Is algae the new olive?


Thrive Algae Oil - the new olive oil?


I think there’s definitely been a bit of a barometer swing on fat, with the low-fat obsession somewhat discredited. And whilst I’m cynical about the many claims made for something like coconut oil, then it’s interesting that new oils are coming to the forefront.

I’m fascinated by Thrive, which I can’t find a source for it here in the UK at the moment (in fact pretty much anywhere outside of California) but very interesting claims on it:

  • The best oil for your heart – 75% less saturated fat than olive oil
  • One tablespoon = one avocado – the highest level of mono-unsaturated fat of any cooking oil
  • High smoke point – 485ºF versus 375º for olive oil
  • Sustainable – still to be confirmed, but they have a strong story about their targets

It sounds interesting, and be fascinating to try it when it arrives here. Although given this oil relies on a manufactured process rather than necessarily provenance of land, then I would think and hope that there might be a source developed somewhat closer to home.

I haven’t seen any other algae oils for cooking, only as supplements, but if anyone knows differently, I’d love to know.


What are you doing this weekend?


All steps lead to...tasty treats in Regents Park


Me, I shall be exhibiting some very bad dance moves under the influence of half a shandy at Party in the Park. Which is a serious dent in my foodie credentials (not to mention cool rating) as I guess I should have been heading to Taste of London. And having read Niamh’s review of her preview of the food over on Eat Like a Girl then I’m quite sad that I won’t be there.

From Niamh’s post, I would be making a beeline for Salt Yard’s stuffed courgette flowers, and Bentley’s fish and chips. If you head over to their Facebook page you can see all the menus, and I’d have to add The Modern Pantry’s chermoula baked sea bass, Odette’s whipped goat’s cheese and pickled beetroot, and the fois gras parfait from Tom’s Kitchen. Quite how many dishes you can fit into one visit I’m not sure, love to know what anyone’s record is!

And then there’s the shopping as well. I’d have a few tins of Nudo extra virgin olive oils in my bag, some Munchy Seeds for the journey home and then a tasting selection from Paul A Young’s gorgeous chocolate. None of which would do my waistline much good, but what the heck? You could go the whole hog and go for the whole weekend. Even stay within stumbling distance and still have great food at your beck and call with a night at York & Albany.

There is still time to book and buy your crowns, which is a great system I think, as you get to set your budget in advance. I would allow a little leeway though, you just know you are going to get tempted by something additional on your way round!

I loved this photo of the event from another year by acme over on Flickr. Enjoy if you are going!


Where do foodies register for their wedding?


Where would foodies register? What to buy food lovers for their weddings

Being of the nosey/curious type, I love looking at the search terms people have put in to get to the blog. There’ve been all kinds of weird and wonderful ones, not to mention some very err, creative, spellings. But this one seemed an entirely appropriate question, and the sort of thing I would want to know the answer to! So, here’s a few thoughts from me:

1. How about seeing if your favourite local deli or wine shop will run a list for you? In fact, I am surprised not more local specialist stores have got into this lucrative business. Sadly, not even Ocado seem to have a listing facility.

2. Thankfully some of the wine retailers do seem to have caught onto this, so if you’re foodies who love wine, then this might be a good route for you. As one would expect, Berry Bros & Rudd will run a list for you, to which you can add wine, spirits, accessories, wine tastings and even wine courses at their school. For something with more national coverage, then Majestic also offer a wine list service. They have everything from fine wine through to champagne, beers and spirits, so you could really lay down a very interesting, and quaffable cellar.

3. Natoora offers a really wide selection of goodies from Europe, from fresh stuff through to tinned, cheese through to meat and all kinds of veg. They don’t offer a wedding list service but your guests could buy gift certificates that you could have an awful lot of fun spending after the wedding! As an alternative, check out Forman & Field who also do gift vouchers, and there’s a great choice of stuff that you could spend it on.

4. A wedding would seem the perfect opportunity to upgrade your kitchen equipment. I would be really happy to have a list at Divertimenti and would not only load it up with great stuff for the kitchen, but also with classes at the cookery school. If you wanted things for all the house but still really good, not to mention good looking, kitchen stuff, then Heal’s would be another good choice, or you can register a wishlist at Habitat. And, of course, there’s always John Lewis!


I'd put it on my list!


5. Not on the High Street is one of my favourite sites, and you can register a list with them. There would be fabulous things for the kitchen and dining room, like beautiful cake stands, stylish coffee machines and funky personalised mugs. There are also some interesting food options as well, with everything from an Over Indulgence Hamper (how lovely to come back from honeymoon to this) to organic chocolate, great oils and interesting mustard.

6. I do love my cheese, but yet to find someone with a listing facility. Paxton & Whitfield offer gift vouchers, so I guess you could run your own list and ask for those. You could then spend them as you needed cheese. Or have a look at the Cheese Club from Teddington Cheese (great cheese shop, unlikely location), where you could ask people to buy you one of each theme, which covers selections suitable for St Patrick’s Day, Halloween and Christmas, as well as one for each month of the year. The Fine Cheese Co in Bath also offer something similar, and people could buy you a whole year’s worth of deliveries.

7. You may have also gathered that I have a reasonably big cookbook addiction. Which would have made listing with Amazon a perfect choice for me. It would enable you to explore the far reaches of your food reading and cooking desires. You can explore old and new, rare and not so rare. I guess Amazon is almost like a huge department store now, so you can also list for lots of equipment too. Just don’t forget the books.

So, that’s a few suggestions for a couple who love their food as much as they love each other! Happy listing!

Interesting wedding cupcakes taken by clevercupcakes on Flickr.

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For the lovers of dark and smoky flavours


We were discussing my slightly obscure taste in fragrance last night, which does tend to often include those that to some smell like an ashtray. I have an absolute passion for Tobacco Vanille by Tom Ford, but can be found sniffing the original Dolce & Gabbana for Men with its leather and cigar smoke notes. And then there’s Feuilles de Tabac from Miller Harris…

Anyway, this addiction transfers across to food too (in fact everything except actually smoking, which I am not at all keen on), so this is my list of Valentine’s Day gifts for those foodies with a love of good smoky flavours!

* Starting with something fairly mild on the smoke front, how about a whole smoked chicken from Upton Smokery? Bathed in aromatic smoke and slow cooked, this would make a great meal, hot or cold. Plus wrapping up a whole chicken has got to have some great comedy value.


Smoked olive oil from The Organic Smokehouse


* Upgrade the extra virgin olive oil experience, with organic smoked olive oil from The Organic Smokehouse. This would make for a whole new flavour experience whether it’s mixed into a salad dressing, or just for dipping great bread into (I would think it would work really well with a good sourdough).

* For a great accompaniment to that olive oil, then how about Smoked Sea Salt from Halen Môn? Infused with smoke from Welsh oak, this has an almost sweet edge to it, like many tobaccos, and will give the foodie hours of pleasure in working out how to best make use of the unique flavour.

* Not really new news, but the tobacco chocolate from Artisan du Chocolat is one of the most creative food uses of the tobacco flavour around. You can order it online, it has to be tried at least once in a lifetime.

* If you want to really push the boat out, then London Fine Foods offer a Smoked Hamper which has everything from smoked salmon and eel through to smoked duck and pigeon. Certainly plenty of smokiness to go at, although not for the vegetarian!

* If this flavour thing is bordering on an obsession, then how about learning how to smoke your own things? With a day course in Cumbria they could learn to smoke cheese, meats and vegetables, looking at both hot and cold smoking, as well as brining. Plenty of hands on experience, not to mention eating and goodies to take home.


Benromach Peat Smoke


* For a smoke filled finish, then how about Benromach Peat Smoke Batch 2 Whisky? According to the tasting notes, this has a seriously smoky character, being complex, intense and challenging, and yet well balanced (so, that’s where I went wrong with my men, missed the last bit out! ) And if you like a splash of water, this will bring out treacle toffee and creamy notes. Sounds delicious. Now, if only I liked whisky!

There’s a fabulous article on cooking with tobacco in the first edition of Fire and Knives, and a subscription to that should be every foodies gift wish list.


Truly last minute Christmas gifts for foodies


Panic! Someone made Christmas 25th December!


It’s a terrible thing. No one warned you that Christmas was coming, and this year it was going to be on December 25th. How inconsiderate!

So, you can face into it being a very cold and lonely Christmas sat out in the shed if you buy nothing at all. Or, worse, buy something really horrid and nasty in a panic. And really, there is no need. If you’ve got a corner shop or even garage shop, you could even bring them into play, but with a note of caution! We’ll be using them to supplement or complement a gift, rather than being the gift. Here’s some suggestions:

1. This is a good time to either renew or set up suitable magazine subscriptions for them. Of course, there’s Olive and Delicious, and even Food & Travel, but you could stretch the reading matter a bit. Try a subscription to Cook Vegetarian, Taste Italia or Great British Food or go further afield and buy them a subscription to an overseas mag. I would think Donna Hay or Saveur would be good choices, or even Everyday Food, the latest from the Martha Stewart stable. You should be able to print out an e-card, or at least make your own, from most of the providers, and you might even be able to find the latest copy in your local corner shop so you could pop that in their stocking with the e-card.

2. A lot of the gift experience companies will let you print out the details of the experience or e-vouchers when you’ve paid, and many of them have upgraded their gourmet offers. Try Red Letter Days, which has everything from sushi making to Indian cooking masterclasses, Borough Market gastro tours with Celia Brooks Brown to tea tasting and blending with Alex Probyn. If you want a cheaper but interesting option, £22 would bring 3 months of spices arriving through the post, which is interesting, and your corner shop might have some spices you could wrap up to go with the e-voucher. I’d go for something like whole nutmeg if you can get it, or cinnamon sticks, as they both look really festive.

3. On a similar theme, you can always print out e-tickets for any kind of travel reservation. Where would you take a foodie? Well, really, you could go anywhere with the right research. Whitby, for the best fish and chips. Morocco, and perhaps get them taught how to make the perfect tagine. Or even Bruges to just take in mussels, beer and chocolate. Just Google your destination and best restaurant etc, and you’re bound to come up with a decent itinerary. I really like i-Escape for their edited choice of places, or there’s always Alastair Sawday. If anyone wants to book for me, I’d like a few nights at Riad Alkantara in Fes. Please.

4. Use the power of modern technology and download stuff. Putting “cooking” into the search bar over at the iTunes store throws out a whole load of cooking videos and podcasts, with everything from Korean to vegan. More interested in the liquid stuff? There’s everything from wine tutorials through to cocktail shaking. Load it up, wrap it up and they can watch and learn something new.

5. Try a gift voucher, or the virtual version, for a great foodie shop. Check your favourite site, and see what they can do that you can print at home.


Salted Caramel Brownies, made at home

6. Bake. Not sure it matters what, but I would go for something easy and always welcome, like chocolate brownies. Doesn’t take long, and it’s hard to be mad at anyone bearing a plate of deliciously gooey chocolate brownies. The corner shop may even be able to yield up a suitable tea towel to wrap the plate up in, so that it feels like a present. Flapjack is another good one; just don’t try anything too complicated, particularly if you’re going to have to raid the corner shop for the ingredients. For instance, the average shop may not provide everything you need for the fabulous Dulce de Leche cake, and there may be a lot cursing whilst you attempt a genoise sponge late on Christmas Eve.

7. Try the corner shop but don’t buy anything that looks remotely festive. Wooden spoons, always useful (although perhaps avoid a rolling pin), and likely to be in stock. If they’ve got an extra virgin olive oil then go with that. Bottle of champagne, not original, but better than nothing (move away from the Lambrini though). I know my corner shop is not typical, but they stock Tiptree jam and a range of local pickles and chutney. If yours does anything similar, then good choices, likewise local honey.

So, may these be a lucky seven for preventing Christmas out in the cold. If you need last minute wrapping paper and the festive stuff looks really naff, my best tip is go with brown paper and decorate it yourself (come on, you remember how to do potato printing) or buy up all the copies of the Financial Times in the shop and use those.

And just as a head up, Christmas next year is on 25th December. Put it in your diary now.

Great photos by nate steiner and dichohecho over on Flickr.


Foodie Christmas Gifts Not on Every Street Corner


I’ve written quite a few posts on the Christmas gifts on offer from some of the High Street, so I think it’s time to have a look at a source for more unusual and unique gift options. Not On the High Street was a welcome addition to the online shopping world a couple of years ago, and it’s one of my regular and favourite shopping haunts online. Here’s my roundup of my favourites in the foodie department this year:

1. For those who enjoy their wine, and have a bit of wall space, and also because it’s the last variation I want to see on this theme, then I would choose the “Save Water, Drink Wine” framed print. Like the sentiment, and I think it would be an attractive addition to any kitchen, or wine cellar, wall. (Sadly no longer available)

Perfect foodie presents, last minute or not

2. For the foodie Christmas tree, how about some foodie baubles? Choose from a mince pie, a Christmas pudding or a slice of Christmas cake. Look beautiful, and not a single calorie between them! (Sadly no longer available, may come back at Christmas time)

3. For those who want to rustle up a little Venetian glamour on Christmas morning, how about the Bellini Box Hamper? Beautifully presented, they’ll get a bottle of Prosecco and one of peach nectar, all ready to whip up a perfect Bellini before the last present is unwrapped.

4. For the slackers who might need a hint around all the post Christmas lunch washing up, then I love this teatowel. Truly a gift that keeps on inspiring! A great stocking filler for anyone.

5. For those dreaming of a gourmet life in France, or at least a day trip, then I would treat them to A Day in Provence. A delightful mix of terrines, olive pastes, chocolate and nougat, this will really summon up the tastes of the region, although sadly not eaten in the region. Unless you want to be really generous and send them there as a really big gift.

6. Perhaps their gourmet dreams lie slightly further South, in which case you need to buy them the Artisan Selection from Pomora. A fabulous selection of first cold press extra virgin olive oil, plus two flavoured oils, artichoke hearts and capers, all of which will allow you to summon up some great Italian dishes. If you want to go the whole hog, you can even adopt one of the olive trees.

7. For the grow-their-own, green fingered type, then how about a personalised allotment notebook. Cute illustration on the front, this will be good for them to work out what they have got planted where, when it will be ready for harvest and when they might need to call on the local veg box delivery to supplement things!

8. For newly wed foodies spending their first married Christmas together, then I love the very sweet aprons from Alice Palace. The Mr & Mrs Apron can be personalised with any surname, and can be Mr and Mr, or Mrs and Mrs, depending on your friends really.

So, you’ll definitely find some gifts with a difference here, and also know that you’re supporting small businesses and artists around the UK. That’s a gift worth giving!


Must be Christmas Countdown time: Boots Gift Guide launches


Christmas must be coming! Boots Gift Guide has launched, what gifts for food lovers are in store?


The launch of the Boots Gift Guide is one of those markers in the run up to Christmas, and it launched in stores today. No doubt there will be kids, big and small, busy putting rings round items tonight in the hope of Santa being generous, and buying into the Mix and Match three for two!

What about for the foodies amongst us, what temptation for us?

Before I tell you what I think, a bit of transparency. In my day job, the part where I have to stop thinking about food, I work for Boots at the main office in Nottingham. I don’t work in food, and I don’t work in gifts. But I do know who pays my mortgage. So, dear reader, please don’t expect me to round on the hand that feeds. I will tell you honestly what I like and, if I don’t mention it, then I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions!

So, as long as we understand each other, here’s what I’m thinking about!

As an overall statement, I would say that I would want to go and look at some of these things in the shop, to understand the origin of some of the things. Lets face it, foodies are big on provenance, and I would want to know where my olive oil was coming from for example. That aside, these things are looking pretty good.

1. Jamie Oliver Flaked Sea Salt Kilner Jar – you know what, this is a great stocking stuffer for a foodie. You can always use salt around the kitchen or table, and Kilner jars always earn their keep around the kitchen. There is a cracked black pepper version, which is okay for use on the table but I would think most of us would want to grind our own at point of cooking.

2. Kschocolat Night In Gift Set- can’t beat a good chocolate gift, and this both looks attractive and is decent chocolate. Includes milk, dark and white chocolate, and I’m quite keen on the sound of toffettes and honeycomb!

3. Jamie Oliver Crazy Mother Cooker Apron – because there are so many of us about! The kids one is cute too.

4. Faitrade Hamper – doing the right thing and getting great tasting stuff too. A nice tea time collection, with tea, coffee and cocoa, as well as biscuits, honey and chocolate. And you get two new mugs, so you can clear out those awful tatty promotional ones from the bank that are lurking at the back of the cupboard!

5. CAMRA Real Ales Gift – good one for the beer lovers, and possibly more welcome than a four pack of Special Brew! I like that it has tasting notes, as well as three different bottles of beer, including Coniston Bluebird and Oakham JHB.

6. Burger Press Set – we love our burger press, and it’s a great piece of kit for a BBQ foodie. A Boxing Day BBQ with turkey burgers possibly on the cards?

So, there’s 6 I would definitely consider. Although, to be fair, I don’t often buy gifts from Boots, as everyone always assumes I have got them for free!

Oh, and if you are looking for a gorgeous fragrance gift, shameless plug for this one here.


The Friday Five – Being Single-Minded


Having written about a whole load of tomatoes providing a whole heap of fun, I thought this week’s cook books should be about a single ingredient. And you’d be amazed what’s out there! So, if the foodie you’re shopping for has an ingredient they adore, there’ll probably be a book about it! Here’s a few to set you off.


The Heirloom Tomato


1. The Heirloom Tomato: From Garden to Table: Recipes, Portraits and History of the World’s Most Beautiful Fruit – one heck of a title, and this takes single ingredient to a bit of an extreme, as it’s not just any tomato, this is a heirloom tomato. There are 56 recipes to work your way through, as well as some great stories and history of the plant. A very unusual cook book, but if they love tomatoes, this could be one for them!

2. Sausage by A D Livingston – 100 different ways to use sausages, although I am not sure it has the recipe for the perfect sausage sandwich (in my view, the only permissible use of cheap white bread, and definitely needs brown sauce). Perfect for the sausage loving meat eater.

3. Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient – this is a really great book, being both an interesting read and having wonderful recipes. It’s a real foodie book and certainly an unusual one, but quite inspiring. It covers all kinds of animal fats, so some sectors of the health police may fall over when they spot it on your bookshelf, but you should get them to read some of the details.

4. The Dolce Vita Diaries – part travel book, part business book and part cook book, all about the story behind Nudo olive oil. A great read, some great simple recipes, which is what you’d expect from a great olive oil company.

5. Best 50 Banana Recipes by David Woods – probably the most common fruit in the average fruitbowl, and the one that’s always going to be heading towards going off. So here are 50 different suggestions of what you could be doing with them, other than mushing them up and making banana bread!

Researching these just showed me that there are books about pretty much any ingredient you care to choose, so even if they have a real foodie passion for something unusual, you’re bound to be able to find a great book to make the perfect gift for them.


Wedding gifts for foodies


From tree to can with Nudo


It’s difficult enough to get a gift for one foodie, but what do you do when one marries another? I did read a piece encouraging local delis and food shops to start wedding lists, which I’m all for. Until then, then these are my suggestions.

1. Buy something they wouldn’t buy themselves. I adopted an olive tree with Nudo for two foodie friends (it was more interesting than buying towels), and they really enjoyed both the bragging rights of their tree, but also the produce that arrived. Think about a particular food they love, and then look for the best, the newest, the most unusual and treat them to that.

2. If the honeymoon is not top secret, then perhaps see what the foodie options are. Many top hotels offer food courses with their chefs, so it’s worth getting in touch to find out the options. Or try Isango, they offer options all around the world for experiences and trips, and there are good foodie ones. How about private cookery lessons in Rome, or shopping at Parisian markets and then making lunch? A sunrise tour of Hanoi followed by a class in Vietnamese cooking? Any of these will make a real treat, and certainly be a few hours to remember.

3. If hampers conjours up visions of things in leaflets that the milkman leaves on the doorstep, then think again. There are so many wonderful options, and would make something nice to come back to post honeymoon. Not on the High Street always has some interesting options, like the Touch of Provence hamper or the appropriately named To Have & To Hold. This is lovely, but a touch on the expensive side, but you could steal the idea and put your own together for less. To be honest, nice glasses and cava and a homemade cake would be just as well received!

4. Whilst they might not have thought to have put it on their wedding gift list, then check out if they have wishlists on Amazon, which is bound to have a stack of food titles in it. If they don’t have a list, then either give them book tokens, do a bit of espionage on what titles are on their shelves and buy around that, or check out the lists and recommendations that get generated.

5. You could go kitsch, and get them Mr & Mrs aprons, perfect for side by side cooking!

6. If you spend time having a small glass or two of wine together, then you might know what their favourites are. This is a good chance to buy around their fave: same grape, different country; same country, different region; new maker; old maker. You name it, there are plenty of choices for you to put together an interesting half or full case. I like Adnams for something a bit different, or Weavers if I am in Nottingham. If you’re feeling very generous, then you could get them a wine subscription with someone like Laithwaites or Virgin Wines.

7. You could perhaps see if you can score them a table at somewhere they’ve been longing to eat, sort of date night for some time in the future. Depending on your budget, you could put money towards the meal, the wine, whatever you can afford. To be honest, with some places, just having the patience to keep on to get the table will be gift in its own right! You could present them with the time and the date within the cookery book of the restaurant (come on, name me a hard to get into restuarant that doesn’t have a cook book!).

So, there’s my lucky seven to start with! If in doubt, I would still go with the make them a big cake option!


My favourite foodie gift


From tree to can with Nudo - great gift for a food lover


Adopting an olive tree with Nudo has to be my favourite foodie gift that I’ve ever given. In fact it’s not just a gift, it’s a series of gifts!

You get the excitement of opening it, finding out what it is and getting to taste some of the extra virgin olive oil then and there (note to self, next time send some great bread too). Then there is the Spring package to look forward to of another 2 litres of the new season’s extra virgin oil to enjoy again.

If you needed some variety, or just some unusual but useful ingredients, then I would also try the lemon and the chilli oils. Perfect for both cooking and drizzling, they also look great in the kitchen too. Ticks the boxes for the stylish foodie: great design and even greater taste!