My 60 Favourite Blog Posts

Since I started this food blog three years ago I've published almost 400 posts - more than one every three days on average. Many of these are long gone and forgotten, and in some cases deservedly so. But there are others that I'm still really proud of. So I thought it was about time to gather together my favourite posts of the past three years. I wasn't sure how to decide which were the best ones, but I certainly know which ones I really like, which ones I'm most proud of and which ones stirred up the most interest. So here they are - my 60 favourite posts on my food blog, in no particular order, as they say. Click on the photos or the links to be taken to the original post. Last updated May 2009.

Fish from Steve Hatt in IslingtonFishing For ComplimentsThis was my first ever food post, back in August 2006. Before this I'd started the blog to host my CV and advertise for a job. Ironic, because that's what I did again recently, three years later. Back in 2006 I had very little experience, so getting into professional kitchens was difficult. Now I've got plenty of experience, but the global economic crisis means that the restaurant trade has been severely hit and jobs are difficult to find. My cooking has come a long way since this original sardine salad, seared scallops and fruit. So has my writing. In this early post I used the "Y" word - now banned from my blog completely.
Scallop with Jerusalem artichoke purée and onion escalivada at Cinc SentitsThe Sixth SenseI've written quite a few restaurant reviews over the past three years, but this is my favourite. My favourite review and my favourite restaurant. I was totally blown away the first time I ate at Cinc Sentits, so not surprisingly a lot of that emotion found its way into my blog post. Jordi Artal's skill at employing complex cooking techniques with perfect execution to make the simplest and most genuine of ingredient-led dishes still amazes me, after several visits. And I know that other chefs for whom I have deep respect share my opinion. I'm determined that one day I'll experience cooking alongside this incredible chef.
The Catalan version of a Spanish classicPa Amb Tomàquet The "Proper" Way (Apparently)In this post I recall the look of horror on the face of Head Chef Arnau at Comerç 24 when I first attempted to make the Catalan classic pa amb tomàquet for the staff's evening meal. I mean how far can you go wrong rubbing tomato, olive oil and salt into bread and adding some salami? You just don't want to go there. Making this dish properly requires the same level of skill as making sushi rice in Japan - several years of practice to get it perfect. There's one way to do it correctly and hundreds of ways to get it wrong. But now I've been taught by some of the best chefs in Catalunya, I reckon I can manage it OK. And it's not salami!
A top London restaurant more like a Roman slave galleyTwo Days That Shocked My WorldThis wasn't the first time I dipped my toe into the sea of controversy. I'd written earlier about Marco Pierre White after hearing him admit to having been more driven by the desire for fame and fortune than by a passion for food. But this was the first time I wrote anything controversial about my own experience. I'd spent a day staging at each of two restaurants. I loved every minute of my time at Zuma. But my day at an unnamed restaurant really shocked me. Especially as the place was owned by someone ranked one of the world's top 10 chefs and honoured over the years with several Michelin stars.
Dining with friends and family at Cata 1.81 in EixampleDining Out In BarcelonaA blog is generally meant to be a diary of spontaneous thoughts, but there was nothing spontaneous about this post. I thought about it long and hard and it took several months before I was sufficiently comfortable with my understanding of the food scene in my adopted city to publish it. Even then I was wrong in my prediction that many of the new "bistronomic" chefs would betray their principles and go for fame and fortune. In reality, the global economic crisis meant that many Michelin-starred restaurants go into serious trouble and the smart ones moved downmarket into "prêt-à-manger".
Bacalhau à Braz, with help from some Portuguese womenA Portuguese Bacalhau In LondonCooking classic dishes from the cuisines of other countries is a challenge if you don't have the requisite experience in the techniques involved and you aren't equipped to judge the output. So when four young Portuguese friends came to visit me in London, I wasn't going to waste the opportunity. Zélia played Executive Head Chef (recipe consultant and taster), I was Chef de Partie (in charge of the fish section), Sandra and Rosa were Commis Chefs (peeling, chopping and giggling), dad took the photos and Lúcia sent texts to Portugal for last-minute advice. Between us, we managed a fantastic Bacalhau à Braz.
La Boqueria - one of Europe's greatest food marketsA Visit To La BoqueriaNothing against Borough Market in my home city of London, but moving to Barcelona exposed me to one of the greatest food markets in Europe - El Mercat St. Josep de la Boqueria, otherwise known as The Boqueria, or 'La Boq'. Whereas Borough Market is mostly populated with tourists and locals engaged in retail shopping and London's wholesale food markets are elsewhere, the Boqueria manages to combine retail and wholesale food distribution. I soon discovered that most of the city's top restaurants dispatch someone to The Boqueria each morning - very often the Sous Chef - to purchase the city's finest produce.
Food that makes an indelible impressionRoca 'N' Roll!I didn't select this for inclusion just because of the title, but I won't deny being pleased with it. As for El Celler de Can Roca, I was even more pleased with the meal I ate there and wrote up. It's over 20 years since the Roca brothers took over the family business and it's now often said to be one of the best Michelin 3* restaurants only to hold 2 stars. Afterwards, Joan Roca invited me to accompany him on a kitchen tour. As I said in my post, it was perhaps the most sublime moment of my entire culinary career. I'm especially honoured by the entire review having been uploaded to the Can Roca website.
Michael with his Tuscan ham at Gallo Nero in Stoke NewingtonProsciutto, Jambon, Presunto, Jamón!This was the first of very few of my blog posts that could be classed as journalism in the sense that I chose a topic, investigated in person and even sent a photographer (my dad) to back up the story. Michael's Tuscan herb-roasted ham remains to this day my single favourite food product - quite something considering that I've experienced many of the world's cuisines and worked with jamón Ibérico de ballota. It was the first time I questioned the rubbish food so often found in Britain. Writing this helped me to hone my critical faculties and say what I think, however it may run against the grain.
A role for Tom Hanks as the disappearing gourmet Pascal HenryThe Mysterious Case Of El Bulli And The Vanishing Gastro-GnomeI don't write many blog posts as a result of general news items, but when I saw the story of Pascal Henry, the vanishing gourmet, I simply couldn't resist. This story had everything - a mysterious disappearance, Swiss with more money than could be accounted by their income, the world's most famous restaurant, dangerous cliffs and a possible drowning. I just let my imagination run loose. How come his employers let Mr. Henry take a 68-day gourmet holiday? Had he been poisoned at El Bulli? Or was it all a trial run for a Hollywood blockbuster starring Tom Hanks?
A head chef is a walking encyclopaediaThe Head ChefAlthough I'm training at the lower levels of commis and chef de partie, I make no secret of my desire to become a head chef one day and, later on, a restaurant proprietor. So at work I'm always watching my head chef and sous chef to study their roles and better understand what is involved. Being a walking encyclopaedia of food is just part of the job. I realised at Comerç 24 how the head chef has to also fulfil one or two other roles, including detective, event planner, inventor, linguist, personal motivator, psychotherapist, referee and teacher. I really enjoyed writing this post and learnt a lot in the process.
Sex, horror and domestic rodents - food blogging at its worstBritney Spears Cooked My HamsterThe title, for those who don't know, came from a banner headline in The Sun newspaper: "Freddie Starr Ate My Hamster", which publicist Max Clifford planted to revive the comedian's flagging career. This was my announcement that I no longer intended to write for The Guardian food blog, Word Of Mouth, because I felt that the website was dumbing down food stories to a similar level. Looking back now, I'm proud that I had the courage to make the decision I made, even if I did look a bit puritanical as a consequence. Looking at Word of Mouth now, I don't think it's improved very much.
Ferran Adrià and other top chefs at AlimentariaViva AlimentariaAlimentaria is the biggest and most important food exhibition in Spain and although it was held within walking distance of my home in Barcelona, I was busy cooking for visitors and unable to attend. There was a time when that would have been the end of the matter. But since I started blogging I've improved my research and communication skills enormously. So I set out to find photos, notes and videos of Alimentaria and get copyright permissions where appropriate. I was pleased with the result - not bad for someone who wasn't even there. Almost like journalists who (allegedly) file news stories from the comfort of the pub.
A Catalan classic, made at homeAlchemy At Home: Chocolate, Olive Oil & SaltA lot of home cooking posts involve complex ingredients and even more complex instructions, with photographs to guide the process. This post was about a piece of home cooking in which less, as they say, was truly more. And the enlargeable photograph was not instructive, but pure food porn. A classic dish that celebrates the end of war and food shortages by combining three ingredients central to Catalan culture - chocolate, olive oil and rock salt. I really enjoyed putting this simple post together and I still think this combination of flavours is nothing short of utterly amazing.
It's been a great year for spaghetti growing in the Swiss canton of TicinoRetro Food That's Past Sell-By Date, But Still Wobbles And WigglesThe most unexpected reaction to any of my blog posts was to this one. Yet again I'd missed a meme, but this time I thought I'd have a go anyway. "Retro food that wiggles and wobbles" was the topic and I thought immediately of spaghetti. I remembered being told about the BBC 1957 April Fools' Day spoof The Swiss Spaghetti Harvest when I was young and, amazed to find a copy of the video, I hosted it on my YouTube site so I could link to it from my blog. What's amazing is that less than two years later that short clip has had over 843,000 visitors and received 341 comments, the overwhelming majority highly positive.
What makes a kitchen tick - the chef waltzThe Chef WaltzI think this was the best piece of writing I've produced since I started the blog. I had the idea for the post almost as soon as I started at Comerç 24, but it took me several months, and a thorough reading of Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential, before I got my thoughts onto paper. When you're really busy during service you enter "the zone" , where your sequence of movements becomes one long dance with the other chefs with whom you are working. If you've rehearsed well enough, you always know the next step before it comes and the dance is simply perfection. It's the Chef Waltz.
Syd Kyle-Little in Arnhem LandWhispering WindThis post started out as a "filler" - just something to put into the blog when I had nothing else to write about. But it became much more than that. I heard the story of this forgotten man of Australian history as a small part of a TV programme by survivalist Ray Mears. I've been really interested in Australian culture since I studied the history of Aussie cuisine at college, and although the story wasn't really about food, something about it grabbed my attention. Having members of his family thank me subsequently for writing the story and hosting a video interview with Syd Kyle-Little on my YouTube site was really touching.
When Michelin callsThe Fat Man ComethI've included this brief post amongst my favourites because it addresses one of the most important issues in the restaurant business. When I began training, I had very mixed feelings about Michelin and the demands that a star make on the creative freedom of a head chef. I still have reservations, although Michelin has changed beyond recognition during the past few years. What I was not prepared for was the immense feeling of pride you get when your kitchen becomes the recipient of a star. Many chefs work their entire lives without experiencing what I was lucky enough to experience after just seven weeks as a professional.
Chilli-chocolate dipped physalis with cracked black peppercornsFive Weeks In The LarderOf my three years at Westminster Kingsway College, the time I really enjoyed the most was my five-week stint on the larder section rotation, where I learnt just how much I enjoy being given the freedom and responsibility to be creative and how competent I can be when working with the most delicate of dishes. In this post I published photos of 16 different canapés that I developed and served to a paying clientele, plus the one deemed too outlandish for public consumption. I must have learnt something, because a year later I found myself running the larder section of a Michelin-starred restaurant.
Food, beautiful foodYou're BeautifulThis must surely rank as my most daft ever blog post. I had a load of food photos that had never been used - for the most part because they were really weird pictures. It was a time when, if that damned Christina Aguilera song Beautiful wasn't being aired, the even worse James Blunt You're Beautiful was driving you mad. I looked at my ugly photo set of food and thought how beautiful they were. And that's what inspired quite the most stupid blog post in three years. I gave them ridiculous names, including Artie Choke, Roo Barb and Dragan Fruit. But none as ridiculous as Christina Auguilera or James Blunt.
Climbing the mountainThe View From Here Is AmazingI wouldn't be where I am today without the support I've received from my parents. From my dad, it's been a huge amount of material support, direct help and advice. From my mum, it's been more subtle and psychological. In May 2007 as I was about to sit my final Diploma exams I published the post Mountains and Foothills, in which I recounted the story mum had told me about pacing oneself in order to reach the top. Just one year later I was promoted to my first chef de partie position in a Michelin-starred restaurant. It was the first pinnacle on what remains a long climb. But the view was simply amazing.
Tofu makizushi - not bad for an amateurJapanese Home Cooking - Tofu MakizushiAlthough I'm proud to be able to cook European food at Michelin level, I would never for a moment make the same claim of Japanese food. Eating at the best Japanese restaurant in Barcelona, getting to know the chefs and beginning to understand something of the professionalism behind what is probably the world's most perfect cuisine, has taught me the utmost respect. But my experience as the chef de partie responsible for a maki dish at Comerç 24 certainly taught me something. So I was really pleased to be able to make this delicious and healthy dish at home and post about it.
Not just chefs but foodiesWorking With FoodiesWithout question this was one of my favourite posts, not because it's written particularly well but because I was so happy when I wrote it. I hadn't been at Comerç 24 very long - the Michelin star was yet to come - but I realised what a privilege it was to work with a group of chefs who not only cooked for a profession but who genuinely loved food. Chefs who took delight in making exquisite staff meals from the leftovers. Chefs who, after work, relaxed with a beer and discussed mis en place. Only later would I realise that not all professional kitchens were like that.
One big fat hind quarterHoly Cow!There were days at college that were just boring and repetitive and, every now and again, there were days that were really exciting. On this particular day early in my third year at college, an entire cow arrived. It weighed in at 108kg and took four of us to manhandle it onto the chopping table. When I published this post it was simply to celebrate doing something different and interesting. Little did I realise that, years later, butchers would be logging onto my YouTube site to comment about the deficiencies in technique - still refusing to realise that it was a college, not a master butchers.
A set of El Bulli TexturasFun With TexturasWhen my dad was a young boy he was thrilled to be given his first chemistry set for a birthday present. My equivalent experience came a little later in life - just after my twentieth birthday, when I visited Solé Graells in Barcelona and bought my first Texturas. With the aid of these El Bulli products I could make emulsions and gels, spherify food purées and perform many of the culinary tricks associated with molecular gastronomy. And I could do them at home. No wonder I was having fun and wanted to write about it on my blog. I've moved on a lot since - nowadays I use the generic substances in my day-to-day work.
Continued fishing like this is an unsustainable disasterThe End Of The LineI don't engage in much prostheletizing here. On the one hand it's not the purpose of the blog, which is to celebrate food and record my development as a trainee chef. Secondly, I've always thought that humour was a far better way to make a point than preaching at people. But there are some issues on which I take a strong stand, and unsustainable fishing is one of them. It will lead to starvation for millions of the world's poorest people. And for millions of wealthier people, over-fishing will lead to them being deprived of one of the planet's most delicious foods. I was pleased to promote this new film, The End Of The Line.
Cooking for my family at Comerç 24The Family Visits La FamiliaIt's rare that one gets to be photographed while working professionally. It requires an open kitchen, guests to take the photos and a friendly management willing to let them. The photos in this blog post are the only ones in existence of me working during restaurant service. They were taken by my dad while my mum and aunt sat at a table close to the kitchen partition and enjoyed the Super Festival tasting menu. Just a few days after the family visit, Comerç 24 won its first Michelin star. Little did I know then that I would be promoted to chef de partie and remain at Comerç for over a year before moving on.
Perhaps the world's best soup ingredientButternuts SquashedThis was my first proper home cooking post with an accompanying recipe. It was half-time in a 2006 football friendly between England and Greece, the family was hungry and I had just 15 minutes to knock up something to eat. But I'd already begun to learn the importance of mis en place. The squash had been prepped and part cooked earlier and the shiitake mushrooms were ready to sautée in chilli oil. So dinner service was a piece of cake - or rather a bowl of soup. Maybe the England team had indulged in some of my soup during the break, because they were unable to add to the 4-0 half-time score in the second half.
A defining book in Caribbean cuisine, written by schoolgirlsTrinidad Stew ChickenIf this post had merely been the write-up of a spicy chicken dish, it would soon have been forgotten. But it turned out to be so much more important than that. I'd only recently discovered this amazing book, conceived as a fundraising tool for the diamond jubilee of Naparima Girls' High School in Trinidad and put together by the school's girl students. It turned out that the book was almost impossible to obtain, being out of print. But thanks to the promotional efforts of my fellow blogger Sarina and others, it's now available once more. I have my own copy, brought back from Trinidad by my brother Joel's mother-in-law.
A defining book in Caribbean cuisine, written by schoolgirlsThe Last SupperIf ever there was an example of simple, sublime home fusion cooking, this was it. I'd recently gained work experience at The Landmark, Providores and Zuma and with English, kiwi and Japanese flavours ringing in my head and having just read The Naparima Girls' High School Cookbook - the definitive guide to Trinidadian cuisine - I was really up for this. Guinea fowl supreme caramelised with demerara sugar and roasted. Served with a sauce of lemon oil, fish sauce, dark soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce on a bed of egg noodles boiled in beef stock. My last meal before starting work at Gordon Ramsay's Boxwood Café.
I wonder who on earth they could possibly be talking aboutF*** Working In A F***ing Kitchen For A F***ing LivingI know I shouldn't have, but I just couldn't help posting this. When Armstrong and Miller wrote this sketch they can't have known just how relevant it would turn out to be. It's not just the obvious parodying of a certain celebrity chef, although that on its own would be funny. No, it's the final three lines – delivered with that perfect timing that makes good comedy into something great. "Chef insists on simple food, sourced locally." "He makes a fine casserole." "Doesn’t he, though?" I've often felt like serving up a head chef in a casserole – especially some who follow Andoni Aduritz's lead with simple food, sourced locally.
Trusting in the texture of my meringue!Can You Guess What It Is Yet?If I had an analyst, I'm sure they'd be fascinated by my relationship with pastry cooking. It's never really been my forté, but from time to time I turn to it with a vengeance. I decided to cook Vic Cherikoff's near-impossible New Australian dish Wattleseed and Lemon Myrtle Rolled Pavlova for the practical exam in my Diploma finals - a decision about as stupid as that of the Masterchef entrants who every year opt to cook soufflés and chocolate fondants. It wasn't perfect, but it worked - the result was soft and sweet, with sour and mildly astringent tones. And I just loved posting a full photo-recipe to demonstrate the dish.
Fine dining at home - because you're worth itCoquille Saint-PatriceOne day during my third year at Westminster Kingsway I decided that it was time to break down the barriers between the fine dining skills I was learning at college and on work experience, and the rustic cooking I was practising at home. Starting with seafood and Guinness broth left over in the fridge from the Mussels With Guinness And Garlic that I made for St. Patrick's Day I made the perfect caramelised foam with which to top some seared Loch Fyne scallop. The result was a delicate balance of umami, sweet and bitter flavours that perfectly complemented the lightly-seared, succulent bivalve molluscs.
"It's what you do on a Friday night, init?"Going For An EnglishIn filing this post under movies and books I was cheating a bit - it's actually a clip from the series Goodness Gracious Me first shown on British TV over ten years ago. But it's a sketch that still makes me fall off my seat laughing now and it's completely relevant to a food blog. In this scene, the Indian foursome brilliantly satirise the scenario of a drunken Friday night out at the local Indian restaurant in England by turning the tables and going out for a drunken Friday night meal in Mumbai at the local English restaurant. "What's the blandest thing on the menu?" "Hey, Ja-mes, you're my mate. Ja-mes is my mate, you know!"
Three different paprikas - one in a different classA Tale Of Three GoulashesThis post was inspired by fellow food blogger Karen Coates who recounted the tale of being visited by her mother and mother-in-law, both of Austro-Hungarian origin, who cooked very distinctive but quite different versions of the classic dish goulash. At the time I'd been thinking a lot about the importance of using the best quality and most appropriate produce... and the two ideas suddenly came together. The home kitchen was almost destroyed when I cooked three separate goulashes using Hungarian, Indian and Spanish paprikas. I plated them up and dad and I subjected them to a blind tasting. The result? Read my post.
Pau Arenós calls me "a soul with soul" in El Periódico de CalalunyaSmall Plates, Sideburns, Two Revolutions And A Kitchen CuriosityIt's not the done thing to crow about media references, but all bloggers do it if they get a chance and I'm no different. And how could I be anything other than flattered to get a mention from Pau Arenós - Editor in Chief of El Periódico de Catalunya and prize-winning gastronomist, novelist and media celebrity. It was the ideal opportunity for me to discuss Sr. Arenós' thesis on Technoemotional Cooking and to pat myself on the back for managing to decipher his colloquial language and recognise a Spanish double-entendre. My former English and Spanish teachers at Raines' Foundation would be proud of me.
Vegetable noodle soup - home cooking at Michelin levelMonday Market Meal #5: Sopa De Fideos Vegetales (En Casa)I wrote this just days after being promoted to the post of chef de partie at a Michelin-starred restaurant for the first time. I no longer wanted to show that I could knock up classical Spanish home cooking, but that I could command Michelin-level cuisine anywhere. I took one of the most classic dishes from the Comerç 24 menú degustación and reproduced it at home. I took photos of each stage and wrote this up for the benefit of those with the courage to attempt fine dining at home. Writing this gave me a great boost because in the future I want to share my knowledge and experience with young people learning to cook.
How to ignore a princessStill Swimming Against The TideI like this post because it was a long time before I felt comfortable enough to publish it, but when I eventually did I felt really good about it. You've got to pay attention to other people in this life - especially your parents, teachers and employers. But you've also got to drive your own furrow and not simply believe what other people want you to believe and do what they want you to do. I've never been like that. For as long as I can remember I've been more than a bit of a maverick. How far back can I remember? Well, the little blonde fellow in the foreground was me aged 3, studiously ignoring HRH The Princess of Wales.
Seafood, flambéed in AmarettoPlaying With FireI didn't invent this dish, first cooked for me by my father, but the moment I tasted seafood flambéed in Amaretto I knew it was a very special combination of flavours. In most first-world cuisines, if Amaretto is used at all it is invariably as a dessert ingredient. But that's because we make an artificial separation between savoury and sweet, whereas cuisines such as those of the Maghreb combine sweet meats with bitter-sweet fruits to great effect. In this dish, the sweetness of the seafood is cut across by the bitter accents of the liqueur. Great reports from those who read this post and tried it for the first time.
No, the roses aren't here to look pretty - I'm cooking them!Doing "Something A Bit Different"Every now and again you find someone who stands head and shoulders above the crowd. So it was in early 2008 when my dad uploaded a clip from BBC Masterchef and told me to take a look at 18-year-old Emily. She blew the other contestants away with her originality - including a reminiscence of a childhood mud pie, recreated as chocolate pudding with thyme, tarragon grass and raspberries. With her family's permission, I edited several clips for YouTube, subsequently viewed all over the world. Pipped to the title by a more classical chef, Emily went on to read English at Oxford. As I said in my post, I salute a fellow maverick!
Me, whitening mayonnaise with waterHold The Mayo!In terms of sheer physical effort, this must surely have been the most demanding post that I've generated since I started my blog. The title comes from the brilliantly funny film Airplane!, when Captain Oveur's call to the Mayo Clinic is interrupted by the operator telling him there's an emergency call on Line 5 from Mr. Hamm and replies: "all right, get me Hamm on five; hold the Mayo". I posted videos of me making mayonnaise, how to whiten it and, as an extra, some outtakes from the arduous recording process. The experience taught me the greatest admiration for bloggers who post regular video demonstrations.
The perfect egg, courtesy of cling filmGamekeeper Turned PoacherThis post originated when I spotted an interesting post on a blog and, asking permission to reproduce the photos with a suitable acknowledgement and link, was curtly refused. I think it was probably the only time that has ever happened to me. So I set about repeating the exercise myself - cooking perfect eggs in clingfilm. There's some controversy as to whether the process can properly be named poaching, but whatever you call this method it certainly works and produces the most sublime eggs without the need for sous-vide technology. This post attracted a lot of attention worldwide.
Wild salmon to die forSaumon, Sauvage, So GreatNo matter how good a cook you are, unless you start with great ingredients you will never make exceptional dishes. What made this extraordinary was that the fish was bought in a supermarket. OK - not just any supermarket but Waitrose. And the fish was Alaskan wild salmon, line caught from small boats in managed waters and certified to Marine Stewardship Council standards. Waitrose could only source a very small stock and I was in like a shot. I pan-fried my wild salmon fillets and served them on a vinaigrette-based potato salad made with Anya potatoes and a selection of fresh leaves. Every bit as stunning as it looked.
Not a millionaire's truffle, but a puffball mushroomThe Truffle ShuffleI'd like to have thought that this object in the college fridge was a white Alba truffle and I'd become a millionaire, but it's just a puffball mushroom. But I did post about "the Pope of all truffles", unearthed in hills near Florence and sold to Zafferanos restaurant in London for a cool £28,000. Head Chef Andy Needham was very excited and after putting it on display for a week he stored in a safe in the restaurant's fridge for several days. Unfortunately, it died, incurring a total insurance loss for Gwyneth Paltrow and her partners in the bidding syndicate that owned the extinct fungus.
Santi Santamaría - leading the fight against molecular gastronomyThe Knives Are OutSince I started my blog I've done my best to avoid gastronomic political controversy. Not because I don't have strong views that I'd like to express but because I'm a chef who writes a bit, not a journalist who cooks a bit. I can't afford to take sides in public debates because I could find myself working for one of the combatants at some time in the future. But when war broke out, with Santi Santamaría accusing Ferran Adrià of using chemicals at El Bulli that were a health hazard, I just couldn't keep silent. And I just had to post a video from Catalan TV3's Polonia, lampooning both Santamaría and Adrià.
Cinc Sentits - one of Barcelona's very bestAm I An Undercover Michelin Inspector?I'm ever so proud of this post. On Wednesday 19th November 2008 I sat down to eat at Cinc Sentits, a little-known but brilliant restaurant in Barcelona run by the self-taught Catalan returnee Jordi Artal and his sister Amèlia. I'd eaten there before and, although it was a secret at the time, I was in discussion with them about taking up a post on Jordi's small kitchen team. I had not the slightest doubt from the first moment I entered Cinc Sentits that it was destined for a success that I wanted to be part of. On Thursday 20th November 2008 I was proved right when Jordi Artal became the proud recipient of a Michelin star.
Harold McGee debates which came firstHeston Blumenthal Challenges Molecular Gastronomy To "Go Orgasmic"Although I'm no journalist, sometimes I get incredible scoops that simply demand publication. Discovering that Heston Blumenthal was leading a coup at the International Workshop of Molecular and Physical Gastronomy with the demand for molecular gastronomy to change its boring name to the acronym ORGASMIC (ORganoleptics, Gastronomy, Art, & Science Meet In Cuisine) was just such a case. Members of my online molecular gastronomy group Brilliantly Original Gastronomy On Facebook encouraged me to go ahead and publish. Oh yes. I nearly forgot to mention one other thing. The date was 1st April 2009.
New Tayyab - the East End's best Pakistani restaurantThis Way For An Explosion Of FlavoursThere's much more to eating out than fine dining And for me, nothing quite like a really good "Indian" meal. I've been cooking and eating the food of the subcontinent since I was a small boy and my first ever work experience was at a local Bangladeshi restaurant. When I discovered Pakistani restaurant New Tayyab I was completely blown away by Mohammed Tayyab's genius at combining sour and bitter flavours with the traditional sweet, salt and umami flavours of Mughal food. I wasn't alone in my opinion - since I wrote this post several other food bloggers have expressed pleasure at experiencing Mr. Tayyab's delights.
Classic Spanish home cookingButifarra Y Berberechos Con Patatas Bravas - As Spanish As It GetsSeven months after I moved to Spain to start serious professional training as a chef, I realised for the first time that I could just take some leftovers from work and ingredients from the local food markets and make a classical Spanish meal. No research, no recipe, no special shopping trip. Just digging ingredients out of the fridge and knocking something up - but something unmistakeably Spanish. Most of my home cooking posts involve some forethought and planning, but this was totally spontaneous. It tasted great - but more importantly it tasted like a genuine dish from my adopted country. I was very proud of myself.
Bacchus - fine dining in trainers in HoxtonSaving The Best For Last (And About Time, Too!)It was just a few days before I was about to set off to Spain to develop my career. Within walking distance of my family house in London was Bacchus, a restaurant I'd been meaning to try but somehow never got round to. I emailed for a table and was gobsmacked to be told that they knew who I was and had wondered when I would pay a visit. It was the beginning of a relationship that I'm sure will last a lifetime. The restaurant was home to Nuno Mendes, a Portuguese chef trained at El Bulli and serving the most creative food in London with brilliantly paired wines. One day I'm sure we'll work together.
"I feel like some Corton Charlemagne"The Novice, The Master And A 1981 Corton-CharlemagneI've posted several clips from my favourite foodie film, Juzo Itami's Tampopo and here are two of them. In the first clip, a young diner learns from an elderly gourmet that a great dish of food is something to be caressed, honoured and respected. The second clip is my favourite because it's so brilliantly rebellious. The most junior member of staff in a Japanese business upsets the protocol of respect for one's elders and superiors by demonstrating his superior and excellent knowledge of French cuisine. And just to rub it in, when everyone else has ordered beer, he selects the 1981 Corton Charlemagne. I just love it!
The view from my table at MugaritzMugaritz - A Bad Day At The OfficeNo blog post caused me as much anguish as this one. Until the day I ate at the world-famous Mugaritz, I'd never had to make really negative comments in any restaurant reviews. But now the discomfort experienced by professional food critics came home to me. I really didn't want to be negative about a restaurant that I knew full well was simply having a bad day. And I thought people would consider someone with as little experience as me arrogant to criticise the food of a true master such as Andoni Aduriz. But in the end I simply decided to tell the truth as I saw it. I'm sure that one day I'll return to tell a happier tale.
Success with home molecular gastronomyAlchemy At Home: Saffron Vs. BeetrootI was pleased with this post, because it was the prospect of writing up the results that drove me to experiment with my Texturas set in my home kitchen. This dish of soft saffron gel with purée and air of beetroot was my first really successful piece of totally original culinary creativity and execution. I used Iota for the saffron gel and Lecite to stabilise my beetroot foam, resulting in a simple dish with perfect flavour, colour and textural balance in one mouthful. If anyone has paired saffron and beetroot in a similar way before, it's news to me. For the first time I felt that I was really beginning to master my creative art.
Shuck 'em, dress 'em, devour 'em - foodie heavenDestination: Foodie HeavenIt wasn't my first visit to London's foodie Mecca, Borough Market, but this post did celebrate my most pleasurable visit. Organised by TrustedPlaces, this was an opportunity for food journalists, other food writers and bloggers to get together and enjoy some of the treasures of the capital's premier food market. Everything from organic juices to balsamic vinegars, cheeses, tomatoes, truffles, fresh fish and, of course, those amazing oysters! We took a break at Bedales, where we sat down to taste some excellent wines and to munch on some of canapés of salami, sun-blush tomatoes and pickled garlic and a very good paté. Great company, great environment, great food and drink.
Emulating chef de partie Marta, plating up in Comerç 24FarewellComerç 24Bloggers don't often wear their heart on their sleeves - to be honest it doesn't usually make great reading. Blogging needs to be somewhere in-between writing a personal diary and engaging in journalism, as demonstrated by some of my favourite food writers. Leaving Comerç 24 - the restaurant that brought me to Barcelona and taught me so much about my trade - was an emotional affair and I wanted to share that emotion with readers. Months later my relationship with everyone at Comerç remains healthy and the post gained me the most ever blog comments for a single post. So I must have done something right.
The book that taught my parents to cookHere's To You, Marguerite!Marguerite Patten is someone very special in the history of cooking. Born in 1915, she started teaching Brits to cook in the 1930s, was a special advisor to the Government during the war and wrote notes for housewives on how to grow vegetables in their back gardens - a topic increasingly relevant today, 65 years on. Marguerite Patten taught my parents to cook, so without her I wouldn't be where I am today. But that's not why I wrote this post. It was because, in the run-up to Xmas 2006, the 91-yr-old launched a sponsored podcast showing busy people how to make a 12-minute microwaved Christmas pudding. Encroyable!
My family and friends crowding out a celebrity chefA Taste Of Two HoneysBy the time you've had your own TV series running for almost a decade and have become a household name as a broadcaster, organic farmer, author and food campaigner... you should have learnt to take centre stage and not let my dad and his mate Ian crowd you out. I felt quite sorry for Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall when I first saw the photo, but it's quite typical of the man. HF-W is modest, exactly the same in real life and on TV and genuinely happy for others to share the limelight. The title of this post provided another opportunity for me to combine my knowledge as a film buff with my taste for double-entendres.
Roast lamb with cherry sorbetBlowing Hot And Cold - Roast Lamb With Cherry SorbetAugust 2007 was an exciting time in my development. One month earlier I'd heard that I'd passed my Professional Chef Diploma with Merit and a month later I was to set off to train in Catalunya. This was time for some fun. I'd planned to do something interesting with roast lamb, but even I was surprised when dad suggested a cherry sorbet with the meat. Knowing that Ferran Adrià and Joan Roca had successfully served ice cold sorbets on their hot entrées... I gave it a go. The result - warm lamb and broad beans with hot cherry sauce and an ice cold cherry sorbet - played incredible tricks with the palate.
Me with Roshani from Living To Eat and Vanessa from What Geeks EatA Weekend With Food BloggersOne of the best things about food blogging is that you not only get to meet other foodies in the virtual world, you can meet them in the real world too. These days food blogger gatherings are commonplace, but in March 2007 it was quite unusual and this was the first time for me. On the Sunday I enjoyed an excellent lunch with Howard and Ben from Food & Drink in London, Jessica from Ripe London and Krista from Londonelicious. The day before it was my opportunity to meet Roshani from Living To Eat and Vanessa from What Geeks Eat. A visit to Borough Market and a pint or two in The Anchor made a great afternoon.
Happy ChristmasHappy ChristmasNo matter how far you travel in life, the one thing that underpins and gives value to everything is family. Many of us may only have the opportunity to get together annually, but that occasion is the most important times of the year. For some it may be secular gatherings such as Thanksgiving - for others it may be spiritual ones such as Hanukkah or Eid, Yuletide or Zartusht-No-Diso. Whatever your culture or beliefs, these festivals have one thing in common. They bring you together in peace, harmony and contemplation. And if anyone thinks I'm doing the bloody cooking... they've another think coming!