“The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you've got to have a what-the-hell attitude.” ― Julia Child

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

White Chocolate Heaven...

Mmmmm.... yummy dessert.

Healthy Food

Word up!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Snake and Pygmy, Kate and Sidney...

Steak And Kidney Pud!
First of all, I would like to say that I hear the collective groans and sounds of "eww" out there, particularly from you Americans, who think that kidneys are things you choose to donate to needy recipients when you expire rather than tasty morsels. But I gotta tell ya, I always loved this dish, from a little boy to a grown man. If you love Steak and Mushroom Pie, you'll love this. Kidneys are really just a little firmer than mushrooms texture-wise, and they also are like mushrooms in that they soak up flavour, so if the rest of it tastes good, so will the kidney. And really - who wants to go through life stuck with the same boring old set of tastes and textures. What is life really about if we eat the same stuff all the time?

So what is a Steak and Kidney Pudding? It's a dish made by enclosing diced steak and beef, lamb's or pig's kidney pieces in gravy in a suet pastry. In some areas, a "Steak pudding" is served instead, omitting the kidney from the ingredients.
The pudding is then steamed for hours and hours until cooked. In making a pie, the steak and kidney is usually pre-cooked with chopped onions etc by simmering for a few hours, before placing it in a pie and baking in the oven. With Steak and Kidney pudding, the suet pastry is used to line a bowl into which the uncooked steak and kidney mix is placed with onions, stock etc., then a suet pastry lid is  placed on top and sealed tightly. The top is then covered with muslin cloth which is tied round the bowl, or sometimes the whole bowl is enclosed in aluminium foil.. This is placed in a covered saucepan and steamed for about four hours or until the pudding is cooked. Some recipes then stipulate making a small opening in the top and pouring rich stock into the pudding ten minutes before serving.
I can sense you all have questions about this. Like what's suet pastry?
It is a special kind of dough made using suet, which is  raw beef or mutton fat, especially the hard fat found around the loins and kidneys. it has a low melting point which means it is solid at room temperature and melts at a moderate temperature, making it ideal for steamed puddings. It is used in a variety of dishes, such as haggis, Windsor pudding, dumplings, Christmas pudding, mincemeat, and spotted dick.

Here's a Suet Pastry recipe:

First sift 12 oz (350 g) of self-raising flour and salt into a large mixing bowl.
Add some freshly milled black pepper, then add 6 oz (175 g) of shredded beef suet – half the flour's quantity – and mix it into the flour using the blade of a knife.
When it's evenly blended, add a few drops of cold water and start to mix with the knife, using curving movements and turning the mixture around.
The aim is to bring it together as a dough, so keep adding drops of water until it begins to get really claggy and sticky.
Now abandon the knife, go in with your hands and bring it all together until you have a nice smooth elastic dough, which leaves the bowl clean. It's worth noting that suet pastry always needs more water than other types, so if it is still a bit dry just go on adding a few drops at a time.

Now you have your suet pastry - what to do with it? Well, if you're making a Steak and Kidney Pud (and I strongly suggest that you should - you owe it to yourself), here's what to do...

You'll need...

450 g (1 lb) stewing steak
100 g (4 oz) kidney
1 onion, chopped
25 g (1 oz) plain flour
pinch of mustard powder
parsley sprig to garnish

  • Roll out two-thirds of the pastry to a circle large enough to line a 900 ml (1 1/2 pint) pudding basin.
  • Cut the steak into 2.5 cm (1 in) cubes. Remove skin, core and fat from the kidney, then cut into 1 cm (1/2 in) pieces. 
  • Arrange the steak and kidney in layers in the pudding basin. Mix together the onion, flour, mustard, seasoning to taste and the 150 ml (1/4 pint) water until smooth. Pour over the meat.
  • Roll out the remaining pastry to form a circle to fit the top of the basin. 
  • Brush the rim of the pudding with water, lift the pastry lid over the basin and press down gently around the rim. Trim off surplus pastry.
  • Cover with a lid of greaseproof paper, then a lid of foil, both pleated to allow for expansion, and tie with string. Steam the pudding for 4 hours, topping up with boiling water as required. Garnish with a sprig of parsley.
Traditionally ox kidney is used in this recipe, but if you prefer a milder flavour use lamb's kidneys.

Alright, alright... what do you mean by pudding basin,  Jeff? Huh?

Well, it's one of two things. It can either be a haircut...

..or it can be one of these lovely ceramic bowls found in kitchen stores.

Any more questions?

Yes, you cry, yes! What's the new Name This Food! food?

Name it!

Thursday, June 17, 2010


Well chaps and chappesses, it's Thursday and you know what that means here on The Food. It's Name This Food answer day, and did anyone even bother last week? Well, actually one person guessed 'insect larva' which was clearly not the right answer. I know in some remote, out of the way, back of beyond regions of the planet they do eat bugs and grubs and worms and things, but my name is not Pumbaa, it's Jeff, and even though I'll try anything once, I will not eat anything even vaguely insect-y. Another person, my Mum I suspect, clearly knew the answer but wasn't telling. So I will let you in on it. The answer was...
Alive, alive-o. Actually, dead-o.


Yes, the cockle, that small marine bivalve mollusc, a member of the clam family, found in sheltered sandy beach areas worldwide. Usually people recognize the shell more than they recognize the inside part.
She shells shea shells by the shee shore... shorry, offisher.
 They are collected by raking them from the sands at low tide. However, the labour of collecting cockles is hard work and, as seen from the Morecambe Bay disaster, in which 21 illegal immigrants died, can be dangerous if local tidal conditions are not carefully watched.
So delicious when you buy them down at the seafront. Boiled then seasoned with malt vinegar and white pepper, they can be bought from seafood stalls, alongside mussels, whelks, jellied eels, crabs and shrimps. But what else can you do with them? Well, they are popular in both Western and Eastern cooking. Boiled cockles (sometimes grilled) are sold at many hawker centers in South East Asia, and are used in laksa, char kway teow and steamboat. Cockles are also available pickled in jars, and more recently, have been sold in sealed packets (with vinegar) containing a plastic two-pronged fork. A meal of cockles fried with bacon, served with laver bread, is known as a traditional Welsh breakfast.

Bara Lawr (Laver Bread) is a traditional Welsh recipe for a classic dish of purple laver or nori seaweed that's coked down to a paste.


400g laver (seaweed)
60g butter
60ml orange juice
salt and black pepper


The best thing is to get fresh laver from the sea shore (though shop-bought will also work). If using fresh soften by plunging in lightly-salted boiling water and cook for about 40 minutes, or until the laver begins to break down. Drain, allow to cool then wring in a tea towel. At this point melt the butter in a pan and when hot add the laver and fry for about 8 minutes. Add the orange juice, season and allow to heat through before serving.

Cockles and bacon served with laver bread


100g cockles per person
5 slices bacon

1. De-shell and thoroughly wash the cockles. Place into frying pan and cook at a medium heat for 5 minutes. 
2. Fry 5 slices of bacon. Serve the cockles, bacon and laver bread on a plate, like so: (you can add sausages, too, as pictured here).
Scrumptious, no?
Anyway.... what is our Name This Food! food to be this week?
Name This Food!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Produced in Kent

Well, this is going to be an interesting one. I am simultaneously writing and taste-testing food. I was at work today, and a foodie event took place that I had wanted to go to, but my Sis, Mum and step-dad Chris went in my stead, and brought me back a couple of lovely goodies.

The event in question was The 4th Taste the Best of Produced In Kent, which is a bit of a mouthful (no pun intended) which took place at Biddenden Vineyards. It was a charity event to raise funds for Kent Air Ambulance, a worthwhile and life-saving cause. Evidently there were quite a few exhibitors there, over 20 in fact. One exhibitor was Quex Foods whose main product is rapeseed oil and foods that are made using it. This is why I have in front of me now a bag of potato crisps, slightly salted, from Quex Foods, made using rapeseed oil. What is rapeseed oil? It is oil made from rapeseed (duh). Otherwise known as oilseed rape or brassica napus, it is a bright yellow flowering member of the family Brassicaceae (mustard or cabbage family). The name derives from the Latin for turnip, rāpum or rāpa, and is first recorded in English at the end of the 14th century. Another member of this plant family is canola (Canola actually stands for Canadian Oilseed, Low Acid). It grows in great big fields all over Kent, and when in full flower the views of the patchwork of bright yellow squares are spectacular.
Rape! Rape!
Evidently the nutritional properties of cold pressed rapeseed oil have been shown to help reduce high cholesterol which can cause heart disease, when included in a balanced diet. Its high burning point makes it ideal for roasting, stir-frying or sauteing.  There are benefits of using rapeseed oil instead of olive oil for cooking because of the antioxidant properties being maintained at a higher cooking temperature.  In stir-fries the oil heats well, without smoking, and lends a pleasant background note.Cold pressed rapeseed oil contains a natural balance of omega 3, 6 and 9 oils, making it a good source for these essential fatty acids.  "Good oils" are essential in bodily functions, including aiding cholesterol reduction and maintaining a healthy heart.
 Cold pressed rapeseed oil contains natural Vitamin E which is a powerful antioxidant.  This is used by the body to fight against the effects of free radicals (ageing toxins), keeping us fresh and full of energy.

Well, enough of the blurb. What do these potato crisps (that's chips for you all across the pond) taste like?
Here goes...

 Hmm. Quite delicious. Not exactly different, but well-made chips, slightly thicker than your average mass-produced ones, very crunchy with a lovely nutty flavour and not too much salt. Reminiscent of Tim's Cascade Chips or Zapp's. But even if they don't taste really different, that's not the point, is it? The point is that they are at least a little bit healthier.

 Next in my goody bag is a sweet treat from Head In The Clouds, who make meringues in a bewildering array of flavours, including such out-there tastes as Cumin, White Rum & Coconut, Whisky & Marmalade, Cardamom & Orange Blossom and Lavender. The one I have here is Cinnamon & Hazelnut. They're made in Kent using only free range egg whites, Fair Trade sugar and whatever flavouring is required. They do all kinds of speciality and seasonal ones, too. Alright, I'm opening the exquisitely wrapped package now...
Well, the cinnamon flavour is definitely there, it's noticeable without being overpowering or worse, too weak. When making a cinnamon/sugar product it is all too easy to let one flavour dominate the other, but this manages to be cinnamony and sugary without being sickly. The hazelnuts sprinkled on top manage to get themselves heard, too, and the inside of the meringue is still a bit soft and gooey which is lovely. Some meringues I've had have been way too sugary and dry as a bone all the way through, but this is delightful... (bite, chew) yummm, this gets better the further into it you get. I cannot wait to try some of their other flavours...
I can't believe I ate the whole thing!

See? None left. I do believe this dessert earns a whacking 5 yums out of 5!

À votre santé!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Name This Food, June 10th

Hot buttered crumpet!

One of my absolute favourites, the  (English) crumpet is a round, savoury/sweet snack bread made from flour and yeast. 
Crumpets may have been invented by the Anglo-Saxons. In early times, they were hard pancakes cooked on a griddle, rather than the soft and spongy crumpets of Victorian times which were made with yeast. The crumpet-makers of the Midlands and London developed the characteristic holes, by adding extra baking powder to the yeast dough. The term itself may refer to a crumpled or curled-up cake, or have Celtic origins relating to the Breton krampoez meaning a "thin, flat cake" and the Welsh crempog or crempot, a type of pancake. 

Crumpets are generally circular, but there are some rectangular varieties too. They have a distinctive flat top with many small holes and a resilient but slightly spongy texture, being very porous. Crumpets alone are bland and generally eaten hot and toasted with a topping (butter is best). Other popular accompaniments include cheese when melted on top of the crumpet, honey, poached egg, jam, Marmite, salt, marmalade, peanut butter, cheese spread, golden syrup, hummus, lemon curd, maple syrup and Vegemite. In Australia and New Zealand, square crumpets can be purchased from supermarkets, designed to easily fit in a standard toaster.
Those Aussies!

If you have never tried a crumpet, I urge you to do so with all speed. I know from my days in America that they are available in many large supermarket chains such as Publix and Kroger, so there is no excuse. 

Crumpets are one of those foods that remind you of a certain time in your life. For me, eating a crumpet reminds me of watching Doctor Who on a Saturday evening at my Grandparents' house. Conversely, Dr. Who makes me hungry for hot crumpets with all that lovely butter melting down into those pore-like holes in the top. The springy texture, the satisfying crunch when you bite into it and the ooze of warm buttery goodness in the mouth.... mmmm. Nothing like it.

Well then, what's this week's Name This Food! food?

All The Fun Of The Fair

Today Sis, Mum and I visited the oddly-named Wealden Times Midsummer Fair. I say 'oddly-named' because it's not even officially Summer yet, or did I just sleep for a month? It still starts on June 21st, or have they changed that, too? Ah well. No matter.

Wealden Times, although it sounds like it ought to be a newspaper, is actually a magazine that bills itself as the 'lifestyle magazine for the Weald', whatever that means. The Weald, for the uninitiated, refers to that area of high ground between the North and South Downs in Kent and part of East Sussex. They do say that a man born in Kent is a Kentish man, but a man born in the Weald of Kent is a Man Of Kent. I am happy to say that I am the latter. The magazine is all about houses, interioirs, gardening, recipes, food, health & beauty, fitness, green issues and local events. It is a glossy mag, laid out a bit like Better Homes or Country Living.

The fair itself was a large affair, with a group of outdoorsy-type stalls in the first area, such as David Hall, who makes croquet sets and wooden outdoor furniture as well as paintings that he does himself. I particularly enjoyed Paul Drewett, whose stand incidentally won best in show, with his random collection of retro toys, pond yachts, decorative and marine antiques and a rather nice child-sized biplane standing proudly in front. After passing Paul I noticed that there was a hog roasting on a spit, which was due to be ready at 2pm. Right - mental note made.  We then looked at Wellingham Herb Garden and Usual and Unusual Plants whose names are pretty self-explanatory - lots of lovely herbs and plants. Next was Happy Hampers, who specialize in, well, hampers. Not the modern meaning of the word hamper as in "gift basket" - the older meaning, as in, a hamper. A case containing all the stuff you'd need for a picnic - plates, cups, Thermos flasks, cutlery... and these are originals from the '50s and '60s. They also had a retro caravan at the back that you can go in and there's more stuff on display. Neat-o!

 We had a good look round at the first three Marquees, A & B, full of exhibitors purveying their wares. Here's a link to the complete list as there were too many good ones to mention: List of exhibitors

After the first two marquees we were getting a bit thirsty and headed over to the Tea Tent for some refreshments. The Tea Tent was gorgeous, all the cups, saucers and plates were eclectic retro china, and along with our teas and coffees we bought something to nibble on. Sis and Mum had a slice each of some amazing chocolate cake with strawberries and cream in the middle, while I plumped for a Chelsea Bun (it was massive!) The tablecloths and all the decor were very 1950's inspired, too.
Hosanna In Ex Chelsea Bun!
Suitably refreshed, we headed off again in search of more delights. We passed by the van selling Bhajis and pakoras, but stopped at the man who was selling homemade Bread-and-butter pudding, sourdough bread, and some delightful little custard-filled brioches. Yes, we did make a purchase!

Hot doggie!
Off we trotted for the loos (very well-appointed, I must say) and then the final two marquees. I was looking forward to Marquee F (F standing for Fourth Marquee as well as Food). When we finally arrived there I wasn't disappointed. Inside the door was the heady aroma of Paddy & Scott's Coffee, but as we'd already had a drink, we skipped it and went to Jimmy's Farm, which raise their own animals for meat, specifically some of the more unusual breeds. We sampled some lovely sausages, including an unusual Steak and Horseradish sausage. Next to them were Little Orchard preserves, which had a beautiful selection of jams, jellies and relishes, all with unusual flavours. I bought a jar of the Onion, Cider & Chilli Relish which was like a really good sauerkraut with a spicy chilli kick. I tasted it and said, "Wow, that would be kickass on a good hot dog."

Yes - lavender & chilli!
Next was Corinne's Creative Kitchen, specialising in all things Indian, samosas, parathas and the like, jars of chutneys and pickles and spice mixes. Lovely stuff. No freebies unfortunately, but I was not disappointed with the quality of Wine Discoveries on the next stand. Next came We Buy Nearby who are a sort of online Farmer's Market. Then there was Munchy Seeds with their wonderful crunchy granola and snack mixes and vanilla pumpkin seeds.... yum. Here I got a bit side-tracked by Olives R Good 4 U in the centre of the marquee, and I sampled not only some lovely aged balsamic vinegar that was so thick and sweet it could almost be syrup, and a Moroccan Dry Olive, something I'd never tried before, that was salty and delicious. They also had some whopping huge marinated artichoke hearts, and some delicious-looking dolmades that I seriously considered buying for a moment. Then I went back to find my family at Stratta, who make oils and vinegars in multivarious flavours. Their chilli oil is fantastic and the chocolate balsamic vinegar, along with its friend the mulberry balsamic, was a taste unlike anything I'd ever had. What I ended up buying was a bottle of Lavilli Dressing, a salad dressing made with lavender and chilli, which tasted first of the lavender, oil and vinegar, and then after a few seconds the chilli tickled the back of the throat just nicely.

By this time everyone was getting a little weary so we made to leave, saying hi to our friends from Silcocks as we did, purchasing some huge meringues from Judges' Bakery, and stopping by Omlet on the way to the exit to say hello to all the chickens in their amazing chicken condominiums. All in all it was a grand day out, if a little on the pricey side. Lots of lovely things to buy and consume, especially if you have a ton of money. I'd probably go to next year's Fair providing I have a lot more money by then.

Oh, and in case you're wondering - the hog was delicious.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

More Bath Buns, Vicar?

This Thursday I went with Mum, Sis, and Grandad Eric to our old friends at Rolvenden Farmers' Market. Last time I went it was all in the village hall, but this time it was half in the hall and half was in and around the church across the street. All the regulars were there: Silcocks with their wonderful cheeses, where I bought a St. Michaels Blue Cheese, Buster's with their amazing pies, pasties and sausage rolls, VJ Game and Farmer Palmer with their lovely meat products (rabbit burgers, anyone?), The French Deli with their wonderful selection of cheeses and saucissons, Farmhouse Kitchen with their jams and preserves as well as local cheese (I bought a jar of 'Loadsa Peel' Marmalade, a traditional marmalade with -you guessed it - lots of big chunky orange peel in it), Appledene Alpacas with all their wonderful alpaca wool products (ever felt alpaca wool? It's the softest wool you will ever touch!), Wealden pottery, Milbank Olives, Botterell's Fresh Fish, and several other craft, vegetable and fruit stands. We stopped and had a cuppa and Sis and I browsed the used books for bargains, Sis coming away with a few and I just one (Marina Lewycka's A Short History Of Tractors In Ukrainian,  which I just started, and is hilarious, by the way).
There was a nice man selling delicious-looking and unusual loaves whose name I cannot remember, but I bought from him a loaf that I was attracted to partly because of what it looked like and partly because of the name. It looked like a giant Bath Bun (see my older post entitled Chefs, Bath Buns and Markets), but was named a More Tea, Vicar?. Brilliant name. I had a nice thick slice of that for my 'dessert' tonight, toasted and buttered. Mmmmm.

So what is a Bath Bun? Well, it's a rich, sweet, round  yeast bun that has a lump of sugar baked in the bottom and more crushed sugar sprinkled on top after baking. Sometimes the ingredients can include candied fruit peel, currants or larger raisins or sultanas.
The Bath bun is possibly descended from the 18th century 'Bath cake'. References to Bath buns date from 1763, and they are still produced in the Bath area of England. The original 18th century recipe used a brioche or rich egg and butter dough which was then covered with caraway seeds coated in several layers of sugar similar to the French dragée. Apparently it was devised by Dr. William Oliver, a doctor who treated visitors to Bath who came for the spa waters. He later invented the Bath Oliver biscuit, when Bath buns proved to be too fattening for his patients with rheumatism. Well, duh.
Occasionally folks confuse it with the Sally Lunn bun which also comes from Bath. Here is where I attempt to illustrate the difference.

(above)Bath Bun.

(below) Sally Lunns.

Sally Lunn buns are a similar texture, a brioche-type dough with a hint of sweetness and aromatics (lemon is most popular). There are two popular stories as to how the bread got its name.

Version 1: Some historians maintain that Sally Lunn buns were originally made by Protestant refugees from France, who called them "soleil et lune." Translated into English this means sun and moon, with “sun" referring to the warmly colored top, and "moon" to the white and airy interior. In the mouths of English vendors crying their wares on the streets of Bath, "soleil et lune" could become Sally Lunn. In 1685, Louis XIV (1636-1715) revoked the Edict of Nantes (slaughter of Huguenots), which gave little protection to French Protestants. He banned practice of any religion except Roman Catholicism in France. More than half a million Protestants fled the country to England, Germany, and the Netherlands.

Version 2: The recipe for this bun is said to have originated in Bath with the arrival in 1680 of a Huguenot immigrant called Solange (Solie) Luyon who brought her native skill and worked at a Bath bakery - this bakery is now known as Sally Lunn's House and can be visited today with the original recipe buns available for sale or consumption in the dining rooms. Sally Lunn is a corruption of her name and the bun became a very popular delicacy in Georgian England as its taste and lightness allowed it to be enjoyed with either sweet or savoury accompaniments.

Well, whatever the story, and whatever the bread, Bath Bun or Sally Lunn, they're delicious, and moreover, the giant Bath-Bun-Lookalike MoreTea Vicar  is delicious, too. So now you know. As soon as i find out who the guy that bakes them is, you shall know, as I'm sure you'll all want a taste.

À votre santé!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Health Alert

I recently read this in the local Village Directory and thought its contents were so worthwhile that I had to reproduce it here.

  • Do you have feelings of inadequacy?
  • Do you suffer from shyness?
  • Do you sometimes wish you were more assertive?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, ask your doctor or pharmacist about Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc is the safe, natural way to feel better and more confident about yourself and your actions. It can help ease you out of your shyness and let you tell the world that you’re ready and willing to do just about anything.

You will notice the benefits of Sauvignon Blanc almost immediately and with a regimen of regular doses you can overcome any obstacles that prevent you from living the life you want to live. Shyness and awkwardness will be a thing of the past and you will discover many talents you never knew you had.

Stop hiding and start living.

Sauvignon may not be right for everyone. Women who are pregnant or nursing should not use it. However, women who wouldn’t mind nursing or becoming pregnant are encouraged to try it.

Side effects may include:

  • dizziness
  • nausea 
  • vomiting 
  • incarceration
  • erotic lustfulness 
  • loss of motor control 
  • loss of clothing 
  • loss of money 
  • loss of virginity 
  • delusions of grandeur 
  • table dancing 
  • headache 
  • dehydration 
  • dry mouth 
  • and a desire to sing Karaoke and play all-night rounds of Strip Poker, Truth Or Dare, and Naked Twister.


* The consumption of Sauvignon Blanc may make you think you are whispering when you are not.
* The consumption of Sauvignon Blanc may cause you to tell your friends over and over again that you love them.
* The consumption of Sauvignon Blanc may cause you to think you can sing.
* The consumption of Sauvignon Blanc may make you think you can converse enthusiastically with members of the opposite sex without spitting.
* The consumption of Sauvignon Blanc may create the illusion that you are tougher, smarter, faster and better looking than most people.

Now, just imagine what you could achieve with a good Pinot Noir...

It's Pimm's O'Clock

Yes, anyone familiar with those heady English summer days will also be familiar with that most English of beverages, Pimm's No.1 Cup.
What is it? Well, in 1823 a man named James Pimm owned a London oyster-bar. His patrons, mainly city gents, loved the oysters/gin combination but due to gin's inherent bitterness they tended to knock it back rather than savour it. So after a little experimentation Pimm came up with his 'house cup' (later known as No.1 Cup), flavoured with liqueurs and various fruity extracts. It became so popular that by1851 he had developed a large client base and all the gentleman's clubs were ordering it by the case. He had also invented six different 'cups' based on different spirits. The No.2 was scotch-based (now phased out of production), No.3 - brandy (again, phased out, but they seasonally market a version infused with orange peel and spices called Pimm's Winter Cup - see picture), No.4 - rum (alas, no more), No.5 - rye whiskey ( long gone), and No.6 - vodka (still available in limited quantities - I remember when I worked for Thresher in the late 80's we could get it, 3 bottles at a time, as a special order).

How does one drink it? Well, it is most often made in large quantities and served in a pitcher or jug. The classic recipe is as follows:

Take a jug or glass and fill it with ice. 
Mix 1 part Pimm's No.1 Cup with 3 parts lemonade (and when I say lemonade I mean English-style lemonade, which is somewhat similar to 7Up or Sprite. The classic brands to use are either R.Whites, (WARNING! Trivial factoids ahead!) famous in the 1970s and 80s for its classic 'Secret Lemonade Drinker' commercials (voiced by none other than Ross McManus, father of Declan McManus a.k.a. Elvis Costello. Elvis himself plays drums and does backup vocals on the ad, too. The song was written by Bob "thaaaat's Blockbusters!" Holness, father of one of the women from Toto Coelo (I Eat Cannibals)), and Silver Spring Spring-Up Lemonade (shameless plug because they're a local company)). Confused? Don't be.

Add some strawberries, cucumber, orange or whatever fruit you fancy and then top with a sprig of mint. 

That's all there is to it. One sip and you'll be at the Henley Regatta in your wide-brimmed hat or straw boater, or punting on the Cam with a stout filly named Belinda Villiers-Farquharson.

So, on to the new Name This Food! What's it to be, what's it to be....

Name This Food!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

What in the world...

...is a Flat White? Someone asked for one of these at the restaurant the other day, and I have to say I had never seen such a performance over a cup of milky coffee in my life. One of our newer employees, Josh, was the unfortunate target of this woman's wants and needs. It was only his second time manning the drinks section, and so he was still getting used to all the differences between lattes and cappuccinos and double espressos, so to try to explain in great depth the correct way to make a 'flat white', as this lady did, was like speaking in tongues to the poor boy. "You have to tap, TAP the jug on the counter to tighten up the foam," she cried, as  Josh struggled manfully to accommodate her requests. I, meanwhile, was trying to help and interpret the woman's instructions, all the while thinking "Isn't this just a latte with a bit of foam on top?"

Evidently, no, it's not. What it is, is a drink originating in the early eighties from Australia and New Zealand. Derek Townsend is the co-owner of DKD café in Auckland, and he claims to have been the developer of the recipe, but he acknowledges that the term "flat white" was already used in Sydney to describe a similar style of coffee. However, both the "correct" recipe and origin of creation is a subject of many a heated argument.

Similar to a latte in that it involves steamed milk and espresso coffee, it generally comes in a smaller cup than a latte and a lighter roast of bean. In a Flat White, the milk is steamed to 60°–70°C (140°F–158°F). Steaming the milk to a lower temperature retains the fats and proteins in the milk which add a sweetness to the cup, apparently. If it gets above 82 degrees it is then considered 'scalded' and tastes different. Who knew?

The foam is important as well. The milk is poured onto the shot of espresso gently while holding back the light frothy foam with a spoon. The milk being poured from the jug is then the type with small bubbles known as "wet" microfoam, giving the drink a smooth velvety texture. Usually it's served with a fancy swirly design on the top so they can charge extra for the artwork, I guess.

The beverage is now so popular in London it is claimed to have helped the Costa Coffee chain increase sales by almost ten percent. Even Starbucks have given in to the market pressure and introduced the drink to their range.

There is even a Flat White Cafe in Soho, and of course a blog charting the rise of the drink with a map showing where you can buy it in London.

Well, sorry and all that, but I think I'll stick to my French Roast from Tesco.


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