Allow to cool and then slice each almond lengthwise into 2-3 pieces.


Just before serving, scatter a few watercress leaves over the base of each plate, slice or tear some mozzarella over the top.  With a sharp knife remove the peel and pith from the blood oranges, cut into 5mm (1/4 inch) thick slices, tuck a few here and there in between the watercress and mozzarella.   Drizzle with honey and really good extra virgin olive oil.  Scatter with toasted almonds. Finally add a little coarsely ground fresh black pepper and serve.



Smoked Gubbeen and Pearl Barley, Cucumber, Pomegranate and toasted Almond Salad.

Pearl Barley is inexpensive and fantastically nourishing – lots of protein, vitamins, and minerals – some varieties are also high in Lysine.  In tandem with other grains it’s having a revival of interest in gastronomic circles.  We also use it for pilaffs and to add to winter stews and casseroles like our Granny’s did!


Serves 8


185g (6 1/2oz) pearl barley

1.5 litres (2 1/2 pints) water

1 teaspoon salt

1 small cucumber

2 dessert apples, Cox’s Orange or Gala, cored and diced

freshly squeezed lemon juice of 1 lemon

seeds from 1/2-1 pomegranate, depending on size

60g (2 1/2oz) halved toasted almonds

coarsely chopped diced smoked Gubbeen cheese



125ml (4fl oz) extra virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons Forum Chardonnay vinegar or cider vinegar

1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed

sea salt and freshly ground pepper


Flat parsley leaves


Put the pearl barley and water into a saucepan and add salt. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for about 20 minutes.


Drain very well. Whisk the extra virgin olive oil and vinegar and crushed garlic together, season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Toss while still warm. Spread out to cool.

Cut the cucumber lengthways, remove the seeds, cut at a long angle into 7mm (⅓ inch) slices and add to the bowl.

Meanwhile, quarter and dice the apple. Squeeze a little lemon juice over the top, and add the pomegranate seeds, well toasted almonds and diced smoked Gubbeen cheese. Add the remainder of the dressing. Toss gently and combine with the pearl barley. Taste and correct the seasoning. Transfer to a serving dish and allow the flavours to meld for an hour or so. Scatter with flat parsley leaves and serve.

Jerusalem Artichoke Soup with Avocado and Roast Hazelnut Salsa

Serves 8-10

Jerusalem artichokes were a sadly neglected winter vegetable, but many people have discovered them in recent years.  We love the flavour and of course they are brilliantly nutritious – packed with inulin. They look like knobbly potatoes and are a nuisance to peel, but if they are very fresh you can sometimes get away with just giving them a good scrub. Not only are they a smashing vegetable but they are also delicious in soups and gratins. They are a real gem from the gardeners point of view because the foliage grows into a hedge and provides shelter and cover for both compost heaps and pheasants!


50g (2oz) butter or 4 tablespoons of olive oil

560g (1 1/4 lb) onions, peeled and chopped

1.15kg (2 1/2 lbs) Jerusalem artichokes, scrubbed, peeled and chopped

salt and freshly ground pepper

1.1L (2 pints) light chicken or vegetable stock

600ml (1 pint/2 1/2 cups) approx. creamy milk or soya milk



Avocado and Roast Hazelnut Salsa (see recipe)


Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan, add the onions and artichokes. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper, cover and sweat gently for 10 minutes approx.  Add the stock and cook until the vegetables are soft. Liquidise and return to the heat. Thin to the required flavour and consistency with creamy milk, and adjust the seasoning.


Serve in soup bowls or in a soup tureen. Garnish with avocado and roast hazelnut salsa.

Note This soup may need more stock depending on thickness required.


Avocado and Roast Hazelnut Salsa

2 ripe avocados

4 tablespoons (5 American tablespoons) chopped roast hazelnuts

4 tablespoons (5 American tablespoons) hazelnut oil

4 tablespoons (5 American tablespoons) chopped chives


Peel and dice the avocados.  Season with salt and pepper.  Sprinkle the avocado and chopped roasted hazelnuts over the soup, drizzle with a little hazelnut oil and chopped chives.

Asian Ceviche

Antony Worrall Thompson introduced me to this Asian–inspired version of ceviche when he taught at one of his hugely entertaining classes at the cookery school. He used Asian prawns but we have adapted the recipe to use monkfish instead with great success.  This is also a way of preserving fish in the short-term.


Serves 8


450g (1lb) monkfish, plaice or lemon sole, cut into 1cm (1/2 inch) dice

4 tablespoons coriander leaves

2 tablespoons fresh mint, shredded

1 avocado (peeled and diced into 1cm/1/2 inch dice)

4 tablespoons peeled and diced mango into 1cm/1/2 inch dice (1 small or 1/2 large mango)

4 spring onions (sliced)

2–3 red chillies (deseeded and thinly sliced)

4 tablespoons diced cucumber (approximately 1/2 cucumber)



175ml (6fl oz) freshly squeezed lime juice

75ml (3fl oz) fish sauce (nam pla)

75g (3oz) caster sugar

175ml (6fl oz) thick coconut milk


Trim the monkfish of all skin and membrane. Next, make the dressing. Whisk all the ingredients together in a bowl. Add the dressing, toss to coat evenly. Cover and marinate in the fridge for 30 minutes.


Meanwhile, prepare the other ingredients. Add to the monkfish and mix gently to combine.


Serve with a little shredded lettuce in little bowls or glasses, or in a martini glass for extra posh.


Debbie Shaw’s  Raw Chocamoca Tart with Espresso Syrup


Serves 10-12

20.5cm (8 inch) spring-form tin or 20.5cm (8 inch) round silicon cake mould


For the base:
300g (10oz) lightly toasted pecan nuts or almonds
1 teaspoon of pink Himalayan salt or Maldon sea salt
200g (7oz) Medjool dates, stones removed

For the filling:
4 large ripe avocados, skin and stones removed
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste plus beans from 1 whole vanilla pod
5-7 scant tablespoons (6 1/2 -9 American tablespoons) raw cocoa powder or ordinary cocoa powder (for a more milk chocolate tart use 5 tablespoons and for a rich dark chocolate tart use 7 tablespoons)
2-3 teaspoons Irel coffee essence
4 tablespoons (5 American tablespoons) coconut oil, melted
4 tablespoons (5 American tablespoons) coconut flower sugar (use an additional 4 tablespoons (5 American tablespoons) of maple syrup instead, if unavailable)
4 tablespoons (5 American tablespoons) maple syrup
100g (3 1/2oz) 70% dark chocolate


Espresso Syrup:
110ml (4fl oz/1/2 cup) agave syrup

110gml (4fl oz/1/2 cup) very strong freshly brewed coffee

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon and 1 teaspoon) cocoa powder

1 heaped tablespoon (1 American tablespoon and 1 teaspoon) espresso powder

juice of 1/2 lemon

First make the tart. Place the pecan nuts in a dry frying pan and toast lightly, moving them around the pan constantly for 3-4 minutes, until they smell toasty. Allow the nuts to cool and then place them in a food processor and blend. Add the stoned Medjool dates and salt and blend until a dough is formed, which sticks together when pressed between your fingers.


Line an 20.5cm (8 inch) spring-form tin or use a round silicon cake mould, no lining required. Press the base evenly into the tin or mould. Place in the freezer to set for 15 minutes.


Meanwhile, just barely melt the coconut oil in a pan over a very low heat. Place all of the filling ingredients, except the coconut oil, in a food processor and blend until smooth. Add the coconut oil to the filling while the motor of the food processor is running. Taste the filling and make sure it does not need a little extra sugar, vanilla or coffee essence. Pour it onto the set base and smooth out the top. Place in the fridge to set for 4 hours or freeze the tart for 2 hours and remove it from the freezer 30 minutes before serving.


Lastly make the espresso syrup.


Debbie Shaw’s Mini Christmas Plum Puddings Sweeties 

Debbie is a nutritionist and teacher at the Ballymaloe Cookery School.
3oz (75g) Medjool dates, roughly chopped
3oz (75g) dried apricots, roughly chopped
3oz (75g) prunes, roughly chopped
2oz (50g) walnuts, toasted and chopped
1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) toasted sunflower seeds, chopped
1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) toasted pumpkin seeds, chopped
1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) toasted sesame seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 generous teaspoon finely grated orange zest
1 tablespoons of Irish whiskey

For decoration:
100g (4oz) white chocolate, melted
A little sliced crystallised angelica and a few diced red glace cherries

Mix all of the chopped ingredients (except those for decoration) together in a bowl or whizz briefly in a food processor. Shape into mini plum pudding and decorate with a little melted white chocolate, angelica and glace cherry.

Put all the ingredients in a saucepan and allow to reduce for 5-10 minutes until it reaches a light syrup consistency.

Serve the tart with espresso syrup and natural Greek yoghurt.


Medjool Dates with Crozier Blue Cheese  

How easy can a delicious bite be – the blue cheese needs to be mild and meltingly ripe.

Split the Medjool dates lengthways and remove the stone. Arrange on a plate, top each half with a little nugget of creamy blue cheese and a sprig of chervil. Serve as a canapé or amuse gueule


Categories: Darinas Blog

Table Salt vs. Sea Salt

Food Renegade - Fri, 12/19/2014 - 23:31
Table salt and Sea Salt are NOT the same thing, nor do they both convey the same health benefits. Beware of highly refined salt, as it's lacking in the trace minerals our bodies crave.

DIY patisserie: is it worth making your own croissants?

Guardian Food Blog - Thu, 12/18/2014 - 11:11

Cupcakes don’t cut it any more – in the Bake Off age, competitive cooks are turning to fancy French confections. Richard Bertinet makes the case for homemade patisserie, and guides you through the basics

Cast your mind back to a time when proficient home baking meant an evenly iced coffee and walnut cake, or a tray of perfectly golden scones. No one measured their cake layers with a spirit level and only a masochist would attempt their own croissants, never mind cronuts. That has all changed in the past few years – it’s all about DIY patisserie now. This Christmas, keen home patissiers can seek inspiration in a clutch of new recipe books. These include Patisserie Maison by French baking expert Richard Bertinet, Patisserie Made Simple by Bake Off winner Edd Kimber, and La Pâtisserie des Rêves from the glamorous Parisian cake shop. There is even a book called My Paleo Patisserie for those who want to make pastries without the wheat or sugar (somewhere in a small French town, a baker is vigorously shaking his head).

Like so many baking trends, this one is directly linked to The Great British Bake Off, which has a patisserie week every year. Within hours of this year’s episode, recipes for kouign-amann, a caramelised pastry hailing from Brittany, were trending on Google, and M&S rushed a line of kouign-amann into stores. But are there other reasons? It seems home bakers are growing in confidence and looking to stretch their skills. “Patisserie is the ultimate in baking,” says Kimber. “It presents challenges, so bakers looking to try something new can find plenty in the French classics.” But partly it’s because, let’s be honest, lots of us like to show off – and cupcakes just don’t cut it any more. “There are definitely home bakers that love the competitive side of baking,” says Kimber.

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Eating on public transport: the dos and don'ts

Guardian Food Blog - Wed, 12/17/2014 - 11:22

Eating and drinking on public transport is increasingly tightly policed – much to the relief of those who find having to watch, smell and hear other people eat intolerable. Here is our guide to conscientious in-transit eating

As a non-driver who lets the train take the strain, eating and drinking on public transport is second nature to me – as it is to a huge number of people. Yet, collectively, as a country, we seem to have a real problem with it. On buses and trams, you increasingly see signs banning consumption (albeit rarely enforced, in my experience), while, in recent years, eating in transit has become a recurring point of contentious public debate. One of the first things Boris Johnson did as mayor of London – and remember this when people tell you what a “laugh” he is – was to ban alcohol on public transport. Earlier this year, the distinctly creepy Facebook group Women Who Eat on Tubes – wrong on numerous levels of snobbery, sexism and privacy invasion – prompted a swift, sit-in picnic backlash.

At the opposite extreme of this standoff, you have equally selfish people. On one flank, there are those people who want to eat leftover curry on the tube at 7.30am. On the other, there are delicate flowers who never eat in public, and who cannot stomach the thought of someone sucking a boiled sweet three seats away. We will have to leave the psycho-sociological analysis of these two tribes (I’m saying that they are both Thatcher’s children) for another time.

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Now is the time for restaurants to embrace free-from diners

Guardian Food Blog - Tue, 12/16/2014 - 11:44

New EU legislation makes eating out easier for people with food allergies, intolerances and coeliac disease. So why isn’t everyone supporting it?

Arise, allergenic Brits! Grab your forks, coeliacs! New EU legislation means it is now easier for the millions of Brits with allergies, food intolerances and coeliac disease to eat out. The new rules, introduced this weekend, mean that restaurants and other catering outlets must provide information on which of the 14 major allergens – including gluten, milk, peanuts, eggs and shellfish – are in each of their dishes.

Good news, surely? Eating out shouldn’t be a privilege for the digestively fortunate. I have lactose intolerance, which puts me at the lucky end of the scale. If I accidentally eat steak fried in butter, say (after the waiter swears it won’t be), I’ll get painful stomach cramps. For coeliacs and people with allergies, the stakes are much higher. Even a speck of gluten can leave a coeliac in pain for days. For food allergy sufferers, inadvertently eating these ingredients can mean a trip to A&E. Ten Brits die every year from anaphylaxis caused by food.

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Edible Gifts

Darinas Saturday Letter - Sat, 12/13/2014 - 14:00


With only one and a half weeks to go to Christmas, this week I am devoting my column to edible gifts, there are a zillion delicious suggestions I could make, and you too can have fun in the kitchen, so why not decide to have a cooking party with a couple of pals.

Many people like to cook alone in the peace and quiet (if there is such a thing) of their own kitchen, others love the buzz of  cooking with kids and teenagers  and don’t bother about the mess. After all, these fun session are what memories are made of.

Really good homemade jams and chutneys are always welcome, but we also love relishes and perky sauces. Moroccan tomato jam and confiture d’oignons or onion marmalade or beetroot and ginger relish will do so much to perk up cold cuts and chunky sandwiches around Christmas, and you’ll find your friends sidling up to you, begging for more. The beetroot relish is also delicious with goats cheeses and makes a tasty topping for canapés, it’s also a winner as a simple starter paired with crusty bread and a few fresh rocket leaves.

Rolls of fridge or freezer cookie dough or Doune McKenzie’s cheese biscuits, buttery short crust or puff pastry are terrific little treasures to have in your fridge. The latter can be used to top a pie or to whizz up a comforting apple tart. Cookie dough keeps well in a fridge or freezer. Pop a few slices of cookies dough into the oven, and what’s not love about cookie dough – the eternal standby. The Doune McKenzie’s cheese biscuits use up scraps of slightly dry cheese in the most delicious way.

If you make sloe or damson gin earlier in the autumn now is the time to transfer it into those cute little stoppered bottles. Sloe gin and tonic is delicious to sip with a slice of Christmas cake.

There’s a whole chapter in my revised edition of Simply Delicious Christmas on edible presents.

Pear and cranberry, blood plum and apple or banana and date chutney, pickled pears – these are quick and easy condiments to rustle up. Pop them into quirky small jars, dress them up with fun labels and make up some home-made Christmas hampers.

How about marshmallows or nougat, the recipe makes a million! Snowballs dusted in icing sugar also make an irresistible gift as do frosted candied peel, home-made macaroons and how about festive chocolate pops or melt in the mouth chocolate truffles. I won’t go on – a reader just texted me to say the new Simply Delicious Christmas was worth the price of the book just for the Edible Presents chapter alone – fancy that!


Moroccan Tomato Jam

A high percentage of cinnamon is in fact cassia, so seek out cinnamon from Sri Lanka or Ceylon.  I first came across this delicious jam when I visited a Berber family in the Atlas Mountains in the 1980’s – delicious with cold meats, cheese, crostini……

Makes 6 x 200ml (7fl oz/scant 1 cup) jars


4 tablespoons (5 American tablespoons) extra virgin olive oil

110g (4oz) chopped onion

salt and freshly ground pepper

2.2kg (5lb) very ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped

1-2 teaspoons Sri Lankan cinnamon (careful might be too much)

4 tablespoons (5 American tablespoons) chopped coriander

2 tablespoons (2 1/2 American tablespoons) tomato purée

4-6 (5 – 7 1/2 American tablespoons) tablespoons honey


Heat the olive oil in a wide heavy-bottomed stainless steel saucepan or sauté pan, add the chopped onion.  Season with salt and freshly ground pepper and cook on a gentle heat for a couple of minutes, while you peel and chop the tomatoes.  Add the tomato purée to the onions with the tomatoes, 1 teaspoon cinnamon and 3 tablespoons (4 American tablespoons) of the freshly chopped coriander.  Cook uncovered until the tomato is thick and concentrated, approx. 30 minutes.  Stir occasionally, otherwise it will catch on the bottom.

It will be thick and jam like, stir in another teaspoon of cinnamon, the remaining coriander and the honey.  This is meant to be sweet, but reduce honey if you rather it less intense.

Cook, taste and tweak the seasoning if necessary.


Beetroot and Ginger Relish

This recipe was also published in my ‘Forgotten Skills’ book but I couldn’t omit it from this book because it’s so good with cold meats, coarse country terrines, pickled ox tongue, goats’ cheese …  Another great presie and a contender for a Christmas  hamper.


Makes 4 jars (yields 500ml approximately)

Serves 8 – 20 depending on how it’s served


225g (8oz) onion, chopped

45g (1½ oz) butter

3 tablespoons sugar

salt and freshly ground pepper

450g (1 lb) raw beetroot, peeled and grated

2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger

25ml (1fl oz) sherry vinegar

120ml (4fl oz) red wine


Sweat the onions slowly in butter, they should be very soft, add sugar and seasoning.  Add the rest of the ingredients and cook gently for 30 minutes.  Serve cold.

This relish keeps for ages.


Pear and Cranberry Chutney

Everyone loves this, its quick to rustle up, makes great presents, and is of course, delicious served with cold meat, cheese, and slathered onto crostini.

Makes 8 x 200ml (7fl.oz) jars


350g (12oz) cranberries

900g (2lb) pears (6 pears approx.. depending on size) peeled, quartered, cored and cut into 1cm (½ inch) dice

450g (1lb) sugar

225ml (8fl oz) cider vinegar or white wine vinegar

1 x 5cm (2 inch)  piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated – 35g (1½oz)

1 x 10cm (4 inch) cinnamon stick

1 clove

100g (3 ½oz) raisins


Put the pears, cranberries, sugar, vinegar, and ginger into a large saucepan.  Tie the cinnamon stick and clove in a square of cheesecloth and add to saucepan.  Bring to the boil over a medium heat.  Simmer uncovered until the cranberries collapse and the pears are tender, 15 to 20 minutes.

Stir the raisins into the chutney and cook for 25 minutes.  Remove from the heat.  When cool, remove cheesecloth bag.  Refrigerate in a covered container or pot into 6 sterilized jars.

Serve with cold meats.


Blood Plum and Apple Chutney

Another favourite which ticks all the boxes.   Try it with Duck, Goose or Pork.

Makes 7 x 200ml (7fl oz) small jars


110ml (4 fl ozs) cider or wine vinegar

175g (6ozs) caster sugar

1 cinnamon stick

2 star anise

1/2 teaspoon peeled and grated ginger

900g (2lb) blood red plums, stoned and chopped

900g (2lb) Bramley apples, peeled and chopped


Put the vinegar and sugar in a stainless steel saucepan with the cinnamon, star anise and ginger.  Heat and stir until the sugar dissolves.  Add the chopped plums and apples, simmer gently for about 40 minutes until the plums and apples are tender and the liquid is thick.  Pour into jars.  Cover and keep in the fridge.


Fridge or Freezer Cookies

Particularly good with coffee.  A crisp, rich biscuit.  The mixture can be kept in the fridge for several days or popped in the freezer.

Makes 50 approximately

200g (7oz) butter

150g (5oz) caster sugar

225g (8oz) self-raising flour

1 large organic egg

75g (3oz) shelled walnuts, pecans or hazelnuts, chopped


Cream the butter and sugar, then add the flour, beaten egg and chopped nuts.  Shape the dough into a long roll or rolls, about 5cm (2 inches), in diameter, or smaller if you prefer, and wrap in silicone paper or foil.  Chill in the refrigerator until the next day.

Preheat the oven to 190ºC/375ºF/Gas Mark 5.

Cut the dough into very thin rounds.  Arrange well apart on a baking tray.  Cook them for 10 minutes in the preheated oven, they should remain pale in colour.  Transfer to a wire rack.


Doune McKenzie’s Cheese Biscuits

This is a brilliant recipe for using up leftover cheese. A little soft cheese may also be added, but you will need to balance the flavour with hard cheese. Delicious to nibble with a glass of wine or to tuck into a lunch box.

Cheddar, Parmesan, Gruyère or other cheese of your choice


plain white flour


Weigh the cheese, then use the same weight of butter and flour. Preheat the oven to 250ºC/475ºF/gas mark 9.

Grate the cheese – rinds and all. Dice, then cream the butter. Stir in the flour and grated cheese and form into a roll like a long sausage, about 4cm (11⁄2in) thick. Alternatively whizz in a food-processor until it forms a dough – shape using a little flour if necessary. Chill in the refrigerator for 1–2 hours, until solid.

Slice into rounds about 7mm (1⁄3 in) thick. Arrange on a baking tray and bake for about 5 minutes or until golden. Leave to cool for a couple of seconds, then transfer to a wire rack. These biscuits are best eaten on the day they are made as they soften quite quickly.


Pat Browne’s Almond Macaroons

We’ve got lots of macaroon recipes, but this one given to us by one of our tutors Pat Browne, is the most foolproof of all.  They can be flavoured or coloured as you wish, a few drops of rosewater or orange blossom water, a little crème de menthe……

Makes  74 approx of petit four size

4 free range organic egg whites, depending on size

25g (1oz) caster sugar

225g (8oz) icing sugar

115g (4¼oz) ground almonds


Baking tray or trays

No 9 plain piping nozzle


Preheat the oven to 140°C/275°F/Gas Mark 1

Cover the baking tray with parchment paper or a Silpat mat.


Whisk the egg whites and castor sugar until stiff.

Sieve the icing sugar twice into a bowl. Add the ground almonds to the icing sugar.

Mix half the dry ingredients into the egg whites and then fold in the remainder.

Pipe into approx. 2.5cm (1 inch) rounds onto a baking tray.   Rest for 30 minutes, then bake in the preheated oven for 12-14  minutes until pale golden. Continue to cook the remainder.

The macaroons are cooked when they lift easily off the paper.

Cool on a wire rack and store in an airtight tin.


Sandwich together with chocolate, lemon or coffee butter cream.


Chocolate Butter Cream

110g (4oz) soft butter

225g (8oz) icing sugar, sieved

1 level tablespoon cocoa powder, sieved

1 dessertspoon hot water


Cream the butter and add the sieved icing sugar.  Mix the cocoa powder with the hot water and beat into the mixture until light and fluffy.


Lemon Butter Cream

110g (4oz) soft butter

225g (8oz) icing sugar, sieved

Finely grated rind of ½ lemon



Cream the butter and add the sieved icing sugar and lemon zest.  Beat until light and fluffy.


Coffee Butter Cream

110g (4oz) butter

225g (8oz) icing sugar, sieved

2-4 teaspoons Irel or Camp coffee essence


Whisk the butter with the sieved icing sugar and add the coffee essence.  Continue to whisk until light and fluffy.

Festive Chocolate Pops

225g (8oz) dark  or white chocolate, chopped

Chocolate Pop moulds


Put the chocolate into a Pyrex bowl over a saucepan of hot water (the base of the bowl should not touch the water). When the water comes to the boil, turn off the heat and leave until the chocolate melts.

Melt the white or dark chocolate as above, spoon into the moulds.  Insert a lollipop stick.

Tap the work top to smooth over the top.

Decorate the top with freeze-dried raspberries or dried cranberries or Santas…

Allow to set.  Unmould.

Serve in a piece of oasis decorated with holly or coloured tissue etc.


Hot Tips

Wilson on Wine 2015.   I’ve just come across John Wilson’s (one of Ireland’s more iconic wine writers) new wine book ‘Wilson on Wine 2015’. It features John’s favourite wines & what a list….it could be the ideal stocking filler for the wine lover in your life. Signed copies are available in Bradley’s Off Licence, Cork and The Ballymaloe Shop.


Helen James at Dunnes Stores.  A few weeks ago, I got a gorgeous hamper choc-a-bloc with ‘artisan food’ products and housewares from Helen James. This talented designer has teamed up with Dunnes Stores to create a new range entitled ‘Considered’. Check it out it’s exceptionally good quality. Paul Costelloe’s range is not to be missed either and congratulations to Dunnes Stores for creating these visionary partnerships.


Ballymaloe Pop Up wine shop. Award winning sommelier Colm McCan has amassed a tempting selection of wines for Christmas (including some organic, biodynamic and  natural wines) from the award winning wine cellar at Ballymaloe. Open weekends at Ballymaloe House, beside the Grainstore on Saturday 11pm -4pm and Sunday 12.30pm – 4pm. Tel 021 4652531

Categories: Darinas Blog

Cereal Killer: which other novelty cafes could be a hit?

Guardian Food Blog - Thu, 12/11/2014 - 12:45

An all-day diner selling nothing but cereal seems beyond parody – but it might just work. What is your fantasy one-trick pony?

Like many of you, when I first read about Cereal Killer, the breakfast cereal cafe that opened yesterday in (where else?) east London, I laughed. Or, more precisely, I scoffed. It seemed beyond parody: an all-day diner selling more than 100 breakfast cereals, 12 types of milk and 20 toppings, run by bearded, tattooed twins, in a venue steeped in 1990s pop-cultural nostalgia.

Had it turned out that Chris Morris was behind it, if it transpired that the whole thing was a satire, not just of Shoreditch hipsters but infantile modern Britain, no one would have been surprised. But, reader, I urge you to look beyond that knee-jerk reaction. Because the more I thought about Cereal Killer, the more it seems an inspired idea.

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How to make the perfect eggnog

Guardian Food Blog - Thu, 12/11/2014 - 09:00

Is Christmas not Christmas without eggnog, or do you prefer mulled wine – or another festive tipple entirely? Which spirits and spices do you use, and does anyone serve eggnog warm?

Victory is mine – after five years of begging, this Christmas I’ve finally been let loose on the eggnog by my doubting editor. She reckons it’s the kind of thing your granny might spring from the nautical drinks cabinet during the Queen’s speech, but for me, eggnog is as much a part of the all-American holiday season as candy canes and Bing Crosby. And, though mulled cider will always have a special festive place in my heart, I want in on this party too.

Of course, having waxed lyrical to her about Clark Griswold and the Rockefeller tree, I promptly discovered that eggnog, like so many alcohol-related crimes, is actually British in origin. Though it first pops up in late 18th-century Philadelphia, the drink bears a striking resemblance to Falstaff’s sack posset, a warm mixture of milk, sugar, egg yolks and strong, sweet wine, which surely makes its revival our patriotic duty. After all, a nation can’t live on mulled stuff alone.

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Can the Cereal Killer cafe, which sells only cereal, really make a killing?

Guardian Food Blog - Tue, 12/09/2014 - 16:19

The new London cafe, set up by twins Alan and Gary Keery, simply sells breakfast cereal. But would you go out for a bowl of Frosties or Special K?

London is currently awash with places offering upmarket versions of fast food. There are gourmet hot dog places, upmarket fried-chicken shops and a smörgåsbord of fancy burger bars. But what about the most convenient food of all, the breakfast cereal? Surely no one could give that a hipster makeover? Enter identical twins from Belfast, Alan and Gary Keery, who have done just that.

The twist is that their new cafe, Cereal Killer which opens tomorrow, doesn’t sell sustainable artisan breakfast cereal, but nostalgic classics including Rice Krispies, Frosties and Special K.

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How to eat: toast

Guardian Food Blog - Tue, 12/09/2014 - 11:19

This month, How To Eat is tackling a quintessentially British snack – toast. Sounds simple, right? But how wrong you are. Do you use a toaster or grill? White sliced or rye, sourdough or seeded multigrain? And that’s just the start of it …

“It is impossible not to love someone who makes toast for you,” wrote Nigel Slater in his food-based memoir, Toast, a statement which is, of course, cobblers. From San Franciscans genuflecting before £2 slices of artisan sourdough to those who swear by Utterly Butterly, we all have very definite opinions about what toast is. Due to its apparent simplicity moreover, we are never more dismayed than when people serve us the wrong toast. How, we howl, can anyone not know how to make toast?

But of course it is not that simple. At its most basic, toast may consist of just two ingredients, bread and fat, but the variables in how it can be made and served are almost endless, as are the prejudices and personal preferences that swirl around it. Which is why, as How To Eat, Word of Mouth’s most dictatorial blog, tackles this quintessentially British snack, it does so fully aware that we may never settle on any general rules of good gastronomic conduct. Toast is simply too divisive.

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Creating Healthy Habits

Lucy Hyland - Mon, 12/08/2014 - 17:45
Creating Healthy Habits We are coming into a time of year that is about celebration and it seems that, culturally, we attach this celebration to excess. Many people are already having the conversation in their head about how they are...Read More
Categories: Interesting Blogs

Fake flavours: why artificial aromas can’t compete with real food smells

Guardian Food Blog - Mon, 12/08/2014 - 12:44
The Aromafork is a fun way to experiment with flavours, but its vials of fake strawberry, banana and almond smell disgusting. Would you be happy unwrapping a molecular gastronomy kit on Christmas morning?

Who, I wonder, actually uses DIY molecular gastronomy sets? A Canadian company, Molecule R, makes products to facilitate amateur modernist cooks turning all manner of perfectly good foods into “pearls”, “noodles”, foams and emulsions in the privacy of their own kitchens. But I’ll wager that many of these sets are currently mouldering at the back of unwanted-gift cupboards. That said, a recent addition to their range caught my eye.

The new item, Aromafork, seemed less Generation Game (young people: this was a game show in which contestants had to attempt a skilled task after watching a short demo by an expert), and more of a fun way to experiment with flavours. The pack contains four metal forks, which hold disposable white cardboard tabs, and a library of flavour vials, arranged into the following categories: spices, herbs, fruits, beans (eg coffee and chocolate), umami (more on which later) and nuts. The idea is that, using the pipettes provided, you drop some flavour on to a tab, then inhale as you eat with the fork to see what nasal alchemy might occur (because flavour perception is 80% down to smell, or at least, that’s the dominant estimate among flavour scientists).

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