Food corner

"Like all foods, bread is a nexus of economic, political, aesthetic, social, symbolic, and health concerns. As traditionally the most important food in the Sardinian diet, bread is a particularly sensitive indicator of change."

Carole M Counihan

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Jamie's Italian, for a balanced perspective

“Don’t let facts get in the way of a good story” my Dad has always said, and I have to say I quite agree. It is common practice to take a bit of poetic license when recounting an anecdote, particularly if it will lend comic value.

If you read my last post on The Nut Tree Inn you may see where this is heading. In that post I did not so much exaggerate the truth as leave out certain facts that would have given context to the boyfriend’s mood that day. I did make reference to his efforts to keep me happy in the food department but, since the small window where he showed his frustration provides more humorous material, the reference was fleeting and is likely to have been overlooked.  Therefore, I thought it only fair to follow up that post with the details of a meal earlier that weekend; this time the jokes on me.

Another perk of the boyfriend’s job is that he travels a lot overseas and so he also stays in a lot of hotels. As a member of the Intercontinental Hotels group this means he clocks up lots of points towards free accommodation. One of the facts that went unmentioned in Tuesday’s post was that he kindly used one of his free nights to treat me to that weekend away.

Now the boyfriend knows well that I have a one track mind and if I am to be convinced to set foot outside London food will have to be fairly high on the agenda. And he almost always acquiesces to my demands, often going well beyond the call of duty to appease me. Our trip to Jamie’s Italian was such an occasion.

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Sunday lunch at The Nut Tree Inn

The boyfriend loves a good freebie. Actually, that’s a lie – he likes any old freebie. He once entered an online competition 3 times to win a Mars football; he doesn’t play football and they sat in the bottom of the cupboard for a year, along with all the mini bottles of shampoo and conditioner that he pockets when he stays in a hotel, until he realised he could get a few quid for them on ebay and sold them (the footballs, not the toiletries, which are still there despite my attempts to shift them).

I had thought that nine months working for a company who not only provides free breakfast, lunch and dinner, but free snacks, 20 per cent free time to spend on whatever he likes, free booze on Friday afternoons plus stock options and big bonuses would have cured him of this obsession, but a fortnight ago we went for a weekend away in rural Oxfordshire and what do you think was the first thing he did when we got to the hotel room? Yep, that’s right; checked the cupboards and bathroom to see what he could loot.

Another of the many perks of his job is that he has two memberships for the National Trust. This is a blessing and a curse.  Don’t get me wrong, I like visiting nice country estates and gardens every now and then, but I do not want  to visit every National Trust property within 100km of London simply because I can do so for free. On the other hand, a trip in the car to a country estate inevitably means pub lunch and, as it turns out, the home counties are choc-a-bloc with great places to eat.

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Middle Eastern mezze no.7: Fattoush

For those of you who haven’t heard of this delicious salad, Wikipedia offers a detailed explanation:

Fattoush is a Levantine bread salad made from toasted or fried pieces of pita bread (khubz 'arabi) combined with mixed greens and other vegetables ... To make fattoush, cooks use seasonal produce, mixing different vegetables and herbs according to taste, while making use of pitas that have gone stale ... Sumac is usually used to give fattoush its sour taste.

As you can gather this is not an easy dish to write a recipe for since the only constant ingredient is bread, and even with that there is a choice, albeit an obvious one. Toasted stale bread versus crispy, crunchy, shards of golden goodness; you know which gets my vote. 

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Middle Eastern mezze no.6: Baba ganoush


Back to the Middle East for a few days and then onto new things. The boyfriend will breathe a sigh of relief (a rather garlicky one); he does love a bit of mezze, but everyone has their limits.

Next on the list is baba ganoush, which I have just discovered means "My father is spoiled like a child by my mother". And I thought the Turkish version was a mouthful! I have also always called it a dip, but according to Mark Hix, in Turkey it is considered a salad,

You might think this is a dip, but I'm insisting it's a salad because that's what my local Turkish restaurant calls it. Their aubergine salat is more roughly chopped. My smoother version is one of my favourite mezze dishes, and forms part of a salady selection to start a meal with.

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Orto have been there

Updated on Sunday, May 1, 2011 at 7:55PM by Registered CommenterVix

Updated on Tuesday, May 24, 2011 at 12:02PM by Registered CommenterVix

One of the things that sucks about living on the other side of the world from your home town is that you miss some fairly momentous occasions. My regular readers may remember that I missed my sister’s 21st birthday last year; this made me very sad, but it provided a good excuse to splurge on an extravagant meal for two at Tetsuya’s. Then in March I missed my Aunt Sally’s 60th birthday hosted by my parents – the first ever gathering of the extended family from the NZ side in Sydney. And now I have been sent photos (along with rave reviews) from the opening night of my sister’s boyfriend’s new restaurant, Orto Trading Co.

Chris Low (some of you will have come to know him as the Windang King), Anne Cooper and Louise Hunt were the team behind Baffi & Mo cafe in Redfern; Anne and Louise were the co-owners, Chris the chef. They sold up last year and took Chris with them.

Turns out the folks that brought us Baffi & Mo, mustachioed cafe at the vanguard of the Redfern rush, also have green thumbs. Orto translates from Italian as 'kitchen garden' and the new bright and airy space in Surry is decked with sprouting bottles, tin pails of potted herbs and garden tools that hang above the kitchen pass. (Cleo Braithwaite)

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