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Why we should all take a Leith out of Prue’s book

Wow, Prue Leith is 72. I’m shocked.

For the last few years I’ve been a huge fan of The Great British Menu and, whilst not always agreeing with the judges (not that they often agree with each other), one thing I certainly would have argued the toss of a pancake over was that the rose between the two thorns was of pensionable age. Must be something about the South African sun in her native homeland, although she’s seen precious little of that whilst forging a career in cookery at all levels here in Europe for the last five decades.

Earlier this year, we honoured Oliver Peyton‘s achievements in the UK catering industry, although like Prue, he’s not a native of these shores; rather, he came here from Ireland before whipping up a storm making him qualificant for both his honour in the Queen’s birthday list and to leave his judgement beyond question on The Great British Menu panel.

If the gaunt Irishman’s assessment is felt to be not entirely accurate, there are few more qualified than Prue to call it into judgement – what a career in our industry she has had, seriously mismatched against many far less qualified who seem to have shot to fame on the small screen in recent times.

Okay, she may have started at the lower end of the corporate ladder, picking up her inaugural freelance catering gig whilst still a student at cookery school in the sixties. But the fact that she needed that one tiny opportunity to springboard her to success upon success thereafter is no surprise, in hindsight.

Relish: My Life On A Plate
Relish: My Life On A Plate
(Kindle Edition, Amazon)

She’s no one’s fool, as both Matthew and Oliver have found out on the show; but you only have to look beyond the cameras to appreciate the extent. Her association with food at educational level, as the head of School Fund Trust and the charitable campaigns she helps maintain on many fronts hosting children’s cookery classes around our septic isle and a non-profit eatery to name just two, are perhaps as accurate a reflection of her character as you’re likely to need. In her own words, the financial beneficiaries are unimportant in her activities – if she believes in a given project, she’s in, both feet first up to her waist and giving it her all.

The business woman materialises in her board memberships on both Slow Food UK and Orient Express hotels, not to mention past posts pioneering a catering business, cookery school (Leith’s School of Food & Wine), Michelin rated restaurant and having time to scribe the derived recipes into cookbooks. Oh, and those collections of haute cuisine are not her only dalliances into the world of publishing. Her autobiography has just been released in her native South Africa after being released here earlier this year, entitled Relish: My Life On A Plate, a publication sandwiched between five novels already on the bookshelves and prior to a trilogy she’s working on at present.

I suppose, when you look at a snapshot of her achievements like this, it’s neither a surprise that she’s in her seventies to have fitted it all in nor that she looks so good on it, with all of that juggling to keep her active for the last fifty years since arriving in France in her early twenties. And, yeah, perhaps picking up just a little knowhow about food along the way may have something to do with it, too…

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I’m not joshin’ – Rogan gets top marks from Good Food Guide

Okay – as the name suggests, for anyone who’s not been here before, we do cookery courses. But every now and then, you just have to sit back, pull up a chair and let the professionals get on with it.

One chef who’s been steadily emerging over the last few years, under the radar for anyone who’s not an avid follower of the UK cookery industry, is Simon Rogan. Name ring a bell?
Well, if you watched this year’s Great British Menu, he was the guy who could have seriously won three out of the four courses for the grand meal for the stars of athletics, past and present, ahead of this year’s Olympics.

In the end, it was his dessert course that not only won him plaudits from the glittering cast of British athletic hopefuls and legends alike, but left Oliver, Matthew and Pru speechless during the qualifying rounds and the final. So if that didn’t shout his intention to the cookery world enough, his latest accolade screams it at the world of cuisine at a decibel-bustin’ pitch.

Top marks for Rogan in the year’s Good Food Guide.

It’s not very often that a restaurant scores ten out of ten from The Good Food Guide. In fact, it is so rare an award that in the fifteen years of the tome’s publication, only seven chefs have ever managed to achieve it.

Rogan’s restaurant, L’Enclume, features second in this year’s guide to the only other restaurant in the last six years to win the award, Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck in Berkshire. Many, many experts are predicting that next year, duck will be on the second course with L’Enclume taking the prime podium spot, dethroning Blumenthal for the first time in six years in the process.

The secret of Rogan’s success is his deep faith in locally-sourced, Cumbrian produce. The extent he went to in order to source the rosehips that would end up as a delicate syrup for his Great British Menu winning dessert was unlike any venture undertaken on the show to date. He even hired a local trekker to keep his eye out for the likely spot where the plumpest rosehips would grow that would be cultivated for the final offering. They even sat down and boiled them up on the hillside where they grew to get the essence of what they’d taste like if the local scenery could be emulated on a plate.

And that was not just a publicity-hype for the show, either. Simon has leased a local farm and intensified production upon it to deliver the amazing locally foraged and cultivated ingredients at the heart of his dishes to guarantee continuity – now that’s taking cooking seriously!

And that determination and faith in the ingredients (almost) on his doorstep has been justly repaid, with interest.

And there’s more. All of Simon’s recipes are put through the mill at his experimental kitchen before they even make it to L’Enclume. Do you remember the ingenious technique of making the ‘snow’ for his dessert in the Great British Menu? Well Simon invests in new technology, new thinking and mixing up tradition to deliver the freshest – in every sense of the word – meals you could find in the UK today.

Simon Rogan – remember the name. Along with Blumaenthal, Ramsay and Pierre-White, whom he trained under, Rogan has joined an elite class of chefs to be awarded ten out of ten by the Good Food Guide. At the tender age of forty-four, there’s a lot more Rogan can bring to the table, and no doubt he surely will.

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Cook Books News

Good food guide warn of dupe company demanding cash

It would appear that some restaurants, hostelries and cookery schools have been targeted by fraudsters looking to charge them for inclusion in the next edition of the Good Food Guide. In a recent statement, the legitimate publication and victim of this duplicitous act is trying to warn anyone in the hospitality trade not to fall for this scam.

The letter’s circulation has been brought to the attention of the legitimate The Good Food Guide after restaurants received invitations from an organisation calling itself the ‘Good Food Guide Limited‘, who allegedly have sent the erroneous letter in a mass mail marketing drive asking for cash in exchange for page space in their publication. It would appear that some establishments, seeing the opportunity of a bit of extra good publicity, have already parted with readies to the fraudulent organisation; they have not been named.

However, it is not saying that there will not be a collection of restaurants who have paid for space and will, at some stage, appear in a collection from a company called ‘Good Food Guide Limited’.  If the restaurant owners who have paid for that privilege appear in such a book, it is unclear what law will have actually been broken.

The legitimate The Good Food Guide denies any connection

The first and most important point that the real The Good Food Guide wishes to point out is that it never charges organisations to appear in its pages. If it did, it would be nothing more than a series of advertisements and page space would go to the restaurants willing to part with the most money. It has never, nor ever will, ask for cash donations from restaurateurs, landlords, breweries or caterers in return for prime page location.

Joe Public helps decide who’s in the publication

The only way restaurants can get into the established guide is by being good at what they do. Based on recommendation by members of the public, incognito members of The Good Food Guide will visit a premises and rate them accordingly.

Or, if public sway is voluminous and persuasive enough about their fine dining experience, that will not necessitate a visit. Either way, it is the verified quality, by inspection or popularity, that gets restaurants into the popular annual publication.

Vigilance urged by The Good Food Guide spokeswoman

The publisher of the compilation of the best restaurants and eateries in the UK, Angela Newton, spoke out on behalf of all the staff involved in putting this tome together, year after year.

She denied outright any involvement with either the production of the letter or association with the organisation behind it, Good Food Guide Limited, although she did admit to knowing of the letter’s circulation. The culprits are being sought out and the matter investigated.

Rules of inclusion spelt out and underlined

Newton went on to stress that featured restaurants only ever appear in their book following the readership’s feedback or their own visits to restaurants and subsequent inspections carried out anonymously to verify recommendations or see if standards are being maintained from eateries that have featured in previous editions of the tome.

If your restaurant, café, public house or cookery school has received such a letter, Newton confirmed ‘…it has not come from us!’ Anyone who has received such a demand should e-mail the publication direct at [email protected]

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GCU Cook and Eat initiative exemplifies Glasgow community

The Glasgow Cookery Book – a hundred years old and now the basis of a healthy-eating program for families in the Drumchapel region of Scotland’s second city.

Not that the Scots knew how to eat healthier a hundred years ago, but a designated portion of the proceeds from the sale of the centenary edition of the book are being funnelled into Glasgow Caledonian University, which they are then taking to the Drumchapel community in the form of cookery courses, a catchment zone of the Glasgow Corporation’s overspill and a legacy of rebuilding in the city in the 1950’s.

The GCU Campus plays host to Caledonian Club’s healthy eating project tagged ‘Cook and Eat’ (to the point, you have to say) and will open its doors to Cloan Nursery children’s parents to partake in the cookery courses the Human Nutrition and Dietetics students, their mentors and the GCU staff have put together from their share of the profits of The Glasgow Cookery Book.

It is hoped that the cookery classes will not only spread the word about healthy eating for what the children bring to school in their lunch boxes but also what the parents can cook up once they’re back home. The Caledonian Club is the University’s outreach program into the community beyond the campus, for which it has won awards for encouraging (and getting) engagement and participation from the surrounding populace.

All aspects of cookery will be covered, including hygiene, budget and nutrition

The initial cookery classes, which will take the form of workshops, will be instructive not just in cooking, but also food hygiene, eating healthily within a budget and how to maximise nutrition in the lunchbox. The secondary aim of the community-related initiative will be cookery courses in preparing similarly healthy meals from scratch, rather than pay over the odds for pre-boxed ready-meals, devoid of much of the nutrition that cooking from the base ingredients delivers and worse, often filled with fillers and preservatives, especially those tagged as ‘healthy eating’ alternatives.

Once the parents have been put through their paces by the GCU students, their children will be invited to take part in the final cookery class in the hope that they will start to value nutrition from an early age and will take that through with them into later life.

This is a real story about how, by helping the community beyond the walls of education, the community gives back to the university, which prior to 1993 was actually two schools, Glasgow Poly and The Queens College. The £4,000 raised to fund the Cook and Eat project came from a share of the iconic cook book but also from alumni and friends of the GCU, some who have been part of The Caledonian Club themselves.

It is very much a community venture in the heart of the housing estate for the locals within. A fantastic example of symbiotic existence when all too often today’s attitude is every man for himself. We wish the venture every success and hope both the message and the aim of the cookery course serves to inspire others to do the same.

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One cookbook, 5 years, 17 classrooms and 50,000 miles later

June of 2012 will see 37 pupils leave the humdrum of Glasgow and travel over 5,200 miles (one way) to Malawi, to continue a twin-ship unlike many other on the planet.

In time-honoured tradition (well, six years, anyway), the pupils and staff at Holyrood School have set about the fundraising to contribute towards the travel costs. This year, their cash-spinning tool of choice is a nothing other than a cook book, which was the rather bright spark this year’s fund needed to get the engine roaring up through the gears once more.

Emma MacDonald, the progenitor of this year’s idea, called upon her skills as a geography teacher to meld recipes from all continents to form the staple ingredients of this cookery book extraordinaire.

It seemed right on so many levels, according to Emma in a recent snippet in the Rutherglen Reformer. Glasgow has a rich, cosmopolitan air about it and the multi-national cultures amongst the school’s pupils reflects Scotland’s second city’s diverse global appeal.

As well as some of Scotand’s rich heritage making into the recipes, there are cookery lessons to be learnt from the East, with Indian and Pakistani contributions also included. The cookery book will be on sale on the school’s website at the price of £10.00. You will have to be quick if you want to pick one up, though, as there are only three hundred copies being printed.

The story of the partnership between Holyrood and Malawi is quite fascinating. Starting out as a backpack mission by the Holyrood Learning Community in 2006 in conjunction with Scottish International Relief, the partnership has grown leaps and bounds, since.

The project sees pupils globe-trot from Scotland across to Africa every year to bring much needed construction of new and renovation to old classrooms for educating the Malawi pupils, who would otherwise struggle to find a shelter in which to learn.

Over the short space of time, an astonishing seventeen classrooms have been built from scratch with many others having been renovated in the cannily-named Malawi village, Blantyre.

The classrooms not only act as a place to learn, but also a place to dine, as Mary’s Meals ensure the pupils partake in nourishing fare that would otherwise be devastatingly unattainable. Part of the project has also seen the Scottish pupils install a water pump for the life-saving dinner-ladies which, again, has proved a boon to lives of the Malawi school children.

Let’s hope the cook book does the trick and sends another mercy mission off and away to Malawi. You never know, there may just be a sequel in the offing, with nutritious African meals in for us to have a crack at cooking. For more information, or to order the book, visit the website at: http://www.holyrood-sec.glasgow.sch.uk/default.aspx

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Cook books to add to Santa’s List

One of the many reasons people may be put off from joining a cookery school, especially a top-end one which involves interacting with other hopeful chefs, is their perceived lack of knowledge.

This is a barrier which can either stand in your way forever, meaning you never learn to cook like the competition chefs you know you can better on the television, or you can read up about it, so you can at least sound professional when you first enrol.

There are so many cullinary experts, writing in so many niches, it may be difficult to know which suits you best. The only way to find out is dive right in. The Evening Standard has produced a best of list of 2011 cook books. If there’s room in someone’s sack for one more present, perhaps you can point them in this direction…

Get your mince pies around this, for starters.

What can be more festive than a book containing Christmas recipes? For a mere £12.99, of which a portion is being donated to the National Grocers Benevolent Fund, Caravan have published ‘The Ultimate Festive Feast’. As the name suggests, its brimming with seasonal recipes with contributions such as Mary Berry’s chocolate roulade and tit-bits from the Frying Scot himself, Gordon Ramsey.

Spry’s coronation chicken streets ahead

For value for money, £30 will not buy you much more than The Constance Spry Cookery Book. Reprinted again, for the umpteenth time since it was first released in 1956, this encyclopedia of recipes could keep you in the kitchen forever. With a strong Gallic influence, Spry and co-author Rosemary Hume (accreditted with inventing coronation chicken) put together a tome worthy of its half a century plus legacy.

Jamie Oliver gets back to gastro basics

Jamie’s globetrotting menu may not be what you’d expect to see at his parent’s gastropub but, what the heck, it’s Jamie Oliver at his best. Influences from the Yemen, Guyana and the Med may not endorse the Great British Pub Menu, but well worth £30 for Jamie’s Great Britain, from Penguin.

If you’ve ever thought your cullinary expertise could conjure a cook-book then take a leaf from Claire’s Kitchen.

Claire Caminada has taken contemporary recipes and added her own twist to give them a uniqueness you won’t find anywhere else, especially not for less than the £16.95 price-tag for this collection she’s taken from her kitchen into print.

There are many more cook books in the extensive article, including Italian cooking from Alvaro Maccioni, food meets physics when Heston Blumenthal experiments with cooking in a whole new way, choices for those with a sweet tooth in Fiona Cairns’ Cake Book and Vegetarian delights in Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage Veg Every Day!

You can read the full article here to get you well and truly up to speed and possibly help you in your decision when choosing which cooking course is right for you in 2012.