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With St Patrick’s Day on Friday in 2017, a few readers have been eyeing my homemade brisket recipe from 2012:
That post explains what to do. Anyone doing this from scratch will need to start on March 15. The prep work — brining and the rub — requires 48 hours.
Brisket is cheap. However, the cost of low-and-slow cooking can outweigh the savings on the meat.
Therefore, doing this yourself, as appetising as it looks on television food shows, might turn out to be more expensive and labour intensive than anticipated.
It is better to buy prepared salt — corned — beef from a supermarket or butcher.
Best wishes for a happy St Patrick’s Day!
The other day, I responded to a comment on a conservative American website with regard to diet.
The context was in regard to the reform of Obamacare in the Trump administration. The initial comment referred to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan’s (R-Wisconsin) possible approval of a health auditor, a stranger, to visit someone’s house to assess a family’s lifestyle prior to their obtaining health insurance. Apparently, this is one health insurance idea that has been discussed before.
Ryan’s father died at an unexpectedly early age from heart disease. Consequently, Ryan focussed on diet and exercise to ensure he himself didn’t end up that way. It is thought that he also might well consider that a stranger going into someone’s home to assess their lifestyle — perhaps to check cupboards for snacks or alcohol and sniff walls for evidence of smoking — is entirely acceptable.
That is every bit as frightening as the Vault 7 Year Zero CIA document dump by WikiLeaks on March 7.
There are two things here.
The first is that, as a legislator, Paul Ryan will never have to be part of Obamacare or Trumpcare. He and his colleagues get a traditional health insurance plan.
The next thing is obesity, which Paul Ryan — a thin man — desperately opposes.
As I told the person on this particular conservative website, this notion of a healthcare audit is a plan for the ‘little people’. (They, in Ryan’s estimation, do not understand what their betters do. This, by the way, is Ryan’s ‘magnificent home’ in Janesville, Wisconsin. It has an extensive border fence around it.)
I further commented (same link):
To counter Ryan’s dictating to Americans on their health: my father also died of heart disease at an early age. So did his father, whom I never met. So have some of my friends in the present day. That doesn’t give the right to go around snooping in people’s homes as a precursor to getting health insurance!
Then, I discussed obesity:
Re obesity: severely limit or stop eating starch and sugar, eat more fat (including animal fat) and less protein. Watch the pounds roll off. It’s called the ketogenic diet, which is a permanent eating plan, not a fad diet. I’ve been on it for three years. I lost weight and stabilised. Cholesterol and triglycerides go down with keto.
As we know, there is a particular association between Americans and obesity. It is unclear whether this can be connected with the increase of obesity in other Western countries, because who knows how much corn syrup — rather than sugar — is in their food? Emphases mine below, not in the original comment:
Someone on here was talking about corn. It’s all the corn syrup used in place of sugar which also leads to obesity. Sugar makes you feel more sated than corn syrup. We owe the proliferation of corn syrup to the Nixon administration in the 1970s. Corn farmers, IIRC, had a glut of crop then, so were bailed out with companies producing corn syrup for commercial cake, cookie and candy manufacturers.
Note when obesity started to climb: the late 1970s to early 1980s. It was no big deal at the time. Most people attributed it to Americans giving up smoking. Although that was a factor, I would posit that the increase of sweet snacks and cakes made with corn syrup were a greater contributor — and continue to be today.
Yes, I know I should have said ‘was’ instead of ‘were’ in the last sentence, but only caught it now.
Regardless, that message got through. My sincere thanks to the moderators. I didn’t think anything of it until later. Now read on.
The commenter, with whom I was corresponding, replied:
Salty snacks like crackers and chips also contribute, along with soft drinks and the rest of our favorites (fast food, etc). Eat at home family meals with vegetables and salads have diminished with women working, divorces, unwed mothers with no Dad in the home, increase of addictions, etc.
I’m not in favor of a one-food group diet (animal fat/low carb) diet. Whole grains and vegetables/fruit contain important phytonutrients. Did you know heart attacks diminished in Britain, in WWII, despite the stress of the bombings, when sugar was rationed?
So, appreciating this reply, but differing because of my keto experience — and that of thousands of others — wrote back.
I retyped my reply twice. Both immediately went into spam. A subsequent message, on a different topic, went through, by the way.
The text below is similar to what was spammed. Once again, emphases mine below, not in the original comment. For the overweight:
All starch — whether salty or sweet, from carbohydrate to sugar — should be sharply curtailed or eliminated.
It should be noted that the ketogenic diet — a way of eating and not a fad diet — is not a one-food group diet. It works with a proportion (depending on the individual) of 50% fat, 35% protein and 15% carbohydrate per day. Vegetables should provide most of the 15% carbohydrate. The more you weigh, the more you lose.
Starch comprises bread, cereal, cakes, oatmeal, salty snacks (etc.). Sugars, including those in fruit, are also starches.
Corn syrup has replaced sugar in most sweet snacks. Corn syrup is less satisfying than pure sugar. Americans are eating more corn syrup in cakes, cookies and candies. Therefore, they are getting fatter because the corn syrup is less satisfying.
Eating more fat — including fat from cheese, eggs and dairy products, especially butter — will be more satisfying than eating starches or sugar.
I agree very much with your point on ready-made meals, however, another problem is that Americans — along with many other Westerners — eat five times a day.
I take your point that, during the Second World War, Britons got their nutrients from whole grain bread. However, they needed all the sustenance they could receive. They also had no central heating. They had to walk or ride bicycles to and from work. Rationing in the UK did not end until 1954.
Westerners live an entirely different lifestyle in the 21st century. They eat too many carbohydrates, including sugars — especially corn syrup products, which leave them less full than sugar would. They have heated homes and offices. They drive nearly everywhere.
Low fat foods are another problem. For a decent flavour profile, low fat needs to be offset with high sugar content, most often corn syrup.
My message must have had wording or syntax that instantly caused it to end up in spam — twice.
There is a political point about corn syrup that I want to make concerning the law of unintended consequences. No one could foresee in the Nixon administration that corn syrup would result in a national weight problem.
I know from experience. In the early 1960s, when I was five years old, I was a guest of a young friend at her house for Saturday dinner — pancake night. My mother always bought maple-flavoured syrup made with sugar. This family always bought corn syrup. I still remember eating a plateful of pancakes with syrup and feeling hungry before I went to bed that night. The hosts even told my parents that I had an incredible appetite for such a little tyke. Yet, that was the only time I was ever hungry after eating twice as many pancakes as I would have done at home. The only difference was the type of syrup.
If Americans were still eating sweets of any kind made with sugar, they would be of normal weight.
Corn syrup is making people fat. So are other starches. Anyone who wants to lose weight should try a low-carb high-fat — LCHF — eating plan.
For more information on the ketogenic diet, please read the following. If you are in any doubt or under regular care of a physician, seek medical advice first:
Does low animal fat intake increase hostility or depression? (a hypothesis)
Fat and a balanced mind (low-fat diets can imbalance serotonin and nerves)
High carbohydrate intake and depression (also epilepsy related [Dr Richard A Kunin’s paper])
High-carb, low-fat diets might cause Western diseases (cancer related)
Dietary advice: the old ways are the best (my own story on the ketogenic diet)
High carb, low fat diets bad for brain health — and moods? (more testimonials for the ketogenic diet)
Whilst I cannot guarantee that my original correspondent on the conservative website will see this, I hope that others might find this of interest.
This year, Shrove Tuesday falls on February 28.
As I wrote in 2016, various traditions involving food and merriment take place on this day, because Lent begins 24 hours later:
Nearly all European countries mark Shrove Tuesday with a special food item or fat-laden feast, a final opportunity for enjoyment before Lent begins on Ash Wednesday.
These customs are centuries old and spread to other countries around the world with European exploration and settlement.
The Reformation could not put paid to old pre-Lenten customs which live on today. The British and many Commonwealth nations still call Shrove Tuesday Pancake Day. In Scandinavia and parts of Northern Europe, people enjoy semla, a sweet bun filled with frangipane and topped with whipped cream. People in Iceland celebrate Bursting Day by eating salted meat and peas.
Many countries celebrate Carnival or hold other ancient festivities on Shrove Tuesday.
In Britain, a number of towns in Britain hold pancake races, which date back to the 15th century …
Regarding pancake races, Shrove Tuesday is referred to as Pancake Day in much of the UK. Our pancakes are crêpes, although American pancakes are becoming more popular.
Christians observing Lent have it relatively easy today. Centuries ago, many foods — not just meat — were forbidden during this time of fasting and penitence. The BBC page on Lent states that fish, fats, eggs, and dairy products were also off the menu. Therefore:
So that no food was wasted, families would have a feast on the shriving Tuesday, and eat up all the foods that wouldn’t last the forty days of Lent without going off.
The need to eat up the fats gave rise to the French name Mardi Gras (‘fat Tuesday’). Pancakes became associated with Shrove Tuesday as they were a dish that could use up all the eggs, fats and milk in the house with just the addition of flour.
Beginners who would like to make crepes might find the following recipes of interest:
Top tips for foolproof crêpes (base recipe can also be done for savoury)
Fisheaters has a pancake recipe, too, along with recipes for Dutch Baby baked pancakes and Polish Pazcki, jam-filled donuts.
It is possible to enjoy Shrove Tuesday in a Christian way. It is unfortunate that it is uniquely associated with the revelry of Mardi Gras parades, which get so much publicity.
Why not take this time to have a fun, food-oriented celebration with family and friends?
To follow up yesterday’s post on making school lunch great again, I ran across two helpful resources which might be of interest to parents.
With all the nonsense about Michelle Obama’s national lunch programme (2010) and the USDA rules about fruit and vegetables in school meals (2012), students and parents are finding what should be an enjoyable midday break difficult.
A New York Times article from 2015, ‘Parents, Not Schools, Should Decide What to Pack for Lunch’, describes the frustration, anxiety — and sometimes sadness — accompanying school lunch (emphases mine):
Based on our review of the available research, we estimate that 10 to 15 percent of all American children and up to 80 percent of those with special needs struggle with feeding challenges. This is not an insignificant concern. These kinds of school incidents can lead to significant setbacks for children with complex food anxieties or challenges. Some children may have special needs around food that aren’t immediately obvious to a teacher, like the sister of a 13-year-old in the hospital from complications of anorexia nervosa, whose parents are desperately trying to teach the girls that all foods, including Oreos, have a place in a healthy diet. Or there is the instance of the little boy with autism spectrum disorder who eats well at home but is so overwhelmed in the loud cafeteria that for him to get enough calories and energy for the afternoon he has to have his most familiar and safe foods. If someone shames him for his sugary squeeze yogurt and Ritz crackers, he may eat nothing.
One child we worked with, who had had multiple surgeries and was weaned off a feeding tube as a toddler, enjoyed fruit cups packed in light syrup as her only fruit. Her teacher held one up in front of the class, calling out the sugar content as unhealthy, and asked the kindergartner to not bring it again. The girl was upset that her cherished teacher thought her food was bad, and refuses to eat it anymore.
Parents have the right to decide what to feed their child, with input from a doctor or dietitian, if necessary. Children have the right to enjoy lunch at school without undue scrutiny, and certainly without being called out in front of peers for a choice the parent makes.
The authors of this article, Dr Katja Rowell and Jenny McGlothlin, recommend that parents enclose a laminated ‘lunchbox card’ stating:
“Dear ____________, Please don’t ask __________________ to eat more or different foods than she/he wants. Please let her eat as much as she wants of any of the foods I pack, in any order, even if she eats nothing or only dessert. If you have any questions or concerns, please call me at _______________. Thank you.”
They acknowledge that the child might be reluctant to do this, so parent and child should rehearse at home before putting this into practice.
They also say that concerned school administrators or teachers should contact the parent rather than confront the child — or, I would add, confiscate his or her food.
School districts have become increasingly authoritarian. The Ellyn Satter Institute, which deals with child nutrition, has a useful page from 2011 on what students encounter. ‘School Nutrition Horror Stories’ spells it out clearly. Recommended reading. Examples and excerpts follow:
All public schools in the St. Paul, MN, district will be declared “sweet-free zones” and second helpings banned by the end of this school year. Reminders have been sent to teachers, students and parents that “sweet, sticky, fat-laden and salty treats” aren’t allowed during the school day.”
New Hampshire schools have authoritarian dinner ladies who humiliate children asking for a brownie as well as hectoring dietitians who patrol the lunchroom criticising pupils who eat a cookie before starting the main course. The end result was that one woman’s son:
was so traumatized that he’s not eating any lunch at all. He tries to find reasons not to go to the cafeteria.
Some parents have been so intimidated by school officials that they related their experiences to the Ellyn Satter Institute only on condition they could remain anonymous — even when they were successful in getting schools to back off!
The Institute recommends that parents talk with the teacher first to get her side of the story, then to explain that you are packing foods your child will actually eat (some nutrition is better than none). If that does not work, take it up to the principal in a non-adversarial way (don’t make it against the teacher, but an information-gathering session).
They also recommend that parents push for a school-wide policy on non-interference with packed lunches:
This might involve the principal, school counselor, school nurse, lunchroom personnel, PTO. It is a lot of work, but it is that important.
Wow, apparently so. We can only hope the Trump administration reverses Michelle’s Meals as soon as practicable.
Nearly five years ago, in October 2012, I wrote about Michelle Obama’s awful school lunch plan, which left American children hungry, even when they managed to eat what was on their plates.
That post has videos of Michelle saying she loves fried food, which she forbade children from eating at school, not a place most of them want to be, anyway.
Now that Donald Trump is in the White House, readers of The_Donald hope that he will:
Hope springs eternal, boosted by a report in the Conservative Tribune, ‘BOOM: GOP Looks to Shut Down Michelle O’s lunches’ (complete with photos of the current offerings):
Donald Trump and the Republicans aren’t just making America great again. They’re making Taco Tuesday great again, too.
Just think, the new, tasty versions could even be called Trump Lunches: a stroke of branding genius we have come to know and love from the Donald.
They could include a taco bowl, possibly based on the Trump Tower Grill recipe. What’s nicer than a huge deep fried taco piled high with salad? Yum. Brings back fond memories of lunches I enjoyed as an adult in the 1980s.
Of their photographs, one of which has an industrially-stamped sandwich bun, the Conservative Tribune says:
Not exactly Anthony Bourdain we’re talking here. Little wonder, then, that even Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s prisoners ate better than some of our nation’s schoolchildren.
The report says that the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 was never going to work, even if it:
started out with the best of intentions. Who doesn’t want their children to eat healthier, after all? However, the legislation made two fatal assumptions.
First, it assumed that local school districts weren’t, for whatever reason, trying to make healthy food for their students. Second, it assumed that a one-size-fits-all series of laws and regulations could fix the problem.
They wished to believe that, given time, these unworkable regulations would turn our nation’s lunchrooms into veritable Whole Foods cafeterias.
Unsurprisingly, it hasn’t worked. It’s time for Michelle Obama’s lunch rules to be tossed.
Fox News has more:
A document released by the office of Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., called for repealing certain aspects of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 – the legislation that helped put Michelle Obama’s hallmark program into law. The initiative is part of a broader plan released by Meadows titled, “First 100 Days: Rules, Regulations, and Executive Orders to Examine, Revoke and Issue.”
The document calls for the Trump administration to reverse nearly 200 rules and regulations, including the requirements of the 2010 law.
A related report from the House Freedom Caucus shows:
The regulations have proven to be burdensome and unworkable for schools to implement. Schools are throwing food away that students are not eating.
Another report, released by the University of Vermont in 2015:
found even though students added more fruits and vegetables to their plates, “children consumed fewer [fruits and vegetables] and wasted more during the school year immediately following implementation of the USDA rule.”
The USDA rule mandating fruit and vegetables came into force in 2012, as a result of Michelle’s 2010 mandate (emphases mine below):
Titled “Impact of the National School Lunch Program on Fruit and Vegetable Selection,” the [Vermont] report noted that average waste increased from a quarter cup to more than one-third of a cup per tray. Observing students at two northeastern elementary schools during more than 20 visits to each, researchers took photos of students’ trays after they chose their items, as they were exiting the lunch line and again as they went by the garbage cans.
Admittedly, Vermont studied only two elementary schools in the Northeast, however, this tweet shows what a typical Michelle Meal looks like:
While her daughters enjoyed a daily choice of lunch items at the prestigious — and private — Sidwell Friends school, American children were left with unappetising selections resembling cat food.
Worse, the amount of food is paltry:
The Fox News report says that the documents they examined showed that:
some schools had to get creative in disposing of the food waste, feeding leftovers to pigs and other animals at nearby farms.
Before Michelle Obama got involved, many American high school students remembered yummy treats.
Several readers at The_Donald recalled lunch after 2010 (I’ve cleaned up the language in places):
They took away our French fries.
I know they removed soda from the machines and replaced with juice or some[thing].
Salt. My high school HAS NO SALT. There is plenty of pepper, but no salt to be found.
That’s funny considering you even get salt in jail
Underground privatized freedom cafe BTFO dystopian government tasteless “we’ll tell you what to like” food. Epic win.
At my school they started only letting kids have 1 condiment packet.
I graduated in 2015 and our lunches were so horrible that eventually the school didn’t make us pay for them
Ours were free too, and we still didn’t eat ’em.
The calorie restriction completely [mess]ed [up] athletes. Nothing says Lefty policy like bringing down the top performers.
Trump and the Republicans could really clean up with this for mid-term elections in 2018 and the next general election in 2020:
A lot of fifteen year old future Trump voters made today.
I imagine this will make quite a few Gen Z voters happy.
This will red-pill an entire generation. Crazy.
Some remembered luncheon delights before 2012, when the rules were fully implemented around the country:
I just graduated in ’16. The food my school was forced to serve after my freshman year was slop. We went from delicious stuffed crust pizza, bosco sticks, and food the great cafeteria cooks would make..to saltless garbage. I stopped eating it and so did many kids there. Its a shame too because I live in a decently poor rural area in TN so for a lot of kids it was their only meal, and it was complete garbage on a tray.
My school in Massachusetts once had a sandwich bar, nice white buttery pasta with Parmesan cheese, a la carte with fresh chocolatey cookies of several varieties.. Ice cream bars, Hoodsie cups.. Then it started to go [downhill]. My sophomore year, 2011, the subs, sandwiches were gone. Then the cookies lost their moisture, sweetness, and flexibility. The pasta became wheat. Dry, and hard. Then, the cookies and a la carte disappeared. Then, the pasta.. Students were left with utterly [awful] chicken patties, watered-down off-brand condiments, or the viscerally repugnant daily hot lunch.
Was Michelle’s programme confusion or conspiracy? Probably a bit of both, which is a bit rich coming from a woman who often enjoyed wagyu and kobe steak with her husband and friends over the past eight years.
In closing, here’s a brief flashback into history. Mao Tse-tung cut off trade routes to Hunan province, thereby increasing the price of salt. People in Hunan had to form co-operatives, pooling money to purchase it.
A reader at The_Donald posted this:
One of Mao’s biggest problems was the Chinese who would attempt to defect by swimming to Taiwan.
He restricted salt knowing that if these people did not have a certain amount of this necessary nutrient, they could not make the trip.
When I read that severe salt restriction was a part of Michelle Obama’s nutrition plan, again, I chuckled out loud.
They just couldn’t resist their tyrannical impulses.
In other words, ‘For me, but not for thee’. I would be disappointed, but not entirely surprised, to find that Michelle knew of the health implications regarding calorie and salt content of her lunches and implemented them anyway.
Donald Trump would say, ‘Sad!’
The Trump campaign returned to Detroit shortly before the November 8 election. They asked Don Studvent, chef and owner of 1917 American Bistro, to cater an event for one of Donald Trump’s sons.
Everything went well until the business owner was caught up in a photo op at the end of the evening. On November 11, Blackbusiness.org reported:
His picture taken with Trump’s son ended up all over Facebook, and people started reacting in a way that was never expected.
People began accusing him of “selling out” and postings on Facebook started to appear calling for people to boycott his restaurant and catering service.
Studvent believes that business is business and has nothing to do with politics, but the public has turned the event into a political issue. They are saying that because of Trump’s rocky relationship with the Black community, no Black-owned business should do business with him or his family members.
But Studvent has explained that he doesn’t take political sides when it comes to his business. “This is my living,” he said. “And it’s not just my living, my employees as well.”
The bad publicity has left Studvent’s restaurant almost empty lately. He is hoping it all blows over soon and he gets his customers back. He says that the whole thing is unfair, and very hurtful to his company and his employees.
Anyone living in or near Detroit might want to help Don Studvent and his staff out either by eating there or buying a gift card.
Readers of The_Donald are looking into buying gift cards and possibly arranging crowdfunding to help Studvent during the boycott period. Let’s hope it’s a short one. After seven successful years, he deserves continued business.
There is also no evidence whatsoever for ‘Trump’s rocky relationship with the Black community’. In fact, Donald Trump has been a big supporter of civil rights in the United States.
Trump opened up his Mar-a-Lago club and resort to everyone, much to the consternation of old guard Palm Beach residents.
Jesse Jackson also spoke publicly praising Trump in 1998 and 1999 for helping the Rainbow PUSH Coalition by donating office space to the organisation.
The NAACP also gave Trump a medal for helping to further the cause of civil rights:
No one ever said Donald Trump was racist until he decided to run for president on the Republican ticket. We have read and heard 16+ months’ worth of lies, which persist even now that he won the election! Sad!
If you’re a home cook who peruses the BBC food site for recipes, it’s time to print copies now before it closes.
On May 17, The Guardian reported that recipes and food articles are already being ‘archived’ and eventually will no longer be visible.
The site has 11,000 recipes, some of which have been available for 16 years. After these food pages are ‘mothballed’, one of the only ways to see them will be via the Wayback Machine using this link, which a Guardian reader helpfully shared:
Of course, you won’t be able to search on it and will have to remember approximately when you saw the recipe first appear.
Recipes from current television programmes will be on the BBC site for 30 days after they are broadcast.
The move comes after George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer, said that the BBC was being ‘imperial in its ambitions’ by having so much online content. Articles on travel destinations and local news output are also likely to disappear or be scaled back in the coming months.
Other BBC services, channels and coverage could be consolidated or even ended as the broadcaster attempts to save money.
It is odd, though, that an online recipe collection — and the travel archive — can’t be saved. The pages are static. The British people paid for that via their television licence.
Guardian foodies are dismayed, to say the least. As I write at noontime on Tuesday — 12 hours after the article was published — there are already 1,859 comments!
However, there might be a glimmer of hope: a change.org petition to save the recipe site already has over 41,500 signatures of the 50,000 needed for consideration.
On Holy Saturday, the last day of Holy Week, Catholics and Protestants look forward to celebrating our Lord’s resurrection and preparing a feast for family and friends.
You might find my past posts about Holy Saturday helpful in understanding its significance:
Last week, I summarised the first part of English food journalist Mary Berry’s look at Easter food traditions in various countries and denominations, encompassing those in England, Jamaica, Russia and Poland.
The second, concluding part of Mary Berry’s Easter Feast on BBC2 aired this week. Berry’s enthusiasm for Easter as both a religious and gastronomic feast matches mine, which is part of what made the programme so enjoyable.
Christians make special breads at this time of year to recall Jesus as the Bread of Life. Lamb is also popular, as He is the Lamb of God, the once perfect sacrifice for our sins. As the Archbishop of York, the Right Revd John Sentamu explained, ‘Easter is the Passover of the Lord’.
Greece – tsoureki
Berry visited St Sophia’s Cathedral in London, a breathtakingly beautiful Greek Orthodox church.
Fr Savas, the priest who gave her a tour of the cathedral, said that 1,000 faithful normally attend Midnight Mass on Holy Saturday. Everyone takes a lit candle home and blesses their home with the light of the Resurrection.
Fr Savas’s cousin Katarina made the traditional Easter bread — tsoureki — for Berry. It is a plaited (braided) bread with a red coloured hard boiled egg at the top. The three plaits symbolise the Holy Trinity. The egg symbolises Jesus Christ, and the red colour represents His blood that He shed for our redemption.
Tsoureki dough is an enriched one, resembling a brioche. It is flavoured with two spices: one, mastiha, which comes from tree resin and the other, mahlepi, from ground cherry stones which gives it an almond flavour.
Before baking, the tsoureki is glazed with egg wash and topped with sesame seeds. My Little Expat Kitchen has a recipe that looks like the one Katarina used.
The Netherlands – Easter Men
With the help of her grandchildren, Berry showed us the Dutch Easter Men recipe that she makes every year.
She saw them many years ago on a trip to Holland around Easter and was intrigued.
Berry likes the simplicity of the one-rise bread dough used to make this charming little bread of a man holding an egg — the risen Christ — in his arms.
Once the dough is risen, Berry portions it out and cuts into each one to shape the head, the arms and the legs. She secures a raw egg in the folded arms and decorates the heads with raisins or blackcurrants for simple facial features. She glazes the men with egg wash and bakes them for 25 minutes. The egg cooks as the bread bakes.
This is a simple, straightforward recipe that children will enjoy. They can help shape the limbs, once cut, and decorate the faces.
The Philippines – lechon
Berry visitied a Catholic Filipina, May, who made her a roast pork dish called lechon, an Easter staple in the Philippines.
May explained that, traditionally, lechon is a whole hog roast. Her father used to roast several hogs at Easter when she was growing up in the Philippines. Friends, neighbours and family would then join in for a massive Easter feast.
For home cooks, May recommends pork belly. She brined one with thyme, crushed lemongrass and bay leaves. After several hours, she removed the pork belly from the brine and patted it completely dry, enabling it to crisp when baking.
May laid it out flat, skin side down, and, in the centre, placed a few stems of crushed lemongrass, several spring onions cut lengthwise in half and added a lot of crushed garlic on top before seasoning well with salt and pepper. She then rolled the pork belly tightly and tied it well with butcher’s string.
Once roasted, the lechon had a glossy, dark outer skin. Inside, the meat was moist and tender. The belly fat had cooked out, with some going into the meat. As this recipe has no crackling — the outer skin is too hard to eat — it might be suitable for cooks who prefer less fatty, yet succulent, pork.
May explained that the Spanish introduced lechon to the Philippines centuries ago.
The dish is also popular in Cuba.
England – roast lamb
Berry went to York to watch the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu — a political prisoner from Idi Amin’s Uganda who moved to England 42 years ago — make her own recipe for roast lamb.
Sentamu and his wife Elizabeth both talked about how important Easter was for their large families in Africa. Sentamu’s mother taught him and his siblings how to cook. His father insisted not only on roast lamb on Easter but also curried goat and curried chicken.
He and Elizabeth have been using Berry’s lamb recipe ever since they saw it on television years ago. Berry confessed that she’d long forgotten about it, but it looks very tasty, especially with the touches the Sentamus have added over the years.
The Archbishop cut the main bone out of the leg of lamb. He took several thin slices of deli ham, spread a herb (predominantly rosemary leaves) and garlic mix over each slice and layered them neatly one on top of the other. He rolled the layered ham neatly and inserted it into the middle of the lamb.
He layered his roasting tray generously with tarragon and placed the lamb on top. Around it he put several onion halves. He took a bottle of white wine and poured it until it just covered the onions.
Once the roast was resting, he strained the juices from the roasting pan and made a sumptuous gravy. My mouth was watering. The Sentamu family must surely look forward to lunch on Easter!
Italy – Easter dove bread
Colomba di Pasqua is a traditional Italian bread made in a dove mould, although it can be made in a round one.
The dove symbolises Christ, the Prince of Peace.
To see it made, Berry visited Maria, who cooks for the priests and visiting clergy at St Peter’s Italian Church in London’s Little Italy.
The dough is enriched, as for a brioche, and contains currants and orange peel. It requires a 12-hour rise.
Maria placed the dough into a dove-shaped mould and topped it with whole almonds and crushed sugar. This recipe, which includes a picture, resembles Maria’s. The sugar bakes into the top of the bread leaving an appetising topping.
I wished I’d been with the two very happy priests when she served it to them. They tucked in with gusto.
Nearly all of the show’s participants and their families gathered at Berry’s parish church in the Home Counties not far from London for a sumptuous Easter feast.
They brought their special dishes and Berry brought hers. If you can see the hour-long episode, you’ll agree with me that it was a once-in-a-lifetime, unforgettable occasion. I would love to have been there.
Everyone got along famously and tried to learn each other’s language. It was a beautiful sight as many promised to keep in touch with each other.
I hope that everyone’s Easter feast is as special as Mary Berry’s.
As we eat, may we remember the risen Christ and give thanks for His resurrection from the dead and His promise to us of life everlasting.
A few days ago I read a news item from Paris about food truck owners who have opened their own bricks and mortar restaurants.
It seemed odd. Surely a food truck is less of a headache than a restaurant. Not really.
Four food truck owners in Paris — Le Camion qui fume (‘The truck that smokes’), Le Réfectoire, Cantine California and Leoni’s Daily — now have fixed locations in addition to continuing with their mobile businesses.
Valentine Davase started Le Réfectoire in 2012 and says that the ability to have a restaurant saves money. She told Agence France Presse:
Having a fixed restaurant means having a big kitchen, storage space, a garage to park and clean the truck, to do all the production in one place …
We optimise charges [and] costs which really helps our day-to-day organisation enormously.
Davase’s career pattern is ideal for a food truck owner. She started out in communications, then worked in events before becoming an apprentice at the Ritz. She has what it takes to be a successful food truck owner: enjoying people, knowing how to market products and being a great cook.
She pointed out that running a food truck can cost between €80,000 to €120,000 in repairs if one has to have them done professionally. Other problems include working:
in the wind, in the rain, sometimes with power cuts. It’s hardly the ideal restaurant format.
Since she opened her restaurant in September 2015, she has noticed that not only do people appreciate eating indoors but they also spend more. Average spend at the truck is €10. In the restaurant it’s €14 to €15.
Former Los Angelena Kristin Frederick is the pioneer of food trucks in France. She started Le Camion qui fume in 2011. Parisians loved the concept. Although she invested €2m for a fixed location, Frederick says that owning a restaurant has helped her reduce costs. She points out that location is also essential. Hers is in Montmartre. She hopes to open another two locations in Paris by this time in 2017.
Frederick’s four trucks still operate in Paris. Altogether, she employs 50 people.
She is also the president of the association Street Food en Mouvement. She told AFP that half of food truck owners go under because of lack of customers. Bernard Boutboul, a restaurant consultant, said that, while Paris has expanded parking locations for food trucks, he expects the capital to reclaim those places as more food trucks go out of business in the coming years.
It’s hardly a promising prospect.
The trend of food truck owners moving into fixed locations is well known in the United States. It makes sense for newcomers to the food business to start small and establish their brand before moving into the restaurant scene. This is why I was surprised to read about the French experience above. Presumably, those food truck owners have made enough money to finance their restaurants. Yet, they made it in such a short time period.
Mobile-Cuisine has an interesting rationale for starting with food trucks before opening a restaurant. Their six reasons in support of a food truck for newbies includes cost comparison:
The costs involved in opening a restaurant vary based on the concept you develop. Opening a high end dining establishment can start at 500K and can run into the millions. Opening a food truck using the same style (only smaller) of menu can cost as little as $50,000. By starting small, you will learn many of the same lessons in a truck as you would in a restaurant. Operating any food service business is risky, but if your idea fails, would you rather have a smaller investment to lose than a much larger one?
Even then, food truck owners have a lot to do in order to make their businesses viable. Food Truckr asked readers to write in about ‘What I Wish I’d Known Before Starting My Food Truck’. Fifty owners shared their experiences. It’s an excellent article.
The biggest bugbears are regulations and permits, including the requirement to be parked near a public restroom, truck maintenance, starting out without a proper business plan or budget and the realisation that owning a food truck will take up nearly all of one’s time.
The food truck contributors recommended:
- Knowing what is involved before starting up: legal issues, city ordinances, trucks, menu;
- Putting together a serious and thorough business plan;
- Being a people person who can be nice to customers and promote the business;
- Making sure you are on every type of social media;
- Knowing what events to go to.
One of the contributors wrote (emphasis in the original):
Catering for a food truck is where the big bucks are.
Although we see food trucks as being individualistic and maverick, ultimately, they are a business just like any other. And the idea that a number of food truck owners are going into the restaurant business indicates that owning a mobile business is not as easy or carefree as it looks.
Anyone with food truck or restaurant experience is especially welcome to comment below.
On Monday, English home cook, author and former food journalist Mary Berry — star of The Great British Bake-Off and her own television shows (BBC) — introduced the British public to the traditions behind Good Friday and Easter foods.
The first of two episodes of Mary Berry’s Easter Feast on BBC2 saw her explore traditions in England, Jamaica, Russia and Poland. I highly recommend it. Below is a synopsis of the first programme with additional information from other sources.
Berry, an Anglican, told us that she is a regular churchgoer. She said she goes to Sunday services because ‘it is important to give thanks’. Easter is her favourite religious feast. (Finally, there’s someone who loves Easter as much as I do.)
Easter is the Church’s greatest feast. It has always been celebrated, from the earliest days after Christ’s death and resurrection. Christmas celebrations did not come about until much later.
Hot cross buns
Berry went to St Albans Cathedral to find out more about hot cross buns.
The cathedral’s historian explained that, in England, the precursor of this bun was the Alban bun. In 1361, Brother Thomas Rocliffe, a monk at St Albans Abbey, made highly spiced buns which the monks gave to the poor who appeared at the refectory door on Good Friday. The historian added that Brother Thomas was likely making peace with the locals who resented the Church. Monasteries at that time held an enormous amount of power.
St Albans Cathedral website tells us that their hot cross buns are still made locally — at Redbournbury Mill, which the abbey once owned. Anyone interested can find them the old fashioned way, by going to the Abbot’s Kitchen. They are available throughout Lent to Easter Monday.
The historian gave an Alban bun to Berry, who said it was much spicier than conventional hot cross buns. There is also no pastry or paste cross on the Alban bun, rather one which is formed with a knife before baking.
Although Berry and the historian did not discuss the significance of the bun’s ingredients, the spices symbolise those used to embalm Jesus after His crucifixion. I cannot find anything about the meaning of the dried fruit in them, but years ago, I read that it represents the gentle character of Jesus. I have also read that the fruit pieces suggest the drops of blood He shed for us.
For centuries, people ate hot cross buns only on Good Friday in contemplation of the Crucifixion. These days, sadly, they are available nearly all year round.
During the Reformation, England’s Protestants — and, later, Puritans — condemned the eating of hot cross buns as Catholic superstition. During Elizabethan times, one could only purchase them in London on Good Friday, Christmas or for burials.
Historians point out that fruit breads with a cross existed in ancient Greece. The cross made it easier to divide the bread into four pieces.
A number of superstitions about hot cross buns abound. As for them not going stale, I can assure you that they must be eaten within 12 to 18 hours. They get hard as a rock after that. And, yes, they also go mouldy.
Mary Berry makes hot cross buns for her family during Lent. The BBC has made her recipe available.
Berry spent time with Bettina, who is originally from Jamaica and belongs to a Baptist church in Nottingham.
Bettina makes Jamaican buns for the ladies at her church during Lent. They are actually large cakes, served in thin slices, often with Jamaican cheese. The buns are also very dark, because they have stout in them. This recipe looks like the one Bettina uses.
Bettina also made a standard Good Friday dish of escoveitch (ceviche) fish for Berry to try. After marinating in a ceviche manner, Bettina pan fried the fish, basting it regularly. It looked delicious.
She served it with peppers, chocho and chilis. This recipe is like Bettina’s.
Bettina explained that marinating fish in vinegar dates back to the Moors, who introduced it to Spain. The Spanish, in turn, took the technique with them to the New World.
Russian devilled eggs and pascha
Berry met with a Russian Orthodox home cook and a priest, who explained how their Church observes Lent.
Father Peter explained that church members continue to follow the centuries-old vegetarian Lent, which starts two weeks earlier than the Catholic and Protestant one. They do not consume any food at all on Good Friday. Lenten fasting does not end until the Easter Vigil service ends, which is sometime between 3:00 and 3:30 a.m. Afterwards, everyone — including children — enjoys a feast.
Holy Thursday, which the Orthodox call ‘Clean Thursday’, is a busy, yet contemplative day, Father Peter said. It is the traditional spring cleaning day and it is also when the Easter cake, pascha, is made. Pascha is the word for Easter.
Pascha is a cheesecake with dried fruit. It is put into a pyramid mould with a Russian Orthodox cross on one side and ‘XB’ (‘Christ is risen’) on the other.
Another Russian Easter favourite is the devilled egg. A home cook made this for Berry. It involves peeled hard boiled eggs which are left to steep in beet juice. The programme did not mention this, but the red juice symbolises Christ’s blood. After several hours, the eggs are cut in half, the yolks devilled and piped back into the egg white centres. Caviar is a favourite topping.
Berry went to meet a Polish family in Cambridgeshire. They explained the importance of getting their Easter food blessed at church on Holy Saturday. I wrote about that in 2010.
In addition to coloured eggs, onto which the children were busy etching designs, olives are also an important Easter food for the Poles, probably because of their egg-like shape. Both symbolise life.
The husband made Berry a babka, the traditional Easter cake, which takes three days to make properly. Most of that time involves the rise of the enriched dough, similar to a brioche. He used a babka mould, similar to a kugelhopf mould, and added a chocolate insert. You could use a bundt cake mould.
Those who do not care for chocolate can add dried fruit instead.
A number of babka recipes exist, however, I have not been able to find the one this man used, which is the traditional one. He used his mother’s and, watching him make it, that’s definitely the original. Beware of ‘quick’ or ‘easy’ babka recipes. If anyone can point to one, please share the recipe or a link by commenting below. Many thanks!
Incidentally, he explained that ‘babka’ is also a complimentary word for a woman and a gracious name for a grandmother.
I’ll watch next week’s show and let you know what else Mary Berry discovers in the world of Easter food traditions.