Category Archives: Food & Drink

Local restaurant reviews, seasonal recipes and creative ideas for the kitchen.

Make your own Frappuccino!

Iced coffee is a brilliant summer drink. Cool and smooth, it’s the perfect refreshment on a warm day! You don’t need to take a trip to your local coffee shop to enjoy a creamy Frappuccino; you can make one at home with very little equipment.

What you’ll need to make 2-3 servings:

  • A blender (it doesn’t matter what kind, as long as it’s powerful enough to crush the ice!)
  • ½ Cup of double strength coffee (cooled)
  • ½ Cup of milk (low fat or full fat both work fine)
  • 1-2 Tablespoons of sugar (don’t tell your dentist)
  • 1-2 Cups of ice
  • (Optional) 1-2 Tablespoons of flavoured syrup. If you like chocolate or caramel, you can add these in too!

Directions:

  1. Bung it all into the blender
  2. Blend until smooth
  3. Pour into cups
  4. Enjoy!

Michael Knowles

Ice Cream for Breakfast Day: An Annual Alternative to Frosties

Ever heard of Ice Cream for Breakfast Day?

It will come as little surprise to learn that this event, now celebrated throughout the world, originated in the U.S.A., when a particularly snowy day in mid-sixties Rochester, New York, saw all schools closed and the neighbourhood children at a loose end.

The story goes that resourceful mother of six, Florence Rappaport, placated her confined and irritable offspring by suggesting that they enjoy the delights of ice cream as their first meal of the day. And from that day forward, the first Saturday in February was known in Florence’s house as Ice Cream for Breakfast Day.

The tradition began to spread when the children grew and went to college, where they introduced their friends to the custom. Further kudos for this icy, morning treat was gained when Florence’s well-travelled grandchildren encouraged their global acquaintances to give it a try.

What began as a family celebration has, to date, been witnessed as far afield as Nepal, Namibia, Germany, New Zealand, Honduras and China, and has gained particular popularity in Israel.

In contemporary America, ice cream vendors have begun to use Ice Cream for Breakfast Day as a fundraising tool for various charity organisations.

So, why not try bacon flavour? Originating in a 1973 comedy sketch by The Two Ronnies, this unlikely combination was brought to life by Heston Blumenthal as an April Fools’ Day joke. Created by adding bacon to a scrambled egg custard, it now features as a signature dish on his menus.

Or if you don’t fancy that, how about some garlic ice cream? According to The Stinking Rose, a San Francisco restaurant that proudly boasts that all of its dishes contain this pungent ingredient, garlic ice cream is essentially vanilla with added garlic. Can’t wait to sample that one!!

Or for a fishy alternative, Oyster ice cream has been around since 1842 and was featured in Mark Twain’s ‘The Adventures of Tom Sawyer’. But if none of these exotic flavours fills your cone, there’s always trusty old choc-chip or raspberry ripple.

When you look out of your window on a cold February morning to see everything covered in frost, you may think that a bowl of steaming porridge might warm your cockles. But just once a year you could indulge yourself on Ice Cream for Breakfast Day. You never know, it could catch on.

Tony Flower

The Origins of Christmas Pudding

Here in Britain, no Christmas is complete without a helping of Christmas pudding (or ‘figgy pudding’ as it is called in the popular carol, We Wish You a Merry Christmas). A blend of dried fruit, spices, suet and other ingredients, it is often made to traditional family recipes and sometimes left to age a whole year before being served.

Its appearance at the dinner table is one of the highlights of the festive season, as described in Dickens’ A Christmas Carol (1843): ‘Mrs. Cratchit entered – flushed but smiling proudly – with the pudding, like a speckled cannon-ball, so hard and firm, blazing in half of half-a-quartern of ignited brandy, and bedight with Christmas holly stuck into the top.’

But where did the custom of Christmas Pudding originate?

According to popular belief, Christmas pudding dates back to medieval times, when it was prepared with 13 ingredients to represent Christ and the apostles, and stirred from east to west in honour of the journey made by the magi. However, no definite recipes for ‘plum pudding’ appear until the 1600s. Back then, it was associated more with the Harvest Festival than with Christmas.

Another myth claims that King George I began the Christmas pudding tradition in 1714, when he asked for ‘plum pudding’ to be served during his first royal Christmas feast. He has been nicknamed ‘The Pudding King’ as a result,  but sadly there is no contemporary evidence for this story.

The tale of the 18th century Pudding King probably originated as late as 1911, when the Strand Magazine described how the royal children of King George V’s household enjoyed  a Christmas Dinner of ‘traditional roast turkey, sausages and plum pudding. The latter, by the way, is made from a recipe that has been in possession of the Royal Family since the days of George I.’

Whether or not George I had plum pudding at his feast, it was an important feature of Christmas dinner by Victorian times (like so many of our Christmas traditions, it was made fashionable by the queen’s husband, Prince Albert). In 1845, the cook Eliza Acton finally gave it the name ‘Christmas Pudding’ .

Today most of us buy our Christmas puddings ready-made, but they are still based on recipes passed down from olden times – and, when the brandy is set alight, we still feel that same sense of wonder and delight!

Louisa Watson

An interview with Raymond Blanc

For the 8th edition of our eZine, we interviewed the star of BBC Two’s Kew on a Plate, Raymond Blanc…

In person, the renowned chef Raymond Blanc comes across just as you see him on TV – a man passionate about the craft of cooking. His enthusiasm for the pleasure of honest food prevails throughout his restaurants, inspiring his team to produce endless culinary delights.

Raymond dislikes the sensationalism of earlier TV cookery shows, believing that viewers have become more sophisticated.

“Consumers are much more discerning and thinking,” he says. “They have a better understanding of seasonality, provenance, and the ethics of food production and consumption. This has had a huge impact upon retailers.”

Shunning foodie fashion for its own sake, Raymond is inspired by the same principles that he was taught by his parents as a boy in France – primarily, the use of fresh, local, good-quality ingredients.

Using such produce not only gives the dishes a great flavour but lessens the impact of food transportation on the environment. True to these ideals, the menu of each Brasserie Blanc restaurant is tailored to reflect local ingredients and specialities.

Raymond’s view of a chef’s business focuses on inclusion. He believes all aspects of life and society should be integrated within the public dining experience. His restaurants use local suppliers as much as possible to support the community from which each Brasserie draws its customers.

Brasserie Blanc at Milton Keynes
Brasserie Blanc at Milton Keynes

As an award-winning chef, Raymond aims to teach his trainees about the purity and nobility of the produce, to show that good food is really important, and to help society reconnect with the values of food.

When we mentioned that some restaurants have been caught secretly serving factory-produced food, Raymond acknowledged that there will always be cheats, but he believes most people are honest.

“Respect for one’s self, one’s skill and one’s customers will prevent passing off brought-in food as homemade,” he says. “I can give you the absolute guarantee that at Brasserie Blanc every dish is made from scratch on the premises!”

To close, we asked Raymond: “Which do you consider the three most essential herbs in a kitchen garden?”

Of course, the subject lies too close to his heart for a simple answer, but we eventually ended up with basil, lemon grass and hyssop – with Vietnamese mint and lavender kept in reserve!

At the time of our interview, Raymond had recently been on TV, reviving the use of forgotten ingredients at Kew Gardens. So, it was no surprise to hear him championing the fantastic produce growing on our own doorsteps.

As he says, “It’s time to embrace it!”

James Martine