Away at present

As you might have guessed from the lack of postings this week, I’m away at the moment. It may only be Surrey, but internet access isn’t all it could be and nothing remarkable on the food stakes has inspired me.
Having said that I did find one very interesting black pasta dish which I’ll post to the Flickr group at some stage. Other than that it’s over-priced hotel breakfasts, supermarket sandwiches and so forth.
Things should return to normal at the weekend.
If you can’t wait that long, then feel free to follow my Twitters (if your’e into that kind of thing), otherwise my latest pub review should be in Saturday’s M.E.N.
Have a good foodie week.

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Chocolate manicure for Easter?

A chocolate manicure? Are you sure.
When the press release for this delight dropped into my inbox it prompted some incredulity. Having your fingernails painted with chocolate? Apparently you can get “a chocoholics delight this Easter with a deluxe chocolate manicure”.
Come on! Choccy fingertips! Aside from being quite unappealing sounding they really would be as much use as that other tea-time favourite – the chocolate teapot.
But it seems there’s more to this. The Macdonald Manchester Spa has applied this odd name to a girly spa treat which combines a hand massage and manicure with a glass of Champagne, chocolate fountains, fruit and polish with chocolate inspired names.
Getting onto a roll with this marketing malarkey I’m wondering what might be next? How about hot (and)cross buns – a wax treatment for gentlemen’s bottoms.
Or, Easter eggs – a NO STOP!
Perhaps trying to fit traditional festivals into spa treatments is just pushing a marketing theme too far.

Confessions of a failed dieter

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OK it’s confession time. After committing to paper (well blog posting) my intention to cut back a bit in the interest of flab reduction, I’ll come clean.
After a few days I did fall off the wagon big style. I like cheese, I like red wine and I definitely like chocolate.
The situation wasn’t helped by finding a different set of scales weighed in a completely different (and more acceptable) reading! The motivating factor just wasn’t there any more.
Now I know I’m probably just kidding myself (as the women’s mags would have it) but I also discovered some alarming truths about the whole weight loss industry. For industry it is.
It is reported that, on any given day in Britain, a quarter of all women are on a diet, and half of all women are finishing, breaking or starting a diet.
And that’s worrying because they cam go to extraordinary lengths to lose weight – including taking cocaine or missing meals.
What I did learn during the week or so when denial was a reality was that the very act of ‘going on a diet’ had the effect of making food loom large in every decision made during the day.

You may think that someone who writes a blog called Life through food thinks like that anyway but this was different. Moving the experience of food and drinks into a “special status” of THE DIET turned me into a Bridget Jones style counter of numbers and statistics – how many units is that, how many calories, oh look at the sugar levels of that!

Where’s the enjoyment in that?
So I apologise to anyone looking for diet advice – I’m not the person to consult. Hopefully my fellow blogger Dianne Bourne will be more successful – she’s properly committed and keeping to the deal so her experiences are worth following.
I’ll reserve this section of my blog for occasional forays into the weird world of weight loss regimes but leave putting it into practice for now.
Having said that, I’m still a believer of my own NIL regime though – and still waiting for that book deal.
It’s looking like it could be quite a while coming. After all, there’s probably not enough money for any company to make from a diet of unprocessed foods and regular exercise to ever see it on the shelves.
There you go – the truth is out there!
Thanks to nicnbill for the diet-busting picture.

Hugh’s finger guard saves the day

While still compiling my list of things impossible to do without two thumbs (cracking eggs, peeling vegetables, dropping the roof of a convertible) I was somewhat perversely cheered to see Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall on television last night chop his fingers in a remarkably similar accident to my own.
While slicing up enough fish to keep a seal happy for the hungry crew of a trawler, Hugh managed to dice a bit of himself.
“See” I cheered, “even the professionals do it!”.
I was impressed with his calm demeanour in dealing with the situation though. Put me to shame.
Then I was full of admiration as he suddenly pulled from no-where the perfect tool for the job – a leather finger guard which ties onto the hand. This kept the bandage in place and neatly prevented any further slips and nips.
If anyone knows where they come from, please drop me a line.

Delia puts frozen mash on the shopping list

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Delia’s done it again. The queen of homely cooking has prompted some surprise – and a little fury – for her suggestion that frozen mash is the way forward.
“Delia, for the love of God” starts food blogger June, “honestly, how long does it take to peel a spud? Or to get someone else to do it for you?”
Even Waterstone’s bookseller Neill Walker has a bite at the hand that feeds by taking her to task in no uncertain terms:

“Oh Delia what have you done?How to cheat is one thing but using processed and frozen foods in your recipes is another.
“If you peel and mash potatoes yourself instead of using instant, for example you will have tastier and healthier mash ( and it doesn’t take too long). Can we have the real Delia back please?”

In today’s Telegraph, Delia justifies her stance and explains what’s behind her latest book release.
In what could take the award for being the longest interview ever published online, The Telegraph’s Mick Brown reveals how Delia “has scoured supermarket and delicatessen shelves to come up with 100 recommended ‘hidden servants’, as she puts it.
“Thus a recipe for a meze plate includes branded Odysea aubergine meze and stuffed vine leaves; an ‘amazing moussaka’ includes tinned minced lamb from Marks & Spencer and frozen chargrilled aubergine slices from Asda. A recipe for ‘good old shepherd’s pie’ stipulates Aunt Bessie’s Homestyle frozen mashed potato.”
Delia goes on to explain:

“Cooking can be two-tier now. You do the real thing when you have the time. I still say there’s nothing nicer in my life than to go into the kitchen, switch on Radio 4, and spend the day cooking. I still love that. But there’s this whole other life, which is, “Where is the next meal coming from?” So I really do feel that this is revolutionary.”

For my part this has made me feel a bit naive, I will confess to being blissfully unaware that frozen mash even existed.
In the interests of journalism I will seek it out and give it a taste test for you. Trouble is, if the Delia effect takes hold in the same way as it did when cranberries and salted capers were cleared from the supermarket shelves, it could be some time before I get the chance.

Is love chips and chocolate?

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If the fact that we are currently part of national chip week has passed you by in these obesity obsessed times, then you’ll be comforted to hear there’s still a few days left to go.
The British Potato Council is looking for the best chips in the country with an online vote which is open until February 17.
There’s also a selection of chip recipes which includes the truly revolting sounding chips and chocolate dip(pictured).
Then again this “Love Chips” campaign does run across Valentine’s Day.
A pot of chocolate sauce and some gift-wrapped portions of pommes frites (they’d have to be French to be even slighty romantic, do these people know nothing?) could be just the ticket tomorrow I suppose – but not in my house.
Chips and chocolate may be two of life’s pleasures but that doesn’t mean they should ever be put together. Enjoy each alone. There really can be too much of a good thing.
However, if you do attempt to pass this cheapskate option off as a Valentine’s treat, I’d love to know how it goes.

Fair criticism or another kicking?

“And then it is all let down by inconsistency in the food. This, I am told, is Manchester’s vice.” And so another London critic gives the city’s dining scene a kicking.
But are they right?
Having not yet been to Grado I don’t know whether the Observer’s Jay Rayner is right about Heathcote’s latest venture but he did seem to spend quite a lot of money trying it out.
Others have enjoyed the ham and the sardines and even a rave review of a vegetarian paella so I’ll reserve judgement for a later taste.
He is right about one thing though – it probably is just worth eating at Red Chilli instead.

How I chopped the end off my thumb

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No, I hadn’t been drinking and yes, it was a stupid think to do.
Having managed to chop the end of my thumb off while chopping bread has proved to be painful, inconvenient and an experience definitely worth avoiding.
The momentary lapse in concentration which led to this cooking accident has already prompted some never considered before insights.
There are things that it’s hard to do. Firstly it became obvious that opening the mussels, the reason I was cutting the baguette in the first place, was an impossibility.
Since then I’ve found that undoing/doing up a bra, operating a corkscrew and taking off the car’s handbrake (not that I suggest anyone attempts all three manoeuvres at once!) are no go areas for the unthumbed.
Then there’s the discovery that men can’t make bandages – just look at the state of it!
Blogging and cooking is going to be more difficult for the next few days but, looking on the bright side, I’ve found one advantage so far – I can’t do any washing up.
Hopefully all will be back to normal later in the week but for now, I’m all fingers and fingers.