This week Sue Lawley’s castaway is the award-winning cookery writer Claudia Roden whose Book of Middle Eastern Food revolutionised Western attitudes to the cuisines of the Middle East. Her Book of Jewish Food has been described as ‘the richest and most sensuous encyclopaedia of Jewish life ever set in print’. She chooses eight records to take with her to the mythical island.
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Kirsty Young’s castaway this week is the chef Heston Blumenthal. He is one of only three chefs working in Britain today to be awarded three Michelin stars and last year his restaurant, The Fat Duck, was named the best in the world by a panel of 5,000 food experts.
His speedy rise to the top of his profession is little short of extraordinary. He has only ever spent a week in a professional kitchen and taught himself classical French cookery. He became fascinated by the science of cooking and has become the Willy Wonka of modern cuisine - dishes he’s created include mango and douglas fir puree, salmon poached with liquorice and, most famously, snail porridge. But he acknowledges his success has been largely due too to his wife’s support and now wants to change the balance of his life towards spending more time with his young family.
Chef Michael Solomonov sees his mission as connecting people to the food of his homeland. "That, to me, is my life’s work," he says. Solomonov’s new cookbook is Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking.
How do our assumptions about people affect our assumptions about their food? And how do their assumptions about our food affect how we feel about ourselves? What happens when chefs cook a cuisine they weren’t born into? And what happens when there’s a backlash? Our friend Dan Pashman, host of WNYC Studio’s The Sporkful, has launched a special series of episodes called "Other People’s Food," which aims to explore exactly these questions. Dan talks with Brooke about the project so far.
That sink is where Rachel Roddy, an English woman in Rome, prepares meals to share with her partner Vincenzo, their young son Luca, and a horde of appreciative readers of her website and, now, her first book.
Five Quarters: Recipes and Notes from a Kitchen in Rome, features the sink on its front cover. That probably makes it one of the most famous sinks in Rome. So naturally when Rachel and I got home from our meeting in the new Testaccio market, it was the first thing I wanted to see. And photograph. Our conversation ranged widely, from book titles and domain names to the links between the food of Rome and the food of Manchester. And although she says she’s a romantic and prone to nostalgia, it is also clearly the case that Rachel Roddy loves learning about food and cooking, loves sharing what she’s learned, and loves telling stories. Simple ingredients, for a satisfying cookbook and website.
A couple of other links. Rachel mentioned her friend Fabrizia Lanza and the farm and cooking school she runs in Sicily. Here’s what Rachel wrote recently about a wonderful idea called Cook the Farm. If you decide to follow the link, do give yourself time to pursue Rachel down all her intriguing rabbit holes.
Three nationally-acclaimed, dynamic chefs share their inspiration for how they have transformed time-honored food traditions into hot tastes for today’s palates. Food writer and culinary network star Virginia Willis transforms classic-but-heavy southern recipes into healthful and wholesome by re-imagining ingredients while keeping Southern charm and appeal. Austin chef / DJ, Tatsu Aikawa (co-owner of Ramen Tatsu-Ya) infuses time-honored ramen-making techniques into a mash-up of inventive ramen dishes. Chef Michael Fojtasek (co-owner of Olamaie, Eater National’s 21 Best New Restaurants) transforms five generations of Southern cooking traditions into Modern Southern Cuisine.
Rene Redzepi, Danish chef, is interviewed by Kirsty Young for Desert Island Discs.
His restaurant, Noma, in Copenhagen has been named ‘best in the world’ for a fourth time, and holds two Michelin stars. His cooking captures not just the essence of his homeland - using ingredients like reindeer tongue, sea buckthorn or fish scales - but also a strong flavour of ‘now’. He believes traditional notions of luxury are outdated. A sense of ‘time and place’ are his kitchen’s guiding principles.
His childhood was split between Denmark and Macedonia, where he spent his summers foraging in the woods. He as good as stumbled into catering, because he couldn’t think of anything better to do, but pretty quickly realised that cooking allowed him to dream.
He says, "The day when there is no more to do is the day when you’re burned out. There are endless possibilities - it’s just whether you can see them or not … and right now I see plenty."
We visit the workshop of a meat inventor, who came up with Steak-Umm and KFC’s popcorn chicken. And we try to figure out what meat inventors tell us about patents and innovation.
Since ‘Ottolenghi: the cookbook’ was published in 2008, Yotam Ottolenghi has become one of the UK’s most followed voices on food and cooking. Nearly eight years later, Ottolenghi’s cookbooks total five, the last written in collaboration with head chef at his London Soho restaurant NOPI, Ramael Scully. The restaurant is one of five in the capital, which he runs with a small, loyal team. He’s appeared on our TV screens, exploring the foods of the Mediterranean and his birthplace and childhood home, Jerusalem. He’s presented an ode to the Cauliflower on The Food Programme on Radio 4 and in a weekly column for the Guardian, has shed new light on cooking with vegetables, paving the way for ingredients from the Middle East to enter our kitchen store cupboards. No wonder that the rise of sumac, za’atar and tahini in our supermarkets was dubbed ‘the Ottolenghi effect’.
In an extended interview, Yotam Ottolenghi shares his life through food with Sheila Dillon. She hears how a Jewish boy from Jerusalem negotiated the world of academia, and winded up as a pastry chef in chic restaurants in 90s London. How a chance meeting with business partner Sami Tamimi led to one of London’s most successful string of deli restaurants ‘Ottolenghi’, and on to Soho restaurant NOPI.
Yotam explains how people in his life have shaped the food he cooks. He tells Sheila about the effect of his brother’s untimely death in tragic circumstances, his own coming out as gay and reflects on his connection with Jerusalem now that he has adopted London as home for his own young family. As 2015 draws to a close, he looks to the future. What will the Philosophical food writer do next?
Jay Rayner hosts the culinary panel programme from Brighton.
This week’s panel includes the experimental food psychologist Professor Charles Spence, DIY cooking expert Tim Hayward, top chef Sophie Wright, and the singer-turned-cook Andi Oliver.
They discuss all things 1970s - prawn cocktails, vol-au-vents, fondues - as well as the legacy of Marguerite Patten.
Also, the panel delve into the grand kitchen of George IV at the Royal Pavilion and they experiment with the role smell plays in eating.
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