Branston Pickle …it’s turning Japanese

Branston pickleThe somewhat very British Branston Pickle is turning Japanese!

Food conglomerate Premier Foods has agreed to sell the pickle brand for over £92M to Japanese company Mizkan (more information about them here) according to reports in the business press. The two companies have struck a deal before as Mizkan also purchased Sarson’s (the vinegar company) for £41M earlier this year. The uniquely British condiment will still be made at a factory in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk with Mizkan agreeing to continue pickle manufacturing at the site for at least 15 years.

At home, we’ve recently become reacquainted with Branston Pickle having not bought any for probably a few years. Our children were asking what it tasted like having seen an advert for it so we bought a jar and it’s been something of a hit with our two!

I got the jar out of the fridge earlier to see what goes into making a jar of Branston. The somewhat lengthy ingredients list includes:

  • carrots
  • rutabaga (swede or turnip to you and me)
  • onions
  • cauliflowers
  • marrows
  • gherkins
  • apples
  • sugar
  • vinegar
  • spices
  • lemon juice
  • tomato paste
  • garlic extract

Who knew that there were so many ingredients!

I like it on cheese on toast or in a cheese and ham pitta bread. How about you?

World Porridge Championships 2012: English beat Scots

golden spurtle winnersAn Englishman has won this year’s World Porridge Championships after beating off competition from the Americans and the Scots no less.

The Golden Spurtle (a spurtle is a traditional, rod-shaped utensil used to stir porridge) is awarded annually to the maker of the best-tasting traditional porridge. The competition has been running since 1994 and is held at Carrbridge, Scotland.

This year’s worthy winner is Benedict Horsbrugh, a 45 year-old Londoner now living in Germany. He is pictured (centre) alongside Speciality Trophy winner Laurie Figone from California for her dish called Italian Pinhead Torta and People’s Choice Award winner John Boa for his creation hazelnut honey swirl.

Mr Horsbrugh began making his own porridge as a child after failing to be impressed with his father’s mix. He said: “When I was nine I was inspired by Tom Baker in the book Doctor Who and the Loch Ness Monster. He has a disagreement with Sarah Jane about making porridge, and I learnt that you just need to use a pinch of salt.”

Now that autumn has arrived porridge makes for a great, healthy and energy-rich breakfast. Rather than giving you a potential sugar high-low that you can encounter with breakfast cereals, porridge offers a low GI start to the day. Having said that, Tour de France winner and Olympic gold-medallist Brad Wiggins is rumoured to have a bowl of porridge before he goes to bed!

Oh Fork! Snake found in cutlery drawer

snake in cutlery drawerAn Aberdeen woman got more than she bargained for when she went to get a teaspoon to make a cuppa.

As she opened her cutlery drawer not only did she see her cutlery but a snake! Not knowing quite what to do the terrified resident of Coningham Terrace contacted the police. They in turn called the local branch of the Scottish SPCA (an animal welfare charity) and they despatched an animal rescue officer.

Now named Spooner (pictured), the red, black and brown striped milk snake (apparently they’re harmless to humans) is being cared for at the Aberdeenshire Animal Rescue and Rehoming Centre in Drumoak.

Animal Rescue Officer Lynne Craib said: “The poor woman got a real fright when she reached into the drawer to grab a teaspoon and found Spooner the snake instead. Snakes need heat to survive and it was quite warm in the lady’s kitchen so that may be why Spooner went inside the drawer.”

“We’ve rescued snakes from all sorts of unusual places over the last few months, including behind a washing machine and around a lamp post”. She adds: “Snakes are really good escape artists so there’s every chance Spooner has an owner nearby who is missing him.”

We can guarantee that there aren’t any snakes in our cutlery drawer!

Vote for the best invention in the history of food

old fridgePasteurised milk, the tin can and the fridge are the three most significant inventions in the history of food, according to a poll of distinguished scientists. Refrigeration is currently topping the poll being undertaken by the Royal Society.

Apparently artificial refrigeration was produced commercially in 1805 following a first demonstration of the idea nearly 50 years earlier in 1756. Scotsman William Cullen demonstrated that his “fridge” could create a small amount of ice but at that time the concept of storing food in a cooled device didn’t occur to anyone. Of course since then fridges (like the old one pictured – source) revolutionised food preservation and longevity and it’s pretty hard to imagine managing without one (though many, many people around the world have to ).

Commenting on the findings, Sir Peter Williams, Honorary Treasurer and Vice President of the Royal Society said:

“Royal Society Fellows have played vital roles in improving people’s lives for 350 years and science has a major role to play in meeting the global challenges of the 21st century. We thought it appropriate to look at how that innovation has shaped what we eat and drink. The poll reveals the huge role science and innovation have played in improving our health and our lives. This is something to which the scientific community continues to add.”

If you’d like to vote for your favourite food invention then you can cast your vote over on the Royal Society facebook page.

Frogjaw: Versatile kitchen gadget

frogjaw product specMany thanks to Rory O’Loughlin for sending us a free frogjaw kitchen accessory to try out.

Frogjaw (pictured) is a quirky kitchen utensil gadget that can be used to rest your utensils on. You simply squeeze the frog legs to grip frogjaw onto your wooden spoon, spatula or whatever and then frogjaw stands up on its legs supporting your utensil.

frogjawThe aim is to keep your worktops clean …say you been spreading icing with a spatula and need to put it down for a second; just squeeze a frogjaw onto the spindle of the spatula and it’ll keep the icing off the worktop.

The product has been selected along with 30 others to be showcased at the London Design Festival later this month.

Frogjaw is made from silicon (by the looks) and is both dishwasher and food safe. It’s also heat resistant to 250c.

I can see a need for having different sized frogjaws in order to fit a wider range of kitchen utensils …I’ll look out for those. Meanwhile, keep up-to-date with Rory’s progress over on this facebook page.

Is your chippy serving frites?

fish chipsYou might not notice but your local chip shop could be serving you chips made from Belgian potatoes because the awful UK weather has badly affected UK harvests.

It’s reported that “almost all” of the traditional fish and chip shops in London are sourcing their potatoes from Belgium. West Flanders exporter Bart’s Potato Company is currently exporting 1,000 tons of spuds to the UK every week. Belgium is of course the home of the deep-fried chip – or frites – and according to this wikipedia article it was American soldiers who called them French Fries.

The heavy rains that the jet stream has given the UK over the last few weeks means that British potato growers are finding it too difficult to harvest their potato crops from waterlogged fields. A spokesperson for the National Farmers Union said that this year’s UK potatoes may be more marked and smaller, but consumers should not notice any increase in price.

Chip shops importing spuds are frequently using the premiere variant which is described as a “full-bodied, flavoursome potato with a lingering finish”. With an influx of visitors to London for the Olympics the demand for our traditional dish of fish and chips is set to rise considerably. How many consumers will notice that they’re eating chips from Belgian potatoes?

How about you – has your local chip shop mentioned where their spuds come from? Or are you making your own chips at home with English potatoes? We use Maris Pipers at home to make wedges rather than chips. There’s no need to get the potato peeler out as a wash and quick scrub does the job and they’re easy to roast in the oven in a light coating of olive oil.

Fifty Foods of Sex

While everyone seems to be talking about the racy book Fifty Shades of Grey and whether it’s actually any good or not, we thought we’d put together a list of foods that have something of a reputation for spicing up for your life. There are some obvious ones, a few surprises and a few that might not do it for you. Where a food might not be run of the mill we’ve suggested places where you’ll be able to buy it, for most foods your local supermarket should sell it.

If you’ve got your own suggestions please a comment at the end of this article.

Here are (in alphabetical order) the…

Fifty Foods of Sex – what they do and where to buy them:

1. Almond

henry viiiThe aroma of almond is thought to induce passion in females. King Henry VIII was a huge fan of almond paste and look how many wives he had! Not just for Christmas cakes then?

2. Aniseed

Also known as anise, the ancient Greeks and Romans believed that you could increase desire by sucking on anise seeds. Aniseed does include estrogenic compounds (female hormones), which have been reported to induce similar effects to testosterone.

3. Apple

The apple, the forbidden fruit. Not only is the apple a symbol of temptation it’s good for you too. Eating an apple is a good alternative to a sugary snack as it won’t give you a sugar rush followed by a lull. Pace yourselves!

4. Apricot

Australian aboriginals used apricots as an aphrodisiac. The apricot stone was steeped as a tea and the flesh of the fruit was crushed and rubbed on the suitor’s erogenous zones. To derive the Aztec spelling of apricot replace the ‘t’ with ‘ck’.

5. Asparagus

A premium vegetable packed full of taste and nutrients. Not the cheapest of vegetables and locally grown typically only available in the spring. Reportedly used by the Ancient Greeks as an aphrodisiac and a fatique-buster.

6. Avocado

The Aztecs had a name for the avocado tree …they called it the “testicle tree” because its fruit hangs in pairs on the tree, resembling the male dangly bits! The nutrients in avocado are essential to sexual health and include beta carotene, magnesium and vitamin E. An avocado has more potassium than a raw banana and has plenty of protein for late night energy..

7. Bananas

bananaYou boy! Stop sniggering at the back! Yes, we all know what a big yellow banana looks like. But this most obvious-shaped of fruits will also give you lots of energy and bananas are full of potassium and vitamin B which are necessary for sex-hormone production.

8. Basil

For centuries, people said that basil stimulated the sex drive and boosted fertility as well as producing a general sense of well being. The scent of basil is supposed to drive men wild with passion. Basil is one of the many reported aphrodisiacs that are good for your circulation.

9. Blueberries

The blueberry is a super fruit and is really good for both men and women. Blueberries release alsorts of wonderful chemicals into your system, can increase blood flow and generally help you to feel healthy and vibrant.

10. Cardamom

This aromatic spice is deemed by some cultures as a powerful aphrodisiac and also claim it is beneficial in treating impotence. It is high in cineole, which can increase blood flow in areas where it is applied. Bart Spices sell it.

11. Carrots

The phallus-shaped carrot has been associated with sexual stimulation since ancient times and was used by early Middle Eastern royalty to aid seduction. Carrots reportedly help you see in the dark …handy for when you’re under the duvet 😉

12. Caviar

Widely known for its reputation an expensive, fine food, caviar is rich in omega-3 oils. Perhaps fish eggs aren’t to everyones taste but as with all eggs it has associations with new life. Ra Ra Rasputin, Russia’s greatest love machine (according to Boney M) was a huge fan of caviar. Order online from caviarCaspian Caviar and London Fine Foods.

13. Celery

Sticks of celery contain androsterone, a powerful male hormone released through sweat glands to attract women. Shame it’s not to everyone’s taste and a bit noisy to eat on the train home from work.

14. Champagne

Champagne is a sophisticated drink and is associated with living the high life. We’re all more relaxed after a drink of course, which reduces our inhibitions. But it’s not just the alcohol where Champagne scores …the scent of a glass of fizz is equally important as it contains aromas similar to  the delicate aromas of female pheromones. Drinking Champagne feels decadent. Just don’t over do it! Try leading retailers such as Majestic Wines.

15. Chocolate

Chocolate has long been seen as a sensual food, but it’s got to be the right chocolate. A novelty bag of Chocolate Buttons won’t do, you need rich, dark chocolate. The kind of sensual, desirable chocolate featured in the stunning film Chocolat. Dark chocolate is really good for you and many athletes treat themselves to a square every day despite being on strict diets. It’s choca-full of chemicals that are good for your brain and your blood. Quality dark chocolate is available as a sensual gift from online retailers such as Hotel Chocolat and Willies Chocolate Shop for pure cacao.

16. Cinnamon

The sweet, spicy flavor and aroma of cinnamon has been used to aid in the treatment of impotence and proven to be sexually stimulating for men. Stocked by Nature’s Best.

roasted coffee beans17. Coffee

As with chocolate, quality coffee is evocative, rich and sensual. Not only will the caffeine make you more alert and give you a bit of an energy rush, drinking an espresso makes you feel sophisticated. And who knows where “coming in for a coffee” can lead? Try mixing your own blends of premium coffee with eight point nine or try a monthly gourmet coffee from kopi.

18. Cucumber

Yep, just like the banana and the carrot the cucumber looks like a thingy. While the cucumber is phallic in appearance it’s scent is allegedly very appealing to women when mixed with black liquorice.

19. Deer-antler Wine

Also know as Lurongjiu, this rare wine is supposed to have warming effect on your joints and is believed to improve the sexual potency of men. If you believe in that then you might also fine a glass of deer-penis wine or even a deer penis as it’s a traditional Chinese medicine. Sounds lovely doesn’t it? Not sure where you might buy this one in the UK?

20. Fennel

Use of fennel as an aphrodisiac dates back to the Egyptian times where it was used as “libido enhancement”. The Greeks regarded fennel as a potent sexual stimulant. During the Dionysus festivities, crowns of fennel leaves were worn, and leaves and seeds were used as aphrodisiacs. Fennel is widely available in supermarkets.

21. Figs

fig rollRumour has it that watching a naked man eating a fig will drive a woman crazy with passion. How odd. Cut a fig in half and it’s supposed to look like lady bits. Chaps, a packet of fig rolls isn’t the same …they just leave biscuit crumbs under the duvet. Fresh figs are available from any good grocers.

22. Garlic

Okay, so it can make you pong a bit if you have too much but garlic really is quite the super-food! Not only does is have several health benefits a good garlic “hit” is believed to awaken sleepy desires. Not just for the French.

23. Ginger

Comes from the root of the plant and increases blood flow to the genitals in both men and women. Easy to buy in supermarkets and can be added to quite a wide range of meals.

24. Ginseng

Widely regarded as a health food of some power, powdered ginseng is good for stamina and popular in Asia as an aphrodisiac. Buy in tablet or capsule form from Holland and Barrett.

25. Honey

Nature’s nectar. Many medicines in Egyptian times were based on honey including cures for sterility and impotence. Medieval seducers plied their partners with Mead, a fermented drink made from honey. Lovers on their “Honeymoon” drank mead and it was thought to “sweeten” the marriage. Available as bottled honey mead at the Drink Shop.

26. Hot chilies

Chilies contain a chemical called capsaicin. It increases your circulation; gets your blood pumping and stimulates nerve endings so you’ll feel more frisky.

27. Ice

ooh the sensation of an ice cube against the skin …could take your breath away! See it used in action in the saucy  9½ Weeks movie. Widely available in freezers and ice compartments in every home.

28. Jelly

Well okay, not exactly jelly. A wobbly red castle with ice cream probably won’t turn that many people on, it’s the gelatin that it contains that’s good for you. Not for veggies as gelatin is derived from pig and cows. It’s good for your joints so it’ll keep you bendy. Try a bag of Percy Pigs from M&S (facebook fan page) …as these porky pig faces contain gelatin. Or make a wobbly castle.

29. Liquorice

allsortsChewing on pieces of liquorice root is said to enhance love and lust. It is particularly stimulating to woman.Contains plant estrogens and stimulates the sex glands, bringing oxygen to the female genitals 40% faster. Liquorice Allsorts might not have the same effect mind! Try the Ludlow Nut Co.

30. Lobster

One of the best know foods with a reputation for being an aphrodisiac, lobster enjoys a status symbol of a luxury food. While lobster is rich in protein and low on fat perhaps its powers are as a result of the fine dining that it’s associated with.

31. Nutmeg

Nutmeg makes mice go at it like rabbits. Don’t try this at home though as too much nutmeg has an hallucinogenic effect.

32. Oats

scotts porage oatsSowing wild oats is energy-sapping so you need to take on slow-burning fuel. Oats are an excellent source of energy and it they’re good enough for blokes in vests and a tartan skirt then they’re good enough for you.

33. Olive Oil

Italians are fiery, passionate people but what fuels their passion? It could be that Mediterranean diet that we keep hearing about; fresh food, fish, wine and lashings of olive oil. Unleash your inner-Italian with premium olive oils from the likes of Get Oily and Fortnum & Mason.

34. Olives

Green ones are believed to make men more virile, while black ones increase women’s sex drive. Simple as.

35. Oysters

Oysters are quite possibly the most recognised aphrodisiac; a symbol of luxury dining and nights of passion! Oysters contain there fair share of zinc which is believed to aid testosterone levels in men. Casanova supposedly ate 50 oysters a day to keep his candle burning bright …that must’ve been an expensive diet? Buy from your local fishmongers or online from Martins Seafresh.

36. Papaya

One for the ladies. Papaya is estrogenic, meaning it has compounds that act as the female hormone estrogen. Old wives swear it’s good for childbirth and for increasing the female libido. Available in upmarket grocers and from Waitrose.

37. Pine Nuts

People have been using pine nuts to stimulate the libido since Medieval times. Like oysters, they too are high in zinc and pine nuts have been used for centuries to make up love potions. Galen, the Arabian medical scholar recommended eating one hundred pine nuts before going to bed*. You can buy packs of pine nuts in supermarkets.

*Eating one hundred pine nuts every night isn’t probably a good idea.

38. Pomegranates

pomegranateHere’s a super fruit and a half for you! Pomegranates are packed-full of anti-oxidants that are good for you. A professor from Israel told the BBC “Pomegranate juice contains the highest antioxidant capacity compared to other juices, red wine and green tea”. A healthy heart is needed for alsorts of exercise!  Pomegreat sell it.

39. Red Wine

A glass a day keeps the doctor way according to some newspaper reports. Red wine contains various chemicals that are very good for your system. Wine also relaxes you and reduces your inhibitions …just don’t go overboard

40. Rhino Horn

While rhino horn powder has always been mentioned as an aphrodisiac, please don’t try to find some. The rhino is an endangered species and must be protected.

41. Rocket

Rocket seed has been documented as an aphrodisiac since the first century A.D. Eat more salad!

42. Saffron

One of the worlds most expensive spices, it can reputedly make erogenous zones even more sensitive. You’ll have to use it sparingly because saffron is so expensive. Spanish saffron is often used as an ingredient in paella. Buy from Bart Spices.

43. Salmon

Packed full of the astonishingly good oil known as omega 3 which elevate seratonin levels in the brain and thereby enhance mood. And you’ve got to be in the mood.

44. Strawberries

jolie strawberryThe strawberry is sexy due it being commonly used a food of seduction. Bright red, heart shaped and ready to be bitten. Here’s Angelina pictured with one for Brad…

45. Truffles

The Greeks and the Romans considered the truffle to be an aphrodisiac. The musky scent is said to stimulate and sensitize the skin to touch. Buy by the gram from Mister Truffle.

46. Tuna

Another fish, just like salmon, that’s really good for you. In Japan, tuna is often served raw as sashimi, with some people believing it’s an aphrodisiac. Tuna doesn’t have to come out of a tin, tuna fillets with risotto is a great dish for an intimate meal.

47. Vanilla

Vanilla can be added to a wide range of tasty desserts and not just ice cream. Vanilla essence (extracted from real vanilla pods) can be added to a bath to produce a mild love-arousing effect, especially when you and your partner take the bath together …just don’t argue over who is sitting at the taps end. Vanilla is widely available in essence form and in pods from the likes of Vanilla Bazaar.

48. Walnuts

Packed with those awfully good omega-3 oils, walnuts are also rich in protein and along with many nuts should be part of a healthy diet. The Romans consumed lots of walnuts as they believed they increased libido. Eat some nuts!

49. Watermelon

Watermelon might be a bit juicy and messy but it’s really good for you, especially men. It contains lycopene which is good for prostrate health as well of being good for your heart. The rind of a watermelon contains citrulline which is good for relaxing blood vessels. Some say the act of spitting the pips out  is like erotic kissing!

50. KitKats

Don’t be silly! They just taste nice.

Dog eats spoon along with the strawberry

spoon dog xray

Max the 10-year old Rottweiler swallowed more than he bargained for when he was offered a strawberry.

max dog strawberryNot only did Max swallow the juicy strawberry, he swallowed the spoon too for good measure! Vets at pet charity, PDSA, had to perform emergency surgery on Max, from Leeds to remove the teaspoon. Max’s owner Annette Robertshaw, of Wakefield, Yorkshire, said her brother Colin had been visiting her and was eating some strawberries when Max took a shine to them. Colin offered Max one on a teaspoon but was caught by surprise when Max swallowed the teaspoon too. Pictured above is an X-ray of Max’s tummy with the spoon clearly visible.

PDSA Veterinary Surgeon, Daniel Cook, said: “I have never seen a dog that’s eaten a teaspoon before although we do see lots of odd things that dogs have eaten, such as socks and children’s toys.”

Apparently Max has since lost his appetite for strawberries.

Cutlery trophy for Lichfield Dash event

Lichfield Dash trophy

Event organisers for the popular Lichfield Dash running event have commissioned a new cutlery-themed trophy. The popular running race is fiercely  contested and as fans of the Oscar-winning film Chariots of Fire might know, has a rich heritage that you can read all about here.

The trophy made by renowned cutlery manufacturers Arthur Price consists of a solid mahogany wooden base with stainless steel cutlery in three spires; in gold, silver and bronze finishes. The three spires represent not only the three parts of the winners’ podium but also the three distinct spires of Lichfield Cathedral.

Simon Price, Chief Executive of Arthur Price said: “The Lichfield Dash is one of those events which make the city so unique. The original Dash was inspired by events leading up to the 1924 Olympics and so it’s fitting that in 2012 the event is part of the Torch celebrations. When KP Events asked us to contribute to the event we were delighted and I hope this year’s Dash is extra special.”

Kevin Wilson, of KP Events said: “I’d like to thank Arthur Price on behalf of the competitors, supporters and spectators for creating this magnificent trophy. It’s great that even during these difficult times local businesses take the time and effort to contribute to the local community and I will be very proud when Olympian Roger Black presents this trophy to the winner.”

Pictured above are Simon Price, of Arthur Price and Kevin Wilson of event organisers KP Events.


Warburtons Toastie Knife and a free solution

Bakers Warburtons have come up with the prototype toastie knife …a butter knife with a heated blade that’ll let you spread straight from the fridge butter onto your toast. Apparently the knife won’t be for sale in the shops but you can see it an action in the short video above.

To see what people are saying about the knife there’s a twitter hashtag to search.

But here’s a tip that works for me and you might like to try for yourself.

Simply run some warm water (from the kettle or the tap) over the blade of your knife, shake off any drops and you’ll be able spread stiff butter on your slice of toast 🙂

Got your own solution? Leave a comment below and share it with our readers.