Monday, March 31, 2008

Malmaison Brasserie

Wed 26 Mar 2008

Perhaps unsurprisingly, I am on more mailing lists than you can poke a stick at. This is very useful, because it means I'm usually quite on the ball with various food-related deals around town. It was August last year that we visited (and were impressed by) the Malmaison Brasserie, so the current lunch time deal - The Main Event - had to be investigated.

This lunch time deal is a main course, a glass of wine and a coffee for £9.95. I'd booked but, last Wednesday at least, there was no need. We settled into our table, munched on bread, butter and tapenade, and looked to the menu. The 'deal' menu is, unsurprisingly, cut down: we had a choice of fish of the day (grilled sea bass with new potatoes and a herb salad), moules frites, a chargrilled pepper and goat's cheese risotto and a lamb shank. Admittedly, nothing there to set the culinary world on fire but all solid and sensible lunch time choices. The wine choice is limited to house red and white (although these are still more than passable).

It seems we were bent on causing problems. Three of four opted for the lunch time menu (two moules frites, one sea bass) but the fourth went off piste, ordering a starter of chicken livers and black pudding. Just as I was starting to think our order was taking a while to appear, our waiter turned up to tell us that he'd just been informed there were no moules frites. Fortunately, with a short menu (and a conference call to attend to!), there was no prevarication and the sea bass and risotto were the back up choices.

We went back to waiting, with more bread and tapenade, and resisted the idea of a second glass of wine. The food, when it arrived, was very good. My bass was grilled and seasoned perfectly and sat atop delicious buttered new potatoes and shared the plate with a lovely, lightly dressed salad. I'd be more than happy to go back and eat this dish over and over again. I so often find that eating fish in restaurants reminds me that, while finding interesting recipes is all well and good, sometimes a bit of fish should be just grilled, or lightly fried in butter. The risotto was also quite generously proportioned and swiftly disappeared. The only slight disappointment was the very small chicken liver and black pudding starter. Although apparently delicious it was a small dish that saw potato and risotto offerings heading towards the eater!

As before, the service was fantastic and our waiter couldn't have been more apologetic about the problem with our order. I don't think service (10%) should have been added to our bill, but at the same time, having had the situation handled well and having the table supplied with additional bread, I was in no mood to quibble.

We were all agreed that there's definitely space in our work lives for further lunches at the Mal ... I wonder when it will become necessary to book?

1. Malmaison Brasserie, 1 Swinegate, Leeds, LS1 4AG, phone: 0113 398 1000

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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Swiss Round Up

Another round up? Yes, it's a hard life, but someone has to enjoy a long weekend skiing in Switzerland and it might as well be me. I was lucky enough to spend a few days at Crans-Montana, staying in the friendly Hotel du Lac, overlooking Lac Grenon in the village of Montana.

Let's start with the hotel, where we drank rather a lot of the local lager, Valaisanne. While this brewery makes a range of beers, our choice was limited to the lager, which is a crisp and refreshing beer, but not particularly challenging on the palate. Perfect after a hard day on the slopes. Perhaps even more excitingly, the hotel is looking at brewing its own beer, La Marmotte, and we were lucky enough to try some of the experimental beers. They were still fiddling with sugar levels for secondary fermentation and whatnot, so the beers lacked a little fizz, but they were definitely tasty. One was a darker beer (think the darker Schneider Weisse) and the other was a wheat beer. Opinion in the group was pretty evenly split between the two in terms of preference. Since I'm a big fan of small breweries, I think this is a very cool, and niche, thing for the hotel to be doing. Best of luck!

The trip also represented an opportunity to try Swiss wine. I had no idea that we would be staying in wine country, and it was a shame to not get an opportunity to visit some of the cellar doors we came across between Montana and Sion. I managed to try Fendant (the local name for the white grape, Chasselas) as well as a red (which I suspect was a Gamay ... but I never saw the label). While the wines certainly weren't tasted with a clear palate, I preferred the red to the white. The red was a little more conventional, wheres the white had quite a pronounced and unusual nose. A frustratingly wasted opportunity to try something quite different in the wine world.

Food in ski resorts is always rather pricey and Switzerland didn't disappoint on that count. Our first meal, at Au Greni (recommended in Michelin) consisted of some shared meat platters and traditional Swiss fondue. Coming in at around £30+ a head it doesn't exactly represent value for money, but it was a great opportunity to try fondue in an alpine setting. It was also interesting to note that the fondue was heavily seasoned with black pepper and soft green peppercorns.

The next day I managed to fit in a very luscious slice of hazelnut cake from a local pâtisserie before heading to Gerber for a pizza. My pizza was very good (£10, so not cheap) - crispy base, quite generous toppings, but many of the other dishes were considerably more expensive.

On our last night, dinner in the adjacent village of Crans was less than successful. We headed (unplanned) to the New Haven bar/hotel/restaurant, opposite the cinema. Starters were generally tiny (but, again, expensive) portions of sushi. I followed mine with chicken brochettes - a large part of which was actually raw. When I sent it back to the kitchen, my part eaten brochettes were slapped back on the grill before being returned to me. Needless to say, they stayed uneaten but, to the restaurant's credit, we weren't charged for them. OK, I actually told the restaurant that they wouldn't be on the bill ... but you get my drift. Again, we were easily looking at around £30 a head and, at this restaurant, many of the portions were rather small.

This is not to say that all the food needed to be that expensive. On our ambles around the village of Montana almost every restaurant offered a menu du jour of two (set) courses for around 20 CHF (around £10). If you're not a fussy eater, this is definitely the way to go and I was quite disppointed not to sample one of these menus. At Au Greni, for example, a simple menu of salad followed by perch came in at 22 CHF. Another restaurant was offering salad and steak-frites for around the same mark.

The trip has left me wanting to try more Swiss wine (if anyone knows any UK stockists ... please comment!), and I've learnt that in future I should always check out the location of the nearest vineyard before going on holiday!

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

London Round Up

Back at the end of February I headed down to London, for the The Fairtrade Everyday Cookbook launch and lunch at Pétrus.

We managed a little more than that while we were down there. After the launch we headed to Maxwell's in Covent Garden. Thanks to a discount card we were enjoying a reduced price meal which was actually pretty good. I'm not sure I'd necessarily want to pay full price (but then, I probably wouldn't have ordered a big steak), but the steaks ordered were cooked to order, the plate of pasta was generous in size (and it was all eaten, so it must have been OK!) and the burger looked huge. The restaurant is right opposite Covent Garden tube, so it's easy to find, and they do offer discounts on main courses on Monday.

Definitely somewhere to seek out is the Planet of the Grapes (how cool is that name?!) in Leadenhall Market. Recommended to me by Jacob at Interwined this tiny bar's big selling point is that all the retail wine is available to drink in the bar, with a flat £10 corkage fee. Could I convince anyone to drink with me?! No. Not happy about that, but consoled myself with the purchase of a 2000 Fox Creek Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon as a birthday present for a friend (who shared it with us!). The food is based around sharing plates but they also serve Pieminister Pies. These pies aren't cheap (at PotG it will set you back £7 for pie, salad and chutney) but they are very very good. I opted for chicken, bacon and tarragon pie, while Andy munched on a steak and chorizo pie. What's even more exciting for Leeds residents is that I've spotted North selling them!

We rounded off our stay in London with dinner with friends and a morning wandering around Pimlico and Chelsea, finishing off with ginger cake in Daylesford Organic in Sloane Square. It's not the cheapest piece of cake you'll find, but as you do get 2 slices you can always exercise restraint and share both cost and calories! Just make sure you take along your big sunglasses!

1. Maxwell's, 8 James Street, Covent Garden, WC2E 8BH, phone: 020 7836 0303
2. Planet of the Grapes, 9/10 Bulls Head Passage, Leadenhall Market, London, EC3V 1LU, phone: 020 7929 7224
3. Daylesford Organic, 31 Sloane Square, London, SW1W 8AG, phone: 020 7881 8020
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Monday, March 24, 2008

Baked Ham for Easter

Sun 23 Mar 2008

Oh, it's been a very long time between posts ... a result of too much eating, drinking and holidaying and not enough writing. Unfortunately, a lot of very tasty food has not been photographed (that's the drinking coming in!) but Easter has presented me with an opportunity to get back on track.

On Thursday I came straight home from work and got stuck into making hot cross buns. As I use the same recipe every year (it was only after that I thought maybe I should have tried something new) this is a steady, predictable exercise. I also always feel soooo smug when, on Good Friday, I can just whisk the buns from the fridge to the oven: no hassle at all! This year I just made 8 enormous buns which we polished off in the space of two days.

For Easter dinner suggested a baked ham. I don't think I've even eaten baked ham before, let alone made one. Of course, the internet came to the rescue with this recipe for a ham glazed with maple syrup. Baked hams tend to be billed as Christmas fare but, now that I have actually made one, I'd put it as a very versatile dish. The meat can be eaten hot or cold, and it can be fully or partially prepared a couple of days in advance.

We bought about 2kg of gammon from the market (setting us back £8) and when I got it home I realised I would be lucky to fit it in any of my pots. Fortunately, with some coaxing, I managed to squish the ham, half an onion studded with cloves, 3 juniper berries, half a stick of cinnamon, 2 star anise, some bay leaves, a small handful of peppercorns AND 250mL of dry cider all into my largest stove-top friendly pot.

Not being a cider drinker I wasn't sure what 'dry cider' was and had to spend a little while in the supermarket reading labels. In the end, I plumped for Thatcher's Single Varietal Katy (that's the type of apple) cider. Although the back label said 'dry' (and its hefty alcohol content left me hoping plenty of sugar had been fermented out) I found it more 'off-dry' BUT surprisingly good. Very light and crisp - like an apple, with just a hint of fizz, and deceptively non alcoholic.

So, while I was drinking the cider, the ham was bubbling away on the stove. You need about 20 minutes per 500g of meat, so an hour - an hour and a half later I turned off the stove, and pulled the ham out on to a plate to cool, before going in the fridge until Sunday.

The final cooking of the ham is simple. Using a sharp knife, remove the ham's skin, leaving a good layer of fat. Score the fat and rub into the whole ham a mixture of 1 1/2 tsp each of mustard powder and ground ginger. At this point you are meant to stud the scored fat with cloves. I would only bother doing this if you have a large enough ham that can stand with its fat upright in the baking dish. This way, the clove flavour should go through the fat and permeate the meat. However, because our piece of meat was quite small, I found this step redundant in terms of anything but decoration.

The final step is to make the glaze: 75mL of maple syrup and 15 mL of balsamic vinegar mixed together and brushed over the ham. Bake in an oven preheated to 180C for about half an hour - 40 minutes. Baste the ham as it cooks. The original recipe suggests sprinkling golden caster sugar over your ham before baking: unless you're serving this dish to die hard sweettooths, I wouldn't bother. The maple syrup is both sweet and glossy: you don't need to overdo a good thing.

We served with roast potatoes and carrots. And a bottle of 2006 Grosset Polish Hill riesling from South Australia's Clare Valley. Jeff Grosset's wines used to have (and probably still do) something of a cult status in South Australia: wine shops, and even the cellar door, would sell out quickly. On this side of the world, it seems to be considerably easier to come across (although I think I paid around £17 for the bottle, so it's not cheap). If you're used to drinking Alsatian or German rieslings, Clare Valley ones might require a bit of effort. This is a seriously dry wine, with loads of lime on the palate, mouthwatering acidity and a really hard, mineral edge - drinking well now but you certainly don't need to rush it if you're lucky enough to have a few bottles tucked away. The nose, while laden with lime, has some of the honey you'd associate with the grape, but also the kerosene (yes, rather than petrol) that is so typical of Clare. I think the difference between a Clare and an Alsatian riesling is a great example of typicity and also the way in which terroir and wine making techniques affect the finished product.

On the one hand you might think that such a dry wine would be a less than perfect match for a dish basted in maple syrup. However, the maple syrup was balanced by the saltiness of the ham, and what the wine really needed to do cut through the fat and richness of the meat. So of course, a dry, high acid wine was perfect for that. Having said that, the Grosset is such a lovely wine that I'd be more than happy to just drink it on its own.

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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Easter at Hotel Chocolat

Thurs 13 Mar 2008

If you haven't already entered our Hotel Chocolat Easter Egg Hunt you had better chop to - as the competition ends on 18 March - that's TUESDAY! If you win, you'll bag yourself an extra thick egg, stuffed with choccies. Don't forget ... an Eating Leeds' reader will win so you stand an eggsellent chance ...

Of course, you can't leave your Easter egg buying to Lady Luck, and the chances are you'll find the perfect present at Hotel Chocolat. Last year, I was able to try out one of the extra thick eggs, and this year, the Easter Bunny came early with dark chocolate cocoa pod egg. I had a 72% dark chocolate egg, but they're available in 50% and 40% milk chocolate, as well as white chocolate and caramel chocolate. The eggs come on a little stand, wrapped in cellophane and have a cocoa pod design engraved on them (hence the name).

The great thing about these eggs is that they are just pure, unadulterated chocolate. If you're not sure about the perfect fruit or nut combination, or the appropriateness of alcohol or cream filled goodies, these are a VERY safe bet.

The eggs themselves are very thick and we had an entertaining time deciding how best to break in: we finished up unceremoniously belting the egg (still in its cellophane) on the table. It broke into decent size chunks and my tasting panel of four all agreed that it was good chocolate. Hotel Chocolat dark chocolate has a very smooth taste and no hint of the aggressive bitterness that some dark chocolate can have. We did run into one problem though ... the really thick pieces of chocolate, just how do you manage to eat them elegantly?!

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008


Thurs 28 Feb 2008

During the jaunt down to London, Andy and I were lucky enough to have lunch at Pétrus, Marcus Wareing's two Michelin starred restaurant in the Berkeley Hotel in Knightsbridge.

I have a real love of hotel dining rooms. The best way I can think to describe them is soft. All the carpets and soft furnishings are comforting and comfortable, and absorb the sound of other diners and any clatter of crockery and cutlery. The whole experience tends to be quiet and serene and altogether rather civilised.

Civilised is also a fantastic word to describe Pétrus. When I first rang to make the booking the phone was answered promptly (unlike a certain three starred London restaurant where I rang three times before the phone was even answered) and the reservation was made simply. We received our reminder phone call (an aspect of the level of service at better restaurants which I absolutely love) and turned up on Thursday fully intending to order the tasting menu.

We started with glasses of 2003 Bollinger (I recommend it), triangles of foie gras and a hummous served with wafer thin crisps of bread. The hummous and crisps were amazing - the dip was silky smooth and the bread golden and crispy and a perfect foil. This kept us going while we waded through three menus and the monstrous wine list. The tasting menu comes in at £80 a head (+ £10 if you want a cheese course), à la carte is £65 and the cut down lunch menu just £30. After much umming and aahing we actually decided on the cut down lunch menu and to be a bit more freewheeling on the wine.

The sommelier was brilliant: competent, friendly enough not to appear abrupt, and a consummate professional. We were considering a Burgundy, but she suggested the Au Bon Climat Knox Alexander 2003 Pinot Noir from California. This was an absolutely awesome wine, and it complemented our food well. My only complaint here is that the wine retails for around £35 but was on the wine list at £95. I'm not sure about a £60 (and almost 200%) markup.

Grumbles about the wine prices aside ... let's move on to the food. The bread was great. As something of a carbohydrate junkie, I am forever complaining about the poor quality of bread in restaurants. In Pétrus we were offered a choice from four or five different types, all chewy, full of flavour and with good texture. Initially we received two slices AND our bread plates were topped up subsequently. So many places skimp on the bread, but good bread at the start of the meal makes the difference between a diner who's already been let down and a diner who is happy.

For starters I had a rabbit salad with grain mustard dressing and Alsace bacon. Andy chose the (very) slow cooked pork belly with beetroot fondant. I was a little underwhelmed by my salad: the grain mustard dressing was a bit too grainy and not enough dressing (if that makes sense), the pieces of bacon were tiny and I managed to find a piece of uncooked rabbit. Andy loved his pork and even his beetroot.

Any food reservations I had were dispelled by my main course of Herdwick mutton with Jerusalem artichokes, potatoes, saffron ... mmmmmm. The mutton was gorgeously, and consistently, pink, tender, full of taste and wonderfully complemented by the simple vegetables. Andy chose the poussin, with brussel sprouts and thought he had won. I thought he was wrong.

With some of the lovely wine left, we then enjoyed the cheese course. We initially thought that this was instead of dessert ... but it was an additional course and represents £10 extremely well spent (if you like cheese). I had a soft goat's cheese, Ossau Iraty, Chaource and Epoisse. Andy chose a hard goat's cheese, a blue, a washed rind called Sancey (which was amazing - really nutty and a lot less strongly flavoured than the Epoisse) and Morbier. With all the cheeses on offer it was a bit hard to catch the names and I decided that I'd be quite happy to turn up, eat bread, work my way through the cheese board, drink red wine and then go home.

Red wine finished, it was time to move on to puddings, and (for me) the pudding wine. I chose the prunes with PX foam and bitter chocolate sorbet, while Andy opted for a banana financier with spiced crème fraîche and rum and raisin ice cream. I had a glass of Vin de Constance from Klein Constantia (South Africa) which went very well with my prunes and really cut through the bitter chocolate. Not being a sweet tooth, Andy looked like he could have lived without his pudding and gone for another plate of cheese ...

Finally, it was time for coffees and bons-bons. The bons-bons trolley arrived, with hanging baskets of chocolatey goodness for us to choose from.

Approximately three and a half hours after starting our lunch we rolled out of the restaurant. Although we'd chosen the cut-down lunch menu we were both full to the brim and very happy. Somehow, I can't imagine fitting in the dégustation menu at lunch time. At first we'd been concerned that the service was a bit swift, but fortunately, after our starters, it slowed down considerably. Perhaps the staff realised we weren't on our hour long lunch break. My only real complaints are that my starter was a little lacklustre and that the markup on the wine is rather extortionate. But then ... few people would go to Pétrus to drink the bargain basement house red.

Me? I'd be happy to go back any time and gorge myself on bread, cheese and wine.

1. Pétrus, The Berkeley, Wilton Place, Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7R, phone: 020 7235 1200
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Wednesday, March 05, 2008

WBW #43: Comfort Wine

Wed 05 Mar 2008

I've spent a lot of today thinking about wine (for various reasons) but when Interwined's contribution to WBW came through my feed reader I was shocked. Too much time over at the Open Wine Consortium, too many wines tasted on Monday at my WSET class, and (clearly) not enough time spent on drinking wine. So - Joel (at Wine Life Today, and of OWC fame) has chosen comfort wine.

The instructions are surprisingly tricky: "choose a wine, any wine, that you love to unwind to and tell us about not only the wine but what makes the experience special and relaxing for you". Assuming I unwound in the first place, would I have a favourite wine to do that to? I don't think so - I like trying new stuff too much!

But Joel - being good, I chose RED WINE. For some reason, I think red wine is more relaxing than white - it's a warm, cosy, food thing. Now, the other week, Interwined (again) mentioned a Bordeaux available at Oddbins for just £6.79 that ticked a lot of boxes. In unwound fashion (that would be 'on a mission'), I headed to Oddbins to buy this wine! Of course, Oddbins Headingley could not oblige and I ended up coming home with a Bordeaux that cost £9.79, but still a 2005: Château de Goëlane Bordeaux Supérieur.

In unwound fashion, I dug out my sample tasting assessment, and had a practice. This is pretty much a text book wine: black fruit, hints of cedar, tobacco, leather and spice on the nose and yes, it tastes like that too. It's not an overwhelming long palate, but the wine is complex enough to make you think a little and give you time to enjoy it. I'm a little sceptical about the advice on the bottle suggesting you can lay it down for 4-5 years. I'd been opening bottles at frequent intervals to see what is going on. The tannins are already very soft and I suspect once the fruit starts to fade it could all go downhill very quickly. Also - at £10 a bottle, few people will be storing this one up as a special occasion wine.

I did some more unwinding by cooking dinner to go with it: lamb neck fillet (one of my favourite cuts of meat), wrapped in prosciutto, briefly roasted over rosemary, served with tortellini and a
sauce made from garlic, bacon, passata and a splash of cream, topped with basil. Simple, quick and delicious. And a reasonably sound match with the wine (the cream proving a bit tricky, but we had some in the fridge that would only go to waste otherwise!).

To finish the unwinding, I think I'll do some WSET revision and look at my ironing. Truly rock and roll!

The wine: Ch. de Goëlane 2005 Bordeaux Supérieur, £9.79, Oddbins, 75% merlot, 22% cab sav, 3% malbec.

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Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Potato - The Round Up

Tues 4 March 2008

Finally ... the round up for the event in the order they were received! You can just tell I like lists ...

And finally ... I managed to produce a potato and rosemary pizza!

Thanks to Alexandra and her dessert I think we have enough here to cover a full meal! It looks like Americans are the most enthusiastic potato eaters in the blogging world, although two from Melbourne, Australia is probably a very strong representation on a per head of population basis.

A lot of these recipes are also very quick and I'm certain to be trying out some of them ... I know Andy has his eye on one or two too!

Thank you all for participating ... and if I left anyone out, please leave a comment!
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Sunday, March 02, 2008

Potato Pizza

Sun 2 Mar 2008

My own late entry to my own blog event ... in the big run up to the long weekend in London (more on that to come) I suddenly realised what I had neglected.

I had such plans ... a visit to the farmers' market to source some interesting variety of potato, and then home cook up at least one interesting creation. Since I'm quite an organised individual, the level of disorganisation required to stuff this up has irked me somewhat.

So I present - potato, rosemary and garlic pizza. One of my favourite things: a good, simple Italian pizza. An onion pizza on the Ponte Vecchio aged 21 totally rid me of the idea that a pizza needs to have a billion different ingredients heaped on it and need to be drowned in cheap, greasy cheese.

Today, despite some pretty ferocious wind, it was sunny and our kitchen has big windows, which meant it was lovely and warm and perfect for working some yeast up into a froth and proving bread dough. For my pizza dough, I used a 'recipe' from Antonio Carluccio's Complete Italian Food: 400g of good strong white flour (00 if you have it) plus water (about 250mL), salt and yeast. Everything behaved today and the dough was gorgeous and silky and rose in a quite out of control manner. Yes, making your own bread by hand takes a while ... after all, you have to allow the yeast some time to work (2 generous tsp of dried yeast, approx 200mL of warm water, probably only about 1/2 tsp of caster sugar), you have to knead the dough (hardly a trial when it's sooo soft) and then you have to sit around having coffee and reading the paper while it rises.

When the dough was ready to go, I greased my pizza tray lightly with light olive oil, halved the dough and rolled and patted it out to fit the tray. I let this sit a little while longer, before putting the Magimix to work to slice finely some peeled Mairs Piper potatoes (if your taties are attractive, leave the skin on). I mixed the potatoes with more light olive oil, some very finely minced garlic, some finely chopped rosemary and a good couple of turns from the salt mill.

Layer your potatoes as attractively as you choose (although I would recommend pushing them right out to the edge of the dough) and then bake your pizza. Despite over six months with this oven and I am still struggling. In theory, pizza should be baked as hot as possible. Despite being a fan oven, my oven seems incapable of distributing the heat evenly and (I discovered) is also not quite big enough for the pizza tray, which meant some potato was dislodged. Baking takes about 15-20 minutes in a hot fan-forced oven.

We had one for afternoon tea and supper, and the other will be frozen. It's a good, honest simple dish, with the garlic and rosemary providing plenty of flavour. It may be an idea to bake with some tinfoil over the pizza to prevent burning.

The Maris Piper is a pretty versatile potato: it's widely available and mid-way on the British Potato Council's waxy/floury scale. It rates as excellent for making chips, but also good for baking, roasting and boiling. Plenty of sources claim it's also excellent for mashing. Is there anything it can't do?! Apparently the plant has purple flowers (I like it already). And ... it is the chip-shop potato of choice (I feel bad I didn't just make chips: I'll have to put in an order for a fryer for my birthday!).

I apologise for the delay in posting the round up ... this will happen tomorrow night (Tuesday), GMT.

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Fairtrade Everyday Cookbook

Wed 27 Feb 2008

As you know, I have a recipe published in the Fairtrade Everyday Cookbook and I was lucky enough to attend the launch on Wednesday evening. The winners from last year's competition were all invited to attend and I thought it would be a good chance for a bit of celeb spotting, as the book also contains celebrity recipes from people such as Sheherazade Goldsmith, Sir Steve Redgrave, Joanne Harris and Natasha Kaplinsky, as well as quite a few well known chefs (such as Allegra McEvedy, Ruth Rogers and Rose Gray, Antony Worrall Thompson and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall).

The party kicked off with plenty of Fairhills Fairtrade wine and the book was launched by Sophie Grigson (the consultant editor) and Harriet Lamb (the Executive Director of the Fairtrade Foundation). Canapés were all recipes from the book, and there was also a raffle (somehow I missed out on the KitchenAid, I don't know how that happened!).

During the evening I met Harriet Lamb and Eileen Maybin (also from the Fairtrade Foundation), but, apart from Sophie Grigson, the celebrity contributors appeared to be thin on the ground. The very notable exception was Oz Clarke.

Fortunately, there was enough red wine to encourage me to introduce myself and boss Andy into garnering the proof!
Oz Clarke & me
Oz Clarke & me!

I also met Sophie, from Mostly Eating, who appeared to be the only other food blogger there! While she's not quite as famous as Oz, she and her husband Nik were great company. Her recipe is for a summer prawn and mango noodle salad AND it's on the page before mine (p145, mine is p146) - how eerie is that?

It's Fairtrade Fortnight up until 9 March and there are plenty of things you can do to get involved ... if all else fails - buy the book and make Sophie's and my recipes!

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