Neal’s Yard Dairy

The story behind Neal’s Yard Dairy – 2006 In 1980 the seemingly innocuous but soon to prove highly enjoyable phrase ‘A selection of British and Irish farmhouse cheeses’ began to appear on restaurant dessert menus across the UK with increasing regularity. I use the phrase ‘seemingly innocuous’ advisedly because serving top quality cheeses presents particular challenges for restaurateurs: they are highly perishable and neither very profitable nor that easy to sell, as many customers feel, with some justification, that it is the one dish they can do just as well…






Pigs from England

Pigs from England – 2003 I never thought it would be quite so easy to lose 20 top chefs. One minute we had been standing together looking over a stone wall at a flock of Ryeland sheep (who had sensibly taken refuge under some trees probably only too aware of what the chefs had in mind for them) and the next minute the chefs were not there. Whilst I had stopped to take a call from a photographer lost on the borders of England and Wales they had moved swiftly…






Proscuitto

The secrets of the best proscuitto – 2002 Thirty-five years ago Pio Tosini, who died earlier this year aged 95, lost an argument that has had a profound effect on menus all over the world. Tosini was one of the pioneers of prosciutto, the silky air-cured ham that is equally delicious with melon, figs, draped around breadsticks or eaten on its own with an aperitif. He argued then that this ham should be marketed and sold as ‘prosciutto di Langhirano’, the town 20 kilometres east of Parma where its production…






Thai food in the UK

Thai food in the UK Globalisation is playing strange tricks with Thai food. Whilst French-born chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten delivers his interpretation of Thai dishes in chic Vong restaurants in New York, Chicago, London and Hong Kong, more basic Thai restaurants are the fashionable additions to a growing number of pubs across London. And in July Australian chef David Thompson, who used to own the renowned Darley Street Thai in Sydney before being invited back by the Thai Government to consult at their premier cooking institute, Suan Thai in Bangkok, will…






Slow Food

Carlo Petrini, father of the slow Food movement The news that McDonalds is currently suing Italian restaurant critic Eduardo Raspelli over his comments about their food which they allege are ‘defamatory and offensive’ made me even more delighted to be renewing the acquaintance of Carlo Petrini, who has done more than anyone worldwide to safeguard the food we eat since he founded the Slow Food movement in Italy in 1986. Although it was not a bucolic affair. Petrini is recovering from a severe and rare liver condition – as he…






Truffles in England

Truffles in England – 2006 The email from Roger Jones, the wine loving, chef/proprietor of The Harrow at Little Bedwyn in Berkshire was brief and to the point – if I wanted to see the best British truffles he had ever seen, and lots of them, I should head out west immediately. Three days later I was patting the dog of the couple on whose land deep in the Marlborough Downs these truffles have been found, although for obvious reasons I trust that readers will understand why I cannot be…






Spanish ingredients in London

Spanish ingredients in London – 2001 A significant change on British menus over the past decade has been the closer, more conspicuous, collaboration between chefs, restaurateurs and their suppliers, whether growers, farmers or importers. One of the most influential but hitherto singularly under-appreciated importers during this period has been Monika Lavery who opened Brindisa 13 years ago to supply restaurants with the best Spanish produce. Those to be found on a tapas bar near you range from pata negra, top-quality Spanish ham to olive oils, Ortiz tinned tuna and anchovies…






Fishing in Thailand

Fishing in Thailand Eight plump prawns stir fried with diced garlic; red chillies cut into strips about an inch long so they gave off heat but did not get caught in your teeth; a couple of handfuls of cashew nuts; sliced onions and carrots; and small squares of red pepper for colour and texture. It did help of course that my feet were in the warm sand, that the Thai chef who had just cooked this was no more than five metres away and to the right was a glorious…






Indian Produce

Indian produce;an empire in the UK – 2006 At 62 Ranjit Mathrani is seemingly far too well qualified to be a restaurateur. He holds degrees from Cambridge, Manchester, London and Delhi universities; he spent 15 years in the highest echelons of the British Civil Service dealing with the privatisation of several state industries and then a similar period as a merchant banker before running his own corporate finance boutique. And yet his past decade in the restaurant business in which, with his wife and sister-in-law, Namita and Camellia Panjabi, he…






British Cheese

British Cheese – 2001 The past few months have brought a remarkable amount of good news for cheese lovers on both sides of the Atlantic. In the US, where the production of fresh cheese from unpasteurised milk is banned, a concerted approach has begun to silence the fears of the FDA (the Food and Drug Administration) about the continued production of cheese made from unpasteurised milk but then matured for longer than 60 days before being sold, such as the highly acclaimed Vermont Shepherd cheese. At a recent gathering in…