Tag Archives: Food

Ants in your pans – can I get the bug for eating insects

15 Feb

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Shortly before his Super Bowl performance on Sunday, Justin Timberlake held a listening party for Man of the Woods, his new forest-themed album. As journalists listened to songs about flannel, they were served woodsy canapes, including grasshoppers and fried ants. The caterer was Noma founder René Redzepi, king of the weird and foraged, who had been hauled out of his kitchen – Noma 2 opens this month in Copenhagen – to frighten the music industry.

Does the return of Noma suggest that edible ants are back? Promoted as part of the sustainable-food drive, insects are often discussed, but rarely eaten. Ants suffer particularly short shrift, probably because they are small, bitter and viewed as a novelty for events such as expensive album launches. They contain protein, but in the meritocracy of sustainability they pale in comparison to the I’m a Celebrity classic, the witchetty grub, which is high in protein and vitamin C and tastes like almonds.

The main issue with eating insects has been marketing – a problem that is coupled with a misguided ethnocentric feeling of revulsion at eating something we usually associate with filth and decay. But the idea of eating these leaf-dwellers shouldn’t gross us out – 2 billion people around the world regularly eat insects. So, should I join them?

I ordered a bag of wild black ants from the internet, and got stuck in, first following a cheese biscuit recipe from the website Crunchy Critters, and then adding them to a gin and tonic, as suggested by the chefs at Noma. The bitter, vaguely acrid flavour of the ants took me back to the late 1980s and the construction of my first ant tower. It was a considerable feat of engineering, given that I was four, but one that quickly descended into genocide when I decided to eat the ants. Then, as now, my main takeaways were that ants are sharp and lemony, something that owes, perhaps, to the varying levels of formic acid they contain.

For domestic consumption, you can simply hoover them up from your ruined picnic using a clean car hoover, freeze them, pick out unwanted twigs and dry them on a low heat in the oven. Dried ants are best served dipped in melted chocolate.

Redzepi did not invent the ant-as-snack, but through Noma they have enjoyed a robust if niche success as a garnish. Noma popups from London to Japan have seen ants sprinkled atop creme fraiche, placed on lettuce leaves and seasoning still-moving prawns.

At the listening party, they came doused with a blend of black garlic, rose oil and Timberlake lumbersexuality. Alas, this multisensory experience went largely undocumented, as everyone’s phone had been confiscated.

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Already a place for chefs, bloggers and blaggers

24 Jan

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On entering Roganic, it was clear I needed a new false name for booking tables. “Mitford”, after my beloved Nancy (not her Hitler-loving fruitcake sister Unity) had lasted exactly four critical ambushes before being sussed and spread across hospitality’s intelligence network. Actually, that makes the chef grapevine sound far too chic and diligent. In reality, it’s just chefs lying about at 3am in mildewed underpants screaming, “That bitch!” into WhatsApp group chats.

But I live for this mayhem. I pitched up at Roganic on a Saturday night to find the staff suspiciously alert, with several of them huddled behind reception like the cast of Meerkat Manor sensing a Kalahari thunderstorm. Well played: it’s their job to find stuff like this out, after all. This restaurant, which is both the Second Coming of a much rhapsodised former pop-up and a spin-off of Michelin-bestowed Cumbrian mecca L’Enclume, opened just a month ago. Due to chef/owner Simon Rogan’s rep as a scene leader and striver for high standards, it’s already one of those places that chefs, writers, bloggers, blaggers and miscellaneous food chunterers are expressing vocal intention to visit in 2018. They yearn, they’ll tell you, to experience Rogan’s seaweed custard with caviar, his millet pudding laced with Stichelton and his scallop with gooseberry.

Well, that’s what they’ll say. My industry, like this column, thrives on hot air. My experience of reviewing ornate, long-haul, multi-course, Michelin-teasing, 50 Best-flirting dining is that few people truly want to spend their free time in them. Oh, they claim to, but that’s a lie. It’s not uncommon in any 14-course tasting journey to glance at the gargantuan task ahead and feel a bit like Terry Waite during his extended Lebanese sojourn: your captors are treating you reasonably, but you’d rather be home with a pleasant stew.

Not that Roganic’s staff are not joyous; in fact, they’re so affable, I’d let several of them move into my house. Or that the opening canape of a teensy preserved raspberry tart was not utterly gorgeous: it tasted just like a Robertson’s jam tart. A small, croquettish bundle of pork with eel blobbed with sweet hay cream was a delight, similar to a bunny rabbit version at Fera, Rogan’s previous joint in the capital. That was followed by a neat, palm-sized parcel of pickled kohlrabi stuffed with raw mackerel and wreathed with lovage. All faultless.

Still, after an hour, we still had 10 courses ahead, a task that felt all the more arduous because Blandford Street attracts some of the biggest tosspots in London. It has gorgeous restaurants – Jikoni, Carousel, Trishna and so on – but terrible people painted into a corner of blandness by their own spare cash. This isn’t the eccentric opulence of Chelsea, geed up by Russian and old British money, or Shoreditch, still riding on lost 1990s notions of hipness. This is Marylebone, where rich Harley Street neurologists eat dinner like Trappist monks, then go home to buy Mark Knopfler tickets.

Dinner has highs and lows, but then Rogan’s food is always a deeply subjective experience. It excites and then, minutes later, repulses. Perhaps that’s the point. A ramekin filled with an inch of cold, set seaweed custard appears. What fresh hell? But then a plate of salt-baked celeriac with spindly enoki mushrooms in puddles of whey is fantastic. (I spend the next day researching enoki, and conclude that celeriac with enoki should be on every vegan menu by 2019.) A porridge of millet thick with blue cheese and a clump of bone marrow comes in a mercifully tiny portion. But a small plate of butter-poached halibut with brassicas turns out to be quite wonderful.

Oddly for someone who lacks a sweet tooth, puddings were the stars of the show for me. A mini caramelised douglas fir tarte tatin was a bewildering work of apple architecture: what felt like a million tiny, dainty slivers somehow arranged into a coherent, edible artwork. A notably unpretty gathering of burnt milk ice-cream with a jus of blackcurrant resembled something unsightly that you might find on a pavement, but had us in raptures over its depth of fruity sweetness. It felt churlish to eat it, rather than put it in a glass box and charge a fee to behold it.

Can I cook like … Henry VIII

20 Dec

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Act like a king, get treated like a king: that’s one of the eyebrow-raising claims made in Robert Greene’s 1998 self-help book, The 48 Laws of Power. I’ve got my eyes on a pay rise, so I thought that eating like a king might help. And who could be more kingly than Henry VIII?

In the Tudor era, high society ate a great deal of meat – game, for the most part – and fruit. I hit two immediate snags: the first, as anyone reading this with even a basic knowledge of where their food comes from could tell me, is that there is a game season and February doesn’t fall in it. (Apparently, you have to give the pheasants a break from being shot at, so they can go away, get counseling and have babies for you to shoot at next year.)
Can I cook like … Andy Warhol?
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Henry VIII got around this by having vast storerooms in which they hung meat in the winter months. I have a freezer but – while I have a surprisingly large number of strange things in there that I have either forgotten to label or that I have given labels so broad as to be useless (“leftovers” is the helpful message on one container) – there is no game. Fortunately, my local butcher procures me a pheasant.

But then I hit another roadblock: the bottom drawer of my oven commits suicide, leaving me with only the small top drawer. This, again, wasn’t a problem that Henry had to grapple with, because he had a number of roaring fireplaces to choose from and the actual cooking was someone else’s problem.

I invent a new dish: squashed roast pheasant. What you do is you take a pheasant that is slightly too large for your only working oven and, after drenching it in fizzy wine and butter to prevent it drying out, press it flat until it fits. Take it out every half- hour or so to apply more wine and keep it moist. I serve mine with fruit and grapes, Tudor-style, avoiding vegetables, because Tudor nobles regarded them as incredibly lower-class and also because my oven is broken.

The resulting meal is not at all bad, but I cannot imagine being willing to go to that much effort when a simple joint of roast beef is just as good and a hell of a lot easier. The problem with eating like a king, I realise, is that you have to be willing to cook like a serf.

Why restaurants want you to order food on your phone

22 Nov

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An order placed by an app is shown on the screen Sept. 12, 2016, at the Eastman Egg restaurant at Ogilvie Transportation Center in Chicago. Eastman’s app technology allows a customer to order at any time and the food is prepared only when the customer gets close to the restaurant. (Jose M. Osorio / Chicago Tribune)

The ability to order food with the click of a few buttons on a smartphone is becoming widespread — even fast-food companies are getting in on the action. But the technology — which in some cases tracks a customer’s location and times food preparation accordingly — can vary widely. And restaurants admit that some customers are still wary about the freshness of their food when ordering ahead..

“I think some users assume (their food) would be sitting on that counter for them because that’s how most in the industry do it,” said Eastman Egg founder and CEO Hunter Swartz, who focused on a mobile app as a cornerstone of the Chicago restaurant’s development. “As much as we had to educate the public about our food, there’s been just as much education for the app.”

Mobile ordering is becoming a critical piece of many restaurants’ plans because of what it can bring in improved sales. Customers spend more and visit more often, on average, when they’re using a phone to order their food.

The first restaurants to make mobile a big part of their business were the ones that rely heavily on delivery: pizza makers. At Domino’s, you can order just by texting an emoji of pizza or opening their app; no clicking required. Pizza Hut and Papa John’s have made big advances, too, and all three credit about half their sales to mobile orders.

Few restaurants are as far along as the delivery operators, but many have advanced their own apps by leaps and bounds to capture more customers on the go.

Starbucks launched mobile pay through its app a year ago, and it now accounts for about 5 percent of sales, Chief Financial Officer Scott Maw said at a conference last week. That jumps to 20 percent of transactions at peak times at several hundred of its urban stores. It expects that number to accelerate quickly in the near future, as customers get more comfortable with the technology. A quarter of Starbucks’ customer payments already are made with its smartphone app.

Maw also said Starbucks’ app eventually will be able to use weather data to market different food and drink items to customers, like a pumpkin spice latte on a chilly October day.

In June, Dunkin’ Donuts debuted mobile ordering nationwide and Chick-fil-A launched a new app with mobile ordering capabilities. Taco Bell has had mobile ordering capabilities on its app since 2014, but sister company KFC doesn’t offer it. McDonald’s, the world’s largest burger chain, has been testing its own mobile ordering system since the spring and has said that digital initiatives are a big priority in the near future.

Among fast-food restaurants, the frequency of customer visits increases by 6 percent and average spending per visit rises by about 20 percent when technology is used to place an order, according to a Deloitte survey released this week. Visits tend to increase because technology makes it easier to repeat an order automatically, while repeat orders of custom or upgraded drinks lead to increased sales.

In addition to an expected sales boost, the data collected from mobile ordering apps can shine light on the makeup of customers.

Rio’s favelas to Brighton’s North Laine: the entrepreneurs tackling food waste

20 Aug

Situated in the run-down district of Lapa, Rio de Janeiro, Refettorio Gastromotiva is the latest venture from three Michelin-starred Italian chef Massimo Bottura, who has partnered with a social enterprise which trains chefs from disadvantaged neighbourhoods across Brazil.

The restaurant, which opened on 9 August, uses surplus food from the Olympic village to feed hungry locals, aided by a collection of superstar chefs. It’s one of a collection of social businesses across the world that are trying to tackle the food waste problem and change attitudes to waste.

The latest statistics paint a bleak picture. A third of all food produced – 1.3bn tonnes – is wasted every year, while 795 million people do not have enough to eat. Nearly half of this waste comes from homes, with the remainder from food production, food retailers and the hospitality sector.

Refettorio Gastromotiva will follow a similar business model to Bottura’s first project, Refettorio Ambrosiano, which launched last year. Ambrosiano provides paid lunches to the public in order to provide free evening meals to local homeless shelters, using donated food from Milan agricultural market and a network of supermarkets, restaurants and schools. So far it has saved 30 tonnes of food and provided 23,000 meals.

Post-Olympics, Refettorio Gastromotiva will do the same. Opening once a week initially, it will use donated waste food from a supermarket chain, fruit and vegetable wholesaler and local organic farmer to cook paid-for lunches, allowing it to provide 70 free evening meals for vulnerable Lapa residents. The kitchen will be staffed by graduates from the social enterprise Gastromotiva’s chef training scheme, who come from some of Rio’s most underprivileged communities.

Attempting to tackle the issue of food waste from the opposite direction, Silo in Brighton was billed as the first “zero-waste” restaurant in the UK and is primarily concerned with designing out food waste.

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A meal served up at Silo Restaurant, Brighton. Photograph: Karen Robinson for the Observer

With a carefully planned, seasonal menu along with a root-to-tip, nose-to-tail ethos of using every available part of each ingredient, sometimes more than once, what’s left over is poured into the hi-tech composter in the corner of the restaurant, which churns out compost that is distributed to suppliers and locals, as well as used by the restaurant to grow its own mushrooms.

Tom Hunt’s Poco cafe bars in London and Bristol also take a zero-waste approach, weighing all of the food waste produced. The Bristol restaurant creates just 20.83kg of food waste a day, equating to around 0.2kg per diner, less than half that produced by the average restaurant diner according to the Sustainable Restaurant Association.

These kind of ventures are changing perceptions of food waste, says Tom Tanner from the Sustainable Restaurant Association: “Consumers have started to see [food waste] as socially and morally inexcusable and economically, businesses can see that it no longer makes sense.” With the global value of wasted food estimated to be $1tn, there is a financial opportunity.

It’s not just restaurants that are involved. Toast Ale, created by Tristram Stuart, food waste activist and founder of food waste charity Feedback, aims to turn some of this waste back into a product that can be sold. Made using one slice of surplus bread per bottle, the 32,000 bottles of ale brewed since launching in January have saved over a tonne of bread.

“In addition to using surplus, we are also raising awareness,” says Zane. “In the UK, 44% of bread produced is never eaten. To solve this, all we need to do is eat (or drink) it.” Toast Ale’s bread is donated by bakeries and sandwich manufacturers who would otherwise have to pay to dispose of the waste. There are plans to expand production to Yorkshire, Cornwall, Bristol, New York and Iceland.

How About Stewed Conch ?

15 Dec

The word Bahamas is attributed to the Spanish “baja mar,” or under the sea. Accordingly, seafood was a prominent factor in this meal. Amazing we got through eleven meals before cooking fresh treats from the ocean. And by all accounts, the seafood that defines Bahamian cuisine is the conch — pronounced conk. To find this and other ingredients such as sour orange, I biked up to south Williamsburg and to the inimitable Food Bazaar. Aside from bird peppers and fresh guava, I found everything I needed, and even then I found acceptable substitutes in scotch bonnet peppers and frozen guava paste. I don’t think I managed to get as much meat as I should have, the one pound of crawfish yielded at most two ounces of crawfish tails, and given that the recipe calls for two tails, I’m pretty sure that the crawfish they get in the Bahamas are much bigger. Anyway, it was tasty and tangy and spicy and a great start into the meal.

For a country so small, what a doozy it turned out to be. As it turns out, Brussels is nothing like Nassau, and ingredients that are commonplace in the latter are well nigh impossible to find in the former. After much careful substitution, reading and strategising, I bring you my unique twist on a classic Bahamian dish: deep-fried conch. Queen conch is classified, in many parts of the Caribbean, as an endangered species. You’re not allowed to catch it anywhere in the United States, and its export is prohibited in the Cayman islands and quite a few other places. This is probably one of the reasons that I was unable to find conch anywhere in Brussels, much to my disappointment. On the other hand, I did manage to find whelks, a fellow marine gastropod (that’s sea snail to you and me). Whelks used to be fairly commonly eaten in the UK, Belgium, and France, although they’ve fallen out of favour in recent decades.

I’d certainly never eaten them, and wouldn’t have thought to give them a try otherwise. Having heard how similar they are to conch (although apparently slightly fishier, tougher and less sweet), I felt compelled to make turn Bahamian cracked conch into cracked whelk instead. The batter is light, crispy and flavourful. But whelks are definitely an acquired taste – it smells really strongly of fish, and tastes briny. It is also quite chewy, so you really need to pound it with that mallet. It actually tastes like a fishier version of deep-fried oysters, which can be very good indeed. If I had to make it again, I think I’d make it with calamari or another slightly subtler seafood. A conch can live up to 25 years ,different from human,others animal love conch also like stingrays ,but the question is many people ask how to get a conch out of its shell? All u need is a hatchet to put a hole at the top of the shell,an u take a knife insets it in the hole,an u push the conch out,an then u see the beauty of the conch,nice an tender meat,an one amazing fact is that a conch don’t have no bone,its all muscle an a delicacy food.

Sea Food Good is for Health?

12 Oct

A lot of nutrients are present in sea foods. So, some experts argue that sea food can help to decrease the risk of heart problems. Eating seafood two times a week is great for the heart according to the Institute of Medicine in Washington, US. According to the Institute, the types of fishes that should be eaten are shellfishes.

For human health, omega-3 fatty acids are necessary but it cannot be formed by the body. So, omega-3 fatty acids must be obtained from food. Omega-3 fatty acids are present in fish and seafood. Oily seafood such as salmon, trout, mackerel, sardines, herring, tuna, anchovies, tiger prawns and blue mussels are excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids.

Studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids may be helpful to treat a variety of diseases. Mainly, it is helpful to treat heart disease and problems that contribute to heart disease. However, it is also advantageous for people who suffer from high cholesterol, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, arthritis and osteoporosis.

Some people approve seafood as it supplies nutrition and protein that’s essential for the body while several other people disapprove it. In most of fishes, toxic mercury level is so high which is the most potent argument against seafood utilization. It is also pointed out by experts that some fishes like tuna, and swordfish etc. has more mercury level than other varieties. According to the US Food and Drug Administration and Environmental Protection Agency, women and young kids must not consume too much of swordfish, mackerel and shark.

Specific instructions are provided by health experts and dieticians for pregnant women. Cognitive defects in the fetus and kids can be produced by eating too much of sea food that contain a high level of mercury. A harmful agent, methyl mercury is found in larger variety of fishes like shark which is also known to cause delay in the development of growing children. On the other hand, adults stand the risk of experiencing heart problems, kidney and nervous system functions.

Due to its so many risks, eating of sea food is safe or not? According to experts, it might be safe to eat aquatic food preparations or seafood, but with some restraint. Also, the amount of utilization based on the physical condition of a certain person.