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London chocolatier William Curley has just broken a Guinness World Record by making the world’s most expensive (non-jewel encrusted) chocolate Easter egg ever auctioned.

The 110-pound chocolate Easter egg sold for £7,000 and was bought by technology investor Cyrus Vandrevala (we know that chocolate has a long shelf life, or will he be breaking £200 bits off to share with friends?)

How does it taste? We’ll never know but it took seven  chocolatiers in Curley’s  kitchen three days to hand make it using Venezuelan chocolate, and it’s filled with a mix of Curley chocs – muscovado caramel, rosemary and olive oil, Japanese black vinegar, toasted sesame and juniper berry and cassis, and embellished in edible gold leaf.

The egg-straordinary concoction, called the Golden Speckled Egg, was auctioned as part of the Faberge Easter Egg Hunt, currently raising money for the charities Action for Children and Elephant Family. Over 200 enormous eggs, over two feet tall have been hidden around London and the hunt ends on Easter Monday.

Meanwhile…a health warning. If you eat too many chocolate eggs over Easter you might not be able to fit into one!

HAPPY EASTER!

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Our regular attempts to give up chocolate have all been a fail but we’ve found a chocolatey loophole! Chocolate that really tastes like chocolate but is completely sugar-free.  Cavalier’s luxury bars are sweetened with Stevia which was discovered by a Swiss-Italian scientist in Paraguay in 1887…anyway, fast forward to “now” and it’s already taken off as the healthy new sweetener and if you’re a botanist you’ll know it’s extracted from a South American plant.

But forget botany, back to the chocolate! The crispy white bar (right) is divine, the two milk versions (one with nuts) are delicious and the dark bar is very dark, with cocoa nibs – the white and the milk chocolate with hazlenuts were our favourites.

The bars are all Fairtrade, suitable for diabetics and available at various retailers including ChocBox

Do they celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in Russia? We don’t know (if you do, Tweet us @FoodShortlist!)

Ireland’s one of our all time favourite places, the food’s fantastic, the people are warm and there’s something magical about The Emerald Isle and the spirit of the Irish, so here’s a toast to St. Paddy’s Day! Best enjoyed with a large Guinness, or an Emerald Isle Cocktail or two.

The Emerald Isle

45ml Russian Standard Vodka

45ml kiwi fruit juice

20ml lime juice

10ml basil sugar syrup

1 teaspoon sugar

Shake ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled martini glass, garnish with a slice of kiwi.

www.russianstandardvodka.com (available at Tesco’s)

Quick vodka history lesson…At the imperial court in St Petersburg, the Tsars of Russia were legendary for demanding only the finest in luxury and quality and their national drink – vodka – was no exception. In 1894, Dmitri Mendeleev, a brilliant Russian scientist received the decree to set the Imperial quality standard for Russia vodka and the ‘Russian Standard’ was born. (And so were a lot of cocktails, we imagine?)

Russian Standard Vodka is distilled in St Petersburg using winter wheat from the Russian Steppes, pure glacial water from Lake Ladoga. And equally enjoyable in a Russian snow-covered landscape, or on a sunny spring day in the UK…

The Food Shortlist will be back in early summer (due to a high volume of editorial work coming in, we just haven’t had the time needed to dedicate to the blog – our sister beauty blog The Beauty Shortlist www.thebeautyshortlist.com has been very greedy and taking up  a big chunk of time lately and rather unexpectedly, with the first ever Beauty Shortlist Awards 2012 coming up in April).

So we’ll be posting occasional food news as mini hors d’oeuvres on The Food Shortlist over the next few weeks, and be back, just in time for a very British summer, soon!

PS: This seriously summery montage of fruit, cream and French deliciousness is an Eric Lanlard  masterpiece (photo courtesy of Channel 4 Food). Feeling inspired? The recipe for his Genoise sponge cake with summer berries is HERE

 

 

Eightpointnine.com

We love new food-related ideas…and we love offers!  So read on, coffee connoisseurs because today’s post is about clever coffee. Does an artisan blend that you blended online sound good? And what if it  then winged its way to you?  No sitting in warehouses or supermarket shelves…super fresh, personalised, Fairtrade – and very good!

1)  Head over to www.eightpointnine.com

2) Tell them how you like your coffee – you “click and slide” along the coffee-ometer to get the coffee mix/fix you like (indicating light/mellow/rich and fresh/sweet/spicy – the sort of flavours and body and mouth feel you prefer)

3) Give your coffee a name (ours is Shortlist Sweetie – rich and sweet!)

4) Select espresso/filter/cafetiere/just beans

5) Place order

6) Check your letterbox – the 150g pack is flat, so it fits most letterboxes.

Artfully-blended coffee, rushed to your door.  £5.89 a box (makes approx. 16 cups).

USE  the code “SHORTLIST” when you place your order and not only will you get the 1st box free, the 2nd will be half price.

What are we drinking? “Shortlist Sweetie” –  cafetiere, and it’s rich, sweet, 96% Colombian, 2% Brazilian, 2% Costa Rican.

(Or use their GrandCru service and they’ll send you their choice of top quality world coffee blend each week!)

I once stayed at a stunning hotel in the middle of Andalucia where they’d gone as far as to embroider my name on the bath robe (this was a press trip and clearly they thought I was someone else from Vogue or Food & Travel mag?)

Anyway, the bed was a heavenly nest, there were more flowers in the grounds than at the Chelsea Flower Show, and the restaurant was out of this world. But was there tea in the suite?  (No). And the restaurant was a five minute walk across a courtyard – not ideal at 8am in your slippers.

I’ve been meaning to feature Bloom for a while, having sampled their fabulous fivesome.  Beautifully packaged, the teas come in silky “pyramids” – my favourite was their Energising Earl Grey blend with blue cornflowers, lemon and orange in the mix – the perfect  4pm pick-me-up.

So why not treat yourself to a tea-tox? (Use code TTOX for 15% off till Feb 1st)

http://www.bloomtea.co.uk  Also at Harvey Nichols Food Market and Planet Organic.

Tucked away in fashionable Heddon Street, just off Regent Street and south of Hamleys toy store is Tibits, a Swiss-run deli-cafe style restaurant. And it just happens to serve some of the best – and healthiest – veggie food in London.

It’s easy to knock vegetarian restaurants, especially if you’re a meat eater.  Bland tofu and bean sprouts, dull lentils, too much green on one plate…and where’s the protein?

Forget those – this is Tibits.  How about creative rainbow salads, beautifully dressed? Too many to list here but even the simplest  butternut squash salad with toasted sesame seeds in a white balsamic vinaigrette was fantastic.  Alongside spectacular salads were contemporary Indian, Asian and Mediterranean-style appetisers and creative combos of lentils, beans and greens. Up to 40 salads in all are on offer daily – just fill your plate, then weigh-and-pay (not a concept the British are used to).

Tibits is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner so you can linger over an almond croissant and a creamy cappuccino or meet for cocktails and hot food after work;  they also do take out.  I stopped by for lunch before Christmas with a friend to celebrate her birthday and arrived early as we hadn’t seen each other for ages.  Soon, an eclectic crowd including some obvious regulars were popping in and by the time lunch hour was in full swing the place was filling up.

The food is super fresh and changes with the seasons.  Tibits is the closest thing to the Californian deli-cafe concept I’ve come across in London, all done in perfect Swiss style.  Gordon Ramsay, Leona Lewis, Alan Davies, Gail Porter and other celebs have been spotted here and both Sy and I will be heading back next time we’re anywhere near Regent Street.

www.tibits.co.uk

These little lovelies are “snow dusted” shiny hand-moulded festive caramels and there are 12 in this box – one for each of the 12 Days of Christmas!  If you’re thinking along traditional caramel lines, these are very different! The CRANBERRY has a smooth caramel filling enriched with a fruity cranberry, the SPICED APPLE (a “Great Taste” award winner) blends gently roasted cinnamon and sweet heritage apples….like a delicate puree of spiced apples wearing a silky chocolatey coat. And MIXED CITRUS, a burst of Christmas cheer, all encapsulated into one rotund little caramel. Orange, mandarin and tangerine Yuletide heaven.

Made with ripe winter fruit, and rich Jersey cream, these are part of Demarquette’s eclectic artisan collection.

Discover the collection DEMARQUETTE here, and find DEMARQUETTE here.

Marc Demarquette, the most awarded UK Chocolatier of 2010.  

 

 

Everyone should have a bottle of this in the larder to help ward off winter bugs  – it’s delicious.  And when summer comes around again, you can mix this with Club Soda and a slice of lemon for an instant, refreshing spritzer or drink it “straight” just mixed with water.

But back to frosty nights and nippy days… The New Zealand Honey Company have put Lemon Juice, Manuka Honey, a touch of Apple Cider Vinegar and Vitamin C into this lovely tasting cordial which tastes as close to home made as you can get.  So next time a sore throat lurks or you feel like a healthy hot toddy at the end of the day, it’s your instant hot lemon and honey straight from the cupboard. Voila!

And on the right, blackcurrant fans will like the Blackcurrant and Manuka Honey version, packed with antioxidants.

At Waitrose 330ml/ £3.56

www.newzealandhoneyco.com/healthy_honey_drinks

Olives et Al have put the sunshine back into the British winter this season – they do amazing olives, spicy Dukkah and Tapenade Provencale,  just three of their tempting treats.

If your salads have been looking limp and loveless lately, how about these exotic solutions:  a drizzle of Pink Mojito, inspired by the Cayman Islands or a splash of Orange & Shallot?

Too many good things to talk about here, so why not take a mini global food trip at www.olivesetal.co.uk   and drool over their other delights….meanwhile, we love their BIG HUGE HAMPER £45, and if you’re an onion marmalade lover,  look no further – this STICKY ONION MARMALADE  is 650g of incredible unctuousness for £6.50.  (PS:  if you’ve never heard of Rosemary & Sea Salt Reganas you’ll spot them in the pic!)

The lovely people at Britain’s most famous garlic “brand”, The Garlic Farm in the Isle of Wight, have squeezed this temptingly tasty trio into one long box.  There’s a moreish Toasted Garlic Mayonnaise, a Mint Sauce with Garlic (not overwhelmingly garlicky, they’ve got the balance just right) and a very good Horseradish Mustard with Garlic – thankfully, not so hot that it’ll blow your head off.

The trio will be making an appearance on Christmas and Boxing Day here, but in the meantime try  the Toasted Garlic Mayo  spread on grilled rustic bread,  topped with roasted cherry tomatoes for a quick work-at-home supper – delicious.

The Garlic Farm Condiment Pack £10.50

Explore the glorious world of garlic and more festive foodie gifts here, at one of the UK’s few and far between garlic producers The Garlic Farm  – as seen on BBC2’s Great British Food Revival recently.

 

 

Hotel Chocolat Christmas Stocking

Tangerines? Bah humbug!  Give us a chocolate fix instead!

We checked into our favourite Hotel this week and found this festive stocking… in it you’ll find a selection of chocolatey treats: Tiddly White Santas • Milk Chocolate Drops • Milk Chocolate Reindeer Lick • Cool Penguin and a 100g Slab.

We’ve got our eye on those Tiddly White Santas, but if they disappear early there’s always that Reindeer Lick.

www.hotelchocolat.co.uk

£22  Christmas Stocking

From the people that brought us the most British cordial of the summer – Bottlegreen’s Elderflower Cordial – comes the most festive non-alcoholic drink of the year…

Best enjoyed with a Frank Sinatra Christmas album while the chestnuts are crackling on the fire, or warm your fingers around a mug of it in the nippy air while adding a few finishing touches to the snowman.

Deep, fruity and grown up, it’s delicious hot – or just add to warm red wine for an instant mulled wine.

The clever people at Bottlegreen have filled each long-necked bottle with Cotswold spring water, the juice of blackcurrants, aronia berries (like cranberries but with a whopping amount of antioxidants and Vitamin C – more than even goji berries),  cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, lemon and orange.

Bottlegreen are looking for berry good cocktail ideas so why not have a go to win a hamper full of Bottlegreen drinks in their Clever Cocktail competition?  Enter here

£2.99, makes 22 drinks, at Waitrose, Tesco and other retailers. www.bottlegreendrinks.com

CARLUCCIO’S CANDIED CLEMENTINE PIECES IN DARK CHOCOLATE

Here’s a Christmas favourite, the quintessential chocolate orange – but better!  Open the box and nestled inside are candied clementine segments from Calabria just dripping in dark chocolate.  Bite through the chocolatey coating and an oh-so-slightly syrupy burst of succulent Italian orange sunshine floods your taste buds.

Sweet but grown up, marmalade lovers will love them and chocoholics will thank you for not giving them the usual “box of chocs”.

Lots more beautifully packaged Christmas food gifts in Carluccio’s Festa di Natale range to drool over, here:

www.carluccios.com/shop-online … ahh, you have to see these mini gianduja crackers!

300g/£16.95

PS: What does “in Camicia” mean?  We think it literally means “in shirts”, in which case they’re the best-dressed clementines we’ve tasted this year.

It’s beginning to taste a lot like Christmas.  Reindeers, chocolatiers, clementines and tangerines…we’ll be featuring the very best of festive flavours this season when Food Shortlist’s first Christmas Countdown kicks off next week!

We’ll also be featuring treats from Carluccio’s  (like the Pandolce di Genova in the pic) who’ve raised over £550,000 for Action Against Hunger to date www.carluccios.com/about-us/action-against-hunger.

Food Shortlist recently donated £110 to the charity www.actionagainsthunger.org.uk as a result of our 5p-Follow-Twitter campaign in September (see our 5p-Follow page),  you’ll find them at @ACF_UK .

So…if there are any  fabulous food producers or celebrity chefs out there  who’d like to add to, or maybe even match our £110 donation and really raise the fundraising bar in the countdown to Christmas, let us know and we’ll help spread the word on Twitter.  ‘Tis the season for sharing and we can’t think of any better way of celebrating than spreading the warmth.

And, if you’re an indie artisan food or drink company, or just want to get in touch, we’d love to hear from you. We’re Tweeting about eating @FoodShortlist!

About fifteen years ago I was in Vancouver one Saturday just before Christmas. It was a  chilly afternoon, slightly foggy, and just as daylight started to fade, snow started to fall like icing sugar from heaven, dusting the pavements and parked cars.

Time for a hot cup of coffee. Tempted  by the glowing orange window of a specialist coffee shop I ventured in. It turned out it wasn’t just a coffee shop, it was a whole tea and coffee emporium. There were rare, exotic blends displayed in tiny wooden boxes, gold embossed tins that looked like square gold bars and large glass jars.  I was peering at the tea labels, to see where each tea was from when a tall, handsome tea “guru” who could have been soul singer Maxwell’s brother appeared from nowhere.  Soon we were on a whirlwind tea tour.  In the end I chose some chai, which Mr. ‘Maxwell’ wrapped up in a glossy gold foil pack and green gauze ribbon. I walked back to the hotel in the snow with my little package of “new discovery” chai tea gleaming like a gold Christmas decoration.

Steenbergs Organic Christmas Tea reminds me of that Saturday in Vancouver.  A fusion between mulled wine and tea, this chai tea is slightly spicy and very warming, it’s hand blended in small batches at the Steenbergs Tea factory in North Yorkshire to Axel Steenberg’s own secret recipe. It’s a mix of organic black tea from POABS Estates in Kerala along with cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, ginger, vanilla and orange peel – all Fairtrade/organic.  It’s a lovely winter’s evening tea, and a good afternoon pick-me-up if your energy levels are flagging a bit.  The tin’s lovely too – hide the chocolate biscuits it in when you’ve finished the tea.

STEENBERGS ORGANICS Organic Christmas Tea (loose)

£5.50/125g  (free UK delivery for all orders over £20)

How to make it: You can brew it like normal tea and add milk if you’re in a hurry or at the office, but simmering 500ml water and 500ml milk together with a little honey or sugar and 4tsp of the organic Christmas chai tea for about 4 – 5 minutes takes the spiciness and aromas to a different level (careful though, don’t boil it).

Tillmans of Sweden ORGANIC LINGONBERRY CORDIAL

After a few swigs of this – you’re supposed to mix it with water but it tastes delicious neat – I was hooked.  I love cranberry juice but it can be slightly bitter but this cordial tasted like a sort of grown up Ribena (minus all the sugar).  Not blackcurranty, but bursting with berry flavour, like a sweet, rich cranberry, slightly mellow and fruitier.

There’s something quite Christmassy about this Lingonberry Cordial…the rich ruby colour, the berry nice taste,  and Tillmans have got the ratio between the fruit and added organic sugar just right.  Perfect for stylish cocktails but also perfect alone, if you’re a berry fan, you’ll love the rest of the range . Tillmans’ other organic berry-based cordials include Blackcurrant, Raspberry & Redcurrant, Rhubarb, Elderflower, Strawberry and Cherry www.swedishjuice.com/product.html

Lingonberries are packed with vitamin C and anthocyanins, antioxidants that help keep blood vessels healthy, and the berries have anti-inflammatory qualities, so it’s not just delicious, this cordial’s good for you.

 

TILLMANS OF SWEDEN LINGONBERRY CORDIAL

£4.61 for 500ml, available online from GoodnessDirect

 

In his warm and (utterly) wonderful first book, Daniel Galmiche says he apparently stood in the middle of the kitchen (aged 5) and announced, “When I grow up, I’m going to be a chef!”  (Make that a Michelin one).  And at the end of his personal intro he adds, “…if you use this cookbook on a regular basis, it will make me very happy.”

Well “oui” will definitely be using this book (again and again).  I spent a whole Sunday evening (pre-Downton Abbey) drooling over the photos in the French Brasserie Cookbook, preparing some of the recipes in my head before testing a few favourites. It’s an easy, inviting read and the recipes are very accessible – there isn’t so much as a hint of Michelin attitude on any of the 200 pages.

You’ll find “Les Plats Vegetariens” (Tomato Tart with Goat’s Cheese, Provencal Vegetable Gratin and Crepes with Mushrooms & Tarragon)… there’s Fish & Shellfish (Pan-Roasted Salmon Steaks with Lime & Coriander Mayonnaise, Dover Sole with Lemon & Parsley Butter and Cod, Coriander, Tomato & Garlic Parcels – mmm!)…then on to French brasserie classics like Roast Leg of Lamb with Garlic & Lavender and a Pork Belly Confit with Apples.  (Not finished yet!)  Past the Cheese section where Daniel whisks you on a French Cheese Tour across France’s green, creamy pastures…then just as you don’t want the book to end it ends with on the sweetest notes with.. “Les Desserts”!

Ready? Get your pudding plate out for a helping of Raspberry Clafoutis (or as Daniel would say, the much more gorgeous-sounding “Clafoutis a la Framboise”) – you can also make delicious little mini-ones in ramekins.  Daniel whips up almost angelic looking, light-as-air and perfectly crisply-edged Orange Souffle Pancakes which ooze with a floaty Vanilla Custard-based Orange Souffle Mix.  My favourites are the trio of rustic-chic Coffee Creme Caramels, two beautiful Creme Brulees with Raspberry Puree – a rather romantic looking pair of mini-puddings,all golden, bubbly, bruleed and creamy looking, with a fuschia shock of raspberry puree (surprise!) at the bottom.  And “Chocolat” fans will be pleased to know it makes an appearance in some decadently elegant Bitter Chocolate Mousses with Orange Zest which I could eat every night for a month (or 12).

Cookbooks come and go as do the seasons, but the real test is – is it a keeper?  You fall in love with the food, wear down the pages and keep returning to the recipes which feel like familiar friends. This book oozes warmth and is a joy to read, no doubt because it’s written from the heart.  The French Brasserie Cookbook will remind you that French brasserie cooking doesn’t just feel “very right, right now”, but rather, this way of cooking is as connected to nature and timeless as food itself.

FRENCH BRASSERIE COOKBOOK by Daniel Galmiche – “Classic French Cooking with a Modern Twist”

£20 from Amazon and other booksellers. One for the Christmas list.

Daniel Galmiche’s website: www.danielgalmiche.co.uk

Published by Duncan Baird www.dbp.co.uk

 

 

 

Nippy nights and Halloween mean it’s pumpkin time – and this….is delicious!

RECIPE: PUMPKIN CANNELLONI WITH SAGE BROWN BUTTER SAUCE

An easy, seasonal autumn supper, this couldn’t be simpler.  You can make your own or use store bought lasagne sheets, rolled into large tubes, stuffed with a soft “paste” of sweet pumpkin, garlic, olive oil, ricotta, parmesan and sage then bake for about 20 mins.

RECIPE HERE: www.countryliving.com/recipefinder/pumpkin-cannelloni-sage-brown-butter-sauce-recipe

You’ll find 21 clever pumpkin recipes from Country Living Magazine (US) including the Pumpkin Cannelloni at: www.countryliving.com/cooking/recipes/our-best-pumpkin-recipes-1008

Board at London Stansted, arrive in Fez . This sky blue discovery is one of our favourite foodie escapes is Morocco, a contemporary rural riad  just 10 minutes from the airport.

Riad Le Ksar De Fes is now on our all time list of “best things in life”  since we first visited in February. It’s the perfect fly-and-flop base, bang smack in the middle of rows of lavender, olive groves, palms and cypress trees, all dotted in orange earth with bright green fields in the distance (yes – you’d think you were in Ireland!)  In fact it as close to perfect as you can get if you want to get away from it all – peace and quiet is served here all day long, along with unlimited mint tea, olives and sunset drinks.

Spring and autumn are idyllic in Fez. Winter is about tajines by a roaring fire, waking up to a brilliant blue sky, long walks and the luxurious slowness of time…. February can be better than a British June, but summer is very hot.

In case we go again and never come back, Tess Mallos’s book The Food of Morocco, A Journey for Food Lovers, is the next best thing to being there – from Amazon.  And if you’re planning to go, try the British run, very knowledgeable independent specialists www.madaboutmorocco.com  – they’ll turn your trip to Morocco a wonderful adventure.

We have two more teas up our sleeve for October…here’s one for chai lovers.  Chai can go horribly wrong if the mix isn’t right  and this is a lovely blend popular over Christmas and the winter hols, which we found on our tea travels…

Walter Whittard started out in 1886 in a little shop in Fleet Street; today, Whittards sell 130 varieties of tea online and in store and do coffee and 20 varieties of flavoured hot chocolate, including Strawberry and Chilli.

Chai lattes took off in the States over a decade ago during the Starbucks revolution but chai has taken longer to catch on in the UK.  It’s the ultimate winter tea, spicy and good for you – it’s anti-inflammatory and a lovely warming tea on a chilly autumn night.

www.whittard.co.uk

50 Spiced Chai Tea Bags £3.25 – A black tea blend with cinnamon, cloves, ginger, cardamom and black pepper

Shake a dollop of Stokes Real Tomato Ketchup next to your cod and chips and you may never go back to the big sugary “H***z” again. (Those serrated mini-sachets are for trains and planes).

Stokes’ deep, sufficiently sweet, rather rich tasting version is the bottled equivalent of slow-roasted Italian tomatoes and it’s gluten-free. If you think life’s too short for bad salad dressings and synthetic condiments and haven’t discovered this yet, try it next time you’ve run out of America’s favourite – in other words, switch to Suffolk!

Worth paying extra for, it’s a “best of British” modern classic.

There’s a squeezy version, too.

See the whole range of Stokes sauces and dressings, including their Blushed Tomato Mayonnaise and Balsamic Sauce here: www.stokessauces.co.uk/v3/products.aspx?c=1&b=2&d=0&u=26

STOKES REAL TOMATO KETCHUP £3.25/580g

Made in Suffolk.

Love spicy food but can’t deal with all those different spices?

Spices have been the spice of John Gregory-Smith’s life since he was a teenager, and inspired by his extensive travels in Asia, India, Morocco, Turkey, Lebanon and Mexico (and more!) this book works on the premise of a maximum of 5 spices per recipe.

There’s Kandy Black Pepper and Soy Aubergine Salad (garlic + black pepper + red pepper =3), Grilled Coriander and Mint Chicken (green chilli + garam masala = 2), an easy Prawns with Ginger and Chilli (4) and a luscious looking Mango, Orange and Nutmeg Cheesecake (just 1 – the nutmeg!).  And loads more global recipes where the spices are the wok stars (as Wossy would say).

There are some sweet treats, too, like Mexican Cinnamon Peaches and cocktails (Lemongrass & Ginger Rum Cocktail, Chilli Passion Fruit Martini and when winter sets in we’ll be whipping up a Mayan Hot Chocolate.) Here’s the recipe for Cambodian Caramelized Ginger Bananas with Vanilla Ice Cream (note: we’ve adapted it by using a good store-bought vanilla ice cream but John includes a recipe for a creamy home-made version).

CAMBODIAN CARAMELIZED GINGER BANANAS with VANILLA ICE CREAM (Serves 4…or just 2 if you can’t resist!)

You’ll need: 150g or 5 3/4 oz (or a scant 3/4 cup) of caster sugar, 4 bananas, peeled and halved lengthways, and a 2.5cm/ 1 inch piece of root ginger, peeled and finely sliced…and some good vanilla ice cream.

1) Put sugar and 6 tablespoons water into a shallow saucepan over a medium heat.  Melt the sugar, shaking the pan occasionally until it is bubbling and syrupy and turns a caramel colour.

2) Add bananas, shake the pan, cook for a minute.  Remove from heat, scatter over the finely sliced ginger and carefully spoon the sauce over the bananas in the pan.  Leave for 2-3 minutes, so sauce gets really sticky and flavours develop.

3) Divide bananas onto 4 serving plates and serve immediately with a few scoops of vanilla ice cream and any remaining caramelized sauce poured over (if sauce starts to harden, just warm over a low heat for 2 mins till it goes gooey again).

Published by Duncan Baird, available from Amazon

DON’T FORGET, it’s 50P-FOLLOW WEEKEND until midnight Sunday 25 Sept!  For each of you who follows us @FoodShortlist on Twitter, we’re giving 50p to the charity Action Against Hunger @ACF_UK –  all you have to do is just click and follow – “simples”! 

We spotted these cheeky little lemon “meringuettes” (is that a word?) by British Larder and just had to have the recipe!  So we asked Madalene Bonvini-Hamel from British Larder in Suffolk www.britishlarder.co.uk if she’d share it with us.  Don’t you love those little peaks?

British Larder Lemon Meringue Pies

Sweet Shortcrust Pastry

  • 230g plain all purpose flour
  • 140g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 60g caster sugar
  • 1 free range egg
  • pinch of salt

Weigh the softened butter, salt and sugar into the bowl of a mixer, use the flat paddle attachment and cream the sugar and butter until fluffy and pale in colour. Crack the egg into a small bowl and lightly whisk. Slowly add the egg a bit at a time to the butter mixture, mix well.Remove the mixing bowl and sieve the flour over the creamed butter, return to the mixer, use with the paddle and slowly mix the flour into the butter; do not over mix. Once the pastry comes together, stop.Turn the pastry out on to a lightly floured work surface, do not knead the pastry, just push it together into flat square.Cover with clingfilm and let the pastry rest for 30 minutes before using.

Preheat the oven to 200°C.

Cut the pastry in half, place one half in the freezer and roll the second half between two sheets of parchment paper. Line 10cm individual tartlet moulds with the pastry and baking beans and blind bake them for 14 minutes. Let the golden brown blind baked tartlet cases cool on a cooling rack.

Lemon Pie Filling

  • 2 tins of condensed milk
  • 4 free range egg yolks
  • 120ml freshly squeezed lemon juice

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C. Mix the condensed milk with the egg yolks, lemon juice and a pinch of salt. Pour the mix in the prepared blind baked tart cases and bake for 8 minutes until just set.

Meringue

  • 4 free range egg whites
  • 125g caster sugar

Preheat the oven to 200°C.

In a electric mixer whisk the whites until it starts to foam, slowly add the sugar and whip the meringue till soft peaks form. Use a disposable piping bag to pipe the meringue peaks onto the pre-baked lemon mixture. Return the tarts to the oven until the meringue turns golden brown.

Makes about 6 -8

It’s about time we had a cocktail on The Food Shortlist so here’s a stylish Gingertini courtesy of Russian Standard Vodka, for London Fashion Week. Elegant, low on calories and with a nice kick to it, it’s the perfect liquid accessory (one is not enough).

Gingertini  

How to make a Gingertini

50 ml / 1.9 fl oz Russian Standard

15 ml / 0.5 fl oz Dry Vermouth (just 32 calories per oz)

Lemon Twist

Slice of fresh ginger

Combine ingredients, including ginger, with crushed ice in a mixing glass. Stir well, strain and serve in a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with ginger.

(What’s “cheers” in Russian?)

Read up on the Art & Science of Vodka, here:

www.russianstandardvodka.com/#/en/the-art-and-science-of-vodka/history-of-vodka/

 

There’s something so easy and breezy about Bill Granger, our favourite Aussie chef.  First, we thought it might be his beach side home location that was responsible for his TV series’ sunshiny Saturday feel…

…but Bill brought his own sunshine to Blighty for Bill’s Tasty Weekends – remember when the sun shone on Camber Sands in Sussex as he rustled up those French Toasts Stuffed with Nectarines?

This ultimate collection is a lovely book for the change of seasons.  You’ll find breakfast, brunch, lunch, naughty baked sweet things and dinner ideas here, and as you’d expect Asian dishes and modern comfort food sit comfortably side by side.

130 recipes in one (heavy) modern classic, Best of Bill is out now, published by Murdoch Books.

AMAZON

Some sun-dried tomato products are…well…just too “sun dried” for my taste.

But I was on a no-bread week when I discovered Hawkshead Relish’s Sundried Tomato & Garlic Chutney and what happened next was embarrassing.  By lunchtime I was dipping thin slices of ciabatta from the local bakery into this jar of deliciousness and having trouble stopping.

Bursting with a fruity tomato flavour and the odd whole clove of sweet, soft garlic, serve this with drinks and you’ll have a small crowd gathering next to this “dip” – it’s fabulous with bread and cheese and almost impossible not to dip in and out of this jar packed with Tuscan flavours. It might also work over pasta, probably good as a dressing for a cold picnic-style pasta salad made with something substantial like rigatoni?

Hawkshead Relish do a Michaelmas Chutney, with fruits and spices, as well as an excellent Red Onion Marmalade with Balsamic Vinegar, and more chutney and relish varieties… Pear and Date, Plum with Port, Apricot and Cranberry…and that’s just three of them.

Go on, take a dip (but perhaps buy two as you’ll be hooked!)

Sun Dried Tomato & Garlic Chutney – £3.75/180g

www.hawksheadrelish.com/shop/2/index.htm

Hello Nudo!  Have you met The Three Tenors yet? They’re extra virgin olive oils (with a difference).

Extra Virgin First Cold Press, with Chillies and with Lemons are members of the rather large Nudo family (there are seven in total, including Mandarin, Garlic, Basil and Thyme).  The Thyme oil which we tried tastes like virgin olive oil “marinaded” in fresh thyme – subtle and nicely not overpowering.  The Lemon oil is fantastic. Sicilian lemons are driven at breakneck speed back to Nudo’s own press where they’re stone-milled with olives from Abruzzo, to make a Lemon Oil that tastes deeply but not overwhelmingly lemony and without a hint of bitterness.

Grilled Lemon and Thyme Mini Pittas

Mix Nudo’s Lemon Oil with a little sea salt, a sprinkling of finely chopped fresh thyme – and some grated lemon rind and juice if you prefer – and then brush onto mini-pittas and grill (for crispier ones, grill the underside of the pitta bread first (plain) then flip over and brush other side with the olive oil mix and pop under the grill).

Olive Oil Chocolate anyone?

If you’ve never had a dark truffle made with olive oil (no, neither have we) then give your tastebuds a test-drive with Nudo’s mandarin, chilli and lemon oil-flavoured oils – they sound intriguing.

What’s for Sapa?

Nudo also make Sapa, a sort of balsamic vinegar alternative which has a sweet toffee/maple syrup type aroma and smoky taste (also called petimezi in Greece) which is slowly cooked down from grapes for 24 hours then aged in wooden barrels for up to a year.

Adopt An Olive Tree Details

Last but not least why not adopt your own Italian olive tree? It costs £65 (€105) and Nudo will send you:

1. Spring package (all the extra virgin olive oil from your tree)
2. Autumn package (three flavoured extra virgin olive oils)
3. A personalised adoption certificate and booklet about your tree

NUDO OLIO D’OLIVA – The Three Tenors Boxed Gift Set £18/3 x 250g from www.nudo-italia.com 

The British love affair with Indian food is hotter (excuse the inevitable pun) than ever.  When the lovely “Indian Nigella”, Anjum Anand blazed a trail with Indian Food Made Easy she inspired many an Indian dinner party at home. Then there’s celebrity chef Atul Kochhar whose Benares restaurant in London is a modern legend. Now, the young and rather brilliant Aktar Islam is  stamping his signature style on Indian cuisine.

Aktar took his Birmingham restaurant Lasan to victory in Gordon Ramsay’s search for the Best Local Restaurant in The F Word last year, and he’s also the only self-trained chef to blow the UK’s most revered Michelin starred chefs out of the water on BBC2’s Great British Menu.

We’re secretly hoping for a cookbook soon, but in the meantime we’ve already drooled over the  recipes on his website www.aktarislam.co.uk

Aktar is passionate about creating innovative, contemporary Indian food and there’s definitely space in the kitchen for that. And for those who think Indian food is too difficult, Aktar’s recipe for Tandoori Style Chicken Drumsticks couldn’t be easier www.aktarislam.co.uk/recipes/tandoori-style-chicken-drumsticks Let the chicken soak up the marinade the day before, then just sear the drumsticks for 2 mins and pop into the oven for 20 – delicious and done!

A quick peek at the Lasan Restaurant menu  http://www.lasan.co.uk/menu.html

  “I’m driven by the desire to create innovative modern dishes that bring together quality local produce with the intricate flavours of the Indian subcontinent”  – Aktar Islam                                                                


JOIN OUR “5p follow” drive to help Action Against Hunger!  @FoodShortlist is giving 5p for each and every new follower of@FoodShortlist on Twitter during September.  All you have to do is follow and we’ll donate. http://twitter.com/#!/foodshortlist

Cheese  Soufflés can be a breeze – if you follow the recipe to the “T”.  Here’s a classic by Elizabeth David from the BBC Food website which looks more complex than it is, because the recipe* (see link below) is very detailed.

As our French teachers told us, “souffler” means puff, or blow while “souffle de vent” is a breath of fresh air. So, what better on a blustery early autumn day than something light, warm and cheesy?

Here are some easy, breezy soufflés and others that are worth the effort, if you or hopefully your soufflé would like to rise to the occasion.

You could try  James Martin’s Twice-baked Cheese & Leek Soufflé…or Nigel Slater’s  Cheese and Thyme Puddings or how about Galton Blackiston’s Gruyere and Bacon Souffle, all crispy bacon, cream and melting Swiss cheese…

Soufflé away!

* All recipes including Elizabeth David’s classic cheese souffle are HERE

JOIN OUR “5p follow” drive to help Action Against Hunger!  @FoodShortlist is giving 5p for each and every new follower of @FoodShortlist on Twitter during September.  All you have to do is follow and we’ll donate.

http://twitter.com/#!/foodshortlist

 

 

 

Um… “Cumbrian” and “Mostarda” on the same label? Intrigued?

Lizzie’s Handmade Cumbrian Mostarda is a rich compote-style concoction of dried apricots, prunes and figs in a luscious mustardy-sweet syrup.  Inspired by Umbria but made in Cumbria, it’s one of those almost Christmassy deli-style treats that’ll turn an end of summer picnic lunch into a mini-Italian feast.  Each spoonful of the mostarda is laden with fruit and great with a cheese board, smoked meats or even fish.

Fruity, fabulous and different, this is part of the Lizzie’s Handmade range – we spotted the Cumbrian Frutta Cotta (fruits in a spiced rum syrup made for both savoury or sweet dishes) which we’ve earmarked to try next.

Packed into the Cumbrian Mostarda you’ll find dried apricots, prunes, figs, wine vinegar, glace cherries, Hawkeshead Relish Honey Mustard and spices.

A Bronze Great Taste Award Winner and a perfect example of why British artisan food producers are blazing a trail these days.

420g jar/£5.99

See the rest of the range here: http://lizzieshandmade.com

 

Peter Sidwell from Channel 4’s series Lakes On A Plate loves bread in any shape or form and these pages are packed with more loaves than you can think of.  If you’ve never made bread or have flirted with the idea of making your own fresh focaccia once or twice,  Sidwell’s enthusiasm is so reassuring you feel you could rustle up anything here.  Here’s a taster: goat’s cheese and roasted red pepper bread, mustard and tarragon swirl and some BBQ’able herby flatbread (hummus, taramasalata and tzatziki at the ready) for starters.

The book starts with breadmaking basics and tips, but quickly moves from everyday breads such as roasted garlic and rosemary, pitta with poppy seeds, carrots and raisins, and coffee, chocolate and roasted pine nut sweet bread (they all sound too exotic for “everyday”, don’t they?) into sweet temptations like brioche filled with Nutella and roasted hazlenuts, apple strudel toasties and a stunning looking honey and lavender tart.

Sidwell gets the most out of his loaves, so even breadcrumbs play a role (in Moroccan herb stuffed chicken) while left over loaves end up in that simple of simplest Italian salads, Panzanella, oozing with ripe tomatoes, garlic, cubed day old bread and onions soaked in olive oil.

Published by Simon & Schuster, Simply Good Bread is out now £14.99

“Music, food and sex are the most important things in life” – Brett Anderson

Out next week, this sumptuous, rock ‘n roll cookbook is the ultimate coffee table tome.  Fab photos (by famous food photographer Patrice de Villiers), interviews, and the most eclectic bunch of recipes you’ll find in one book are all behind this glossy purple cover. (It’s actress/rocker Juliette Lewis).

60 musicians are featured in The Rock Star Cookbook, who all support the Teenage Cancer Trust. You’ll find fish ‘n chip fan Sophie Ellis Bextor, lobster thermidor lover Mick Hucknall, a delicious Bangalore Lamb Phall from Spandau Ballet’s Tony Hadley and Stereophonics front man Kelly Jones mixes a mean Red Wine Gum Vodka.  Even Suede’s Brett Anderson makes an appearance, dripping in blueberry juice (recipe: Blueberry Fool).

My favourite is a photo of a rather tanned Paul Weller behind the counter of Soho’s legendary cafe Bar Italia which brings back memories of Style Council and Soho bar summer nights. There’s a B&W Rocky Marciano poster behind him, an orderly clutter of espresso cups around him.  So what’s Weller’s coffee of choice? “A latte, I like it milky. Can’t do the espresso, it gives me the jitters,” he says as he drains his cup and sweeps off into Soho.

It’s the mix of short and sweet but revealing interviews by pop culture journalist Andrew Harrison, the recipes by ex-music biz chef Sarah Muir who now runs a cooking school in Yorkshire, and stunning photos by Patrice de Villiers that all make this glossy book a highly collectable rock-food gem.

The Rock Star Cookbook, £30, is out September 5th, published by Quadrille, more info at Love Music Love Food.

Buy it here, in aid of the Teenage Cancer Trust

There’s a crossover between Mediterranean (especially Greek/Turkish) and Lebanese food – probably because of their history, similar soil and climates.

Nouha Taouk’s book Whispers from a Lebanese Kitchen is more than straightforward recipes, it’s a family food journey and a very personal one.

This book is like a flavour explosion for jaded vegetarians – there are meat dishes, too, but it’s the colours and tastes of the sun-ripened fresh produce that seem to stand out.  Lots of Lebanese salads, vegetarian kibbeh, plus the more familiar baba ganoush, spinach pie and baklava of course. From simple egg, onion and parsley pancakes to those typically Lebanese sweet puddings, you can delve into the region’s culinary cuisine or pick out more “crossover” Mediterranean-style recipes.

If this is your sort of cookbook, you might also love Tessa Kiros’s Foods From Many Greek Kitchens which is a culinary and visual delight.

Whispers From A Lebanese Kitchen is available at Amazon.co.uk 

 

Published by Murdoch Books.

 

 

 

 

 

You’re looking at the culprits that sabotaged last week’s attempt to stay off chocolate.  There are more members of the Fudge Fancies family than this tempting octet, so if a cross between a smooth fudge and creamy truffle is your kind of chocolate fix, you’ll be glad to have discovered them.

Christmas is coming, so how about a stocking filled with these mini Christmas Puds?  For white choc fans, there’s Chocolate, Lemon and Lime or Strawberries and Cream or for after dark (and continuing the Christmassy theme) there’s  After Dinner Mint, Dark Chocolate & Cranberry, Dark Chocolate & Orange Zest.

You’ll love sampling the rest of the line up – there are more – and if you’re having trouble deciding may we recommend a quick game of  Fudge Roulette? It’s a surprise selection – see what the postman brings.

A million miles from granulated cottagey fudge (nothing wrong with that) these are made with white and dark chocolate, fresh cream and ingredients like slow baked cherries and almonds (aka Bakewell Tart). There’s probably more enjoyment in a Fudge Fancy box than on “the box” most nights, and if you’re following Big Brother, you might spot Fudge Fancies in the house.

Last but not least, we love the clever Apple Crumble, topped with biscuit crumb made from Pink Lady Apples and if you’re getting married soon, and you’re not keen on wedding cake, Fudge Fancies make tempting little wedding favours or a spectacular three-tier chocolate fudge wedding cake – white, of course. www.fudgefancies.co.uk/weddings.

Find your favourite(s) here….www.fudgefancies.co.uk

“I love reading recipes.  To me they tell stories of happy evenings, perfect length fairytales to read at bedtime before my eyes droop.” – Joanna Weinberg

It’s not always easy to write about food, but food writer and Red magazine columnist Joanna Weinberg has a knack for it.  Her  How To Feed Your Friends With Relish is a joy to read – if Nigel Slater’s food writing is beautiful and poetic, Joanna’s is cosy, comforting and evocative. The flavours and colours almost drench the pages and she makes simple sound delicious.

Her writing’s sprinkled with “bites” full of food flashbulb inspiration…a quick gazpacho finished with a dash of vodka, mint on tomato salad (a change from basil)…or her South African granny’s quick choc-mint ice cream, just mix cracked mint chocolate into slightly melted vanilla ice cream and refreeze.

So what’s inside “Relish”? Beef Stew with Chilli, Chocolate and Giant Garlic Croutons, a Fennel Tarte Tatin with Goat’s Cheese and Thyme, Deconstructed Cheesecake and lots of “dippy” Greek and Middle Eastern mezze ideas and so much more – in fact Nigel Slater called the book “inspirational.”

So with the sun back in a blue almost autumn sky, and the BBQ still up for a few more grills, here are some of Joanna’s ideas from her column in Red Magazine www.redonline.co.uk – a few somethings for the weekend:

Garlic and Blue Cheese Mayo Dip – pound a small clove of garlic with a pinch of salt until smooth, mix into good mayonnaise along with crumbly blue cheese if you like.

Height-of-the-Season Ice Cream – Blend berries with good quality bought fresh custard, freeze in a tub, stirring occasionally to break up the crystals, and serve in waffle cones.

Vicar’s Shandy – Mix one part pale sherry with three parts of lemonade, then add lots of fresh mint and ice.

HOW TO FEED YOUR FRIENDS WITH RELISH by Joanna Weinberg

Baking is not my forté, although I managed to conjure up some acceptable profiteroles circa 1997.  So who better to learn the art of cupcake making from, than the lovely Natalie Seldon.

These delectable little “estellas” aren’t just pretty, they’re made with organic and Fairtrade ingredients. They come in mini-concotions of cinnamon cream, chocolate, vanilla, strawberry swirls or lemon.  In fact, watching The Great British Bake off last night, it reminded me of all the things that can go wrong – they don’t rise, they’re too dry, they’re too full and overflow creating that “mushroom head” look.  Not nice.

You can order Estella Cupcakes from Natalie’s website and they’d be wonderful for a wedding.  Or, better still, why not book a cupcake class with Natalie and learn how to make these delectable temptations yourself?

ESTELLA CUPCAKES www.estellacupcakes.com

 

…and you can ask Mary Berry who’s judging the Great British Bake Off a question, here: www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/food/2010/09/ask-mary-berry-a-cookery-quest.shtml

 

 

“From breakfast to bedtime, from the first green shoots of spring, to the frostiest winter days, Bill picks and cooks his way through the seasons”

This book oozes happiness.  Bill Collison opened the first Bill’s Cafe in 2001 and since then hasn’t looked back (he probably hasn’t had time to).  What started as one small fresh produce shop led to the deli-style cafes he now runs in Covent Garden, Cambridge, Brighton, Lewes and Reading.

And now, here comes his cookbook.  Bill revels in the wonder of the seasons, with musings and recipes to match.  Take Autumn: there’s a hearty Mushroom and Leek Quiche which you could eat off the page, Pumpkin, Chestnut and Cranberry Risotto, Fig and Mascarpone Bundles (tucked inside puff pastry and baked till golden),  easy Caramel Apples, Windfall Chutney and Bonfire Night Orange Cream Brandy Snaps, piled high on a star-spangled plate, and “stabbed” with sparklers. (Those are Ginger and Melon Smoothies in the pic).

Cook, Eat, Smile is a good life philosophy and the book almost bursts with colourful photos, retro-style illustrations and a fun, comforting rustic-funky feel to it.  Bill delves into salads, mezzes and dips, mains like grilled salmon, curries and spicy Indian soups, and there’s even Beetroot Pesto and a fuschia-filled Beetroot, Cheese and Potato Pie.

The foods and flavours of Britain’s seasons are all here, in all their glorious colours, in a book that’s as much fun to dip in and out of as it is to  cook with.

Published by Saltyard Books £25

www.bills-website.co.uk

Available on Amazon 

Years ago, I was at a wedding, alone.  Out of the 300 guests, I only knew the groom (very well, as it happened, as I was the one who’d “got away”).  Had I made the right decision?  As I pondered our pasts and futures and was piling far too many smoked salmon blinis on to my plate, a tall dark stranger appeared from nowhere:

“Champagne?  Or Kir?”  Mr. Mysterious went for the champagne, I went for the Kir and the embarrassing blini mountain went behind the nearest flower arrangement.

Jo Hilditch’s British Cassis already has some famous fans, Jean-Christophe Novelli and Mark Hix to name just two, and the exquisite concoction is available from Fortnum and Mason’s.

Certain fruits remind you of happy times, like Christmas clementines and British blackcurrants in August.  There’s nothing more luxurious than a spoonful of Blackcurrants in British Cassis (in the jar in the photo) drizzled over thick Greek yoghurt as an easy after dinner dessert, or a glass of British Cassis to savour the flavour of blackcurrants in August, just before the season ends.

Crème de cassis, that dark blackcurrant liqueur, originated in France but Jo’s award-winning British Cassis (13%)  is quite a different take on it: it’s grown up, is a great mixer and you can even cook with it (there are recipes on the British Cassis website).

If you’re a framboise fan you’ll love British Framboise.  Made with rasperries grown near Ledbury in Herefordshire, plus champagne yeast and just enough sugar to taste, it’s really raspberry-esque, sweeter than the blackcurrant. Like its blackcurranty sister, British Framboise comes in an elegant slimline bottle (they come in 100ml and 375ml sizes – great gifts).  Jo produced a “Limited Edition” for Ludlow Food Festival and they sold out in two days. Last but not least, a quick toast to British Poire. This lovely pear wine would make an interesting alternative to a sweet Malaga wine and would marry well with a good blue cheese – preferably on the terrace of the Hotel Roches Blanches, overlooking the sea in Cassis on the French Riviera.

British Cassis 375ml/£15

See the whole British Cassis range here: www.britishcassis.co.uk/index.html

OK this is clever.  Urban dwellers who think they don’t have room for a herb garden and a BBQ, here you are… an “all in one”!

This ingenious yet simple design by award-winning Anglo-Swiss designers Dan Black and Martin Blum turns a terracotta pot into a grill-meets-mini garden.  It’s made from stainless steel (and terracotta), and has heat insulating ceramic coating.  You just lift the “herb lid” off and underneath is the BBQ grill (it comes with stainless steel tongs), ready to grill those burgers or veggie kebabs. And when the rain comes, pop the lid back on and watch those herbs drink the raindrops.

And if you enjoy your vins, but lack adequate larder space, you’ll like this too: www.black-blum.com/products/flow/

To find out more and see the rest of the range, visit www.black-blum.com/products/ 

The Black+Blum Hot Pot BBQ, £99

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