Monthly Archives: September 2009

It’s British Cheese Week – heaven!

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As you may have guessed from reading any of my previous posts, I love cheese, so how happy was I to discover that this week was British Cheese Week!!!

Even though I stuffed myself full of kilos of Raclette in Chamonix last week, I thought I would celebrate British Cheese Week in style, by heading down to Daylesford.   I picked a neat little selection: Dalesford’s Double Gloucester, Adlestrop and Penyston, some Stinking Bishop and a large Ragstone from Neal’s Yard, all of which we are having for supper later this evening – can’t wait!IMG_0582

Whilst in the shop, I noticed Daylesford was highlighting it’s success at the recently held British Cheese Awards.  This year, their Double Gloucester was awarded Gold, Adlestrop was given silver and Penyston received a bronze, so congratulations to Daylesford!IMG_0583

The Times Online covers the awards in more detail.

Looking at the awards website www.TheCheeseWeb.com, I came across the following information on how they organise the cheeses for the judges – I found it particularly fascinating, so I have copied and pasted it below.  Enjoy ;-).

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Unlike wine, animals and books, the character of a cheese can usually be judged by a glance at its cover or rind and an occasional squeeze.  From this brief encounter you can learn to judge its texture, strength of flavour, basic character and, with a little practice, its maturity.  Using the ‘rind’ method, you can categorise 99% of all cheeses into one of the following and it is also the system we use when organising the cheeses for the judges at the British Cheese Awards.

FRESH CHEESES  [No rind]
Examples: Cream Cheese, Feta, Mozzarella
Only 1-15 days old without time to develop a rind and only a subtle ‘lactic’, fermenting fruit flavour with a hint of green pastures.  Often wrapped in chestnut leaves, rolled in
ash or covered in herbs to give them character.  Some are left to drain and dry out, gradually developing a delicate bluish grey mould, a wrinkled rind and a more pronounced flavour and are called Aged Fresh or Natural Rind cheeses and are usually made with goats’ milk].

SOFT WHITE [White Fuzzy Rind]
Examples: Tunworth, Flower Marie, Somerset Brie
The curd retains much of the whey, ensuring the cheese becomes soft and creamy and grows a white mould, Penicillin candidum.  Unpasteurised varieties develop a reddish-brown ferment on the rind whereas pasteurised versions are more ‘Persil’ white in appearance.  Those made by adding cream to the milk are outrageously luxurious in taste and texture.

SEMI-SOFT [Brown-orange to grey-brown]
Examples: Stinking Bishop, Keltic Gold, Gubbeen, Ardrahan
The moist curd is placed in moulds and lightly pressed to speed up draining.  Gradually various moulds develop, these are regularly brushed off building up a thickish rind, protecting the cheese and allowing it to mature.   Some are ‘washed’ in brine creating an orange/pink rind with a strong, piquant flavour and aroma.

HARD [Thick, dense rind often waxed, clothbound or oiled]
Examples: Cheddar, Wensleydale, Cheshire
The curd is cut finely, and then heated in vats before the whey is drained off.  The curd is cut again or even ‘milled’ and piled on top of itself to remove even more of the whey – this process is called cheddaring. The curd is salted, packed in moulds traditionally lined with cheesecloth and firmly pressed.

BLUE [Gritty, rough, dry or sticky]
Examples: Stilton, Barkham Blue, Shropshire Blue
The blue moulds, P. glaucum or P. Roqueforti are added to the milk but need oxygen to develop their colour.  This is achieved by piercing the cheese with rods [normally steel but can be wood or plastic], the blue then grows along the tunnel, cracks and trails between the roughly packed curds.

FLAVOUR ADDED [typically barely formed rind]
Examples: Smoked Cheddar, Wensleydale with Cranberries, Cornish Yarg
There are two types of Flavour Added Cheeses, those where the ingredients are added to the fresh curd so they aged together or the cheese is wrapped with an ingredient for example Cornish Yarg wrapped in nettles. The other type is those called blended or re-formed cheeses. These are made by taking a young cheese, typically cheddar, White Stilton or Wensleydale and
blending it with a variety of flavourings then pressing the cheese into a new shape. Flavours range from smoked to nuts, fruit, spices, herbs even salmon or ham.

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Wine tasting event 5th October: Bellevue Rendezvous, Wandsworth

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For those of you living in or around Wandsworth, why not treat yourself and head down to the recently launched French restaurant, Bellevue Rendezvous, on Monday 5th October for its inaugural wine tasting event.

Chef patron Pablo Gallego has created a 6-course tasting menu which will be paired with a selection of French wines and will be priced at £60 per head.  Titled ‘When the Summer falls, the Autumn sun comes up!’, the event will be hosted in conjunction with Thorman Hunt suppliers and will feature ingredients that reflect the change in the season.

Dishes/wines on Pablo’s special tasting menu will include chilled cucumber soup with mint and langoustine served with Sylvaner 2008, Domaine Bruno, Sorg; red mullet fillet with aubergine, cumin and piment d’Espelette served with Pouilly-Fume 2007/8, Cailbourdin; smoked duck with fresh fig, foie gras and dry figs served with Tavel rose 2008, Montezargues; wild duck fillet with spiced pear and cep jus served with Langhe Rosso 2005, Luigi Baudana; warm goat cheese with walnut and caramelised apple served with Vouvray Moelleux Ch Gaillard 2005; and quince tarte tatin with honey ice cream served with Maury 2007, Domaine Pouderoux – Sounds amazing to me!

For more information telephone 020 87675810 or visit http://www.bellevuerendezvous.co.uk. The restaurant is located at 218 Trinity Road, Wandsworth Common, SW17 (near the junction with Bellevue Road).

Bellevue rendezvous

It’s National Cupcake Week – whoopieeeee

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British Baker is celebrating all things cupcakey, by organising National Cupcake Week from the 14th through to the 19th September.

According to British Bakers Magazine the week is to ‘draw customers’ attention to the many wonderful recipes and exotic toppings available for cupcakes and to tempt both new and existing customers to buy (at least) one during the week!’  Well, seeing as I have one nearby, I’m heading to the Hummingbird Bakery ASAP – what a wonderful excuse to indulge ;-).

In a bid to get retailers involved in the week, British Baker is running a window dressing competition, prize being two tickets to the Baking Industry Awards 2010.  The deadline to enter is 30 September and the prize will be given to the bakery retailer that creates the best cupcake-themed window display to promote the week.  To get involved, send your window pics to cupcakes@william-reed.co.uk.

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Unilever does it again – named industry leader in Dow Jones Sustainability Index

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Not satisfied with topping the EnvirUp eco-index, Unilever has yet again come top in another index – this time it’s the prestigious Dow Jones Sustainability Index.  

Unilever took the top spot in the food and beverage industry beating others on its corporate economic, environmental and social performance.  

The company was assessed for its handling of issues such as corporate governance, risk management, branding, climate change mitigation, supply chain standards and labor practices. 

This was Unilever’s 11th consecutive year as the industry leader – so congrats to the big U! 

 

Fire and Stone, Covent Garden

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Where do I start with Fire and Stone?  Well I guess, the decor is not bad, uber cool and trendy for a pizza restaurant and on the whole I had a fun evening, but that was purely down to the company of old school friends, and the drinks we had before we arrived.  Other than that, I can’t really think of anything else positive to say about the experience.

Now, I might be a traditionalist when it comes to pizzas, but seriously, if you are going to ‘pimp’ a pizza, try shavings of white truffle or carpaccio of swordfish.  What on earth gave Fire and Stone the idea that Cumin spiced ground lamb and raisins would be nice on a pizza?  Oooh, I know, what about a pizza with Thai green coconut curry sauce, roast sweet potato and mozzarella? Really?

So, once I had amused myself reading through the selection of pizza toppings from Asia, Africa and Australaisa, I came across the European pizzas and was delighted to find some normal-ish choices, the Italian pizzas seemed the most appealing, funnily enough.

As we had a voucher that got us two pizzas for £10, we thought it best to mention this before ordering, incase the pizzas we had chosen were not included.  Well, as you can imagine, this was met with a rather surly glare from the waitress.  “Ugh, you have to give me the voucher first.  You can choose any pizzas as we have taken the deluxe ones off the menu.”  The deluxe ones? Is that where all of the normal pizzas went, off the menu – now I get it!

According to the website, Fire & Stone ‘makes & twice proves its own pizza dough every day on site in the restaurant to provide the lightest & crispiest pizza base possible’ – well, I’m not too sure about that!  Two of us went for pizzas, the base was way too thick, had the consistancy cardboard, and had lots of funny hard black dots on the underside, which I can only assume is burnt semolina and flour- Nice!

The other three went for the healthy option of the superfood salad, which by all accounts was not bad, although they all decided they found it rather too exausting to eat all of the little shoots and nuts at the bottom of their bowl, so left half of it.  Maybe that’s why it’s the healthy option, because you use so much energy forking the little bits out? Who knows…

Then there was another thing that really annoyed me about the menu, one pizza was called the ‘Napoli’ and the other was ‘Florence’ – Is it  Naples and Florence or Napoli and Firenze?  You don’t exactly have to speak Italian to work it out, and surely they had someone proof read their menu before printing  it, right?

Anyway, enough moaning, I can’t even be bothered to write about the wine.

Crap food, crap menu, grumpy staff – even if you have a voucher, don’t waste your money.

Chocolate shortage to hit UK

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Shock horror for chocolate addicts!  It looks like the UK is about to be hit by a shortage of Cadbury’s chocolates. 

According to Sky News, some 1,200 Cadbury staff are being balloted for strike action in a row over pay, which is likely to have an impact in the supplies of Wispas, Crunchies, Dairy Milk and Creme Eggs.  

Cadbury has however disputed the claim stating that they are confident supplies won’t be hit.  

Let’s hope not!

 

Tequila is the UK’s favourite spirit but what does this mean for Mexico?

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Tequila is now slated to be our favourite alcoholic drink in the UK, with sales in the spirit having trebled in a decade to 1.3 million litres a year but what does this mean for Mexico?

The good news for us is that we’re not talking about cheap shots of tequila, but more refined premium tequilas that are supposed to be sipped like a fine wine or whisky and cause a less painful hangover.

According to The Independent’s Cahal Milmo, the rise of premium tequila is due to a decision by Mexican producers to dramatically increase planting of blue agave.

Blue Agave is a cactus-like smooth-leafed plant native to Mexico, and Tequila is made from distilling the sap from the plant’s heart. By law in Mexico, only true Blue Agave plants may be used to distill spirits labeled Tequila.

UK sales by premium brand Patron, have doubled over the past year, with prices ranging from £40 to £400.

It is not all rosy though, because the more Tequila is produced, the worse it is for the environment. For every litre of tequila bottled, the process generates five kilograms of agave pulp and seven to 10 litres of distillation waste, or “vinaza”.

According to Adriana Hernández, an activist dedicated to protecting El Nixticuil forest; “The vinaza is acidic, it has an oil that makes the soil impermeable, and is hot when it is dumped. The acid is not recommended for agriculture; it should be neutralised. The oil makes the soil hard so it is useless for farming. And where the ground cracks, the vinaza filters into underground water sources.”

While it gives us brits a sore head the morning after, the environmental effect on Mexico is a much more damaging hangover.

Easiest homemade curry around – Rafi’s spicebox

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P1010434What better choice of food could there be for a Sunday night before a bank holiday, than a curry?

The only question is, if you are in the middle of the Suffolk countryside like I am this weekend, who is going to stay sober enough to pick up the takeaway, or slave over a stove for hours to make it?  Well, quite simply no one, if you have Rafi’s Spicebox nearby.

Rafi’s Spicebox is an Asian cookshop specialising in ‘Curry Packs’.  Invented by its founder and cookery author Rafi Fernandez. Rafi’s Curry Packs mean that even if you have never cooked a curry before, you can make an authentic curry in the comfort of your own home in a matter of minutes (25 max), without investing in a plethora of herbs and spices.

When you go to the shop, you order your curry, then say whether you like it hot, medium, mild etc.  Each individual spice is then carefully measured, coupled with cooked dried onions and delicately placed into a sealed packet – ‘curry pack’ – for you to take home.  For the preparation at home, there is no chopping of herbs or onions, you don’t even need to add oil, all you need to do is to cut up meat or fish, add liquid, stir and hey presto.

Depending on the curry, the most you will need to add is liquid, which could be coconut milk, water, or for a tikka masala, some tinned tomatoes, meat/fish/vegies, then stir in the meat and cook for a few minutes.  What could be easier?

You can choose from 27 regional varieties and spices, garlic, chillies and onions, which are carefully blended according to your taste.  Simple, delicious and even better, cheap as chips at £3.99 a pack which serves between 4 and 5 people depending on how hungry you are; so it beats a takeaway and is far nicer and healthier than any ready meal you will find in the supermarkets.

There are currently only two Rafi’s stores in the UK, one in York and the other in Sudbury, Suffolk, but they do have an online shop which is geared up to send curry packs across mainland Europe, USA and even Australia – yipeee!

For more information and a brief history, follow this link to their website:

http://www.spicebox.co.uk/