In defence of Charles

It’s not often I find myself agreeing with Prince Charles but strangely I feel moved to defend him in the face of the tabloid condemnation he suffered today because he dared to suggest that childhood obesity could be cut by stopping kids filling their face with McDonalds.
Burger off!” screams the Mirror’s print version while The Sun thinks he has “stuffed both feet in his mouth”. This from the same paper which features a 14 stone nine-year-old on the front page!

OK he may be a bit fuddy duddy and of course he has all the advantages which mean a cheap and quick meal is never a necessity, but is he really so far off the mark?

Is there anyone in the country who doesn’t believe there’s a link between kids eating fast food and the explosion of childhood obesity? If you are that person – please contact me below.
The only way we’ll start to crack the horror of lives stunted by the ill health caused by poor nutrition is with a cultural mindchange to stop considering a lard-laden snack as a treat or a reward.
Coming on the same day as a study discovered that children believe cows lay eggs, surely McDs, KFC and all the rest have a role to play in that.

How do you like your eggs in the morning?

Save me from eggs in the morning! My surprise trip turned out to be New York and what a fantastic adventure. From the delis better than department store foodhalls on every street corner, to that bedrock of American dining, The Breakfast, the Big Apple is more like an entire orchard for the foodie traveller.
But feeling jaded and jetlagged I have definately had my fill of eggs for breakfast. From those served on plastic plates in a quick stop to the rather more grand variety served up in the “busiest and best” diner in the city (Persia Square) the “country style eggs with potatoes and toast” habit has got to come to an end.

There’s something comforting about those fried potatoes – a bit like bubble and squeak – while the eggs are always done how you like them. Why is that a problem in this country? I like my eggs cooked so solid they could double as shoe leather while Himself is of the soggy disposition. In the UK that always means one of us is disaapointed but not in New York – attention to detail in the simplest of things you see.

On with the standard breakfast, the ketchup’s reassuringly sweet and the follow up of white toast and grape jelly (jam) just makes the whole deal a health conscious eater’s morning a guilty start to the day.
So before I get back to the porridge or muesli here’s some random images of a foodie New York from my phone camera. A better selection of pictures and a quick guide to some great places to eat on a whistlestop tour will be following (just as soon as I can locate the camera cable).
In the meantime – have a nice day!
Shrink wrapped breakfast – see before you choose!
Fancy an E (number) with that cake?
Bar snack Manhattan style – hummus, baba ghanoush and hot flat bread.
Every corner street store has a salad heaven deli. This little selection came from the take away counter at the fabulous Macy’s department store but wasn’t unusual in the sheer quality and range of the ingredients. Oh why can’t they export these great traditions and keep McDs, KFC, Wendy’s et al as a homegrown only speciality?

Off for a foodie adventure

I’m off for a major foodie adventure. I know not where but one thing I’m sure of, my surprise birthday trip will be a major league eating experience.
If the location allows, I’ll be blogging whenever possible but if it doesn’t then I leave you with this thought.
Marmite with Guinness? Tell me its an early April fool. I can accept that the two products have some things in common – they are black, you either love them or hate them and in the spectrum of taste they are the same shade. But what’s the point? Putting alcohol flavouring in perfectly good food just ruins it.

Paul’s grilled turbot, rarebit crust, celeriac & mustard veloute

You can tell from the title alone that this is no ordinary recipe! That’s because Paul is a professional – the Paul Taylor of Fat Loaf fame.
Serves 4 people

What you need

4 x fillet pieces of turbot (wild if possible) about 6oz each.
12 spears of asparagus (blanched for 45 seconds & refreshed).
16 baby morel mushrooms
100g broad beans (de shelled)
Rarebit crust
350g white cheddar (grated)
85ml whole milk
25g plain flour
25g breadcrumbs
1tblsp English mustard
Salt & pepper to taste
1 whole egg
2 egg yolks
Celeriac mash
1 small celeriac (peeled and cut into 1inch dice)
½ milk, ½ cream to cover in a pan
Salt & pepper
Mustard veloute
60g plain flour
60g unsalted butter
2 tblsp wholegrain mustard
1 litre chicken stock
100ml double cream
Salt & pepper
What you do
Rarebit method
1. Melt cheese into milk
2. Add flour, breadcrumbs & mustard
3. Add seasoning, cool & then beat in the eggs
4. Roll in between cling film to ½ cm thickness & freeze
5. Take from freezer & cut into the fillet of turbot size, chill ready to finish
Celeriac method
1. Bring diced celeriac to the boil & simmer until cooked (about 10-15 minutes)
2. Remove from liquor
3. Food process the celeriac only until smooth
4. Refrigerate
Mustard veloute method
1. Cook flour & butter as a roux
2. Add chicken stock (hot) and whisk together
3. Simmer stirring occasionally for 20 minutes
4. Add the double cream & seasoning to taste
To serve
Grill the turbot fillets with a knob of butter, seasoning & drop of olive oil under a hot salamander for 2 minutes, then put into a pre heated oven for a further 1 minute. To finish put the crust on the top and grill until brown (about 30 seconds)
1. Heat a knob of butter in a pan and add the pre blanched asparagus, broad beans & morels, season & stir for 1 minute.
2. At the same time heat the celeriac puree in a pan, heat the sauce.
3. finish the dish as shown with the celeriac puree beneath the turbot, arrange the vegetables & sauce around the fish.
Verdict: A little more complicated than most of my recipes but just think how impressed your guests will be. If you’d rather Paul did the cooking and you did the eating you can sample his work at the Fat Loaf, 28-32 Greenwood Street, Altrincham. 0871 4718726.
Read a review of the Fat Loaf here.
Have you got a recipe for me? If so send it here and tell me a bit about yourself.

Lunch break: Luso

HALF way thorugh February and not a single lunch review for 2007? I’m obviously a lady who doesn’t lunch enough.
Gathering up my Fussy Female Friend (FFF) I decided to try out Luso on Bridge Street and make amends. It opened late last year and I’ve often walked past and meant to call there much sooner.
We settled in to the bright, uncluttered space and were presented with two menus. There’s a tapas style lunch menu and the general restaurant one. The waitress advised that we’d probably need three tapas dishes to make up a meal so, at almost £5 a dish, lunch was going to cost about £15 a head whichever way we want.
I plumped for the tapas while FFF went all out for the main course and then had to order a further green salad at £3.50 because it didn’t come with vegetables. (She might be fussy but she’s got an appetite). As the price of the bill continued to rise, I was starting to get the idea – not a cheap lunch venue.lusocod.jpg

At least FFF’s salt cod (£14.50) was a generous sized portion. Riding on top of a disk of potato and olives with a poached egg balanced precariously on top it looked fantastic.

And it passed the FFF test with well cooked, well seasoned cod which sat well with its accompaniments.
In comparison my three, tiny salt cod fritters (pictured) lusofrit.jpg
which cost £3.95 and single mushroom with goats cheese (£3.95) looked positively mean(pictured top).
I accompanied this with a house speciality – potatoes Luso (£3.25). lusopot.jpg
This was a take on potatas bravas – I think. I can’t really be sure if that was the intention as they were so overpoweringly hot with chilli I didn’t manage to finish even this small portion.
So a tale of two lunches. FFF left feeling satisfied while I wished I’d followed her lead into the full menu option.
Style: Contemporary, fresh and airy.
Cooking: Modern Mediterranean.
Plus: Beautifully cooked and presented main course.
Minus: The standard and value of the tapas selection.
Value: Pricey. More than £30 for two lunches with water.
Luso is at 63 Bridge St, Manchester. 0161 839 5550.

Has Marmite lost it oomph?

Thinner? Sweeter? Do you think Marmite has lost a certain something recently?
People keep telling me ‘it’s just not the same’ so I started to investigate.
Being a Marmite lover myself I purchased a new jar. There was nothing to mark it out as any different and I really found it to be the same as usual. However, the small individual servings which are sold in our staff canteen are another matter. Definitely thinner and I’m certain it’s sweeter.
But Marmite Brand Manager Cheryl Calverley, was most insistent that there’s been no change in the recipe – even for the squeezy variety.

“The recipe for Marmite has remained the same and Marmite still has the same great loved and hated taste. The main ingredient of Marmite is brewer’s yeast, which as a natural product has an inherent variation in taste, and a range of consistency from thick to thin. Marmite in the glass jar is typically in the middle of this range, while squeezy Marmite is blended towards the thin end, however the taste profile is exactly the same as tested by both computers and people.”

Although not wishing to doubt this official guardian of the Marmite brand I was still a little suspicious. Had the health PC police perhaps affected the salt levels in our treasured spread?
Apparently makers Unilever do have a rather big brother sounding “salt reduction programme”.

“Unilever has a salt reduction programme in place and Marmite is included in this. Marmite is a strong tasting, concentrated spread of which salt is a key part of the taste profile, but used in moderation, Marmite can be enjoyed as part of a healthy balanced diet. A typical serving of Marmite is 4g, which provides 0.17g of sodium (which is the amount of sodium found in 0.33g of salt). Research shows that fans of Marmite eat it approximately 2.2.times per week, which equates to less than 2% of the recommended salt intake.”

So is it this programme that’s making the change? If you can taste a difference, let me know below.
Thanks to Vrog at Flickr for this adorable picture.

Is this the best bread ever?

I believe I’ve found the best bread in the world. Probably. This unassuming loaf from the Station Bakery in Criccieth is sold in corner shops around north Wales. There’s no special deli, its not expensive (70p) but it is the perfect bread for making toast.
Being very thin slices it toasts quickly. It ends up as a real crisp slice with a taste which is supportive to sweet or savoury toppings.
It’s not an overpowering or complicated taste, not doughy and not flashy in any respect. In fact the only fault I can find is that it’s not available to order online or, as far as I can discover, available in the north west.
I think the freezer will need a shelf clearing the next time I return from a trip to Snowdonia.

I couldn’t even find a website for this bakery but it can be found at High Street Criccieth, Gwynedd, LL52 0RN. 01766522118

@ Harry Ramsden’s

Batter: Quite crispy but also rather thick. The underside of the batter reminded me of rubber backed carpet which has got wet and left behind a spongy trace when lifted from a concrete floor.
Fish: I chose the standard haddock which was a good size but was overcooked – possibly because the thick overcoat of batter prevented enough air circulating to steam the fish effectively so it became overcooked by the time the batter was ready.
Chips: These were good. Freshly cooked, thick cut and cripsy. Plentiful although a few too many scrapings for a sit-down meal.Also, no black bits, don’t you just hate wasting chips because they’ve got black bits which the chip sorter hasn’t spotted? Here they must be able to spot a black bit at a distance.
Peas: Good colour – look like real peas! Not a cosmetically enhanced version but varying shades of pale green. In fact they almost looked like guacamole that’s been left in the fridge. (I must tell Peter Mandelson that his faux pas was an easy mistake to make). However, they were overly sweet and didn’t have much texture, turning into a slurry in the mouth. Too pricey – I didn’t have time to count but I’m sure there can’t even have been 99 peas in the pot for your 99p.
Vinegar: The usual brown but served in a good splashable bottle. Disappointing amount of sauce left in the ketchup though.
Tea: Good and strong. Looked like Typhoo pyramids. Served in one of those impossible to pour silver pots a la service stations.
Bread: Plentiful. Choice of brown or white and spread right to the crusts.
Price: Not cheap. Standard haddock and chips is £7.49 with that 99p extra for peas and £1.49 for one tea.
Verdict: Although not perfect. it did hit the spot. Visited when very hungry which helped get over the issues with the peas.
Harry Ramsden’s at 1 Water Street, Castlefield, Manchester M3 4JU. 0161 8329144