I am often invited to press events featuring new food lines. The most recent was the M&S Delicious and Nutritious introduction.
Persian Duck with Basmati Rice, roasted butternut, spinach with pomegranate dressing. £4.49 (350g). One of a range of eleven to choose from, this is the one that hit my tastebuds. Stunning!
Then Mini Macaroons – six flavours: pistachio, lemon, raspberry, vanilla, strawberry and passion fruit. 12 in a packet £1.50 144g – really great flavours, very very moreish!
And this, the Summer Fruit Tart, that really ticked all the boxes. The most delicious tart I have ever come across. Crisp all butter pastry, filled with lemon and vanilla custard, topped with a summer fruit compote. A really piquant fruit mix, I detected cherry, raspberry … at £4.99, 530g. It deserves a drum roll! I will be looking for this every visit to my local M&S!
I was specially impressed with one of their ales, Citra IPA Ale. It was light, flavoursome and satisfyingly alcoholic without being heavy.
As you can imagine there was a lot more to try – you can see more on their website. Some are ideal as picnic food, or sitting out in the sun in the garden. Do give them a try … we can’t rate them highly enough!
Val Reynolds, Editor
Most people seem to agree that finding the perfect gift for their dad is one of the least easy tasks of the year. Here are some ideas from our thoughtful team to inspire you:
Wine holiday in Oporto Built into the hillside of the spectacular Duoro Valley, The Yeatman hotel in Oporto is inspired by the celebrated wines of the region. Guests can seriously indulge themselves during the weekly wine evenings, tasting soirees and cookery courses. The extensive wine cellars hold 25,000 bottles alone and the in-house Michelin starred chef, Ricardo Costsa, is always on-hand to educate guests about food pairing. Even The Yeatman’s vinotherapy spa will be difficult for Dads to resist, as it offers a Cabernet Sauvignon Barrel Bath or body scrub. Prices from €150 per night.
Failing that why not a bottle of Taylor’s Late Bottled Vintage Port 2005, available from £13.79 at most retail outlets nationwide. Here is a link to information on the website
Or he might have loads of the stuff in the cupboard but may not have some luscious glasses to savour it – we would choose the beautiful Riedel Port Glasses available at John Lewis and Amazon.
How about a short holiday break for someone mad on fishing? Forget Salmon Fishing in the Yemen although a couple of tickets might go down a treat! – how about Fly fishing in the Maldives All hard-working fathers deserve peace and quiet once in a while, and you would be hard pressed to find a more relaxing and tranquil outdoor pursuit than fly-fishing. On a secluded private island in North Maldives, Island Hideaway resort boasts deepwater channels and expansive shallow flats, ideal for whiling away the hours until that longed-for catch comes along. Prices from £1350 per week during low season, and £2300 during high season. OK, so that might be a bit over the top! How about The Ultimate Guide Book to Fishing? This Google page might give ideas.
Right, nothing so far appeals? What about a luxury wet shave? Harking back to simpler times when every man had a trusty barber to see to his beard and whiskers, in London the Spa at Dolphin Square offers chaps the rare chance to pamper themselves with a range of traditional Moroccan wet shaves. Choose from the age-old Savon Noir shave, which cleanses by combining crushed olives, olive oil and Eucalyptus (£35), or go all out with a Moroccan Cleansing Ritual, incorporating a Hammam and Shea Butter Massage, followed by the relaxing shave (£104). This would appeal to many men I know so it could be a winner!
On a more basic level though why not a gift voucher from B&Q? Lots of us like browsing in DIY stores, especially new and improved gadgets!
Or why not some Ogilvy’s honey – their Balkan Linden Honey is rather special. Gathered from colonies in the Danube region of Serbia. This honey was one of four varieties of Ogilvy’s Honey to win gold stars in the 2011 Great Taste Awards organised by The Guild of Fine Food. It is rather special – you can find more information on the Ogilvy’s website.
If you live in or near London then of course you could take him for a meal – Ping Pong in Soho is excellent, The Sanderson in Berners St has a wonderful dining area as has the Lanesborough Hotel opposite Hyde Park Corner. What about some tickets to a game at The Arsenal? A visit to the House of Commons to see Parliament in action and a meal in one of the boats on the river. Or a boat trip on the Thames? Of course you could just go for a walk in Hyde Park and have something to eat in one of the many cafes in the park.
Or how about an App for his iPhone or iPad – he doesn’t have one? There’s two more ideas!
Hope you might find one of these inspiring! Good luck – you have just three days left!
Val Reynolds Brown, Editor
It’s always picnic time when the sun’s out, the river looks enticing and we’re in a hurry!
We grabbed a couple of packs of pate*, a french loaf, butter in a tub, some paper plates, a sharp knife**, something refreshing to drink, plastic cups and we were off.
Off to Cambridge for a break – why not? It’s the start of the term and yes there’ll be visitors galore, but it’s always possible to find a grassy spot on the river bank and have a great time with friends, gossiping, remembering times past, dreaming of good times to come. That’s the atmosphere we find whatever the weather.
It feels so good with the sun warming your bones on a cool autumn day, lounging on the grass, drinking in the view, admiring, or not, the prowess of the punters. We always feel better after a break away from the desk. Of course it doesn’t need to be Cambridge … Anywhere quiet and green with something to focus your attention on is good. Great for reducing blood pressure – frequent breaks from the pressures of publishing are a must for us.
We took some Castle MacLellan pates. Three of us had tried them previously. Here are our preferences, each marked out of ten, ten being the top mark.
Mushroom with garlic and thyme – 9 – memorable, would buy this regularly
Salmon with lemon juice and horseradish 9 – excellent, would definitely buy it if we saw it in the supermarket
Duck with bramley apple jelly 7 – good but not outstanding
Crab with lemon juice and Galloway mustard – 6 – good but not outstanding, perhaps more mustard would give it more of a bite
Chicken pate with Scottish heather honey – 5 – needed more of a bite to make it memorable, bacon perhaps, or garlic, personally we added some lemon juice when we had it on toast and in a sandwich.
Castle MacLelland products are available at Waitrose, Nisa, Coop/Somerfield, Spar, Booths and also in Sainsbury and Morrisons (crab only), Asda (Scotland stores only) as well as independent stores throughout the UK.
The Crab is on special offer in Sainsbury’s reduced from £1.25 to just £1 from 31 August to 20 September – four days left!
**Sharp knife is needed to open the seal on the pate packs.
Val Reynolds Brown, Editor
On Sunday, just take your unwanted items into the Wardour Street branch of Hummus Bros where you can haggle the value of your possessions with staff from the Marylebone Cancer Research UK shop. Vouchers will then be given out matching the value – two or three good quality donations should be enough for a completely free meal!
Barter Day runs from midday to 6pm on Sunday 19 June at Hummus Bros, 88 Wardour Street, Soho, W1F 0TH and all quality donations will be accepted. To get directions, see their mouthwatering menu and see what journos thought of the cuisine see the Hummus Bros website.
With Barter Day, Hummus Bros continues to offer unprecedented value while being socially and environmentally responsible – keeping your conscience and tummy happy.
So why not get a few things together and meet other likeminded diners on Sunday …
Val Reynolds Brown, Editor
It’s always good coming across a commonsense, straightforward account of how to do something and here are some of the books I refer to frequently for help when getting seeds and equipment together:
Anna Pavord - Growing Food: Eminently readable, easy to digest, beautifully illustrated with line drawings, much in the style of Dorothy Hartley. Anna gives details on a raft of planting plans. One plan I was attracted to was the Potager’s Garden where she advocates some lovely combinations of flowers and vegetables. Much in the way I grow our vegetables and fruit in fact, but she gave me some ideas of companion planting I haven’t used before.
Raymond Poincelot wrote Organic No-Dig, No-weed Gardening which I read cover to cover when I came across it some years ago. It is full of great ideas, clear instructions, and gives a clear understanding of his concept.
Geoff Hamilton‘s Gardeners World … is a bible I refer to frequently. He was my kind of gardener, self reliant and imaginative when looking for solutions, without going too mad on devices, but using commonsense … He gives very useful and clear instructions on how to construct inexpensive cloches.
And then I love reading Carol Klein’s Growing your own Garden. Bliss! I can hear her voice with the enthusiasm oozing out on every page! I have met her and she is just the same in real life. A great lady!
Trawling the Net I came across Madeleine Giddens’ website where she has put a clear and concise guide to sowing herb seeds. She gives useful links to seed suppliers and books to follow up.
I hope you find these helpful – if nothing else it is a booklist for winter reading!
Val Reynolds Brown, Editor