Archives for posts with tag: Jamie Oliver

Salmon

Not a day goes by without a story about what we should or shouldn’t eat and everyone has an opinion about it. I was thinking about the benefits of salmon and avocado yesterday simply because a friend of mine who really eats to live was extolling the virtues and it reminded me that my Mum also swears by these two good-fat-foods. And honestly, whatever my Mum says has to go because anyone who knows her will testify that she genuinely does defy her decades. She looks fab!

I am no nutritionist but I do see what is happening in the food world and there is no doubt that certain foods are gaining in momentum because of their perceived if not actually proven values. And you know when both Jamie Oliver and, shock, horror, Nigella Lawson are going down the healthy route that things must be in the mainstream.

Jamie has not only initiated the fight against sugar, which I have written about before on this blog, but he has also integrated nutritional top tips into his cooking … as well as researching the healthiest places in the world and looking at what they eat. His recent book and series: Everyday Super Food is a lesson in how to make small changes without compromising on the taste and enjoyment of eating. He throws in lots of facts as to why you need to put a squeeze of lemon in your spinach or how a handful of nuts a day can reduce your risk of heart disease by 50% and increase your life expectancy by two years! But the bottom line is that he is making balanced simple food from the best that our earth has to offer. Less meat, more veg, less fat, more fibre, less sugar, more whole fruit. He also puts his own recent weight loss down to more sleep and using more seaweed in his cooking! For his top ten tips, read on here

Nigella is not as overt about the choices she is making but does refer to catering to friends who are gluten free, or just having a feel good meal. Her Simply Nigella: feel good food is not as specific as Jamie but it is absolutely nodding to the different choices that she is clearly making in her eating and ones which strike a cord with increasingly more people who want to choose healthier options without compromising on eating quality.

My ginger, sour cherry and seeded bar

My ginger, sour cherry and seeded bar

We are finding much the same at work. In years gone by, I remember that anything with blueberries at Marks and Spencer was a top seller. It almost didn’t matter what it was: a blueberry yogurt or a blueberry muffin. It was about this superfood and as I left, we were exploring findings from the West coast of the USA where they are ahead of the health curve and talking about weird ingredients like goji berries which at the time were cited as Madonna’s source of eternal youth! Of course now they are pretty normal and we have moved on to other discoveries such as kale, chia seeds and spirulina. The team at work are doing lots with natural sources of sweetness, different seeds and berries, leaves and veggies but everything in the name of good food and it is going down a storm. Today I made my version of their Goodness Bar to have something better for me as a snacking option and it really worked out well.

Mind you, what I find interesting in all of this is the history of it all. The Aztecs seemed to have a lot sussed as early as the 14th century and the South Americans generally have great sources from the rainforest and their land. It is sad to know that our recent fad for quinoa is ruining the lives of the people of Peru as we hoard their core staple in the name of health, driving up the price and making it out of reach for those who have been quietly living on it for centuries.

And as a nice Jewish girl, I hark back to my roots every time I am going down with the sniffles, turning to good old fashioned chicken soup as my remedy. Made to our family recipe it is my go to medicine and it seems that it is now proven to have carnosine which helps the body’s immune system. You can read more about the Science of Chicken Soup here in this New York Times article.

So whilst I am no picture of virtue I am doing pretty well for my own years and maintaining a healthy outlook. That said, I don’t smoke and I don’t drink that much, I need to exercise more and drink more water but I do keep my food healthy and sleep pretty well. My doc seems to think that’s all good in my neck of the woods and that’s all that matters to me.

It’s the little things in life that give me the most pleasure: a smile, a thoughtful touch, a flower in bloom in my garden.

A poppy from my garden

A poppy from my garden

In the restaurant world the equivalent comes under the service banner and in recent weeks there were some touches that really made me stop and think about that. It’s so easy to ruin a great experience and equally easy to make it the best if you have the right attitude to it. As I am working on a new restaurant at the moment it fascinates me to ponder how do you offer the latter each and every time and how do you both recruit and train people to just get it?

A couple of weeks ago I took Dad to a little gastropub I had read about near work: The Plough Inn at Longparish. Chef James Durrant won the prestigious Gastropub Chef of the Year award at this years Top 50 Gastropub Awards and so I fancied trying it, but it was most definitely the service which sealed the deal for me.

We were up against it for time and this did not phase the staff. When my plate of food was going to be ever so slightly late, they deposited a freebie crab salad centre table to make up for it, even though we had barely put our forks in that dish when my ordered plate arrived. But the thing that truly charmed me arrived when the bill came. Yes, there was a lovely plate of home-made fudge, but in addition, to celebrate Father’s Day, they brought a bottle of Tiger beer with a lovely tag just for Dad. How clever. It was so simple and yet so right. It sealed the deal for me and I will most definitely be back.

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Those chefs who have had the experience of time and understand their customers find their own way of exceeding expectations. At Koffmanns the bread comes complete with a little treat to add to the table. Last time I went it was a pissaladiere, but I suspect it is always something that makes the most of what is in the kitchen. And clever Jamie Oliver is never one to miss a customer facing opportunity so he ensures that even whilst queueing for his no-bookings Jamie’s Italian, the line is served with antipasti treats to keep the atmosphere positive. Jamie may be a chef but he is also a great marketer and always one of the people. He gets it so right.

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It is generally the sweets with coffee that are the added extras on a menu. At Restaurant Story they followed the latest trend to serve a mini Tunnock’s teacake, which I am told is also the petit four of choice at Bubbledogs Kitchen Table, Upstairs at the Ten Bells and also the Clove Club. But for the greatest of all, you have to go back to the iconic El Bulli. After our 23 course escapade we could hardly do it justice, but the last menu entry written simply as ‘Chocolate’ was a piece de resistance.

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A smokin’ hot smoker

You gotta love Jamie Oliver. He really is in touch with the food and cultural zeitgeist and reading about his latest idea just underpins my view on this. This week he posted a picture on Instagram of his newly adapted red phone box which is now a working smoker. So triple ticks for him them, tapping into the latest social media route, reflecting the fashion of all things iconically British and promoting a trendy way of preparing food.

Some of my favourite meals lately have included something smoked. Possibly the most surprising was the cigar smoked caramel ice cream which the guys at Chin Chin Laboratorists reckon is the next iteration of the whole salted caramel phenomenon. It was fascinating to taste the new flavour dimension that comes from that smokiness.Other memorable items include most things at Pitt Cue and a truly wonderful kedgeree with home smoked fish from Nikau Cafe in Wellington, New Zealand.

This chef brings new meaning to the whole BBQ method

Top of my list for the ultimate smoked experience is Asador Etxebarri. How could cooking over something as simple as a bespoke wood grill be listed as one of the world’s top 50 restaurants? I need to find out.  Please don’t go there as I want to be able to get a table!

Pop-a-cob: brilliant snack idea

The other thing I discovered this week is ZaraMama’s pop-a-cob. Now, I have always thought that popcorn was a great snack and believed it to be an opportunity for many retailers. In Cape Town, there was a stand-alone popcorn machine in the wonderful Food Lover’s Market but this product takes the whole popcorn thing to a new convenience. You simply put the whole cob in the bag provided and microwave for 2 minutes. As the kernel bursts open it pops off the cob and fills the bag. Genius!!

The bag is in the pack and microwaves perfectly

…and you are left with this!

Not only is this easy to use and a healthy snack but the corn variety is buttery and crisp making it just the best fresh popcorn. I urge you to go buy it and if my word is not good enough, take it from the Jamie Oliver magazine which calls it “one of the best snack ideas of the 21st Century” …. and you know what I think about him!