26 signs that you’re a Food Snob (or is that 2 Bakers Dozen!)


Turn your nose up at margarine, processed cheese slices and pre-made salad dressing?

If you’re the one everyone texts for restaurant recommendations and you spend a scarily large proportion of your salary on food, you might just love food.

But if you also find yourself perusing the aisles of Whole Foods more often than Tesco and routinely making your own dip, then perhaps your love of nice food has crossed over into the realm of food snobbery.

Here are the signs that you’re a food snob and proud.

1. You’ve always known how to pronounce quinoa, thank you.

2. Your potatoes are so organic they’re still covered in mud.

3. You know Lancashire, Cheshire and Caerphilly aren’t just places in the UK.

4. You think the phrase “gourmet burger” is an oxymoron.

5. You’d rather try laying an egg yourself than eat a non free-range one.

6. You think pumpkin, hemp, chia, and flax seeds are totally normal everyday food.

7. You call green grapes white grapes.

8. You’ve actually attended a food festival.

9. You use the words nigiri, maki and oshi when it comes to sushi.

10. You wince when people cover every meal in ketchup.

11. You’d rather dip Kettle Chips in hummus than Doritos in salsa.

12. You’d NEVER buy margarine – it’s real butter every time.

13. You turn your nose up to that square, suspiciously orange, processed ‘cheese’ that turns up to every barbecue.

14. Instead of apples and bananas in your fruit bowl, there are papayas and guavas.

15. You know that the raw food movement isn’t “salad”.

16. You check the percentage of meat in sausages at the supermarket, but mostly buy them at the butcher.

17. There’s a bottle of truffle oil in your kitchen.

18. You wouldn’t dream of buying shop bought dip or pre-made salad dressing.

19. You strongly believe meat in a can should be illegal.

20. Domino’s don’t have your phone number to text you about new deals.

21. You’re completely confident de-stoning an avocado.

22. You have a subscription to Graze.

23. You also have a subscription to Abel&Cole.

24. You know sweetbreads have nothing to do with bread.

25. Even with a hangover, you want gourmet food.

26. You own a juicer and fully intend to use it… one day.

We live in a world where food is no longer simply enjoyed. It’s obsessed over, with each bite photographed and every single ingredient traced back to its origins like some sort of artisanal Ancestry.com. This increased fetishisation of food has spawned the food snob, whose borderline psychosis makes even the simple act of enjoying a meal into an endless parade of ridiculous behaviour.

Just enjoy your food and develop a good relationship with it. Remember, if you get too serious you might be labelled a Food Snob!

snob

noun
1.
a person who imitates, cultivates, or slavishly admires social superiors and is condescending or overbearing to others.

2.
a person who believes himself or herself an expert or connoisseur in a given field and is condescending toward or disdainful of those who hold other opinions or have different tastes regarding this field:
a food snob.

Gin – it’s the in thing you know!

Picture courtesy of Black Shuck Ltd

2016 was officially crowned as the year of the G&T as sales of the spirit exceeded £1bn in the UK for the first time ever. Statistics from trade body the Wine & Spirit Trade Association show sales of gin in the UK exceeding 40 million bottles during the year, a record: that’s approximately 1.12bn G&T’s to you and me!

The growth in gin sales comes against a back drop of falling alcohol consumption overall in the country as we become more health conscious and the dangers of excessive drinking become clearer. In fact across the last 10 years, alcohol consumption in the UK has dropped by around a fifth.

So why the success of gin here in the UK? Well it’s hard to say, is it just a fashion, is it a long term trend, is it a shifting of tastes or is it just a clever marketing gimmick? Whatever the answer, the facts are hard to ignore; for example, three out of every four bottles of gin imported around the world originate from UK distilleries whilst exports to the US have grown by over 550% in the last decade. But those aren’t the only success stories that you see, according to HMRC 40 new distilleries opened up in 2016 which is on the back of the 56 that opened their doors in 2015. That is stellar growth when you consider that official figures show that there were only 116 distilleries in existence in the UK in 2010. In fact the importance of gin to the UK consumer market was reinforced recently when a bottle of the spirit was added to the Consumer Price Index basket of typical purchases.

The birth of gin.

The whole landscape has changed over the last few years and a massive industry has now grown up around the spirit. That’s a far cry from its humble origins. The word ‘gin’ wasn’t seen in the Oxford English Dictionary until 1714 where it was defined as an ‘infamous liquor’, with many of the distilleries of the time based in and around London. It quickly became the ‘social drug’ of its time, preying, because it was so cheap, on the poor and vulnerable. It was said that in the 1730s around 5 million gallons of the raw spirit was distilled in London every year – but of that, less than 10% ever left the capital! In fact the situation became so bad that the Government of the day was forced to introduce the first of six gin acts in 1729 aimed at reducing consumption of the spirit.

Luckily, since those days, when the spirit was often laced with poisonous compounds, the production of gin has now become more of an art form. Unlike whiskey, which can take years to mature and reach the market, gin is simply a base of alcohol and water to which flavourings are added to create the unique taste that the marketers so love. These flavourings are known in the trade as ‘botanicals’ and many gins will now contain a mix of ten or more of these with the people who make the spirits acting like alchemists to come up with the next best taste.

How it’s made.

To make gin, you take your base alcohol spirit, which is generally made from fermented cereals and add to this your choice of botanicals, juniper berries being perhaps the most well-known. In fact, juniper is not only the primary botanical used in gin, but by law it needs to be the predominant flavour in anything that wants to be called gin. Other botanicals can then be added which may include herbs, spices, fruits, seaweed, grasses and quite frankly anything else that the master distiller think can add flavour. This mixture is then ‘macerated’, generally in a copper still, where the liquid and botanicals are heated until they boil, the heat has the effect of cooking the botanicals and breaking down the cell structures of the plants, thus releasing the flavour into the liquid. The boiling liquid then turns to vapour which rises up the still until it reaches the top where it is the drawn back down into the lynearm and then into the condenser where the vapour cools and returns to liquid form – only now it carries the flavour of the various botanicals that have been added. As well as the mix of botanicals, the flavour is also affected by the speed at which the liquid is boiled; and therefore the speed at which the botanicals break down.
All of which explains why the growth of gin and the opening of new distilleries continues apace as our desire for and interest in ‘artisan’ home made, small batch food and drink products increase.

It’s not just gin though.

Winston Churchill once declared that ‘the gin and tonic has saved more Englishmen’s lives and minds than all the doctors in the Empire’ referring to the fact that the tonic water mixed with the base spirit contained quinine which was considered back in the day to be very effective at warding off malaria. Whilst most tonic waters nowadays have reduced levels of quinine, there is a whole industry that has grown up around the G & T revival. It’s not just new gin brands that we are seeing, but there are more and more specialist and premium tonic waters hitting the market, most of which are ‘paired’ with a particular type of gin.

And what about the garnish?

As I said earlier, it’s all about the flavour, and as such the ‘garnish’ is just as important as the base spirit and tonic water that you choose. So it’s not just ice and a piece of lemon nowadays, it can be fruit, herbs, spices or anything else that the master distiller thinks enhances the flavours of the botanicals used during the distillation process.
Blimey, after all that gin I’ve got a headache, and I promise I haven’t sampled a drop yet! I think it’s time to take a look in the drinks cabinet and see what I can find: chin-chin and here’s to gin!

Holkham Venison Ossobuco with Risotto alla Milanese and Gremolata


“A little bit of Italy comes to Norfolk with this classic dish using prime Holkham Estate venison shanks”

There has been a Deer Park at Holkham since the 1850s when a herd of fallow deer were moved there from an ancient Deer Park in North Elmham, Norfolk.

Today, the Deer Park, which surrounds the Palladian Hall, covers 600 acres within the 3000-acre Park, and is enclosed by a nine mile-long wall. Holkham Estate has a large herd of fallow deer consisting of around 800 animals.

The deer roam freely over the mature parkland, eating only what nature provides, including grass, Ilex acorns, chestnuts and beech mast, which gives the venison its unique flavour. Each year, a proportion of the herd is culled in order to maintain the correct numbers and to ensure that the herd remains in peak condition. It is no coincidence that a well managed, healthy deer herd, which is humanely culled in the field and then processed in a state of the art larder facility, produces the best venison.

Holkham venison is available from Arthur Howell Butcher & Farmer, 53 Staithe Street, Wells-next-the-Sea, Norfolk, NR23 1AN. There are other Arthur Howell butchers to be found in Burnham Market and Binham.

Traditionally Ossobuco is a Milanese speciality of cross-cut veal shanks braised with vegetables, white wine and stock. Substituting veal shanks for venison shanks would of course upset any passionate Italian foodie, but venison shanks offer a much richer flavour that makes for a stunning finished sauce. Literally translated, Ossobuco means “bones with holes, or hollow bones” which is probably why it is never translated on menus. Slow-braised venison would sound both more appetising and accurate, yet those bones (not in fact hollow at all, but full of rich, delicious marrow) are the dish’s crowning glory. Anyone who finishes the dish without investigating their interior has missed out on the best bit.

As you are likely to have to order your venison shanks from the butcher, it shouldn’t be too hard to make sure you get what you want. Ask for the shanks to be cross-cut 4-5cm thick. Any larger, and they won’t cook down to the requisite melting tenderness in time; any thinner, and you risk them drying out.

This may sound like a complicated dish to recreate but it really is very simple to achieve. This is a wonderful warming dinner party dish that never fails to impress. Give it a try, you won’t be disappointed.

This will serve four portions.

Ossobuco ingredients.

2 tablespoons of olive oil
25g of plain flour, to dust the venison
4 pieces of venison shin about 4cm thick (your butcher will do this for you)
45g (3 tablespoons) of salted butter
1 large onion finely chopped
1 large carrot finely chopped
2 celery sticks finely chopped
1 whole bulb of garlic cut horizontally in half
2 strips of unwaxed lemon zest
4 sage leaves
200ml of good quality dry white wine
200ml of good chicken stock (use the fresh stock in tubs not stock cubes)
1 teaspoon each of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method.

Pick either a heavy based saucepan or a casserole dish (that you can use on the stove top under direct heat) wide enough to hold the meat in one layer. Over a high heat, add the oil.

Put the flour on to a small plate and season generously with sea salt and black pepper, then coat the meat on both sides. When the oil is hot, add the meat to the pan and brown well on both sides until golden and crusted. Set aside on a plate.

Turn the heat down and add the butter to the pan. When melted, add the onion, carrot and celery, plus a large pinch of sea salt, and cook until soft. Make sure to scrape all the caramalised bits from the the bottom of the pan. Add the garlic halves, lemon zest and sage to the pan and cook for a few minutes more.

Turn up the heat then add the wine to the pan. Return the meat, standing it on top of the vegetables, and bubble until the wine has reduced by half. Pour in the stock and bring to a simmer.

Turn the heat right down low, cover and simmer for one and a half to two hours, carefully turning the meat over every 30 minutes until it is tender enough to cut with a spoon. Half an hour before the end of cooking, make the risotto alla Milanese and the gremolata.

Risotto alla Milanese ingredients.

1 litre of fresh chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon of saffron threads
1 tablespoon of olive oil
40g of salted butter
1 medium onion finely chopped
2 garlic cloves crushed
330g Arborio risotto rice
125ml of good quality dry white wine
60g of finely grated parmesan
A little grated parmesan to serve

Method.

Bring the stock and saffron just to the boil in a medium saucepan over a high heat. Reduce the heat and hold at a gentle simmer.

Heat the oil and half the butter in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Cook the onion and garlic, stirring for 5 minutes or until soft and translucent.

Add the rice and cook, stirring, for 2-3 minutes or until the grains appear slightly glassy. Toasting the grains ensures the rice cooks evenly.

Add the wine and cook, stirring, until the liquid is absorbed. Add 1 ladleful (about 125ml) of stock and stir until the liquid is absorbed.

Add stock, 1 ladleful at a time. Stir until liquid is absorbed before adding the next. Continue for 20 minutes or until the rice is tender yet firm to the bite.

Remove from the heat. Stir in shredded parmesan and the remaining butter. Divide between 4 serving plates and top with grated parmesan.

Gremolata ingredients.

1 unwaxed lemon, zest finely grated
1 garlic of clove, very finely chopped
4 tablespoons of flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
A pinch of sea salt

Method.

Combine all the ingredients together and run a kitchen knife through many times until you have a fine mix.

To serve the finished dish.

Carefully place one piece of venison on top of each of the plates containing the hot risotto alla Milanese. Add as much of the cooking sauce to your liking, then top the venison with a little gremolata.

Happy Eating.

PRODUCT REVIEW: The I.O.Shen Suraisu Slicer

4170-suraisu-slicer-wayne-sullivan-bw
For many years knife manufacturers have been trying to achieve the ultimate cutting edge and knife owners have been waiting for a range of knives which achieves this. With I.O.Shen you can rest assured that if you invest in a set of knives, or you simply want to buy an individual knife for a particular purpose, then the cutting edge and design quality are second to none. A quality knife serves as an extension of the chefs’ hand. Whether used to delicately slice vegetables, crush through bones or fillet the freshest of fish, a sharp knife is an essential tool for all food preparation.

I.O.Shen knives are crafted from quality Japanese stainless steel using Triplex Technology. Each knife has been individually sharpened to a 15-degree angle to ensure accurate slicing every time. Sharp, balanced and stylish, you are promised a full range of quality knives fit for any job in the kitchen.

The unique selling point of all I.O.Shen knives are the fact they are comprised of three different layers of steel to create the blade. One layer of super hard steel (Rockwell 62°) between two layers of softer stainless steel (Rockwell 10°). The Tai Tang handle has a unique design that distinguishes the knife as an I.O.Shen; It is made from a synthetic material called ebonite and the handle is both durable and heat resistant. The Tai Tang is not simply an attractive embellishment; it is an integral part of the handle.

The Suraisu Slicer.

I recently trialled the I.O.Shen Suraisu Slicer putting it through it’s paces over a three week period in order to give it a rigorous workout. I have to say it proved ideal for numerous functions in both the professional and home kitchens alike. The first thing I noticed was how comfortably it fits into the hand, It has a really robust feel to it without being overly bulky and the quality of production sings out. It makes short work of carving and slicing and going through 12 whole fillets of beef sliced ultra thin and served as carpaccio without stopping to re-sharpen is no easy task. I found it had perfect control with the smallest of tasks including slicing tomatoes, a job for a smaller knife maybe, but I was asked to put it to work so I did. The long blade allows large pieces of meat to be cut into clean, even slices and The Suraisu Slicer made light work of the Sunday roast.

The Suraisu Slicer has been designed by Wayne Sullivan (@ChefWayner), and Wayne wanted something a little different in a slicing knife when he set about his design strategy. His first decision was to create a lighter weight to the knife, and the handle design was one of the ways to achieve this. As all of the larger knives in the I.O.Shen range have the chunkier handle (I must mention though at this point that they have all served me well in the past and continue to do so now), it made sense to develop The Suraisu Slicer with a noticeably smaller handle. By doing this they have raised the bar when it comes to slicing knives. I found this design aspect useful, as the balance and improved handling is really noticeable in comparison to the other larger knives in the I.O.Shen range.

The second design change to be found with The Suraisu Slicer is the blade. While most knives have a natural curve to the blade which obviously aids slicing, the pronounced curve on the Suraisu Slicer takes this to the next level. The length coupled with the Japanese edge helps with precision cutting and graceful slices. The tanto tip (known for its great power and strength) completes the look, feel and balance of the knife.

To summarise, the overall balance of the knife and the superb craftsmanship definitely make this the best slicing knife I have ever used. It is stronger than any knife I have owned and it has a remarkable ability to stay sharp for a very long time. I would however suggest you treat your knives differently and care for them lovingly. The sole purpose of my knife was to put it through some serious abuse to see how it handled under pressure in the kitchen. It certainly lived up to the challenge!

The Suraisu Slicer will be available from summer 2017 from I.O.Shen knives.

Knife Wizard Ltd / I.O.Shen
Unit A2, Rowood Estate
Murdock Road, Bicester
Oxon
OX26 4PP

Tel: +44 1869 357700
Fax: +44 1869 357758
Email: info@knifewizard.co.uk

Twitter: Natalie McVeigh @IOShenknives

Wayne Sullivan
Head Chef
The Old Stocks Inn
The Square
Stow-on-the-Wold
Gloucestershire
GL54 1AF

Telephone: 01451 830 666
Email: info@oldstocksinn.com

Twitter: Wayne Sullivan @ChefWayner
4170-suraisu-slicer-wayne-sullivan

Perfect BBQ Pork Ribs.

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We tend to think of ribs as a barbecue classic, but actually, as anyone who’s ever found themselves still desperately chewing on one long after even the wasps have given up on the party, this is a myth. Or at least, something that’s been lost in transatlantic translation. Racks of ribs are a speciality of southern barbecue food, cooked long and slow in a pit as opposed to British barbecue, which refers to food cooked very quickly over a hot grill. (To underline the difference, you’d be hard pushed to burn a sausage on the former.) You’re better off cooking your ribs, a cut of meat which, with its sinew and its fat, demands more than a token toasting, in the oven – something which suits the British summer down to the ground.

This recipe is perfect for stunning comfort food anytime of the year. Give it a try, you won’t be disappointed..

Ingredients.

2 racks baby back pork rib (ask your butcher to prepare this for you)
2 cans of cola
2 teaspoons of toasted sesame seeds

For the sauce

8 tablespoons of tomato ketchup
8 tablespoons of soft brown sugar
2 tablespoons of dark soy sauce
2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons of sweet chilli sauce
1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon of smoked paprika
1 heaped teaspoon of dried mixed herbs

Method.

Heat the oven to 160C/140C fan and snugly fit the ribs into a roasting tin. Pour over the cola and enough water to cover the ribs, then cover the tin tightly with foil. Roast for 2-3 hrs, turning halfway through, until the ribs are really tender but not falling apart.

Meanwhile, put all the sauce ingredients in a small saucepan. Gently heat, then bubble for about 2 mins, stirring continually.

When the ribs are done, carefully lift each out of the tin and sit on kitchen paper to dry. Tip away the liquid and wipe out the tin. Put the dry ribs back in the tin and coat all over with the sticky sauce. Cover and chill overnight.

Heat your oven to 220C/200C/fan. Add the ribs to a roasting tin and cook for 20 minutes, turning occasionally, and basting regularly with the remaining sauce.

When the ribs are sticky, hot and crisping on the outside, slice and serve.

Scatter with sesame seeds, if you like, and plate up with any remaining warmed sticky sauce.

Happy Eating!

Foolproof Lemon Mousse.

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Tangy, refreshing, creamy and delicious. Lemon Mousse is a perfect dessert for a dinner party, or when you just want something a little extra special. It’s also good because you can make it a few hours in or even a day in advance.

Ingredients.

4 medium free-range eggs, separated
250g/8oz of caster sugar
3 unwaxed lemons, zest and juice only
5 tablespoons of cold water
15g of powdered gelatine
300ml of double cream

Method.

Using an electric whisk, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, lemon zest and juice until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture has thickened a little.

Place the cold water into a heavy-based saucepan, sprinkle in the gelatine and place over a gentle heat, without stirring, until the gelatine has melted.

Remove from the heat and leave to cool slightly.

In a separate bowl, lightly whip the cream until soft peaks form when the whisk is removed. Stir the melted gelatine into the cream and fold into the egg yolk mixture.

Whisk the egg whites in a separate bowl with an electric hand-whisk until soft peaks form when the whisk is removed.

Place the bowl with the egg yolks inside a bigger bowl filled with ice-cold water. Gently fold the whipped egg whites into the egg yolk mixture with a metal spoon.

Stir the mixture until it begins to thicken, then pour into a serving glasses or bowls and refrigerate for two hours, or until set. You can also refrigerate this overnight.

Happy Eating!

Homemade Florentine Pizza.

Silky spinach, tangy tomato and salty Parma ham sit neatly on a traditional pizza base, topped with a perfectly cooked egg – this classic Italian Florentine pizza recipe boasts vibrant, fresh flavours for a delicious dinner idea that’s perfect for sharing.

Ingredients.

1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
1 x 240g bag baby spinach
1 x 125g mozzarella ball, torn
1 x 250g bag grated mozzarella
1 x pack of Parma ham, torn
4 eggs

For the pizza dough.

500g of strong bread flour
1 teaspoon of caster sugar
2 x 7g sachets dried yeast
2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for greasing
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to season

Method.

To make the pizza dough, mix the flour, sugar, 2 tsp salt, and yeast in a bowl. Stir in the oil and add about 300ml (10fl oz) lukewarm water to make a soft, but not sticky dough.

Tip onto a floured work surface and knead for 10 minutes. Transfer to a clean bowl, cover with oiled clingfilm and set aside to prove in a warm place for 1 hour, or until doubled in size.

Meanwhile, cook the tomatoes in a pan until thickened and reduced; season well.

Preheat the oven to its highest setting. Divide the dough into 4 and shape each into a ball.

Roll out thinly and put on 4 baking sheets lined with nonstick baking paper.

Spread each base with tomato sauce, then scatter over the spinach, mozzarella and ham. Bake, in batches if needed, for 8 minutes.

Crack an egg in the centre of each pizza. Continue baking for 2-3 minutes more, until the egg is just set and the crust is crisp.

Happy Eating!