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Monthly Archives: February 2010

March This is a month of celebrations. Saint David’s Day, Saint Patrick’s Day, mothering Sunday, the first day of spring and the beginning of Easter. Potentially a cold and wet month and a good time to be using the last of the winter preserves. Vegetables in season are: avocadoes, beetroot, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, celeriac, chicory, cucumber, garlic, Jerusalem artichokes, kale, morels, spring onions, swede, sweet potatoes and turnip. Fruits in season are: Cape gooseberries, dates, kumquats, pears, pineapple, rhubarb. Fish in season is: brill, cod, conger eel, flounder, halibut, John Dorey, lemon sole, mackerel, oysters, scallops, sea trout, shrimp, sprats, whitebait and wild salmon. Meat in season this month is hare.

This a sweet flavoured spiced bun containing currants
or raisins and leavened with yeast. They are marked with a cross marked
on the top which is usually done with white icing, but sometimes with
rice paper, a plain dough mix or simple intersecting cuts. The cross is a
symbol of the crucifixion and traditionally eaten on Good Friday.
Although commonly used over the Christian festival of Easter the hot
cross bun is believed to pre-date Christianity, although the first
recorded use of the term "hot cross bun" is not until 1733. It is
believed that sweet buns, marked with a cross, were eaten by Saxons in
honour of the goddess Eostre with the cross symbolising the four phases
of the moon. Many ancient civilizations are known to have baked buns in
honour of gods, including the Greeks. In England hot cross buns were
regarded as a product of the Catholic church, this was because they were
produced from the same dough used to ma;e communion wafers. Queen
Elizabeth I attempted to ban the sale of the buns, but this proved
unpopular so a law was passed permitting bakers to sell them only at
Easter and Christmas. Many superstitions exist regarding hot cross buns.
It is said that a bun baked on Good Friday will stay fresh and never
become stale until the following Easter. Another suggests keeping a bun
for medicinal purposes, and that a small piece will cure any illness
when consumed during the year. Sharing a bun with another will ensure
eternal friendship. If taken on a sea voyage, a hot cross bun will
prevent shipwreck. If hung in the kitchen, they will protect against
firs and insure that all breads will turn out perfectly. In North
America these buns usually contain candied peel. In Australia and New
Zealand chocolate and spices are used instead of the dried fruit.

Italian cuisine is distinctly regional. This is due mainly to the fact that the country was only united politically in 1861. Up until this time Italy was comprised entirely of disparate cities, regions and states. Often warring and always differing greatly from their neighbours in customs, traditions, styles, ingredients and cooking methods. With 1500 miles of coastline seafood plays a major role in Italian cuisine, with those regions bordering the Adriatic and Mediterranean being especially associated with fish and dishes relating to the sea. Inland Italy is composed almost entirely of mountains, with the Apennine range forming the backbone of the country and stretching from Piedmont in the north to Calabria in the south. The sheer length of Italy means that its styles of cuisine differ greatly across the country. In the north food tends to be Germanic in origin and cold weather orientated, butter, rich stews and red wine feature heavily. In the warmer south the foods are more influenced by Greek and North African cuisine utilising olive oils, couscous and salads. French culinary tradition has a heavy influence over many aspects of Italian food. Nice, Genoa and Sardinia were under French control during much of the 19th century. Pesto is an example of a quintessentially Italian classic with deeply French roots, being closely related to the French pistou. Capers, pine nuts and dried fruits are frequently found in Sicilian dishes, this is due to the Spanish Muslims who occupied the island from early in the 9th century.

In September 2008, Antonio Carluccio, the much loved and respected
Italian cookery writer, celebrated 50 years of championing, cooking and
eating genuine, regional Italian food and wine. In 1958 at the age of
21 he began to cook simple pasta suppers for himself and his flat-mate
on a two-ring stove in Vienna. Now, known for his gentle manner, gruff
voice and his wild crop of white hair, Antonio is regarded as the
Godfather of Italian gastronomy. Being born on the Amalfi Coast in the South and raised in the wooded
North-West has given Antonio a rare and privileged breadth of culinary
knowledge. It was here, in Piedmont, at the age of seven that Antonio
started his life-long past-time of hunting and collecting mushrooms and
funghi with his father. After time spent living in Germany, in 1975 Antonio moved to London
and while learning English, traded as a wine merchant of Italian wines.
His hobby of studying and collecting wild mushrooms continued to
flourish as he found many varieties growing in the English countryside
close to London, almost completely undiscovered. Antonio took over the Neal Street Restaurant in Covent Garden in
1981, which traded for 26 years. In 1991 Antonio opened a deli next to
the restaurant and in 1998 started the first Carluccio’s Caffè in
Market Place, London. After ten years developing the Carluccio’s caffè
business Antonio is no longer a director but continues to work with the
Carluccio’s team on menu development and chef training whilst also
concentrating on new projects. In 1983 Antonio made his first appearance on BBC 2 talking about
Mediterranean food and at the same time was asked to write his first
book, An Invitation to Italian Cooking. Subsequently he has
written thirteen books, published worldwide and made numerous
television programmes including the hugely popular Antonio Carluccio’s Northern Italian Feast and Southern Italian Feast. In 1998, Antonio was awarded the Commendatore OMRI by the President
of Italy for services to Italian gastronomy, the equivalent of a
British knighthood. In 2007 he was awarded an honorary OBE. Antonio acknowledges there will always be more to learn about the
food he is passionate about. Above all he believes it is important to
remain loyal to the ingredients and cooking traditions of his country.

Roy Ackerman is far more that just the ‘coolcucumber’. He is an internationally recognised member of the hospitality industry. He has represented Britain as Chairman of the ‘World Master of Culinary Arts’, and has been associated with the annual awards of the ‘Café Crème Guide’ as well as the ‘Martell Guide to Europe’ for many years. He is a past Chairman of the ‘Restaurant Association of Great Britain’, and was awarded an OBE in 1990 for his outstanding contributions to tourism and hospitality training. Roy Ackerman has headed the ‘Hotel and Catering Training Board’, and remains Chairman of the Honorary Members of the Academy of Culinary Arts. He assists the ‘Academy of Food and Wine Service’ with conferences and training initiatives. He has helped many professional chefs, including Giorgio Locatelli, Antony Worrall Thompson and Theo Randall. He is in partnership with Maitre d’ Elena Salvoni, running a restaurant under her name. He was awarded a CBE in 2000 for services to Gastronomy and In 2003, as a tribute to founding the Henley Festival of Music and the Arts, he was made Honorary President to celebrate its 21st year.

The ever popular foodie series, Come Dine With Me, Broadcast on channel 4 is the latest television programme to face accusations of ‘faking it’. It was revealed some of the homes featured don’t belong to the contestants, a major premise of the series. Contestants including celebrities Christopher Biggins and Sherrie Hewson appeared in properties which were leased especially for use by the show, viewers however were led to believe that they were their own homes. Alternative locations were used for filming to either fit in with filming schedules or because some of the contestants didn’t want their real houses featured on television. In an episode featuring Christopher Biggins he was seen showing his guests a framed photograph of Joan Collins. which he kept in his living room. However, the house featured did not belong to him. A spokesman for channel 4 stated that: “…for logistic and security reasons, some of the dinner parties are filmed at a rented locations rather than at participants own homes.”