The Chicken Out campaign continues

It’s been while since I’ve reflected on the Chicken Out campaign being run by TV chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.
He’s been attempting to drum up support for his campaign to have better welfare conditions for poultry produced for meat for six months now and has 148,000 people signed up online.
His diary of the attempt last week to take the campaign direct to Tesco’s shareholders made fascinating reading in yesterday’s Sunday Times .
And while the resolution didn’t succeed, the fight goes on and this blog is fully in support of it.
It would be easy to dismiss the campaign as 1. a publicity stunt or 2. an indulgent debate for the middle classes to wring their hands over but I think there’s something more fundamental at stake here.
What the initial programs did was shine a light in a dark corner where the average shopper fears to look.
As someone whose family once kept chickens (hundreds of them, all free-range) what I saw wasn’t a revelation but it was a timely reminder.
It’s too easy to see the pretty farmland pictures on the supermarket cling films and push to the back of the mind what really went into producing that breast portion.
But, as Hugh’s efforts last week again demonstrated, the average consumer could be forgiven for thinking the packaging, labelling and different terminologies used are somehow designed to confuse.
So cutting through all RSPCA Freedom Food, free-range, premium, standard definitions it seemed to me that Hugh’s final resolution to Tesco was hard to disagree with;
“conscious that the Company’s Animal Welfare Policy endorses the “Five Freedoms” concept proposed by the Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC), being: 1. Freedom from Hunger and Thirst 2. Freedom from Discomfort 3. Freedom from Pain, Injury or Disease 4. Freedom to Express Normal Behaviour 5. Freedom from Fear and Distress”…….”the Company sets a commitment within a fair time-frame to take appropriate measures to ensure that chickens purchased for sale by the Company are produced in systems capable of providing the “Five Freedoms”.”

Forget the marketing jargon, don’t we all expect that farmed animals have these basic freedoms? I certainly do so please note Mr Tesco, I will never purchase any chicken products from you again.

Frankly I’d rather not eat chicken again in my life if I can’t be sure of these basics.
Finally, seeing as I’m firmly down off the fence on this issue, I’m happy to give my blog’s support to
Kate’s Let Them Eat Chicken campaign.
I’ve sent her the chicken recipe which proved most popular on the blog – and my best wishes.
If you want to participate as well;• Post your favourite chicken recipe on your blog (or email Kate with your name, recipe and photo of your dish).
• Include in your post information about the chicken you used – where you bought it, what it tasted like etc.
• Include a link to the blog announcement.
Email Kate your name, blog URL and a link to your post by Wednesday 16th July.

Channel 4 puts Manchester on the map

Channel 4’s roving reporter Andrew Webb has been in Manchester and I caught up with him during the week.
Over some sushi at the Arndale Food Market we talked about the city’s restaurants and some foodie loves and hates.
He’s travelling the length and breadth of this fair isle looking at the best of every region so knows a thing or two about the topic.
But it wasn’t long before our conversation turned to the issues surrounding food production, the politics of eating and what’s going wrong with food in Britain today.
As so often happens with these debates, us foodies seem to feel a weight of responsibility but increasingly it’s hard to know what the right thing to do actually is.
We wandered around the amazing display of fish and seafood on offer and it got me thinking – should we consider it our good fortune that we can select from such abundance or should we be thinking of the future and checking out the sustainable credentials?
Is “organic” that’s been flown in from the other side of the world really better than non-organic produce from down the road? Do the Zimbabwean farmers need our support despite the absurdity of air travel for beans?
Increasingly I find myself reading labels but wondering what it is I’m looking for. If we’re not careful, food shopping will end up being a mental agility test where some sort of matrix of harm is weighed up in the aisles.

What I did on my holidays

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The gobbling travels to Turkey turned out to be truly delicious so I’ve written this quick guide for anyone planning their summer break in Kalkan who wants to follow in my foodie footsteps.
From the simplest pleasures of salty, crumbly local fresh cheese with the sweetest, most flavoursome tomatoes to the delights of truly fresh brown trout, warmly spiced meat casseroles and inventive salads, this harbour town with (reputedly) more restaurants per square mile than any other town in Turkey is a traveller’s delight.
And just look at this for a BBQ! Have you ever seen any better location? Dip in the clear blue waters near the sunken city while the meat cooks – the salads are already on the table in the boat.
Obviously 14 days does not a travel guide make, so if you’ve got a Kalkan eaterie to recommend, please submit the details below and share it with the world.

FoodieSarah’s quick guide to Kalkan

Eat at The Ivy and don’t worry about being overlooked by the Papparazzi – cheekily named restaurants high on the rooftops of this foodie Turkish town are the norm.
The small harbour town apparently has more eateries per square mile than anywhere else in Turkey so anyone heading out for a hot summer holiday won’t be disappointed by the amount of choice.
Even the most determined foodie couldn’t try everywhere in 14 days so this is my whistlestop tour of the best I encountered.
Best for;
MEZE
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Has to be the Korsan Meze. Occupying a scenic harbour position with its whitewashed walls and traditional “eye” decoration to ward off evil, the daily changing small starter dishes which make up the meze here are a delight. We were lucky enough to to sample that asparagus of the sea, samphire, with a garlicky yoghurt dip and the lightest, most melt-in-the-mouth pastry parcel of cheese ever encountered in our range of dishes. Put together with the on-the-house appetiser of tomato, chili, crumbly cheese, walnuts and just-baked lavosh bread, what was intended as a starter turned into a light meal for two. At £10 for food and the same for wine for the two of us.
COCKTAILS (and ladies’ loos!)
Coast does well-executed and imaginative cocktails. Unlike some Kalkan bars where the cocktails are over iced, under alcohol and use cheap mixers, these cocktails are as they should be – if somewhat pricey compared to local rates. Try the pomegranate mojito – heavenly. Food here is distinguished by being more a case of style over substance with plenty of performances going on in the contemporary space – flames, smashing cooking containers and even a dinky little electric pepper grinder. Good service and indulgent desserts. It’s place to bee seen at and the toilets are a thoughtfully designed pleasure. Girly venue.
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No batter, peas or vinegar to be had in the mountain village of Islamlar but you will get the freshest brown trout plucked from the water, simply pan-fried and served with your choice of feast from the meze selection. The long view of the harbour, the fresh mountain air and the simple but utterly welcoming atmosphere makes these restaurants simple in style but high on romance. A 10 minute drive from Kalkan and fantastic value. True foodie experience.
VEGETARIAN
While the meat and fish dishes at The Kaptan are also to be recommended, this place offers brilliant veggie dishes which don’t shout about being meat-free. They don’t need to, the cooking is a cut above. Try the green lentil salad with mustard dressing or how about this spaghetti with spinach, apricot and walnut? It really works. The styling of this pace is, erm, a little on the cheesy side. Be prepared to be greeted by a host dressed in captain’s uniform and don’t be alarmed by the occasional Barry White inspired pre-recorded announcement “ Ladies and gentleman, this is your captain speaking”. You’ll wonder whether it really happened but don’t let it put you off – judging by the plaque on the wall this chef has already come to the notice of a national awards scheme.
FISH again
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Quite what the owner was thinking off when he/she named the Extinct Fish Restaurant ( Exquisite? Exotic?) is anyone’s guess but what the place lacks in location it make up for in food terms. Try the “extinct special” (it isn’t past it) – a jack fish cooked en papille with strong fusions of black peppercorn and bay leaves. Outstanding.
VIEW
This was a hard venue to identify as just about every restaurant in Kalkan claims to have the “best view”. In some ways there’s not much between them but I picked this one out as it does include a slightly longer view of the harbour and is a quirky place worthy of a visit in it’s own right – the Moonlight restaurant and pension on Kalamar Road (there are a few establishment of the same name). Don’t just turn up expecting a meal – this is real home-cooking. You leave your order the day before and then spend a day of anticipation before enjoying traditional dishes such as this most excellent humus, chickpeas with lamb or aubergine kebabs. Very good value too.
VALUE
An unassuming ground floor level café away from the harbour, Deli Deli Tomato offers well-cooked and interesting specials every day alongside the expected selection of grills and salads. A meal and a couple of beers could be as little as £10 a head for something you’d expect to pay double for in the UK.
While I hope you find my picks interesting, the vast array of eateries means strong competition in this small town and it would seem to be difficult to film a bad meal in Kalkan so, enjoy.
There’s more pictures from the trip at my Flickrsteam. Please feel feel to contribute your own pix and recommendations.
Thanks to Tapestry Collection holidays, the staff at the New Oasis Hotel and Christa and Kalim of the excellent Dolphin Scuba Team for helping to make this foodie adventure so enjoyable. Please note that this trip, and all the meals, were entirely self-funded.

Back from travels and so much going on back here

I’ve finally landed. My fortnight’s annual holiday already seeming like a distant memory and just the £s lost to make up for and the lbs gained to lose.
There’s a big bag of spices in the cupboard waiting to be cooked up plus some fab foodie ideas caught on camera and in my taste memory bank just waiting to be unleashed.
And just a day back to work and there’s so much to blog about.
Here’s just a taste of what’s to come;
* A quick guide to the eateries of Kalkan in Turkey for anyone who plans to follow in my footsetps this summer.
* Some dieting V eating dilemmas brought about by the above foodie adventures.
* Taking a sneak preview of next month’s Nantwich Cheese Festival which is sure to undo any resolve made in the above.
* Joining in with Channel 4s Big British Food Map which reaches Manchester tomorrow when I show Andrew Webb a bit of what’s on offer in our city.
* Revealing something from behind the scenes of the new series of Kitchen Nightmares (hopefully) which is also coming our way I hear.
So, if you’re ready for all that, I’ll get blogging.

Gone eating

I’m away at the moment and without internet access.
So, please enjoy reading this blog in my absence but remember that any comments you make won’t be published until I get back.
Thanks for all your great contributions so far. I look forward to hooking up with you on my return.
One thing’s for sure – I’ll have had some foodie adventures to share.

Dinner @ Plas Bodegroes

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I often draw a comparison between good art and fine food. Both rely on great raw materials but the artistry is in the bringing together of those individual components, not only into a coherent whole, but one that respects the integrity of the solo items.
This meal in north Wales’ only Michelin starred establishment ticked all the boxes on both art and dining fronts so, although it might be too much of a drive for a night out, it’s so good I wanted to share with you – why not make a weekend of it? After all, they do rooms.
Our summer evening started with drinks under the rose covered veranda looking across a charming courtyard with a water feature. Maybe there’s something about the building of anticipation in such a setting that adds to the sensual pleasures. The tiny cheese tartlet and herring and dill canape helped too.
The dining room revealed the artistic interests of the owners – paintings on almost every wall space from Kyffin Williams to a Blackadder (in a loo!). Yes this is a stripped wood education in art including a portrait of co-owner Gunna Chown.
After the unannounced appetiser of beef carpaccio we moved onto some serious starters – my Thai green curry was a truly remarkable soup like concoction of full-on green curry spices with tender chunks of meaty monkfish while his ballotine of guinea fowl was accompanied with a sweet tumeric pistachio and apricot piccalilli arrangement – the posh cousin of a cold cuts in a high tea style dish.
Remaining with a fishy theme, the crusted cod was a powerful main course. Maybe “powerful” isn’t a word used often to describe flakey, delicate cod but in this instance it fits due to the sun-dried and cumin inspired golden crust which just expanded on reaching the mouth.
Simple (if rather plentiful) accompaniment of chips with skin-on pots, samphire and broccoli provided he counter balance.
It was a similarly full-on experience with the seabass and a crab and ginger sauce. Himself still can’t make up his mind whether it was a ginger sauce with crab or a crab sauce with ginger so equally at the front of the experience these two flavours were – a bit like the grey rock against the Welsh landscape experienced in the wonderful Kyffin Williams paintings dotted around the place.
We both couldn’t resist the cheese board but, and here’s the one criticism, were a bit disappointed not to learn more about selection of local produce on offer. The waitress was able to reel off the names of each Welsh creation – but couldn’t offer us any more. I hope this won’t sound too pompous but when you’re eating in a place as good as this, you expect the service to add something to the experience – the wine waiter to be able to advise, the waiting staff to be knowledgeable – not to the point of boring the table silly, but just to add a little.
That small snipe aside, the undescribed cheese was good although the biscuits too domestic to be special which was a pity.
The magically memorable night ended in the drawing room with coffee, tea and petit fours while soaking up the art.
What a blissful end to a stressful week.
Appetiser and three courses is £42.50 per person.
Plas Bodegroes is at Pwllheli, Gwynedd. LL53 5TH
North Wales
t: 01758 612363
There’s more pictures at the Life through food Flickr group where you are invited to share your own foodie experiences too.