Category Archives: Foodie campaigns, events & causes

Today: free lunch in Soho to put the Spring in your step?


Spring is here – the daffs are out in bloom!

All this week the weather forecast is for sunshine with only the merest suggestion of clouds, so what better way to celebrate the onset of everyone’s favourite season than with a springtime picnic lunch?

These are the thoughts of the Austrian National Tourist Office, which lives and breathes alpine sun, lush grass and wholesome food, which they’re bringing all the way from their homeland into the heart of central London this week.

If you work in the vicinity of Tottenham Court Road and fancy being treated for lunch today, get down to the Austrian Spring Picnic between 12pm and 2pm and you can expect a traditional Austrian lunchbox filled with Almdudler, Gouda, beef and Styrian pumpkin oil spread sandwiches, a Viennese escalope roll, mozartkugeln and Mannerschnitten.

Enjoy being serenaded with Mozart and Schubert by an Austrian classical string duo, while relaxing on the picnic rugs in Soho Square Gardens and feel the burdens of the week melt away as the sweet chocolate and marzipan balls melt in your mouth.

Dirndl girls will be there to tell you about this week’s weekend break competition, as well as the main prize of a 10 night all inclusive Austrian adventure for two this summer. You can also enter the competition by clicking here.



One in seven lacks the skills to cook a meal from scratch!

One in seven lacks the skills to cook a meal from scratch!

While British cuisine is having somewhat of a revival, this is clearly not making its way into household kitchens, as home cooked meals have dropped by 20% since the 80s.

According to new research by Kenwood, only four out of the average household’s 21 meals a week are cooked from scratch, whilst consumption of ready meals or takeaways has significantly increased.

The study also showed that kitchen nerves are more prevalent in men than women, and in particular amongst the under 35s, who find cooking more stressful than older generations.

This could be down to the fact that ready meals are so good these days that people don’t see the need to cook at home; or perhaps they no longer have as much time to cook, trying to fit food around busy social lives; or it could simply be attributed to the fact that we now have a generation who didn’t see their parents cook much, so therefore were not exposed to necessary home cooking skills – which I think is really sad!

Mark Swift, Director of Marketing at Kenwood, comments, “It’s a great shame to discover the extent to which cooking from scratch is on the decline, and the impact that this is having on our cookery confidence and ability in the UK. Cooking from scratch is a great way to de-stress and it’s also an important way to teach children about correct nutrition, and pass on cooking knowledge so they know their way around the kitchen.

What hope does Britain have of our ensuring our food revival continues, if we aren’t able to pass valuable cookery skills onto the next generation?

Guest Post: Love Food Give Food campaign for Action Against Hunger


Great idea from guest blogger: Jo Furnival!

Jo works for marketing consultancy All about the Idea, which specialises in producing big ‘bang for buck’ ideas for companies stuck in a creative communications vacuum. She is a food enthusiast, keen dinner party host and proactive charity busy body. You can find her tweeting at @allabouttheidea and writing on the Big Ideas blog.

“Something that I heard about recently is the Love Food Give Food campaign. To raise awareness and money for Action Against Hunger, which works to save the lives of malnourished children by providing communities with access to safe water and sustainable solutions to hunger, Love Food Give Food appeals to those who love food and encourages them to give food to those they love.

The big idea is that food enthusiasts sign up to host a dinner party for however many people and whosoever they wish. As long as each guest brings along a donation for Action Against Hunger, money is raised for the charity and a good time is had by all.

I tried this idea last Saturday, but I wanted to go one step further, give a little extra and create as much bang for Action Against Hunger’s buck as I could. So I contacted a few local businesses and old friends who agreed to give me a hand.

True Deli, a bespoke London based catering and events company, were the first to offer their assistance and with a generous commitment from Co-Founder Henry O’Grady, the Love Food Give Food dinner party was able to double in capacity to a total of 12 confirmed guests. This carried with it inherent drawbacks, as a kitchen table capable of seating six was just not going to cut it in the face of this augmented food extravaganza. Furniture Hire UK then stepped into the breach and promised to lend a 6ft round table and 10 banqueting chairs for the event. To add a real sense of occasion moreover, Chase Distillery, award winning vodka and gin producers from Herefordshire, sent over a bottle of their finest Williams Gin for pre dinner G ‘n’ Ts in the drawing room.

After a fine feast of Chicken Liver Parfait (with Onion Confit), Goats Cheese Mousse with Confit Cherry Tomato and Smoked Mackerel Pate (all couriered that morning from True Deli’s kitchen in South Kensington), followed by my own homemade Fragrant Chicken with steamed Basmati rice and green salad, then True Deli chocolate brownies for dessert, guests received a slip of paper posing as ‘the bill’. This was merely an opportunity to use Gift Aid and to record the details of who was donating and exactly how much.

I’m thrilled to report that we raised a grand total of £280 for Action Against Hunger. Special thanks again to True Deli, Furniture Hire UK and Chase Distillery for their kindness and generosity. Try it yourself!”

Guest recipes from Thomasina Miers; Poussin, fig and rocket salad & Grilled steak with chimichurri sauce


Former MasterChef winner Thomasina Miers has just created a range of recipes for the Travel Cookbook, and has kindly donated some to Gastro Gossip. The Travel Cookbook aims to inspire people who have taken a self-catered holiday home into immersing themselves and experimenting with local cuisine whilst away.

Thomasina, inspired from her travels around the Americas, has contributed six recipes to the online Travel Cookbook, all of which are easy to make at home, but of course, taste much better when created from locally sourced ingredients.

Thomasina Miers says, “Travelling and cooking are two of my biggest passions in life. There is nothing I enjoy more on holiday than exploring the local markets and trying local produce to find inspiration for my next family meal, so access to a kitchen is essential. Holiday home rentals are ideal, as they have all the space and facilities I need to store and experiment with my new-found ingredients. ”

All of Thomasina’s recipes are available at, along with hundreds of other recipes and tips that people have picked up on their travels around the world, but I have included my two favourite below to whet your apetite.

Poussin, fig and rocket salad

Spatchcocking a bird means very simply cutting out its backbone and flattening it out so that you can grill it and get as much of the delicious, marinaded skin in contact with flame or heat to get gorgeous, crispy skin and masses of flavour.  Ask your butcher to do it or try it yourself, or just cut up the poussin in pieces before you cook it on the grill.  Salting the bird the day before improves the flavour hugely, giving you a juicy succulent bird.  This is a glorious salad for a sunny day.

Feeds 4

2 poussin

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tbsp grappa, eau de vie or vin santo

A generous handful of thyme leaves

¼ loaf of country-style bread or sourdough, torn into roughly shaped, large crumbs

12 rashers of thinly sliced streaky bacon or pancetta

6 very ripe figs

Two large handfuls of rocket, washed

For the dressing

1 shallot, finely chopped

2-3 tbsp red wine vinegar/balsamic vinegar (or a mix of the two)

Extra virgin olive oil

1 very ripe fig

To spatchcock the bird, take a pair of sturdy scissors (meat scissors are designed for this job) and cut all along the length of the backbone on both sides to cut out.  Now place the bird on a chopping board and press down sharply and firmly onto the breastbone so that the bird flattens out.  Mix the sea salt, thyme leaves and black pepper together.  Sprinkle the bird with the alcohol, rub with the salt mix and leave to season overnight.

When you are ready to eat, make the dressing by mashing the fig up with the vinegar and mixing it in with the shallot and seasoning well with salt and pepper.  Heat a griddle-pan or barbeque and when either are hot enough, cook the poussin skin side down first until golden, about 10 minutes and then turn and cook on the other side until the breast is just cooked.  Take the bird off the heat to rest in a warm place and cut off the thighs and continue to cook them for another few minutes until the meat is no longer pink.  Meanwhile, toss the torn bread in olive oil, season with salt and pepper and fry, tossing frequently in a frying pan over a medium-low heat until golden and crunchy all over.  Fry the bacon until crisp.

Slice the figs.  Arrange the rocket leaves in a salad bowl and scatter with the breadcrumbs and fig slices.  Mix 4-5 tablespoons of olive oil into the vinegar.  Carve the chicken into nice big chunks and arrange over the salad with the crispy bacon.  Dress with the figgy vinaigrette and serve at once.

Grilled steak with chimichurri sauce

This is a great dish for the bbq or on a griddle pan if you’re cooking indoors.  The meat has a delicious charcoal-grilled flavour and is even better if you let it marinate for a bit to let those lovely garlicky, smoky flavours really penetrate the meat.  If you get the chance, buy the herbs in a local market where you’ll get huge fresh handfuls.

feeds 6-8

2kg piece of sirloin steak or T-bone steak

Fresh watercress or rocket

For the marinade

3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed to release the skins

100ml extra virgin olive oil

2 hot red dried chillies, crumbled

A small handful of fresh thyme

½ teaspoon hot smoked paprika

1 lemon, squeezed

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the salsa

2 large bunches flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked

1 small bunch coriander, leaves picked

4 tablespoons sherry/red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2-3 garlic cloves, ground into a course paste

2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 teaspoon hot smoked paprika

150ml olive oil

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a pestle and mortar bask the garlic together with the salt, pepper, paprika, thyme and chillies until you have a rough paste.  Add the lemon juice and olive oil and rub well into the steak.  Refrigerate for up to 24 hours, the longer you can the more flavour you get in the steak.

For the sauce, coarsely chop the herbs, and pound together in a pestle and mortar until well mixed, with some of the olive oil to loosen.  Add the rest of the ingredients, including the rest of the oil and season well to taste.

Take the meat out of the fridge at least half an hour before cooking, to allow it to come back up to room temperature.  Wipe the excess marinade off the steak and bring the bbq or griddle pan to a smoking hot heat and cook to your liking.  If you were in Argentina, this would be rare!  Make sure you let the meat rest for at least 10 minutes after cooking, just on a chopping board, loosely covered in some foil.

Carve up thin slices and serve on a wooden board or heated plate, with the sauce and a peppery salad.  There will be lots to go around!  This is delicious with steamed potatoes and lots of crusty bread.

BBC Good Food Show & MasterChef Live search for UK’s best artisan producers


The BBC Good food Show and MasterChef Live‘s organisers are yet again on the hunt for the best small and artisan producers for its Bursary Award scheme.

After the applications have been received and the shortlist announced, nominees will be put through a rigorous judging process headed by BBC Good Food Magazine editor Gillian Carter which will include a tasting session in the BBC Good Food Kitchen.

The most exceptional will then be awarded with a free opportunity to exhibit at one of the shows, which will enable them to showcase their products to tens of thousands of food enthusiasts at the same time as earning valuable editorial coverage.

One of last year’s winners, Kate Jenkins from Gower Cottage Brownies, says: “Since winning the Producers Bursary Award at The BBC Good Food Show Winter 2010 I have seen a dramatic increase in both online sales and interest from wholesale stockists. The award helped me, as an artisan producer, to take my products centre stage and direct to the customer on a scale I could never have achieved by myself.”

For more information about the scheme contact Katy Truss on or 0208 267 8315 or via

Applications close on 28 August 2011.





Cooking with potatoes: tips and advice from Jean-Christophe Novelli


As potatoes are the perfect base for any healthy and delicious meal, and are extremely quick and easy to cook, Jean-Christophe Novelli has been working with the Potato Council to create a selection of simple but delicious recipes; and to find them all you need to do is go to his Many faces of potatoes website.

The kind of recipes you can expect to find on the site include: Potato and red pepper frittata, potato and feta garlic bake, potato crusted pizza, easy peasy gratin potatoes, delicately spicy pekora and hundreds more!

Even better, to help you on your way to potato heaven, Noveli has also put together a few helpful potato cooking tips:

  • To cut down on cooking time for jacket potatoes, microwave them before you put them in the oven
  • You can shave 15-20 minutes off the time that it takes to bake a potato in the oven by inserting a metal skewer or baking prong through the centre of the potato
  • To make the ultimate light and fluffy mash, heat the milk before adding it to your potatoes – delicious! (This one I am less sure of, as I am against adding milk to mash, but who am I to argue with such a potato don?!…)
  • Leave the skin on your potatoes wherever possible as they contain lots of flavour and goodness, but if you have to peel them, don’t throw the peelings away; toss them in a little olive oil and roast in the oven for delicious crisps that are perfect for dipping!

“Potatoes are such a versatile ingredient – I use them very frequently in so many of my recipes. Food trends come and go but potatoes are an important part of british life”, comments Novelli.  “An average serving of potatoes contains less than 1% fat, and many potato dishes take only 20 minutes to prepare and cook – making them perfect for busy mums and professionals,” adds Novelli.

To whet your appetite, here’s a quick recipe, courtesy of JCN himself :

Potato Salad with Pan Seared Tuna (Serves 4)

50g of Tuna Steak per Person  
12 Baby New potatoes 
300g Green Beans 
2 Tomatoes
4 Eggs (hard-boiled) 
½ Pepper 
4 Baby Gem Lettuces 
16 Black Olives 
8 Anchovy Fillets 
Good French vinaigrette to dress

To make your own dressing: 
10ml White Wine Vinegar 
100ml of Olive Oil or Rapeseed
1 tsp of Dijon Mustard 
2 sprigs of fresh thyme
Sea Salt & Cayenne Pepper 

To Dress: 
Chervil (chopped) 


·        Wash the baby potatoes and cook in salted water for 10 minutes and check they’re ready with a paring knife. Prepare the green beans and cook to al-dente in boiling water, cut out the green stalk from the tomatoes and chop each into six pieces 
·        Deseed and slice the pepper, shell the hard-boiled eggs and halve lengthways, and chop the anchovies.  If the olives have stones, halve and remove, and then mix the salad ingredients together. 
·        Heat a skillet (griddle pan) until very hot – season the tuna steaks with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Cook on the skillet to mark the flesh for approx. 2 minutes on both sides (longer if you prefer your tuna well-cooked).  Remove the tuna from the skillet and arrange on the top of the salad
·        To make the dressing, pour the vinegar into a bowl and add the salt, cayenne pepper, Dijon Mustard and gradually add the olive oil with a little whisk. Check seasoning before dressing the salad

Selfridges launches Project Ocean


Driven by the unthinkable prospect of the world’s major fisheries collapsing by 2050, Selfridges has announced an interesting new partnership initiative with The Zoological Society of London (ZSL), to raise awareness of the increasing damage we are causing to the ocean as a result of our ever growing consumption of fish.

Dubbed Project Ocean, the aim is to highlight that unless we change the way we fish and the seafood we choose to eat, global stocks will disappear before our eyes.  It will challenge us all to imagine a world with “no more fish in the sea” and in turn hopes to increase awareness, inspire change in consumer habits and raise funds.

The project will be running from 11 May – 12 June, and will involve international marine protection campaigners, 22 environmental NGOs, as well high profile activists from the worlds of art, fashion, culinary arts, and entertainment.

For five weeks, the Selfridges’ Ultralounge will be the epicentre for Project Ocean activity, including talks on the most pressing issues related to our oceans, film screenings, Guerrilla Science for families and cookery demonstrations by celebrity and aspiring chefs on how to cook sustainable fish.  On Friday evenings, the Ultralounge will emerge as the Dive Bar, hosting musical acts and performances as a means to raising awareness and showcasing up and coming talent. (See the calendar of events).

There is an informative Selfridges Fish Guide on the website providing useful information and recipes, and they have even launched a natty little (free) iphone app that you can turn to to find out which fish to eat and which to avoid.

Part of Selfridges Fish Guide, indicating endangered species and alternatives

Jonathan Baillie, co-creator of Project Ocean and Director of ZSL said, “Project Ocean signals the biggest-ever retail activism campaign designed to ‘sell’ and engage public mind-sets on overfishing, an issue that needs mass support.  We hope that this innovative partnership with Selfridges makes the public understand the issues around overfishing, and measurably leads to more fish in the sea”.

It’s a worthy cause, so if you are interested in donating, please follow the instructions below.

How to Donate: You can donate to Project Ocean to help the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) create new, and maintain existing, marine reserves around the world.  These safe havens for fish to breed, grow and migrate will help the future survival of our ocean environments and all that lives within them.

What your donation could buy:

£10 – underwater paper to record fish species and numbers; £30 – marker buoy to show boundary of reserve; £30 – mask and snorkel for diver to check fish & corals; £40 – air tank for diver; £60 – underwater torch; £100 – dive computer to record fish numbers; £150 – wetsuit for diver; £300 – dive training for local conservationist; £1,000 – annual salary of a fish warden; £3,000 – guardhouse to protect the reserve; £3,000 – patrol boat to protect the reserve; £4,500-7,000 – annual salary for developing country community worker … *estimated costs for a marine reserve in the Philippines

All donations to Project Ocean will go to the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) to help set up and maintain existing marine reserves around the world ZSL is a registered charity in England & Wales, no: 208728

Celebrate Malbec World Day tomorrow…by drinking loads of the stuff!


Having been to Argentina and drunk loads of Malbec, I know I never need an excuse to drink more, but I’ve got one tomorrow.  The 17th of April, tomorrow, marks the first Malbec World Day, that will see Wines of Argentina partner with wineries around the world to create a series of unique ‘vintage 2011’ Malbec wines – yummy!

In the UK, Chapel Down, one of the UK’s premier producers, is collaborating with Wines of Argentina to create an authentic Argentine Malbec with an English twist.  Chapel Down will crush, press and bottle the Malbec grapes which have been picked from Gaucho Restaurant’s vineyards in the heart of Argentina’s wine region in Mendoza. The wine will then be aged by Chapel Down, ready to be released on Malbec World Day 2012, when it will be sold in Gaucho Restaurants, at Chapel Down and at selected retailers around the UK as a limited edition.

To celebrate the partnership and creation of the wine, Chapel Down is inviting visitors on an exclusive tour of its vineyard and winery tomorrow, Malbec World Day, to explain how the wine will be made.  Guests will be offered tastings of Argentine Malbec and Chapel Down’s own wines.

Events, tastings and offers will also be taking place across the UK throughout April to celebrate Malbec World Day, including a large-scale Malbec promotion at Majestic’s 200 stores; a Malbec experience with authentic food; music and tango at the Sunday Times Wine Club Vintage Festival and a Malbec Tasting day at Harrods on Malbec World Day.

Gaucho Restaurants will be offering complimentary mini Malbec Masterclasses for all guests dining at a Gaucho restaurant up until 22nd April; and will also be hosting a series of events throughout the month at Gaucho Broadgate, including a ‘Meet the Wine Director’ dinner with Phil Crozier, a leading authority on Argentine wines and the inaugural Gaucho Broadgate Kilo Club dinner, with Malbec wines to match each course.

Happy drinking peeps!

Tweet Pie – charity campaign to find world’s shortest recipe


UK cooker manufacturer Belling has launched a creative online campaign to find the world’s shortest recipes.

Each must be written in less than 140 characters and will be sourced via twitter.

The top entries, found using the hashtag #Tweetpie, will feature in a recipe book called Tweet Pie; the proceeds of which will go to FoodCycle, a charity that creates nutritious meals out of surplus food for those in need.

It’s a fab idea and a great cause, so get tweeting those recipes – please don’t forget to use the hashtag #Tweetpie.