Roasted fennel with tomatoes, olives and new potatoes

I don’t usually search for recipes to match something I’ve bought. But in this case I came home with some huge fennel bulbs and unusual yellow and orange tomatoes. BBC Good Food came up with the answer of what to do with them. If you click here: http://bit.ly/1gG91so  you’ll find an easy recipe for roasting the fennel and adding different textures and flavours with the addition of tomatoes, black olives and small potatoes. By the way, I’m not so sure the yellow tomatoes taste any different from standard red ones, but they certainly look pretty.



Five-a-day?

There has been discussion recently about the failing UK government guidelines for everyone to eat five fruits and vegetables a day. It seems that the target is not being reached yet a study lasting 12 years at University College London has now found that people who ate at least 7 portions a day were 42% less likely to die. The findings suggest that vegetables are more important than fruits. A professor at the University of Liverpool ups the optimum figure to 10 a day: “Humans are designed to be omnivorous: a handful of nuts, seeds, fruit and the occasional antelope. We’re not meant to be eating junk food.”

The whole point of making fresh produce a major part of our diet is that it will then automatically squeeze out sugary snacks and less healthy options. But how to achieve this? Government subsidies to make fruits and vegetables cheaper?

First, and most important is THE MESSAGE. I have no quarrel with the idea of 5-a-day. But the way it’s put across has been handled all wrong. Telling people (specially children) what they should eat is counterproductive. It has been presented like medicine: ‘eat up your greens and then you can splurge on something else’. What they should be telling us is that fruit and vegetables are fun. You just have to look at the pictures above (found on a viral email, so I can’t credit the original designer/photographer). What child wouldn’t love playing with strawberries to make a fish, kiwis to replicate a palm tree, and most inventive of all, creating a bicycle out of slices of red pepper, cucumber, broccoli and peas? I guarantee that children making these creations will be popping some of the ingredients into their mouths.

Who knows what this is?



Some people might think it’s rhubarb - or a kind of celery. But it’s Swiss chard. Like spinach it’s a vegetable that’s high in nutrients and vitamins. But unlike spinach, the heating process tends to take away any bitterness. It’s very popular in Mediterranean cooking and it has a refined, delicate flavour.



It’s best to cook the stems and leaves separately. (Some people believe the coloured stems are tough, but they are too good to throw away, so it might be worth trying). For a good recipe, using olive oil, garlic, a little chilli and some butter, please click on the picture.

Who knows what this is?

Some people might think it’s rhubarb - or a kind of celery. But it’s Swiss chard. Like spinach it’s a vegetable that’s high in nutrients and vitamins. But unlike spinach, the heating process tends to take away any bitterness. It’s very popular in Mediterranean cooking and it has a refined, delicate flavour.

It’s best to cook the stems and leaves separately. (Some people believe the coloured stems are tough, but they are too good to throw away, so it might be worth trying). For a good recipe, using olive oil, garlic, a little chilli and some butter, please click on the picture.

Red and ripe

The trend today is to buy fruit ‘to ripen in the bowl.’ It’s cheaper, because it’s far easier to transport when it’s firm. The mangos in the top picture are absolutely ready to eat, unlike the less expensive green-tinged ones that need to be ripened at home.

Berries and currants have a very short life but if they are picked early they have a chance of lasting longer. But this comes at a cost: strawberries with what’s called a ‘white shoulder’ are not ripe and never will be. They won’t have the flavour of summer grown berries that melt in your mouth.

There are two new fruits appearing in London’s Covent Garden Market: Strasberries and Pineberries. The first is a cross between a raspberry and a strawberry, and the second is a white strawberry with red seeds which looks magical and has the aroma of a pineapple.



Lemons in Venice

Well, not exactly. This is a lemon tree in Clifton Nurseries, the garden centre in London’s Little Venice. The name was apparently coined by Robert Browning the poet and referred to the area where the Grand Union Canal meets the Regent’s Canal. It’s a picturesque area with narrowboat cruises, cafés and creamy stucco houses.

Lemons are more often seen growing in Sicily, but for some reason they seem to thrive in cooler climates, indoors. I’ve found a wonderfully illustrated guide to growing lemons with every detail of what you need and how to do it. Click on the photo to get started.

If you are less than committed and you live near Paddington/Maida Vale in London, head over to the bright airy café in Clifton Nurseries and just enjoy the lemon trees there.

Lemons in Venice

Well, not exactly. This is a lemon tree in Clifton Nurseries, the garden centre in London’s Little Venice. The name was apparently coined by Robert Browning the poet and referred to the area where the Grand Union Canal meets the Regent’s Canal. It’s a picturesque area with narrowboat cruises, cafés and creamy stucco houses.

Lemons are more often seen growing in Sicily, but for some reason they seem to thrive in cooler climates, indoors. I’ve found a wonderfully illustrated guide to growing lemons with every detail of what you need and how to do it. Click on the photo to get started.

If you are less than committed and you live near Paddington/Maida Vale in London, head over to the bright airy café in Clifton Nurseries and just enjoy the lemon trees there.

Elephants never forget
This sounds like a cliché but it turns out to be true. Scientific research has shown that during a severe drought in 1993 in Tanzania, elephants could not only recognize one another but could also recall routes to different food and water sources when their usual areas dried up.
Here are some more thoughts on memory:
“No man has a good enough memory to be a successful liar.” 
Abraham Lincoln
“Memory is the diary that we all carry about with us.”
Oscar Wilde
“Drugs are a waste of time. They destroy your memory and your self-respect and everything that goes along with your self-esteem. They’re no good at all.”
Kurt Cobain
“There are three side effects of acid: enhanced long-term memory, decreased short-term memory and I forget the third.”
Timothy Leary
(The picture of the elephant, if I remember correctly, was taken at a festival in Jaipur, India.)

Elephants never forget

This sounds like a cliché but it turns out to be true. Scientific research has shown that during a severe drought in 1993 in Tanzania, elephants could not only recognize one another but could also recall routes to different food and water sources when their usual areas dried up.

Here are some more thoughts on memory:

No man has a good enough memory to be a successful liar.”

Abraham Lincoln

Memory is the diary that we all carry about with us.”

Oscar Wilde

Drugs are a waste of time. They destroy your memory and your self-respect and everything that goes along with your self-esteem. They’re no good at all.”

Kurt Cobain

There are three side effects of acid: enhanced long-term memory, decreased short-term memory and I forget the third.”

Timothy Leary

(The picture of the elephant, if I remember correctly, was taken at a festival in Jaipur, India.)

Fun with eggs

Since I have put up a new post every day for four years, I hope I can be forgiven for repeating some of my favourite photos. So this week (and last week) I’ve brought out some from the archive to illustrate current thoughts.

The top picture is a teapot with legs. If someone made you a breakfast of a couple of eggs and a cup of tea like this, you couldn’t resist a smile. Then the lower photo shows one of a set of dishes, bought in the USA, with a ‘square’ egg, made with a special gadget that shapes a hard-boiled egg into a cube.

Food shouldn’t always be taken too seriously. But here is a story about someone still at school who is taking food very seriously. Flynn McGarry is a teenager who is running a pop-up restaurant and serving 8 elaborate courses to privileged customers. His talent is so extraordinary that he has already served apprenticeships in top American kitchens and works happily alongside trained chefs. His aim is not just to become a Michelin starred chef himself, he wants to own the best restaurant in the world. Now that is serious. The New York Times has written a long piece about him. To read it, please click here: http://nyti.ms/1fe7A2v

Indian Sweets

The plateau of Mahabaleshwar, 285 km from Mumbai, is bound by valleys on all sides. Where better to have an ice cream parlour?

Juhu is a suburb of Mumbai. It’s one of the most affluent areas of the city and home to many Bollywood celebrities. The beach is best visited on weekend afternoons and evenings, when it comes alive with children’s rides, carnival-like amusements and food stands.

Bangalore

The first three photos in this set were taken at K.R. Market in Bangalore. The city has the third largest population in the country and is known as the Silicon Valley of India because of its prominence in IT (Information Technology).

For travellers more used to packaged fruits and vegetables in supermarkets back home, the stallholders and the displays in K.R. Market are an immense treat.

Children in South India

The boy in the top picture is too busy eating his meal to notice the cameraman. He’s near Juhu Beach in Mumbai.

The children in the centre photo are in Mahabeleshwar. Nicknamed the ‘land of strawberries’, it’s a hill station southwest of Pune.

In the bottom photo, taken in K.R. Market Bangalore, either the aubergines (eggplant) are selling exceptionally well, or Professor Jackson made the boys laugh!

To see more of his work, please click here: http://bit.ly/1eJ9UOQ



A week in India

I live in London so what I write for the blog is about European food. This week I’m putting up pictures of India. The photos reflect the life in three cities: Bangalore, Pune and Mumbai.

Life in South India is often hard. Yet what stands out from these images is the dignity (and the joy) of the people who make a living from selling what others need to eat. Whether in the countryside, on a beach or in a city, the food on display is fresh, bright and colourful.

The picture shows Kumkuma - powders used for social and religious markings in Hinduism. They are made from turmeric or saffron. The turmeric is dried and powdered with a bit of slaked lime, which turns the rich yellow into red. This is then used for forehead decorations called bindi (meaning a drop or small particle). These are bright dots of red applied to the centre of the forehead close to the eyebrows. Other colours are used with a sign or piece of jewellery, worn in the same place.

The photos were taken by computer scientist Professor Daniel Jackson. He also produces professional work with his camera. You can see his blog on photography here: http://dnj.tumblr.com/

Matzah and yemma

The top picture is matzah or unleavened bread. It’s what we eat instead of normal bread for the whole week of Passover. It’s crisp and dry. At the Seder Service it’s eaten with bitter herbs to remind us of the harsh lives of the Israelite slaves in Egypt.

During the week of the Festival, we eat matzah with butter, cheese, jam or best of all, a Portuguese/Jewish spread called yemma.

Yemma (in the lower photo) is made from egg yolks, fresh vanilla pods and sugar. From the ingredients you can see that this is not a slimming spread. But it is totally, amazingly delicious.

You can also use it as a filling for a flourless hazelnut cake.

If you’d like to know more, and how to make it, please click here: http://bit.ly/1mHd8a0 and it will take you to what I wrote a year ago. There’s also an article about the origins of this unusual spread.

A book is born

For some months I have been putting the finishing touches to my novel SEXTET. Now it is about to be published. It’s not about food. It’s a modern story, set in Europe in the present day, involving six characters whose lives are enmeshed in danger, excitement and disaster.

SEXTET has been included in an exciting book launch to take place later this month. The organisers were seeking 'ten incredibly talented, unknown authors' promising journalists 'good writing and commercial potential'.

Last week they wrote to tell me that SEXTET was one of the first four to be chosen! So I’ll be there, on April 30th.

The book will be available in paperback on Amazon and also on the Kindle. Anyone who wants to read the electronic version will be able to download it FREE on three selected days.

I’ll keep you posted about the FREE copies.

Watch this space for more news.



(The photo shows a floating bookshelf: the work of YOY, a Tokyo based design studio. Click here: http://yoy-idea.jp/works/ to find out more.)

Mille Feuille

Everyone is allowed favourites, and this is my absolute, best ever kind of pâtisserie. It’s a French mille feuille - or thousand leaves. These home made ones are far from the perfectly shaped and finished slices you see in pastry shops. But they taste amazing - custard oozing out through the pastry leaves, and coffee icing piped in a ‘feather pattern’ over the white icing on the top.

If you want an idea of how it’s done (certainly not a detailed, step-by-step instruction) click on the picture to find a video. It lasts about two minutes. It takes a lot longer than that to make mille feuilles so perhaps you want to go and buy them anyway!

Churros

As I mentioned in my post about Passover yesterday, we don’t eat bread for a week during the Festival. But the rules also extend to cakes or anything made with flour. So in preparation this week I am using up bags of flour, so I won’t have any left in the house.

These are Spanish churros - doughnuts that are fried and dipped in coffee in the mornings. My version is slightly unusual in that the piped mixture is baked instead of being fried in oil. They have to be eaten straight away - when they come out of the oven crisp and hot. They are then sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar. (Please click on the photo if you’d like the recipe.)

Maravilloso - as they say in Spain!