You are what you eat & drink

Something New

Mad Honey

The buzz about ‘mad honey’, hot honey and mead

Would you eat honey that could send you mad – or even kill you? Here are three kinds of honey that pack a punch

Honeycomb. Photograph: Stanca Sanda/Alamy

After years confined to squeezy bottles and jars at the back of the cupboard, honey is finally getting the attention it deserves. It has always been revered for its health properties, even credited with promoting weight loss in this year’s “honey diet”, and there has been a spate of DIY beekeeping in a bid to combat dwindling numbers. But it is getting noticed for other reasons these days. New Yorkers are going crazy for an infused chilli version, and UK chefs and bartenders have rediscovered the joy of mead, that ancient – and very alcoholic – tipple. But by far the most intriguing example is Turkey’s “mad honey”. Here are the honeys that pack a punch.

Deli bal (or ‘mad honey’)

Jars of honey
Jars of honey. Photograph: Alamy

This amber-hued mutant’s effects range from a pleasant tingling to dizziness, blurred vision and impaired speech. Worse, it was once used as a weapon of war. In 67BC, King Mithridates’ army left chunks of “mad honeycomb” in the path of the Roman enemy, who gobbled it up, lost their minds and were promptly slain. The honey is also said to have medicinal qualities – from treating hypertension and diabetes to improving sexual performance – when consumed in small amounts. It is more or less confined to the Black Sea region. There, in humid conditions, apiarists herd bees to fields of special rhododendron flowers containing grayanotoxin, and the toxin spikes the resulting honey (incidentally, it is the same poison used by the chief antagonist Lord Blackwood to feign his death in the 2009 film Sherlock Holmes).

If you do find yourself in the area and want a taste, you’ll have to dig a bit deeper than supermarket shelves. Ask nicely, and chances are most local shopkeepers will hand over a jar from a stash tucked behind the counter, adding to the old-world mystery of it all. But be very careful: do not spread it on toast, drizzle it over yoghurt or generally treat it like normal honey. A tiny spoonful on the tongue is more than enough; any more and you’re at risk of “mad honey poisoning”, which afflicts a handful of unwitting travellers each year. It is no laughing matter – it causes low blood pressure and heartbeat irregularities, and in extreme – and thankfully rare – cases, can be fatal. This is honey at its most hardcore.

Hot honey

Mike's Hot Honey
Mike’s Hot Honey. Photograph: Erez Horowitz/PR company handout

From the sleepy Turkish mountains we jump to the lively streets of Brooklyn, where “hot honey”, a chilli-infused condiment, is making waves (and has even been tipped as the next sriracha). Leading the way is Mike’s Hot Honey, based on a sauce that owner Mike Kurtz discovered in a rural Brazilian pizzeria. Combining a secret type of South American chilli (which sits somewhere between jalapeños and habaneros on the spicy scale) with honey and a dash of vinegar, this is not for the faint-hearted. According to Kurtz, the reddish liquid initially tastes sweet, before making way for heat – and a slight smokiness – after a couple of seconds.

The home base for Mike’s Hot Honey is Paulie Gee’s pizzeria in Greenpoint, which not only sells the sauce over the counter, but also showcases its versatility by drizzling it over pizza and ice-cream (apparently, it’s even better with ricotta on toast). Unfortunately, neither Mike’s nor any of its US competitors, such as MixedMade’s Bees Knees Spicy Honey or Negley & Son Spicy Honey, have yet made their way to Britain, although you can buy Mike’s online if you’re prepared to wait and don’t mind splashing out (it’s $10 for the honey and $24 for shipping). For the moment, it seems that Britain has only one hot(ish) honey product, courtesy of Hilltop Honey. However, the company likens its honey infused with chilli to sweet chilli sauce, which suggests that it doesn’t quite pack the heat of its US counterparts.


Gosnells London Mead.
Gosnells London Mead. Photograph: PR company handout

When it is time to put out the fire in your mouth, honey has the answer once again. Mead, AKA honey in alcohol form and the oldest alcoholic drink in the world (as well as being the source of the word “honeymoon”, from the pagan tradition of drinking mead for the first month of marriage), is enjoying a revival after years of being dismissed as beer’s daggy medieval cousin.

This restarted in the US, with more than 200 meaderies popping up in the past decade. And although Britain’s mead market has been slower to pick up, the arrival of Peckham-based Gosnells London Mead on the scene last year, joining stalwarts such as the Cornish Mead Co, seems significant. The drink is made via a similar fermentation process to cider, with apple juice swapped for honey. By substantially reducing the alcohol content from the traditional 16% to 5.5%, Gosnells offers a lighter and more accessible version, which found an immediate fanbase at Maltby Street market in London, The Table in Cambridge and Timberyard in Edinburgh, where it is served straight or in cocktails with gooseberry, sorrel stem, quail egg and vodka. Mead has also been championed by chefs such as Simon Rogan and René Redzepi. Signs are promising.

Between sending you crazy, spicing up your life and cooling everything down again, it seems that honey – in all its forms – has plenty of buzz about it.

Source: TheGuardian

How to cook…

This is a reblog intro from: Chez moi

How to cook courgette flowers

One of the best things about shopping at farmers markets is the potential to be surprised by the fleeting appearance of unusual and special produce rarely seen in supermarkets.  And so it was one morning at the Davies Park Market, when I spotted several trays of bright yellow courgette flowers at one of the stalls we frequent.  I have eaten courgette flowers at restaurants a few times, but had never seen them for sale in their raw, unadulterated purity.  It is unlikely that you would ever find them at supermarkets because the short life span of the delicate flowers makes them unsuited to withstanding supermarket conditions and customer expectations of reasonable shelf life.  The flowers deteriorate quickly, and in an ideal world I would cook with flowers plucked minutes ago from own vegetable garden.  However, finding a tray of 20 bright and still-waxy flowers at the market is surely a close second, especially when some random planetary alignment had earlier made me buy a container of fresh goat cheese from the stall around the corner.

The result was a plate of tender-crisp courgettes attached to stuffed, flavour-packed flowers that would make a special nibble to serve with pre-dinner drinks, or, in my case, a luxurious lunch for one.

Then follows step-by-step recipe and  photographic instructions for:

Courgette Flowers stuffed with Goat Cheese and Herbs

Now, I wonder what wine you’d pair with that?

Any suggestions?

If life hands you lemons…

Do something with them!


Can be done with oranges and limes too.

Wednesday Whine

Just a quick note.

I am adding a new feature on a Wednesday.


A glimpse at what I drink at home and other unsavoury places.

sauvplonkI am not a wine snob, nor can I be considered a connoisseur, but I have a fair idea of what’s ‘plonk’ and what’s not. In other words, I know what I like to drink.

My general criteria for buying wine is the price; I don’t have stacks of money being an impoverished English teacher.

A bottle may take my fancy, it may be the colour of the bottle or the label, I’m a label buff. Being an artist, both in oils and graphic, I have a sense of design.

These need to be sent back from whence they came

These need to be sent back from whence they came

Wines will inevitably be dry, or demi-sec, but not restricted to, they may be either white or red; but one thing is certain, they won’t have a screw-on-top. A screw-on-top is a ticket straight back to the shelf without further consideration.

I live in Brazil, a country that, sadly can produce neither an acceptable beer nor a great wine. But Brazil is fortunate in that it has good neighbours like Argentina and Chile. Then there are also European and South African wines readily available.

So, come and check out Wednesday Whine with me… on Wednesday.

Cauliflower Steaks???

I am not one for vege/vegan foods, I was born a carnivore and shall remain one. But occasionally I see something interesting in my perambulations around the blogosphere that look interesting and fall in the realm of vege/vegan.

Cauliflower steaks are just that.

Pan grilled or roasted - image: Two Peas and their Pod

Pan grilled or roasted – image: Two Peas and their Pod

You can read about them on the image link. Simple instructions.

And if you google cauliflower steaks, there’s a heap of information out there.

Atomic Buffalo Turds

Reblog from Patrons of the Pit

A Hint of Warm: Jalapeno Poppers

“The Sun, with all those planets revolving around it and dependent upon it, can still ripen a bunch of grapes as if it had nothing else in the Universe to do.” – Galileo Galilei

Atomic Buffalo Turds. Yup, that’s a fact. That is what the under ground grilling community calls them anyways. Now I can’t quite figure out why they call it that, for I have on occasion made the acquaintanceship of a buffalo, and I can assure you that their back end tokens look nothing like what we’re about to cook! But who cares I guess. The name is catchy if not down right deplorable. And it is kind of fun to serve up a plate of declared buffalo turds and see how your guests thus roll their collective eyes. You might, I suppose, be better off calling them by their politically correct name, jalapeno poppers. In the end, it doesn’t matter I guess, because good is good, and these things are fabulous if you haven’t had the opportunity. Cream cheese stuffed jalapeno peppers wrapped in bacon and smoked on the pit. Glory! Lets get after it!

Read the rest of this great post on the link above.

Carolina Reaper

Would you try the world’s hottest pepper?

A man in South Carolina has won the title of growing the world’s hottest pepper, according to Guinness World Records. His ‘Carolina Reaper’ peppers have a stem resembling the tail of a scorpion and a heat factor that’s about the same as pepper spray. Would you try one?

The Carolina Reaper pepper, made by Ed Currie of PuckerButt Pepper Co in Fort Mill, South Carolina, is the world’s hottest, according to the Guinness World Records. Photograph: Jeffrey Collins/AP

Can you eat a Christmas Tree?

real-christmas-tree-sm240x360Many people need a real tree to complete the Christmas spirit. So, what are you going to do with it now?

Throw it away? Recycle it? Cook it?

Yes, I said cook it!

No, I haven’t slipped a cog, I haven’t lost it.

Try this.


How to cook chump of lamb roasted with Christmas tree – recipe

Don’t just throw out your Christmas tree – eat it. The chef at Le Champignon Sauvage, Cheltenham shows us how to keep the festive cheer alive by roasting lamb with a few aromatic branches

David Everitt-Matthias’s Christmas tree lamb. Photograph: David Everitt-Matthias

This is one of the dishes we put on after Christmas in the restaurant. It uses the Christmas tree both as aromatic and as a bed to cook the lamb on, giving a wonderful scent to the meat and keeping Christmas cheer alive in our minds. We serve this with potato mousseline and either red cabbage braised with cranberries, or buttered sprout tops with toasted brown breadcrumbs, grated chestnuts and lots of black pepper.

Chump of lamb roasted with Christmas tree

(serves four)

Four 250g lamb chumps, trimmed
Salt and pepper
50ml olive oil
60g unsalted butter, cubed
Four 4in/10cm branches of Christmas tree, plus a few extra Christmas tree needles, for flavour
200ml lamb jus (or good quality stock)

For the potato mousseline:
1kg Desiree potatoes, peeled [waxy pink-red skin]
125g double cream
100g unsalted butter
Salt and white pepper

For the lamb

Heat the oven to 200C/390F/gas mark 6. Season the lamb chumps. In an oven-proof pan, heat the oil and half the butter and, when hot, sear the lamb on all sides. Remove from the pan, add the Christmas tree branches to release their scent, turn over and lay the lamb on top, fat side up. Roast for 15-20 minutes, remove from the oven and leave to rest for about 15 minutes.

Pour the lamb stock and a few Christmas tree needles into a saucepan, bring to a boil, to reduce, then whisk in the remaining butter little by little. Season to taste, pass through a fine sieve and set aside.

For the mousseline

Cut the potatoes into even-sized pieces of about 6cm square. Rinse them, then place in a large saucepan, cover with cold water and add a good pinch of salt.

Bring to a boil, turn down to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes, until tender.

Drain, and place on a baking tray and pop them into the hot oven for two to three minutes, to dry out. Meanwhile, put the cream and butter in a saucepan, bring to the boil then simmer until reduced by half. Push the potatoes through a sieve (this is how restaurants get that super-smooth mash) into a bowl, then beat in the cream-and-butter mix, and season.

To serve, place a generous spoonful of mousseline on each plate, carve each lamb chump into five pieces and lay on top of the potato. Dress with your chosen vegetable (red cabbage or sprout tops) and spoon over the lamb jus.


So, you can have your Christmas tree… and cook it too!


Important Message for New Year

Everybody has a hangover remedy.

At no other time of the year is this more important than New Year.

So, I bring you The Dr Henderson and other dangerous substances.

Make your own Fernet Branca hangover cure

Feeling green around the gills from overindulging? This medicinal shot from Italy – and its variations – will sort you out

The Dr Henderson – a twist on the Fernet Branca. Photography: Jill Mead for the Guardian

In common with many people who work in the food world, I was introduced to Fernet Branca by Fergus Henderson, proprietor of the St John’s restaurant in London.

We were on a trip to Piedmont for the truffle season, organised by the chef and restaurateur Mitch Tonks. Accepting any invitation from Mitch requires a certain amount of stamina: I’ve received many pathetic hungover texts reading simply, “I’ve been Tonksed”. This trip was no exception. One participant described it as a “marine-style endurance test” of eating and drinking.

On day three, I emerged for breakfast distinctly green around the gills. Fergus pulled a bottle of brown, bitter liqueur from his pocket and poured me a shot. Fergus tends to use words sparingly because of his Parkinson’s disease, but he is one of the clearest communicators I have ever met. “Try it!” he urged, and with one hand traced the imminent internal journey of the drink – warming the throat, soothing the belly, bouncing back up and splashing over the liver. And then a shake of the whole body and a large satisfied smile. I downed the shot, and that is exactly what happened.

I have previously suggested in this column that there is no cure for a hangover. That may have been too pessimistic. If you’re feeling “Tonksed” after the Christmas blow-out, try any one of these Fernet-based cocktails. They will sort you right out.

Fernet reviver

The juice of 1 lime
25ml ginger syrup (from a jar of stem ginger)
25ml Fernet Branca
25ml gin

Combine all the ingredients together in a cocktail shaker and pour into a glass over ice.

Dr Henderson (pictured)

25ml creme de menthe
25ml Fernet Branca
Ice (optional

Fernet con coca

Simply combine and pour over ice. As drunk in Argentina.

50ml Fernet Branca
200ml Coca Cola

Recipes by Henry Dimbleby and Jane Baxter.


I trust this leaves my followers and visitors fortified and ready for anything this New Year.

Beer before the Sun is Over the Yard Arm

The Yard Arm

The Yard Arm

This is not considered socially acceptable, and is generally a rule that I play by. The old naval term, “the sun is over the yardarm” refers to 11am. I rarely have beer before lunch.

However, in my youth I have done some silly things, like beer on my cornflakes. But those days are long gone… so long gone. My rule is never before midday.

Then last night a post caught my eye; Beer For Breakfast: How to Make French Toast with Beer

Now, I thought to myself, that’s got to be worth a look.

The intro read:

“If you have booze for breakfast, let alone before midday, you are heavily frowned upon. But if breakfast is the most important meal of the day, surely it isn’t complete without some beer! Maybe substituting your morning cup of Joe for a pint is a bit weird, as is pouring it over your cereal, but it is both acceptable and de-bloody-licious to use it to make our French toast.

This isn’t your bog standard French toast where you just mix an egg with some milk, dunk your bread in the bowl and then fry it. This recipe is far more sophisticated, yet insanely simple, and your tastebuds will feel as if they’ve died and gone to heaven, only to realise that heaven is a pub with free flowing ale and no tab!e.

To make this taste sensation, all you will need is:”

You’ll have to check the above link for the recipe and instructions, and then you should have something like this:

I have been a French toast fan since I was twelve and my friend, imported from Scarborough, showed me how to make it on sleepovers, although we called it Eggy Bread. It remained Eggy Bread until my culinary tastes refined in adulthood and I discovered it was actually French toast.

I can report, this morning, that it is delicious, of course being descended from good British stock, mine was accompanied with bacon, pan-fried slices of potato and stewed tomatoes making it similar to a full English Breakfast.

Being as it was post-Coffee, it was accompanied by a large beer handle of Chateau Neuf de Sparkling Mineral Water,

I recommend trying it, nay, I urge you to try it, you’ll never look ordinary French toast in the same way again.



How to make… an iPhone


British pizza

…from bone marrow to Thai curry

Boundary-pushing pizzerias are serving toppings that would make a Neapolitan swoon – and not in a good way. But some of them are delicious. Would you order a doner kebab pizza?

Lamb doner kebab pizza from Artisan.

In Naples, there are militants who insist that there are only three truly authentic varieties of pizza: marinara, margherita and margherita extra, with buffalo mozzarella. Across wider Italy, the list of acceptable pizza toppings is tightly circumscribed. It’s a decent bet, therefore, that Italians will hate the coming trend in Britain’s pizzerias.

From Homeslice’s oxtail and bone marrow pizzas to the Welsh lamb and mint pesto slice at Baravin in Aberystwyth, a new wave of restaurants is slipping the shackles of Italian orthodoxy and getting creative with toppings. In Manchester, at Artisan, you can even order a lamb doner kebab pizza. Yes, really.

More remarkably, unlike their Hawaiian and peking duck predecessors, some of these experimental creations actually work. Dressed with a soy glaze, Homeslice’s mushroom, ricotta and pumpkin seed slice cleverly balances savoury depth, freshness and a nutty textural variety. “I’m not Italian, and I’ve never felt confined by the traditional toppings,” says the New Zealand chef and co-owner, Ryan Jessup. “I didn’t want any kind of gimmick, I just wanted to put flavours together that worked, using traditional processes and quality ingredients.”

America’s irreverent approach to “pie” was a key inspiration for Pizza East and Voodoo Ray’s gently innovative gourmet pizzas, both in London. The latter sells a savoy cabbage and bacon slice, which anglicises the cult brussels sprouts and pancetta pizza sold at Motorino in New York. Using local ingredients is a hallmark of these new, upstart British pizzerias.

For others, getting creative just seems to be a natural progression. As a nation, we’ve finally got to grips with the basics of real pizza (proper 00-flour doughs; wood-fired ovens); the next stage is to put our stamp on it. At Pizzaface in Brighton, which tops its pizzas with lamb proscuitto, smoked tuna and chipotle chillies, or the Crate Brewery in London, which serves a laksa chicken pizza, the approach is pretty radical. Lardo, also in London, represents a quieter shift to more sophisticated Italian ingredients (porchetta, lardo itself), which are unheard of as pizza toppings in Italy.

“We’re obsessed by food and we love playing around,” says Lisa Richards, co-owner of Great British Pizza Co in Margate, whose recent specials have included a Parma ham and nectarine pizza, and a take on Turkish lahmacun, topped with minced lamb, parsley and lemon juice. “And,” she adds, “our specials always sell out.”

As a co-owner of Pleb, a Lewes street food operation that serves authentic Roman pizza, Joe Lutrario doesn’t particularly like this trend. He and his business partner still argue over whether to use onions or not, never mind braised lamb: “It’s semantics, but at that point it probably stops being Italian pizza. Capers, olives and anchovies go really well with mozzarella and tomatoes and, in my opinion, there are probably only another 10 ingredients that do. We’re pretty conservative.”

However, in his other life as a senior reporter at Restaurant magazine, Lutrario predicts that “British” pizza could well take off: “Possibly at the expense of established places, such as Pizza Express. Local ingredients, local beers, pizza – it just works as a business model. Pizza is high-margin, relatively easy to knock out, and it doesn’t encourage people to stay for long.”

At Artisan, on a wood-fired pizza menu that also includes a (pretty awful) Thai curry number and a (pretty awesome) shaved potato and chorizo pizza topped with game crisps, the doner kebab is its biggest seller. It is a novelty dish, but a surprisingly effective one. After all, what is pizza but a flatbread? This is just an open doner kebab.

Artisan’s executive chef, John Branagan, actually wanted to call these pizzas flatbreads, but watched Jamie Oliver fail to communicate his topped British flatbreads concept at Union Jacks. “We were too chicken,” he says. “It’s been done before and people have reverted to using the word pizza.” Think of these new-wave pizzas as flatbreads, however (at Artisan, generally the ingredients aren’t cooked on the pizza, but added after), and it all begins to make more sense.

Branagan likes to retain a pizza look by including some sort of tomato sauce, but he plays around with it to make it suitable. For example, the pulled pork pizza uses a BBQ sauce. On certain Homeslice pizzas, Jessup has dispensed with tomato sauce altogether, using beurre blanc on his mackerel pizza and a kind of creamed corn soup on his corn and chorizo. Get over the necessity to start every pizza/flatbread with a tomato sauce, and suddenly the potential variations are endless. “The base is just a carrier,” says Branagan.

Not that Italians will be persuaded. “My father-in-law is Italian, a retired chef,” says Branagan, “and he would pass out [at this].”



How to Hypnotise

Catching up on the blogs that I follow, I was browsing through the latest from The Fervent Shaker, when I spotted something new; Hpnotiq Liqueur. You’ll see why I have coloured it blue…

hpnotiq1_2There is also a purple Hpnotiq Harmonie.

So, I was off to the great god google and found the homepage and some interesting cocktails apart from the one on the link above…

  • Glam Bomb
  • Berry Creamsicle
  • Hypnotiq Upside Down Cake
  • Sprinkle-tini
  • Hypnotiq cupcake Shot
  • Harmonie cupcake Shot
  • Put a Ring on it
  • Stiletto Sangria
  • Bling it on
  • Bubbles & Blue

You can find the recipes on Hynotiq homepage

hpnotiqharmonieHPNOTIQ Harmonie

The newest addition to our Girls Night Out crew, Harmonie is a refreshing blend of Premium French Vodka, Infused Natural Fruits and a Touch of Cognac.

HPNOTIQ Original

A Refreshing Blend of Premium French Vodka, Exotic Fruit Juices, and a Touch of Cognac.

The above quoted from the homepage, read more there

Dishwasher Cooking

Make Your Dinner While Cleaning The Plates

Food writer Dan Pashman says poached pears are great in the dishwasher. We’re not sure about the asparagus, but we’ll let you know after the cycle finishes.

My mom is a creative cook. And a darn good one at that.

But when she told me and my sister — way back in 1995 — that she had started cooking salmon in the dishwasher, we just rolled our eyes and shook our heads. Here comes a kitchen catastrophe.

An hour later, mom proved her teenage daughters wrong once again. The salmon was tender, moist and super flavorful. In some ways, it was better than her fish cooked in the oven.

Flash-forward 18 years, and dishwasher cuisine seems to be making a comeback.

A handful of YouTube videos and food blogs are showing off the method. And even Oprah a recipe for an entire lunch — noodles, asparagus and salmon — prepared in the dishwasher.

So how does it work?
Find out on NPR the Salt 


Peddling for your Beer


Wot, no grog?

Dry bars: will they be the next big thing?

Alcohol-free cocktail bars are springing up across the country, but can they lure punters away from pubs and clubs?

Dry bars serve colourful non-alcoholic cocktails. Photograph: Alamy

The drinks look good: vibrant reds and greens; fresh mint and crushed ice bursting from the glass; petals; a rim of salt. The drinks taste good, too. But there is something missing. The soporific burn of alcohol. As anyone coming to the Redemption bar in east London is warned on arrival, these drinks are dry. Although if you didn’t get the warning, you could work it out from the names of the cocktails (“mocktails”). Here’s a “mock-jito” – muddled fresh mint and lime – or a “coco-rita”, based on coconut water.

Redemption is the brainchild of Catherine Salway, the former group brand director of Virgin Media, who left two years ago “to pursue my own idea – something that was disruptive and socially conscious”. She hit upon a dry bar when she was meeting a friend with “a bit of a drink problem” and couldn’t think where to go. “There are coffee shops and juice bars but there wasn’t anywhere that felt like you could have a proper night out.”

Salway is not the first to start an alcohol-free bar. In Liverpool, the Brink opened in 2011, as a social enterprise to help those recovering from alcohol addiction. The past year has seen turnover rise by 50%, says its manager, Jacquie Johnston-Lynch, who describes her customer base as “50% recovery community, 50% a combination of Joe and Josephine Bloggs who come in because they love the food – students, grannies out for lunch, business people, musos.”

Johnston-Lynch says she is now “helping a number of organisations around the country to set up their own places” through an offshoot called Brinky Business. She mentions a four-storey venue in Newcastle, soon to open, and plans for a place in Cardiff. Salway herself believes “there is a market for five to 10 Redemption bars across the UK over the next five to 10 years.” Her research tells her that 75% of Londoners under 30 would visit an alcohol-free bar, and she is trying out the concept in the hipster heartland.

Read more

Read more


English wine… an Oxymoron?

Apparently not.

English wine: Is sparkling wine better in England than France?

A vineyard in Hampshire

The Duchess of Cornwall has called for a new name for English sparkling wine to match the grandeur of champagne. And for the first time, domestic wine is the most popular in the government’s cellar. Have Britons developed a taste for a home-grown tipple?

Someone arrives with a bottle of English wine. Cue excitable voices saying, “Gosh, English wine is really quite good, you know – it gives champagne a run for its money.”

The surprise used to be palpable.

But English wine has grown up. Today it regularly wins awards – there were four gold medals at the International Wine Challenge (IWC) this year.

It’s a far cry from English actor Peter Ustinov’s put down: “I imagine hell like this – Italian punctuality, German humour and English wine.”

But is there something holding English wine back? It accounts for just 0.25% of total wine sales in the UK, according to industry body English Wine Producers.

This week the Duchess of Cornwall called on producers to come up with a name.

“People should put their heads together and think of a new name for English sparkling wine,” she said while visiting Hambledon Vineyard in Hampshire. “It should be something with much more depth. I plan to find a new word for it.”

So is new terminology the final piece in the jigsaw?

English wine has been through a revolution. Old grape varieties are out, new owners are in. The area of vines planted in England and Wales has doubled from 761 hectares in 2004 to about 1,500 hectares today. The country now has 434 vineyards.

Figures just released by the Foreign Office on the government’s wine cellar, show that for the first time more English wine was drunk at government hospitality events than wine from any other nation.

Andrew Neather, Evening Standard wine critic, says the new winemakers tend to be go-ahead types from the City or wealthy lawyers, who want to carve out another career.

They are focusing on sparkling wine, planting more of the traditional champagne grapes – chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier. In 2010, for the first time more than half of the vintage went into sparkling wine.

Three of this year’s four IWC gold medal winners were sparkling wines. In June, Majestic announced that sales of English sparkling wine trebled in 2012, encouraged by the Jubilee and Olympics.

There is logic to England focusing on fizz. Kent and West Sussex, where the best English sparkling wine originates, are only about 90 miles north of Champagne. The chalky soils around the North and South Downs are very similar to the earth where famous names such as Bollinger and Dom Perignon plant their grapes.

English vineyards

Denbies Wine Estate in Dorking, Surrey, is the UK’s largest single vineyard

The best English sparking wine is as good as “decent” champagne, Neather says. England’s top seller – Nyetimber – has more to offer than a mass market champagne like Moet Imperial, he argues.


“It’s more interesting, has more complexity and better acidity.” The Moet costs more at £32.99 – although it is sometimes discounted – while Nyetimber is £29.99.

The Financial Times wine critic, Jancis Robinson agrees, albeit with a couple of caveats.

“Most English fizz is now very well made and attractively dry and zesty. But very little has any real complexity since producers generally cannot afford to age it very long.” And cost is a problem. “It’s never a bargain,” Robinson says.

“It is generally made by people who have invested a great deal in new vineyards or winemaking and need to see a return.”

The competition can be significantly cheaper whether prosecco, cava or own-brand champagne. Aldi, for example, sells champagne for just £12.99.

Despite the cost premium, patriotism and the fashion for local provenance suggests that current levels of production are outstripped by demand.

“The industry sells everything it produces,” says Julia Trustram Eve, spokeswoman for English Wine Producers. “Demand is exceeding supply.”


Read more

Read more


If the English are planning to supplant the Champagne name, they’re going to have to come up with something more dramatic than Nyetimber or Dorking.

Just imagine that rolling off your tongue, “Here, have a Dorking!” or “I’ve brought the Dorks, darling!” when you compare it with the much more regal sounding, “Here have a Champagne!” or “I’ve brought the Champers, darling!”

I put it to you, is there an English county name that equals the magic of Champagne? I think not. Pity, because without that magic ring, Champagne will always be king.

Put a cork in it!

Real corks, made from cork

Real corks, made from cork

I am neither a sommelier, nor  by any means an expert, but I do drink wine.

I am a traditionalist and I like corks.

Real corks, not synthetic corks, not the abominable screw cap, nor the Lego-looking plastic plug you get in fizzy wine, real corks!

If I see a bottle has a screw cap, I immediately overlook it without giving it further consideration; even if it is the type of wine I am looking for, I ignore it.

I also dearly wish that wine labels were required to note whether the cork is of the synthetic variety, then it too would be ignored. I have been known to curse aloud when opening a bottle of wine and finding a synthetic stopper, not to mention further cursing when trying to remove the crappy thing from the corkscrew; they just do not want to unscrew.

Now, I find there is another innovation on the wine scene.

Why the snobbery over corks?

A new wine cork that screws into the bottle is being unveiled. But why is there still so much snobbery in the battle between traditional cork and screw-top?

The sound is unmistakeable.

A scientist might talk about the explosive pop of a wine cork in terms of pressure or elasticity.

But for wine lovers, the distinctive creak and pop means something good is happening. It triggers associations – social intimacy, relaxation, nuanced aromas, celebration – that go far beyond just a slug of alcohol.

The unveiling this week of a new style of cork raises the question of why the traditional kind continues to dominate much of the wine world.

The Helix is opened with just a twist of the hand. No corkscrew is necessary as the top of the bottle has a thread inside.

The glass bottle and cork combination for wine is thought to have started in the 17th Century. But newer materials exist today that some argue are better suited for sealing a bottle than cork.

Screw caps and plastic corks have been embraced by producers fed up with wine becoming “corked” – the unpleasant musty taste, likened to wet dog, which is caused by tainted cork.

Influential US wine critic Robert Parker reckons that during the mid 1990s 7-10% of the wine he tasted was corked. In 2004 he predicted that by 2015 screw caps would dominate the wine industry.

The screw cap – generic name “Stelvin” after its biggest brand – advanced spectacularly in “New World” wine nations. By 2011, 90% of New Zealand wine was sealed this way.

But in Europe and the US the cork remains king.

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Having read that New Zealand wine is 90% screw capped, they’ve just screwed their sales to one more customer. I am a NZer, I am an ex-pat, I would love to have wine from my own country to share with my company, but they’ve just put paid to any hope of that. Even my patriotism will not supersede my abhorrence of screw caps.


Kitchen Coffee Zone

Every home should have one



Sorry, couldn’t find a bigger one.

Under the Affluence of Incohol


The Liebster Award was invented to discover new blogs. You can read the history of this award on Sopphy Says

Honoured, I am.

Heady stuff!

I thought, I had had all the awards doing the circuits on various blogs, it seems I don’t didn’t.

I have really stopped participating in these awards since I moved from BlogSpot to WordPress, not because I am being churlish, rather that I was extremely disappointed by the response I had to one I participated in; none of my nominees even so much as acknowledged receiving the award.

However, I find myself drawn, however humbly to this one, because it’s different… well a little different.

The culprit blogger that lumbered me bestowed this damned thing lovely award upon me was none other than Lord of the Rings drings Drinks. I will do his bidding.

Apparently when you get nominated for the Liebster Award you need to do three things: answer the 11 questions of the one who nominated you, come up with 11 new questions for 11 other bloggers and share 11 random facts about yourself.

I have got to answer the following 11 LOTD questions:
1. What country are you from?

New Zealand, but I forgot where it is… I am a practicing Brazilian now.
2. What’s your age?

I’m a chenior shitizen! That’s close enough.
3. How old were you when you first got drunk?

Hmmm, don’t remember that too well, about 16.
4. What’s your favorite drink?

Oooooh, tricky. Should be gin, my first spirit in the form of a Tom Collins when I was 14.
5. How many units of alcohol (check the graphic) do you approximately drink per week?

Between 3 – 10, normally closer to the lower end of the scale.
6. What kind of drunk are you (angry, sleepy, extra-social, horny, dramatic, dancing, etc.)?

I’m a happy drunk, except like last week when the local bludger biffed my cat in the bar, I biffed him. I can’t stand animals being mistreated, especially my Lixo.
7. Is their any interesting local drinking custom, ritual or game that you can share with us?

Game… hmmm, well not local, but we used to play Colonel Huff as a teenager.
8. Describe your most epic drunk night.

I don’t and never did consider being drunk as ‘epic’, more of an unfortunate consequence.
9. Which drink (or mix) is certain to screw you up?

Tequila! Did last week, got drunk for the first time in 10 years.
10. Got any tips on how to have a good (drunk) night for little money?

We always figured that cider gave you best value % alcohol/cent money. But that was teenagers.
11. Is their a relatively unknown drink you can recommend us?

Benedictine, is grossly underrated. But here in Brazil, it’s like looking for rockinghorse poo!

One that is spreading slowly around the world is a caipirinha from Brazil with cachaça (sugar cane brandy). For pity’s sake don’t be an American and make it with limes, use lemons; lemons in Brazil are green and as soon as Americans see green, they go ‘Limes!’ Wrong, use lemons, even yellow ones are better than limes, although you don’t get the traditional green drink.

You can make a batida (not a caipirinha) with various fruit, in fact, any fruit.

Also, you can make a caipirinha using vodka, but it is not a caipirinha, rather a caipiroska/caipivodka.

Now it’s my time to help you get to know 11 other interesting bloggers.

1. Boy Drinks World

2. Foam Around the World

3. Good Beer, Better Hats

4. Nectar of the Gods

5. The Reverse Wine Snob

OMG! I’ve run out. Well, I haven’t, but the others were already nominated by LOTD. So you get Five great blogs.

I have got the following 11 questions for them:
1. Are you a beer/wine/spirits person?
2. Have you reached the age where room spins are a thing of the past?
3. How old were you when you first drank/tasted an alcoholic drink?
4. What and where was it?
5. Have you ever made a homebrew?
6. What’s the weirdest drink you have ever had?
7. When you travel, do you try to sample as many of the local drinks as possible?
8. Are you a follower of ‘Red wine, red meat, white wine, white meat?
9. What do you drink with a meal?
10. Have you ever done something you regretted while drinking?
11. Do you consider drinks to be a ‘social lubricant’?

Well even if you’re not mentioned in the blogs above, I still would love to hear your answers to my 11 questions. Interesting drinking customs or stories are always highly appreciated.

If you leave a comment with your answers, consider yourself worthy of a posthumous nomination and take the award for your blog.

Wine Racks Made Simple

With an old box, crate or pallet and a bit of imagination, some sandpaper and varnish or stain you can make miracles.










Got some bamboo?


Cauliflower – Unchained

The 10 best cauliflower recipes

We prise the humble cauliflower away from its cheese-sauce comfort zone and explore its uses as a pizza base, in savoury cakes and even as a Persian tortilla

Whole roast cauliflower with cumin, sumac and lemon. Photograph: Yuki Sugiura for the Guardian

Whole roast cauliflower with cumin, sumac and lemon

It’s just a regular, humble, garden cauliflower, but there’s something really exciting about seeing it come out of the oven whole. Think of this as an edible centrepiece to hack away at, cutting chunks off the main stem, throughout your meal.

Click for recipes

Click for recipes

Pizza with cauliflower crust

Pizza with cauliflower crust. Photograph: Yuki Sugiura for the Guardian

The aim with a root vegetable crust is to make something crispy that can be eaten by hand, without it falling apart. Many recipes use lots of eggs, but this one opts for cauliflower and goat’s cream cheese. It works well with a slightly different, less cheesy topping.

Cauliflower and pear bake

This dish from Israel makes a fine accompaniment to all roasts and kebabs.

Caramelised cauliflower soup

This is a delightfully textured soup. If you want more richness, replace some of the broth with cream and dress it up with cheese or browned butter. If you halve the broth, you get a nice puree to use as an alternative to mashed potatoes.

Spanish crisp cauliflower. Photograph: Yuki Sugiura for the Guardian

Spanish crisp cauliflower

This is a delightfully textured soup. If you want more richness, replace some of the broth with cream and dress it up with cheese or browned butter. If you halve the broth, you get a nice puree to use as an alternative to mashed potatoes.

Cauliflower omelette

This is a Persian kookoo recipe. The word is usually translated as omelette, but it more closely resembles a savoury vegetable cake, very much like a Spanish tortilla, and is delicious eaten hot or cold.

Gratin de chou-fleur

Comté adds a subtle French flavour to this easy-going, comforting dish. If you like, you can spruce it up by flavouring the bechamel with turmeric and adding a handful of chopped hazelnuts to the cauliflower, or by adding truffle juice to the bechamel and sprinkling a few slivers of black truffle amid the florets.

Quinoa, cauliflower and ramsons cakes

In season, ramsons (wild garlic) are the best flavour for these cakes. If you cannot find ramsons, use fresh spinach and add two cloves of crushed garlic.

Black pepper tempeh

This recipe isn’t for the faint of heart; it’s a substantial meal-in-a-pan exploding with spicy, peppery, garlicky, gingery flavours. Finely chop the cauliflower into quick-cooking pieces. If you don’t have coconut oil to hand, use clarified butter or extra virgin olive oil instead.

Roasted cauliflower tart with oat-walnut crust and lemon herb filling

This tart turns roasted cauliflower into a complete meal. The addition of lemon gives it a welcome lift and complements the buttery flavour of toasted walnuts too. Serve it slightly warm or at room temperature with a salad for a perfect spring meal.



Raki on the table

At the moment here in Brazil there is a novela (soap opera) that I enjoy, Salve Jorge, quite a bit takes place in Turkey in both Istanbul and Cappadocia; where the sophisticated Brazilians and Turks are often found sipping raki.

So what is raki?

Raki is considered the national drink of Turkey.

One of the many brands

One of the many brands

“An unsweetened, anise-flavored hard alcoholic drink that is popular in Turkey and in the Balkan countries as an apéritif. It is often served with seafood or Turkish meze. It is similar to several other alcoholic beverages available around the Mediterranean, Albanian regions, the Middle East e.g., pastis, ouzo, sambuca, arak, and aguardiente.”Wikipedia

Traditionally consumed either straight with chilled water on the side or partly mixed with chilled water. Ice cubes are sometimes added.

Dilution with water causes raki to turn a milky-white color like ouzo.

Mezze, with or without drinks, is  a selection of small snacks, hot or cold, spicy or savory; they maybe as simple as cubes of white cheese or more sophisticated like walnuts and hot pepper sauce, or meatballs.


Mezzedhes (pl of mezze)

Mezzedhes (pl of mezze)

Raki and water - image:

Raki and water – image:

Is it OK to photograph your food?

Some restaurants have banned diners taking photographs of their dishes, while others are offering food photography workshops. Do you snap your supper, or is it the height of bad manners?

‘A blurry picture of scrambled eggs on toast … I can almost hear Rudolf Clausius turning in his grave.’ Photograph: Trevor Baker

At the start of 2013 the debate on whether it’s OK to take photographs of your food in restaurants seemed to swing towards a definite “no”. In New York some smaller establishments, such as Momofuku Ko, have banned photography. An article on Esquire’s blog provided a stern list of reasons why pausing for a photo shoot before eating is not OK, the most surreal being that it’s an affront to the laws of thermodynamics (because it makes your food get cold), the most sensible being that your photos will probably be rubbish anyway.

However, in Alicante in Spain, the restaurant group Grupo Gourmet, which owns the much-praised Taberna del Gourmet and Monastrell restaurants, has started running a “Fotografia para foodies” course on the basis that, if people are going to take pictures, they might as well do it properly. Chef-patron María José San Román says that the worst thing about bloggers taking pictures in her restaurants is that, if they don’t do a good job, or if they do it after eating half the food, the result looks terrible.

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