Is madam old enough to buy teaspoons?

cup of teaWhen buying teaspoons in her local supermarket a woman was asked to prove her age after staff said they could be “drug paraphernalia”.

Ms Elinor Zuke was at the till at Sainsbury’s in West Green, Crawley when the scanned pack of six Basics teaspoons triggered the age verification alert. When she asked why the purchase of teaspoons raised the alert she was told that they “could be used as drug paraphernalia”.

A shocked Ms Zuke said: “I would imagine the vast majority of spoons sold by Sainsbury’s are used for nothing more nefarious than stirring a cup of tea. Having to prove I was over 18 to buy them seemed total madness.”

Apologising for the incident Sainsbury’s said the alert was raised because the spoons had been mistakenly flagged as requiring age verification.  The obvious kitchen utensil that should raise the age verification alert is of course a kitchen knife.

I trust Ms Zuke enjoyed a nice cup of tea (pictured) when she got home, stirred with one of her new teaspoons!

Tip: Always wash new kitchen cutlery, utensils, etc before using them for the first time.

McDonald’s: You ate there 21 times last year

big macAccording to the latest sales figures made by available by McDonald’s, the law of averages suggests that you ate at one of their outlets 21 times in 2011 !

The fast food giant served 1.3bn UK customers last year, a figure up by 100m on 2010. The increase in transactions, and consumption of Big Mac’s (pictured), is in part due to the large increase in coffee sales, which were up 13% on 2010. McDonald’s sells more cups of fresh coffee in the UK than anyone else, with some 84m cups served in 2010 according to market research by NPD.

The company only began selling fresh coffee in 2007 and now leads Costa Coffee in second place and Tesco (in-store cafes) in third. It also seems we can’t resist some late night calories either with around 40% of McDonald’s outlets being open for 24hrs a couple of nights a week. This compares with just 2% of outlets back in 2006.

I must be in the minority as I don’t eat fast food burgers, wraps, buckets of fried chicken etc. I do quite like burgers and we have them at home now and again, grilled on a rack over a foil-lined baking tray rather than fried. I probably have a just a few cups of coffee from McDonald’s each year, more so when we’re on holiday and I need a quick fix of caffeine. But for a quick lunch on the go I’d much rather have a fresh sandwich or baguette rather than a full-fat burger.

How about you? Do you need a regular quarter-pounder fix or do you prefer something else?

Olive oil in your frying pan is healthier option

frying panA fry-up might not be as unhealthy as you think, providing you use olive or sunflower oil rather than lard or vegetable oil say experts.

In a widely reported study undertaken by the Autonomous University of Madrid, over 40,000 adults were surveyed about their diet. At the start of the 11-year study none of the adults exhibited any sign of heart disease, but by the end of it over 600 heart disease events and more than 1,100 deaths had occurred.

After studying the available data the researchers could find no link with fried food. Fried food becomes more calorific because the fats in the oil are absorbed during the frying. As is often reported, a diet that contains lots of saturated fat can lead to high blood pressure and increased cholesterol, both of which are risk factors for heart disease.

While the findings might seem to be good news for us fry-up loving Brits it should be remembered that the typical Mediterranean diet is typically healthier than ours as it contains higher quantities of fresh fruit and veg, more fish and is lower in fat consumption. The mantra of sticking to a well-balanced, high fibre diet will still be strongly recommended by health organisations.

Victoria Taylor, a senior heart health dietitian at the British Heart Foundation, said: “Before we all reach for the frying pan, it’s important to remember that this was a study of a Mediterranean diet rather than British fish and chips. Our diet in the UK will differ from Spain, so we cannot say that this result would be the same for us too.”

One easy way to still enjoy a bacon sandwich (with brown sauce of course!) while being healthier is to grill your bacon as you don’t need any oil and the fat drips into the grill pan (line with foil to save on the washing up. When using your frying pan also use a slotted turner so that when you serve the food some of the oil can drip through the slots back into the pan.


Simple But Good: Ecotensils

paper spoonHere’s one of those “why didn’t I think of that” products!

USA-based Ecotensil manufacturers eco-friendly, paper based utensils that are proving to be a hit with various organisations including the prison service. Ecotensil’s range of paper spoons offer a sustainable solution compared to plastic utensils. Their range includes the Ecospoon which is a sturdy paper-board spoon that is moisture resistant in the same way as a cardboard milk carton. The Ecospoon is fully recyclable and is also fully biodegradable.

The company’s ESU security spoon (pictured) is proving to be something of a hit within USA prisons as the paper-board cannot be made into a weapon in the way that a metal or plastic utensil can. The security spoon is reportedly responsible for some 25% of the sales turnover at Ecotensil.

Another product in range is one I don’t think I’ve seen yet in the UK but would expect to. The Spoonlidz product is an over-lid that you’d find on top of the usual lid of say a yoghurt pot. You peel off and fold the Spoonlidz and you’ve got an instant spoon, that once used can be recycled …although recycling of plastic yoghurt pots is perhaps more difficult? I wonder if these paper spoons would be robust enough to eat a tub of ice cream with? I suspect not and I guess for similar reasons, there’s no paper-board alternative to the plastic knife and fork. But they’re certainly ideal for yoghurts, thick soups and individual puddings in a pot that you’ll find in the shops.

To see a promotional video for the product visit youtube

Raymond Blanc: The Very Hungry Frenchman

Hungry CaterpillarAcclaimed TV chef Raymond Blanc (website) is to front a new BBC2 programme called The Very Hungry Frenchman.

The title of the series is obviously a play on the title of the classic children’s book The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle (pictured). If you’re a parent and not yet bought the book for your young children then I’d suggest you order it straight away …it’s a fantastic story that you and your children will love.

raymond blancMoving to Britain in 1972 as a 22 year old French waiter with a less than great grasp of English, Blanc (pictured) rose to become a two star Michelin Star chef within just 10 years. Blanc has never cooked professionally in France despite being in the restaurant trade for 30 years.

Raymond Blanc will be meeting locals and cooking delicious food while drinking wine in these five locations:

  • Burgundy
  • Lyon
  • Alsace
  • Provence
  • Franche-Comté

In a similar way that maybe fellow TV chef Rick Stein does, Blanc will take over a restaurant for one night only and cook food to a menu based upon the location. He will be accompanied by two young chefs, Katie-Beth and Kush.

The first episode is broadcast on BBC2 on Thursday 2nd February at 8pm.

Home Cooking: Makes you fatter than if you dine out

hips don't lieApparently you could put more weight on by dining in rather than dining out because you’re more likely to serve larger portions and always clear your plate.

That’s according to a survey undertaken by YouGov on behalf of Weight Watchers. As more of us are trying to save money by cooking something nice on a Saturday evening rather than booking a table at a restaurant, we’re over indulging a little too much. In a survey of more than 2,000 people, 68% said that they aimed to dine at home more often, with 25% saying this was because they were on a diet and 50% wanting to save money. Almost all the people questioned admitted clearing their plates even though they were full and over 85% served over-generous portions.

Lucy Vickers, a nutrionist at Weight Watchers said: “Finishing everything on your plate is often a deeply ingrained habit from childhood. We should all be learning to develop the skill of knowing when we are hungry and when we’ve had enough.”

There are simple things that you can do to avoid eating too much such as using slightly smaller dinner plates (less space means less food) and eating more slowly. Also having a break between mains and dessert gives your brain time to receive the nod from your stomach that you’re not so hungry. And if you’ve cooked too much why not store it in the fridge …leftovers are a real winner for a cheap Monday lunch at the office! For lots more food saving tips visit Love Food, Hate Waste.

‘Dangerous’ American chef denies hiding her diabetes

Paula DeenA celebrity chef in America, famous for her fat and calorie-laden recipes, has denied claims that she has been hiding that she has Type 2 diabetes.

Paula Deen (pictured), described as the “Southern belle of butter and heavy cream” was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes during a routine medical checkup in 2008. She denies that she had purposely kept the condition a secret for over three years while continuing to cook unhealthy food on her television show.

Deen was called “the worst, most dangerous person to America” by Anthony Bourdain, a fellow celebrity chef who is obviously not too great a fan of Deen’s dishes. Deen’s comfort food cooking has been widely critised for being full of fat and calories  and far removed from a healthy diet that many obese Americans need to follow. Her dishes include such delicacies as:

  • fried macaroni and cheese wrapped in bacon
  • a burger of beef, bacon and fried egg inside a burger bun of two glazed doughnuts.

Deen has now become a paid spokesperson for drug company Novo Nordisk and is to promote their diabetes medication. Deen claims to support healthy eating and says she has taken up some moderate exercise and has also given up taking sugar in her tea. The outspoken Mr Bourdain is quoted as saying:

“When your signature dish is hamburger inbetween a doughnut, and you’ve been cheerfully selling this stuff knowing all along that you’ve got Type 2 diabetes, it’s in bad taste if nothing else.”

Donna Air weighs up cooking future

Donna AirModel and television presenter Donna Air seems to be setting her sights on a TV cookery programme.

Air (pictured – source) is evidently undeterred by the so-so success that another model experienced in the last couple of years. Sophie Dahl received mixed reviews for her own cookery programme that was broadcast on BBC2 in 2010.

Air, a former presenter of The Big Breakfast, says she’d be interested in doing something related to cooking for children. As reported in the Daily Telegraph she says:

“I’m a mother, so I cook a lot out of necessity as well, so it would be good to do a book or show about how to feed children fast. I’m a bit of a whizz at doing everything quickly, as I’m a mummy in a hurry, so I’m always cooking.”

One former model who is enjoying success as a TV chef is Lorraine Pascale. Ms Pascale has presented a handful of her baking and cookery programmes on BBC2, runs a successful cake shop in  London and her books have reached the top of the best sellers charts. Pascale is rumoured to in pole position to replace Jamie Oliver as the famous-chef face of Sainsbury’s.

Eight Point Nine: Artisan coffee by post

eight point nine coffeeEight Point Nine (website) is a new company that opened in November, 2011 offering an artisan coffee subscription service where you receive regular deliveries of fresh coffee in the post. I’d seen someone mention 8.9 on twitter and thought I’d give their free trial offer a go.

I can’t claim to be a coffee expert by any means so rather than mixing my own blend I chose one of their suggested blends. I went with Old Black Joe, which has a blend profile is 54% Kenyan and 46% Guatemalan and is described as:

a fresh and mellow blend, ideal for drinking for breakfast and on rainy days. Said to be an excellent pairing for doughnuts and muffins. This bespoke blend exhibits gentle acidity, good balance and a merlot-like mouth feel.

We (me and my wife) did have it for breakfast, although it wasn’t raining last Saturday! And I did have a crumpet and half a bagel. The free box was for a generous 150g and it comes delivered in special packaging as pictured. Inside the outer eightpointnine branded box is your back of fresh coffee. The package is slim by the way, so there’s no problem of it not fitting through your letterbox.

old black joeYou’ll also get a leaflet that details your particular blend of coffee and tips on how to make and serve it. It’s suggested you measure out some of the coffee but, typically, we went with the that seems about right approach and took four dessert spoons of the blend for our cafetiere. That’s probably not the best approach for an optimum cup of coffee.

So how did it taste? Pretty damn good actually! We both took it with semi-skimmed milk, no sugar in white, ceramic coffee cups. The coffee wasn’t too light or too rich, despite me thinking maybe we made it a little too strong – in hindsight we should have been more accurate with the measuring. It’s suggested that you store the coffee somewhere cool and dark and consume within a week so we’ll finish it next weekend.

The eightpointnine website is easy to use (though it was briefly down for a minute or so this morning) and includes details on how to make your own blend and how to pay – standard charge is £5.89 for a delivered box. You can also order coffee beans and there’s gift vouchers too for friends and family. There’s a range of account options and you can select the frequency of your deliveries. One nice option is the ability to choose whether your coffee is delivered at the start or the end of the week.

8.9 have given me this code W4HTJTZ that you can use to receive your own free box of coffee here if you’d like to try it yourself.




Marshmallows to squash cupcakes popularity?

gourmet marshmallowsI spotted an article in the Daily Mail (or rather my wife did) speculating whether the current king of home baking businesses – the cupcake – could lose its crown to gourmet marshmallows?

It’s probably fair to say that lots of home-based baking businesses have risen on the back of the huge popularity of the cupcake. They’re pretty easy to bake, certainly more difficult to ice and decorate if you’re after a fancy finish, and let’s face it, they make for a great treat.  Cupcakes are versatile and keep well in a cake tin.

With marshmallows however, you’re not comparing like foods to start with. Marshmallows are confectionery, not cakes. They’re very sweet and the squishy texture is possibly not a hit with some people. Gourmet marshmallow (like the squares pictured from New York based Three Tarts) is nothing like the packaged stuff you might be in a local supermarket. As fresh marshmallow typically includes gelatin, it’s not suitable for vegetarians.

I’ve never made fresh marshmallow so I can’t personally compare the process with that of making a cake sponge mix. I have however watched a Michelin starred chef make fresh marshmallow,as Liverpool born chef and restauranteur Aiden Byrne gave a demonstration at a food fair at Hoylake in 2011. The ingredients, including the egg whites, really do need some whisking …you’d be reluctant to do it with a hand whisk, that’s for sure!

There are some UK suppliers of gourmet marshmallows and you could easily see specialist shops in the big cities selling a lot of it alongside other quality confectionery. But for me I can’t see gourmet marshmallow squashing the popularity of the cupcake anytime soon.