Monthly Archives: January 2015

Cake decorating competition, £250 prize, deadline 28 February

Cake decorating competition, £250 prize, deadline 28 February
Just a quick blog for any fans of cake decorating out there. Squires Kitchen are running a competition, deadline 28 February, for the best decorated cake, to be judged by Miranda Gore Brown of the Great British Bake-Off. The prize is £250 in vouchers for courses at the Squires Kitchen School, plus tickets to their sugar craft & cake decorating exhibition on 13-15 March in Farnham, Surrey (see details of the exhibition here).
See website, get details of the competition HERE, or tweet

CALENDAR Squires Exhibition March CAKE Squires Kitchen Rainbow Cake by Ann Skipp

(This is the standard of cake they mean! Good luck!)

Food Festivals this weekend 31.1.15

* This weekend sees a large Potato Day in Whitchurch (Hants)

* Today (Saturday), Urchfont also has a Potato Day; and this morning is the very last opportunity to see off Breakfast Week with a bang(ers)

NB this evening’s Brixton Night Market has been cancelled, but will be on again on 27-28 February

* Tomorrow (Sunday) is Yorkshire Pudding Day! Plus Seedy Sunday in Brighton and The DuckPond Market in Highgate

Plus, we should just mention The COTSWOLDS Bite 2015 is on all next week. It’s not a one- or two-day festival as such, but a succession of “breakfasts, brunches, lunches, teas and dinners; pop-up restaurants; cocktails and fine wines; talks and tastings; meet the chef and book signings; food fairs and farmers markets” etc. Book places here

See our Events Calendar for full details of what, where, when, plus links to festival websites & twitter feeds, not just for this weekend but for events next week too.

Wherever your wellingtons may take you – have a good one!

Aquarius Horoscope 20.1.15

Horrorscopes AquariusThe 20th of January sees the end of Capricorn and the start of Aquarius, the Jug.

20 January—18 February
Chef rating: 4/10 (higher for fans of food chemistry & physics)
Favourite foods: created by 3D printer and/or cooled with liquid nitrogen

If you are a Jug
You have a certain scientific interest in food but no emotional attachment (a bit like your human relationships). Your capacity for research, combined with your creativity, would make you a good chef, if only you cared — but you don’t. If you do end up in a kitchen, you are the star sign most likely to Go Heston. You are a good eater, willing for the sake of scientific investigation to try new things and clean your plate, but it is very much to gain knowledge rather than any deep love of eating. Accept that other star signs like long mealtimes and boring foodstuffs. It’s not all bad – you can use the time to study their socialising patterns.

If you know a Jug
Jugs are as loony about food as they are about everything else. Basically you are Watson to their demented Sherlock. If you let them in the kitchen, prepare for some startling creations. Force some nutrients into them by insisting on a daily eating routine, but vary the dishes — remember that curiosity will lead them to try most new things. NB If you go camping with a Jug, ensure you are the one packing supplies. The average Jug would work out how many calories everyone needs and bring along the requisite allowance of Kendal mint cake. And nothing else. And be genuinely puzzled and hurt by the reaction.

Click here for discussions of Aries and Pisces in the kitchen. Check back on April 20, when we’ll be covering Taurus.

Horrorscopes disclaimer

Charlie Hebdo comments 13.1.15

Editor here. It’s been a thoughtful couple of days, following the vigil for the Charlie Hebdo journalists on Sunday night in Cardiff Bay. The French edition of the new issue is out tomorrow, in 3 million copies, no less.

I should probably say that this post is — atypically — not about food.

The Taster is not the most provocative of magazines, but its ethical position, although low-key, has informed it since it was literally a scribble on a restaurant napkin (what else). Most journalists feel the same commitment, to a greater or lesser degree, to whatever ideas their publications embody. Obviously, it seems fantastical to imagine we would ever be banned from running, say, the funny little “Notebook” in our last issue. This listed some of the foods banned by the Bible, and ended with an amusing exhortation to feast upon locusts, beetles and grasshoppers rather than (among others) lobster, rabbit pie or Parma ham. And yet, what else was this than — very gently (I have never met a Christian yet who declined oysters upon religious grounds) — poking fun at a popular religion?

It shows how much our society is riddled with an automatic assumption of freedom of speech. It pervades nearly everything we do, from posting on facebook to complaining about the local council, to getting up a petition for or against windmill farms or fox-hunting. I can’t imagine having to debate whether or not to run a joke about Biblical food bans; or about halal food bans; or about the animal cruelty debate about halal foods; or the insanity of Japanese whaling; or the sheer evil of some aspects of large-scale food production. And I am sure that every British journalist, no matter how niche or minority-view their readership, could come up with something similar.

Not for anything would I have missed Sunday’s vigil and the chance to pay tribute to Charlie Hebdo. Or else — as a journalist — there really isn’t much point in me writing anything at all. Even if it is just a recipe for rabbit pie.
Courage, mes braves.

Charlie Vigil twitter picJeSuisCharlie smallest

Birthday cake inspiration

Just a lovely pic for anyone needing to make a special birthday cake with absolutely no Christmas overshadowings (people with holidays in December and January get understandably bitter about being fobbed off with less-than-amazing birthday celebrations). The Taster thinks it is perfectly suitable for adults as well as children (but then he does rather like Smarties):

Squires Kitchen Rainbow Cake by Ann Skipp
Squires Kitchen Rainbow Cake by Ann Skipp

Hmmm, not quite sure how they got the Smarties inside . . . were they placed there afterwards, perchance? But it still looks amazing. Thanks to Squires Kitchen for this particular birthday cake inspiration!

Oyster Recipes, snippets and thoughts 6.1.15

Tis the season to . . . be fit, apparently.
The Taster has never been terribly moved by the idea of effortful dieting and activity in the depths of midwinter, but there are perhaps a few areas in which his mindset overlaps with that of the Fit Brigade. One thing we can all agree on is oysters, which are at their seasonal best around now. Low in fat, high in nutrients (especially zinc, iron and Vitamin B12) and you can feel them doing you good.

Raw Oyster Recipes
Purists eat oysters with nothing but shallot vinegar (mignonette), lemon juice or the oyster’s own juice. Some people (Americans) like tabasco sauce. The etiquette is, having dressed the oyster, not to use cutlery but to pick up the shell with your fingertips and tip the contents into your mouth. Chew or swallow, as you prefer; there is no wrong or right. It’s virtually impossible to choke on an oyster since they resemble something only a little more substantial than a gulp of seawater. They taste primarily of salt, ozone, and sea-rocks; close your eyes and you’re at the beach.

In the 1930s, Edouard de Pomiane (a French food writer, cook, and radio broadcaster) recommended the following dish (popular in Bordeaux, apparently):
Fry some small link sausages. Serve them very hot on one platter, and on a second platter serve a dozen freshly opened oysters.
Alternate sensations: burn your mouth with a hot, crunchy sausage, then soothe your burns with a cool, smooth oyster. Continue in this way until you have finished off both the sausages and the oysters.
Cold white wine, of course.

(French Cooking in Ten Minutes, 1977 reprint available from MacMillan)

Cooked Oyster Recipes
If you prefer to have your oysters cooked, try these:
Grilled oysters: Take some fresh oysters (or mussels or scallops) on the half-shell and top them with any or all of butter, breadcrumbs, garlic, parsley, chilli, lemon, or cayenne pepper. Grill until the butter is melted and all is hot
Angels on Horseback (canapés): wrap oysters in streaky bacon and grill for two minutes
Oyster stuffing: If you feel adventurous — stuff a chicken with oysters, then roast As Is. Apparently this works. Alternatively, search for “oyster stuffing chicken” online — plenty of recipes come up
Oysters Rockefeller: I would love to be able to tell you how to prepare this mythical New Orleans dish, but no-one knows exactly how it is done. However, experiment with capers, olive oil and parsley, and you may create something similar. Or search online again — there are a multitude of recipes, some involving spinach, watercress etc; so find one to suit you

Spare A Thought
Finally, a thought upon the creature who has given us so much pleasure. The late, very great, Douglas Adams chose an oyster (among other entities) to personify a hapless being known as Agrajag. Agrajag was repeatedly killed, consumed or otherwise done away with by Arthur Dent, the hero of The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series. We may like to reflect upon Adams’s interpretation of the oyster-eating experience. Arthur has just tried to teleport to safety, but has been diverted into a dark and fearful cave, through which he is stumbling when an unknown voice accuses him of serial murder.

“Here’s the moment, Dent,” shrieked the voice, now reaching a feverish pitch of hatred, “here’s the moment when at last I knew!”

It was indescribably hideous, the thing that suddenly opened up in front of Arthur, making him gasp and gargle with horror, but here’s an attempt at a description of how hideous it was. It was a huge palpitating wet cave with a vast, slimy, rough, whale-like creature rolling around it and sliding over monstrous white tombstones. High above the cave rose a vast promontory in which could be seen the dark recesses of two further fearful caves, which
. . .

Arthur Dent suddenly realized that he was looking at his own mouth, when his attention was meant to be directed at the live oyster that was being tipped helplessly into it.

He staggered back with a cry and averted his eyes.

(Life, The Universe And Everything; 2009 reprint available from PanMacmillan. I’m pleased to say my own slightly foxed copy is a 1982 Pan Original.)

Another Blog
For more about oysters and oyster recipes, try this THIS excellent blog. It includes a recipe for mignonette (although personally I prefer red wine vinegar to white).

Cheerio, and

HAPPY 2015!

New Food Calendar 2015 — January

Phew! Well, that was festive.

You’ll be glad to know The Taster has been hard at work during the holidays, collating an entire Calendar of Events for 2015. Here’s the summary for JANUARY.

January isn’t a great month for food events, given most of us are on the wagon, recovering from the festive season. However, in Northern Ireland we have found a foodie talk from Jay Rayner on the 8th and, towards the end, a few Burns Night events — go out for a treat or plan your own Traditional Supper (everyone needs to try this once in their life). See our Haggis Guide for help (originally published Winter 2013).

In Scotland, Edinburgh is holding its Scottish Market in St Andrew’s Square today and the next three days. 2015 is Scotland’s Year of Food and Drink, so it should perhaps be especially good this year.

In London, the big Christmas markets will carry on in Hyde Park and Southbank for a few more days (although personally The Taster is at the stage where he wants never to see another cup of gluhwein), plus The France Show in Olympia 23rd-25th.

For all you producers out there, the biggest happening in England will be when Birmingham hosts The Hospitality Show on the 19th-21st.

In Wales, we have found . . . not a sausage, so far. Sorry about that! On the plus side, perhaps it comes as a welcome relief . . .

Let us gird our loins for the coming culinary year. And from The Taster to all our readers,