Whilst not necessarily celebrated the same way in Mexico and other Latin American countries, Cinco De Mayo is a festival celebrating all of the finer things Mexican culture has to offer the world.
Whether it’s Chocolate, Spicy Food or even a certain infamous Mexican spirit (or 2) Cinco De Mayo is a celebration and a time for getting together with friends and family…
So what are the 3 margaritas I have in store for you? Well let’s start with a classic recipe and tweak it a little…
Mi Casa Tequila:
Mi Casa Tequila is an extremely high quality 100% Agave Tequila, obviously from Mexico, and is unfortunately not readily available on the UK Market it can be found readily across the USA so if you plan on heading out there any time soon, be sure to pick a bottle up!
It’s an estate-craft tequila from a family run business and has wone numerous awards for their utterly fantastic tequila(s). You can find their page here, but be sure to check out their signature margarita before you do:
Mi Casa Margarita
2 measures Mi Casa Reposado
1 measure St. Germain
¾ measure Fresh Lime Juice
Reposado Tequila always adds a slight depth to the drink, making it even more awesome!
Recipes and more Margaritas on this link.
Reblogged from: Margaritas Three Ways – A Cinco De Mayo Special.
Being Easter week, I thought it would be nice to post about Easter food.
So I googled ‘Easter food’
Yup, I got chocolate Easter eggs!
This is how stupid Google is, chocolate Easter eggs are NOT food.
Now this looks like food, Ukranian Easter Food…
How dare amateur drinkers blight my season?
In the two weeks prior to Christmas, these legions of the damned stalk our cities and taverns
The festive get-up of the amateur drinker. Photograph: Betsie Van Der Meer/Getty Images
Each Christmas they emerge from the slums of their own arrogance, wreaking havoc and causing chaos among those who can’t get out of their way. They may be husbands, sons, wives or girlfriends but, ignoring repeated warnings, they carry others in the slipstream of their selfishness, wrecking lives and destroying relationships. Still they persist though, never satisfied it seems, until they have left their baleful mark on the season of goodwill. In the two weeks prior to the Saviour’s Day these legions of the damned stalk our cities and our taverns. They are the amateur drinkers and accursed be their names.
During the rest of the year they rarely impinge on our consciousness. On those few occasions when they do it’s not them but rather their spoor that we notice.
Often this will be in the form of little yellow post-it notes stuck on a fridge door expressing exasperation at how scrofulous the office utensils have become. At other times it will be rather more serious. In Edinburgh several years ago, for instance, I was startled to observe the following note: “Will the phantom alfalfa and artichoke salad thief kindly purchase their OWN from now on!!?” Until then I had thought that Alfalfa and Artichoke were popular Christian names for the children of the capital’s elite.
They will rarely, if ever, join their colleagues for a drink after work and whine quietly when a sheet is put round for another departing colleague. At weekends they will most often be found up Munros or shopping for bicycle helmets and maths tutors. Occasionally they will feel they are sticking it to the man by flashing their lights at oncoming motorists to alert them to a lurking police speed trap.
This will give them such a feeling of rebellious exultation that they will drive the rest of the way home listening to Smooth Radio with the volume turned up. They will refer to Les Misérables as lezmiss.
At those times when they do venture a political opinion it will be to say: “I’m no racist, but we just can’t keep letting them in.” Consequently, at the end of the day, you will be impelled to throw yourself into the arms of the licensed trade to wash them out of your hair.
All of this doesn’t make them bad people, just different. What does make them bad is the two weeks before Christmas when they are afflicted by the curse of the amateur drinker and turn into gargoyles and grotesques, reeling and lurching under the influence of three white wine spritzers and a cheeky crème de menthe. For them this day has been in the planning for months. They have solemnly sworn to take the kids to the next three swimming lessons or they have concluded a reciprocal pet arrangement with the chap at No 23. Regrettably, the men (and it is mostly men) always seem to choose to wear a light suit on the day of their office Christmas lunch.
That is why you will always see blokes with a little map of France spreading out from around their crotches. After a 25th visit to the gents a chap is long past caring about his personal toilette.
The seasoned, year-long drinker ought to know the warning signs by now, yet each year we always seem unprepared. Suddenly, it’s the second Friday of December and an apocalypse clad in Marks & Spencer is about to engulf you. There are about a dozen of them and they always ask the bartender the same question as they sway through the door: “Is this the Horseshoe?”
Very soon afterwards a lady in the company will ask for “one of those Metropolitans”. Immediately upon entering the licensed premises they will accost the bar staff over the heads of other drinkers. Then loudly they will profess their irritation at how slow the service is, as if they are all Doc Holliday.
Pubs require to be treated with some courtesy when ingress is first gained. You don’t just breenge in and start throwing your weight about. A drinker knows always to approach the bar area slowly, all the time becoming accustomed to the dimmer light. He will take a little time to appraise the mood of the surroundings and check the faces at the bar for any signs of psychopathy. Only then will he attempt to place an order for a drink and perhaps invite the bartender to join him.
In these circumstances the amateur drinker is vulnerable. Bolstered by sauvignon blanc and Glayva he attempts eye contact with total strangers after bumping into them and then admonishing them to watch their step. Yet he possesses all the menace of a space-hopper. If a barmaid smiles at him he thinks he has scored and returns to his chums while doing that thing where he thrusts his right arm up underneath his outstretched left arm.
The amateur drinker also sucks all the joy out of swearing. Denied the opportunity to espouse expletives for the rest of the year he begins to swear with abandon. Many of us know that profanities artfully deployed can add depth and character to an anecdote. They are the sturm und drang of our language, freeing us from imposed verbal rectitude. But the amateurs keep fuckity-fuck-fucking like posh adolescents in a kitchen at a party.
Soon they become earnest and conspiratorial as they begin to share inappropriate matrimonial secrets with pink and giggly female colleagues in the hope that pity will be taken on them and they will be favoured with a sympathy winch.
There is though a limit to the patience of average drinkers when they encounter the once-a-year mob. And that was reached last week in a Glasgow city centre wine bar as we all listened to Dio & Iommi’s reflective rock interpretation of the Christmas classic God Rest ye Merry Gentlemen. “Get that racket off,” shouted one of the pish-stained brigade, “and put Bing on instead.” There were quiet reprisals.
Sherry sales are booming. Well, everyone loves an underdog
Not so long ago, people wouldn’t touch sherry with a barge pole – but old friends have a habit of returning
Everyone for sherry? Photograph: Patrick Ward/Corbis
Amid the nostalgia-fest that is Christmas, news has broken that sherry – which many people will forever associate with that disgusting sweet liquor they sipped as a child from auntie’s glass when no one was looking – is suddenly terribly fashionable and selling like hot cakes. But to the sophisticates among you, this will be no revelation. In fact British appreciation of pale, dry sherries, which are nothing like the stuff granny served in dainty, cut-glass schooners, has been bubbling up for a decade, largely thanks to the rise in very good tapas restaurants.
Wednesday’s report points out that, along with sales going through the roof (M&S’s figures are already up a third on last year’s), specialist sherry bars are now popular: 35 opened in London alone over the past three years. This isn’t a bunch of students ironically knocking back a “blue-rinse” tipple – it’s young professionals sampling fine sherries in elegant wine glasses, which allow drinkers to appreciate the camomile and coastal aromas of their manzanilla.
What a turn-around – it isn’t that long ago that no one would have touched sherry with a barge pole…
What a sommelier actually does
The glamour side
Sommeliers are an interesting bunch. We generally only find them in our better restaurants, where they occupy a specialist role among the front-of-house team. Most people’s exposure to them consists of a brief conversation at a restaurant table when they are selecting a wine or wines to go with their food, but there is a lot more to the sommelier’s job than pulling corks and waxing lyrical with adjective-rich descriptions of the wine.
In essence, the sommelier is there to ensure maximum beverage sales while delivering guest satisfaction; they could also be titled ”beverage sales manager” and the description would be appropriate.
The sommelier is responsible for the construction of the wine list in a restaurant, which in itself is a complex process. Rather than a simple group of wines that take the sommelier’s fancy, the wine list must fulfil a number of important criteria: it must balance with a complex food offering, it must balance with the spending range of the restaurant guests, it must deliver an appropriate profit margin, and it must not require holding excessive amounts of slow-moving stock.
It’s quite a trick to get the wine list right, and this requires constant research. Wine companies and distributors want to feature their wines on the wine lists of ”hatted” restaurants because it boosts their reputation and profile of the wine. As many as 70 sample bottles a week can be presented and each one must be assessed at a tasting.
Now, I love my wine, and have been known to down a couple of bottles in a dedicated session, but I still have empathy for the sommelier and other front-of-house staff having to sample 15 bottles of wine at 9.30 in the morning, several times a week. The smart ones spit, but I have seen several whose obvious love for the product is a portent for an early demise – only the disciplined move gracefully into middle age. Apart from the danger of developing a ceramic liver, constant tasting of wine rots the teeth, and a florid face and bad teeth ain’t a good look.
There is also a great deal of physical work. Pick up a box of wine and feel how heavy it is. The sommelier has to receive incoming stock, check it against the order, and then move it into secure storage – either in boxes or into wine racks. A busy fine-dining restaurant could receive up to 30 boxes of wine and other beverages in a week, all of which have to be physically handled until its ultimate sale.
A sommelier also has the responsibility to train other front-of-house staff to handle, serve and sell the wines once the wine list has been determined. Every time a new wine is added to the list, the waiters and bar staff have to be introduced to it and learn what foods to match it with and how to describe it. Most wine lists are constantly evolving, so the training aspect of the job never stops.
The top sommeliers I have worked with are very talented people who have built up an almost encyclopaedic knowledge of the wines and vintages of the old and new worlds. Disciplined and professional, they are commercially pragmatic and are aware that their own palate may have moved away from the mainstream over time and are realistic about selecting wines that meet the needs of their customers. They tend to be quite succinct and accurate in their descriptions.
There are also many less-experienced sommeliers who we dub ”the Wine Fantasy Camp”. These are the enthusiastic young aficionados who possess a higher proportion of enthusiasm than experience. It takes a number of years and quite a deal of focus to develop an accurate wine palate and to learn to be able to confidently identify the various wine varieties and faults.
A lack of experienced staff in the hospitality industry has created an unusual opportunity for some who are possibly not ready to move up in the world of wine service. You can usually identify them from their obvious youth and the bizarre, imaginative descriptions they apply to wines. I’ve always been underwhelmed by sweaty saddles, wet cardboard, pencil shavings, toasty wood, etc. There are quite a few of these oenological space cadets around; they can be entertaining if you don’t take them too seriously.
– Tony Eldred is a consultant to the hospitality industry.
All things ancient and old are fading out and disappearing as we speak. The same goes for cheese, traditional ways of herding animals are gone and the historical ways of making and aging cheese are lost and forgotten. Farmers and cheesemakers are not able to survive the economic pressures of operating in the traditional way.
Read more: Great New Places
- April 4, 2013 is
National Cordon Bleu Day
- It’s National Cordon Bleu Day! Did you know that “cordon bleu” means “blue ribbon” in French? In the 1500s, the Order of the Knights of the Holy Spirit became known as “Les Cordon Bleus.” The knights used a blue ribbon to hang their talisman, and eventually the term became associated with distinction and honor. Today, we still award blue ribbons for excellence!
In the culinary world, cordon bleu is a savory roulade dish made with chicken (or veal), ham, and Swiss cheese. Contrary to popular belief, chicken cordon bleu did not originate at Le Cordon Bleu culinary arts school. As with most dishes, it evolved over time and first appeared in America during the 1960s.
To celebrate National Cordon Bleu Day, cook up some delicious chicken cordon bleu for your family to enjoy tonight! Bon appétit! – Punchbowl
Some samples of Cordon Bleu
Reblogged from: Slice the Life
Dr. John Pemberton Brews The First Batch Of Coca-Cola- This Day In 1886
On this day in 1886 Dr. John Pemberton brewed the first batch of Coca-Cola in a backyard in Atlanta, Georgia. Today there are vending machines selling Coca-Cola in every country except for North Korea and Cuba.
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
“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)
How to cook the perfect … crumpets
It’s a delicate business but worth the trouble – just make sure you have enough butter to do them justice at the end
Felicity’s perfect crumpets. Photograph: Felicity Cloake
Anyone puzzled by the origins of the appreciative term “nice bit of crumpet” has clearly never had a good one. Well toasted, and decently adorned, these fluffy yeasted tea cakes are – and I don’t use this phrase lightly – properly, hopelessly sexy. Indeed, a fellow food writer recently told me her husband wooed her with homemade crumpets.
It’s possible to buy decent ready-made versions but as Elizabeth David observes in her English Bread and Yeast Cookery, crumpets are infinitely better “freshly cooked, warm and soaked in plenty of butter” – indeed the true connoisseur will continue to spread until it seeps from the bottom.
The problem that exercises many wannabe crumpet cooks is the small matter of the holes that separate the crumpet from the yeasted pancake. They’re surprisingly elusive; I dismiss two recipes, one from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and one in a book allegedly devoted to crumpets and teacakes, because of the sad smoothness of the accompanying pictures. The pride and delight you’ll thus quite rightly feel when those first tremulous bubbles emerge through the batter will only add to the joy of the whole affair.
200ml whole milk
100ml boiling water
1tbsp dried yeast
150g strong white flour
100g plain flour
1/2tsp bicarbonate of soda
20g butter, for cooking
Mix the sugar, milk and boiling water in a jug and stir in the yeast. Leave in a warm place for 15 minutes until frothy.
Combine the flours in a large mixing bowl with the salt. Stir in the liquid and mix vigorously until smooth. Cover and leave in a warm place for between one-and-a-half and two hours until the batter is a mass of tiny bubbles.
Mix the bicarbonate of soda with 50ml warm water and stir it into the batter. Cover and leave in a warm place for 30 minutes.
Melt the butter and use it to brush the inside of four crumpet rings. Heat a large frying pan on a medium-low heat and grease the pan. Put the rings flat into the pan and ladle a spoonful of batter into each, so they are about half full.
Cook until the top is dry and festooned with holes, then push the crumpets out of the rings (you may need a knife for this operation). If eating immediately, toast the tops under a hot grill until golden, then serve. If you’re keeping them, cool on a wire rack, then toast on both sides to reheat.
Hot buttered crumpets
When I was a kid, I had a favourite pudding.
Three Quarter Hour Pudding
Something happened the other day and took me back years. My mother died two weeks ago, and I suddenly thought, OMG, the world will never see this pudding again. Even though I haven’t had it in well more than 30 years, I suddenly missed it, and Googled it.
My Mum never used a recipe book for this one, as a kid I guessed it was her receipe, even though we never discussed the origin.
Yes, on Google, there it was…
On the Chelsea sugar company site.
I can’t find an image that looked like Mum’s. But I remember that she served it at the table in the steaming bowl and dolloped it out onto our plates with a spoonful of Golden Syrup. My father preferred Treacle, and I followed in that preference; they say like father, like son.
…a lesson in diversity
Ecuador is snapping at Peru’s heels as a foodie destination, with a more varied natural larder, and young chefs happy to mix things up at a new wave of restaurants
Square deal … the balcony of Casa Gangotena in the heart of Quito. Photograph: Ben Quinn
Andrés Dávila ducks into a covered market in Quito’s Unesco-protected colonial centre. Aisles are laden with baskets of colourful fruit, sacks of spices and tables piled high with legs of beef.
He buys a selection of herbs from a smiling matriarch who sells greenery ranging from leaves for tempering altitude sickness to the gherkin-shaped San Pedro cactus, used in the Andes to brew a hallucinogenic soup. We’re getting supplies for dinner at Casa Gangotena, a restored historic mansion on cobbled Plaza de San Francisco. Casa Gangotena runs culinary tours of the San Roque neighbourhood, a place tourists have been scared to visit in the past, but where guests now join Dávila to stock up on ingredients each morning.
Andrés Dávila shopping in Quito’s San Roque market. Photograph: Ben Quinn
While the food that evening isn’t mind-warping, it certainly challenges the senses. We’re presented with four mini-tortillas topped with salmon and accompanied by variations on aji, Ecuador‘s indispensable hot sauce. There’s pepa de sambo (with pumpkin seeds and coriander) and another made from tomate de arbol (tomatillo). The spiciest is a Pacific coast aji made from three kinds of chilli pepper and christened pocos amigos (few friends).
Aside from being delicious, the variations of aji are a reason why the hitherto ignored culinary tradition of Ecuador – based on produce sourced from every corner of one of the world’s most diverse collections of biospheres – may soon emulate the global success of other Latin American cuisines, not least neighbouring Peru, with its ceviche-led food revolution.
A two-hour drive north of Quito is Hacienda Zuleta, a 17th-century farmstead 3,050m above sea level that was once home to Galo Plaza Lasso, president of Ecuador 1948-52.
Hacienda Zuleta, north of Quito. Photograph: Ben Quinn
It’s renowned for its food, and the quintessential Ecuadorian locro, (creamy potato soup) is as comforting as the rest of the hacienda, where log fires crackle in antique-filled rooms. More comforting still is a chicken and rice casserole, the recipe infused with South America‘s revolutionary past.
“It was the invention of my great-grandmother’s cook, Cotito,” says Fernando Polanco Plaza, the former president’s grandson. “My great-grandfather was a general involved in liberal struggles. No one knew who would come for dinner or who would be in jail, so this dish emerged from leftover rice, which would be mixed at night with meat and veg and sauces.”
Fernando tells me Ecuador should be punching above its weight: “For me, the stars of Latin American food are Mexico, Peru and then Ecuador, with its mega diverse ecosystems. Our food has been a secret for too long.”
In another of those ecosystems – high cloud forest on the other side of Quito – is Mashpi ecolodge, a glass-walled cocoon amid a 1,000-hectare conservation project. Here, the lunchtime starter is three types of forest manioc, with shrimp. Chef David Barriga brings in encebollado, a coastal fish and onion stew that Ecuadorians swear by as a hangover cure. A manioc pancake forms a bed for the next dish – four prawns and a tender chunk of steak. It comes with a tangerine sorbet and side sauce of “snake fruit”, named for its scaly skin.
Barriga is also keen to promote Ecuador’s food. “We have all the raw materials Peru has, and more.”
Bafflingly, for many people Scottish cuisine remains something of an oxymoron, little more than a cholesterol-laden punchline. – The Guardian
I have never eaten haggis, although I have heard a lot about it, and should I ever be close to one, I would try it.
The idea of haggis is intriguing. I like most offal foods, with the exception of tripe, so I see no reason for not liking haggis.
Haggis is a spicy, meatloaf-like minced sheep offal served with ”neeps and tatties,” or turnips and potatoes – the perfect Scottish comfort food. Image: Foodie International
Traditionally, “Haggis is a savoury pudding containing sheep’s pluck (heart, liver and lungs); minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, and traditionally encased in the animal’s stomach and simmered for approximately three hours.” – Wikipedia
But there are many many things you can do to haggis.
If you look around the net, you can find haggis balls, deep fried haggis balls, vegetarian haggis, haggis puffs, haggis crepes, haggis toasted sandwiches, haggis and chips.
Then there’s the fast food and international influences… haggis pizza, haggisburger, haggis pakora, haggis nachos, haggis burritos, haggis and onion bhajis… You can stuff chicken with it, you can get it in a can or in sachets.
The list is endless. Haggis has to be amongst the most versatile foods.
And… you can feed the scraps to the cat.
Then there’s haggis for dessert chocolates.
Scotland-based chocolate maker, Nadia Ellingham, just invented a horrifying new desert: Haggis-flavored Chocolate. It’s chocolate with a hint of sheep’s liver, heart, lungs, oatmeal, onions and spices boiled in the animal’s own stomach. It’s amazing no one thought of this before.
In Ellingham’s defense, she has stated that she avoided including any haggis ingredients that would clash with the taste of the chocolate. But still, when the clashing ingredient in haggis IS haggis, it’s hard to understand what she left in.
There is much humour about the haggis…
From: Improbable Research – How to Raise Haggis
The Haggis – An Endangered Scottish Species
The Wild Haggis
The Haggis Hunting Season
As winter approaches, a crime against Scottish wildlife looms. From 30th November (St. Andrews Day) to 25th January (Robert Burns birthday), a small, defenceless furry creature is chased and killed to provide the Scots with their traditional feast.
Read more on: HubPages
There are some things in this world that should not be touched.
Screw caps for wine
Whether it is for progress, economic reasons, or manufacturing ease.
These screw cap/top monstrosities are not traditional. Wine is a tradition.
These abominable screw caps reduce the wine to the status of soda!
Bottlers have no heart!
I refuse to buy a wine if it has a screw cap.
Synthetic ‘corks’ were bad enough, but screw caps are an anathema, a horror and a plague. They have put one of man’s oldest and dearest traditions in the ‘cheap bin’.
Bring back the cork!
I mean real cork, not these stopper things that look as though they have a condom on them or belong in the kids Lego set.
“That middle ground between true cork and screwcap is occupied by the synthetic cork. On the plus side, there’s no TCA taint, which can arise with natural cork. But on the minus side, the little rubber bullets can be hard to get off the corkscrew (particularly the solid ones), nearly impossible to shove back in the bottle, not biodegradable, and until someone makes a wall of synthetic corks, they haven’t had much appeal being reused functionally or artistically.” – Dr Vino
Leave screw caps on the shelves in wine shops & supermarkets!
Show the winemakers and bottlers
that we will not be dictated to!
Tell them where they can stick their tinny little horrors!
Help, I can’t post on this blog at the moment!
This is my choice of bubbly for tonight’s New Year celebration.
In an article British seasonal gluttony, I found this paragraph interesting and colourful:
Soggy meat pie
“It is, surely, undeniable that in the past 30 years we have, as a nation, been transformed from a culinary backwater – a stagnant reach in which floated the occasional soggy meat pie or waterlogged cabbage – into a foodie’s paradise.”
Read the full story
It is written, almost indelibly, “red meat – red wine; white meat – white wine”, but is this necessarily true?
Are you having a turkey Christmas dinner?
Turkey has replaced the traditional goose on British festive tables
If so, what are you going to drink with it?
What wine with turkey?
It’s a question that comes up at Christmas. But if you think about it, the answer can be as simple as – what do you like?
For that Christmas turkey, there’s a good match for every taste – whether you or your family and guests prefer white, red, or rosé …
If you and your guests prefer dry white wines, dry and oakey Chardonnay is the favorite choice with turkey depending on the particular tastes of your family and guests. Sauvignon Blanc or a White Burgundy are also good all-around choices that pair well with everything from mashed turnips to turkey stuffing.
Or, head for the German wine aisle at your favorite wine shop to pick out a light but slightly spicy Gewurztraminer that’s always a good match for the holiday bird. A slightly sweeter Riesling will also pair well with any dish at a Thanksgiving or holiday table. If the label says ‘Kabinett’, the wine is made from the earliest harvest. That means the Riesling will be a dryer wine. A Spätlese is a bit sweeter, but still retains the dryness of the wine — and is usually a favorite in American homes. An Auslese will be even sweeter and makes a better match for the dessert than the turkey.
If red wines are normally your favorite, Pinot Noir is the perfect red wine for holiday feasting. More robust than white wine, Pinot Noir has very little tannin and will likely blend well with the entire holiday meal. Serve it slightly chilled.
Text modified from: chiff.com
So many to choose from…
Have we always eaten them?
British people – and many others across the world – have been brought up on the idea of three square meals a day as a normal eating pattern, but it wasn’t always that way.
People are repeatedly told the hallowed family dinner around a table is in decline and the UK is not the only country experiencing such change.
The case for breakfast, missed by many with deleterious effects, is that it makes us more alert, helps keep us trim and improves children’s work and behaviour at school.
But when people worry that breaking with the traditional three meals a day is harmful, are they right about the traditional part? Have people always eaten in that pattern?
Breakfast as we know it didn’t exist for large parts of history. The Romans didn’t really eat it, usually consuming only one meal a day around noon, says food historian Caroline Yeldham. In fact, breakfast was actively frowned upon.
“The Romans believed it was healthier to eat only one meal a day,” she says. “They were obsessed with digestion and eating more than one meal was considered a form of gluttony. This thinking impacted on the way people ate for a very long time.”
In the Middle Ages monastic life largely shaped when people ate, says food historian Ivan Day. Nothing could be eaten before morning Mass and meat could only be eaten for half the days of the year. It’s thought the word breakfast entered the English language during this time and literally meant “break the night’s fast”.
Religious ritual also gave us the full English breakfast. On Collop Monday, the day before Shrove Tuesday, people had to use up meat before the start of Lent. Much of that meat was pork and bacon as pigs were kept by many people. The meat was often eaten with eggs, which also had to be used up, and the precursor of the full English breakfast was born.
But at the time it probably wasn’t eaten in the morning.
In about the 17th Century it is believed that all social classes started eating breakfast, according to chef Clarissa Dickson Wright. After the restoration of Charles II, coffee, tea and dishes like scrambled eggs started to appear on the tables of the wealthy. By the late 1740s, breakfast rooms also started appearing in the homes of the rich.
This morning meal reached new levels of decadence in aristocratic circles in the 19th Century, with the fashion for hunting parties that lasted days, even weeks. Up to 24 dishes would be served for breakfast.
The Industrial Revolution in the mid-19th Century regularised working hours, with labourers needing an early meal to sustain them at work. All classes started to eat a meal before going to work, even the bosses.
At the turn of the 20th Century, breakfast was revolutionised once again by American John Harvey Kellogg. He accidentally left some boiled maize out and it went stale. He passed it through some rollers and baked it, creating the world’s first cornflake. He sparked a multi-billion pound industry.
By the 1920s and 1930s the government was promoting breakfast as the most important meal of the day, but then World War II made the usual breakfast fare hard to get. But as Britain emerged from the post-war years into the economically liberated 1950s, things like American toasters, sliced bread, instant coffee and pre-sugared cereals invaded the home. Breakfast as we now know it.
The terminology around eating in the UK is still confusing. For some “lunch” is “dinner” and vice versa. From the Roman times to the Middle Ages everyone ate in the middle of the day, but it was called dinner and was the main meal of the day. Lunch as we know it didn’t exist – not even the word.
During the Middle Ages daylight shaped mealtimes, says Day. With no electricity, people got up earlier to make use of daylight. Workers had often toiled in the fields from daybreak, so by midday they were hungry.
“The whole day was structured differently than it is today,” says Day. “People got up much earlier and went to bed much earlier.”
By midday workers had often worked for up to six hours. They would take a quick break and eat what was known as a “beever” or “noonshine”, usually bread and cheese. As artificial light developed, dinner started to shift later in the day for the wealthier, as a result a light meal during the day was needed.
The origins of the word “lunch” are mysterious and complicated, says Day. “Lunch was a very rare word up until the 19th Century,” he says.
One theory is that it’s derived from the word “nuncheon”, an old Anglo-Saxon word which meant a quick snack between meals that you can hold in your hands. It was used around the late 17th Century, says Yeldham. Others theorise that it comes from the word “nuch” which was used around in the 16th and 17th Century and means a big piece of bread.
But it’s the French custom of “souper” in the 17th Century that helped shaped what most of us eat for lunch today. It became fashionable among the British aristocracy to copy the French and eat a light meal in the evening. It was a more private meal while they gamed and womanised, says Day.
It’s the Earl of Sandwich’s famous late-night snack from the 1750s that has come to dominate the modern lunchtime menu. One evening he ordered his valet to bring him cold meats between some bread. He could eat the snack with just one hand and wouldn’t get grease on anything.
Whether he was wrapped up in an all-night card game or working at his desk is not clear, both have been suggested. But whatever he was doing, the sandwich was born.
At the time lunch, however, was still known “as an accidental happening between meals”, says food historian Monica Askay.
Again, it was the Industrial Revolution that helped shape lunch as we know it today. Middle and lower class eating patterns were defined by working hours. Many were working long hours in factories and to sustain them a noon-time meal was essential.
Pies were sold on stalls outside factories. People also started to rely on mass-produced food as there was no room in towns and cities for gardens to keep a pig pen or grow their own food. Many didn’t even have a kitchen.
“Britain was the first country in the world to feed people with industrialised food,” says Day.
The ritual of taking lunch became ingrained in the daily routine. In the 19th Century chop houses opened in cities and office workers were given one hour for lunch. But as war broke out in 1939 and rationing took hold, the lunch was forced to evolve. Work-based canteens became the most economical way to feed the masses. It was this model that was adopted by schools after the war.
The 1950s brought a post-War world of cafes and luncheon vouchers. The Chorleywood Process, a new way of producing bread, also meant the basic loaf could be produced more cheaply and quickly than ever. The takeaway sandwich quickly began to fill the niche as a fast, cheap lunch choice.
Today the average time taken to eat lunch – usually in front of the computer – is roughly 15 minutes, according to researchers at the University of Westminster. The original meaning of lunch or “nuncheon” as a small, quick snack between proper meals is just as apt now as it ever was.
Dinner was the one meal the Romans did eat, even if it was at a different time of day.
In the UK the heyday of dinner was in the Middle Ages. It was known as “cena”, Latin for dinner. The aristocracy ate formal, outrageously lavish dinners around noon. Despite their reputation for being unruly affairs, they were actually very sophisticated, with strict table manners.
They were an ostentatious display of wealth and power, with cooks working in the kitchen from dawn to get things ready, says Yeldham. With no electricity cooking dinner in the evening was not an option. Peasants ate dinner around midday too, although it was a much more modest affair.
As artificial lighting spread, dinner started to be eaten later and later in the day. It was in the 17th Century that the working lunch started, where men with aspirations would network.
The middle and lower classes eating patterns were also defined by their working hours. By the late 18th Century most people were eating three meals a day in towns and cities, says Day.
By the early 19th Century dinner for most people had been pushed into the evenings, after work when they returned home for a full meal. Many people, however, retained the traditional “dinner hour” on a Sunday.
The hallowed family dinner we are so familiar with became accessible to all in the glorious consumer spending spree of the 1950s. New white goods arrived from America and the dream of the wife at home baking became a reality. Then the TV arrived.
TV cook Fanny Cradock brought the 1970s Cordon Bleu dinner to life. Many middle-class women were bored at home and found self-expression by competing with each other over who could hold the best dinner party.
The death knell for the family dinner supposedly sounded in 1986, when the first microwave meal came on to the market. But while a formal family dinner may be eaten by fewer people nowadays, the dinner party certainly isn’t over – fuelled by the phenomenal sales of recipe books by celebrity chefs.
Simonsig launches maiden Straw Wine 2009
Simonsig Estate has welcomed an exclusive new white into its portfolio of time-honoured wines with the launch of the maiden Straw Wine 2009 made from 100% naturally sundried Muscat Ottonel grapes.
The age-old tradition of making wine from naturally sundried grapes travels back many centuries. In the French wine regions of Rhone Jura and Alsace, grapes were dried on straw mats to concentrate the sugar and flavours. At Simonsig the grapes are dried on the vines by pinching the stem of each bunch with pliers to stop the flow of moisture from the roots to the berries.
After six weeks the berries lose moisture and the aromatic, sweet juice and exotic Muscat Ottonel fragrance is concentrated to almost double the initial sugar content.
Hand-picked and meticulously selected to only harness the finest, natural flavours, these raisin berries yield very little juice – the equivalent of a mere third of the original volume.
Described by cellarmaster Johan Malan as pure liquid sunshine in a glass, the Simonsig Straw Wine 2009, viscous with a golden hue, reveals an intense fragrance with Muscat raisins and honeyed spiciness enriched with a subtle oak toastiness from maturation in seasoned French oak.
This elegant white, made in perfect harmony with nature, is smooth on the palate with layered flavours of aromatic dried pears and caramelised sugar. The unctuous sweetness runs like a golden thread ending with a delicious dryish finish.
Enjoy the Simonsig Straw Wine 2009 with Malva pudding, with gorgonzola ice cream, baked rooibos infused cheese cake, foie gras terrine, smoked duck breast salad with caramelised hazelnut or on its own in front of a fire when you crave a special indulgence. Straw wines are known for their longevity and this wine will last for ten years or more.
The Simonsig Straw Wine 2009, made in limited quantities only, retails at R115 per bottle and is only available directly from the estate.
The humble fried egg, one of the staples of the first world breakfast. Have you ever wondered how your fried eggs measure up…
How to cook the perfect fried egg
If you can turn out exquisite fried eggs every single time you’ve got one over on most cooks. What’s your secret?
Felicity’s perfect fried egg. Photograph: Felicity Cloake
I embark upon this column in the full and certain knowledge that many of you already know how to fry an egg. Indeed, if you are completely confident in your abilities, and never find yourself disappointed by a sadly snotty white or tragically chalky yolk, then pat yourself on the back and then move along – I can teach you nothing. But if, like me, you can fry a perfectly decent egg but wouldn’t stake your life on your habitual method, then you are more than welcome to join this brave voyage back to the basics of cookery.
Those still reading should take heart from the fact that the great Fernand Point, feted as the father of modern French cuisine, is said to have judged a chef by the way he fried eggs. He’d interrupt hopeful apprentices at the stove, legends including Paul Bocuse and the Troisgros brothers, with the cry, “Stop, unhappy man – you are making a dog’s breakfast of it!” before demonstrating the only proper way to execute the dish.
Further reassurance comes from award winning Spanish chef José Andrés, who claims “my whole life I have been trying to cook an egg in the right way.” Andrés exalts in what he calls “the humbleness” of the dish, but that doesn’t mean he just slings it into a hot pan and goes off to make some toast – far from it. Both these culinary giants have very different ways of frying an egg – but who’s right? (Note here I’m aiming for the standard British fried egg, known in the States (and perhaps elsewhere?) as “sunny-side up”. There will be no flipping.)
The egg itself: when is an oeuf an oeuf?
Here I’ll be concentrating on the hen’s egg because, realistically, that’s what most of us cook up, but it’s worth pointing out that duck eggs have larger yolks, proportionally (and are also bigger all round) and, arguably, a better flavour than many commercial hen’s eggs. Be aware, however, that the higher protein content of the white will mean it cooks through more quickly, so it may take some practice to get right. (With ostrich eggs, you’re on your own.)
As ever, if you keep your eggs in the fridge, then you should let them come to room temperature before cooking – if you start with a cold egg, then you’re more likely to end up overcooking the yolk trying to get the white to set. Very fresh eggs are best for frying, because the stronger proteins will give you a neater shape (this may sound obvious, but older eggs are better for things like boiling, because they’re easier to peel).
The cooking fat
Delia Smith recipe fried egg. Photograph: Felicity Cloake
Frying obviously involves adding fat – that’s why it’s so popular. Bacon fat is the traditional choice in this country, and still advocated by Delia, but very few of us eat enough of the stuff to have any around: I often use it if I’m doing eggs and bacon for breakfast, but although the flavour’s good, it does make for a messy looking egg. Delia also suggests substituting groundnut oil, which creates the opposite problem – it’s clean, certainly, but deliberately neutral tastewise.
More popular are olive oil, as favoured by Jamie Oliver, the aforementioned Andrés, and American food writer David Rosengarten (“the unaccustomed marriage of fruity olive oil flavor with creamy egg defines anew the upper limits of fried-egg excitement”), and butter, beloved of Point, his culinary disciple Bernard Loiseau, and Cook’s Illustrated, among others.
Both lend their distinctive flavours to the egg, so it depends what you’re going to be serving the dish with – I’d default to butter, because I think the richness is a better complement for the yolk, but if I were plopping it on top of a pile of morcilla and chickpeas, I might go for olive oil instead. (For a fry up, however, I will brook naught but butter.)
Read more about the fried egg with tips from famous chefs
Marmite or Vegemite, which came first, the chicken or the egg.
In New Zealand I grew up with Marmite, but across the ditch (Tasman Sea) Vegemite reigned supreme. To me Vegemite tasted funny.
The slow spread of Vegemite
Vegemite started as a wartime substitute for Marmite, but it’s now as symbolic of Australia as Sydney Harbour Bridge and the koala. How did this salty spread become so popular?
What’s the link between German U-boats, the beer industry, processed cheese and the Men At Work’s 1983 hit, Down Under?
The answer is, they all played a part in turning Vegemite from a humble yeast spread into an Australian icon. Stop any Aussie on any street, anywhere in the world, and they will have a view on Vegemite – for, or against.
Now, on the eve of its 90th birthday, the first official history has just been published. The Man Who Invented Vegemite is written by Jamie Callister, grandson of the man who created it.
“My grandfather Cyril created something that all Australians associate with their childhood. It never leaves you,” he says.
Vegemite’s inventor Cyril Callister
The story really begins in the late 19th Century, when an edible by-product was first extracted from the yeast used by brewers to make beer. In 1902, Britain’s Marmite Extract Food Company came into being, taking its name from the French word “marmite”, for large pot.
Marmite was sent around the world, including to Australia. But during World War I, those exports were badly interrupted by German U-boats attacking merchant ships.
“Supplies of Marmite all but dried up, leaving Australians desperate for the spread that many had come to love,” says Callister. “They needed to find an alternative.”
That’s where Cyril Callister comes in.
Born in 1893 in rural Victoria, he was a clever child who went to college and became a chemist. He lived an exciting, unorthodox, life, travelling the world and ending up as a scientist at a munitions factory in Scotland.
After an explosion at the factory, Callister returned to Australia, where he met an entrepreneur called Fred Walker, who was trying to develop a Marmite substitute.
Walker had already seen one local brewer try to come up with its own version of Marmite, called Cubex. But this thick, bitter sludge was a culinary and financial disaster.
Walker put Callister on the case in 1923, and by the end of the year, the pair were confident they had a finished product. Walker decided to launch a competition so the public could name it and claim a £50 prize. Hundreds entered and it was Walker’s daughter Sheila who pulled the word Vegemite out of a hat.
Like the product itself, the name stuck. But sales were sluggish.
Walker had heard about an ingenious Canadian called James Kraft, who had perfected what came to be known as processed cheese. It was a sensation, as it allowed people who couldn’t afford fridges to store cheese for much longer periods.
In 1924, Walker met Kraft in Chicago. The two men got on well and Walker persuaded Kraft to grant him rights to sell his cheeses in Australia.
In a stroke of marketing genius, he offered Vegemite alongside the cheese. By the mid 1930s, Vegemite was, if not quite a runaway success, certainly a moderately well-established family staple. But it took a professor of human physiology to transform its fortunes.
Now, I know what you’re thinking…
You’re not allowed to cook faggots, it’s sexual discrimination.
The days of burning witches, heretics and politicians at the stake are gone, although it’s a pity about the politicians…
Caul Fat, the exterior stomach lining of the pig
Faggots are like meatballs made from meat off-cuts and offal, especially pork. A faggot is traditionally made from pig’s heart, liver and fatty belly meat or bacon minced together, with herbs added for flavouring and sometimes bread crumbs. The meat is shaped in the hand into balls, wrapped with caul fat , and baked.
Traditional fare from Wales and the English Midlands.
Faggots can be made from a variety of meats.
Faggots. Offally good, if you like that sort of thing… picture from PracticallyDaily. Source: Brownhill’s Blog
Not limited to pork and venison (above), but also black pudding…
BLACK PUDDING FAGGOTS AND STOUT GRAVY
A traditional faggot is wrapped in caul fat to hold it together. Increasingly difficult to get hold of, this thin membrane of fat is replaced here by an outer casing of bacon.
Black pudding faggots and chips for lunch, image source: The Telegraph
pork belly 125g
lamb’s liver 250g
black pudding 100g
garlic cloves 2
fresh white breadcrumbs 50g
streaky bacon 12 rashers
stout, or other dark beer 500ml
Set the oven at 180C. Peel and chop the onion. Cut the pork belly up a little and drop it into the bowl of a food processor, then blitz with the onion and lamb’s liver till coarsely chopped. Add the black pudding and blitz very briefly, then tip into a large mixing bowl. Crush the garlic and add it to the meat, together with a generous grinding of salt and white pepper. Mix in the breadcrumbs.
Divide the mixture into six equal amounts. Place them on a work surface and roll loosely into balls. Wrap each with two rashers of bacon, overlapping, around the outside of the meat, leaving the top of each open, then secure each with a couple of cocktail sticks. Transfer carefully to a roasting tin or baking dish.
Pour the stout into the roasting tin and bake for 35-40 minutes, till the tops are lightly crusted. Check the seasoning of the liquor in the pan before serving.
Apparently very stupid.
They can’t tell the difference between this…
A meat pie
Blissful American ignorance has upset a lot of people in Britain, particularly those in Cornwall and Devon.
Check this story