Ferret Food Monthly: October 2016 Wednesday, Oct 12 2016 

Reviving Ferret Food Monthly after a loooooooooooong hiatus…

Connected cup brings drinks

A little alcohol-based news for you now! Malibu has invented a cup that will enable you to order more drinks without ever leaving the dancefloor. Say bye-bye to the bar queue and twist the base of the cup to have your drink brought straight to you. An industry first, the Malibu Coco-nect cup (shaped, predictably, like a coconut) uses wifi and RFID technology to send drinks orders to the bar and pinpoint your location. Once the order has been accepted, a light at the bottom of the vessel changes colour, and when your drink is ready, the base of the cup flashes to let the server know where you are once they are in the vicinity. Ten prototype cups were trialled this summer with the system set to be rolled out further in 2017 – meaning that you’ll never have to miss a moment of the fun. To watch a video of the cup in action, click here.

cacao-picSweet like chocolate

In other news, chocolate actually burns fat now. Yes, really. We’ve known for a while now that high-cacao chocolate is good for you (at least 70% cocoa solids) and this just adds one more benefit to the list. According to Callum Melly of BodyIn8.com, cacao is rich in flavanols and polyphenols, which can prevent cardiovascular disease, reduce the risk of stroke, improve circulation, reduce ‘bad’ cholesterol and prevent hardening of the arteries. Drinking hot cacao before a meal helps us to consume fewer calories during the day and leads to a natural calorie deficit and weight loss. Furthermore, cacao contains MAO inhibitors which can suppress your appetite. To get the maximum benefits, try cacao nibs or even 100% cacao chocolate. If nothing else, cacao is rich in anandamide (for a sense of euphoria), phenethylamine (endorphin trigger and aphrodisiac), and magnesium (to protect against osteoporosis and diabetes as well as lowering blood pressure), and can even boost serotonin levels (for stress relief). So by all accounts – come, fill the cup!

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Ferret Food Monthly (February 2013) Thursday, Feb 28 2013 

Come fly with me

Aer Lingus has announced its new premium three course meal choice, ‘Sky Dine’, available to pre-order now for customers travelling in economy class on transatlantic flights between Dublin, Shannon and the USA. The first meals were delivered on board on the 14th February. The meals, created by Aer Lingus Head Chef James Keaveney in close partnership with Sean Cotter from Catering, North America, are each complemented by a choice of red or white wine. The Steak House meal consists of fillet of beef, sautéed potatoes with onion, spinach topped with tomato tartar, mushrooms and served with peppercorn sauce. Dessert consists of cheesecake chocolate mousse. The Cod with Salsa Verde meal option is a fillet of cod topped with salsa verde crust, served with baby potatoes and steamed fresh vegetables. Dessert is a delicious seasonal fruit salad. A third option is chicken stuffed with Irish black pudding, wrapped in bacon, served with colcannon and steamed root vegetables. Chocolate mousse or cheesecake is served for dessert. I really think that luxury meal choices should be available on all flights – even if you have to pay more!

Come fly with me – Twinings style

British Airways and Twinings are promising to transform tea in the air with an innovative new blend of the nation’s favourite drink, specifically designed to work at altitude. The British Airways signature blend tea took to the skies on February 1, 2013 for customers in all cabins. With research to prove that taste can be reduced by up to 30 per cent at 35,000 feet, the airline commissioned Twinings to come up with a teabag that would taste as good in the sky as it does on the ground. Water in an aircraft boils at around 89°C, which is less than the ideal 100°C for black tea. Reduced air pressure and humidity also affect our taste buds – so there’s plenty of mileage in the development of new blends for high fliers. The airline conducted tastings on the ground and in the air with a panel of customers, cabin crew and experts, including Twinings senior buyer Mike Wright, before coming up with the new tea – a blend of Assam, Kenyan and Ceylon tea for body, strength, flavour and colour. In First Class, customers are also being treated to a selection of unique speciality teas from the Twinings Whole Leaf Silky Pyramids range which includes Mint Humbug and Honeycomb Camomile as well as classics such as English Breakfast and Earl Grey. While I’m not sure when I’ll next fly BA, I look forward to trying this new blend – but look forward to hearing about it from you before that.

Come cook with me – Japanese style

SOZAI – meaning both ”household dishes” and “ingredients” in Japanese – is a brand new concept and the first Japanese cooking school in the UK. All classes will be available to book singly, typically running for 90 – 120 minutes, with no need to sign up for a course. SOZAI works with Japanese chefs as well as celebrity guest chefs – many Michelin starred – such as Nuno Mendes of Viajante, Daisuke Hayashi of Crysan and Anton Edelmann. The chefs will show students how to make dishes ranging from sushi and tempura to authentic kaiseki and street food such as ramen and okonomiyaki. The interactive website at www.sozai.co.uk also allows you to post suggestions for classes based on dishes you have enjoyed. These will then be voted on by other viewers by simply pressing a “like” button. The most popular dishes will become the subject of new classes. Classes will be held at two kitchens in central London: SOZAI, 5 Middlesex Street, London E1 7AA (Liverpool Street) and SO Restaurant, 3-4 Warwick Street, London W1B 5LS (Soho). However, here’s hoping the concept will spread across the UK soon.

Come cook with me – Delia style

With the news that Delia Smith is leaving our television screens comes the question of what she’ll be doing next. It’s perhaps unsurprising that she’s moving on to helping the nation to shape up their kitchens, after often becoming frustrated about tin sizes changing or being discontinued right after she’s recommended them in her recipes. This problem should soon be solved thanks to the development of her own line of baking tins and other equipment. Joining forces with Alan Silverwood and Falcon Products, she hopes to provide all budding bakers with kit to last a lifetime. They will also be launched in independent outlets, with a view to encouraging fans to buy British and support the country’s small businesses. Items can be purchased individually or as a whole set, which make it perfect for setting any person or couple up for life in the kitchen. We’ve already started the process here at the Ferret homestead of replacing a few of our pots and pans with top quality products, and we’re sure the new Delia range will help too.

Not before tea

How many of us remember our parents saying “not before tea” or “you’ll spoil your dinner” when asking for sweets as children? Based on this all-too-common response, Nine-year-old Henry Patterson has opened his very own online sweetshop, named Not Before Tea. On the basis that “sweets must be as fun as toys and do stuff”, the brand’s unique selling point is undoubtedly the inclusion of glass-writing pens with each of the jars that holds the sweets ordered. Another innovative addition comes in the form of reward stickers to ensure that tiny teeth get cleaned after sweet consumption. I love the entrepreneuralism involved here, and am sure that Henry will definitely beecome a shining star in the food world as an adult (and perhaps even before then). Now, how many Double Dips should I order?

Gourmet giftsIn my family, gift-giving is all about April: not only does my birthday fall then, but so do those of my two grandmothers, my mother, and my aunt. Easter often comes in April too (although it’s not the case this year, unless you count Easter Monday). So in the run-up to this period of intense gifting, these gifts from Terra Rossa should help me to choose, and maybe even help you too if you’re in a similar boat. The Jordanian sweets seem tempting, presenting sugared almonds, assorted nougat and ‘manna from heaven’ in a traditional gift bag. Equally tantalising is the authentic dipping kit, which, like the sweets, comes in at under £20. The chilli-infused olive oil comes with its own hand-made dipping bowls, and you can also use the accompanying Zaatar herb mix (made from thyme, sesame seeds and sumac) to spice up your evenings. Add your own fresh crusty bread and you have one successful gift that’s perfect for sharing.

Find your food in Yorkshire

The Yorkshire Food Finder is back for 2013, with events including charcuterie and butchery skills classes, the chance to pair food with Yorkshire ciders and ales, and learning more about fresh cheese making. It sounds to me like a great chance to taste seasonal specialities and meet the county’s top chefs. There are more than 30 trails available this year already, with more in development, which also give foodies the opportunities to explore Yorkshire’s coast and moors while experiencing the produce of more than 25 artisans. I can’t be there to enjoy the mouthwatering behind-the-scenes access to farms, creameries, cellars, country estates and quaysides, or to sample the regional products on offer, but I hope you can be. There’s nothing like celebrating a place’s traditions of craft, taste, landscapes and livelihoods, and I hope more areas of the UK will follow the Yorkshire Food Finder’s example.

Ferret Food Monthly (November 2012) Friday, Nov 30 2012 

Feeling hot?

We love a good curry here at the Ferret homestead (even to the point of contemplating a pheasant korma for our Christmas meal this year) and it would seem we’re in good company: a new survey conducted by MU and Mumsnet has found that 57% of children are partial to a curry whilst 66% even enjoy the spicy dish from below the age of three, with the biggest fans being in the Midlands, Scotland, and North East. In some ways this doesn’t surprise me, as I was a lover of Bombay mix when I was not even two years old. Long live the spice! (Oh, and PS: we’ll be in London this March, so if you have an Indian restaurant in the capital that you love, let us know.)

Getting kids in the kitchen this Christmas

If you need a few tiny minions to help you in the run-up to your Christmas meal, children’s cookery school Splat Cooking could help you to train your little ones thanks to their Christhttps://i0.wp.com/www.sudocrem.co.uk/antiseptic-healing-cream/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/unique-birthday-party-idea-for-kids-sudocrem.jpgmas cooking workshops. With courses taking place in Princes Risborough and Silverstone, adults can even join in the fun too, with courses ranging from gingerbread chalet workshops to edible Christmas presents. I’m glad to see them making one of my seasonal gift favourites: lavender cookies, which I make with cooking lavender and lavender syrup. Happy tasting!

Sweets for the sweet

I already wrote about Swizzels Matlow’s Halloween collection of candies (even though they refused to send me some on account of my living in the land of the surly – boo hiss!), and now that Christmas is nearly here they’ve pulled out all the stops yet again, putting their https://i0.wp.com/www.femalefirst.co.uk/image-library/land/500/l/love-hearts---gift-guide-image-3.jpgmost iconic brands into 750g tins. Their Sweet Shop Favourites tin (£5) is fab for the whole family, and exclusive to Tesco is the Superstars tin (also £5). Their 324g Selection Pack is even more affordable at £3 and includes such classics as Love Hearts, Drumstick lollies and Refresher bars. The 108g tubes of Mini Love Hearts, Refreshers and Drumsticks are also set to be excellent stocking fillers at the great value price of £1.49. Here’s hoping that Santa will slip a few under my tree!

Win Christmas treats with Visit South Devon

From December 1st until Christmas Eve, you can win a whole host of festive treasures thanks to Visit South Devon. Follow their Twitter and Facebook pages for your chance to win sumptuous Christmas hampers and Mitch Tonks’ book Fish Easy, and benefit from seasonal promotions, such as free mulled wine when you dine at Lyme Bay House Hotel in Dorset. I love Devon thanks to my special university years there and envy anyone who manages to make it there for the county’s traditional Christmas fairs (trust me when I say the French offerings on this front are pitiful).

https://i0.wp.com/www.londonconfidential.co.uk/i/H7K/40V5_M.jpgRaising a glass

Alcohol is often a popular Christmas gift, but you can go one step further with Alchemist Dreams, which allow you to design your own signature flavour of liqueur and give it to everyone you know. You can even tailor each bottle to suit the recipient – and with prices starting at just £15, there is no excuse to not bestow this on the foodie in your life. They can be enjoyed neat (*responsibly!) or lengthened with soda or champagne. House blends can also be ordered if you don’t know where to start – and with names like Jade Dragon and Winter Warmer, what’s not to like? All bottles are topped off by a red ribbon and handwritten message. I’ll definitely know where to order from the next time I don’t know what to buy my dad.

Be mine (and Tesco’s)

You wouldn’t believe that the shops are already thinking ahead to https://i0.wp.com/img.thesun.co.uk/multimedia/archive/00985/SNF12LOVET-180_985264a.jpgValentine’s Day, but they are. Tesco’s offerings in particular are extremely affordable and wide-ranging, with their milk chocolate rose costing £1 and gingerbread hearts costing 90p each. For those who like to get passionate in the kitchen, there’s also their heart-shaped cookie cutters and frying pans, which are also priced from just £1 – so it couldn’t be easier to treat your loved one.

Everybody look left

As possibly the world’s biggest Simpsons fan, I’ve often marvelled at the sheer range of products available in Flanders’ Leftorium. Anything Left-Handed is possibly the next best thing, existing in real life online, and now selling the Left-Handers Kitchen Essentials Set, which contains left-handed kitchen shears, a swivel blade peeler, tin opener, corkscrew, and bread knife.  At £41.95, this promises to be a gift for life, not just for Christmas.

https://i2.wp.com/raymondblanc.com/Portals/14/images/Eurostar/Photo-approved-1-from-Eurostar-Raymond-Blanc-New-LR.jpgGastro-star

Shoddy train food may now be forever a thing of the past aboard the Eurostar thanks to the new appointment of Raymond Blanc as culinary director. Aiming to share seasonal and sustainable food with the train company’s Business Premier passengers, the Michelin-star chef wants to transform travellers’ perceptions of on-board catering. Several Blanc family recipes will feature, including mackerel salad, and chocolate delice with praline custard. I’d hit it…not least because it might be the least expensive way for Mr Blanc to feed me.

Ferret Food Monthly (October 2012) Wednesday, Oct 31 2012 

Christmas party treats

I personally never get bored with cake in any form, but if you wanted an even more fun form of cake that was easy to share, you could try the Cake Pops Maker and Waffle Stick Maker from Sweet Treats’ home baking range. Cake Pops can be easily put into gift bags at parties or shared at tea time, while waffle sticks can be made for a fun festive breakfast thanks to the Waffle Stick Maker. Both are ready in minutes to dip and decorate, and plenty of recipes are provided to get you started too. Starting from £19.99, they should provide hours of fun for parties and rainy days, for kids of all ages (especially the grownup ones).

Lidl has also launched its largest ever range of baking products recently, having introduced 15 products to its listed range, and 12 products as limited edition items, with the potential for more lines to be added. In addition, the supermarket chain is trialling in-store bakeries in a few select branches to ascertain demand for freshly-baked products. If successful, these will be rolled out across all 600 Lidl stores in the UK. If the products really will be freshly baked – as opposed to Lidl merely serving as a tanning salon for cakes that are shipped in from frozen – then I’m all for it.

Shine inside and out this winter

With the onset of cold weather, we are often inclined to turn to recipe books that are bursting at the seams with soups, puddings and pies. But to keep healthy throughout the year – even when it’s freezing outside – many believe that we should be continuing to incorporate more and more raw foods into our diet. This is a philosophy espoused by Rebecca Kane, whose newest book, Shine Inside and Out, aims to help us do exactly this. Shine Inside and Out follows her first book, Turn Your Shine On, in providing recipes for refreshing smoothies, soups, main meals and desserts, which are all wheat free, dairy free, and, crucially, raw. Already a Raw Food Expert for Videojug, Rebecca specialises not only in classic cold dishes, but also in such delights as chocolate brownies and Thai curries, which continue to appeal even in winter – with traditional Christmas treats such as mince pies also available. Stay tuned for a review of Turn Your Shine On coming soon!

From raw food to pure hydration

A study conducted by the British Beer and Pub Association shows that the alcohol drinking levels among young people have dropped. Overall consumption per person aged 16-24 has fallen by 12% between 2004 and 2011, with 48% of respondents in this age group saying they had had an alcoholic drink in the last week (compared to 70% in 2003). There could be several reasons for these statistics. One is that people are notoriously bad at self-reporting: the fact that people say one thing and do another is a perennial peril of any sort of field work. Another reason offered for this drop is that young people are arguably going to cafés more in order to socialise, rather than going to bars and pubs. Some say that this is due to the popularisation of cafés in shows like Friends, but this seems less likely given that the show went off the air some years ago. More likely is that young people are flocking to cafés for the free wifi, thanks to the popularity of social networking. Coffee chains in particular have become more ubiquitous, while pubs and bars close regularly. In any case, if it is true that the British binge drinking epidemic is on its way out, then I am glad: whether old or young, less (when it comes to alcohol at least) is definitely more.

Foods to include this party season

New report Ripped To Shreds (co-authored by personal trainers Shaun Petafi and Dean Connor) has recently been published to advise us of foods to include in our pre-party diets to boost fat-burning and show off a leaner profile. You could even include them in your party menus (as per my recommendations below!).

Shaun and Dean firstly recommend walnuts for their omega-3 content and mono-unsaturated fats. Why not construct some crostini as canapés, using walnuts, tomatoes, and blue cheese? Use their next ingredient, gluten-free oatmeal, to make porridge for your breakfast, to keep blood sugar and insulin levels low. For your Bonfire Night party, why not throw some into your parkin and serve up with some Lapsang Souchong? (More on this prontissimo.)For a Mexican theme, serve low-fat nachos with guacamole: Shaun and Dean’s third ingredient is avocado, promoted for its slow-release carbs and ability to absorb calcium. Add chilli pepper flakes to your salsa too, as these boost calorie burn. Use smoked salmon for a dinner party starter or on a bagel for breakfast with cream cheese, to help you get more omega-3 in. Eat half a grapefruit each morning to accelerate weight loss, and prepare a delicate grapefruit sorbet for a dessert to wow your guests as well.

The positive effects of honey are well-documented, and as it’s low on the glycaemic index, it helps to maintain a fat-burning environment in your body. Drizzle on your morning porridge (see above!) or serve on buckwheat pancakes for a fun kids’ party. Peanut butter is another great topping in both of these cases, and comes recommended by Shaun and Dean as a source of helpful unsaturated fat (but stick to the natural peanut butters that don’t add extra sugar or trans fats). Broccoli is their next ingredient to include as it helps to enhance fat loss, and I would serve up Saint Delia’s broccoli and cheese soufflé in an instant for a dinner party. Extra virgin olive oil, prized by Shaun and Dean for its ability to improve cardiovascular health, can also be exploited to the extreme, whether you’re drizzling it on salads, pasta, or risotto.

This kind of advice is invaluable to all, and I personally look forward to downloading my copy from the Ripped To Shreds website. It’s also available from iTunes and Waterstones, so there’s really no excuse to not get your mitts on one. Happy fat-burning!

Leading cosmetic clinic advocates diet over surgery

Further to this, it’s great to finally see a clinic advocating a diet over surgery. Court House Clinics have just confirmed what many of us already new, by supporting findings that a ‘quick fix’ cosmetic treatment for weight loss just isn’t viable. The national cosmetic group has used a case study of their own to provide evidence for their statement. A Birmingham housewife weighed 15st and 2lbs when she approached Court House Clinics seeking advice on bariatric surgery. With a BMI of 42.8, she was advised to lose weight naturally first using their Alizonne diet programme, and in this way she dropped seven dress sizes in eight months. Dr Patrick Bowler, the clinic’s head consultant, explains: “These results cannot be achieved by surgery alone. Obese patients are put at risk by quick fix surgeries which do not have any long term health or medical benefits. Court House Clinics advise anyone thinking of undertaking a weight loss treatment to fully investigate the programme before investing money. Surgical solutions are only ever part of the solution, not the whole solution according to the group. Patient participation and commitment to treatment is a key factor in getting the desired results.” It’s wonderful to finally see clinics and patients using treatments in a responsible way, and using surgery just as a last resort. If only others would follow their example.

Special Kensington Place prizes

To celebrate its 25th birthday, Kensington Place, Notting Hill’s popular neighbourhood restaurant, is offering a special daily prize for the first 25 days of November, its birthday month. Keep an eye on the Twitter pages of KP (@KPrestaurantW8) daily to see what you can win through retweeting, being the first to wish KP a Happy 25th, and other exciting ways that will be revealed closer to the time.

www.twitter.com/KPrestaurantW8
www.kensingtonplace-restaurant.co.uk

Make the most of the truffle season

Truffles are treasured in many top restaurants for their delicate flavour and elusive availability – so when a supply comes along, it’s worth making the most of it. To do precisely this, Angela Hartnett’s Murano restaurant is bringing back its white truffle menu for a limited time only. For a £50 supplement guests can enjoy dishes including scrambled eggs with truffle on toasted sourdough, hand-rolled tagliatelle with truffle and butter emulsion, and baked vacherin with truffle and grilled poratoes. Also available is a gourmet pizza loaded with white truffle, Parmesan, rocket and crème fraîche. I’d hot-foot it there if I were you: my experience at her Whitechapel restaurant recently was superb (more of which to come).

Looking for lunch?

I’m always looking to jazz up my lunch box, and here’s something that would make a real treat on the days when you need a truly special lunch. Whether you’ve got something to celebrate or just a long day ahead of you, the bento boxes provided by Ichi Sushi and Sashimi Bar sound like they would surely fit the bill. The sushi bar, which is located near Westminster Bridge, has introduced four bento boxes, which start from £14 with their Vegetarian Box. For £2 more, Japanese food enthusiasts can enjoy the Ichi Box, which includes a salmon roll, seaweed salad, sushi nigiri selection and a green tea Opera cake, and for £18, the Asian Box comes with a chasoba noodle roll, edamame beans, a sushi nigiri selection and a pistachio and chocolate grenache mousse. Then there is the pièce de résistance (or whatever that is in Japanese): the deluxe Okamoto Box (£20) includes a larger selection of fresh sushi and sashimi, perfect for sharing. The boxes are available from Monday to Friday during lunch hours, and if I were in London, I’d definitely indulge to celebrate the end of term.

Thanksgiving with Melrose and Morgan

It’s true that not all American imports are welcome. I could do without Halloween, Justin Bieber, Jersey Shore, and spreadable marshmallow paste. I can see, however, why even Brits may be willing to embrace the tradition of Thanksgiving, and with Melrose and Morgan, it’s made even more possible for the time-poor, as the three course meal is delivered oven-ready to the door. Although priced a little highly at £32.95 for a minimum of six people, the feast is a wide spread indeed, including roasted, boned and rolled free-range bronze turkey breast, served with pork-and-chestnut stuffing, gravy and fresh cranberry sauce with port and orange. The side dishes are autumn root vegetables with roast pears and herbs, bourbon and brown-butter sweet potato mash, and sprout tops with toasted pecans and caramelised shallots. Starters include spiced pumpkin soup, while for pudding you can choose between pumpkin or pecan pie. Happy Thanksgiving indeed!

Go East

Travel company Kuoni has joined forces with the recently relaunched East India Company to bring alive the art of ancient tea drinking through a series of events being hosted throughout November. Audiences interested in travel and tea will be able to learn how tea is transported from plantation to cup, with the journey encompassing tea varieties such as Dragonwell, Rainforest Lumbini, and Thousand Year Red. All will be introduced by Tea Master Lalith Lenadora, with Kuoni’s team on hand to talk to customers about holidays to the locations where the tea is grown. The events will feature tea tasting as well as canapés, biscuits and chocolates created by the East India Company, alongside a prize draw, with the evenings taking place at 7-8 Conduit Street, London, on November 6th and 15th, and with one customer event to be hosted on the SS Great Britain in Bristol on November 13th. To reserve your place, contact Rebecca Leech at Kuoni – I know I’d attend if I could.

Ferret Food Monthly (September 2012) Saturday, Sep 1 2012 

Tea-time chic

In celebration of the city of Paris, Chinoiserie at Jumeirah Carlton Tower has unveiled an “I Love Paris” afternoon tea in association with master patissier Eric Lanlard (the third instalment in the Afternoon Tea by Eric Lanlard series). Reinvented brioche, macaroons and mini éclairs all feature, as do foie gras sandwiches, mini quiches lorraines, and lemon, poppy seed, and smoked salmon macaroons. To finish, guests can revel in tonka bean crème brûlée and a dark chocolate mousse. And, just in case you can’t quite eat it all, the leftovers can go with you in a beautiful take-home box. ‘Afternoon Tea by Eric Lanlard’ can be booked by visiting www.jumeirahcarltontower.com or calling +44 (0)20 7858 7181.

The best Devon cream tea?

While I love London, part of my heart will always be in Devon thanks to my university days there – and one of the reasons I love the place is for its classic afternoon teas. Now the hunt is on for the very best of the Devon crop, with local tourism providers challenged to participate in a cream tea trail and marketing campaign. Nineteen tourism businesses from Gidleigh Park to Twistgates Farm Cottages have so far signed up, providing guests and holidaymakers with the finest local ingredients to make the best cream teas available. The competition is split into three categories, with the best city cream tea, best countryside cream tea and best coast cream tea all being sought. The finalist will be launched in April 2013 at the Exeter Festival of South West Food and Drink. Details of the cream tea trail can be found here, with print versions and apps also soon to be available:

http://www.heartofdevon.com/food-and-drink/cream-tea-excellence-in-the-heart-of-devon

Follow the Cream Tea campaign on Twitter @CreamTeainHoD

Spooky sweets

Even though I’m not a massive fan of Halloween as an American import, I definitely can buy into the sweets – and British confectionery giant and king of the trick or treat season, Swizzels Matlow Ltd, is gearing up for the Halloween season with a range of ghoulish party delights. These include Trick or Treat Lolly Mix, Monster Treats and Spooky Treat or Trick Mix. Mega Drumsticks now have a black and orange wrapper, while Double Dip becomes Spooky Dip, with a blackcurrant flavour leaving tongues black! Products are available in a host of national supermarkets.

Celebrating Spanish-style

From 22-28th October, London’s top Spanish restaurants and Maltby Street Food Market will be celebrating the produce and typical recipes of Mallorca. You can look out for authentic Mallorcan specials on the menus at 5 of London’s top Spanish restaurants, including Pizarro, Tramontana, Barrafina, Cambio de Tercio and Barcelona Tapas. Curated by Radio 4 panellist and Catalan Cooking expert Rachel McCormack, selected food producers will form a dedicated market at Maltby Street, running from Friday 26 to Saturday 27th. Products on offer include small family estate wines, artisan olive oil, preserves, specialist seasonings and almond based store cupboard ingredients. If you’re already missing your summer holiday to the Balearics, this could be for you. Try Oli Novembre (an oil made from Mallorcan olives), Ametlla + de Mallorca (a range of almond-based seasonings), organic wines from Can Majoral, and artisan salt and marmalade products from Raixa Mallorca. There will also be a ticketed wine tasting on Thursday 25th October from 6pm, and a cooking class on Wednesday 24th October, where students will learn to cook Tumbet, Arroz Brut (Mallorcan Rice with Chicken and Rabbit), Mallorcan style croquetas and Gato (Mallorcan Almond Cake).

Check out the Mallorca Week Website for more!

Oh Malteser tree, oh Malteser tree…

Yes, it’s really true. This Christmas you could really have a MALTESER TREE in your living room. Handmade from Maltesers, the tree is then drizzled with white chocolate and planted with chocolate raisins, and is just one of a range of Sweet Trees available from RusticAngels.co.uk. Each tree comes with its own terracotta pot and is also planted with fudge and coconut, standing 30cm high. Even though the Sweet Trees cost from £22.50 (not including postage and packaging!), I reckon they make a more original alternative to an advent calendar any day.

Ashburton Cookery School wins Cookery School of the Year in Food and Travel Magazine Reader Awards

Staff at Ashburton Cookery School in Devon are celebrating after being voted Cookery School of the Year in the Food and Travel Magazine Reader Awards. The school was presented with its award at a ceremony in London on September 3, having beaten off stiff competition from other leading cookery schools, including Leith’s and The Bertinet Kitchen. Ashburton Cookery School was one of a trio of award winners from Devon which included Gidleigh Park as well as the Devon based wine writer, Susy Atkins. Well done to all!

Dark, milk, white…blonde?

Fans of fine chocolate will be intrigued to learn of a recent cocoa-related development from top French chocolate supplier Valrhona, which has recently launched the world’s first blonde chocolate. It is probably closest to white chocolate in its taste, but unlike white chocolate is in fact still the genuine article, as it still contains cocoa. Launched recently in the UK at the Berkeley Hotel in Knightsbridge, the chocolate – named Dulcey – is said to have a biscuity, honey-like flavour, with hints of shortbread, salt and caramel. Fans of the retro Caramac should love it! The retail bar will be available from Harvey Nichols, Selfridges, and Fortnum and Mason.

What’s the best builders’ breakfast?

This is the question being asked by online tradesman-finding website MyBuilder this month, which announced that it was to launch the largest ever survey of builders’ breakfast tastes. MyBuilder will be asking tradesmen to nominate their favourite outlets, checking if Welsh builders still enjoy lava bread (seaweed) with their fry up, and wondering if the Scots still favour white pudding of a morning. And what about the breakfasts of Polish, Indian or Aussie builders working in the UK? Do they have their own favoured breakfast spots or have they adopted bacon and eggs washed down with a mug of tea? The survey will also find out if it is ever okay to have chips with your breakfast and if baked beans are considered an essential item. The winning café/diner will be named as the home of the Best Builder’s Breakfast In Britain on 27 November 2012 and presented with a trophy by MyBuilder. One lucky builder who nominates the winner will win breakfast for four there, as well as a one-year free membership at MyBuilder.com. Tradesmen who are non-members of MyBuilder can still enter by emailing competitions@mybuilder.com or visiting the MyBuilder blog. Good luck to chippies, brickies and sparkies everywhere!

Freedom to…and freedom from

The Good Food Guide Regional Readers’ Restaurant of the Year 2013, Jeremys Restaurant in the heart of mid-Sussex, has taken on the challenge of creating a delicious, gluten-free and dairy-free 4-course menu for its special ‘free-from’ dinner on Thursday 4th October 2012. Jeremy and his team have included things that allergy-sufferers might possibly be pining for – good bread, pancakes, soufflé, delicious canapés and petits fours – and some tasty alternative grains, quinoa, wild rice and gram flour. They have also sourced a gluten-free lager, which will welcome diners on arrival along with canapés of teriyaki duck, spring onion and ginger, wrapped in an almond milk pancake. A starter of spiced butternut squash, coconut cream, onion bhaji and coriander oil will be followed by beetroot-cured local mackerel, quinoa and wild rice salad, beetroot soufflé and apple chutney, then a main course of roast beef and mushroom-filled ballotine of guinea fowl, dry cure bacon, polenta, Swiss chard and red wine reduction and finally a delicious chocolate hazelnut cake with damson sorbet. A vegetarian option is also available on request, with a £30 4-course menu including coffee and petits fours. To reserve, please email reservations@jeremysrestaurant.com – and even if you can’t attend, take this opportunity to be inspired to serve up a gluten-free meal to your family and friends.

Vanilla, rum and raisin pudding, made by the Secret Kitchen team using the new spice mix

Sugar and spice…The UK’s first food tasting company, My Secret Kitchen, are very proud to the first to launch a sweet seasoning mix as part of their Secret Spices range. Secret Vanilla Pudding Spices combine vanilla with cinnamon, ground coriander seed, ginger and roasted cassia. Use in an apple pie for wow-factor results! The founder also recommends using it to top drinks, mix into custard, or dust onto popcorn or marshmallows. Priced at £4.49, it’s available from www.mysecretkitchen.com.

Ooh la la

French restaurant Brasserie Joël, located within the Park Plaza Westminster Bridge London hotel, has just launched its monthly ‘Chanson et Cuisine’ evenings, which began on Thursday 27th September. Guests can embrace the true spirit of classic French dining with a three course set sharing menu, prepared by head chef Walter Ishizuka, while listening to traditional French music performed by Brasserie Joël’s resident chanson singer. Starting with the Rhone-Alpes, the menu will showcase dishes from a different French region every month, taking guests on a culinary “Tour de France”. The sharing dishes will be perfect for groups. The menu is priced at £34 with bookings available between 5.30pm-10.30pm. The live music, however, is played only from 7.30pm onwards. It’s great to see other regions of France being explored, especially beginning with one that I know so well. Here’s hoping some copeaux featured!

Fiona Cairns’ first TV series starts this weekend

Royal cake-maker Fiona Cairns’ first TV series ‘Home of Fabulous Cakes’ will start airing on ITV1 on Sundays from 23rd September. The series is a 10 x 1 hour series, with Fiona baking 4 different cakes in each episode. After her 2011 exposure at the Royal Wedding, this work follows Fiona’s partnership with Waitrose, and looks like it will offer valuable insight into her expertise. I’ll definitely be tuning in!

Ferret Food Monthly (August 2012) Friday, Aug 31 2012 

We’re all going on a foodie holiday

While I sit here totally pogged out from a birthday meal at Les 4 Vents, it almost seems hard to think about yet more food! And yet with the various temptations on offer in Wales, it’s almost difficult not to as well. Carmarthenshire, for instance, has a whole website dedicated to its food trails, which feature its very best farm shops, pie shops, tea shops, pubs and bars to name just a few. It also promises to put you on to Prince Charles’ favourite cheese and cake (you need to go to Carmarthen’s Indoor Market for both), smoked trout, squirrel on sale in Carmarthen Market, and the newly acclaimed ‘best restaurant in Wales’, Y Polyn, hiding in the sleepy village of Capel Dewi. The trails make it easy to avoid the big supermarkets and eat locally – and a visit to fisherman Big Bill, who cooks up his catch every weekend and serves it in his Llansteffan living room, also seems strangely appealing.

Also a candidate for a late ‘staycation’ in the first half of September is a trip to the Abergavenny Food Festival. Make sure you don’t miss The Chocktail Party on the Friday night – a choice combo of spirits and chocolates with luxury chocolatier Marc Demarquette and James Chase of Chase Distillery, plus sleight-of-hand from Harvey Nicols’ bar manager/mixologist Dom Jacobs too. The festival itself includes a pop-up Indian restaurant, pastry sessions from expert chef Richard Bertinet, the chance to meet the founders of the Ottolenghi restaurants, and much more besides. Unfortuantely, come the 15th and 16th of September I’ll be in the thick of managing a pit of hormonal 16-year-olds who keep changing their minds about their IGCSE options. I’ll be there with you in spirit though…promise!

Variety is the spice of life

To keep me from despair during the stress of September and October, I’m already thinking of ordering a batch of new cookbooks in to help me let off steam (Hairy Dieters, anyone?). But I’m thinking that HalfWine‘s new collection may help me too: they’ve just unveiled a new range of wines for chilli and spice lovers like me. The half-bottle wine merchant is highlighting several wines from Alsace to go with my home-made curries – and I like the sound of the recommendations made so far by HalfWine’s founder. Riesling is suggested for Thai green curries and other chilli-based dishes, with Gewurztraminer flagged up for cream-based ones, such as Tandoori chicken. Half-bottles are great for my household too: being part French, we never get through a whole bottle between us in one sitting, so half-bottles help us to reduce wastage and to try new varieties in a more cost-effective way, as well as choose quality over quantity and moderate the amount that we drink. Now – anyone know any good Indian cookery books?

Slimming for summer?

You’d never think that the pre-holiday diet was dead, but according to a recent survey conducted by Directline Holidays, it is as good as. Only 5% of over 500 surveyed admitted crash dieting before a holiday and fewer than 2% are worried about how they look in a bikini. This can mean only one of two things: either Brits have let themselves go completely, or they’re opting for more sensible long-term programmes of weight-loss and weight maintenance. Let’s hope it’s the latter! As for me, I’m not so much thinking of next summer’s bikini as I am of Christmas: for me, shedding pounds between September and December is a matter of damage limitation, given that Christmas food is possibly my most favourite food on the entire planet. Now, where’s my Weight Watchers stuff?!

Tea, glorious tea

Part of my weight-loss programme normally involves an accelerated consumption of liquids to counteract the decreased amounts of food that I’m inevitably taking in. Liquids I tend to rely on during this time are coffee, Diet Coke, water, cup-a-soup, and tea. Tea is a particularly good one due to the sheer number of varieties available, and now I have another company’s teas to add to my ‘to try’ list: Lishi Teas source direct from China, where tea has long been respected for its medicinal properties. I particularly like the look of its chrysanthemum tea, which I’ve never heard of or tried. Designed to be mixed with green tea, they come from Anhui Province and are traditionally also mixed with goji berries and sugar. It’s also said to help with various ailments, including sore throats, fever, and acne – so if Lishi Tea can add more unusual and medicinal teas like this into their repertoire, chances are they’ll find me on their list of customers in the near future.

Fight illness with food

We’ve all heard of chicken soup for the soul – but now prestigious London restaurant Redhook is trying to fight illness with food. Hoping to raise funds to help those with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, on September 12th the restaurant will be holding an auction, with items to bid for including a boxing glove signed by Dizzee Rascal, and a Star Trek comic book signed by Sir Patrick Stewart. Tickets for the evening include cocktails on arrival, gourmet canapés, unique entertainment, automatic entry into a raffle for a fabulous weekend for two in Wales, and the opportunity to bid in the auction in support of Action Duchenne. Additionally, guests can purchase a bespoke three-course meal, designed for the evening by head chef Jeff Roxas-Green. Tickets for Auction Duchenne, which are £50 for the evening, and £80 to include the additional three course meal, are available from the Action Duchenne website: http://www.actionduchenne.org/auctionduchenne

Flying the flag for Red Tractor quality

Have you ever seen that red tractor logo on your food packaging and wondered what it meant? Look no further – Red Tractor Week, which runs from September 24 to September 30, should tell you everything you need to know. In short, though, you can take it as a hallmark of quality, a guarantee of origin, and a promise of environmental protection and animal welfare. The campaign is backed by stars of Coronation Street and Bad Girls, who aim to show how easy is it to buy, cook and eat Red Tractor foods. Red Tractor Week 2012 will involve a number of activities designed to educate shoppers on the availability and accessibility of Red Tractor products and the values behind the logo, including cook-along videos, an exclusive look ‘Behind the Logo’, a nationwide cookery competition and a regional schools initiative. To take part and find out more, visit www.redtractor.org.uk/RTW2012, where you can enter the Red Tractor cooking competition, and find out how to follow activities via Twitter and Facebook. You’ll find me there downloading their week-long meal plan!

Take your tractor to the Cake and Bake Show

Once you’re done embracing one of Britain’s most iconic logos, you can get on with embracing one of its biggest trends – baking – at the Cake and Bake Show (although actually, as it’s being held at Earls Court in London, you may have difficulty arriving by tractor!). Also taking place in September, the show stars Great British Bake Off judge Paul Hollywood, along with Richard Bertinet, renowned chocolatier Paul A Young, and many more. Don’t miss Mary Berry’s cake demonstrations, or the food market selling cakes, bread, pies and the latest baking equipment. And, for tiny bakers, there’ll be a children’s area headed up by Annabel Karmel – so prepare for stickiness (which, to be honest, with it being back to school time, you’re probably ready for anyway). Happy baking!

Ferret Food Monthly (July 2012) Tuesday, Jul 31 2012 

Staying hydrated this summer

When the sun is out, it’s perhaps not too tricky to stay hydrated as we are more likely to drink more and to consume foods with high water content, such as ice lollies, watermelon and gazpacho. However, as we all know, the sun doesn’t always stay out during the great British summer, so we could all use a bit more help at these time. Kimberly Snyder, author of The Beauty Detox Solution, has some suggestions for helping us to avoid drinks that are full of sugar and chemicals for optimal health and hydration. Try iced redbush mint tea (use one redbush teabag per person with lemon and mint to taste; make with hot water and then chill to perfection), basil lemonade (mix cold water with a quarter of the amount again of fresh lemon juice, and add basil to taste), or even – for a spicier option – coriander and jalapeno limeade! For the latter, mix equal amounts of lime juice and cold water with a quarter of the amount again of fresh coriander leaves. Add jalapeno pepper flesh to taste (try half a pepper per person to start), and then steep in hot water before chilling. I’ll definitely be trying these – rain or shine.

Drink around the world with the Goring hotel

With the Olympics on in London, there’s an international feel in the air, and now guests at the Goring Hotel can choose a further destination during their stay thanks to the hotel’s brand new bathing menu. Until September 15th, they can choose one of the five hotspots on offer (China, Madagascar, Florida, Guinea or Australia) and not only luxuriate in a Molton Brown bubble bath inspired by ingredients from the place, and have a candle of the same scent burning in the background, but also have a bath butler bring you a cocktail that’s been specially-created with the country in mind. Priced affordably at a clever price of £20.12, guests will be able to select from China’s Yuan Zhi fragrance and a lavender and blueberry martini, Florida’s revitalising vitamin bubble bath and the Goring’s signature champagne cocktail, Australia’s eucalyptus scent and a sour apple martini, Guinea’s pink pepperpod bath paired with a classic Cosmopolitan, or Madagascar’s black pepper bathing experience, expertly married with a majestic Manhattan.

Clocking the C-word

Believe it or not, July is the time when many companies begin gearing up for Christmas. So it’s no surprise that the Vegetarian Society is already armed to help those who are scratching their heads over what to feed their vegetarian family members this Crimbo. You can check out www.vegsoc.org/christmas from October for plenty of recipes, as well as hints, tips and gift ideas. Try celeriac and parsnip rosti with Cumberland sauce, or walnut and spiced plum Christmas cob for size! Or try the new Christmas pie recipe, which is packed with veg, chestnuts, hazelnuts and cranberries, and was created by the Vegetarian Society’s cookery school, Cordon Vert. Alex Connell, Principal Tutor at Cordon Vert, also offers a few tips, such as using olive oil rather than animal fat for roasting, trading meat sausages for vegetarian versions, serving nut roast alongside (or even instead of!) the Christmas bird, purchasing vegetarian wines, and even serving vegetarian haggis as another alternative main. So don’t worry, Rudolph – there are plenty of ways to eat veggie rather than venison.

Cran-tastic

The old wives’ tale of eating cranberries or drinking cranberry juice to combat UTIs has recently been confirmed in a review article in leading scientific medical journal Archives of Internal Medicine. Using cranberries to treat UTIs also helps to combat resistance to antibiotics when they really are needed, so all the more reason to hail this mighty berry. Cranberries are also well-known for their level of antioxidants, which can help to fight ageing, boost the immune and cardiovascular systems, and maybe even serve as an anti-cancer agent. But most importantly for a foodie like me – they taste delish. So tuck in 😀

One love, one coffee

Marley is back – on the food scene, that is. And it isn’t exactly Marley, but rather his son, Rohan, who’s burst onto the gourmet scene with his coffee company, Marley Coffee, which has just launched in the UK. Starting with three premium organic blends, Rohan aims to produce ethical coffees inspired by his reggae heritage and beliefs. These first three blends represent something for everyone – the One Love blend promises floral and fruity notes in its medium roast flavour, while the Buffalo Soldier’s dark roast contains undertones of smoke and chocolate. Finally, the Lively Up! blend is an espresso roast offering hints of cocoa, candied fruit and caramel. A proportion of all profits from this organic coffee company will also be given to Kicks for Cause, a foundation that aims to build soccer fields and camps for children of the coffee-producing communities around the world, enriching their lives through sport. Marley Coffee UK is also a supporter of the One Love Foundation, and will be hitting the road to spread the word (and the love) this summer at music festivals, including the Notting Hill Carnival.

Sunny Spain comes to Yorkshire

A Yorkshire businessman who was born in Spain is launching a premium Spanish food business to bring the best of his home country to British shores. Javier De La Hormaza will sell products such as Iberico ham and 100-year-old brandy in the catalogue of the perhaps surprisingly-named Grey’s Fine Foods. Currently delivering to delis, restaurants and private clients within Yorkshire, Javier sees a bright future for Grey’s with plans to begin deliveries in cities such as Liverpool, Leeds and Manchester in the next few years, combined with the launch of new Spanish gastro bar concept.

New summer menus take pride of place

Celebrity chef Angela Hartnett, already excelling in her work at the Whitechapel Gallery Restaurant, has also turned her hand to the lunch menu at the Murano (also in London). At £25 for a two-course menu, dishes include mint gnocchi, langoustine bisque, caramel parfait. Available from Monday to Saturday, it will run alongside a three course £30 lunch option and the weekly changing Market menu.

Luxury boutique hotel brand Malmaison has also given a tantalising teaser of its new summer menu to would-be guests and customers. Dishes include Cajun swordfish and a raspberry Charlotte Royale. The rejuvenation of the menu also extends to Malmaison’s cocktails, where consumers can now choose from various summer delights, including Coconut and Passionfruit Batidas, Brazilian Apple Blossom, and Rising Sun (made with tequila, lime, Tabasco, and Sauvignon Blanc). Perhaps you will even choose to stay at a Malmaison while contemplating your next trip to one of the festivals below?

It’s festival time!

Wannabe bakers will be rubbing their flour-dusted hands with glee at the prospect of The Real Bread Festival, which takes place at London’s Southbank Centre between the 5th and 7th of October. Attendees will be able to taste different concoctions and talk to prestigious bakers, including Richard Bertinet and Rose Prince. As well as covering breads of the world and gluten-free baking, among other topics, the festival will also provide a children’s area to keep even the tiniest of bakers entertained. The annual Cheese & Wine Festival is due to take place just a week later, this time in Southbank Centre Square, from October 12 to October 14. From tartiflette to cheese straws, you can be sure of it being there – and if you’re lucky, you might even spot a few wine legends milling around, such as Jancis Robinson and Oz Clarke.

Would-be chocolatiers will also not want to miss The Chocolate Festival , which takes place December 14-16. Exhibitors at the Southbank Centre will include Paul A Young, Valrhona, L’Artisan Du Chocolat and many more. Visitors will be able to eat and drink (trying such specialities as chocolate beer), shop, chat to chocolatiers, and learn about chocolate’s uses and health benefits through talks, tastings and demonstrations. Over 100,000 visitors are expected, so make sure you get there early!

Many ****s make light work

I’ll let you fill in the blank while you get to grips with Gordon Ramsay’s new range of food preparation appliances. Choose from the Prep ‘n’ Blend (Food Processor and Blender), the Blend Master (a unique Blender with handy Mill attachment), and the Blend ‘n’ Blitz (a multi-function blender) – all designed to inspire you and help prepare delicious food at home, with the affordable starting price point of £45. From making soup to crushing ice, grinding coffee beans to grinding spices, Gordon should be there to help you every step of the way thanks to the included booklet of exclusive recipes…with hopefully not too many ****s.

A meal with a view

In our family, we actively seek out meals with a view when we’re on holiday, without getting ripped off. So far favourites include the mountain-top destination of Font Romeu in France, and breakfast in Chiang Mai in Thailand. And here’s another one for you: Busaba Eathai, a restaurant two minutes’ walk from Olympic Park, offers panoramic views over the brand-new Aquatics Centre and a private dining hall that can seat 36 or offer a stand-up reception for 70. Bespoke menus are also available for that truly golden experience this Olympic summer.

London’s best deli offers picnic hamper for two

Just in case it isn’t raining, there are plenty of hampers being sold by main large retailers for the ultimate summer picnic. One example is being offered by boutique grocery shop Melrose and Morgan.  The hamper for two, which has been created by the kitchen voted London’s Best Deli in Rose Prince’s Good Produce Guide 2011, is priced at £44.95 for two and features food characteristic of Melrose and Morgan’s dedication to championing small-scale artisan producers. Melrose and Morgan’s chicken, leek and ham pie, Chegworth Valley strawberries and Neal’s Yard Dairy cheeses are a few examples of the seasonal British foods included for picnickers to enjoy. The hampers can be collected from Melrose and Morgan shops in Primrose Hill and Hampstead village.

Sweet by Levi Roots will get your mouth watering

If you didn’t make it to Roots’ recent masterclass at the Bertinet Kitchen, make sure you pre-order a copy of his new cookbook, Sweet. Roots’ latest batch of recipes is packed with ideas for irresistible cakes, bakes, biscuits, puddings, cocktails and coolers. Featuring recipes such as lime and ginger pie, cardamom and allspice brownies, and a Jamaican tiramisu, this book is the ultimate bible for anyone with a sweet tooth – and it’s out now 🙂 *adds to Amazon wishlist*

Dashing desserts celebrate Jubilee summer

A national group of country pubs has launched a cake to celebrate Her Majesty’s milestone with the help of Paul Hollywood (of “Great British Bake-off” fame). Chefs for Vintage Inns have created the Vintage Summer Cake, a triple-decker sponge cake with raspberries and blackcurrants, summer fruit syrup, cream and blueberry fruit, to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee. The patriotic pudding will feature exclusively on the Vintage Inns menu until the end of August and for every £3.95 slice Vintage Inns will donate 15p to Marie Curie Cancer Care.

But if you’re not really a ‘cake’ person (in which case, I’m not sure we’d get on…), you can always check out the new line of dairy-free desserts that’s recently launched at Tesco and Waitrose. Food Heaven is a brand new range of award-winning indulgent cheesecakes that are free from dairy, lactose, gluten and cholesterol. These come in two flavours – Sicilian Lemon and Summer Fruits – and have already won the Puddings and Desserts category of the 2012 Free From Food Awards. They are made in the UK’s only dedicated factory that is certified free from dairy, gluten, nut, egg, and meat – meaning vegans, those with allergies or just those trying to lead a healthier lifestyle can proceed with confidence.

And speaking of the sweet stuff…

Chocolate events company Chocolate Delight is offering a new two-day course, Fundamentals Of Chocolate, that could be the golden ticket to a dream job for anyone dreaming of a new life as a chocolatier. Or, if you’re just wanting to take your chocolate-making skills to the next level, there’s the one-day Advanced Chocolate course. These courses cover everything from speciality moulding to the legal aspects of selling chocolate you’ve made yourself. Both courses take place at the family-owned Chocolate Boutique Hotel in Bournemouth on midweek dates until April 2013. Complimentary refreshments and lunch are provided, and specially discounted room rates at the hotel are available too for those who wish to stay overnight. Sounds good to me – and as I’ve already treated my husband to a wine-tasting course this year, he may consider this an appropriate gift in return this Christmas *hint hint*…

English wine, eh?

While my husband is perfectly receptive to English wine, he’s still more knowledgeable on the stuff produced in the land of the froggies. So he may be interested in the English wines tasted during English Wine Week this year to pair with South Devon crab. The 2010 Sharpham Estate Selection from South Devon Sharpham Estate was pronounced the winner, with an honourable mention given to Knowle-based Lily Farm’s Brut Sparkling Rosé. The panel taking part in the blind tasting of 16 wines from an assortment of producers across Devon consisted of wine writer Susy Atkins, Master of Wine Xenia Irwin, local wine merchant Nick Borst-Smith, Ben Foster of Newton Wines, James Dart from Dart’s Farm and Jonathan Woollatt from Chris Piper Wines. They tasted wines from a variety of south-west producers including some located in Totnes, Topsham, Bickleigh and St George, to name a few.

[image]Devon is home to some of the UK’s best-renowned and award- winning vineyards which produce some classic wines. “Devon’s wine scene is now exciting, modern, dynamic – as the line-up in this blind tasting showed,” said Susy Atkins.

Visitors will have the opportunity to try the winning wine alongside other drinks when they attend one of the new and extended 2012 crab festival events at Dartmouth, Dawlish Warren and Teignmouth.

Put a zing in your step with ZEO

  • Intro to ZEO

Not everybody likes wine, though, and luckily there are plenty of alternatives out there. Launched for this summer, ZEO is a new drink with a blend of natural essences and extracts from the flora of all continents, designed to chill, warm and tingle. These extracts include trees, virgin flowers, wild berries, fresh green herbs, grains and exotic spices. As a non-alcoholic option, it means that everyone can enjoy the party, and is now available in select premium bars across the UK. It’s perfect served with a citrus twist of your choice, or even as part of an alcoholic cocktail: mix with gin or absinthe, serve as part of a fruit punch, or make a ZEO version of a Dirty Martini. Available now, it should provide a zingingly refreshing twist to the summer of 2012.

Back to earth…and to the scales

With the summer comes the eating of many delicious goodies. And since what goes up must come down, this inevitably means that with the end of the summer comes the dreaded diet. But it need not be awful. Thankfully there are many ways to achieve weight-loss goals, from the wonderful to the wacky. I’ll take you through a few of the latest. Rebecca Kane’s newest book, Turn Your Shine On, emphasises a raw food diet but recognises the difficulties in implementing a 100% raw philosophy into daily life. He[image]r book promises to strengthen people’s relationships with food, enable them to lose weight if needed, and to improve their confidence. Other possible health benefits include the amelioration or even elimination of IBS, migraines and tiredness.
Turn Your Shine On provides healthy eating plans, and encourages users to progress at a pace that’s right for them. The aim is to make raw food seem quick, easy and delicious, rather than just something other people do. For quicker results, you could also try Boot Camp In A Bottle – a zero-calorie drink containing  psyllium seeds and husks, bentonite clay and activated willow charcoal. When mixed with water it expands to 20 times its weight, helping dieters to feel fuller for longer, and allowing energy to be released from stored fat. Fortified with vitamins and minerals, it also ensures you have everything you need for the day. Boot Camp In A Bottle is available through bootcampfoods.com, via telephone on 0800 644 1864, or at a number of independent pharmacies and health food shops. Just make sure when you diet that you stay safe, have a good support network, and consult medical professionals when needed. Have a d-lightful summer 🙂

Ferret Food Monthly: Sept/Oct 2011 Sunday, Oct 30 2011 

Special Christmas foods now hitting shelves

Christmas seems to get earlier and earlier every year (not that I’m complaining!) and food retailers are no exception to this, rolling out new products in the hope of making life easier for the Christmas cook and making a quick buck along the way. The Secret Kitchen, for instance, counts a white wine and porcini finishing sauce (to garnish chicken, pork and white fish), a chocolate peppermint sauce (for hot chocolate and desserts) and a mochaccino cookie mix among its newest innovations. Vimto is also launching a new drink to celebrate the festive season: its Hot Mulled Berry Punch blends the original Vimto flavour with spices for a brand new drink which can be drank hot or cold, alone or as a mixer for a hot winter cocktail (and all for £1.89/725ml at Tesco from November 21!). In addition, celebrity chef James Martin has launched an exclusive range of his own brand products with Highland Fayre, creating luxury gift hampers, boxes and baskets that include signed gift cards and James Martin cookbooks. Containing fine wines, relishes, cakes, preserves, handmade chocolates and more, the hampers are suitable for all occasions and budgets. The ultimate gift, though, perhaps comes in the form of a collaboration between The Antique Wine Company and British design house Linley: its rosewood, ebony and satinwood box is being made in a limited edition run of 50, housing five of the finest bottles of Bordeaux. Containing a bottle each of Château Lafite Rothschild 2003, Château Latour 1982, Château Mouton Rothschild 1986, Château Margaux 2000 and Château Haut Brion 1989, you’ll need money to burn: this classic coffret will set you back £12,800.

Calorie counting

I can’t be the only one to feel that one method of preparation for Christmas is to overcompensate in the months before by increasing the proportions of diet and exercise. It would appear that others do feel the same way, as now more than 1000 McDonalds restaurants in Britain have begun displaying the calories in each item on their menus, following trends in New York City. Other chains that have signed up to the British calorie display programme include KFC, Pizza Hut and Starbucks.

But there are also other ways and means to drop some weight should you feel so inclined: David Kirsch’s Thermo Bubbles are the latest Hollywood trend in the form of a supplement that you add to your drinks to help you maintain your fitness and wellness goals. Tasting of pink lemonade, the supplement contains two blends of vitamins, herbs and minerals to boost energy levels and metabolism, curb appetite, and promote lean muscle mass. Said to be 100% natural, the supplement contains no artificial colours or flavours and can be added directly to water. It’s available at Space NK for £37.

Hypno-Aromacology Programming also allegedly makes it possible to naturally shed pounds – this time by tricking your brain into eating the right foods. Philip Winston, an Oxford-based clinical hypnotherapist, creates a “virtual gastric band” that is food-specific. Following an individual client consultation, Winston uses hypnotherapy and aromacology to “rewire” the client’s tastes and desires.

There’s an app for that

It’s also unsurprising that most smartphones also now have apps to help to keep you on the straight and narrow – and more new diet-related ones are out this month. Those with coeliac disease – as well as those with other food allergies or intolerances – can use the FoodWiz to help them make ‘safe’ food selections when out shopping. The constant vigilance that’s often required for those with food allergies and intolerances can often be time-consuming, boring, difficult and frustrating – and it’s something FoodWiz aims to help with. The app has the full cooperation of the major supermarkets, who have shared their food databases for the first time with a third party: the FoodWiz team. By simply inputting ingredients they wish to avoid, and scanning barcodes in store, shoppers can safely choose appropriate foods.

The NutraCheck app also scans barcodes to help shoppers keep track of their diets. Once a barcode has been scanned, it is added to a food diary which tots up daily calorie intake and helps dieters on the road to successful weight loss. Its UK food database contains over 100,000 foods and weights and measures are also tailored to UK users. The app  also shows how many calories you have left for the day on the home screen icon, without the need to open it, and gives access to the Nutracheck online slimming community for instant support and advice. Weight loss progress is also shown in a graph for immediate updates and motivation.

And to undo it all…

…there are naturally plenty of cookery courses available in the run-up to the holiday season. Ashburton Cookery School is on hand to help you cook the perfect Christmas dinner in just one day thanks to its time-saving tips and advice, as well as inspiring recipes and key organisational skills that can come in handy from canapés to Christmas pudding. Six one-day courses, each priced at £149, are available throughout December. For the oenophiles among you, a Food and Wine Matching Masterclass at the AWC Wine Academy with Saturday Kitchen star and wine writer Susy Atkins could be right up your alley. Taking place on December 7th from 11.00-13.00, the £95 course promises to show you how to match eight fine wines with traditional festive dishes (which will be served in canapé form). Wines will include classic reds from Bordeaux and Rioja, Champagne, Riesling from Germany/Australia, a white Burgundy, and a tawny port.

You could of course always do one better and fly out to Carcassonne in France to prepare yourself for yuletide. Owing to last-minute cancellations on the French House Party Carcassonne’s flagship cookery course, the Gourmet Explorer has spaces available at the unbelievable price of £950 – usual cost £1400 for single travellers. The all-inclusive course includes cookery tuition from not one, but two master-chefs who run their own multi-star restaurants in the Carcassonne region.  Transfers from Toulouse or Carcassonne airports are also included, as well as two meals out at restaurants and various other outings.

Public health: meat-eating and alcohol

As a lapsed vegetarian (crossed over to the dark side for 1-2 years before realising I would be moving to France, where resistance would clearly be futile), I would still call myself a veggie sympathiser: even today, I don’t eat meat/fish every day and see no need to. I was therefore pleased to see the distribution of a paper to all MPs recommending a plant-based diet as a way to ease the strain on public health systems. “Plant-Based Diets: a solution to our public health crisis” shows leading physicians revealing their belief that such a switch would reduce the incidence and cost of various menacing maladies, such as cancer, obesity and heart disease. With over 60% of the population being overweight or obese, the release of the paper is very timely indeed. But vegetarianism or veganism are still not magic bullets: plenty of people who already follow these diets still sadly succumb to these diseases. However, we may as well give ourselves a good chance to begin with. Even if we just go meat-free a few days a week, that, in my view, is better than consuming meat and fish every day.

John Dalli, the European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy, also addressed the 9th plenary meeting of the European Alcohol and Health Forum in Brussels. Commissioner Dalli appealed to industry, civil society and the public health community to strengthen efforts to protect young people from alcohol-related harm. According to the most recent European surveys, half of school children aged 15 to16 years have drunk alcohol in the past month – despite the minimum drinking age being 18 in most EU countries. The Commissioner will stress the need to step up action, especially when it concerns young people. His speech is available here, and more information can also be found on the Alcohol and Health Forum. But I think it is important, too, to avoid being reactionary: in my experience, safe introduction of small amounts of alcohol within a child’s home can help to demystify alcohol and minimise the appeal of binge drinking.

Choco-tastic

But since we all need to have fun sometimes, I think that Bristol-based chocolate company Feeding Your Imagination’s recent four Gold stars from the Great Taste Awards for their Fairtrade chocolate bars is worth celebrating. The bars weigh 100g and have irreverent names such as Sensual, Sexy and Seductive. The hand-made chocolates also go beyond deliciousness by using natural essential oils and herbs to bring therapeutic properties to the eating experience. The Sexy bar brings chilli to the mix, while Sensual uses orange oil and nutmeg alongside a hint of chilli. While these bars won a star each, Seductive won two stars for its combination of ginger, jasmine green tea, and goji berries. With the essential oils helping to create a “massage from within”, and fifteen bars in the range to choose from, this would certainly be a unique gift for any chocoholic.

Counting down to Christmas in chocolate form is also hardly new, but FotoInsight hopes to combine the traditional chocolate advent calendar with happy family memories in its special Advent calendars with your own picture and 24 chocolate balls in festive wrapping as an alternative to mass produced advent calendars. Out now, each calendar costs £9.99.

A hug for the tummy from across the miles

If you can’t be with friends and family – at any time of year – it’s always great to be able to let them know you’re thinking of them. Whether it’s care packages for students at uni from worried parents, or birthday gifts being sent from afar, Muffin Heaven believes it has the answer with its cake delivery service. Its indulgent and supersized £12 Muffin Hugs are hand made in Devon from all natural ingredients and do not contain any preservatives. They are individually decorated and wrapped, and adorned with a personal message. For an extra £1 muffins can be accessorised with a sparkler or candle. Choose from four mouth-watering and irresistible flavours: Carrot, Orange and Cinnamon, Rocky Road, Double Chocolate Hug and Strawberries and Cream. Or, for Christmas, select a limited-edition flavour: White Chocolate & Cranberry, Chocolate Cherry Brandy, Rum and Raisin, or Christmas Spices.