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I can clearly remember the first time I tasted maple syrup. My brother had a friend from Canada and one year he came back from his holidays with a little glass bottle of viscous amber liquid for us. I’d never tasted anything quite like it: silky textured and distinctively flavoured, like honey, but not and sweet as sweet can be.
We treasured that tiny container – this was a treat from all the way from across the pond with little likelihood of being replaced – and eked it out in little portions. My favourite way to eat this syrup, bizarrely, was straight up, poured over raw porridge oats and left to macerate for a few minutes until the mixture became beautifully soft and sweet. I’m sure my dentist – and my Mum – would have any number of objections but in my defence, this odd concoction probably wasn’t so very much worse than any of the sugar filled breakfast cereal options out there nowadays (it’s a tenuous excuse, but I’m sticking to it). Continue reading
Summer is coming to an end.
While the last few days have seen warmer temperatures and clear blue skies, there’s an autumnal note in the air. Darkness draws in earlier each evening and there’s a coldness first thing in the morning, a reminder of frosts to come in the not too distant future. Holidays in Spain and Italy are fading to a distant memory of long, lazy days, hazy heat, bare limbs in the evening breeze.
But I’m not letting go without a fight. Continue reading
Flaky pastry, sweet, smooth filling & cool, creamy ice cream
For the last few days we’ve been eating our way around a small portion of the North of England. Our helping sizes, on the hand, have been rather large.
It all kicked off with a family wedding in Yorkshire on Thursday. In the unexpected (but wonderful) warm weather we feasted on three courses of stomach filling stuff – think greedy servings of soufflé, rare roast beef with Yorkshire puddings and thick lemon tart – before retiring for an afternoon of champagne and sunshine followed by an evening of even more food (in the form of dainty canapés, think crispy bacon scallops, miniature meringues and everything in between. Continue reading
How far would you go to find the perfect croissant?
With so many wonderful bakeries in the city, Londoners like me are lucky enough to have some pretty amazing options on our doorstep. Fancy venturing a little further afield? France is your obvious answer, synonymous with the very best croissants in the world and only a couple of hours away. Doable in a day, definitely, and not so completely crazy if you’re really on a mission to find that perfect pastry.
I’m going to throw another option into the mix. How about we travel for twenty two hours, averaging around 500 miles per hour, covering nearly 11,000 miles and ending up in Surry Hills, an inner-city suburb of Sydney, Australia? We’ll head for Bourke Street, number 633 to be precise, and before you can even begin to feast your eyes on the incredible array of bread, cakes and pastries displayed in the window, you’ll detect the irresistible smell of butter and baking that draws Sydney-siders to Bourke Street Bakery like moths to an irresistible, edible flame. Continue reading
Crisp pastry, a sharp layer of lemon & pillows of light mascarpone cream
Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better – Samuel Beckett
I think that awful moment when a recipe goes wrong is one that we can all relate to. While some people may have many more of these moments than others, whether you’re working in a Michelin starred restaurant or a Bridget Jones-type sheepishly scooping string from a blue soup, you’ll have experienced the horror of a major recipe fail in one way or another. Be it an overflowing tart tin, a sunken cake, a loaf left in the oven too long or mistakenly substituting sugar with salt, everyone is subject to these kitchen mishaps once in a while. Not everyone admits to them, of course, but they definitely do happen.
While no-one wants their cooking to be a catalogue of complete disasters, failure isn’t always such a bad thing. Experimentation – whether planned or otherwise – leads to innovation, and some of the world’s favourite foods can be attributed to the fortuitous mistakes of their creators – just think of Ruth Wakefield’s discovery of the chocolate chip cookie when pieces of chocolate in her Butter Drop Dos failed to melt properly. A world without the chocolate chip cookie would be a very sad place indeed. Continue reading
In between school and university I took a year out. I’d originally intended to head straight on to my next level of studies, but as friends around me started to plan their various adventures abroad, it dawned on me that this kind of opportunity is pretty much once in a lifetime. When again, until you’re of retirement age, do you get the chance to take a whole year to yourself, to see the world, try new things, do what you want and go where you please?
I spent the first half of the year working in this restaurant to save money for my trip. Working long hours on London wages and living at home with no rent, I managed to save up enough to spend the next three months in South America and another two in Thailand and Australia. The year was unforgettable and – as with most of my memories – could easily be measured in experiences with food; from clearing tables and calling checks to drinking pisco sours and eating ceviche, discovering pad thai and tom yum, picking beetroot out of sandwiches (the downside of Australia . . .) and enjoying BBQs on the beach (. . . the definite up-side). Surprising then, that with all the unusual sights, sounds and smells on offer, one of my most enduring memories of food from our travels is that of the ice cream. Continue reading
Crisp pastry, nutty caramelized custard & soft sweet pears – the perfect dessert
With Christmas just a distant memory and Spring still a fair way off (despite the bizarrely unseasonal arrival of daffodil or two), it feels like comfort food should be firmly on the foodie agenda. I was therefore excited to discover that over the coming weeks The Guardian will be giving away a series of 36 collectable recipe cards tackling this very subject. With contributions from seven stellar chefs including Yottam Ottolenghi, Angela Hartnett and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, the recipes on offer look set to be a little more exciting than your standard soups and stews, promising to inject some serious flavour into the dark, cold evenings ahead. Continue reading
The perfect alternative festive pud?
There’s something about Christmas that can bring out a militant side in the most relaxed of people. Those who at other times of the year will happily go with the flow suddenly become sticklers for tradition, asserting their right to enjoy the season’s festivities exactly as they’re used to them. This differs from family to family, but the same Christmas conversation seems to take place on an annual basis amongst my friends; we list the dishes we always eat, the smoked salmon starters or lack thereof, the bubbly opened at breakfast, turkeys basted, potatoes roasted and enforced enjoyment (or not) of the dreaded brussels sprout. While dishes might vary from household to household (turkey is traditional, others go for goose, etc) there seems to be one constant; people stick to what they know at Christmas. With a few exciting elements thrown in perhaps, but generally speaking, if Mum’s mince pies or Granny’s incredible gravy don’t feature, there’s going to be trouble.
Can you guess the secret ingredient?
You’ll either love this recipe, or you’ll hate it. Such is the divisive power of Marmite.
Or so their ad men would have you believe. In reality, the lines of this savoury stand-off are slightly more blurred. Of course you get the obsessives who buy into the brand at every level – from crisps and cheddar bites to Marmite-flavoured chocolate – and the haters, who recoil at the mere mention of the word. But there are also a small percentage of people who fall into a murky middle ground, who’d never choose to spread it on their toast, but would nibble on a Twiglet or stir the occasional spoon into gravy. Continue reading