Monthly Archives: August 2010

Supperclubs go public: to launch in September


Bringing the supperclub trend above ground, Housebites, due to launch in September, is a service that will offer an exciting new dining experience to the public and a way of meeting new people in a home-cooked dinner-party environment.

The service is kind of like a ‘public supper club’ but with a rating system to keep the cooking standards high.   It seems to work a bit like a dating site crossed with a catering agency and Come Dine with Me.  While the site is somewhere in between a social network and a microsite you won’t be able to see other peoples profiles – only those you actually dine with.

Customers will be able to search for dinner parties by locations, food types, budgets and even the kind of people they would like to dine with through the website or facebook app.  A host creates a dinner party on the website, states the approximate geographic location, menu and price as well as how many they can cater for.  If they want they can go into further detail such as if it is for just single people.  All hosts will require an approved profile and once approved they can reveal as much about themselves as they want.

Simon Prockter, founder of Housebites comments; “Encouraged by the current underground dining scene, Housebites was founded to create a service that took the best bits from dining-in and eating-out and turn them into a unique unprecedented dining experience”.

“While anyone can attend a Housebite and any keen cook can host one, private chefs are big part of the future of Housebites.   The top rated hosts (assuming they have taken their level 2 hygiene certificate) will be able to put themselves up for hire to groups or individuals. In fact individual hosts that can’t cook can put on an event and hire a chef in one click;” adds Prockter.

I can’t wait to see how this will work out!  While the site is yet to go live, it already has a corresponding Twitter feed and Facebook page, so check them out for the launch date and other company news.


Guest recipe: Leiths Meat Bible – Ox cheek daube


Leiths’ Max Clark, who co-compiled the recently launched Meat Bible, has very kindly donated a delicious recipe from the book.  When asked which she would recommend for my readers, Max suggested; “Ox cheek daube, as it’s coming up to that time of year when a warming bowl of a deep, rich stew is the order of the day.”

Ox Cheek Daube

The word daube means ‘stew’ or ‘casserole’.  If a tight-fitting lid is not available, a paste of flour and water (called repère or luting paste) can be placed around the edge of the dish to create a seal.  It is chipped off and discarded when the stew is ready.


900 g ox cheek or veal cheek, cut into large pieces, excess sinews removed

1 bottle of red wine

2 tablespoons oil

2 onions, finely sliced

2 carrots, cut into 3cm chunks

2 sticks of celery, finely sliced

6 shallots, quartered

600 ml brown stock

1 small handful of parsley stalks

6 sprigs of fresh thyme

1 tablespoon tomato purée

1 tablespoon cider vinegar

½ tablespoon soft dark brown sugar

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Crisp pancetta, to garnish (see below)

1. Put the cheek meat into a large, non-metallic bowl and pour over the red wine. Leave to marinate for 24 hours.

2. Drain the meat, reserving the wine.

3. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large, flameproof casserole and brown the meat a few pieces at a time. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

4. Add the remaining oil to the pan and brown the onions, carrots, celery and shallots. Pour in the reserved wine and the stock and bring to the boil.

5. Return the meat to the pan and add the parsley stalks, thyme, tomato purée, vinegar and sugar. Season with salt and pepper. Cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid and simmer very gently for 3–4 hours, or until the meat is very tender and falling apart.

6. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the meat to a warmed serving dish and keep warm. Strain the liquid and discard the vegetables.

7. Return the liquid to the pan and boil rapidly until it is reduced by two-thirds, tastes strong and looks glossy. Season to taste, pour the sauce over the meat and garnish with the pancetta.. Serve immediately.

Crisp pancetta

8 slices of smoked pancetta

1. Heat the oven to 200ºC/400ºF/gas mark 6.

2. Lay the pancetta on a baking sheet and place a second baking sheet on top (this keeps it flat and prevents shrinkage). Place in the highest part of the oven for 5–7 minutes.

3. Carefully remove the top baking sheet and transfer the hot pancetta to a sheet of absorbent kitchen paper and allow to cool.

Wine recommendation: Chateâuneuf-du-pape, new world Pinot Noir or Merlot

Jing launches exclusive new Nilgiri tea


Jing has just added an exciting new exclusive black tea to its, already fantastic, range.

The tea is produced on the Coonoor Estate in the Nilgiri hills in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. To date Nilgiri tea has really only been known to connoisseurs actively seeking out teas from this particular region, but now it will be available to us all in small, whole leaf batches.  At its best when brewed with a tablespoon of tea for two and a half minutes and drunk without milk, it has a rich flavour with hints of malt, caramel and orange peel – it really is absolutely delicious.

Jing, founded by Edward Eisler in 2005, is the exclusive supplier of Nilgiri tea to the UK market, and meeting the team, you can really tell how passionately they feel about the products they produce.  They clearly take pride in ensuring their products are produced to an optimum quality and in a socially beneficial way.  The Jing website is a fountain of tea facts and knowledge informing readers on what tea is available, how to drink it, where it comes from and many more interesting nuggets of information.

It is important to note that tea plantations in the Nilgiri region have a constant battle to find good workers, as the young are moving towards the major cities in search of better-paid and more modern jobs.

David Hepburn, Jing comments on the situation; “Having to recruit from elsewhere brings additional problems; the estate has recently employed workers from the north of India who do not speak the local language, so language teachers have had to be employed to teach these workers. The rising cost of labour in developing countries is also making recruitment for tea industry jobs very tough.  However, the estate knows that in order to attract good workers they not only need to pay fair wages, they need to look after them properly.  A few thousand people live on the plantation estate, which includes hospitals and schools for workers and their families and no exploitation so everyone works and lives in harmony”.

Nilgiri tea pickers

Jing worked with a producer focused on making a top quality large whole leaf Nilgiri tea. The tea is produced in factories using machinery imported from China, where the long processing methods which produce really great tea are used more frequently than in other countries. The tea goes through four or five base drying sessions as opposed to only one for standard grades which is meant to keep the flavour for longer than traditional Indian methods.  David Hepburn adds; “Only the finest leaves from the 46 acre, organically certified area are used to produce this tea. No shortcuts are made in the production”.

Have a look at Jing’s website and order it for yourselves and see what you think – you won’t be disappointed! Don’t just try the Nilgiri though, they are all delicious, so get yourself a selection – I also have a box of Silver Needle white tea, considered the rarest and most famous Chinese white tea, on my desk which brings a ray of sunshine into the office!

You can also buy Jing in restaurants, hotels and airlines across the world including Harrods, Heston Fat Duck, Gordon Ramsay restaurants, Tate Galleries, The Lanesborough and Brown’s hotels, and Virgin Atlantic Upper Class Lounges.


Guest Recipe: Antony Worrall Thomson… It’s National Gut Week!


It’s Gut Week!

The annual event is all about raising awareness and helping people to understand the importance of good digestive health by providing free advice on how to achieve a healthy gut.  The microsite has been set up which includes lots of useful nuggets of information and digestive advice.

Commenting on Gut Week Tom Smith, chief executive at charity, Core, states; ‘We are, as they say, quite literally, what we eat, so need to be careful about our choices of food and drinks. In the summer months, we’re often tempted by pub meals or BBQs but starchy snacks like chips and crisps can be hard to digest.  As the season changes, how about a change of eating habits too? Eat more lean meat or fish and try steaming or grilling, rather than frying. Try to have more fruit and vegetables for their fibre content too as they provide the bulk your insides need for good digestion.’

Supporting the cause, Antony Worrall Thomson has donated a recipe that is not only delicious, but healthy and gut friendly.  He comments; “This is one of my favourite recipes, full of colour and flavour.  Harissa and pickled lemons are an integral part of North African cooking and are a perfect foil for lamb in this satisfying dish. Serve with bulgur wheat or warmed flatbread.”

Moroccan lamb stew with pumpkin and pickled lemon

Courtesy of Steve Lee


450g (1lb) lean leg of lamb, cut into 2.5cm (1in) cubes

11/2 teaspoons ground black pepper

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 large onion, roughly diced

4 garlic cloves, crushed

4 tomatoes, skinned and diced

1 tablespoon harissa or hot pepper paste

400g (14oz) tin of chickpeas in water, drained and rinsed

350g (12oz) trimmed and peeled pumpkin, cut into 2.5cm (1in) cubes 1 pickled lemon, finely diced 2 tablespoons chopped mint 1 tablespoon chopped coriander

1  Coat the lamb in the black pepper

2  Heat the oil in a large non-stick saucepan, add the lamb and cook until it has browned all over. Add the onion and garlic and cook until the onion is soft and is slightly brown, adding a splash of water if necessary to prevent sticking

3  Add the tomatoes, harissa and 425ml (3/4 pint) water. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook over a medium heat for 11/4­11/2 hours, topping up with water as necessary, until the lamb is almost tender

4  Add the chickpeas and pumpkin and cook for a further 15 minutes or until the pumpkin is tender. Add the lemon, mint and coriander. Serve immediately

Per portion: 357 kcal, 18g fat, 6.6g sat fat, 0.28g sodium

World’s first edible art exhibit comes to London


Sponsored by Tate and Lyle,  an art exhibition compiled entirely out of edible displays is being shown at The Future Gallery in Soho.

Cake Britain starts tomorrow and will run until Sunday.  The entry is free but they are expecting everyone to give a ‘fair donation’, the proceeds of which will go to Charity.  According to the gallery’s website “The exhibition is based on Mad Artists Tea Party’s interpretation of the meaning of “fair”, with proceeds going to Richard House, We Make Peace and the Fairtrade Foundation”.

On Sunday, the public will be invited to tuck into the sugary displays, gorging on icing, cake and jelly.

Opening times: 27th – 29th August from 10am-6pm

Eat Natural’s new range of toasted muesli


I have been trying to find a cereal for ages that I can eat without getting bored of it after a week, and I have finally discovered it!  New out this summer, fruit and nut bar brand, Eat Natural, has launched a range of toasted muselis – and they have totally revolutionised my mornings.

What usually annoys me most about museli is an overload of flour, lack of taste and cardboard flakes, but there is none of this at all in Eat Natural’s recipes.

While I have so far only tried two, they are both delicious, bursting with so many different flavours, and nice crispy textures, that I can’t wait to try the others.

Taking 18 months to develop the range, you can see they have been developed with a lot of careful thought.  There are also two which are totally gluten free.

Harriet Gregory, who looks after ‘Food Matters’ at the Eat Natural Makery, comments; “Our whole premise at Eat Natural, is about making simple foods that taste absolutely gorgeous.  All the nuts, seeds and cereals in our muesli are specially roasted to add flavour and toastiness.  We’re still using familiar, delicious ingredients, like juicy dried fruit, but have also experimented with more unusual stuff like buckwheat and some unique stuff of our own, like our lovely, wholesome toasted ryecrumbs.  And yes, some of our ingredients, like rich, dark chocolate, are a bit on the indulgent side too, but well…you’ve got to ‘live a little’ sometimes.”

The five recipes available are:

…for every day.

A mix of roasted oats and toasted flakes of spelt and corn mixed with crunchy brazils, hazelnuts, sunflowers seeds, juicy sultanas, raisins and honey.

…with nuts and seeds.

A crunchy mix of roasted hazelnuts and almonds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and linseeds with toasted ryecrumbs, oats, coconuts, crisped rice and honey.

…with chocolate.

An indulgent blend of sweet cranberries, roasted oats and spelt flakes, macadamias, juicy sultanas, coconut, and toasted dark chocolate ryecrumbs.

…with vine fruit.

A fruity mix of juicy sultanas and raisins, with sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and linseeds, almonds and honey.

…with buckwheat.

A blend of toasted buckwheat and crisped rice with raisins, mixed seeds, coconut, honey, and a pinch of cinnamon.

I can’t recommend them more highly, they are nutritious, tasty and reasonably priced, what more could one want?

Eat Natural’s Toasted Mueslis are available in Waitrose, priced at approximately £2.99.

World’s first microwaveable pies


While I’m not  going to advocate ready meals, I was certainly impressed to hear that scientists working for Pukka Pies have developed a way for pies to be microwaved whilst keeping the pastry light and crusty.

According to today’s News of the World, the new design has nothing to do with the pastry but the packaging, which now contains laminated card. The card heats up enabling the pastry to brown and cook without becoming soggy – just as if it had been cooked in a conventional oven. Impressive!

These new Pukka Pies are currently available from Tesco in either chicken or steak.  They only take three and a half minutes to cook and cost £2.38 for two pies.

I have no idea what they actually taste like, and I won’t be trying them either, but do let me know what you think if you happen to come across them…

Guest recipe: Grand Esprit – Grand Marnier celebrates 130th birthday


Who would have thought Grand Marnier could be a competitor to Pimms?  Usually stuck at the back of drinks cabinets gathering dust, Grand Marnier is having a revival so I put previous conceptions aside to try it in something more than Christmas tree chocolates.

Celebrating its 130th birthday, the brand is promoting The Grand Esprit, a tasty little summery cocktail to entice a younger consumer.

Coupling the cognac and orangey flavours of Grand Marnier with a splash of elderflower and a dash of soda water is all it takes to turn the drink into a natty cocktail.  Add fresh strawberries, a slice of orange, pour it over ice and you have the perfect thirst quencher for a BBQ, picnic or summer drinks party.

How to make a Grand Esprit:

Fill a tall glass with cubed ice
25ml Grand Marnier®
25ml elderflower cordial
175ml soda water
Stir well and add slices of orange and strawberry
1 unit per serve
For a pitcher, just multiply the ingredients by four.


Leiths launches definitive meat cookbook


Leiths has just launched a fantastic new cookery book entirely for meat recipes.

Compiled by Max Clark and Susan Spaull, ‘Meat Bible’, which can only be described as “the ultimate meat cookbook”, is filled with more than 400 meat recipes, and really is a haven for carnivores. It covers simple suppers and leftovers as well as extravagant dishes for special occasions.

As with every book from Leiths, all recipes are easy to follow and have a focus on proper technique. With an emphasis on sustainable and lean meat, Meat Bible includes user-friendly recipes on traditional dishes like Shepherds pie, more exciting recipes like Yakitori chicken and even exotic dishes using antelope, zebra, kangaroo and alligator.

Yakitori chicken with ginger and lime dipping sauce

With a detailed section on ‘understanding meat’, followed by comprehensive notes on different cooking methods, troubleshooting guides, a glossary of cookery terms, and even a list of meat suppliers, the book really does contain everything a carnivore will ever need to know. Additional tips and wine recommendations also accompany each recipe.

Max Clark, co-author of Meat Bible comments; “Cooking can be an intense experience for some people and having a book that is broken down into clear, specific categories with component parts (i.e. a sauce/salad that is specific to a recipe) is an undoubted help to most cooks.”

What I have seen that is particularly useful is a section on ‘what has gone wrong’ for certain recipes which helps you work out what mistakes you made and how to avoid making them in the future.

When asked about the inspiration for the book, Max commented: “Greed! A lifetime love of food, food combinations, and seasonings, coupled with the satisfaction of teaching others and being able to explain skills and techniques in a straightforward and comprehensive way.”

Clearly if you are vegetarian this book is not for you, for everyone else it is an absolute must! As previously mentioned I tend not to use too many cookery books, but Meat Bible will be taking pole position on my bookshelf alongside my Cookery Bible and copy of Phaidon’s Coco.

Leiths Meat Bible has an RRP of £40, but is currently available from Amazon at £22.49.


Perrier launches Dita Von Teese water


Since my post on designer water, Perrier has teamed up with burlesque icon Dita Von Teese to launch a fab new limited edition bottle and can to house its hundred year old sparkling water.

The Perrier Dita ‘Paparazzi’ Limited Edition features glamorous graphics of the star and is priced at 99p.  It is available as of 1st August 2010 exclusively from Selfridges, and in three weeks time from Waitrose.

Perrier, which comes from Vergèze in the South of France, has always had iconic branding and design and this is the latest to complement its edgy image, following previous limited editions in collaboration with Agnés b. and Paul & Joe.

Dita Von Teese comments, “I love the mythic history of Perrier and the quintessentially French aesthetic and attitude. It is so chic, refreshing and classic. Perrier is all the things I aspire to be!”

But that’s not all there is for the partnership…

Last month, Perrier and Dita launched a raunchy viral microsite for the over 18s, featuring an ‘alluring and sensual’ interactive display of the burlesque actress at the ‘Perrier mansion’- you have to see it to believe it –