Egg perfection on its way

The humble egg finds itself in hot water again today with the revelation of the self-timing egg.
Never again will the egg be too hard-boiled for a soldier or too runny for a sandwich if the idea from the British Egg Information Service takes off.
The self-timing egg is stamped with heat-sensitive invisible ink that turns black the minute that it is ready. All you need to do is decide whether you prefer your eggs soft, medium or hard-boiled, and buy accordingly
The organisation says it gets hundreds of queries about producing the perfect boiled egg and describes this as a “big issue”.
The self-timing eggs will go on sale this autumn but already the plan is scrambling public opinion – is it insulting to suggest people can’t even boil an egg or is it much more complicated than it first appears?
As Delia found out when advising the public back in 1998, there’s isn’t a universally accepted way of boiling an egg with some chefs advocating stirring and others claiming the amount of time the water boils is the key thing.
To help with the water problem student Ben Harris from Dublin has come up with the PerfEGG. He says his invention, a machine which keeps a constant water temperature for 8.5 minutes without boiling is the solution; “I love soft-boiled eggs with soldiers but I get so frustrated if I get the timing wrong and the egg is too hard to dip my soldiers in.”
All this talk leaves me wondering – is a watch such a difficult device to master?
Here’s some more advice on the subject;
* Cooking for 17 minutes and using ice cubes.
* Cool slowly.
* Start with room temperature eggs.
* Six Australian chefs give six different solutions which just goes to show what a global issue this is.
Do you have a trick with eggs? Let me know below.

Picnic wash out at Tatton

Wet a night. Days and days of sunshire and hot nights until the one evening we just needed it to be dry – the fireworks spectacular at Tatton Park.
Our picnic was ready (thanks to a very energetic friend) and this year we even had a table with tablecloth to lay out the enormous spread.
But while the rain left my smoked salmon and cream cheese bagel in a soggy state of inedible, nothing could spoil the excellent potato salad (with egg and capers), or take the fizz out of the Argentinian bubbly or the fun and humour out of our whole evening.
Here’s some of the key moments.
Long and winding road: The queue to get into the concert area snaked back for more than half a mile and progress was slow but the sun was shining and, all round us, the bubbly was being popped and the cans of beer opened. Some picnics even got eaten on the way in!
So much food, so little time: From the homemade choclate biscuit cake to the selection of French farmhouse cheese, our picnic did us proud.
Up brolley: The rain came down and the brollies went up. The singing started and spirits remained high in the way only a crowd of people sitting in a sodden English field can do.
Soggy: The rain came down, and down, and down.
Relections: The spectacular fireworks reflected in the lake could not be dampened.
The end.

Manchester Tart gets warm welcome

Pea and ham soup, cheese and onion pie and Manchester Tart mmmmmmmm you can almost see the Bisto kids coming into view! Does that sound like a three course meal from your childhood? Whether you enjoyed these meals as a child or not, everyone can imagine a time when dinners were as comforting as these regional dishes. Now they have been collected together in a new cookbook.
Aptly titled Manchester Tart and other favourites, the cookbook is the result of a community project which drew on the experienced older cooks of Miles Platting, Collyhurst and Ancoats.
It was the brainchild of Fiona Vincent, co-ordinator of the Zest healthy living project in the area.
She told me why the book had been created; “I wanted to do something in the area to celebrate it and also to get people interested in cooking and talking about cooking and healthy eating.

“The reaction has been really positive. Local people and a lot of older people are enjoying the recipes and remembering things they used to eat.”

The cookbook is a unique collection of individual recipes which just goes to show the fantastic repository of experience and knowledge held in our communities.
From Margaret’s scones to Tina’s Irish stew, every recipe has been tried and tested on countless family members and would make a valuable addition to any cook’s collection.
Try out the Manchester Tart recipe here.
Manchester Tart and Other Favourites: Recipes from Miles Platting, Collyhurst and Ancoats is part of a community project run by Zest, Manchester Council, and the North Manchester Primary Care Trust. It is available for £6.99 from the Cornerhouse, Urbis or by calling Fiona on 0161 277 8816.

Beverley’s Manchester Tart

tart.jpgIt’s not just for school dinners. Manchester Tart is the perfect accompaniment to an afternoon tea. This recipe comes courtesy of the ladies at Friday Morning Group at Church of the Apostles.
What you need
165g short crust or flaky pastry
Strawberry jam
2 bananas
1 pint of milk
Custard powder
Dessicated coconut
What to do
Preheat over to gas mark 5 or 190C. Grease a 20cm pie dish or flan tin. Roll the pastry to cover dish, including the sides. Prick pastry over with a fork and cover with foil, pushing into corners. Bake for 20 minutes, take off foil and bake for another five minutes. Leave to cool.
When cool, spread jam on bottom, and cover with sliced bananas. Make a thick custard (two heaped tablespoons of custard powder to a pint milk) and, when cool, pour over bananas.
Sprinkle with dessicated coconut, leave to cool before putting in fridge to set. Serve in slices, cold.
Manchester Tart and Other Favourites: Recipes from Miles Platting, Collyhurst and Ancoats is part of a community project run by Zest, Manchester Council, and the North Manchester Primary Care Trust. It is available for £6.99 from the Cornerhouse, Urbis or by calling Fiona on 0161 277 8816.
Have you got a recipe for me? If so send it with a photo of yourself and tell me who you are. If it looks tasty enough, I’ll try it out.

Chilled red wine gets cold reception

A humble trade mag editor has stuck his head above the precipice of wine snobbery to utter the unthinkable – chill your red wine.
William Sitwell editor of the Waitrose Food Illustrated has apparently provoked the scorn of such wine luminaries as the deputy sommelier at the Ritz in London and the wine specialist at Christie’s auction house, according to today’s Times. Although the man at Christies did at least concede that some red wines could be chilled, he was reportedly sniffy about Mr Sitwell’s rather strident assertion that

“It really is criminal to leave decent bottles out of the fridge”.

The current heatwave could, Mr Sitwell asserts, lead to wine being “too loose” and he even claims red wines “are gagging to go in the fridge”.
Flowery in his choice of language he maybe, but, although having recently sampled a delicious Spanish red wine made specifically to be chilled (Rectoral de Amandi), I think these wine luminaries may be missing the point when it comes to the sort of wine most of us drink – yes, cheap.
Judging by the increased popularity of table wine, I’m guessing for most people, like myself, wine is something to enhance a meal and a pleasant, almost earthy experience – not one which involves the thermometer and opening procedures of the science lab.
But as far as the correct temperatures go, if you’re into that sort of drinking, then you probably won’t go far wrong with Daniel Rogov’s guide which includes a table of temperatures for wines and the very sensible observation that “room temperature” in England is obviously very different to that in Israel, Turkey, Finland or anywhere else.
It all leaves you thinking that wine is better enjoyed than worried over – wherever in the world you happen to be. Cheers.

Pea pod curry

While peas are plentiful (and cheap!) and the moment it seems a shame to waste such as tasty part of the whole experience – the pod. This Indian recipe is adapted from Charmaine Solomon‘s vegetarian cookbook – and there’s a Veggie Hero if ever there was one. Her flavours and textures remove the need for meat for even the most dedicated flesh eater, no impressions of meat products with her!
But before you embark on this treat, remove the lining of the pod by bending it inwards so the fleshy part cracks and then pulling off the transparent inner lining and giving them a good wash.
Serves 4
What you need
1lb tender pods.
1 tablespoon of oil.
1 finely chopped onion.
1 finely chopped red chilli.
I teaspoon grated ginger.
1 teaspoon ground tumeric.
1 teaspoon of salt.
1 teaspoon garam masala.
2 ripe tomatoes, peeled and diced.
2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced.
What to do
Fry the onion, chilli and ginger in the oil until onion is golden.
Add all the spices and stiry fry for one minute before adding the tomatoes, pea pods and potatoes.
Stir and keep covered until pods and potatoes are tender.
If the pan becomes dry then add water or vegetable stock to prevent sticking.
My verdict
The final curry is a fairly dry one without the Indian restaurant style thick gravy. I think it goes best with some natural yoghurt and wholemeal chapatis but let me know what you think via the comments below.
Have you got a recipe for me? If so send it with a photo of yourself and tell me who you are. If it looks tasty enough, I’ll try it out.

Lunch break: Cafe Istanbul

I know I’m not alone in sometimes just wanting “a little bit of this and that”. After all whole cuisine cultures have grown up around exactly that – just think of dim sum and tapas.
So fancying a change from the norm, and a bit of this and that, I set out for the far off climes of Manchester’s Bridge Street and Cafe Istanbul.
This smart eaterie has long been popular for the lunch-time crowds and the leather seats in the large windows always seem to be full on passing by.
My visit was no exception and we reluctantly accepted a seat in the smoking area out of necessity. Cafe Istanbul offers lunch visitors a choice of two set menus, made up of a selection of small dishes on a platter, or a set two course lunch- or a choice off their main menu.
My lunch companion (Himself doesn’t do lunch!) plumped for a healthy sounding goat’s cheese salad and some of the cracked wheat salad which forms a speciality of this type of Mediterranean cooking.
I went for menu choice B and was rewarded with large square plate containing an extensive list of mouthwatering sounding dishes.
Some of the offering was indeed as mouthwatering as it sounded – the humus was just the right texture, neither to course or runny, the spinach with yoghurt was as creamy as you would want it to be and the feta cheese triangle as light in the mouth as a choux bun.
Who can go wrong with a stuffed vine leaves? And the tabbouleh
(wheat salad) was herby and textured but I was disppointed with the lamb meat balls and potato croquettes feeling they were on the greasy side. However that’s the beauty of trying a varied plate like this – it doesn’t really matter becuase there’s bits you do like and, at £5.75, it isn’t going to break the bank trying it out.
My companion didn’t fare quite so well. Her healthy sounding salad was promptly sent back to the kitchen when it arrived slathered in mayonnaise which hadn’t been listed on the menu and an attempt to get olive oil failed dismally somewhere between a language barrier and the bustle of the busy restaurant.
Our lunch also turned out to be rather more leisurely than we intended as we waited to order, then to recieve the food, then to get coffees and finally, giving up, took ourselves to the counter to pay.

Wide range of dishes to suit any taste.
Minus: Slow service for a busy lunch.
Value: Well-priced for business lunches or shopping expeditions.

Pick up your pack up

A massive £1,600 a year is spent by office workers on sandwiches and snacks according to the food wrapping people Bacofoil. (They’re obviously not supporters of this trend as they want us all to wrap homemade butties in their product).
So what are people scoffing that could add up to such an amount?
The same survey also discovered that Britain’s favourite sarnie is a ham salad – what a depressingly dull choice and one which can’t be taking up all that cash.
Surely we can find something more exciting to do with our precious lunch time especially with such a generous budget?
I’ve worked out that you could buy 19 of the world’s most expensive sandwiches or just 1.6 slices of the world’s most expensive pie every year for that kind of money.
Your colleagues might look on in amazement as you swig back the 1982 Chateau Mouton Rothschild which comes along with the price tag on the pie but you can remain unmoved secure in the knowledge that their cheese and pickle bap is costing them just as much in the long-term.
* I was heartened to see Gordon Ramsay back my view of crocodile meat in last night’s F Word programme.
As she served up some skewered chunks of the odd tasting flesh, the fearless foodie Janet Street-Porter was told in no uncertain terms that the chef would never serve it in his restaurant. Janet, on the other hand was impressed and says she will be cooking it again. Well that just confirms which of the two dinner invites to accept if ever they come your way – should another reason ever be required.

Catch a chill in the heatwave

Being a bit of a soup and a sandwich girl at heart, the hottest day of the year (or will it make that the hottest day of all time?)provided a lunch dilemma.
Who wants a bowl of steaming hot soup when your non air-conditioned office is heading into the record books?
But the local branch of Eat (Spinningfields) had the perfect solution – Gazpacho.
I’ve never before been much of a fan of the cold soup but this was a cheery mixture and is the food antidote to the heatwave.
There’s enough red chilli and garlic to make it interesting and the texture is course enough to leave you feeling it’s a meal rather than a vegetable juice.
The label also claims it gives you three of the daily five a day vegetable portions so it makes you feel good about yourself as well.
Is there anything this little pot can’t do? Well, I’m told it looks rubbish worn as suncream…….

Liquid hell for Big Brother

The food torment in the Big Brother house reached new levels of cruelty last night.
Throughout this series the makers of the show have repeatedly used food as a way of controlling, rewarding and now punishing the housemates.
As the housemates face up to their basic rations – rice and chickpeas – BB held out the hope of some proper food to each of the contestants – only to cruelly swipe away the prize at the last minute.
It was hard not to feel sorry for Glyn as he was presented with a liquidised roast Welsh lamb dinner complete with raspberry pavlova.
The human equivalent of a hungry puppy did look truly upset as he tried to force down the evil-looking concoction.
And his lack of cooking skills ended up costing him even a meagre supper as he nearly succeeded in setting fire to the kitchen while looking for food.
Food must be one of the few relaxing things to do in the house so having it withdraw or restricted must feel like torture to the housemates.
This pitiful situation led me to consider some of the rather torturous cooking experiments I have on occasion (in the past, I hasten to add) put my long-suffering husband through. There was the humus made with unsoaked, uncooked chickpeas (thankfully so inedible neither of us were ill) and Yorkshire pudding batter which made a passable blancmange spring to mind.
Thinking about it, my difficulties have, on the whole, involved batter – the attempt at Korean pancakes being particularly memorable for having the consistency of flannels.
The only thing worse would be to be bombard your hungry guest with the smells or sights of freshly cooked food you couldn’t have while dishing up inedible offerings. Oh no, I may have just given the BB bullies a new idea.
BTW, Glyn, I’ve got a great recipe for Spanish chickpeas with rice if you’re interested – and it is certified truly fool proof.