Tag Archives: Food

HIX Mayfair review

Don’t let the crisp white linen, expert service and grandiose surroundings of Brown’s Hotel fool you – this restaurant is remarkably relaxed and welcoming.

Don’t let the crisp white linen, expert service and grandiose surroundings fool you – HIX is relaxed and welcoming.

Old school values are very much at home at Mark Hix’s funky Mayfair incarnation of traditional British cuisine. A silver trolley service nestles against wooden panelling, as Ionic columns jut up behind a traditional bar, yet the upholstery’s colour scheme is a bold purple and green, and Tracy Emin declares in pink neon ‘I love you more than I can love’ from her canvas above the fireplace. Diners might echo that same sentiment of love for Hix, after joyously feasting on his traditional menu that retains a playful touch of cool Britannia…

Read my full review for View London, including HIX’s dense slices of Albemarle smoked salmon, tender Scottish Kingairloch red deer with chanterelle mushrooms, and classic treacle tart.

> HIX Mayfair review

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Fast food

Humans are not compelled to eat food where they find it, and this is one of our most important distinctions from other animals, according to food theorist Margaret Visser (1991). Forget opposable thumbs; if you can resist tucking into your ready meal in aisle number 4 of Sainsbury’s, then you have proven your advanced development as a homosapien.

I'll marinade this and serve with sweet potato chips.

I’ll marinade this in soy sauce, and serve it with sweet potato chips.

Think of lions devouring their kill where the animal lies, or cows grazing in the fields. You don’t often see a cow collecting grass and then putting it to one side to have a nibble a bit later. If an animal finds food, and they’re hungry – they just eat it. Simples.

Hibernating creatures like squirrels or bears are perhaps one of the few exceptions to this rule, as they store food to survive the winter. Bears actually go into a ‘topor’ state, where they overeat before retiring to a warm place of inactivity and hibernation – so it’s just a bit like Christmas Day for us, then.

Eating food as and when you find it is a singular way to live, but collecting food to eat later and share with others is an essential way to create communities and social cohesion. It’s the ‘gathering’ in the hunter/gatherer theory of human culture that really comes into play here: hunters find food, but gatherers bring it home.

Quicker tastes better

Yet when I think of all the times I eat immediately, there can still be a deep sense of satisfaction:

Pitt Cue Co on Southbank

Hunters close in for the kill, at Pitt Cue Co meat wagon on the Southbank

  • Eating straight from the fridge has that primal element to it, as you pull slices of meat, random pickles and forgotten salads to make the ultimate sandwich in front of an open, chilled cornucopia.
  • Take aways are almost impossible to resist until you get home. “Just one chip, go on!”
  • Picking fruit straight from the tree, as you forage for blackberries on a walk or pick-your-own on a farm.
  • Street food is a modern, urban reinterpretation of hunting, where foodies track down restaurant quality meals that are served almost immediately (as long as the queue isn’t too long)

Most of the time we may be civilised enough to hunt, gather, and then eat our food at home, but there are certainly times when food tastes better straight away.

What tastes best when you eat it immediately?

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Fresh and Famous

I like the idea of chicken being famous…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taken on Broadway Market, Hackney.

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After the second bite…

This is the second time in my life that I have received unexpected cheese in the post.

I sit at my kitchen table, slightly flummoxed by the parcel, nibbling on the edge of hard cheese like a disbelieving mouse. The cheese breaks like old butter between my teeth; a harder grain, like salt or a slightly more fermented cheese, emerges to carry tartness to the edge of my tongue. The rind tastes like confident parmesan; the body of the cheese like rambunctious cheddar.

I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve this slice of boisterous, enigmatic cheese. But I like it.

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Terrine

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall said it would be a cinch to make this game terrine; it was twenty past midnight by the time we took our crafted brick of layered meat out of the oven, and pressed it with the weight of three bricks and a cookery book.

I don’t think I’ve ever handled so many different types of animal meat in one evening, as chicken liver, pheasant, duck, pigeon breast and sausage meat each passed through my hands, layered one atop the other with a sprinkling of salt and pepper in between. This morning the kitchen is heavy with the smell of thyme, parsley and rich, mellow meats; this hearty, solid terrine seems like the only thing we should be eating at the turn of winter.

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Marmalady

Tea. Toast. Marmalade… my holy trinity.

I didn’t realise the importance of toast and marmalade until I left home for the first time to go to University. My family has always stayed in touch and found adventure at the same time: my father works in Scotland, Monday to Friday; my Mum has taught in Bolivia, Peru and Argentina in her retirement; and my sister makes a living out of organizing other people’s travels around the world. Marmalade has been the one constant in all my years of travel; absence makes the marmalade grow sweeter, and I never feel far from home without it.

There is a ritual associated with making our family marmalade. Mum gets in the oranges, Dad opens a good bottle of wine, and they pass the evening peeling away time and pith, cutting up the fruit and relaxing into the citrus smells as it boils away with more sugar than you’d like to think. We only have a limited supply of the golden, citrus-sweet preserve each year. We normally make about fifty jars, and there is always a slight panic in November when we only have ten jars left and wonder if there is still enough for Christmas.

I can justify tea, toast and marmalade any time of day: a quick snack; a luxurious breakfast; a late night treat. The tea is comforting, slipping down my throat to wash away the final crumbs, and I relish in the crunch of the toast, as my teeth sink into marmalade and butter. Oh the butter! I cut butter so wantonly that friends have often mistaken some Anchor butter for a piece of cheddar cheese on my toast. It sits there proud, like a gold bar your hips are going to pay for. For me it’s always been butter and bread, not bread and butter. Like jacket potatoes and freshly toasted crumpets, toast is essentially a vehicle for copious amounts of butter, and marmalade its willing accomplice.

My breakfast communion involves brewing the tea first, only making the toast once the milk has been added to the tea (teabag still in), so the tea is just the right temperature when the toast is ready. The butter must be slightly soft, but still hard enough to cut into thick pieces. I tip the marmalade jar slightly to one side, using my knife to fish out the pieces of rind along with the pulpy marmalade. As I take my first bite I feel the solid base of toast on my tongue, with the fresh citrus sweetness on the roof of my mouth and a buttery layer in between the two. The satisfying discovery of a piece of rind cuts through the sweetness, and sends a tang of bitterness round the edge of my tongue as I work the remaining seeds from the bread out of my teeth and wash the whole experience down with warm, dark tea.

I have to take a brief pause from writing— excuse me! I run down to the kitchen, I can almost feel the butter on my teeth and I justify the indulgence in more marmalade as purely for research purposes.

Marmalade is a typical English preserve which originates from the Portuguese marmelada, although the Scots are credited with coming up with the recipe in the 1700s when faced with an inconveniently large stock of Spanish oranges that had come into port. Although I think of it as English, marmalade has crossed more borders than I realise. Marmalade is not tied to one particular place or home for me, as I’ve eaten it in a flat in Leeds with no central heating, a rickety apartment in Northern Spain, and huddled next to a radiator looking over the Rocky Mountains in Canada. It tastes of all the places I’ve lived, and like an umbilical breakfast chord, it always takes me back to my mum. In each city I have had a jar of her marmalade with me, providing me with the one taste of stability I needed. The crunch of the toast and sweet release of the marmalade sounds better than Dorothy clicking her heels, and suddenly there was no place like which ever home I happened to be breakfasting in.

Over the years my mum and I have honed our technique for posting marmalade ever increasing distance as I have studied abroad in Spain and Canada. We had to contend with the marmalade’s viscosity, its propensity for leakage, and find a container that was lighter and less breakable than a jam jar. The first time mum sent marmalade to Leeds, she used a small butter container, wrapped with brown package tape, a sandwich bag, and then more tape. When I went to the post office to pick the package up, I was required to answer a few questions from the Post Master about this sticky package they had been holding on to. We’ve since tried yoghurt pots, plastic bags and containers, but have finally settled on a screw top Tupperware about the size of a tea mug, which fits all the criteria and still looks good on the kitchen table.

I secretly worry about what will happen after my mum dies. I imagine crying onto my dry toast, unable to compromise myself with a shop-bought brand. I have long chastised myself for not learning from her, so she agreed to teach me her secrets— and my first batch was delicious. Yet the idea of making my own marmalade was more frightening than not having any at all. My own jar of marmalade had the taste of my mother’s mortality; like finding out where her Last Will was—I just didn’t want to know until I needed to. I will only have to make my own batch of marmalade when my mum finally hangs up her wooden spoon and preserving pan for good; so until then I will happily breakfast on the tangy fruits of her labour and put the kettle on to boil once again.

oranges and lemons

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Blue Tomatoes

Blue Tomato food magazine has been a consuming project of late. I was appointed Editor in August last year, and I’ve only just about come up for air after the whirlwind of starting such an exciting job. So I hope you’ll forgive me if I’ve been a little on the quiet side.

I have been kept busy with editing the Blue Tomato website, redesigning and producing the magazine, and organising a glamorous re-launch party on The Yacht, attended by over 300 people and celebrity chefs such as Jun Tanaka and Tonia Buxton. Now things have settled down again as we work on the next issue, I’m happily tucked into a corner of my favourite café, breakfast ciabatta at my side, ready to reflect on food once more. In many ways, writing a blog about food whilst working in the food industry is a bit like planning a meal whilst your still digesting the last one; it can be tricky to get excited about food when you’re suffering from over eating.

If you’d like to find out what I’ve been stuffing myself with, you can read an online copy of Blue Tomato magazine or peruse the website. Highlights of my work so far include interviewing chef Thomasina Miers and the unstoppable restaurant duo Anthony Demetre and Will Smith, meeting Michelin starred chef Claude Bois, or sipping tea with the President of Le Cordon Bleu, André J. CointreauI’ve also been reviewing more restaurants and bars than my waistline would care to remember, so I’ll be putting up links to my favourites in the coming weeks. Continue reading

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Can you pair wine with a takeaway?

It’s all very well to pick a wine when you’re in a restaurant and the waiter tells you what to do – but what about when you’re enjoying a quick home-cooked meal or perhaps sitting on the sofa with a take away? As you read the back of a wine bottle, you’ll be bamboozled with adjectives and details of the wine’s aroma, acidity, undertones and tannins – but will it taste good with what you’ve got in the oven?! Continue reading

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Eat. Love.

Oysters, chocolate, bananas – St Valentine had probably never even heard of such things in his day (specifically, the third century BC), but they still get bandied around as the best aphrodisiacs. Regardless of whether raw shellfish tickles your pickle, there are plenty of other foods that can seduce your lover – including ginger, figs and pufferfish. Read more of my feature here, on the Food Network TV site.

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Liberally minded

Circles of intimacy and dinner invitations:

See my recent publication in the outstanding Liberal Magazine, here.

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  his here is also where it should be.

this is where the break should be.

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