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Food and Ingredients News

Food and Farming Awards so important to local communities

There are many different types of cookery courses – from independent cookery schools out in the sticks to inner-city restaurants that open up their kitchens for their professional chefs to pass on their culinary expertise.

Likewise, there are many different outlets for the food we learn to cook; the afore-mentioned restaurant, pub grub, take away food and fine dining around the table at home, impressing friends and family ourselves being probably the main reason many of us attend cookery courses.

With so many chefs awards, The Good Food Guide praising eateries up and down the country and EatOut ezine keeping tabs on the hospitality trade from a front of house perspective, there is very little that makes the headlines in the way of the food producers and the actual quality of the raw ingredients themselves. This week sees the thirteenth Food and Farming Awards begin, with nominations being invited for the best local and national produce suppliers to, for once, step into the limelight and gain the recognition that often gets overlooked when the spotlight falls on crisp kitchen whites or brass-polished hostelries.

The popular TV show Great British Menu not only recommends that the qualifying chefs choose produce from their local suppliers but that aspect is a huge weighting factor in the overall marks that the chefs attain en route to whatever national or royal event it is chosen as the theme for the annual cookery demonstration visual feast.

Angela Hartnett, a judge for the Food and Farming Awards and a Michelin-star chef in her own rite rates this competition as one of the more ‘credible’ appraisals of British food, given the way that the whole process of farming and how is brought to market from its very roots to the locale in its given region is at the heart of the competition and the communities the farms serve.

Food – like many a good ale – tastes better if it doesn’t have to travel

The general consensus is that food that doesn’t have to travel, i.e. unlike supermarket-stacked produce, tastes better, has a more direct and swift route to market and benefits the community from which it is grown, picked and prepared for sale.  And nothing perhaps exemplifies what the competition is all about better than the winner of one of  last year’s awards.

The ‘Small Retailer’ award at the twelfth outing of the competition went to a village shop in Wales in a project tagged The Brockweir & Hewelsfield Village Shop (funnily enough).

The shop as it was was closing down as a viable business concern, leaving the only alternative a trip to the supermarket. In the face of produce being grown all around the villages, the villagers themselves were having none of it, as the manager, Alison Macklin, explained.

The staff is made up of volunteers who keep the shop ticking over, the only pricing concern being that the profit is enough to pay the bills and buy more stock. There is even a volunteer allotment on the back doorstep, tilled and kept by the villagers, from which produce is picked and literally carried yards before it is on the shelf ready for sale. And the independence, according to Macklin, is contagious. The more food they sell, the more suppliers want their produce to be on the shelf next to the other locally grown produce.

It is at events like the Food and Farming Awards that projects such as this one and smaller suppliers get to showcase their business. In these hard times, a good event can be the difference between make or break – not just for the owners but for whole communities, too.

So, if you’re running a cookery school, looking for suppliers who would be interested in supplying smaller volumes than perhaps the local supermarket, get involved with this year’s awards. Full details about the competition and how to nominate businesses are on the website at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/features/ffa/2012/

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News

Fine English wine – I’m not kidding – it exists

We continue our homage this week to English wine, given that it’s English Wine Week, by looking at just what you can expect from the produce and a few places helping promote the week if not by marrying their set-course menus to the wine they’re promoting, but also by stocking up on a few bottles of English Plonk.

Finding a good English wine (stick that in Google and see how many search results come back with an exact match – not too many!) has oft been a problem, especially in light of the recent celebrations where you can’t walk along a High Street without whacking your head of down-hanging bunting because everything just has to be British. But there are several supporters of this week’s event itself and the ongoing effort to bring English wine to the fore.

A popular place to procure English vintage has been online, with only specialist merchants actually carrying bulk stock of any note. The award-winning waitrosewines.com seems to be the most popular port of call, looking around the forums and blogs but there are many English vintners selling produce direct. The number of those has risen dramatically in the last decade or so.

So much so that there are approximately 400 vineyards in England producing their own wine or supplying the grape to mass producers in order that they may enhance the growing reputation of the niche. The latest figure is that England is producing in the region of 2,000,000 bottles of wine. It’s nothing like enough to make any sort of dent in the global wine market but, with all regions producing their own distinctive brand, it is most definitely a platform to launch from.

Perhaps of all the English wines, sparkling has taken off more than traditional red or white. With similar earth to take root in as the Champagne region of France, the matured and fermented grape, when blind-taste tested in international wine competition, has seen results that have been more than favourable, considering it is a bit of British bubbly. Reds have been a problem, but with the introduction of new grapes suited to our climate (and a lot of perseverance), you can picked up a full-bodied English red, too.

Whites, on the other hand, project a flowery bouquet and can be sharp, much in the way that the sparkling has a distinctive bite in comparison to our warmer-climed Continental competition. Uplifting on the palate it may be, but the acidity levels can have a knock-on effect the morning after if consumed in too much volume (which we shouldn’t be doing, anyway, should we, folks? The answer to that one is: “No!”, in case you were wondering).

So, next time you book your all-British cookery class, likewise I’m not jesting: over in Canada they are running cookery courses that are full-bodied Brit, you’ll know that, to complete the meal, you can pick up a bottle of English wine to suit.  Join me tomorrow when we delve even deeper into this growing sector of the wine market and highlight some of the most prolific vineyards on our home shores.

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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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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.