Food and Ingredients News

Potato Council turns up shocking vegetable know-how stats

Oh my life, I’m so sorry. I do so keep tittering. It’s taken me an absolute age to start writing this. Okay – deep breath…and begin…
…over on the Great British Chef’s blog, they have an article about the ineptitude and ignorance of adults when it comes to knowing what are or what to do with vegetables. That I can sort of understand and it is so not a laughing matter.

When one in five adults in the UK believes that parsnips grow on trees, we’re in big trouble. We all know that they come out of pods, of course. But it’s not the context of the article that’s slaying me – it’s the people who conducted the survey – oh, Lawdy, I’m off again. Composure, love, c’mon.

According to the Potato Council (did anyone have Mr Potato Head? I just keep seeing variations of all of the different disguises sported by said character, sitting around a table of war – I’m so very sorry), not only did swathes of the 2,000 correspondents in the study lack knowledge of some of the absolute staples of the vegetarian portion of our diet, but also 95% weren’t at all phased by their ignorance. Is it any wonder that obesity and type two diabetes is abound?

Mr Potato Head kwikloks
credit: A Healthy Mr Potato Head, kwikloks 

Here are just a few snippets of the worrying results that the survey, conducted ahead of Potato Week and, one would expect, to highlight the exact lack of knowledge that the results, maybe somewhat predictably, turned up:

  • Twenty percent of all adults polled were blissfully ignorant of potato brands King Edward or Maris Piper.
  • Approximately one hundred of the adults surveyed believed that the Granny Smith was a variety of potato, whilst
  • a further two hundred thought that tomatoes were harvested out of the ground.

Incredible as it sounds, TGBC article makes a very good point. With even vegetables sliced and diced and microwave-ready from the coolers and freezers in the supermarkets, why should adults possess in-depth knowledge of the origin of each species of vegetable they ‘prepare’ for their families?

Oh, and that was another thing – not only was not recognising traditional potato brands or believing that some brands of apples were quite literally la pomme de terre an issue, but also many subjects said they had an issue cooking spuds, once they’d got past that tricky stage of identifying them.  I’d love to see how the Granny Smith French Fries turned out…moving on.

From not being able to make ‘fluffy’ roasters (50%) to boiled potatoes crumbling into the water (34%) to mash being too lumpy/sloppy (28%), all were cited as barriers to culinary prowess using the most basic ingredient in the kitchen.

It may help those struggling that the Potato Council has issued a re-classification for spud-types. I’m not as confident as Caroline Evans, of the Potato Council, in her belief that the new branding will help struggling chefs to “…pick the potato that’s right for each dish, every time.” The new classifications are:

  • Fluffy
  • Salad
  • Smooth

What do you think?  Lord help them when they have to make chips, that’s all I can say…talk about half-baked?

Cookery Courses News

British Wine Week – a new side to grasping growing grape

I hate to imagine what the final bill will be like for the champu consumed this week in London – and the rest of the country – as Jubilee-mania sweeps the nation. There is a lot to be patriotic this year in the UK. We’ve already had the biggest chunk of the celebrations marking the Queen’s sixtieth year on the throne, just the thanksgiving to come today to draw it all to a conclusion (how many of the millions lining the banks of The Thames last night will find their way to church, today, mm?).

We’ve also got the Olympics to look forward to in the summer and, with somewhat surprisingly less gusto than normal, we have the Euro 2012 Championships, where football fans and experts are giving England ass much chance of winning as the bookies are for Prince Charles divorcing Camilla and walking Kylie up the aisle in her place. We have, however, seen a full year of the world of golf‘s top three spots occupied by Brits, with Luke Donald, Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood swapping places at number one almost as regularly as The Guard changes at Buck House.

But another passage of events that is seemingly going by without remarkable fanfare is British Wine Week, with the consumer jury still out on whether the UK can actually produce a vino to rival the trending Californian, Australian and South African wines that have replaced the likes of hock, Riesling and Liebfraumilch on supermarket shelves in recent times (I had to put that in – my good lady is a huge fan of Deutshce Wein, so hard to get at your local superstore, these days). This raises the point, why go to the expense in attending cookery courses if your fashion sense for wine is outdated and the night becomes a damp squib because your choice from the wine cellar leaves so much to be desired?

English wine has transformed over the last twenty years

But, according to Alex Down, renowned blogger for The Riesling Revolutionary and from time to time the Great British Chefs website, British wine has emerged from a cocoon it was sharing beneath the same leaf as British cuisine in the last two decades and has turned into a beautiful butterfly, although still somewhat as fragile. This has as much to do with wineries and their masters upping their game in an attempt to rival the likes of South Africa whose wine production, since the end of Apartheid, has ballooned from 30m litres to 400m litres per annum over a similar time-scale.

The key behind the success of English winemakers has been to recognise that grapes that do well in hotter climes are not going to reap similar rewards in our own very temperate climate. Indeed, research and experimentation has seen winemakers in the UK develop the grapes best suited to our very unpredictable weather and has helped achieved two things.

Obviously, there are less failed crops but English wine – rather than try and emulate a Chilean Red or crisp white from the plains of Australia, has developed its own earthy taste, giving it a distinction and an identity it has never possessed before. There is much to be said for the reaction – some critics are appraising it positively, whilst others try to hand it the Phantom of the Opera’s mask as they daresn’t look upon its countenance, let alone let it slip past their lips. Much more to come from British Wine Week to try to persuade the consumer that it is not the enemy. Stay with me this week when take a closer look at the methods being used to bring us the perfect wine to accompany the recipes and menus we learn at our ever-growing market of cookery courses.

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Cooking Courses News

Dinner parties on the wane as The Good Life disappears

One of the main reasons that people from all walks of life entertain the idea of cookery courses is purely and simply because, after one Stella or glass of Chardonnay too many, they have publicly announced at a social gathering – “Come around to ours – we’ll knock up a four-course gourmet meal for ten, no problem.”

In the sober light of day, when one of the two of you remembers the self-laid gauntlet you accepted, you think you’d better start to learn how to cook for such a feast. But a recent survey suggests that, despite your good intentions, you may just be better off booking a table for ten at your local Indian restaurant and picking up the tab yourself.

A recent article on the Great British Chefs blog suggests that the home-hosted dinner party is becoming a thing of the past. Without the benefit of a cookery class or two to deliver the culinary know-how, the time and effort that goes into cooking for so many when you’ve not got the experience soon descends into an ill-tempered chore – and that’s without looking at the supermarket bill for the tab of ingredients, alcohol inclusive or not.

Two thousands UK adults were polled by the bespoke cooking ingredients company VeryLazy about their attitudes towards hosting dinner parties. Surprisingly, only a third said that they enjoyed the experience with 25% categorically stating they avoided them altogether due to the emotional stress that’s attached to the once-popular social activity. If you’ve ever watched The Good Life, your heart would often go out to Margot after Jerry invited “Sir” and a whole host of international clients around for such an event at the drop of a hat. It seems that little has changed as Penelope Keith’s character would go into instant meltdown at just considering the menu, ingredients and, obviously, the state of Tom and Barbara’s back yard.

Whereas money was not often the case for the Leadbetters, the survey by VeryLazy intimates that the tough financial times have put the collybosh on self-hosted dinner parties to some extent. Another reason cited by Rob Cottam, the brand’s head development chef, is that we’re all so hyper-connected these days, finding the hours to set aside to source, prepare and cook the ingredients that go into dinner parties is not so easy as every spare minute is a premium to look at other more pressing aspects of our day-to-day lives.

He summed it up succinctly, saying that dinner parties are indeed a brilliant excuse to devote time to those things most important to us – friends, family and food. If you find yourself in a pickle and have promised to lay on a gastronomic fayre fit for royalty, but are unsure of how to go about it, why not check out our cookery courses to see if they can at least take the headache of sorting the menu out, even suggest the beer and wine to go with.

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Cookery Courses News

Back to nature for foraged ingredients

In the fast-paced world in which we live, the tendency is to resort to pre-packed ready-meals available off the supermarket shelf as a matter of convenience.  Even when we buy ingredients off the shelf, there is a question hanging over their nutritional value.

Depending upon where you live in the UK, there could be a multitude of ingredients on your doorstep that you could literally pick from their natural habitat and, after a quick swill, pop straight into the pot.

Foraging for your ingredients

Even the judges for TV shows, like The Great British Menu, place a huge emphasis on the sourcing of local ingredients.

The onus is on the chefs to go out to their local region, find suppliers for the ingredients of their four-course competition dishes who are then invited to the prestigious event, for whichever worthy cause is deigned for that year – even to the extent of celebrating the indigenous British ingredients, themselves.

Why the sudden interest?

There has been a sweep across Europe with the top chefs looking to promote their home-grown ingredients.

Two-Michelin starred chef Rene Redzepi has incorporated his native Danish wild plants as the basis for the Noma menu in his Copenhagen contemporary restaurant.

What are we talking about when we refer to foraged foods?

If you want to learn to cook as these top chefs – other contemporaries utilising this en vogue method are British chefs Mark Hix and Simon Rogan – you need to have an inkling about what you’re looking for to put on the plate.

There is no exact ‘list of ingredients‘, it is very much down to what you can pick out of the ground, scoop from the hives or pick from trees and bushes.

Honey is a great traditional local ingredient – the bees collect pollen from plants nurtured in nearby grounds, plants that grow only in certain regions and variants of fruits and berries that change their flavour as they suit the geography of the land.

Many of the chefs who propogate this method do offer cookery courses that will inherently incorporate foraged foods. Not only through their own restaurants and websites but by their registration with the Great British Chefs association.

It is worth contemplating, if you’re looking to add more unprocessed supermarket to your diet and cook freshly on a more regular basis.

Just look to the ground, tress and bushes around you for your inspiration.

Cookery Class News

Cookery lesson with Bruno Loubet won

It seemed like the ideal competition – tweet this and you’ve won a cookery lesson with Bruno Loubet. For Internet users everywhere, they may have thought – OK, where’s the con?

Turns out, there’s none! There exists a small pot of genuine opportunity to win competitions on the Internet without having to sign your life away and provide details that entail you giving away your bank account details to the highest bidder behind the scenes.

Pocket-lint & GB Chefs – a formidable team

The prize, to win the chance to cook with two-Michelin-rated chef Bruno Loubet followed by a meal for two as part of the Pocket-lint Christmas Spectacular, did exactly what it said on the tin.  Just ask @jonny162 from London who has scooped the prestigious prize.

Cynics may suggest, as the terms were: in order to be in the hat you have to tweet the hashtag #plxmas and follow @pocketlint and @gbchefs, that the reward is simply a cheap marketing tactic, but for jonny162, it could just turn his life around.

Who are the ‘Great British Chefs’?

The name ‘Bruno Loubet’ does not automatically ring synonymous with being a chef of UK origin, and you’d be right.  Bruno came here to ply his culinary trade in the early eighties, straight out of National  Service en France.

The theme behind GB Chefs is to encapsulate all the ideas brought to the UK by chefs working on our shores and utilise their site as a fulcrum to synergise everything expressive and wholesome about continental cooking and deliver it to the UK public.

Download 105 recipes at app-speed

The sum of that creative talent then provides an online presence to express the collective chef’s brilliance and offers a platform both online and now mobile in order to relate to an English-reading audience across all networks.

You can follow their blog by RSS or, as is the wont with everything hot on the net, download an app to keep you up-to-date with everything en vogue in the culinary UK. As soon as you install the app, these 105 recipes are yours for the cooking.

Ranging from recipes the single bloke at college could cook to a recipe that only those who’d attended a multitude of cookery courses to understand the ingredients, let alone the methods involved in preparing the dish, this app is an insight into ingenuity.

Whether your aim is to learn how great chefs cook, get an eye-opener to the type of know-how you feel you ought to arm yourself with before signing up to a cookery course or just like experimenting every now and again when the opportunity presents itself, check out Great British Chefs. It’s not all rrros-bif, Yorkshire pud and tikka-masala, y’know.