Looking for a last-minute gift for a home cook? Try one of these — three pieces of essential kitchen equipment, with a special discount from The Taster:
Engraved Knives (with 40% discount!)
The last word in cutting edge gifts — Flint & Flame’s laser-engraved knives. Whoever the chef in your family is, inscribe their name on these fantastic high-performance kitchen knives for a specially thoughtful prez!
Prices are normally £60+ but use discount code TASTER40 for 40% off all knives— prices from £36
“I can’t live without my knives from Flint & Flame, which are great in the home and in a professional kitchen. I like the small utility and vegetable knives for everyday use, and the range also includes a set of beautiful steak knives, which has real WOW factor when I entertain.” Monica Galetti – Brand Ambassador, BBC Masterchef judge
Top tip for Christmas — but make sure Cook opens his or her present before the turkey finishes cooking. Ensure your turkey/goose/rooster reaches a safe internal temperature (74°C) by using this clever Kitchen Thermometer on the big day — and say goodbye to dry, overcooked meat; or even worse, an underdone and perilous roast. Link HERE
Use code TASTER-17 to get 20% off until 31 January 2018 From about £32, or £25 with TASTER-17 discount
Premium Pans (20% discount!)
Gastrolux is a family business with over 35 years of research & development, innovation and craftsmanship. They make all kinds of cooking pans using the best recycled raw materials, hand-finished by Danish craftsmen. Top chefs including Jean Christophe Novelli are happy to use Gastrolux pans, all of which have a unique coating (BIOTAN) of natural bio-minerals and ceramic particles. They can be used on induction and non-induction stovetops, are guaranteed not to warp, and are a great help for anyone trying to lose weight, as they can cook food with minimal or no fat or oil. Each pan has a unique stamp to make it traceable for quality control and warranty. Link HERE
A very special Christmas gift for whisky devotees! This autumn (2017), a second batch of the first Cotswolds whisky ever distilled went on sale in Warwickshire. To date, the young spirit has been awarded a very high score of 94/100 for two years running in Jim Murray’s annual Whisky Bible (generally agreed to be the world’s leading whisky guide). Distiller Zoë Rutherford describes it as ‘rich and fruity’ and it is expected to become something of a collector’s item.
Made from 100% locally grown barley and aged in ex-bourbon and red wine casks. The distillery also sells gin, absinthe, a summer cup (ie like Pimm’s), a Martini mix, sherry and ‘Cotswolvados'(!), all distilled and blended in the Cotswolds. To order or to find out more, click HERE
ABV 46%, £44.95. Ask for the Single Malt 2013 Harvest, Organic Odyssey (reservation)– mainland orders will be dispatched in mid-December, in time for the Cotswolds whisky to reach recipients by Christmas day
We’ve all read conflicting articles on wine — is it good for you? Is it bad? It is a question that has long plagued The Taster, as anyone who reads our regular Scare Watch column knows (basically, the advice given one month is usually reversed or contradicted the next). Our own (hugely unscientific) observation is that some cheap white wines do seem to have a certain allergenic quality — that is, the first glass is accompanied by a brief, but explosive, sneezing fit. There may be something in the idea that low-sulphite wine don’t trigger such reactions?
According to Good Wine Online, natural wine can be very beneficial if it is produced without harmful additives or heavy filtration, which removes the natural goodness. ‘Natural’ wines have virtually nothing added nor taken away. They are basically fermented grape juice, unfiltered, retaining nature’s most powerful antioxidants (polyphenols): resveratrol, quercetin and epicatechin. They are five times more powerful than vitamins C & E and help protect against cancer, diabetes and dementia. Natural wine also reduces ‘bad’ cholesterol and the risk of stroke and vascular disease, and has numerous other health benefits. The human body cannot store polyphenols, so the American ‘Wine Doctor’ Dr Philip Norrie* suggests that, for optimum benefit, we drink a little natural wine every day.
Find Christmas-mix cases, or create your own cases, HEREwith Good Wine Online; there is also a page of ‘Sensational Wines’ if you just want to give somebody one exquisite bottle.
For free-range, herb-fed turkeys, chickens and roosters, try THIS lovely company. Herb Fed birds enjoy a high quality of life. The Yorkshire flock are fed a unique diet with over 10 types of herb, sustainably supplied as excess or trimmings from our friends at Herbs Unlimited. Fresh herbs are put in custom-made miniature hay racks in the fields, where the birds can peck at them at will. Choosing and eating herbs gives the birds extra nutrients and keeps them occupied, stimulated, happy and healthy.
The birds don’t taste ‘herby’ as such, but they have an overall superior, deep flavour. Six volunteers for The Taster carried out a blind taste test on Herb Fed versus normal free-range chicken, and everyone identified the Herb Fed bird as having a noticeably more interesting flavour.
The turkeys are slow-grown on the farm from day-old chicks. They are game-hung, hand- finished, and individually boxed with the fresh herbs required for the chestnut & apple stuffing.
Roast Turkey Recipe
This recipe comes from the farm, which has devised it especially for their Free Range Herb Fed turkeys: a delicious roast with traditional stuffing.
Perfect Chestnut & Apple Stuffing
Fry a fine-chopped onion, 4 rough-chopped celery sticks and a sprig of snipped thyme in 55g butter until soft. Then add: 1 tbsp flat leaf parsley, 1 tbsp chopped sage, 170g firm white bread cut into dice, 450g peeled, fine-chopped cooking apples, 450g rough-chopped tinned chestnuts and the zest of a large orange. Season and mix well. Mix in 680g sausage meat, bind with a beaten egg and let cool.
Roasting A Herb Fed Turkey
Remove the bird from the fridge the night before cooking (to reach room temperature). Heat oven to 180°C & check the cooking time for your Herb Fed turkey on the website. Stuff the neck of the bird only. Start the bird in the oven breast side down; Herb Fed turkeys self-baste due to the higher fat content of a slower-grown, traditionally produced bird. Halfway through roasting, turn it over to brown the breast. The bird is done if the thigh juices run clear when skewered; if pink, return the bird to the oven. Check every 10 minutes.
For something different, or for smaller gatherings, try a Christmas Rooster. These are also Herb Fed, and are very special chickens produced just once a year. They are a classic alternative to turkey and, as a smaller bird, are perfect for smaller festive gatherings.
These Real Olive olives aren’t just organic, they are fresh and plump and marinaded in a variety of imaginative ways. Our favourites are the rosewater & cumin “Kasbah” olives — involving a use for rosewater we’d never considered before, but it gives the olives a lovely floral flavour, odd though that may sound. For traditionalists, there are mixes of olives with basil & wild garlic, herbes de Provence & mustard, piri piri, or a special antipasti mix with crunchy cornichons, caper berries, sweet red peppers and tangy sun-dried tomatoes.
To make easy/emergency canapés, warm bite-size slices of ciabatta bread (cut it into two, or four, as necessary to make it bite-size) under the grill, spread with black olive tapenade or green pesto, and press a few olives into the spread. This makes small, easy-to-handle canapés. If the organic olives are accompanied by shreds of sundried tomato or tiny cubes of Feta, so much the better — just press them down to stop them rolling off the toast
To make an authentic Greek Salad, find the best (ideally organic) tomatoes and cucumber you can, and quarter and slice them respectively. Pour on some uncomplicated Real Olive Company olives — Kalamata and Nocellara del Belice are suitable — along with all their oil. Add fresh, cubed Feta cheese. Sprinkle liberally with dried (not fresh) oregano. Pour on extra-virgin olive oil, the greener the better, and mix gently by hand. (Shut your eyes, forget about the grocery bill and pretend you’re in Greece, where EV olive oil is 10p a gallon.) Leave for 20-30 minutes to let the flavours mingle. Serve with thick-cut crusty bread and a cold, bold white wine.
Find your perfect party olives from The Real Olive Company by clicking HERE
Organic, pure, delicious, and somewhat paradoxical — Welsh Scotch! One of The Taster’s friends, Dà MhìIe Distillery, which commissioned the world’s first organic whisky at the Springbank distillery in 1992, has just released the second edition of its Organic Single Grain Welsh Whisky (the first is sold out). Comes in full or stocking-filler (5cl) size!
Dà MhìIe produces several great (and organic) spirits, including a seaweed gin and delicious orange and sloe liqueurs, apple brandy and more. We expect this whisky to be of the same high quality. All bottles will all be sold on a first-come first-served basis!
This whisky has had a limited run of just 400 bottles, and is 46% ABV. It should be a good collectable and a good investment (in the unlikely event you decide not to drink it yourself). Selling for around £55-£60 for a full bottle, or you can get stocking-fillers for just £7
This seaweed gin taps into two current trends: gin and seaweed. More interestingly, it’s particularly designed to complement seafood (perfect for the smoked salmon & prawns course at Christmas lunch). A very pretty stocking-filler, or get a bigger bottle as a main gift. From £4.95. Click herefor full details of this and the other gins
In the right circumstances (a lot of relatives spending Christmas in one place), the Christmas Hamper satisfies nearly all the gifting requirements in a single online purchase. Compared to the cost of buying and posting individual gifts, a hamper can be a real bargain. The mere size of the thing is impressive, but the real joy of a hamper is its revelatory quality. It cannot be unpacked at once. The unpacker must extricate the full range of items, one by by one, and wave them under the noses of the recipients. The most curmudgeonly scrooges find it difficult not to ooh and aah. It is a massive vote-winner.
Hampers of Inspiration, “Under Fine Wraps”
One of our friends, Clare Underwood, started her business after being inspired to put together a personalised hamper for her parents. It was such a success, she took the idea further — and she now creates all manner of interesting hampers, from the standard “Christmas Cheer” hamper to more original themes (German, housewarming, wine & curry, among others). As well as luxury items, the hampers hold artisan and regional specialities from Clare’s home county of Rutland (we particularly like the sound of Vivia Crump’s Extremely Scrummy Chutneys). Many items aren’t available in supermarkets, and Clare is passionate about theming; nothing is put in just to fill a gap. Below are just half a dozen options
Click HERE to visit the website and find many more Christmas hampers. Happy hunting!
Order by 12 noon on 18 December for delivery on 19th. Prices from about £30 to £192 (currently with 10% discount if you sign up to the newsletter).
As we went to press*, the Marine Conservation Society gave Cape hake a rating of 2 (1 = fully sustainable; 5 = unsustainable), making it a reasonably good choice. European hake are not so sustainable. The fish is in season from about July to January.
Hake is not an attractive fish. At first sight it resembles a silvery trout, without the rainbow or pebbledash effect. Closer inspection reveals bulging eyes, vicious jaws and ragged fins. Trying to source an attractive photo for you, dear reader, The Taster was momentarily unnerved by various photographers’ attempts to render the fish less repellent by, for example, placing a cherry tomato between its razor fangs, or artfully coiling it to appear to be, rather painfully, biting its own tail. We advise against such tricks. Just chop it into steaks.
On the up side, hake is an excellent substitute for cod (for which the sustainability issues are so complex, it is simpler just to buy something else). As a firm white fish it is perfect for:
Goan fish curry: marinade in tamarind, garlic, chilli, ginger, coriander & turmeric; onion & tomato; and coconut milk
Alternatively, buy a fish rub from Dhaniya — they do the work for you
The MCS recommends poached hake with lemon juice
Battered hake with chips and peas also works. Whisky together 340g self-raising flour, a pinch of salt and 250ml cold beer. Dip pieces of hake in it before deep-frying in a very hot, mild vegetable oil
Fishcakes or fish fingers — just combine with egg, mix in herbs (parsley is the obvious one) to your own taste shape, roll in breadcrumbs and fry as above
With a crust — the Seafood Emporium Ramus suggests encrusting a thick hake fillet with chopped parsley, tomatoes, shallots, breadcrumbs, chilli, lemon and crabmeat; then serving with seasonal greens and shellfish mayonnaise. There is no way that this will not be utterly delicious; see the whole recipe HERE
A little cream, reduced Pinot Grigio and fish stock makes a delicious sauce for any white fish. To make it more interesting, throw in a few cockles or shrimps, or parsley and fresh coriander leaves, and serve with green veg, bread and butter.
WINE MATCH Ramus recommends a cold, crisp Muscadet with their hake recipe.
Our wine buff, Richard J Smith of the Wine Schools of Cheshire & London, has not yet penned his thoughts for us on hake, but he has on haddock (a close match). For this, he suggests English wines made with the bacchus grape (which has been so instrumental in helping propel English wines up the rungs of glory in international wine competitions, recently). As with all grapes, (he says), bacchus tastes a little different depending on where it is grown. Foxhole Vineyard Bacchus 2015 from the Bolney Estate, Sussex, is “a cut above — in fact, the best English Bacchus I’ve tasted, not dissimilar to a classic Sancerre. It’s a few pounds more but you can see where the money is.” £16.99 from Bolney Wine Estate.
The Taster hopes this page has given you a few ideas and useful links. For more ingredients, click HERE.
*This article was first published in The Taster magazine, Summer 2015. Richard’s notes on bacchus wines appeared in the Summer 2016 issue.
This past summer, I gave up drinking my usual three pints a day of heavily stewed Yorkshire Gold tea. Bar one — Barry’s Irish Breakfast — it’s the strongest tea you can get. I love it, but felt that consumption had become excessive.
There were no withdrawal cravings, but there was a continuous two-day headache. After which, I found myself rising in the mornings in an altogether lighter, brighter, more energetic mood. It seems that once the habit is broken, that feeling of gasping for the first cuppa of the day simply disappears.
As an aside on the power of caffeine — when the EU referendum was held a few weeks later in June*, a single pint of tea at 1am kept me wide-eyed and bouncing with energy throughout the night until David Dimbleby’s momentous ‘We’re out’ announcement, shortly before 5am. (And then, and then – if memory serves correctly, although a certain amount of sleep-deprived haze might be obscuring matters — I’m pretty sure that somewhere between 6 and 9am I then baked and iced several dozen fairy cakes and set off, slightly manic, to help man the cake stand at a fundraiser for the local school. Whoohoo, who needs drugs to stay awake?)
Socially, however, it’s difficult to avoid tea entirely. After a few caffeine-free weeks, I had a cup of Earl Grey with friends. Because I don’t care for coffee and it was too early to hit the gin.
After so many years of extra-strength builder’s tea, the Earl Grey tasted terrible. Pallid and bland and watery dishwater.
Needing a social-drinking tea, I stuck with the Earl Grey. And then something unexpected happened. Having given my tastebuds to recover from the years of tannin-drenched builder’s tea — I gradually, eventually, found it to be the delicious, delicate drink I last enjoyed as a teenager.
I’m not the only one rediscovering tea. Despite the plethora of high street coffee shops, we in Britain are and always have been a nation of tea-drinkers. We drink 165 million cups a day (three times as many as coffee). And just as coffee has undergone something of a renaissance, with single-origin varieties and improved preparation techniques, loose-leaf and speciality teas are also ready for a comeback. Now we have functional teas, teas for different times of the day, teas that help you get going and teas that purport to help you go to sleep. There is no longer any time of day when an appropriate cup of tea is not an option.
Imagine the fun we’re going to have. There never was anything more British, after all, than arguing about how to brew tea, even among those who use teabags. Are you a dunker? How many minutes should the bag be left in? Do you squeeze the bag? To say nothing of milk and sugar issues.
Inspired by the Earl Grey, I’m dusting off a teapot. Being Editor of The Taster, I’m thinking of organic and Fairtrade teas such as those produced by Qi Teas (from China); Tchai Ovna (Scotland’s original Tea House, in Glasgow – stocks over 100 delicious and nutritional teas; they also run a vegetarian restaurant) and the Hebridean Tea Store (100+ selection of teas, 100% natural & organic and yes, amazingly, put together on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. Let none of us ever claim to have been limited by mere geography.)
As an Editor, I get an awful lot of press releases about tea. But a genuinely interesting one is that, recently, a London School of Tea has launched. Well, what better capital city for it? Given our reputation as a nation of tea-drinkers, I find this an immensely pleasing event. The School offers training to commercial clients — restaurants, tea-shops and so on — but also to novices who wish to excel in the art of tea-making. Sensory training is provided, among other exciting topics. The founder of the School, Lucy Chappell-Wright, has about as extensive a CV in Tea as can be imagined. She has worked at a tea estate in Darjeeling, a research centre in Assam, the National Institute of Tea Management in Bengal, and she has also studied the Japanese tea ritual in Osaka. According to Lucy, teas can be matched to foods just as wine can; a topic we’ll be looking at in our Summer issue (due out June 2017; subscribe here if you’d like a lovely printed paper copy – so retro, so Hipster!).
Enjoy National Tea Day. To my mind, teatotalism – har har – has never looked so appealing ♥ — C T-P, Editor The Taster
UPDATE: since writing this piece, our Editor has discovered Assam tea — the connoisseur’s answer to Builder’s/morning tea — and, swayed by several reports that tea (along with about three dozen other food items, but what the hey) contains the secret of eternal and youthful life, is back on three pints a day.
This is a delicious, healthy and sustainable meat. In the Scottish hills, deer roam freely, feeding on heather, wild plants and grass. As well as making the venison taste fantastic, it is low fat and high in iron, protein, omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin B, and 20% of the daily requirement of selenium and zinc.
With no natural predators, the population has to be managed to protect the environment from overgrazing. Great Glen Charcuterie, a family business based in the rugged Highlands of Scotland, uses sustainably sourced local wild venison. Excepting its venison & pork items, all Great Glen products are 100% wild Scottish venison. The salami has won multiple awards, including three Great Taste stars and beating a very good Spanish chorizo and air-dried Iberico Bellota jambon to win the Best Charcuterie category.
Great Glen still has a butcher’s shop in the tiny Highlands village of Roy Bridge but, if you can’t make it there, order from GreatGlenCharcuterie.com