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…






British Meat

British Meat – 2002 Tales of British farmers setting off merrily for market used to meet with a happy ending. It is a reflection of the problems facing those who are trying desperately to deliver better and safer quality produce, particularly meat, that even post-BSE and foot-and-mouth, the following two stories end very differently. The first concerns a Cumbrian farmer who, faced with a unit price of £21 for his 200 flock of sheep at auction, ie, an annual income of £4200, decided to go direct to the customer. Fortunately,…






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…






GM Food

GM Food – 2002 The debate over genetically modified foods may have slipped from the front pages but this situation can only be temporary. It is an issue of such critical importance that no-one – government, scientists, farmers, consumers or those in developing countries – can ignore it for long. Professor Mark Winston’s lucid new book, Travels in the Genetically Modified Zone, is therefore both timely and valuable, not least because it is easy to read and understand, even for the non-scientist. As the issue confronts the whole of the…






Chocolate

Chocolate – 2005 Restaurant correspondents rarely get the opportunity to be private detectives but for the past nine months I have been trying to track down Frédéric Bourse, once described to me by a leading London chef as ‘ such a wonderful pastry chef that I wish I had never worked with him – he has spoilt me for all the rest.’ Since I last saw Bourse in London a year ago I had heard that he was consulting across France and Italy, then that he was giving professional patisserie…