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General Mills Sounds Inflation Alarm for Food Industry

18 Apr

Packaged-food companies already are struggling to respond to a shift in consumer preferences toward healthier, simpler foods. Now they also have to contend with higher input prices.

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General Mills GIS -8.85% shares fell nearly 9% Wednesday after the company lowered operating-profit guidance for its full fiscal year ending in May. The maker of Cheerios cereal, Yoplait yogurt and Progresso soups now forecasts adjusted earnings-per-share growth of zero to 1% for the period, down from its earlier guidance of 3% to 4% growth.

The company cited higher commodity prices—including grains, nuts and dairy—as well as rising logistics and freight costs. On a conference call, management was contrite for not catching the trend of accelerating inflation earlier, and it outlined plans to respond by cutting costs, reconfiguring logistics networks and raising some prices.

But analysts on the call voiced skepticism that General Mills has room to pass higher costs on to consumers in the current tough environment. Among other factors, discount grocery chains are taking market share and pressuring suppliers to keep prices low. Shoppers also are increasingly willing and able to compare prices online. During a previous bout of commodity price inflation a decade ago, companies like General Mills raised prices stealthily by shrinking package sizes, but this approach has inherent limits.

While sounding pessimistic on costs, General Mills talked up its sales performance. Having shrunk for several quarters, organic net sales growth turned modestly positive over the past two quarters. This was aided by new products like Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheerios. But this success shouldn’t be exaggerated. The company’s guidance for the full fiscal year is still for flat organic net sales.

The acquisition of natural pet-food maker Blue Buffalo Pet Products will help flatter overall sales growth in future quarters. It won’t do much to aid cost efficiency, though, since pet food is a new product segment with few expense synergies.

Shares of rival packaged-food companies fell along with General Mills Wednesday, with Campbell Soup down by 2.2% and Kellogg falling 4%. For investors, weak sales and rising costs make for an unappetizing mix.

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The flu-fighters martini

22 Feb

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This alcohol-free bug-buster is the perfect tipple for cold evenings, and a great one to get you through the last weekend of dry January.

Serves 1

80ml coconut water (preferably raw)
50ml fresh orange juice
15ml fresh lemon juice
15ml fresh lime juice
20ml elderflower cordial (organic, for preference)
20ml pure aloe vera juice
1 thumbnail-sized piece root ginger, peeled, plus 1 slice extra to garnish
1cm-wide slice large red chilli

Put everything in a blender, blitz smooth, then pass through a sieve (it’s fine unsieved, but the drink will then be spicier because of all the little chilli flecks through it).

Put a handful of ice in a shaker, add the blitzed mix and shake hard. Pour into a chilled martini glass and garnish with a slice of fresh ginger.

Recipe for a potato and porcini bake

18 Jan

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Having spent three days ill in bed, putting three potatoes into the oven felt like quite an achievement. As did the scent that filled the flat with a kind of “husky wellbeing”, even though I felt far from it. You have to marvel at the transformation of baked potatoes, and with so little effort: from cool hardness to edible, a chewy jacket and soft insides.

Every time baked potatoes are cut open with a puff of steam, a discussion takes place in our house: that of olive oil versus butter, as if we were defending our own garden. My partner Vincenzo is for olive oil, the deep-green elixir that we buy from a Sicilian friend called Pina in tin cans the size of a toddler, our biggest expense and kitchen fuel. I am not saying he is wrong. I am right, though, in believing that, when it comes to a baked potato, a slice of butter mashed into the already buttery flesh is best. Salt and pepper on top. I can measure my life in baked potatoes and still eat them in exactly the way I did as a child, the ritualistic mashing and scooping motion, the extra butter slid into the empty skin, the final pinch to close it, like a taco.

Recovering appetites are cautious and specific, and the following day it is potatoes again: patate al latte e burro, a northern-Italian dish in which three dependable ingredients work some magic together in a sort of stove-top dauphinoise. There is something tender about the whole process here: the purity of colour, the nurturing associations, the way the milk is assimilated by the other ingredients like a kid gulping a glassful (although I was never that kid). Milk rounds the edges of whatever it is cooking, be that rice, pasta, fish or potatoes, leaving just enough creamy sauce to feel like a luxury. Always on the lookout for similarities, I appreciate the way both English and Italian recipes pair nutmeg with such dishes, its simultaneously spiced and fresh flavour cutting through the lactic sensibleness like a naughty joke. The porcini are my addition.

The recipe: soak 20g dried porcini in 150ml warm water for 20 minutes, then drain, saving the liquid. Peel 800g potatoes – ideally more waxy than floury, not too large and evenly sized – then slice into 5mm-thick rounds. Peel and cut two sweet white onions or a bunch of spring onions. In a deep frying pan over a medium flame, warm three tablespoons of olive oil, add the onion and a tiny pinch of salt, stir and cook for a few minutes. Cover the onion with a layer of potatoes, then the porcini, then another layer of potatoes. Sprinkle with salt, black pepper and nutmeg, then cover with whole milk and some of the porcini soaking liquid and bring to a steady simmer for 15 minutes. Dot with 40g butter in nuggets, then lower the heat and cook until the potatoes are tender and bathed in a creamy sauce; keep an eye because, towards the end, that sauce evaporates with disconcerting speed.

Scatter with chopped parsley, and not just for colour: its bright, grassy flavour is welcome, too. Let the pan sit for a few minutes before serving with a crisp salad or smoked fish, grilled bacon or a fried egg, or both: a combination that proves – to steal a line from food writer Niki Segnit – you don’t need to be an oligarch to eat like a king.

Recipe for scones with green kiwi fruit jam

20 Dec

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The humble kiwi fruit occupies an unfairly neglected position in the minds of most home cooks. Before a 20th-century rebranding by savvy New Zealand farmers, it was known as the Chinese gooseberry, but beyond the tartness of flavour and the acid-green flesh, the comparison to gooseberries might seem a bit far-fetched. Once cooked down into a jam, however, the taste is uncannily familiar. Perfect for a batch of scones fresh from the oven.

This is one of the easiest jams I’ve ever made. I’d usually rely on my trusty kitchen thermometer to reassure me that it has reached the correct temperature to set properly, but that’s currently out of action, so I had to rely on more traditional methods instead. The combination of fruits are so full of pectin (responsible for the jelly-ish consistency of jam) that it’s virtually impossible to undercook. Your efforts will be rewarded with a deliciously tart jam, speckled attractively with little black seeds.

Afternoon scones with green jam
For the green jam
Prep 10 min
Cook 10 min
Makes 1 jar

6 kiwis
2 granny smith apples, peeled, cored and grated
Juice of 2 limes
250g caster or granulated sugar

For the scones
Prep 10 min
Cook 12 min
Makes 10 scones

200g plain flour
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
40g caster sugar
60g cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
100g natural yoghurt
50g dried currants
1 egg, to glaze (optional)

Peel the kiwis, trim the ends, then quarter lengthways. Remove the white inner flesh along the spine of each quarter and put the fruit in a saucepan.

Add the grated apple, lime juice and sugar, and cook on a medium heat, giving it a brief stir every now and then, so the sugar is evenly distributed. Leave to bubble away for a couple of minutes, then use a potato masher to break up the fruit.

Cook the jam for another five minutes or so. Knowing when it’s done is more a question of consistency than exact timings: once properly cooked, it should have lost most of its water and traded its initial vivid green for a more muted tone. If it has started to brown slightly, it’s just starting to pass the perfect set point, so take off the heat immediately and pour into a sterilised jar. (Or use the cold plate test: spoon a little of the mix on to to to a plate – it should cool rapidly, and allow you to assess the texture; you’re aiming for something thickened and spreadable.)

For the scones, preheat the oven to 200C/390F/gas mark 6. Sieve the flour, salt, bicarb and sugar into a bowl, then add the butter and rub in until there are no big lumps left.

Spoon in the yoghurt. Cut it through the mix with a blunt dinner knife: the aim is to disperse it evenly without doing any heavy-handed overmixing of the dough (to avoid lumpy, tough scones). Scatter in the currants, then give the mix a very brief knead to form it into a dough.

Lightly flour a worktop and a rolling pin. Roll out the dough into a 2.5cm-thick disc. Use a 5cm round cookie cutter to cCut out the scones and lay these on a baking sheet lined with greaseproof paper. Gather the offcuts, roll out and cut again until all the dough has been used up.

Lightly brush the tops of the scones with beaten egg (if using), then bake for 12 minutes, until the tops are a rich, nutty brown.

Zoe Adjonyoh’s corned beef stew

22 Jun

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This recipe brings back so many memories of childhood. It’s such simple and economical fare and yet so good for the soul. Don’t be put off by the idea of using canned corned beef; you can buy corned beef from the butcher, but the canned variety is just so handy. My mum also loved this one because it was dinner done and dusted in 20 minutes.

(Serves 4)

For the chalé sauce
600g tinned chopped tomatoes or 375g fresh tomatoes
45g (3 tsp) tomato purée
1½ onions, roughly chopped
7½cm piece fresh root ginger, grated (unpeeled if organic)
1 or 2 red scotch bonnet chillis, deseeded
1½ tbsp dried chilli flakes
1½ tsp sea salt
4 garlic cloves (optional)

For the stew
2 tbsp rapeseed oil or sunflower oil
1 onion, diced
1 tsp extra-hot chilli powder
1 tsp curry powder
350g tinned corned beef
2 carrots, peeled (if not organic) and diced
75g peas
4 soft-boiled eggs

Make the chalé sauce by putting ingredients into a food processor and whizzing until you have a smooth paste.

For the stew, heat the oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan, add the onion, chilli powder and curry powder, and sauté over a medium heat for a few minutes. Stir in the chalé sauce.

Divide the corned beef into four equal pieces (which avoids arguments over portions later), or break it up into the sauce, then add the carrots and peas. Leave to simmer for 15–20 minutes. You may find that the sauce starts to dry out, so add a little water if necessary.

Peel the boiled eggs and slice in half, then add to the stew. Cook for a further five minutes.

Serve with boiled yams and plantain or rice – either way, it will vanish in no time.

Six of the best rice bowl recipes

20 May

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For each recipe, you need 400g Japanese white rice, cooked by the absorption method: rinse the rice until the water runs clear, put in a saucepan with 520ml water, then cover with a lid and bring to a boil on a high heat. Listen to check that it’s boiling – do not remove the lid – then reduce the heat to low and simmer for five minutes, until the water has been absorbed. Remove the pan from the heat and let sit, still covered, for 10 minutes. After the 10 minutes is up, gently stir up the rice and serve with your chosen recipe.

Beef, onion and sweet soy
Gyudon – a humble bowl of beef on rice – is a bit like Japan’s answer to a burger. Cooking off the onions releases an irresistible “hotdog stand” aroma, so it’s comforting even before you tuck in. Sweet and beefy and savoury and satisfying.

Prep 30 min
Cook 15 min
Serves 4

500g skirt, hanger or flank steak (or any other cheap and fairly lean cut)
2 tbsp oil
4 small onions, peeled and thinly sliced
2cm piece ginger, peeled and finely julienned
100ml soy sauce
100ml mirin
50g dark brown sugar
150ml beef stock
2 spring onions, sliced
40-50g red pickled ginger
Toasted sesame seeds

Put the beef in the freezer for 30 minutes to firm up, then cut against the grain into very thin strips.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium flame, then add the onions and sweat, stirring, until they are soft and brown, about 10 minutes. Add the ginger and cook for a few minutes, to soften.

Add the soy, mirin, sugar and stock, and cook until the sauce has reduced to a syrupy consistency – about 10 minutes. Stir the beef through the sauce, and cook together for just a few more minutes, until the beef is no longer pink.

Scoop the rice into deep bowls, top with the beef mixture, and garnish with spring onions, pickled ginger and sesame seeds.

Chicken and egg
This comforting recipe has a name (oyakodon) that is kind of cute and kind of disturbing if you translate it directly: “parent-and-child” rice bowl. Which, I suppose, is a little more poetic than chicken and egg. Whatever you call it, it’s very delicious. This doesn’t traditionally contain butter or mushrooms, but I find the combination of butter, eggs, mushrooms and sweet soy irresistible.

Prep 10 min
Cook 20 min
Serves 4

80g butter
2 onions, peeled and thinly sliced
4 boned and skinned chicken thighs, cut into bite-size pieces
100g shiitake mushrooms, destemmed and thinly sliced
200ml chicken stock
3 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp mirin
1 tbsp sugar
8 eggs
2 spring onions, thinly sliced
1 pinch chilli powder
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Melt the butter in a large frying pan over medium heat, then add the onions and cook until they soften and brown – about 10 minutes.

Add the chicken and mushrooms, and cook for another five to 10 minutes, until these brown as well.

Pour in the stock, soy, mirin and sugar, and cook for 10 minutes, or until the liquid reduces and coats the chicken.

Lower the heat and crack in the eggs. Break the yolks and stir gently. When cooked to a semi-scrambled consistency, take off the heat.

Scoop the rice into deep bowls, top with the chicken and egg mixture, and garnish with spring onions and chilli powder.

5 Delicious Valentine Cake Recipes To Impress Your Loved One

18 Apr

valentine-cakeIt’s the season to make merry again. This coming week, the world would be gearing up to celebrate the Valentine’s day. Valentine’s day is celebrated in honour of Saint Valentine, the Christian priest of 3rd century Rome, who played a major role in uniting lovers in his time. Movies, media and popular culture have made the day special for many couples of this generation who go an extra mile to let their loved one know of their deep affection. Cards, candlelight dinners, gifts and poetry; there are multiple ways in which you can express your love, but we believe there is nothing that can beat a valentine cake, baked with all the love and care. This Valentine’s day, surprise your partner by baking these delicious cakes and see them grin eye to eye.

Here are 5 lip-smacking cake recipes for Valentine’s day 2018:

1. Chocolate Mug Cake
Don’t have the time to go through the entire baking drill? No worries, we’ve got you covered. This quick and decadent chocolate mug cake can be prepared in a microwave in just 5 minutes. This rich and lush chocolate valentine cake is one indulgent treat your partner is sure to love.

2. Eggless Date Cake
An unbelievably tender cake made with the goodness of dates, milk and almonds. Vegetarians take note as this culinary wonder is eggless too. Pair this special valentine cake with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream and enjoy the day with your loved one.

3. Strawberry Cheesecake
Pureed strawberries and rich hung curd are a match made in heaven just like you and your partner. Whip up this velvety soft delight in the comforts of your kitchen with this simple recipe. The decadent delight is a treat to the eyes and the palate as well.

4. Coffee Walnut cake
The beautiful bitter essence of coffee teamed with the nutty goodness of walnuts makes for a sensational pair that has had us rooting for it, since time immemorial. The tempting treat also breaks the monotony of the regular sugary and chocolaty goods that do the rounds during the V-day
celebrations.

5. Eggless Truffle cake
This moist and spongy delight layered with creamy and lip-smacking chocolate ganache is a classic that can never go out of fashion. To this valentine’s day and many more to come, we are laying our bets on chocolate truffle cake as one of our favourite valentine cakes!