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Mushroom pate and contemporary art

November 23, 2013

Mushroom pate

Originality is for people with short memories

This saying came up in one of the brilliant series of four Reith lectures by Grayson Perry who explored topics such as what makes good art, who should judge art and how to become a contemporary artist. Grayson is a cross-dressing potter who by his own admission protects his ball of creative energy “with a shield made of jaded irony. A helmet of mischief and a breast plate of facetiousness,” and wields a “carefully crafted blade of cynicism”.  His extensive knowledge, sparkling wit, honesty and great delivery meant I forcibly clamped my headphones onto my youngest teen’s ears and have been urging anyone with the slightest interest in creativity to listen ever since.

The fashion equivalent of this paté wouldn’t get near Grayson’s wardrobe; it’s resolutely beige as opposed to his peacock colours (he attributes his cross dressing to being poppered into a PVC pottery smock at the age of nine). On my visit to Borough Market one of the things I tasted was mushroom pate from Pate Moi.  I was reminded of just how good a simple purée of funghi with something creamy and something spicy can be. It was tucked away in my food memory and resurfaced when I returned to Dubai. Now I’m sure that this recipe is far from original, (just how many variations on mushrooms with cream can there be?) but it’s what I created in my kitchen. I was almost going down the classic lemon, garlic and parsley route but had some thyme in the fridge that needed using up and a bowl full of oranges.

As for my teen, when I told her I’d linked Grayson Perry to a recipe for mushroom pate she enquired, “Did you serve it in a pot?”! So the question is, if I served this paté in a Turner prize winning pot would food be art?

Mushroom pate

Mushroom paté (vegetarian)

Ingredients

4 tablespoons of butter or ghee plus extra to cover
1 medium onion, chopped finely
1 large clove of garlic, chopped finely
440g chestnut mushrooms, sliced thinly
1 orange, zest finely grated plus half the juice
2 tablespoons cognac (optional)
2 sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves picked
1/4 whole nutmeg, finely grated
3 tablespoons
créme frâiche
sea salt and black pepper

Method

  1. Melt the butter or ghee in a large flat pan and lightly fry the onion until soft. Add the garlic and stir through, then add the mushrooms to the pan and fry until they begin to brown, soften and shrink. Cook until any mushroom juices have evaporated.  Pour in the orange juice and zest, and cognac, cook for a couple of minutes, stirring until the liquids reduce. Add the thyme and stir for a further minute, then add a good grating of nutmeg.
  2. Remove from the heat and spoon the contents of the pan into a blender or food processor*.  Add the créme frâiche, along with sea salt (approx. 1 teaspoon) and freshly ground black pepper. Blend until smooth. (*If you want a chunkier texture, add half at a time and give a whizz for a quick burst only for the second batch.)
  3. Spoon the mixture into small ramekin dishes or a jar, smooth the top of the paté level with a knife or spatula. Melt a large knob of butter or ghee and pour carefully over the paté. Cool and leave in the fridge for at least an hour before serving. It will keep for at least a week.

Serve with butter on brown bread or crackers with gherkins, add to pasta as a sauce or as a baked potato topping. Tastes great on rye bread or brioche with chutney. As a lover of meat-based paté I can say honestly that this was equally satisfying – maybe due to the cognac.

So pate/ modern art – love it or loathe it?

Devilled rib bones for a Vincent Price Halloween cookalong

November 4, 2013

I am Frederick Loren, and I have rented the house on haunted hill tonight so that my wife can give a party. She’s so amusing. There’ll be food and drink and ghosts, and perhaps even a few murders. You’re all invited. If any of you will spend the next twelve hours in this house, I will give you each ten thousand dollars, or your next of kin in case you don’t survive. Ah, but here come our other guests.

You know how it is when you meet someone and like them immediately? I met Jenny Hammerton at a conference in London and was immediately won over by her infectious sense of humour, broad smile which extends to her twinkly eyes and a sense of flying in the face of convention.  A film archivist by day, she’s enthralled by an earlier era of old-fashioned glamour and stardom at all times. She’s a quarter of ‘The Shellac Sisters‘, ‘four glamorous retrochics’ who spin the decks with 78s and a wind up gramophone. On her brilliant blog called Silver Screen Suppers, she cooks her way through recipes shared by movie stars of the past. Gwyneth Paltrow is doing nothing new by branching out into cook books; Hollywood idols of the 30s, 40s and 50s shared their love of cooking in magazines, newspapers and books. On Silver Screen Suppers you’ll discover that Marlene Dietrich was partial to whipping up a loaf of banana nut bread, Jean Harlow stuffed celery with shrimp for a starter, Cary Grant was not averse to a dish of tuna fish pie and Marilyn Monroe was a cook with flair who served carrots and peas together as she liked the colour combination!

So who better to inspire a spooky Halloween cook along than Vincent Price? While grizzly ghouls from every tomb were closing in to seal our doom on 31st October, cooks around the globe were sharpening knives in the kitchen and bubbling up a cauldron or two with recipes from Vincent.  Banquets were served, eaten on knocking knees in front of House on Haunted Hill (the quote above is from the start of the movie).  Victoria Price – Vincent’s daughter – gave her seal of approval to the whole event. How super cool is that?

Jenny gave me this recipe by Vincent –  ‘Deviled rib bones’ based on a dish that Mr Price ate at The Ivy in London. He says:

In a country that consumes a lot of roast beef there are bound to be rib bones left over. And sooner or later a clever chef will think of something good to do with them. At The Ivy the Deviled rib bones are almost a better by-product than the original roast. They tell me that this recipe was an old club favorite, and since the ribs must be eaten with the fingers, it is possible that English clubs are a lot less stuffy than we think.

I’ve adapted the recipe as cooking a whole rib roast was out of the question this week. It did give me the excuse to buy some beautiful short ribs (from Prime Gourmet in Dubai) and roast them in the oven until soft and melting before grilling a la VP.

The frugal nature of this recipe really appeals to me, as does his suggestion that the same treatment could be given to the bones of a roast capon.  This is a window to a by-gone era with a recipe that’s just as good today.

Serve with a green salad, but dispense with cutlery. Bare your incisors and act like a werewolf. Gnaw those bones.

And though you fight to stay alive, you start to shake and moan,

Cause no mere mortal can resist a deviled roast rib bone.

Deviled rib bones

Recipe by Vincent Price (instructions slightly modified by me into a modern recipe format ).

Ingredients

4 roasted rib bones*
Salt
Pepper
2 tablespoons English mustard
3 tablespoons single cream
75g fine breadcrumbs (sourdough or firm bread)
3 tablespoons butter, melted

Method

  1. Preheat the grill (broiler).
  2. Take 4 freshly roasted rib bones. Trim them but leave a fairly generous portion of meat on the bones.
  3. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  4. Make a thin paste with 2 tablespoons of English mustard and 3 tablespoons of cream.
  5. Coat rib bones all around with the mustard paste.
  6. Sprinkle generously with fine breadcrumbs, covering bones completely.
  7. Dot generously with 3 tablespoons melted butter.
  8. Place under broiler (grill) until crisp and crusty, turning to brown all sides.

Presentation: Serve hot and, says the chef, come to terms with fingers.

* I used 3 beef short ribs which I cooked in a 200C oven, in a baking tray covered with foil, for 1 hour 20 minutes. I poured off the fat and roasted for about 10 minutes on either side with the foil off. The verdict? Short ribs are very rich (they suit braising best) and roasted rib bones (which are leaner) would be better deviled. This is a carnivore’s treat.

Jenny from Silver Screen Suppers

Jenny from Silver Screen Suppers

For further fiendish feasts in this virtual pot luck party visit: Dinner is Served 1972 – Beef Heart Stewed, Caker Cooking – Fish Fillets Nord Zee, Battenburg Belle – Deviled Shrimp and Rice and Pumpkin pie, Mid Century Menu – Unwealthy Wellington,  Bloody Mary and Pumpkin Pie, Glamorous Glutton – Steak Moutarde Flambe, The Past on a Plate – Ayrshire Poacher’s Roll, The Retro WW Experiment – Chinese Chicken, Craftypants Carol – Deviled Crab, Retrorecipe – Cucumber Crocodile and Melon Monster, Beyond the Fringes  – Calves liver Marinee , Saucy Cherry – Chicken liver risotto and  Bittersweet Susie – Carolina Deviled Clams. Jenny from Silver Screen Suppers made Bloody Marys and cooked Oxtail Creole.

Plus they’ll be a round up on Silver Screen Suppers with additional Vincent Price recipes such as Champignons Grilles Marie Victoire, Chicken Livers Sauteed with Apples and Onion Rings, Liver and Bacon Pate and Shropshire Fidget Pie (I presume you can’t sit still for this).

Wine for a pink lunch

October 26, 2013

October goes into a frenzy of breast cancer awareness in Dubai. We’ve come a long way; within a couple of decades when even the word breast was taboo, now a pink ribbon is projected onto the Burj al Arab, there are radio and press ads, pink walkathons, running events and pink cupcakes sold in aid of ‘awareness’. It’s almost gone the other way (read here) and very strict rules about charitable giving mean that much of the money raised goes into spreading the word.

I was invited to a ladies pink lunch and as the organisers were friends I said I’d go along (see more about the cause below). I met Catherine when we were both studying for WSET3, and she qualified to be a sommelier in the US too. She choose the wine for lunch (yes, you guessed it – predominantly pink).

A friend and I taxied out to The Palm, a manmade island dredged out of the sand. Its narrow palm fronds mean that all villas have a ‘sea’ view and back directly onto a beach.

Ladies arrive, negotiating the few steps down to the terrace on dainty high heels; there are swaying-brimmed hats and pink feather boas….masses of pink in fact, from shocking to the palest salmon. The food is also pink; pretty, dainty and provided by caterers Gustronomy (tiny cups carved out of beetroot filled with horseradish cream for instance). The first wine to be poured is Domaine Chandon Rosé.

Think the name is familiar? This sparkling wine is made using méthode traditionnelle in the Yarra Valley, Australia – the same way used to put bubbles into Champagne. The winery was established by French Champagne house Moët & Chandon in 1986.

The wine is quite a deep, peachy pink in colour, light textured, with a nice creaminess combined with strawberry and cherry fruit and a dry finish. This is superior fizz and worth considering if you want the taste of Champagne without the full price tag (160 AED incl. tax MMI)

I have a real soft spot for Massaya Rosé as my first glass was poured for me by Ramzi Ghosn of Massaya at a very relaxed gathering on the Ritz Carlton DIFC roof terrace here in Dubai. At the time, the rosé had just arrived in Dubai and now a couple of years later, a source tells me, it’s selling like wild fire and difficult to get hold of a bottle at present. Massaya is a Lebanese wine company in partnership with the owner of Chateau Trianon and co-proprietor at Le Vieux Télégraphe. No surprise then that the grape varieties used for this rose are those traditionally used for rosé in the Languedoc (Cinsault, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah) and it has a distinctly French-style. It was paired with a soup appetiser of chilled red pepper gazpacho (very rich and creamy) and a pink risotto topped with confit prawns. The appeal of this wine is the soft texture, raspberry and stone fruit, refreshing acidity and a dry finish, all balanced beautifully. If you see a bottle in Dubai, snap it up (at 72 AED incl. tax at MMI Dubai you can afford to).

posing on the beach

I’m betting the well-heeled crowd would have turned their collective noses up at this bottle if they saw it in the liquor store. However, as a crowd-pleaser the final wine was going down a storm. The waiters poured the Mondoro Asti with a flourish from its ornate green bottle (possibly designed for the Russian market where it sells very well). Made of Moscato grapes (beloved of hip-hop rappers) it’s sparkling tropical fruit cocktail in a glass, a little more than off-dry (that the maker’s claim) but not cloying.  At 7.5% it’s perfect for day-time drinking and matched with the dessert of raspberry and honey terrine with strawberry semifreddo (72 AED incl. tax MMI Dubai).

Proceeds from the lunch and prize draw went to Breast Cancer Arabia. They don’t just provide information, but practical support for care and treatment; vital in a country where private health care cover and costs is spiralling out of the reach of most.

I hadn’t planned to blog about this so all pics taken on iphone. Thanks to the organisers for a really special event for a very good cause.

Ever tried these wines? What do you think?

The perfect word for wine tasting?

October 23, 2013

oops - wine spill

Oops!

Uttered when you trip up and spill a big glass of red wine down your front. Or when you take a bottle of 1996 Chateau Lascombe to party by accident. Or when you get home late mid-week, fancy a glass of red, and, thinking the label looks cute, open a bottle of 2009 Molly Dooker, The Scooter (a brain-foggingly 17% alcohol). Or when, when you are helping at a book signing, someone mistakes you for Oz Clarke’s wife – eek! Sadly all true.

How and why to slurp

The best way the word oops fits with wine….it’s exactly the sound when you sip some wine and try to take in a bit of oxygen at the same time. Go on try it….

Pour yourself a wine glass of anything you’d like to taste right now. Give it a swirl. I find it easiest to keep the bottom of the glass on the table, hold the stem and make big circles with it. If I swirl mid-air it can slop around alarmingly!  Raise the glass, stick your nose right in and sniff, then get down to some tasting.

The rationale for slurping a bit of air with your wine is that it helps to draw some of the vapour up the retro-nasal passage. This is the airway that connects the nose and the mouth and also home to a small patch of nerve endings. The olfactory epithelium helps us to identify thousands of aromas and explains why you can’t taste very well when you have a cold.

On your marks, ready for tasting….

oops

Could this be the perfect onomatopoeic word for wine tasting?

with REN AT 15

Oops! Do I always wear the same clothes? With Ren Behan in London

O.O.P.S

I have a horror of acronyms; those series of capital letters and full stops representing some body, committee or ruling. They trip off the tongue of those in the know  leaving those who don’t totally bewildered. When I joined a large department of a bank, it was as though everyone was speaking a foreign language. Even now I get my CRMs (Customer Relationship Management) mixed up with my CMSs (Content Management System). What could OOPS stand for in the wine world?

Over Oaked and Partially Sipped; Ordinary Oenologists Prefer Syrah: Once Opened Pouring Sensible; Suggestions on a postcard (or in the comments).

O is for Oenology

…the study and science of wine. It also helps to round up a few wine things on my mind recently:

OAK- Jamie Goode published a wine manifesto this week and has a lot to say about oak which highlights the wine world’s reliance on barrel ageing (or in some cases adding oak chips or oak essence). Take points 18 and 24:

No new clothes
If you hate overripeness and obvious new oak (as you should), take care lest you end up praising a wine for the mere absence of these faults. It happens.

Escape the small oak rut

Too many winegrowers are obsessed by small oak. Small oak – barrels and barriques – doesn’t suit all that many wines. But it seems the default vessel of élevage. It’s a mistake.

Read the full manifesto here.

OSBORN – One day I might find adequate words to describe a wine dinner with Chester Osborn in May of this year. Barking mad springs to mind (in a nice way), he’s a bit of a wild man of wine and his personality probably divides people, as does his wine. We tasted drank a lot that evening including 2010 d’Arenberg Shiraz Vociferate Dipsomaniac Scarce Earth Single Vineyard – try saying that after you’ve drank a glass – which is partly treaded by foot and partly basket-pressed. Yes, I really must write about it, but in the meantime…

Chester Osborn wine dinner

Oops! What were we doing?!

PICPOUL – Apparently this grape variety means ‘lip stinger’ in the local dialect but it’s far from astringent, with some creamy notes, dry, fresh and floral. Nice to see the white variety becoming more popular for summer drinking this year in the UK, pushing into the sea of ubiquitous Pinot Grigio and…

SAUVIGNON BLANC – “Cat’s pee on a gooseberry bush”. I read this tasting note somewhere recently and it sums up most SB that I taste. Reminded that it ain’t necessarily so by a Shaw & Smith Sauvignon Blanc the other evening at Rivington Grill which although not a complex wine is crisp and fragrant, grassy and fresh without being rasping.

Oops! is the theme for the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge and like Wine Kat who set it this month, I love words. Words for their own sake, words for their sound, words with the mouthfeel of fine wine, words which have many meanings. Anyone remember Wordy Rappinghood by the Tom Tom Club? It could be my theme music.

Oops! What does this word conjure up for you?

Borough Market

October 18, 2013

Borough MarketTourist. Somehow this has become an undesirable term, a dirty word. Associated with snaking crocodiles of dull-eyed sentries, coaches like ant-hills spilling people, couples touting backpacks and lenses; tourist equals undiscriminating, while traveller means adventure .  “Borough Market’s not what it used to” seemed to be the common consensus among my friends who live in London. “It’s for tourists“. But sometimes you have to admit that’s exactly what you are; I haven’t lived in London for over twenty years and Borough Market was something I needed to tick off my list as a self-respecting foodie, albeit rather late in the day.

Emerging, with crowds of commuters to street level, from the Underground, the first thing that struck me was not a proliferation of bright fruit and vegetables but the disconcerting spire of the Shard at close proximity. Viewed from the angle of a very normal London high street it looks incongruous and slightly menacing.

Explore the Southbank

Stepping into the dark cavern behind the Borough Market sign, just after 9am, I was faced with boarded up stalls. It seems that the aftermath of cocktails at Fifteen had clouded my brain when reading the opening times. Desperate for a bacon sandwich (also due to aforementioned cocktails) I toured the periphery but had to settle for a flaky croissant and coffee at Elliot’s. There were few people about except for a ginormous queue for coffee at Monmouth (which I couldn’t face joining).

I pottered around  the market seeing it come to life. Braving the servers who didn’t have a square centimetre of flesh that was wasn’t tattooed, pierced, tunnelled or embellished, I downed a welcome fresh juice with lots of ginger. Out in the central courtyard various street food stalls were setting up with promising aromas, and ingredients starting to be chopped, seared and simmered. I decided to take a stroll along the South Bank and return when it was all fully up and running.

This part of London is rich with sights and sounds – with the Thames to your right, you pass The Golden Hinde, The Clink Prison Museum, Vinopolis (wine tasting, classes and exhibits), Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and end up at the Tate Modern and Millennium Bridge all within a very short walk (see pics here).

Taste…

By the time, I’d wandered back to Borough Market it was a different place. Stalls were thronging with people buying and tasting, there were queues for the fish and chip restaurant which had been ghost-like less than an hour before. The street food sellers were doing a roaring trade and I looked longingly at a vast array of Arabic mezze, Jamaican stews, a home cured salt beef stall and a proliferation of burgers and pies. Pitchers and beakers brimming with fruit-laden Pimms seemed to be everywhere.

Back inside, the fresh fish stall was gleamingly beautiful, staffed by keen looking chaps in striped aprons. The fruit and veg area was a series of painterly still life arrangements of produce. Tourists (and there were a lot of Chinese visitors wielding lenses) were tasting their way around, so I took the ‘if you can’t beat them join them’ attitude.

No surprises that a lot of cheese tasting was involved – Gorwydd Caerphilly, Belper Knolle from Jumi, and Comté from the Borough Cheese Company are worth seeking out. Mushroom pâté from Pâté Moi was flying out of the dishes as soon as they were filled (and gave me an idea…more anon). As I was meeting someone for lunch and travelling by coach later on, I did more browsing than shopping but I found space for one special thing in my back pack.

British Charcuterie

In Poland, in the summer of 1996, my Uncle went out and fetched some salami from his friend. Made from a locally kept, free range pig, the savoury spice was deep and layered, the fat creamy and sweet, the meat softly chewy. I hadn’t ever tasted charcuterie as good – until I found Cannon and Cannon. Doing a brisk trade but still happy to give samples to some enthusiastic 10 year old boys who were negotiating bargains, the stallholder found time to discuss Gloucester Old Spot pork, tell me about their producers and guide me through a tasting ranging from chorizo to some salami made with Kentish cob nuts. It was my introduction to the British charcuterie scene and I’m now on a mission to taste more…..much more.  Having lunch with my sister, devouring most of the haul paired with freshly picked tomatoes in my Mum’s garden, is one of my best food memories of the summer.

While the feel of the old market is still there, a new glass covered structure in the centre adds a modern touch, softened by plants like olive trees and hops. This is a hub for cookery demos or just somewhere to relax. The  variety of restaurants around the market, from old fashioned pubs to wine bars (there was a wine education session in full flow at a table in Bedales) keeps it buzzing outside market hours.

So should you visit Borough Market? Absolutely. Go hungry and blend in with all the other tourists. There will be crowds so take your time. Have a late breakfast in one of the surrounding cafes, stay for lunch, walk it off along the South Bank and the ingredients for dinner to take home with you.

Borough Market is located near the London Bridge Station, at 8 Southwark Street, London SE1 1TL.

The best food markets in London

In addition to Borough Market, there are many more thriving markets:

Maltby Street Market On a Saturday morning, Bermondsey comes alive when coffee roasters, bee keepers, gin distillers, preserve makers, and many more open their doors. Monty’s Deli Jewish soul food has a cult following, my friend Dana sells her fabulous Arganic oil and Brambletye Fruit brings biodynamic fruit from orchards in East Sussex. Popularity means it has spread to two adjacent venues; The Ropewalk (by the railway arches) and the Spa Terminus where producers are based throughout the week. The Ropewalk, 41 Maltby Street, SE1 3PA

Brentford Market  There had been a market in Brentford from 1306, until it closed in the 1930s.  With the aim of selling high quality, affordable food, and revitalising the high street, this market was set up again in May 2013 to give local people an alternative to the supermarket and the chance to buy direct from the producers who care about the food they produce. Market Place, Brentford, TW8 8AH

Brixton Village Market and Market Row The place to go for foods from around the world, with cafés, restaurants (the destination for budget eating in south London:Time Out) and shops that sell everything from charcuterie to cheese. Nearby Brixton Station Road Market also has a Food Corner and other food-related events. Electric Avenue/Coldharbour Lane, Brixton SW9 8JXBorough Market

Broadway Market This half century old market is a fusion of more than 80 food and vintage stalls. Taste street food and buy fresh produce including a wealth of cheese. London Fields park to Regent’s Canal, Hackney, E8 4PQ

Brockley Market Shortlisted for the BBC Food and Farming Awards 2012 best food market, this is a weekly Saturday market in Lewisham, with a mix of grocery shopping (fruit, veg, bread, meat, poultry, game and fish) and ready prepared foods focussing on locally sourced produce. Lewisham Way, SE4 1UT

Real Food Market The aim of this weekly 3-day market on London’s Southbank is that you can trust the provenance of your food by buying direct from the people who produce it.  Producers are also unified by an environmentally responsible and sell everything from grass-fed beef, artisan cheeses, traditional beers and ales, seasonal fruit and vegetables, real bread to charcuterie. Southbank Centre Square, Belvedere Road, SE1 8XX

Farmers’ Markets in London

Alexandra Palace Farmers Market  30 – 50 producers every Sunday in Muswell Hill, with Kentish fruit and veg, pressed fruit juices, local rare breed pork and sausages, fresh fish, organic bread, handmade pies, cakes & biscuits, etc and hot food stalls too.

London Fields Market  A farmers market that takes place every Sunday in the school yard of London Fields Primary School, Hackney.

Islington Farmers’ Market London’s first ever and most established farmers. market takes place on Sundays in Chapel Market between Baron Street and Penton Street with at least 30 stalls each week. Wide variety of produce from cheese, to game, to cider.

Queen’s Park Farmers’ Market Voted Farmers’ Market of the Year in 2012, it’s also a favourite of Yael Mejia, the driving force behind the original Farmers’ Market in Dubai.

Visit London Farmers’ Markets site for more.

Are you a tourist or a traveller?  Are there any other ‘must-visit’ markets in London?

Related articles

A human right to eat: regaining control of our food

October 16, 2013

Surely no one disagrees that people have a human right to live in peace without their leaders persecuting them or blowing them up with sophisticated weapons. We’ve seen leader after leader go one step too far, and suffer the consequences. From Slobodan Milošević, to Saddam Hussein to Muammar Gaddafi,  (and currently Bashar Hafez al-Assad) the world agreed that they should no longer wield such power when they abused the basic human rights of the people in their country.

Another fundamental human right is to have enough food to eat. Astonishingly, we seem happy to entrust power over the production and distribution of our food to unelected bodies who wield far more influence than many governments. Theses companies are driven by delivering shareholder value which is at odds with the very principles of providing the world’s population with enough, nutritious, affordable food.

The potential for abuse of power

Jean Ziegler, Special Rapporteur of the UN Commission on Human Rights on the right to food stated in a report in 2003:

[T]he growing power of transnational corporations and their extension of power through privatization, deregulation and the rolling back of the State also mean that it is now time to develop binding legal norms that hold corporations to human rights standards and circumscribe potential abuses of their position of power.
(source: Wikipedia)
In the ten years since this report, chemical companies such as Monsanto and BASF have had a massive influence on the way we actually grow our food, Nestle, Unilever, Kraft and Pepsico have become more dominant across a wide range of food sectors, major retailers have an even stronger hold on where we buy our food and multi-national brands dominate our restaurant choices.
Control over food means influencing the health and nutrition of whole populations and a direct bearing on whether people have enough to eat.

The right to food

The latest annual ‘Right to Food and Nutrition’ report published in September 2013 quotes:

“Food and power are related. It is almost impossible to find one person among the powerful in society and politics worldwide who does not have enough to eat,” said Huguette Akplogan-Dossa, regional co-ordinator of the African Network on the Right to Food (ANoRF). “The tendency is for exclusion from economic and political decision-making to go hand in hand with incidences of hunger and malnutrition.”

The report expresses particular concern about the increasing influence and control of agribusinesses and financial companies over food and nutrition. See article here.

Farmers Market Dubai (3)

So what can we do?

It’s imperative we lobby governments and fight against the insidious growth of GM crops, the domination of our towns by supermarkets and the industrialisation of our farms.

Where we (and while we still) have a choice, buying direct from farmers, choosing non GM produce, supporting small producers with good track records and food provenance, and cooking from scratch so we can control what goes into our own food, if enough people vote with their purses we can make a difference.

We must not let power over such a fundamental human right fall into the hands of people whose motivation is diametrically opposed to our well being.

If you have any doubt about the direct impact of our demand for cheap food available all year round on human rights, read this article about the farmed prawn industry.

The first line of E. E. Cummings poem, “As freedom is a breakfast food…”  is particularly apposite now as when it was written during the Great Depression. (Thanks to The London Epicurean for alerting me to this.)

Concerted citizen action to uphold human rights

Eleanor RooseveltIt might seem overwhelming but to quote Eleanor Roosevelt on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

“Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home – so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm, or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.”

While companies like McDonalds can use bucolic scenes of fictitious farms in their television advertising, Compassion in World Farming are not allowed to portray the reality of the lives of animals. I’m supporting this campaign:Compassion in world farming - banned

This post is part of Blog Action Day 2013 and the theme is Human Rights. Amnesty International is one of many partners.

I would love to hear your view on this in the comments section.

Sticky ginger cake with Turkish Delight icing

October 10, 2013

Ginger cake with Turkish Delight icingOne thing was for sure when I was growing up, there was always cake in the house. Rock cakes, soft and eggy studded with glacé cherries and fruit; coconut cake, shaggy and moist; fruit cake packed with plump sultanas, Victoria sandwich cake layered with strawberry jam and buttercream; fairy cakes drizzled with water icing; seed cake studded with caraway; coffee walnut cake; bread pudding (which was sliced and eaten like cake) or, for birthday parties, chocolate rice crispy cakes.

They were always home-made; except for one. Once in while, usually if my Mum had taken the bus into town and visited the supermarket, there would be a ‘shop-bought’ Jamaica ginger cake (if you live in the UK you’ll know which brand). Oblong in shape and covered with a red wrapper, it was sticky, crumbly and incredibly moist. Of course, probably much to my Mum’s chagrin, we wolfed it down.

Here’s the nearest I can get to the childhood memory of that cake.  I usually double this recipe and make two cakes at a time. They keep well wrapped in foil or in a plastic bag in the freezer.

There’s a P.S. to this recipe…

I joined in a cake feature for BBC Good Food Middle East magazine. I’d already done a test run with lemongrass icing inspired by a gorgeous cake I bought from Ginger Bakers at the Foodies Festival in Bristol. Then came the email “we have too many brown and white cakes” – hmmmm aren’t most cakes brown and white?  As I’m a natural kind of gal, I wasn’t keen on using colouring and what else would go with ginger? Also how would this fit in with my childhood memories (where cakes were brown!)? In a eureka moment I thought about combining flavours of my current home with the traditional English classic. I whipped up a batch of icing loosely inspired by the flavours of Nigella’s Turkish Delight figs.  I did add a tiny dash of Wilton gel pink food colouring for photographic purposes. Some fresh figs and mint leaves transformed it into quite a show stopper (to quote Great British Bake Off ). The quantity I made (as below) is far too much for this cake – so either halve it, use it for something else (like cup cakes) or give it to a teen to eat by the spoonful. If you like rose creams you’ll find this seriously addictive.

Sticky ginger cake

Wrapped in foil, in an airtight container, this keeps for ages and seems to get better i.e. stickier. The icings are entirely optional as it’s a good cake on its own. The lemongrass icing is quite subtle, the vanilla/rosewater icing for hey days and holidays or you can serve with custard as a pudding.

Ingredients

225g self-raising flour
1 level tablespoon ground (powdered) ginger
Pinch of fine sea salt
100g light, soft brown sugar
100g unsalted butter
100g molasses (or treacle)
155g golden syrup (date syrup could also be used)
20g of syrup from a jar of stem ginger
1 medium egg
150ml milk
1-2 knobs of stem ginger, chopped finely

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 C and arrange the oven shelf about 1/3 from the bottom.
  2. Grease a 900g loaf tin with butter and line with greaseproof or baking paper.
  3. Sieve the flour into a mixing bowl, followed by the ginger, then add the salt.
  4. Put the sugar, butter, molasses, golden syrup and ginger syrup into a saucepan (non-stick preferably) and warm over a very low heat until the butter has melted and the sugar is no longer granular (do not overheat or let it bubble). Stir with a wooden spoon to combine, scraping any sugar from the bottom of the pan and stirring to help dissolve it. Remove from heat.
  5. Measure the milk in a jug and break the egg into it. Beat together with a fork until combined.
  6. Pour the sugar mixture from the pan into the mixing bowl onto the flour. Add the milk and egg and then the chopped stem ginger.. Stir gently with a wooden spoon then use a large hand whisk to get rid of any lumps of flour (stirring with the whisk held upright, rather than beating the mixture).
  7. Pour the mixture into the lined loaf tin.
  8. Bake in the oven for about 45 minutes. Check if cooked by inserting a wooden toothpick or cake tester into the middle – if it comes out clean the cake is cooked. If mixture coats the toothpick, put back in the oven for up to 15 more minutes (put a piece of foil over the top if it is getting very dark at the edges.
  9. Leave in the tin for 10 minutes then turn out carefully, remove the lining paper and place on a rack to cool.

Lemongrass icing

Ingredients

2 stems of lemongrass
150g icing sugar

Method

Chop the lemongrass into small pieces and put in a saucepan. Add enough cold water to cover (about 5 cm deep). Place over a low heat and infuse for 20-30 minutes (depending on how fragrant your lemongrass is). Bring to the boil and reduce until you have about 4 tablespoons of liquid. Put a small sieve over a bowl and pour the liquid into it. Discard the lemongrass.  Sieve the icing sugar into a bowl then add 2 tablespoons of the lemongrass water and stir with a metal spoon until you reach a fairly thick consistency which can be poured but is not very runny. Add more water if necessary a little at a time. When the cake has cooled, spoon the icing over the top letting it drip down the sides.

Ginger cake with Turkish Delight icing

Turkish Delight icing

Ingredients

300g icing sugar, seived
80g sour cream or crème frâiche
50g unsalted butter
tiny pinch of sea salt (1/8th of a teaspoon or less)
1 teaspoon of real vanilla extract (not essence or flavouring)
1 tablespoon rosewater
A dab of light pink gel food colouring (optional)

Method

Put all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk together, with an electric hand whisk or in a food processor with the whisk attachment, until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes). You could also beat vigorously by hand. Pour over the top of the cake and let it run down the sides. This amount will make more than you need; keep in the fridge and ice some fairy cakes too.

A final P.S.

The magazine wanted a childhood picture to go with the recipe. On my first birthday I was very fascinated with the candle on the cake and everyone was happy to let me investigate. A second after this was taken I was crying my eyes out with a burnt finger.  Other bakers joined in this feature, in print during October 2013; Pear Tree Diaries saffron and rose petal cheesecake and The Hedonista’s lemon cake recipes can be found online (Sips and Spoonfuls, Pastry School Diaries and A Food Affair also contributed).

My first birthday

My first birthday

Do you have any childhood memories of cake? And have your tastes changed?

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