Looking like an Italian

Enjoying the summer-like weather? Looking to eat outdoors? The people that bought us tapas done Italian style (it’s properly known as Piattini they tell me) has produced this guide to looking cool in the sun.
1. You’ve got to wear shades. You want to be seen when you’re out in the city, but you need to retain an air of mystery, therefore sunglasses are an essential part of your alfresco dining kit. The bigger the better, oh….. and Italian designer of course!
2. Do not stick your napkin into your shirt collar at anytime, but when you’re outside it is unforgivable.
3. Do not eat alfresco with your married lover – unless you want to create a scandal.
4. Do look your absolute best. Remember, anyone could pass by. Justin Timberlake, your boss, your ex-girlfriend.
5. If you’re whiling away the time over a coffee alone read a posh newspaper for extra street cred.
6. Order champagne at every available opportunity.
7. Never, ever be loud and shouty.
8. Find something to say. Two people sitting staring into space outside a restaurant is not a good look.
9. Do not chew with your mouth open.
10. Dine alone and cultivate an air of international man/woman of mystery
Pesto is at 115 Deansgate. 0161 831 9930. Read what others have said about the restaurant here.
Thanks to Laurenn @ Flickr for this international woman of mystery look perfected.

about Pesto

Pesto seems to have divided the dining world. With its small Italian dishes called Piattini, those who are paid to eat out don’t seem to enjoy it while those who pay out to dine often rave about it online.
Let us know what you think using the links below.
Here’s some of what’s already been said:
It sells it self as an Italian done tapas style, which is a bit confusing, but if you forget the marketing spiel and just sample the dishes, Pesto did well for a large party with varied tastes.
Me, during a Christmas night out.
Tapas are typically small Spanish dishes, but Pesto has thrown the rule book our of the window and provided miniature meals from other countries.
Our main course arrived before our starters. Whisked away, they were replaced by an average salad and a small, stodgy circle of dough, overladen with tomato paste.
Russ Otterwell, Metro
In an age where we are supposed to be rediscovering the value of good food, Pesto takes us backwards. It is a venue naked in its pursuit of profit.
Jonathan Schofield. MEN
It’s not a destination place. It’s somewhere to go in for an hour or so whilst shopping, early doors, pre or post cinema.
Gordo, Manchester Confidential.
We went to pesto for the first time this week and thought the food was amazing ! Despite some of the reports we had read regarding the poor service, we found it to be “spot on” and very quick. Would have no hesitation in recommending this restaurant to anyone !
Onionring reader Nikki Dukinfield.
Brilliant could not find any faults although believe me I tried. Terrific food, service, staff and atmosphere. Well done.
Recommended by Kevin, Sugarvine.

Fancy a bag of nostalgia?

The passion for all things 70s seems to be growing into marketing dream. Picture the scene; Jemima and Tarquin get called in to see the 40 something boss.
“What’s hot guys?”
“I’m thinking picnics in the spring with flowing dresses and bicycles with bells” muses Jemima twisting her straightened hair with the sensor from her PDA.
The Sweeney, cars and that aftershave some boxer bloke used to advertise in olden times” prompts Tarquin pulling his tiny tuft of chin hair clipped into the shape of a Himalayan Goji berry.
“I see where you’re going…………………of course Life on Mars. But what’s the girl pull? I know we’ll use school girls, everyone wants schoolgirls. Unbeatable!” agrees Dave ( you have to be called Dave to get ahead these days, David is just too retro, even for a retro campaign).
And so this email dropped into my inbox;

“Back in the days of Grange Hill, kiss chase, skipping ropes, space hoppers, Bros and Barbie dolls, Walkers range of crisps including Monster Munch, Squares, French Fries and Quavers were the tuck shop must-have items.
“Now the old favourites have been re-launched by Walkers and the great news is that they have improved with age and are now better for you.”

The release went on to describe the bags of crisps as “nostalgic”. Checking back with the press office (sadly I didn’t find anyone called Tarquin) I inquired whether the snacks had ever actually been unavailable because I was convinced they have been packing out the shelves for years. And they have.
The point of the re-launch is to appease the healthy eating lobby with less fat and salt in the new versions – something no doubt about to incur the wrath of Julie Burchill who took her class-war campaign against foodoo’s to the airwaves this morning in praise of trans fats and junk food.
Listening to her squeaking on to insult dyslexics (claiming the condition is another word for stupid), before going on to assert that the noble working classes raised athletes on nothing but chips and burgers made me long for another era too – one pre-Burchill.

Picture from Noodlepie at Flickr.

When food is foe

“You can’t be too rich or too thin”, said one of the rather sad looking journalists involved in provoking herself into developing an eating disorder for the sake of our entertainment on television last night.
The well-known saying (most often attributed to Wallace Simpson) seems to have developed as a truth for our age, perhaps partly because obesity is increasingly seen as a sign of poverty.
It’s a trend that was spotted years ago in the States and one which we seem to be readily accepting over here.
Last night’s Channel 4 programme Super-Skinny Me: The Race to Size Zero http://www.channel4.com/health/microsites/S/superskinny_me/?intcmp=homepage_box1 has already brought predictable condemnation from eating disorder groups for showing how extreme diets brought about dangerous weight loss.
But what the outrage fails to take into account is that the two subjects involved were intelligent, well-off women who were only able to embark on this dubious documentary because they were able to spend hours and hours exercising, preparing their faddy diets and being excused poor performance at work due to the “experiment”.
The resulting impact on their minds and bodies was indeed shocking – Kate Spicer in particular appeared to be suffering considerable mental anguish – but the results have dubious value to those women locked into a cycle of self-abuse through their relationships with food.
Sufferers do not consciously embark on such a journey in the full knowledge of the consequences in the way that journalists embarking on a story have to and often cannot easily fund expensive treatments or find help to cope with the reality of the very pressures which prompted their disorder in the first place.
These are the luxuries of the observer – not the participant.
I trust that both Kate and Louise Burke have now returned to a weight and body shape which they can be comfortable with and that their experiences provided them with some insight into this disturbing issue.
For us rather uncomfortable viewers, all their efforts demonstrated was that yes, you can be too thin but that being rich probably won’t impact badly on your health unless a television crew is involved.
Information and help on all aspects of eating disorders, including Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, binge eating disorder and related eating disorders can be found here.
What did you think of the programme? Have your say below.

Cocktails are good for you!

Here’s the news to take you into the weekend – alcoholic fruit cocktails are good for you!
According to US and Thai boffins, any coloured fruit might be made even more healthy with the addition of a splash of alcohol.
Adding ethanol – the type of alcohol found in rum, vodka, tequila and other spirits – boosted the antioxidant nutrients in strawberries and blackberries, the research published in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture found.
Apparently the study did not address whether adding a little cocktail umbrella enhanced the effects but it’s bound to.
That just luvvely as Del Boy would say.

How to make a sandwich

Do you need help in making a sandwich? Then this new book could be just the thing.
Cookery writer Jane Lunzer Gifford has teamed up with the sandwich business Pret to bring us Pret Food On The Move.
The idea is apparently to give workers some mouth-watering inspiration for the ideal packed lunch.
The publishers say:

“From soups and hot drinks to the ever-popular sandwiches, baguettes, wraps and salads that have been impressing customers for the past twenty years. In this book, you will find inspiration and reliable instructions on how to make wholesome, tasty food that is colourful, delicious and not too tricky.”

And the tips from the writer include using up the previous night’s lamb stew “combined with redcurrant jelly and some watercress salad on a chunky wholemeal loaf”.
Now maybe I’m old fashioned but, isn’t that called using up your leftovers? Do we really need a book to instruct us on this?
In a world where Delia can make a packet from selling instructions on how to boil an egg I suppose anything goes.
Click here for a recipe from the new book and make your own mind up. I think it definitely falls into the leftover category and when they say it’s not too tricky, they really aren’t exaggerating!

Pret’s wild rice and salmon salad

This recipe is from cookery writer Jane Lunzer Gifford who has teamed up with the sandwich business Pret to bring out a new book of lunches.
(serves 2)
What you need
250g wild rice, cooked and chilled (or a mixture of wild and long-grain white rice)
200g salmon, cooked, chilled and broken into flakes
masses of finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 limes, juice and zest
salt and coarse-ground black pepper
huge handful of finely chopped spring onion
300ml single (whipping) cream
What you do
Gently combine all the ingredients, leaving the cream until the very last. The flavour of the lime will be absorbed quickly and you may find you need to add a little more for the taste to come through. Don’t stint on the black pepper.
My verdict: Eh voila! A new lease of life for last night’s tea of salmon, rice and vegetables.

Do you have a recipe to share? If so send it to me and don’t forget to tell me a bit about yourself.

Edwardian downsize me

THE cure for gluttony and sloth has been found – and aired on TV.
Last night’s BBC Four programme Edwardian Supersize me would have even the most dedicated food hog reaching for the lettuce and running shoes.
The first of the channel’s Edwardians Season, saw restaurant critic Giles Coren and comedian Sue Perkins attempt to eat for a week in the style of the era’s monied classes.
The sight of them forcing down delights such as ox tongue, mock turtle soup and roast goose – to the point of throwing up – was enough to dissipate any hunger pangs.

The pair proved that history and education can be thoroughly entertaining as well as demonstrating the fact that obesity is nothing new – and certainly not restricted to the poverty of today’s junk food.

A good watch and my money’s on a sudden, unexplained rise in the popularity of corsets.
What did you think of the programme? Have your say below.

Chocolate V Snogging

Here’s some happy Monday news for a (rather grey) start to the week. Chocolate gives a longer lasting buzz than snogging, according to new research.
According to the Sussex scientists;

“There is no doubt that chocolate beats kissing hands down when it comes to providing a long-lasting body and brain buzz.”

Any further scientific reasons to eat chocolate has got to be a good thing, although I’ve got a feeling that the poor scores for the kissing might have had something to do with the fact the volunteers were all asked to engage under laborartory condisions with electrodes attached to their scalps and wearing heart monitors.
Doesn’t look like the most passionate of experiences really!
If you need any more reasons to tuck into chocolate;
* Cocoa lowers blood pressure, according to German researchers.
* Cocoa froths with anti-cancer compounds, according to Cornell University.
* Choclate benefits chronique fatigue sufferers, according to American researchers.
* Dark chocolate could help with diabetes, according to Italian researchers.

Flatbread is easy

I’m off for a canalside picnic tomorrow and, searching around for something to contribute, the cupboards don’t look very inspiring. Bouyed up by the success of the hummous I thought I’d have a go at its perfect companion – flatbread.
I looked up this recipe in the excellent Moro cookbook of Mediterranean food in the hope that the resulting bread would be as tasty as some of the flatbreads I sampled in Syria.
Any recipe involving yeast is faintly terryfying but this proved to be easy – and totally delicious.
The only probelm now will be keeping from being eaten before the picnic.
What you need
200g of strong, white, organic flour.
A good grind of sea salt.
1/3 level tsp of dried yeast.
170 ml of tepid water.
1 tbls olive oil.
Nigella seeds to sprinkle.
What you do
Disolve the yeast in the water and add the oil.
Add the water to the flour and salt little by little. It needs to all stick together but not crumble. If it falls apart add more water and if its too sticky add more flour.
Preheat the oven to 220c.
Once the dough is flexible knead it well on a floured surface. Cover and leave it for 45 minutes. breadstart.jpg
At the end of the time it will have increased by about 50 per cent – I wouldn’t really have found it noticeable unless I’d taken the picture.
Split the mixture into four and roll each one out to be about 3mm thick making a circle about 15cm in diameter.
Place on foil on a baking tray, smear with oil and sprinkle with Nigella seeds. breadcook.jpg
Cook for about five minutes. The finished bread will have bubbled up and be slightly golden.
Have you got a recipe for me? If so send it here and tell me a bit about yourself.