British Food And Current Trends

* by Naomi Powell

How very reassuring it is that the basic humble foods of childhood and indeed often of economic necessity have been making a comeback onto the dining menus even into top society restaurants, though often at not too humble a price.  And how refreshing it is that the humble and recognisable cauliflower cheese, shepherd’s pie and macaroni cheese, to name but a few, are making a comeback as quality sophisticated dishes with simple accompaniments, and hopefully, described plainly on menus by their original specific names.  They appear to be indicators perhaps, of a move away from the elaborate, competitive cuisine of the celebrity-chef schools.

It is thanks in part to the street food markets that these newly exploited food trends are now making a come-back and the simple comfort foods of yester year have now again become an acceptable and healthy food option in many and varied food outlets.

I for one am delighted with this change of direction, since I grew-up with the comforts of uncomplicated food, instantly recognisable by its humble appearance.  It needed no fancy title, or gentrification to make it appetising and memorable.  Oh for the simple meal which is what it claims to be; cauliflower cheese needs little introduction.  A pie was always a joy, as the contents were lovingly revealed.  The new ‘deconstructed’ creation fails to hold the mystery of its predecessor, although it offers an attractive, flavoursome and satisfying menu option.

The food outlets advertising ‘Home Cooked Food’, tend to invite the expectation and assumption that British food forms the basis of the menu and many potential diners would, like me, seek out such an option.  The best of British food is to be applauded and is for me ‘The Best.’  It recognises the quality of British meat, poultry, and fish, the vast selection of home grown vegetables and the specific value of individual herbs and flavourings.  If prepared to traditional British recipes, our national food is exceptional and reinforces the value of tried and tested flavours and accompaniments.

i.e.

horse-radish and mustard with beef.

apple sauce and red currant with pork, and

mint with lamb.  Etc.

The modern and growing trend to add strong and often quite inappropriate flavours to simple food/dishes is not only unnecessary, but in my opinion, a sin.  Garlic is the worst culprit and much over used in so many restaurants.

I was utterly frustrated and not a little critical of this lack of subtlety when, having selected what appeared to be a really well thought through and appealing main dish – built around rack of lamb – arrived and I could instantly detect a heavy waft of garlic; and was horrified to realise that it came from the lamb on my plate.  There had been no mention of garlic on the menu.  The chefs had taken the liberty of disguising the lovely delicate flavour of English lamb with an over powerful dose of continental flavour.  I complained and sent it back, only to have to re-order, but the waft of garlic still hung in the air and completely ruined what had started out as a promising evening meal.

Another striking food fad, but much more worrying, is the annoying present tendency to serve very undercooked meat.  Not only is it mostly unpalatable, but looks distinctly unappetising, with uncooked white fat and oozing blood.  Undercooked egg look equally unpleasant, and without any apology I add these culinary crimes to my list of frustrations.  British food can be the best when properly cooked, but can be dreadful when not.

I can’t clearly define when food and menus began to be ‘gentrified’ and often unrecognisable, but the trend has gradually crept into our modern food-obsessed lifestyle and become well established.

Complex food technology and artful preparation have possibly encouraged some of the more elaborate and often misleading meal descriptions.

Very often unsuitable and over-fussy vegetable accompaniments produce unnecessary and confusing flavour combinations. This of course can encourage disappointment and dissatisfaction with the meal however well presented. Understanding the menu therefore, can present a challenge and for me, total frustration – which was the very starting point of my book ‘Taking the Mystery out of the Menu.’

One only has to watch Master Chef to realise that until the finished meal is actually presented, it is often difficult to perceive what is being cooked-up, or indeed what it will look like on the plate.  Even then the complexity of presentation often needs masterful explanation.  I applaud quality cuisine, artistic presentation and superior flavours, but I am exasperated when something quite simple is described beyond its merits.

So, listen up chiefs: There are plenty of people out there like me, who love eating out.  They enjoy personal service and exciting menus, but also need a clear idea of what you are offering, what the main ingredients are and the flavours to be expected.  Be creative and adventurous but simplicity very often steals the show, and leads to greater satisfaction!

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The post above is a guest post by Naomi Powell, author of Taking the Mystery out of the Menu, as a part of her week-long book tour.

Tarator – Chilled Cucumber Soup

Super tasty and extremely refreshing, this cold cucumber soup is the perfect dish to cool you down during those hot summer days.

Super tasty and extremely refreshing, this cold cucumber soup is the perfect dish to cool you down during those hot summer days. Tarator is a traditional Bulgarian summer soup, which can be found on the menu of many restaurants and diners. It’s actually a chilled soup, though some people prefer to call it a liquid salad, which really does work well on the pallet. The soup is very easy to prepare and it can be on the table within minutes… Tarator is a traditional Bulgarian summer soup, which can be found on the menu of many restaurants and diners.  It’s actually a chilled soup, though some people prefer to call it a liquid salad, which really does work well on the pallet. The soup is very easy to prepare and it can be on the table within minutes…

Personally I was avoiding this dish for quite some time now, the idea of a yogurt soup simply didn’t appeal to me very much, but then came that moment when visiting friends and I was cornered with no escape, the dish sat before me on the table coaxing me to try and surrounded by expectant faces waiting to see my reaction to eating it. To everyone’s joy, there was no screwed up face just wide eyes and that feeling of hmmm… more… now I’ve tried it, there is just no going back… it is definitely staying on the regular “go to” menu in our household.

One thing to have in mind, the longer you leave it in the fridge, the more intense the flavours…

The recipe below is for quite a large portion but we usually keep it in the fridge for up to a week, as the intensifying of the flavours works for us rather well, and it’s wonderful to be able to just open the fridge and grab a bowlful when you want a snack or a starter. If you think it’s going to make way too much for you or you just want to try and see if it’s for you simply halve the ingredients and prepare a smaller serving.

Ingredients:

  • 800ml Greek yogurt
  • 400ml filtered chilled water
  • 4 large garlic cloves; minced
  • 1kg cucumbers
  • 1 bunch of fresh dill; finely chopped
  • 2tsp salt
  • 1/2tsp black pepper (optional)
  • Ice cubes – for serving (optional)

Super tasty and extremely refreshing, this cold cucumber soup is the perfect dish to cool you down during those hot summer days. Tarator is a traditional Bulgarian summer soup, which can be found on the menu of many restaurants and diners. It’s actually a chilled soup, though some people prefer to call it a liquid salad, which really does work well on the pallet. The soup is very easy to prepare and it can be on the table within minutes…

Method:

Wash the cucumbers (do not peel) then grate half of them; the remaining half chop into cubes. Place them in a large bowl and add the salt – let them rest like this for at least 5 minutes so they can start to absorb some of the salt.

In the meantime, mince the garlic and finely chop the dill and add to the cucumber mix.

Add the yogurt and water to your cucumbers, season with fresh cracked pepper and mix well.

Serve well chilled or even better over some ice and enjoy the cool sensation.

See, told you it was easy, now go and enjoy!

Super tasty and extremely refreshing, this cold cucumber soup is the perfect dish to cool you down during those hot summer days. Tarator is a traditional Bulgarian summer soup, which can be found on the menu of many restaurants and diners. It’s actually a chilled soup, though some people prefer to call it a liquid salad, which really does work well on the pallet. The soup is very easy to prepare and it can be on the table within minutes…

I Love India – Homemade Lassi and Falooda

This classic sweet and salty mint lassi is very popular in the northern Punjab, where field workers use it to replenish their bodies with both salt and sugar whilst refreshing and cooling themselves with the buttermilk, mint and cumin seeds. Easier to digest than milk and yogurt, buttermilk is considered a light and healthy way to get your dairy, but now most of us just blend yogurt and water together until we have a light frothy lassi.

Put a spin on the classic lassi and turn it into a lassi float – the slight sourness of the lassi has to be a great balance for the ice cream – and they really work together a treat; complex but easy, and much more sophisticated than a soda float.

For an extra dimension, make it into a falooda, a colourful part-drink, part-dessert dish that you eat with a spoon. It is delicious and lighter than many puddings!

Classic sweet and salty mint lassi; serves 1

  • 180g (3⁄4 cup) plain yogurt
  • 120ml (1⁄2 cup) water
  • 2tsp sugar, or to taste
  • pinch of salt
  • 1⁄3–1⁄2 tsp roast and ground cumin seeds
  • 2 tbsp. shredded mint leaves, or dried mint
  • crushed or shaved ice, to serve

Blend together the yogurt, water, sugar, salt, cumin and half the mint. Stir in the remaining mint, taste and adjust the sugar and yogurt. Chill, before serving with crushed or shaved ice.

Lassi floats; serves 6

  • 480g (2 cups) chilled plain yogurt
  • 400ml (12⁄3 cup) water
  • 5tsp sugar, or to taste
  • crushed ice, to serve
  • 6 small scoops of ice cream

Blend together the yogurt, water and sugar until light and frothy. Adjust the sugar to taste; the amount you need depends on how sour the yogurt is. Pour into glasses furnished with some crushed ice. Add small scoops of your chosen ice cream. Leave for 5–10 minutes, then serve.

Falooda; serves 6

Soak 5tbsp of black chia seeds in enough milk to cover them for approximately 20 minutes, or until they plump up. Cook 80g (2¾oz) falooda sev noodles (Indian cornflour noodles available in most Indian food stores), or some thin rice noodles, according to the packet instructions. Mix these together with a little coloured syrup (either grenadine, violet or the more traditional rose syrup). Divide the noodles and syrup between glasses; there should be 1 teaspoon of the syrup per glass. Add the chia seeds on top, pour over your lassi, prepared as per the recipe above.

Enjoy!

For more delicious recipes from all over India check our “I love India” cookbook by Anjum Anand.

*Photo credit: Martin Poole

 

Sunflower Seeds – The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Sunflower seeds – small, tasty and healthy; eaten as a snack or as a part of a proper meal this fruit of the sunflower has a lot to offer us but just like most things in life, even sunflower seeds have to be consumed in moderation as too much simply isn’t good for us…

Some countries are much bigger on sunflower seeds consumption than other. I’ve read that in Russia for example, you can simply ask a friend for a handful of sunflower seeds once you run out, just like you would bump the proverbial cup of sugar from your neighbour in the UK; they are just so common and everyone eats them. I personally love sunflower seeds, to the point that Mark thinks I should look like a parrot by now. Anyways last night whilst multitasking (re-watching season 4 of House MD and playing Jelly Saga bubbles on my phone at the same time), I heard the episode with the diagnosis – B6 toxicity as a direct result of excessive sunflower seed consumption… well, this caused me to stop nibbling and got me thinking, so here I am sharing with you the headlines from what I have been researching for the last few hours 🙂

Sunflower seeds are an excellent source of polyunsaturated oils; they are rich in Vitamin E, copper, Vitamin B, manganese, selenium, magnesium, folate and almost 70 other nutrients.

The main health benefits of eating sunflower seeds:

  • Weight control – due to their high levels of oil they will quickly take care of any hunger pangs, thus making a perfect snack.
  • Some anti-inflammatory and cardiovascular benefits due to their high levels of vitamin E.
  • They help lower cholesterol levels.
  • Anti-depressant – high level of magnesium can help with low moods, as well as help calm muscles and ease blood vessels.
  • Antioxidant – the selenium in sunflower seeds can help with thyroid health and help to repair any damaged cells within our body.

All is good in the world of sunflower seeds that is until we eat too many of them… Well, one might ask how many it too many… apparently, a single 1oz serving per day is the magic number… eating more can lead to several undesirable effects and contribute to:

  • Weight gain! Yes, the same seed which promotes weight loss in moderate amounts when eaten uncontrollably (the habit of nibbling them is very addictive) will inevitably lead to way too many calories and fats and undesirable weight gain.
  • Excess salt, especially if you snack on the salted version of the seeds.
  • General mouth and dental problems due to cracking too many shells.
  • Stomach problems due to high levels of fiber from eating both shelled and unshelled seeds.
  • Vitamin or/and nutrients overdose. All those good nutrients which were highly beneficial in a small amount can lead to problems when over consumed, especially manganese, selenium or B6 (just as House said).

I still love sunflower seeds but I might stick to a serving of roasted seeds as an addition to my salad from now on and lay off snacking my way through a 100g pack of it every other day.

Do you like sunflower seeds?

Have you ever considered that something can be beneficial in a small amount yet can be harmful when over-consumed?

3 Ways To Modernize Your Bathroom in 2017

The bathroom is considered as the second most important room inside our homes next to the kitchen. It is almost impossible for us to last a day without going to the bathroom. To put it simply, it is where we usually start and finish each day. While the bathroom is considered as a judgment-free zone where we shouldn’t worry about how we look and where we can read books without a hurry, it is also considered as the ultimate judgment zone of every home. Urine-stained toilets, hair strands clogging the sink, or tiles covered in mold; everything about your bathroom will have a lasting impression on your guests.

For resorts, hotels, and other commercial establishments, having well-designed bathrooms is a positive step towards attracting more customers. Because of the elegance and sophistication that it adds, bathroom detailing is now considered as an essential element in high-class interior home designing. Regardless of how simple or sophisticated your home is, it is still important to update your bathroom once in awhile.  This place where people relax, think of new ideas, and be at peace in solitude, deserves a revamp too. Learn more about the three interesting ways on how you can modernize your bathroom in 2017.

A Bathroom Makeover by Bathroom Fitterin Manchester

  1. Refresh your bathroom with new shower doors and curtains.

If you are not on a tight budget, then consider having a new shower glass door installed. Otherwise, buy new shower curtains instead. For less than $300, you can purchase a sliding glass door with a standard aluminum frame. The simpler the glass door, the better. If possible choose shower doors with glass surface treatment which repels water more effectively and makes cleaning and stain removal easier.

Heritage and delicate pastels are seen as two of the most popular bathroom design trends in 2017. Floral patterns are great too. Complement the designs of the shower curtains, bath mat, and towels for a more elegant appeal.

A Bathroom Makeover by Kate La Vie

  1. Replace your fixed bathtub with a freestanding bath.

A built-in bathtub often makes a bathroom looked cramped and tight while a freestanding bath offers a more spacious look. It also gives your bathroom a more luxurious appeal similar to an expensive spa. With freestanding baths, there is a wider range of designs to choose from; rounded or oval, cast iron or copper materials, and much more. Considered as a centerpiece of an elegant bathroom, a freestanding bath effectively eliminates some tiling issues and demanding maintenance procedures.

A Bathroom Makeover by Pink Little Notebook

  1. Consider replacing new tiles or repainting your bathroom.

Replacing old and stained tiles with brand new natural or neutral-colored ones is probably the best way to modernize your bathroom. If you are looking for a cheaper alternative, then you can buy second-hand vintage tiles instead. But never do the task yourself if you are not skilled enough to do the job. Fixing errors are actually more expensive than making sure that the tiles are properly installed in the first place.
Repainting is a much cheaper way to give your bathroom a new look. It is also easier to do and you can save up on labor by doing the job yourself. The only downside is that you may not be able to use your bathroom for a couple of days or so. Use a moisture resistant primer in order to prolong the life of the main coating. Apply a finishing gloss paint and let the paint dry completely.

Are you planning any changes to your bathroom this year?