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Apartheid, prohibition and Midori: how cocktails went from martinis to Mesha

Thu, 17 Aug 2017 18:00:01 GMT

From London’s Hanky Panky to Melbourne’s Japanese Slipper, new book Around the World in 80 Cocktails traces the geographical origins of mixed drinks

Travel has always been a part of the cocktail’s DNA. Early cocktail recipes called for American whiskey, British gin (itself a Dutch invention), Caribbean rum, French brandy, Italian vermouth, Spanish sherry and Portuguese madeira, among others. As travel and commerce have made the world smaller and better connected, the world of cocktails and mixed drinks has only become more diverse – and if you’ll excuse the pun – more cosmopolitan.

The new book Around the World in 80 Cocktails traces the cocktail’s journey around the globe, from the early 19th century through the 21st. Each of the cocktails collected in the book is linked to a place – sometimes literally and sometimes more metaphorically.

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Wine: is high-end champagne a fizz swizz?

Thu, 03 Aug 2017 16:00:18 GMT

How much is too much to spend on a bottle of champagne?

Can it ever be justifiable to splash out £130 on a bottle of champagne? And can it possibly be seven times better than a bottle that costs £17.49, as Waitrose’s more than respectable Blanc de Noirs (12.5% abv) does currently? I have been asking myself these questions since a recent visit to Krug (come on, wouldn’t you, if you were asked?), and for the avoidance of doubt, I wouldn’t. Though, sometimes, if money were no object, I just might: drawn from 127 wines from 11 vintages going back to 1990, Krug’s latest 164th edition Grande Cuvée (“only” £119.95, frazierswine.co.uk; 12% abv) is by any standards pretty impressive for a non-vintage.

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Wales on rails: fine food and great views on the Holyhead to Cardiff

Thu, 10 Aug 2017 12:30:07 GMT

The Gerald of Wales, which runs the length of the country, is a rarity: a train with an onboard chef serving three-course meals and proper morning fry-ups

I can smell Gerald long before I can see him. It’s a misty summer morning and there’s an aroma of frying bacon wafting from the onboard kitchen of the train that’s standing, almost bashfully, on the furthermost platform of Holyhead station, Anglesey. This must mean one of two things: I’m either watching a private luxury train preparing to take pensioners on a day trip, or I’ve travelled back in time and will shortly be enveloped in loco steam and handed a copy of the Picture Post and pouch of pipe tobacco by the man opening up the station kiosk.

“You’ll be wanting the full Welsh then, love?”

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The secrets of a maitre d’: what it’s really like feeding the 1%

Wed, 16 Aug 2017 14:41:41 GMT

The gatekeeper at a top London restaurant reveals which guests are likely to be blacklisted, how to get a table without booking – and why you will never be seated next to Adele

A great restaurant experience relies on four things: the food, the service, the company (that’s your job) and the atmosphere, which is down to the maitre d’. That’s me. By “atmosphere” I mean the music and the lighting, yes, but there’s only so much mood-setting Dave Brubeck and a few filament bulbs can do. In the end, it’s about the guests. The maitre d’ runs the reservations book, which means mixing the characters in the room like the drinks in a cocktail to get the right balance of shot and mixer, salty and sweet.

At a top London restaurant, you have the pick of the finest ingredients. I once spent several minutes chatting to celebrated California-based architect Frank Gehry about the urban contrasts between London and LA. Later that evening, Pharrell Williams told me how much he liked the meatballs. (Gehry and Williams weren’t dining together, although I’m sure they would get on.) Where else besides a chatshow studio would you so frequently encounter people at the top of their game in business, entertainment, sport and politics?

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Pascere, Brighton: ‘This is no-messing brilliance’ – restaurant review | Marina O’Loughlin

Fri, 11 Aug 2017 13:00:16 GMT

The combination of artistry with an understanding of what people want to eat, as opposed to what the chef wants to inflict on us, is Three Bears just right

The most exquisite thing that we eat at this new addition to Brighton’s restaurant scene is the simplest: a tiny crab tartlet with pastry so fragile, you wonder at its capacity to support its quantities of dewy, sweet white Portland crab meat and flourish of airy hollandaise, bisque-rich with the swansong of various crustacea and crabby bits and pieces. This is no-messing brilliance.

But, despite worrying menu descriptions, none of our subsequent dishes has a superfluous element. I’ve allowed myself an evil guffaw at the thought of “English pea custard” with “lavender brioche”. Seriously: bwahahah, and where did I leave my claw sharpener? But it’s serene and mellifluous, the emerald “custard” more like another iteration of hollandaise, vivid with peas both pureed and raw, the brioche crisp little cubes lurking in its depths, the lavender more a frisson of a memory of a scent than anything by Yardley.

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Think you know what fish is in your sushi? Think again

Sat, 15 Jul 2017 23:04:05 GMT

Exotic tropical species being mis-sold to British customers who can’t tell their mackerel from their herring, research shows

Sushi bars and shops are regularly mis-selling exotic species of fish to unwitting British customers, according to new research.

In cases cited in the report, customers thought they were buying a fish from the Atlantic when it was really a tropical variety, while many fish were sold under a generic name that revealed little about where they came from. Some of the species were endangered, while others were so rare that little was known about their population size. The findings suggest that an increasingly complex and globalised food supply chain is open to abuse, putting exotic species at risk.

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Beet it! Why beetroot is this summer’s barbecue menu must-have

Mon, 14 Aug 2017 16:36:06 GMT

The root is having a renaissance with the introduction of Tesco’s veggie burgers, adding a pop of colour to this season’s grills

Juicy, red, delicious and hot off the barbecue. Roll up, roll up, vegetarians, your burger is ready. This isn’t a carnivore’s intervention. The burger that is on everyone’s lips is made of beetroot and is more than welcome for non-meat-eaters fed up of filling up on salad at every summer party.

You know a trend – in this case, plant-heavy menus – has reached critical mass when the supermarkets get on board. In this case, Tesco is selling beetroot burgers at £2.25 for two and, according to reports, they’re selling like hot (veggie) cakes.

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Cocktail of the week: Meat Liquor’s cherry pick

Fri, 11 Aug 2017 15:00:19 GMT

A refreshingly boozy number that’s perfect for summer tippling

This is on our Pick Me Ups And Knock ’Em Downs drinks menu. It’s very refreshing, but it packs a real punch. Serves one.

1 lemon wedge
1 pineapple wedge
1 slice apple
1 raspberry
25ml gin
25ml morello cherry liqueur
25ml lemon juice
25ml apple juice
10ml basic 1:1 sugar syrup
1 mint sprig, to garnish (optional)
330ml dry cider

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‘It’s not worth the calories’: why Bake Off’s new catchphrase has always served me well

Mon, 07 Aug 2017 12:20:07 GMT

New judge Prue Leith’s anti-calorie motto has left some with a bad taste in their mouths, but should more of us be heeding her advice?

What joyless, weight-watching partypoopers the new judges of The Great British Bake Off are, the critics jeer. How we will miss the carefree double-entendres from Mel and Sue, Mary Berry’s soggy bottom now a distant memory. Instead we’ve got Noel Fielding saying he hopes to avoid sugar to stay slim, while Prue Leith’s catchphrase has been revealed as: “It’s not worth the calories.”

As much as I would like to join this Bake Off-bashing bandwagon, I have a confession to make: Leith’s catchphrase has been my own for years. And it has served me well.

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Stefano Manfredi's smoked leg ham, mushroom and sage pizza

Sat, 12 Aug 2017 22:25:03 GMT

The Italian-Australian chef aims to make pizza healthier and tastier with a new cook book that focuses on traditional pizza dough with fresh toppings

Pizza is probably the world’s most popular fast food and wherever it has gone, it has taken on the characteristics of its new home. While Italy, and more precisely Naples, is where it all began, there’s no doubt that pizza now belongs to the world. But something exciting is happening in pizza’s spiritual home. What I call the “new wave” of pizza has been gaining momentum in Italy in the last decade and that inspiring movement is the focus of this book.

I’ve noticed a huge change in the way it is made at every step of the process. It has been led by chefs/pizzaioli whose curiosity and eye for quality has led them back to the fundamental building blocks of pizza-making from the growing of the grain and the milling process to temperatures, fermentation and maturation times for the dough.

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Where's the best place to find out who your real friends are? The kitchen

Thu, 17 Aug 2017 11:00:46 GMT

Time for my annual holiday dilemma: who can I bear to allow to cook alongside me?

It is August, the month of my great social experiment, or the summer holidays as other people call them. Here’s how it works. Each year we book a large house with too many rooms for my own family. It could be anywhere but this year it happens to be in Spain; the Spanish stay up later than the Italians, and the food is less exhausting than in France. Then we invite other families to join us. There is just one condition, beyond us all liking each other. They don’t just have to be willing to do their share of the cooking. They have to be eager to do so.

And then the social experiment begins. Because you can learn more about a friend by cooking alongside them, than through almost any other common pursuit. Certainly, you can learn more than simply by eating their food. When it comes to character assessments what matters is not the ends, but the means that got you there.

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BBC accuses Channel 4 of 'cynical move' in Bake Off scheduling clash

Wed, 16 Aug 2017 18:03:43 GMT

Corporation moves The Big Family Cooking Showdown to new slot to prevent ratings war with hit show poached by rival

The BBC has accused Channel 4 of a “cynical move” by scheduling the return of the The Great British Bake Off against its new cooking programme The Big Family Cooking Showdown, sparking a fresh clash between the broadcasters over the most popular show on British television last year.

Channel 4 will air the first episode of The Great British Bake Off since it controversially poached the programme from the BBC on Tuesday 29 August at 8pm, clashing with the slot for The Big Family Cooking Showdown, which started this week on the BBC.

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Recipes that made me: top chefs reveal their biggest influences | Chef family trees

Fri, 11 Aug 2017 10:46:10 GMT

Every chef needs a mentor to nurture their talent. Try the recipes that inspired top chefs Sam Clark, Jonathan Jones, Jacob Kenedy and April Bloomfield ...

See Jeremy Lee’s story here.

Her mentors Ruth Rogers and Rose Gray at the River Café were literally her alma maters, giving her the building blocks of great food and the skills to do her own thing.

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Scientists reveal why whisky tastes better with water

Thu, 17 Aug 2017 13:33:59 GMT

How best to enjoy whisky has long been debated, but two chemists say they have discovered why diluting your dram might make it taste better

Neat, on the rocks, or with a dash of mineral water. Whisky enthusiasts have long disagreed about how the amber nectar is best enjoyed, but now a scientific paper has backed the idea that diluting whisky can enhance its flavour.

The work suggests that adding water boosts the concentration of flavour compounds at the surface of the drink, helping to unleash the rich mix of aromas.

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Toblerone shape not distinctive enough for trademark, Poundland claims

Thu, 17 Aug 2017 05:00:03 GMT

Defending its right to launch Twin Peaks bar, budget chain cites Toblerone version with fewer chunks brought out last year

Poundland has claimed Toblerone’s shape is no longer distinctive enough to be a valid trademark, in legal documents defending its right to launch a copycat bar.

Last month, the budget chain was forced to delay the launch of its Twin Peaks bar, which has two humps rather than the single peaks of Toblerone, after a legal warning from the brand’s owner, a Swiss division of Mondelez.

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A Ferrante feast: a night out in support of global literacy

Thu, 22 Jun 2017 14:48:51 GMT

Elena Ferrante’s books evoke Naples in all its drama, and inspired a Neapolitan fundraising feast for Worldreader, in the heart of urban London – testament to the power of food and literature to do good

See the photo gallery here!

A group of clamorous punters gather around a table on the cobbles. They’ve come to the pavement to escape the heat of the kitchen. Dodging crates of tomatoes, waiters dole out dishes piled high with fried things – mozzarella, prawns, courgette flowers – and bruschetta. The voice of Fred Buscaglione crackles from a speaker, just-heard over calls for Campari and the clatter of plates.

You’d be forgiven for thinking we were in Italy. Yet this is east London, just off Columbia Road. We are at Campania & Jones, a southern Italian restaurant housed in a 19th-century dairy, which, like the wardrobe to Narnia, feels like a magic gateway to Naples. This evening, the restaurant, Cook editor Mina Holland, columnist Rachel Roddy and myself are collaborating on a dinner (see gallery) celebrating the transformative power of books and food in aid of the Worldreader charity.

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Thursday’s best TV: Top of the Lake; Princess Diana’s ‘Wicked’ Stepmother

Thu, 10 Aug 2017 05:01:28 GMT

Robin reconnects with her birth daughter but is less than impressed with her boyfriend. Plus: a profile of Princess Diana’s controversial confidante

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Great British Bake Off trailer released by Channel 4 – video

Thu, 03 Aug 2017 14:13:18 GMT

A stop-motion animated trailer has been released to announce the new season of The Great British Bake Off in its new home on Channel 4. Featuring baked goods singing We All Stand Together by Paul McCartney and the Frog Chorus, it has received a mixed reaction on Twitter

Twee tarts and singing scones – the new Great British Bake Off advert

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Nigel Slater’s sticky rice with courgettes and pickles recipe

Tue, 08 Aug 2017 10:59:37 GMT

A Japanese-style dish that’s quick and easy

Wash 180g of sushi rice in a bowl filled with warm water, then pour off the water and repeat. Tip the rice into a medium-sized saucepan, pour in 300ml of water and bring to the boil. Lower the heat so that the water is simmering, add half a teaspoon of salt, then cover the saucepan with a lid and leave to cook for 15 minutes.

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The Big Family Cooking Showdown review: like Bake Off … with gravy

Wed, 16 Aug 2017 05:00:30 GMT

The Beeb’s cosy new cookery show is pure comfort TV, but viewers may struggle to emotionally invest. Plus: star turns but no laughs in Quacks

The Big Family Cooking Showdown is a cosy, two-presenter, two-judges cookery competition among amateurs in a family-friendly weeknight slot on BBC1. We are assured that it is in no way a substitute for or rival to the BBC’s previous cosy, two-presenter, two-judges cookery competition among amateurs that was broadcast in a family-friendly weeknight slot, The Great British Bake Off, before – in a move that grieved the nation only slightly less than the current threat of nuclear war – going over to Channel 4.

Why? What’s the point of such obvious denial? Why not say, in keeping with the warm, enveloping, all-in-it-together, vanilla-scented mood that was GBBO’s USP and which any true successor must manage to emulate: “We’re as sorry as you are to have lost it. But here! We folded together as many of the same ingredients as we could, added Nadiya Hussain, the winner of series six of you-know-what, and served it up to you on a similarly nostalgically decorated platter, this time with a savoury twist. We really hope you like it. Come on in – the gravy’s lovely.” Or something.

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BBQ ribs taste test: which supermarket's pork should get the chop?

Thu, 10 Aug 2017 09:00:33 GMT

While US-style ribs are slow-cooked in the barbecue, most British own brands have to make do with oven cooking. Can any of these pre-prepared packs conjure up the sprit of a real American ’cue?

Britain has always enjoyed a barbecue, but the glowing embers of this love affair have recently been rekindled by the rise of “dude food”. That is, our new Man v Food fondness for burgers, dogs and huge, US-style hunks of grilled meats. According to analysts Kantar Worldpanel, there were 115.3m British BBQs last year, up more than 8%, with burgers overtaking sausages as our favourite barbecue food.

Related: How to cook perfect barbecue ribs

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Cornish seafood restaurant topples L'Enclume to be named best in UK

Thu, 17 Aug 2017 07:52:49 GMT

Cornish seafood specialist Nathan Outlaw ousts Cumbria’s L’Enclume, while guide complains of loud music at other eateries

A Cornish seafood restaurant has been crowned the best in the UK in an annual food guide, elbowing Cumbria’s L’Enclume into second place after four years on top.

The restaurant Nathan Outlaw in Port Isaac, named after its chef founder and owner, has been awarded the No 1 spot in The Good Food Guide 2018 after notching up a perfect score of 10 for the second year running.

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Bland, awkward and awful – the BBC's disastrous attempt to recreate Bake Off

Wed, 16 Aug 2017 10:33:54 GMT

The Big Family Cooking Showdown kicked off last night … an insufferable, samey version of the original. Surely there was a stronger idea than this, BBC?

We see your game, BBC. You lost The Great British Bake Off and, in retaliation, you W1A-ed a rival show by running the phrase “The Great British Bake Off” backwards and forwards through Google Translate until it threw up a similar but workable format. That format is The Big Family Cooking Showdown and, based on last night’s opening episode, I am here to tell you everything that’s wrong with it.

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Anna Jones’s recipe for barbecue pimentón veggie burgers | The modern cook

Mon, 14 Aug 2017 11:00:31 GMT

The Modern Cook returns with a celebratory take on charred veg. A roast over the coals gives these paprika burgers a smoky hum, and brands slabs of halloumi in preparation for a lime pickle wrap

Cooking over coals is so suited to vegetables, and almost any can be used. Undistracted by meat fat, I find the subtlety of veg allows the smoky hum of the coals to come even more alive. Favourites this year have been wedges of summer cabbage, thin slices of skin-on sweet potato, thick steaks of celeriac (quickly preboiled in salted water until tender), chicories halved then dressed in a sweet vinaigrette ... all grilled so that char marks tattoo themselves on to their exteriors, while their insides are soft and yielding.

My offerings today, though, make more of a meal of vegetables on the barbecue. I’ve made a veggie burger (that doesn’t fall apart!) from plump white beans, walnuts, sundried tomatoes and a proud hit of smoked paprika (the flavour you might associate with chorizo). And secondly, some easy, fluffy flatbreads filled with that barbecue favourite, halloumi – although feta, paneer or even tofu would stand in happily – alongside a quick lime pickle made with scotch bonnet peppers whose sweet heat has an almost melon-like quality.

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The Old House, Hull: ‘It could be great…’ – restaurant review

Sun, 13 Aug 2017 05:00:04 GMT

One of Hull’s oldest buildings has been given a new lease of life – and with a few tweaks it could really be top notch

The Old House by Shoot the Bull, 5 Scale Lane, Hull HU1 1LA (01482 210 253). Meal for two, including drinks and service: £40-£100

Chris Harrison knows how to do a lot of things. At the Old House pub, Hull’s oldest domestic building, he seems determined to do most of them. Perhaps this is driven by necessity. Hull may be the City of Culture, a place of fine maritime history and Larkin’s rhythmic misanthropy, but it isn’t quite the city of food culture right now. Scan the horizon for good restaurants and inevitably you end up circling around the much-written-about 1884 Dock Kitchen. It’s the local restaurant of quiet ambition, the one everyone’s heard of, that place where they do the thing. Where, as it happens, Harrison was once head chef.

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Mary Berry to lead judges on BBC show Britain's Best Cook

Tue, 01 Aug 2017 11:43:31 GMT

Contestants will be challenged to create dishes that define modern home cooking, in effort to replace Great British Bake Off

Mary Berry is to return to her role as a judge on the BBC in a new programme called Britain’s Best Cook.

Berry will be joined on the programme by Claudia Winkleman, who will present it, and a second judge, not yet named.

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Who wants to share their plate? Definitely not me

Thu, 13 Jul 2017 11:00:06 GMT

You can hardly escape sharing plates when you eat out – but who gets the last bite? Time to embrace your inner glutton …

And so, it’s farewell once more to the asparagus season. Personally, I’m delighted to see the back of it. This isn’t to do with disliking asparagus. I love it: boiled, chargrilled, as part of an edible re-creation of Stonehenge. I’ll take it any which way. The problem is one of mathematics. It’s not unique to asparagus, but this season its popularity has highlighted the issue.

Simply put, the asparagus of 2017 was at the heart of what I call The Casual Dining Paradox. The paradox being that the more casual the dining concept, the more socially complicated the experience becomes. Because just how the hell do you split a sharing plate of seven asparagus spears between two? There are, to be fair, other reasons to hate the whole sharing-plate thing: the fact that there’s not a waiter alive who can say the words “we have a sharing-plate concept here” without sounding like an arse; the suspicion it’s a sneaky encouragement to order more than you otherwise would; the way the table clutters with dishes which have no business loitering in each other’s company. But key to it is the whole numbers game.

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Yotam Ottolenghi’s artichoke recipes

Sat, 12 Aug 2017 08:00:39 GMT

Artichokes are a lot more versatile than they seem, whether you’re cooking globes from scratch, or using jarred, tinned or frozen hearts

There are three ways to get to the heart of a globe artichoke. One is to do all the work yourself; to roll up your sleeves and get on with the task of chopping and trimming the outer leaves until you reach the heart and remove the choke. The second is to make a meal out of reaching the heart, picking away at those leaves and using them to scoop up all sorts of dips, until the heart reveals itself, prize-like, at the end. And the third way is to outsource the job entirely and start with jarred or frozen artichoke hearts. The advantage of this last approach is that you can be liberal with how many you use in a dish, plus it leaves you with plenty of creative energy to play with at the stove. So, today, three very different recipes for however you choose to get to the heart of the matter.

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Tiko Tuskadze: from Georgia with a passionate love of food

Sat, 29 Jul 2017 05:30:42 GMT

For the restaurateur, watching her grandmother and aunt cook instinctively and exquisitely was the inspiration for her own career

Tiko Tuskadze grew up in Tbilisi in the Soviet republic of Georgia as an only child in a family where food dominated. She had two formidable grandmothers: one who loved to cook and one who hated it. Both had a ritualistic approach to mealtimes. “My mother’s mother, Pati, was very different to the other side of the family,” she says. “For her, food was made because you had to eat. With Tina, my father’s mother, you lived for eating. She would say to her neighbours, ‘Don’t make anything for dinner, come to ours.’”

Tuskadze went on to introduce Georgian cuisine to London with her Little Georgia restaurants (in Hackney and Islington). Her aunt Nana, her father’s sister, is immortalised in Nigella Lawson’s book Feast: “Nana’s Hachapuri” is a tribute to the Georgian cheese bread that featured everywhere in Tuskadze’s childhood.

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The new vegan: Meera Sodha’s recipe for samphire, potato and chickpea chaat

Sat, 05 Aug 2017 08:30:07 GMT

The UK tends to overlook the vegetables that come from our seas and coastline, which is a bit of an oversight, considering we’re an island nation

‘Viking, North Utsire, 3 or 4, moderate, South Utsire, rain later, good”: the shipping forecast is a wonderfully British institution, and the gentlest reminder that we live on an island and shouldn’t forget it. Unfortunately, I often do forget, especially when thinking about food.

Yes, we are famous for our love of fish and chips and fish pies, but what about all the delicious vegetables that grow on our coast? In east Asia, culinary traditions are defined not only by what creatures swim in the sea, but also by what grows on the shore. In Japan, nori is eaten daily wrapped around sushi rice, while kombu, a type of kelp, is used in stocks and soups to add deeply savoury umami notes; in China and Korea, enthusiasm for sea vegetables, especially kelp noodles, doesn’t lag far behind.

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Downward spiral: dismayed Walnut Whip lovers react to loss of nut

Wed, 16 Aug 2017 15:41:48 GMT

Twitter users cry sacrilege and blame Brexit for downsizing of chocolate treat after Nestlé relaunches it as Whip

It was bad enough when great glacial valleys appeared between the peaks of Toblerone bars, and the shrinkflation fairy spirited away 15% of the Maltesers in each packet overnight. Outrage has now greeted the launch of a new confection: the Whip, which comes without the crowning walnut in name or in the chocolate flesh.

Related: Walnut snip: Nestlé cuts nut out of chocolate after prices surge

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Aussie rules: great wines from Down Under | David Williams

Sun, 06 Aug 2017 04:59:32 GMT

Three Australian wines that give you more bang for your buck

Parker Favourite Son Coonawarra, Australia 2014 (£7.49, Waitrose) Part of the reason the British first fell in love with Australian wine was its price. It wasn’t always the cheapest on the shelf, but you frequently got more fruit and easy, soft charm for your money than in, say, France or Italy. That hasn’t really been the case more recently. Generally speaking, Australian wine has got much better – more diverse, interesting, balanced – but largely, if not exclusively thanks to the strong Aussie dollar, many retailers I speak to say they find it harder to score genuine bargains. Harder, but not impossible. There is a great deal of ripe blackcurrant-juicy pleasure to be found, for example, in this succulent red from the classic South Australian cabernet sauvignon district of Coonawarra.

Berton Vineyards The Black Shiraz, Australia 2016 (£7.99, The Co-op) A lot of modern Australian winemakers bristle at a persistent cliché about their industry: that all they really do is make simple, oaky chardonnay and brawny fruit-bomb shiraz. Of course, it’s possible to find cool, sappy beaujolais-like gamay, elegant pinot noir and all manner of exotic Spanish-, Italian-, Greek- and Portuguese-inspired styles in the country now. But it has to be said the country’s pre-eminent position in the UK’s wine shops (where it sells more than twice the amount of wine of its nearest rivals, Italy) is largely down to those traditional strengths. Still, when they are as well put-together as Berton’s rich, rippling, broad-shouldered but, crucially, fresh-finishing shiraz, I see no reason to complain.

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The new vegan: Meera Sodha’s recipe for chargrilled summer vegetables with a cumin and coriander dressing

Sat, 12 Aug 2017 08:30:40 GMT

Indians don’t really ‘do’ salads. Or at least they haven’t until very recently

In A Historical Dictionary Of Indian Food (Oxford University Press), by KT Achaya, there is no entry under salad. For such a rich and varied food culture, this feels like a mistake, but there’s a truth behind it: the quality of produce and water in India has always been variable, so it’s not possible just to wash a few leaves before eating them.

This has resulted in a cuisine that has written salad out of the equation, as shown by my grandma’s reaction to any dish of tender vegetables that still have a bit of bite: she condemns them as “kacha-paka”, or half-cooked, a verdict delivered with a look of disdain and a wrinkled nose.

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Yotam Ottolenghi’s shellfish recipes

Sat, 05 Aug 2017 08:00:06 GMT

British shellfish is up there with the best in the world, so make the most of our indigenous mussels, crab, clams and prawns, and get using them in the kitchen

Earlier this year, I went on a beach holiday with my family near Aldeburgh, in Suffolk. Well, I say “beach holiday”, but this was back in February, when it bitterly cold and often overcast outside, and food was our only remedy against the chill. Even so, we ended up having a ball, thanks in no small part to several trips to the famous fish and chip shop in Aldeburgh and our little ones’ brave attempts to sail their model boats in the local fish pond. The rest of the time we stayed indoors, cooked fish and ate.

For me, a proud son of the Med, the British weather does wonders for the appetite and is the greatest attraction of a seaside holiday on these isles. It can get hot here and there over summer, of course, but it’s rarely too hot to cook and eat. On beach holidays in Italy, Greece or North Africa, often even the thought of eating anything more than a salad or slice of watermelon during the day can feel like hard work, but the British equivalent, with its pebble beaches, coastal breezes and noisy seagulls, makes me want to seek out and make the most of the catch of the day.

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Nigel Slater’s tomatoes recipes

Sun, 06 Aug 2017 05:00:32 GMT

Tomatoes are particularly perky at the moment. Bring out the best in yours with olives, anchovies and harissa

This summer’s scorching sun has been just what the tomatoes needed. Pity, then, that I couldn’t grow any this year, spending far too much of the season working away from home. All but the largest Marmande do rather well in pots on the back steps. At the shops I pick up the most oddly shaped tomatoes I can find, the smaller the better. The large, deeply ridged yellow fruit, though beautiful to admire in their shallow wooden crates, are often a little soft and squidgy. I get round this by slicing them thickly, and marinating them in olive oil, shredded basil leaves and a sprinkle of red wine vinegar for an hour. They soon perk up.

The tomatoes ended up as a cushion to soak up the juices from grilled lamb cutlets

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Nigel Slater’s avocado and smoked salmon tortilla recipe

Tue, 15 Aug 2017 11:00:37 GMT

A light supper – perfect for Sunday nights

Halve, stone and peel 2 ripe avocados, put them in a mixing bowl then crush them roughly with a fork. Thinly slice a couple of spring onions and add them to the bowl. Finely shred 6 large mint leaves, and finely chop 1 small, hot red chilli then fold them into the avocado. Tear up a handful of coriander leaves, add to the avocado, squeeze over the juice of a lime and season with black pepper.

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In pictures: A Neapolitan dinner, with Rachel Roddy

Thu, 22 Jun 2017 14:36:47 GMT

A southern Italian restaurant, along with Guardian Cook columnist Rachel Roddy, puts on a dinner themed on the books of Elena Ferrante, celebrating the transformative power of books and food in aid of the Worldreader charity. Read more about it here...

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Drink: can cans usurp bottles as the containers of the future?

Thu, 17 Aug 2017 16:00:20 GMT

You can buy anything in a can these days

The biggest drinks trend this year, to my mind, has not been any specific bevvy (though adult soft drinks run it close), but the continued rise in popularity of cans – the latest being still water, which surprisingly overtook cola last year, according to figures from the admittedly partial industry association Can Makers.

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Kitchen gadgets review: a salt block for cooking eggs at the heat of the sun

Wed, 16 Aug 2017 08:00:34 GMT

Hot-stone cooking just got saltier and more ostentatious: this natural block makes an ideal grilling surface, but it’s like having a nuclear rod in the house

Salthouse Himalayan salt block (Whole Foods Market, £34.99). Aggregate mass of halite, arranged in rectangular cuboid and employed as a cooking surface.

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The best of northern Spain: readers’ travel tips

Thu, 17 Aug 2017 05:30:00 GMT

Forget crowded Med beaches: the four coastal regions of España Verde offer cool cities, wild shores and great walking in verdant coast and mountains

If you’d rather stray far from the tourist trail, the Basque Coast Geopark is a delight. It’s a protected area of the coastline around Mutriku, Deba, and Zumaia. There are 13km of cliffs made up of flysch (shale bed) deposits which have created layered and bizarre rock formations. We felt as though we were on the set of Jurassic Park. These staggering cliffs show how the Earth changed over millions of years and fossils are plentiful for the kids to admire. A boat tour is a great way to see it and costs €20 adult, €10 under-12s.
Lisa Anderson

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Why we fell for clean eating

Fri, 11 Aug 2017 05:00:49 GMT

The oh-so-Instagrammable food movement has been thoroughly debunked – but it shows no signs of going away. The real question is why we were so desperate to believe it. By Bee Wilson

In the spring of 2014, Jordan Younger noticed that her hair was falling out in clumps. “Not cool” was her reaction. At the time, Younger, 23, believed herself to be eating the healthiest of all possible diets. She was a “gluten-free, sugar-free, oil-free, grain-free, legume-free, plant-based raw vegan”. As The Blonde Vegan, Younger was a “wellness” blogger in New York City, one of thousands on Instagram (where she had 70,000 followers) rallying under the hashtag #eatclean. Although she had no qualifications as a nutritionist, Younger had sold more than 40,000 copies of her own $25, five-day “cleanse” programme – a formula for an all-raw, plant-based diet majoring on green juice.

But the “clean” diet that Younger was selling as the route to health was making its creator sick. Far from being super-healthy, she was suffering from a serious eating disorder: orthorexia, an obsession with consuming only foods that are pure and perfect. Younger’s raw vegan diet had caused her periods to stop and given her skin an orange tinge from all the sweet potato and carrots she consumed (the only carbohydrates she permitted herself). Eventually, she sought psychological help, and began to slowly widen the repertoire of foods she would allow herself to eat, starting with fish. She recognised that the problem was not her veganism, per se, but the particularly rigid and restrictive diet regime she had imposed on herself.

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How did ancient cultures work out how to make bread from wheat?

Wed, 16 Aug 2017 10:30:37 GMT

The long-running series in which readers answer other readers’ questions on subjects ranging from trivial flights of fancy to profound scientific concepts

How did so many ancient cultures figure out that you can make flour, and then bread, from wheat? It’s a pretty convoluted process and I reckon you could sit me in front of a field of wheat with an oven, some water, a grinder and some yeast and wheat, and I’d never put the five together.

Anthony Pitt

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Wine: hooked on classics

Thu, 10 Aug 2017 16:00:34 GMT

Obscure grape varieties are having a moment right now, but that doesn’t mean we should ignore the tried-and-tested heroes of yesteryear

According to a recent survey on what people drink when they eat out, most consumers are familiar with only 3.5 grape varieties. I’m mystified by that .5 – maybe they can remember only the grigio bit of pinot grigio? – and I’m betting two of them are sauvignon blanc, chardonnay and, ooooh, not too sure about the red. The report mentions merlot, but I don’t see much of that about these days. Shiraz, maybe?

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Tenerife's pop-up restaurants: tradition and taste – without the hype

Sun, 13 Aug 2017 11:00:12 GMT

In sheds, gardens and fields in the north of the island, wine growers run makeshift guachinches, selling their own wine and excellent local food

In the green, wine-growing areas of northern Tenerife, sharp-eyed visitors might spot makeshift restaurants in garages and courtyards. These unpretentious places are guachinches, originally outlets for small growers to sell their surplus wine. The atmosphere is convivial and relaxed. Oilcloths in vibrant colours cover the tables and they are traditional, family-run affairs: the men selling the wine and women in charge of the food.

Cheese, bread and wine – mostly red – arrive first. The menus, with low prices (and cash only), feature traditional dishes such as carne cabra (goat meat), garbanzas (chickpea stew), papas arrugadas (Canarian boiled potatoes with a wrinkly, salty crust) or carne fiesta (marinated fried pork).

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Alain Senderens obituary

Mon, 10 Jul 2017 12:02:23 GMT

Leading French chef and one of the founders of the nouvelle cuisine movement

Alain Senderens, who has died aged 77, was one of a small group of French chefs whose nouvelle cuisine transformed European cooking in the late 1960s and early 70s, not only by the rejection of elaborate dishes heavily doused with cream, fats and flour-thickened sauces, but also by their declaration of the independence of the chef-patron, and their willingness to absorb ideas from sometimes alien cultures.

In 1985, moving from his small restaurant, L’Archestrate (named after the ancient Greek gastronomic poet Archestratus), Senderens took by storm one of those citadels of the old ways of cooking, the restaurant Lucas Carton on the Place de la Madeleine, which had served Paris since 1860. However, he shocked the gastronomic establishment in 2005 by “returning” his three Michelin stars and transforming the restaurant, of which he now had sole ownership and which he rechristened Senderens, into somewhere that served food of the highest quality, but without the “tra-la-las and chichi” of high-end dining.

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How to eat: green salad

Tue, 08 Aug 2017 09:00:34 GMT

This month, How to Eat is enjoying seasonal leaves. Is this dish a sad, drab penance or a star to be celebrated? And is it ever acceptable to eat with a cheesy pasta bake?

Far be it from How to Eat to accuse others of manufactured outrage (a certain comic exaggeration is grist to this column’s peppermill). But clicking through the Guardian archives as research on this month’s subject – the not-so-humble green salad – even HTE was shocked by Tim Hayward’s tirade against this classic. “It is anti-food. An apology,” fulminated the food writer, now plying his anti-Romaine propaganda at the Financial Times. “A handful of lettuce leaves contains negligible nutritive benefit; the dressing adds nothing beyond lubrication. The whole is designed as a salve to the conscience, not a joy to the palate.”

Mais non, mes amis! As anyone who has ever had a skilled French cook present them with a green salad can attest, that is, as they say in Paris, cobblers. Dressed in light-stepping vinaigrette, the right ratios of quietly explosive herbs and cooling, peppery or bitter leaves can create an interplay of refreshing, summery flavours that dance across the palate with a balletic energy and grace. True, most British salads are sad, drab things, but that only heightens the revelatory rush of the real deal. How do you achieve such?

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How to crowdfund a restaurant empire

Sun, 16 Jul 2017 12:00:21 GMT

When award-winning chef Gary Usher was turned down by the bank for a loan to open a second restaurant, he set up a crowdfunding campaign. Now he’s about to launch his fourth restaurant

All restaurants have a coming-of-age moment, the point at which they survive and thrive, or go down fighting. For Gary Usher’s Sticky Walnut, in a two-up two-down house in Hoole, just outside Chester, that moment came in 2013, about 18 months after they had opened. Usher, like any ambitious young chef starting out on his own aged 30, had ploughed every penny he had into Sticky Walnut. He had gone back to Chester to open the restaurant – not far from where he had started out working in pubs – after successful stints in London at Michelin-starred Chez Bruce, and running Gordon Ramsay and Angela Hartnett’s kitchen at the York & Albany. He couldn’t afford to fail.

Sticky Walnut had started well. He was getting good local reviews, doing healthy evening business and was packed at weekends. But the busier he got, the hotter the two rooms of the restaurant became. Usher couldn’t afford air conditioning and in the heat of the summer, diners literally started passing out. “We were essentiallycarrying people out, Fridays and Saturdays, mostly older people,” he says, “which obviously wasn’t ideal.” To install air con upstairs and downstairs would cost £10,000. Usher went to the bank and told them how Sticky Walnut had quadrupled the turnover of the previous restaurant in the building, but how they really need this small loan so they could stay busy and people didn’t keep fainting. The bank said no.

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Discovery Communications to buy Scripps Networks for close to $12bn

Mon, 31 Jul 2017 13:42:25 GMT

The owner of Animal Planet will buy the owner of Food Network, tying together two powerful stables of TV shows

Bear Grylls is joining forces with the Barefoot Contessa in the latest of a series of major mergers to shakeup the media landscape.

Pay-TV giant Discovery, owner of Animal Planet and maker of Grylls’ Man Vs Wild, Naked and Afraid and other reality shows, will buy Food Network and lifestyle programme giant Scripps Networks for close to $12bn (£9.1bn), tying together two powerful stables of TV shows.

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Three cheers: a trio of English wines

Sun, 13 Aug 2017 05:00:05 GMT

Delicious home-grown wines made from the Bacchus grape

New Hall Bacchus, Essex 2016 (from £9.50, Newhall wines; Mr Wheeler Wine)
English winemaking used to be a rather eccentric, eclectic pursuit. Certainly, the set of grape varieties farmers used were not the kind you’d really find elsewhere in the world. They were mostly hybrids or crossings that had been bred for hardiness and early ripening, chosen for their ability to withstand the English climate rather than their reputation for making fabulous wine. Despite the fizzy gold rush that has, in the past couple of decades, filled English vineyards with Champagne’s chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier, the eccentric originals survive and, in the case of white bacchus, thrive, not least in this zippy, citrussy example made by pioneering Essex producer, New Hall

Camel Valley Bacchus, Cornwall 2015 (£13.95, Camel Valley; Waitrose)
Given that English sparkling wine is so transparently inspired by champagne, there is a case to be made for bacchus being England’s signature wine style. Its origins are in Germany – it was bred in the Pfalz region in the 1930s from a crossing of silvaner and riesling with müller-thurgau – but its popularity there has dwindled, and most growers these days tend to use it as a bulk, blend makeweight. In England, by contrast, it’s proved capable of making wines that recall sauvignon blanc in their hedgerow leafy greenness and refreshing pulse of gooseberry and citrus. And it has found a home in vineyards from Suffolk to Camel Valley in Cornwall, where it yields an almost exotically fruited but racy example.

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Dishes from the Black Sea and beyond: exclusive extract | Olia Hercules

Mon, 07 Aug 2017 12:42:50 GMT

These recipes bind fragments of many Caucasian cultures. The author of new book Kaukasis describes how she cherishes the region’s traditions while creating something new

In times of great economic struggle, people fall apart. I have seen it happen, where close friends, parents and their children or siblings break ties with each other because it is simply too difficult to continue. When it’s hard to survive financially, hard to stay strong and hard to make sense of events, it’s easy to forget what unites us.

The same happens with entire countries. It happened to my Armenian family, the inspiration for my book, Kaukasis. Originally from Nagorno-Karabakh, when war broke out in the 1980s, they were forced to abandon their summer house, the region and eventually even Azerbaijan’s capital, Baku, to relocate to Kiev, Ukraine. Despite the anguish, mutual hostility and atrocities, I have not once heard my Armenian aunt say anything negative about Azerbaijanis. She has always reiterated that it was an artificially created conflict, like so many of them were at the time and still are.

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How to cook the perfect chocolate crispy cakes

Thu, 17 Aug 2017 07:45:02 GMT

In these dog days of the summer holidays, this is the perfect activity to make everybody happy. And, best of all, licking the bowl is positively encouraged

Chocolate crispy squares are some of the first cakes most of us learn to make – maybe the fond memories of standing on a stool to laboriously stir the bowl, cereal flying everywhere, mean these simple treats never quite lose their appeal. Or perhaps they just tick all the boxes our most basic selves demand: at once sweet, buttery and delightfully crunchy.

Either way, they’re useful to have up your sleeve (and squashed under your feet) in what are the dog days of the school holidays for much of the country. At this stage in the summer, any activity that makes everyone happy is a rare gift indeed – and remember: you’re never too old to lick the bowl.

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Belly full: New York's bacon restaurant – and its nine-course tasting menu

Sun, 06 Aug 2017 11:00:39 GMT

A new Korean-influenced restaurant in Williamsburg offers nine pork courses on an omakase basis, as well as a spot of karaoke

Bacon has made its way into burgers, cupcakes and even cocktails. Now there’s an all-bacon tasting menu. At Korean-influence eatery Belly, opened last month in Brooklyn, diners can feast on nine porky dishes ($45) from bacon sushi to bacon steak.

Despite the focus on bacon, it’s not the relentless grease-fest you might expect

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In defence of sugary drinks: five fancy cocktails that don't work without sugar

Wed, 09 Aug 2017 06:30:01 GMT

For many drinkers, sweetness signals tackiness, but these cocktails challenge the idea there’s only one (dry) path to sophistication

In an 1897 interview with the New York Herald, an anonymous “proprietor of a fashionable drinking place” let slip a few gems about the subject of sugar in drinks.

Sweet drinks, quoth he, were only for “young fellows from the farm, with their rosy cheeks and sound stomachs”; of all of his city friends, “I know not more than half a dozen who can stand drinking sweet things”.

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Jeremy Lee’s recipe for grilled seabass with parsley salad | Jeremy Lee

Thu, 10 Aug 2017 11:00:35 GMT

The Quo Vadis chef shares the lessons he learned from his first mentors and a recipe for seabass in honour of an early inspiration, Alastair Little.
Discover who inspired four other top chefs here.

Restaurants and their kitchens are no longer, with rare exceptions, peopled by the high white-hatted brigades I learned to cook with back in the late 1970s. No, chefs these days have names – the erstwhile expression “Oui, Chef” now seems as dated as the stiff, hushed temples of gastronomy that were once the pinnacle of fine dining (stuffy hotel dining rooms, where the clink of china was more audible than conversation) – and they are no longer confined to the kitchen.

When I came to London first in the mid 1980s, the restaurant business as we know it today was but a tiny twinkle in the eyes of a small few. It was only when Bibendum opened in 1987 and I joined Simon Hopkinson and his kitchen crew there that I began to think there might be a serious future as a chef.

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12 of the UK's best driving pitstops – readers’ travel tips

Thu, 10 Aug 2017 11:48:14 GMT

Britain’s motorway service stations aren’t everyone’s cup of tea but there are great picnic spots, cafes, gardens and attractions just beyond the hard shoulder

Heading up to Bristol from Plymouth on the A38 we broke our journey by heading into Dartmoor to Hound Tor (a short drive off the A38 from Ashburton) to explore the rocky landscape and the medieval ruins. In the car park was The Hound of the Basket Meals food stand, which serves crab sandwiches, homemade burgers and lots of tea varieties. The landscape around is gorgeous and it’s just half a mile up to the tor. We also walked down to the ruins. It was quiet and beautiful there, with lots of bracken, thorns and heather. It isn’t hard to access Hound Tor and it’s far preferable to a service stop – and cheaper too.
katie banks

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10 of the best beach bars in Portugal

Mon, 14 Aug 2017 05:30:34 GMT

With cold beer, caipirinhas and great seafood, these bars, from the Algarve up to Porto, are as hot, bright and breezy as the stunning Atlantic coastline itself
Best beach bars in France and Spain

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Cocktail of the week: Locura recipe

Fri, 04 Aug 2017 15:00:46 GMT

Mezcal and absinthe aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, especially in the same glass, but they combine to luscious effect in this refreshing tipple

Mezcal and absinthe is an eye-opening combo, hence this drink’s name, which is Spanish for madness, but the cucumber and lemon bring it back down to earth. Serves one.

40ml mezcal
½ cucumber, cut into 8 large pieces, plus two thin slices to garnish
25ml lemon juice
25ml basic 50:50 sugar syrup
2 dashes absinthe (optional)

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How Britain fell for Wetherspoon’s

Sun, 06 Aug 2017 07:00:34 GMT

Wetherspoon’s has won a special place in our hearts, bourgeois snobbery notwithstanding. As it nears its 40th birthday, Ed Cumming visits his local

Honestly, this is nicer than the X,” says my girlfriend, referencing an international luxury hotel brand whose name you would know but whose favour, as a travel writer, she is keen not to lose.

The problem is that we are not staying with a rival luxury hotel chain. We’re in a Spoons. More specifically, we are in the Greenwood in Sudbury Hill, west London, sampling one of the 40 hotels JD Wetherspoon now operates around the country. Our entire stay, including room, dinner, drinks and breakfast for two, will come to less than a single round of drinks I bought in a bar in Soho the previous week. But, as I look up at the ceiling, my belly full of steak and beer, lying in the comfortable bed, clean from the hot shower, I think: maybe she has a point. Then I begin to question some of my other consumer choices.

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Rachel Roddy’s baked aubergine with herbs and goat’s cheese| A Kitchen in Rome

Tue, 08 Aug 2017 11:30:55 GMT

The aubergine is a wonderful canvas for flavour. Here it is baked until crisp at the edges and velvety within, soaked in oils and basil and topped with fat flecks of melting goat’s cheese

When I was growing up, aubergines meant ratatouille. Occasionally there was Josceline Dimbleby’s creamed aubergine; maybe a moussaka, but mostly the 70s and 80s were the ratatouille years. Mum made a panful a week, following a Jane Grigson recipe. Her need for the book had long passed, but it was open anyway, reassuring and ready to collect another oily notch.

Thinking back, I don’t actually remember any whole aubergines; just black and white spongy cubes in a colander which, unlike the rings of courgettes destined for the same dish, were not for tasting – just squeezing. Once everything was in the pan, it would blip and burp at the back of stove, making the kitchen feel comfortably claustrophobic and my specs steam up as I did my homework at the table covered with a red waxed cloth. Even though my brother, sister and I moaned: “Not again – how boring ...” we liked ratatouille very much. Lamb chops, roast chicken, fish, rice and boiled potatoes were all companions for a great big spoonful, the pieces seemingly intact but then under your fork a succulent puree in a thick sauce surrounded by a fringe of olive oil. Easy comfort, tasting both of home and somewhere else – just what a teenager needs, maybe.

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A little steep: why are there no tea bars in the UK?

Mon, 14 Aug 2017 05:59:34 GMT

British high streets are packed with coffee shops, but we’ve never taken to tea bars as they have in the US. And that’s not only because we have more kettles ...

The US currently seems to be enjoying a tea party to which Britain has not been invited, with tea bars popping up across the nation and sales of the hot drink shooting up 15% in the past five years. Even Drake has invested in a New York-based matcha bar – with a hip-hop-sounding ethos: “Good things come to those who hustle.”

So where are the UK’s tea bars? In 2015, we spent £654m on having a cuppa. According to the UK Tea and Infusions Association, Brits drink 95m more cups of char every day than they do coffee. But while it’s barely possible to walk down a British high street without passing roughly 75 Costas, Neros or Starbucks, there is no chain dedicated to the UK’s most popular hot drink.

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Twee tarts and singing scones - a first look at the new Great British Bake Off trailer

Thu, 03 Aug 2017 14:10:57 GMT

The first glimpse of the Channel 4 reboot features a selection of animated food items singing along to Paul McCartney’s We All Stand Together

The first promotional footage of the all new Great British Bake Off has arrived, featuring bubbling cheese scones and singing croissants.

The short clip was launched on social media today, and features a selection of animated food items - pots of white chocolate, dancing tarts and an assortment of pastries - singing along to the cheering camaraderie of Paul McCartney’s We All Stand Together. While not a radical departure from the twee aesthetics of the original series, the advert certainly positions the new show as a quaint and surreal reboot.

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Thomasina Miers’ recipe for chicken panzanella salad

Fri, 11 Aug 2017 16:00:20 GMT

Whether you cook it from scratch or use up a leftover roast, the addition of chicken turns this Tuscan classic into a proper meal

I am a bread snob, and I will justify myself to anyone who’ll listen. I’ll happily fight this one out to the end. Jesus fed the people with loaves and fishes for a reason: bread used to be good for us, dense with vitamins and nutrients. After the second world war came fast-rise, “Chorleywood”-style bread, and in that much quicker process the bread proteins, which are very hard for us to digest, are not broken down properly. In the same era, farmers were incentivised to grow food for yield more than anything else (a policy that still holds today), and the idea that ingredients are for their nutrients seems to have since gone to the wind.

A sourdough loaf, by contrast, is slow-rise, meaning the proteins in the wheat have time to break down, which makes them easier to digest. Sourdough is largely made with whole grains and organic flours that are produced for their nutritional value. Strew this wonder food with a seasonal veg – sauteed, roasted or raw – and top with an egg, or scatter over some other affordable, delicious protein or even just good oil, and you have a splendid meal.

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Alabama pit stops: 5 of the best gas station barbecue joints

Thu, 17 Aug 2017 10:58:20 GMT

Alabama excels at the gas station barbecue – a sub-genre of one of the few truly American cuisines – which is tailor-made for lovers of the open road
Barbecue is serious stuff: tell us about your favourite place in the comments

Gas station barbecue is just what it says it is: homespun food, cooked yards from the petrol pumps, in small kitchens. Ribs, pulled pork and chicken wings are served on paper plates at simple table settings inside the garages, overlooking aisles stacked with engine oil, anti-freeze and rubber hoses. It is not surprising Alabama excels at this road-trip cuisine of convenience: the deep south’s Yellowhammer State reputedly has the most barbecue restaurants per capita of anywhere in the US.

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Rachel Roddy’s recipe for aubergine, tomato and ricotta bake | A kitchen in Rome

Tue, 15 Aug 2017 11:29:39 GMT

The siren call of simmering tomatoes will draw hungry souls to your door. Layered into a bake inspired by Richard Olney, with ricotta and slices of deep-fried aubergine, it begs for a hunk of bread to mop it all up

By the time I arrived, Gisella, along with her sister and mother, had already peeled 30 kilos of tomatoes, which were draining in large sieves, steadily depositing pale red drips into the bowls beneath. Temperatures have remained doggedly around 45C (113F) in Sicily this last week, so steady too were the drips of sweat running down the sides and napes of everyone’s necks. “It’s the hottest 8 August since 1800,” noted Gisella’s husband Rodolfo, who was standing in the street, just outside the garage door.

“Do you want to watch or help?” Gisella asked. “Help,” I said, at which point an office chair on wheels was rolled from the workbench up to a large, blue plastic tub in the middle of the garage. At first glance, it seemed the tub was full of soupy sauce. I soon realised it was simply water stained red with seeds, skin and juice. The tomatoes – a round, fluted variety - were bobbing at the bottom of the tub and needed fishing out.

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Nigel Slater’s prawns and mackerel recipes

Sun, 13 Aug 2017 05:00:04 GMT

Seafood recipes should be simple and quick – it’s the best way to capture all the taste of the ocean

I came home with fat, raw prawns to cook in their shells and two fine mackerel, stiff as boards, for the grill. The prawns went into a shallow pan on the hob, in butter into which I had crushed a couple of sticky cloves of black garlic and a handful of chopped dill, their shells shining as I spooned over the frothing butter. At the table, we cracked the shells open and pulled out the garlicky flesh, stopping to suck them first, and then mopped up the butter with sourdough.

We pulled the garlicky flesh out of the shells, stopping to suck them first

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Recipes for a Hollywood bake-off | Ruby bakes

Sat, 28 Nov 2015 05:59:01 GMT

In her last column for Cook, Ruby turns to the silver screen for inspiration with a recipe for treacle and ginger pancakes with ice-cream – ideal for breakfast à la Little Miss Sunshine – and a Clueless take on the ideal chocolate cookie

This is my final baking column in Cook. The past couple of years spent writing these recipes for the Guardian have been really special. I’ve been able to share with you the highs and lows, the triumphs and total flops, of my experiments in baking. It’s a constant challenge to come up with recipes that are inventive but still approachable, that don’t need a plethora of weird and wonderful ingredients, but which still take me out of my comfort zone, and teach me (and you, I hope) something new.

Related: Ruby Tandoh's sweet dough recipe | Ruby bakes

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Going Deutsch: a summer tour of Germany, part one

Sat, 12 Aug 2017 10:00:42 GMT

Our trip starts with a few days’ hiking in Bavaria’s mountainous Berchtesgaden district – trying to avoid its most infamous resident

The late train to Berchtesgaden is not busy. A group of beefy young men in leather shorts with embroidered braces, who appear utterly Bavarian, get on with another group of young men who are stick-thin and chatting in Somali. I’m with Conor, my son, who now lives in Munich. Could these be recent arrivals? “Doubtful,” he says. “They look like they’re settled in.”

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