Gluten-free gorgeousness Friday, Feb 27 2015 

Just wanted to pop in to say how bloomin’ marvellous these are.

A mere £1.99 for six, they taste so good…you really wouldn’t know they were gluten and wheat-free. NOM somehow seems inadequate.

In short, get yourself down to Holland and Barrett for a box now!! I even paid for mine myself, so just to make clear that neither they nor Lovemore (the company that makes them) are paying me to say this. Just thought it could be a nice hack for those trying to reduce the amount of gluten they consume 🙂  Available online here.

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More Bake Off love Sunday, Oct 5 2014 

After a long hiatus, I’m back, drooling over the latest series of The Great British Bake Off. Specifically this latest episode, which saw contestants making baklava:

rose baklavaI’m loving the idea of Luis’ rose and barberry baklava (pictured above). Not to mention Chetna’s masala chai versions, which fit in perfectly with the arrival of autumn, the season of spices (just don’t get me started on the deliciousness of Starbucks’ pumpkin spice latte):

masala chai baklavaComing soon will be more autumn adventures, including lunch at the Fat Duck before its temporary move to Australia, macaroons at Ladurée in Paris, and afternoon tea at the Connaught, so stay tuned 🙂

The King of the Rolling Pin: interview with PAUL HOLLYWOOD Thursday, Aug 7 2014 

shutterstock_158393534As a young man, Paul Hollywood initially refused to follow in his father’s footsteps and assume the baking mantle. Persuaded to change his mind, however, Hollywood has gone on to become one of the nation’s most treasured celebrity chefs. We catch up with the baker to talk about his one-man show – the ‘Get Your Bake On Tour’ – just as series 5 of the Great British Bake Off hits our screens.

The baking profession may be of long and humble tradition, but Paul Hollywood, with his sharp blue eyes, distinguished silver hair and glamorous surname, was always destined for a rise to stardom. After making his name on the remarkably popular BBC show The Great British Bake Off, the 47 year-old is now taking his talents on the road as part of a UK tour. It’s been quite a journey for the Merseyside lad, from the smaller stage of the family bakery to selling out concert venues across the country with a hands-on baking gig. Prior to facing crowds of adoring fans, how does he feel about the tour?

“I really enjoyed doing demonstrations for the BBC Good Food show, so I’m not unfamiliar with the format. This was my chance to do something on my own though, and it’s like a kind of rock ‘n’ roll tour! The whole idea of the tour is to pass on my knowledge, what I’ve learnt over the years to people who are struggling or have problems with their baking.”

Hollywood’s desire to pass on the knowledge perhaps harks back to his own baking beginnings. His knack with a rolling pin comes from a flour-filled childhood. “Mum looked after the pastry side, the apple pies, the biscuits,” he tells us. “My dad looked after the yeast side. So with the two of them as my parents I became a hybrid.”

So what kind of things is our fusion baker performing on stage?

“The premise is for me to show off the recipes of my life – back from when I was a kid, right through my professional career and from starting on television to dishes that I cook now. And at the end of each show, four people will come up on stage and I’ll set them a baking challenge to go and do their best with in a set amount of time. The winner will be picked by the audience. There will also be a roving mic so members of the audience can throw questions at me.”

Although the professional chef was brought up around the craft, and cites good friend Tom Kerridge as an inspiration, not to mention Michel Roux Junior, who he describes as “quite frankly, a God,” the route to the very top of his profession was perhaps a lonely one. A younger Hollywood had to look to old cookbooks rather than motivating head chefs to help him break the mould.

“My family have been my inspiration throughout my whole career. But one of my problems was that when I moved into these big flash restaurants to go and work there I was head of the tree; I was the head baker and there was no one higher than me who I could ask for advice.”

In baking, it seems that sometimes looking backwards can be the way forward.

“So I was reading the old bakery books, and getting inspiration from what was going on in baking a hundred years ago, or 200 years ago. That’s where I’d get my inspiration. I couldn’t get it from other bakers because they are almost doing the same thing.”

The “George Clooney of baking”, as Jonathan Ross described him, has been kneading dough for around thirty years. But when the last loaf is taken out the oven and the apron comes off, what is it that Hollywood likes to do to relax?

“I really enjoy walking the dog,” he smile. “He’s a Labrador called Rufus – I named him after [comedian] Rufus Hound, who’s a friend of mine. That’s my relaxation – walking Rufus or going out for a ride on my motorbike – it’s a sports bike though, I hate Harleys.”The Great Bake-Off

What about hanging out with Mary Berry? Do the pair get on as well off screen as they do on it?

“Working with her is such a laugh. I do get the giggles a lot. Mary is lovely. I see a lot of her outside work, and am very fond of her and her whole family.”

For tickets and information to see Paul Hollywood on his ‘Get Your Bake On Live Tour’ go to www.paulhollywood.com

Restaurant Review: Le Thé, Geneva Sunday, Aug 3 2014 

lethegeneve

courtesy of Kokille46, TripAdvisor

This hidden treasure in the European centre of Geneva is a good five minutes’ walk from the main attractions, but often it’s five minutes’ walk that can make a real difference. Le Thé – one of many of the city’s cosmopolitan offerings – is a Chinese restaurant which also functions equally as a tearoom (hence the name). The main giveaway is the entire wall of teas and teaware that greets you as you enter, all available for purchase at a varying range of prices. However, they also serve a traditional Chinese menu, which is so popular that booking is advisable even on a weekday evening.

Nevertheless, the tea-house theme is prominent throughout, thanks to the leafy bowers, bamboo ‘walls’ and the use of chunky traditional teapots as decoration (as well as sale items and practical use). You have plenty of time to admire these, as service is on the leisurely side, but the food is worth the wait: the dim sum and steamed breads, available with a variety of fillings, are all excellent, and are washed down easily by the highly palatable (and affordable) Chinese wine on offer. Even if you finish with a gelatinous rice dessert, and amply sample the wide range of teas and other dishes offered, the food is light on the stomach and ultimately a good value offering, with the relaxed pace of service making for a perfect way to unwind. Would definitely return for more of this authentic cuisine and adventurous range of beverages.

Rue des Bains 65, 1205 Geneva, Switzerland
+41 79 436 77 18

Food Review: Perk!er Gluten Free Foods Saturday, Aug 2 2014 

After experiencing some bloating induced (I thought) by bread and pasta, I started dabbling with gluten free foods. Whether the bloating is down to genuine gluten intolerance or just being a bit of a piggie I still can’t say. However, reducing one’s gluten intake can never be a bad thing, as it’s said to contribute to increased energy levels, fewer stomach cramps, and less bloating. If you do decide to reduce the amount of gluten in your diet or even go completely gluten-free, the bulk of your diet should still consist of natural foods, such as fish, fruit, vegetables, beans, lentils, and naturally gluten-free grains (like quinoa). Nonetheless, even those going gluten-free are only human, and will occasionally miss things like pasta, bread, and cake. While I’m still experimenting with this, I hear that Dove’s provides a good range of gluten-free flour, and I’ve had promising results so far with gluten-free pasta from a French supermarket brand, Carrefour.

As the gluten-free market gains traction, more and more brands are appearing to satiate people’s desires even while cutting out certain foods. Perk!er is one of these brands, and they very kindly sent me some of their gluten-free products to test recently. For breakfast, their golden syrup porridge pot – perfect for the road – and their apple, cinnamon and raisin box of porridge oats, for mornings when you have a bit more time. The porridge pot is a mere 230 calories per pot, so brilliant for those watching their weight, as it’ll keep you full for ages without the bloating while still delivering a hit of sweetness. At between £1.25 and £1.50 a pot depending on where you buy (Ocado, Tesco or Asda are your main choices), it won’t break the bank either and is comparable to the price of other porridge pots.

The ‘slow food’ breakfast option is equally promising, with the cinnamon, apple and raisin porridge box providing a satisfying start to your day. It’s tasty, healthy, and will keep you full without stomach cramps threatening to spoil your morning. However, as it has no added sugar, some people may find it’s not sweet enough for their tastes, so feel free to add a cheeky spoonful of honey or fructose if you like. At £4.25 a box, though, this is significantly more expensive than many other boxes of similar weight, so perhaps this is one to be bought more sparingly (although Tesco are currently offering 25% discount, so maybe it’s worth looking out for offers).

Finally, for those ‘naughty but nice’ moments, I was sent a pot of Perk!er’s Rocky Road Bites. At 59 calories per ‘bite’, these are comparable energy-wise to ‘normal’ Rocky Road, but encouragingly seem to contain far fewer ingredients than traditional recipes. Again, at around £2 a pot, these won’t make your wallet scream and are not a million miles away from the price of the usual products. They are also DELICIOUS (very important), and as with all of Perk!er’s products, you wouldn’t know they were gluten-free from their taste.

I’d therefore perhaps eschew the porridge boxes unless I could find them on offer, but would definitely go for the porridge pots and snack pots for healthier and affordable alternatives to traditional products. Thanks, Perk!er 🙂

Heist: the London anti-gallery involving food, music, cushy sofas, and more Friday, Aug 1 2014 

2014-06-12 19.05.20-1Hidden in a quiet corner of Notting Hill, women with plumage milled around a white-fronted house; flanked by security guards, paparazzi and bohemians, sipping lavender lemonade and mingling. This might have appeared to be like any other gathering of arty celebrities and socialites, but this was the much-awaited launch of Heist, “London’s first anti-gallery”, billed as an immersive experience for lovers of fine art photography.

The aim of Heist is to smash down the barriers that many contemporary fine art photographers face when attempting to bring their work to the public, whether new to the scene or well-established. By collaborating with Heist’s founders (Mashael Al-Rushaid, J. Harry Edmiston and Anna Pia Lubinus) and displaying their work in this beautiful space, artists can bridge the divide between artists and collectors by selling their work directly as exclusive Heist prints and ultimately making their creations more accessible.

The inception of Heist was online. Edmiston and Lubinus (a couple, both with a strong background in business, photography and fine art investment) created heist-online in 2013, hand-picking artworks based on their photographic merit rather than reputation. Joining forces with Al-Rushaid, they focused on creating an “offline” counterpart in Linden Gardens featuring the most appreciated artworks from its online sister, where people could experience something a little out of the ordinary.

In addition to exhibitions from new and exciting international photographers, Heist wants the viewer to interact with their surroundings by experiencing performance art within the open space of the gallery, as well as tasting fine cuisine inspired by the artists and the exhibition itself.

Walking up the stairs of this beautiful residential property (clutching a glass of bubbly or lemony cocktail), you are surrounded by staggeringly powerful photographs, beautifully scented candles and roses. To the untrained eye, Heist is…well… a gallery. It’s not some parallel dimension where you experience vaporised art inhaled through your eyeballs (anti-gallery is a therefore somewhat pretentious term) – it is a series of actual rooms with actual photographs in heist cakethem. However, there are also cosy bar areas and lounges, secret corners and balconies within this place; it’s as much built for socialising as it is for art appreciation. Heist is trying to step as far away from being a ‘white-cube gallery’ as it can. The house itself was buzzing and shimmering with people. In the spirit of Heist, various musicians such as Jackson Scott & Into the Moon were performing live, and samples of the food inspired by images and artists were shared around; cuts of pork garnished with flowers, miniature burgers, sea bass and pumpkin ravioli are just some examples.

heist artSurroundings aside, Heist is excellently curated. There is an enormous variety of work on show: a man having a woollen brain haemorrhage; urban kaleidoscopes; 90s Kate Moss; a crown of nude women; striking neon angular architecture contrasted with ethereal Alaskan landscapes and hyper-real close-ups of everything from feathers to Bibles to skin. The selection is inspiring, original and invigorating, and can veer from disturbing to delicate from one photograph to the next. Even for non-collectors, it is a fantastic array of work. This is a place for eating, laughing, listening, discussion and debate.

The current exhibition can be viewed online at http://www.heist-online.com/store-exhibition/ as well as in person at the anti-gallery in Linden Gardens. In terms of purchasing, the prices range from approximately £400- £20,000 and beyond. This may put it beyond the reach of ‘accessible’ for some. Heist (as it was portrayed at the launch) was strongly impressive, but without visiting on a quieter afternoon, it remains to be seen how this translates into an anti-gallery experience for the casual passerby who is not a potential buyer. I however encourage you to take a look and discover Heist for yourself.

Gemma Summons

Restaurant Review: Le Maison Pic, Valence, France Thursday, Jul 31 2014 

You’d expect to find restaurants with three Michelin stars – and, indeed, you do – in major world capitals. London, Paris, New York, Tokyo…

But you also find them in more out-of-the-way places. How about Bray in the UK or Alba in Italy? Yountville, USA (with its grand total of around 3000 inhabitants)? Or why don’t you try Valence, France for size? As a Franco-British couple living near Paris, we have in the past found that you can pay a lot in France for dated or substandard food, served in places where the main aim is to see and be seen while paying €25 a crêpe. However, if you push the boat out enough, there is such thing as friendly and accommodating service (yes, I just used the word ‘friendly’ in relation to the French) and excellent food in divine settings. Le Maison Pic, whose bistro Le 7 we had already tested, certainly lived up to the standards set by its Michelin stars.

foie gras bruleeThis was not just down to the staff’s considerate and discreet attitude (for example, asking if it would be more convenient for them to speak to us in English after hearing us speak it at the table), or the luxurious décor (such as crystal water glasses and chandeliers), but also the innovative vision and high-quality ingredients that have clearly gone into the food itself. The amuse-bouches were prime examples of this, exemplifying delicate yet intense flavours, as well as textures that both complement and contrast each other. The foie gras crème brûlée was served with an apple mousse that cut cleanly through its creamy richness, and the peanut marshmallow, foie gras pearl and snail that were served on a single plate were surreal versions (in a positive way) of their traditional counterparts.

carrotsCrucially, even simple things were done well and with an emphasis on local produce. The bread (four different varieties: olive oil, black olive, buckwheat, and cereal) lives up to the excellent levels expected of the French, while utilising the olives for which the region is famous; meanwhile, local water from Vals-les-Bains is available for consumption throughout the meal. With these basic components in hand, we went on to the meal itself, which after the amuse-bouches, kicked off with carrots served three ways: in the form of a purée and a jelly, as well as raw, and complemented by a yoghurt flavoured with orange flower water and Voatsiperifery pepper. The latter’s potential to be overpowering was instead well-tempered, and even those who aren’t the biggest fans of raw carrot will appreciate the artistry involved in both presentation and in the combinations of flavour and texture.

berlingotsPerhaps Anne-Sophie Pic’s greatest achievement on this menu (the Menu Harmonie – one of three menus offered. More of which later…) was the goat cheese ravioli, served with a cress, bergamot and ginger soup. One cannot only chalk this achievement up to the fact that the dish is beautifully fragrant and spiced, but also the noteworthy presentation, which makes the ravioli look like leaves thanks to the dark green pasta and the pool-like illusion created by the soup and accompanying leafy herbs.

Perhaps after this triumph the next courses would seem to fall a little flat. The langoustines (served with green tomato and verbena soup) seemed just a little conventional and forgettable by comparison, and while the presentation of the ratatouille on the fish plate makes one feel like you have stepped straight onto the set of the eponymous film, the entire dish – from the fish to the vegetables – tasted overwhelmingly of dill, which is likely few people’s favourite herb to begin with. This lack of variation in seasoning (which naturally obliterated the camomile that was also allegedly included) was a little disappointing compared to the balance achieved by previous courses, but luckily the meaty punch of the Bresse chicken that followed, and its accompanying stuffing and sauce (made with brown rice tea, Tonka bean and parmesan as well as the chicken juices), was enough to wipe it out.ratatouille

Further to this, the Brie de Meaux foam (which in fact had a more mousse-like texture) was sublime, thanks to the elevation provided by the added Bourbon vanilla. This was effectively our pre-cheese course, with the cheese trolley itself being covered by an unusual (and large) wicker basket which drew the attention of the whole room (effectively stunning them into silence, literally, as the waiter explained the trolley’s contents). It’s possible that few people take the cheese course at Pic as the most basic menu doesn’t include it, charging you an extra €25 to add it separately. As we’d gone for the second menu, it was included, and if its sheer size and unusual presentation wasn’t a good enough advertisement to everyone in the room, it’s difficult to know what would be. Sadly, no wines are available by the glass in case you fancy matching a different tipple with your cheese – or indeed your dessert.

pre dessertIn this regard, there were also pre-desserts: one was an aduki bean concoction with a cherry centre, served with caramelised sugar discs and Clairette de Die (another local drink) ice cream. This again benefited from its contrasting textures, which ranged from a fine, slightly biscuity sponge base to a runny cherry middle. The other pre-dessert was a small series of petits fours, ranging from more traditional flavours (coffee and raspberry) to more experimental ones (green tea, pistachio and bitter lemon; white chocolate, poppy seed, orange, and Lapsang Souchong). All were stunning and delicious. This, in a way, leads to even higher expectations for your real dessert: our menu gave a choice of four, from which we ended up with a chocolate and beeswax tart, and a white millefeuille (built with vanilla cream and halva). Sadly, the latter was rather large, and by this point in the meal, one begins to struggle after so much food, particularly given the desserts’ creamy richness. The jasmine and Voatsiperifery pepper just disappeared under the weight of the millefeuille’s sugariness, although the chocolate option seemed better (thanks to its inclusion of pine and forest honey to counteract the chocolate’s bitterness and beeswax’s creaminess).

All of this was consumed with a white Château de Fonsalette, which proved a rounded wine with a spicy woody background. This matched virtually all of our courses well, without being too rich; the Clairette grape used in this Châteauneuf blend adds freshness against the power of the Grenache Gris and Marsanne varieties. The €150 paid for this exclusive wine can make it worth it thanks to the good vintage (2007) and the wine’s overall rarity.

IMG_0284After this came high-quality coffee and Pic-branded chocolates, which we were able to enjoy in the luxury of the restaurant’s separate lounge, where appropriately calm mood music is played to signify the end of your night. All of this eating and drinking took four and a half hours, and while going to Pic for dinner is a romantic and luxurious experience, you can’t expect to sleep well afterwards while your body tries to digest that amount of food. The people who go for the next menu up – L’Essentiel – need to find room for two additional courses: lobster later on, and a tomato dish in the early stages of the night. This blockbuster menu costs €320 per person, not including drinks. The lighter Découverte menu excludes our fish course, and only includes the Brie de Meaux course cheese-wise (as mentioned, the trolley is extra), for the price tag of €160. Our menu, therefore, unsurprisingly cost something in the middle: €240 per person. With drinks, we ended up paying a little over €600 in total, which is roughly in line with other Michelin-starred restaurants, and may even be considered a little on the ‘cheap’ side, seeing as the cost of the beverages is up to you (nobody ‘has’ to spend €150 on a bottle of wine). However, this is what overtime is for, and is without doubt an experience to savour.

285, avenue Victor Hugo 26000 Valence

telephone: 04 75 44 53 86

http://www.pic-valence.com

Food Product Review: Bis Bas Cooking Sauce Monday, Jul 28 2014 

After a very long hiatus (real life got in the way…), Ferret Food and Wines is BACK! YAY!

And not without good reason. The kind folks at Bis Bas generously sent us their three Arabian cooking sauces to try, which are inspired by their childhoods in Yemen. The sauces can also be used as relishes and dips, and should be good for everyone, as they’re suitable for vegetarians, vegans, coeliacs, and those following gluten-free, nut-free, and wheat-free diets. They’re also free of artificial flavours and colourings, and come in three varieties – Fozia (tomato and coriander), Safia (aromatic spices) and Saba (spinach and coriander), so go well with just about any dish or occasion. SCORE.

It’s this latter sauce which Ferret Food And Wines taster Gemma has first tested. Packed full of tasty ingredients such as onions, tomatoes, garlic and pomegranate juice (yum!), it’s billed as a mild sauce. “I totally agree with this,” Gemma says, “although maybe it’s even a little too mild, as it contains green chillies but in undetectable amounts (perhaps more there for flavour rather than heat, as this is not spicy at all). That said, it is a very beautiful, flavoursome sauce. I usually steer clear of processed, pre-made sauces as I often find they taste very artificial and contain all sorts of horrendous additives and way too much salt. This is not the case here; it’s got completely natural ingredients, is low in saturated fats, sugar and salt, and tastes absolutely delicious.”

Gemma found that the entire jar, when made with meat or vegetables, serves 2-3, but that you could makee 4 very generous portions easily, by adding more vegetables and water. In light of this, the Bis Bas website price of £5 a jar (£15 for the three, including postage and packaging) seems very reasonable. Gemma used the sauce in two ways:

1) Vegetarian: with aubergine, chickpeas, fresh spinach and pomegranate seeds. She adds: “I fried off the aubergine, added half of the sauce with water, added some tinned chickpeas, simmered for 6 minutes and stirred in the additional spinach at the end. I served it with couscous and garnished with pomegranate seeds and lime juice.”

2) Lamb ‘tagine’: “Similarly, I fried off some red onions, aubergine and mushrooms, then added the sauce with water and simmered. In the meantime I fried a lamb steak on a griddle pan, for 3 minutes on each side. I added chickpeas and fresh spinach to the sauce, then served the sauce with couscous and the lamb steak. This could easily be done all-in-one with lamb pieces, or fish/meat/quorn/halloumi etc, fried off with the sauce.”

Bis Bas also recommend heating the sauce on its own to use with fish fillets, or serving with boiled potatoes tossed with paprika and cumin.

Gemma loved the flexibility of this sauce – “the spinach in the sauce is finely chopped,” she says, “and is complemented well by fresh spinach should you choose to add it. It’s easy to alter the consistency of the sauce, making it very easy to cook with. The pomegranate juice really adds a depth of flavour, which again pairs well with fresh pomegranate seeds. Because the sauce is so fresh and fragrant overall, it really stands up well to kitchen experimentation if you want to throw in any more natural flavours. Alternatively, you could just add grilled meat and it would still taste excellent. It doesn’t taste pre-made and as someone who loves to cook from scratch, I am more than happy to use it for dinners when I’m a bit pressed for time. I can’t wait to try the others.”

As Gemma is a doctor by day, this probably says something about her busy lifestyle and the weird hours that she sometimes keeps. As she is also a passionate foodie, it’s a ringing endorsement that this sauce ticks so many of the boxes. The fact that you can also buy it at Harrods perhaps also attests to the high quality of the ingredients used – and, at around £5 a jar, it’s an affordable mealtime luxury too, and definitely cheaper and nicer than a takeaway too – especially if you can make one jar serve 4 as Gemma did. BRAVO, Bis Bas. We salute you

Masterchef 2014: THE FINAL Saturday, May 17 2014 

FINAL CONTESTANTS:

Jack, Ping, Luke

TRY THIS AT HOME:

  • haggis and beef bolognese
  • coconut panna cotta served with mango, pineapple foam, and coconut tuile

FOOD PORN:

jfrclfrs

 

 

 

 

 

PFCR

AND THE WINNER IS….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(keep scrolling)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PING COOMBES !!

 

yay 🙂

Masterchef 2014: episodes 22-23 Friday, May 16 2014 

FINAL CONTESTANTS;

Jack, Ping, Angela, Luke

FOOD DESTINATION:

Barcelona!

TRY THIS AT HOME:

  • malt cake with malted milk ice cream, butterscotch sauce, crème fraîche, and orange tuiles
  • venison served with venison, salami and cumin ragout, anise-flavoured carrots, toasted dhal purée and savoury carrot cake
  • pan-roasted and poached chicken with ginger rice, chicken jus, and bok choi
  • smoked paprika prawns with chilli and ginger
  • guacamole and Serrano ham bruschetta

FOOD PORN:

gssspast

 

 

 

 

wcmple

 

 

 

ltwtlt

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