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THE GREAT BRITISH MENU

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There's a glut of food programmes on TV these days - and even more on Netflix (my chef son likes Mind of a Chef and Chef's Table). Too many to watch really. I've enjoyed Masterchef, though after watching the most recent professional and amateur series, I feel the programme is ready for an update, including the replacement of the leering, gurning Gregg Wallace with another judge, preferably female.....

One of the more interesting food programmes is The Great British Menu, an annual contest in which top chefs (many holding Michelin stars) from regions around the UK compete for the chance for one of their dishes to be included in a prestigious 4-course banquet (last year in celebration of the 140th anniversary of Wimbledon), Over the course of 5 days, the three regional finalists cook a starter, fish course, main course and dessert. During the week, the chefs' individual dishes are judged by another leading chef (including a number of GBM former winners) who also offers a…

DEMON COOK IS BACK!

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To celebrate the return of Demon Cook, a post which combines my twin passions - food and music!

If you're barbecuing this weekend, don't forget the.......




THE NOT SO HUMBLE DUMPLING

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Dumplings, and variations on that theme, are found all over the world. Dumplings are small pieces of dough, cooked alone or wrapped around a filling. They can be made from flour, potatoes and bread and their filling may include meet, fish or vegetables.

In Britain dumplings are most commonly found floating atop a hearty stuff, like puffy clouds. Made well, from a mixture of flour and suet, they are light and fluffy, but add a useful helping of carbohydrate to a meat or vegetable stew of broth.


Travelling east, dumplings in various forms are found all over Europe, from ravioli and tortellini in Italy to knödel in Germany and Austria, not forgetting the famous Pierogi of Poland, which come in savoury and sweet varieties. Meanwhile, Turkey's answer to ravioli is Manti (meat-filled dumplings), and indeed these are popular throughout Central Asia. And in India there are samosas. Swing round the globe the other way, and in Central and South America, there are empanadas and pasteles.

Far…

MUSIC & CAKES IN VIENNA

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Last weekend I visited Vienna for the first time with members of my piano group. Because of the musical connections (Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, Mahler, Schoenberg and more all lived in the city), it's a city I have long wanted to visit. The trip was ostensibly to connect with a Viennese amateur piano group, and we also took in a tour of the Bosendorfer piano factory while we were there. But aside from the piano activities (which included a joint concert given by ourselves and the Vienna piano group), we were all keen to sample the many other delights which Vienna has to offer, culinary as well as cultural.

One of the most famous Viennese culinary specialities is Sachertorte, a rich chocolate cake invented by confectioner Franz Sacher in 1832 for Prince Wenzel von Metternich in Vienna. This rich chocolate cake consists of a dense chocolate cake meringue based with a thin layer of apricot jam on top, coated in dark chocolate icing on the top and sides. It …

CHICKEN MAQLUBA & FOOD TWEETS FROM THE FRONT LINE

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BBC Middle East correspondent Jeremy Bowen is currently in Syria, reporting on the horrors of the civil war there. In addition to reporting for the BBC, he also tweets pictures of food.
I’ve sent plenty from Damascus. That’s partly because I think food tells you a lot about a society. But also because it is important to show how people live as well as how they die. He has encountered disapproval from internet trolls and others for this, but he believes it is important to demonstrate that despite the all suffering, shelling, and devastation, everyday life still goes on, in spite of and because of, war. The markets remain open and people still shop for and prepare food: having a meal is a crucial social activity which binds people together. When in straitened circumstances, these societal rituals become even more important.

My husband heard Jeremy Bowen talking on the radio about his food tweets and was inspired to look up the recipe for a dish which Jeremy Bowen described: Maklouba or…

CHEAT'S LEMON MERINGUE ICE-CREAM

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All the flavours of classic lemon meringue pie in the easiest ice-cream, this is based on Nigella's Ridiculously Easy Coffee Ice-cream. Because of the high cream content, you don't need to churn this in an ice-cream maker, and its creamy texture is redolent of Italian gelato.

Makes 800 ml (serves c6)

300 ml double cream 175 g condensed milk (about 2/3 of a standard can)1 jar of good-quality lemon curdabout 4 large ready-made meringues smashed into walnut-sized chunks (use the brick-like bright white meringues you can buy in M&S or Waitrose - homemade tend to disintegrate in the mixture).A drop of Limoncello liqueur, if you're feeling extravagant 
A plastic box to freeze the mixture in

Whisk the cream together until the mixture forms soft peaks. Fold in the lemon curd and meringue pieces. Put into a plastic box or bowl and freeze for at least 6 hours or overnight. Serve straight from the freezer.

BIRTHDAY LUNCH for 8

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Special birthdays need special celebrations: those rites of passage of 18 and 21 should definitely be celebrated in style. And when one enters one's thirties, another rite of passage - for often by the time one may be married, settled, with a new baby, or one on the way - some kind of celebration is in order. And then there's the forties - a time when one perhaps feels well settled, in life, career and family and a party might be just the thing to stave off the dreaded "middle aged, middle class" ("we were wild in the old days" - Joni Mitchell)

Fifty is significant, no getting around that. It's a Big One, the half-century, the golden one. To party or not to party, that is the question? My Significant Other celebrates his half-century this month and was adamant there would be "no party". But not to celebrate seemed churlish, and so a low-key Sunday lunch with friends and family, which will extend into the pub with more friends and family in the…