The delicious red fruit used to be one of Britain’s most beloved. But are you one of those who think tomatoes don’t taste quite as good as they used to? This may be because three quarters of the tomatoes bought in this country are now imported.
British Tomato Week has been set up to raise awareness of flavoursome British tomatoes, and help spread the word that when it comes to choosing the best, buying fresh, home-grown British tomatoes is a great place to start.
To celebrate British Tomato Week Lancaster London Hotel are offering a Tomato Week themed Afternoon Tea priced at £30 per person, which will include savoury delights made with the freshest British tomatoes, including Tomato bread, Tomato scones and Tomato sorbet. Looks yummy!
Island Grill restaurant on Hyde Park has created a special three course set menu, priced at £12.50 for two dishes or £15.50 for three courses.
However, like me, you might have some tomato plants on the windowsill or in a greenhouse. Many gardeners manage to grow them outside but up here in Cumbria the wind and lower temperatures mean indoors is the only option. I did try some outside last year but the plants were pretty much an unproductive experiment.
So this year I purchased two Ailsa Craig plants. Noted for the exceptional flavour of its fruit, which ripens early in the season this well known gardener’s favourite produces medium sized tomatoes with a uniform size and shape and an excellent deep colour.
Another popular tomato popular with gardeners and which has an RHS AGM*, Alicante, was available from a local nursery and I have placed both varieties in a glazed entry hall.
They are growing apace, in fact one Ailsa Craig has grown half an inch in 24 hours I noted this morning! I only know that because I marked the support strings yesterday just to see what rate of growth might be in the sunny and warm hall. I didn’t expect such a surge!
I have another three pots of a tomato Crimson Crush, a new entrant on the tomato market from Suttons in the conservatory that only has sun from about noon and I’ll be interested to see if there is any difference in growth rate. They are going into grow bags.
I know of course I may well be awash with tomatoes and there is a limit to how much time I want to spend bottling and making tomato puree, so much of the crop will go straight in the freezer in bags. To remove the skin easily I just dunk them in hot water, the skins slide off moreorless immediately.
If you are growing tomatoes let us know the variety and their progress … we will probably try different varieties next year.
Val Reynolds, Editor
*Award of Garden Merit
Tucked away in a small sidestreet behind the British Museum is one of the little gems of London. The Cartoon Museum in Little Russell Street deserves to be far better known than it is and visited far more often. One of its principal attractions is its size – small. This means that both the permanent exhibition as well as temporary ones are compact and approachable. Personally, I usually have to take a very deep breath when visiting Tate Britain, Tate modern or the Royal Academy because of the sheer volume of what’s on offer. However interesting or stunning London’s blockbuster exhibitions may be, going round them can sometimes be a feat of endurance, particularly since it’s the norm that there is no re-entry; you have to swallow what’s on offer whole. This is an ongoing beef of mine. I’m sure I’m not alone in finding my attention waning after an hour or so, and would welcome the opportunity of a reviving cup of tea and a relaxing of the eye and brain. Returning refreshed would, I’m sure, enhance the experience. The small-scale Cartoon Museum throws up no such problem. Cartoons, almost by definition, present the viewer with a lot to observe, generally captions as well as pictures, and too many at once would inevitably ‘do the head in’! And what a pleasure it is to wander around with others smiling or laughing at the humour. The content of a cartoon is sometimes acerbic as witnessed in the work of, say, Martin Rowson or Steve Bell, sometimes gentle and good-natured but always witty. The current exhibition, Bring Me Laughter, a private collection on display featuring many of Britain’s best-known cartoonists over the years, runs until the 23 February. This is followed, for me, by a real gem – a chance to get up close to the wonderful caricatured creations for the Spitting Image TV series, running from 26 February to 8 June. After that, as part of the centenary events, comes The First World War in Cartoons. Oh, and the gift shop offers an interesting selection of merchandise and is a pleasure to browse through,
London is full of quirky museums catering for all tastes. Particularly interesting are those which are private homes, offering today’s public a unique insight into people’s lives. The Sir John Soane Museum in Lincoln’s Inn Fields is one such example and is packed with his collection of art and antiquities. Another example is Dennis Severs house in Folgate Street in London’s East End which offers a uniquely atmospheric experience and is not exactly what it seems; it’s extra special around Christmas time when the house is bathed in candlelight. You can even visit imaginary houses such as 221b Baker Street, the home of Sherlock Holmes, which is guarded by a Victorian policeman who seems to spend most of his day posing for pictures with the visitors! And to offer refreshment and souvenir-buying potential for the hordes that stop the traffic on Abbey Road everyday by recreating the Beatle’s Abbey Road album cover at the zebra crossing, a small coffee/gift shop has opened right next to St John’s Wood station, thus making the attraction a museum of sorts. When a man is tired of all the museums in London, he is surely tired of life! Jeannette Nelson, Arts Critic A bit of a culture vulture, Jeannette enjoys art exhibitions, cinema and classical music, her main interest is the theatre. Having lived in London most of her life she has a fund of knowledge of interesting buildings and places to visit in the capital and we’re lucky to have access to her experience.
On a wild and windy night shortly before Christmas my dining companion and I exited Wembley Park underground station and followed the banners to the recently opened London Designer Outlet. We were blown down Empire Way towards Wembley Stadium, its arch silhouetted against the night sky and then turned off into a cluster of modern, illuminated blocks. We soon entered the outlet, much of which is, unusually, open to the elements and were surprised to find, so close to the festive season, a paucity of customers. Perhaps it has yet to become established, perhaps shoppers are waiting for more spring-like weather. Whatever, we graduated to the upper levels which are home to a multi-screen cinema (de rigueur it seems these days in shopping malls) and a plethora of restaurants, most of which are new offspring of familiar chains.
Our destination was Ping Pong, one of the newer arrivals on the London eating scene, with its original venue in Great Malborough Street and an extremely popular one on the South Bank judging by the number of customers I spy there on my frequent walks past on the way to the Festival Hall or the National Theatre. Warmth greeted us as we entered, both in the ambient temperature and the pleasantness of the staff. Both of us having confessed to never having previously frequented a Ping Pong restaurant, we were enlightened as to its ethos and to its modus operandi. The neat phrase ‘Chinese tapas’ summed up the food on offer, a modern take on the teahouse stops on the ancient Silk Route that fed and watered traders along its many miles. The menu is extensive but divided into sections such as soups, fried and griddled, baked, rice dishes and, the longest section of all, steamed.
Each dish is fully explained and, indeed, what you got matched its description perfectly. The recommendation was to order four or five dishes per person – we went for seven in total to start with and found that plenty. The tapas were small but quite filling.
We indulged in one of Ping Pong’s unusual cocktails, all the ingredients blending beautifully into a delicious drink. As we expected, the tapas dishes arrived consecutively, wonderfully hot and obviously freshly prepared. The flavours and spices mingled perfectly; nothing was overpowered but everything was there to be tasted. All steamed items came in individual bamboo steamers, piled up on top of one another.
Everything we ate was delicious, and it would be quite invidious to pick out favourites, but I have to say that the spinach and mushroom dumplings were my idea of heaven, and the sticky rice parcels of king prawn and scallop sticky rice wrapped in lovely green banana leaves, were my companion’s. But, there again, the har gau (prawn and bamboo shoot dumpling), the duck spring roll and the honey-glazed spare ribs were great too!
Having no room for dessert, I rounded off the meal with an amazing jasmine and lily tea. Placed in front of me was a large glass with a strange looking ball in it. Hot water was poured over it and, over the course of two or three minutes the ball gently opened into a beautiful flower as the tea brewed. A lovely theatrical touch to a cup of tea!
Despite the weather, there was a respectable number of customers in the restaurant (that can cater for 250), considering it only had been open for a couple of days. There was a good mix, different ethnicities, old and young.
We took away our loyalty cards (which certainly will tempt me back to a Ping Pong in the near future) – even the paper chopstick holder had an offer for a free cocktail printed on it!
And we headed back in the gale force winds, this time accompanied by lashing rain, to the underground station, replete and content after our Chinese tapas experience.
Jeannette Nelson Food Critic and Restaurant Reviewer, as well as all things theatrically entertaining!
With two weeks to go why not choose food? There’s time enough to order and receive a pie or two from Adams & Harlow.
An interesting variety of pies with unusual ingredients to choose from we rather liked the sound of the pie with seasoned pork and a layer of Lincolnshire Poacher cheese through the middle, topped with sweet roasted baby onions. It looks very tasty. We were rather taken with the named pies with pastry lettering.
You might even be interested in the hamper entitled The Way To A Man’s Heart… £35.00, consisting of the following;
- 2 x 1lb Traditional Pork Pies (Serves 2-3) The most extraordinary of all pork pies.
- 1 x 1lb Huntsman Pork Pie (Serves 2-3) A jellyless pie, layered seasoned pork meat and tender chicken breast topped with a classic sage & onion stuffing.
- 1 x 1lb Poachers Pork Pie Seasoned pork with a layer of Lincolnshire Poacher cheese through the middle, topped with sweet roasted baby onions.
- Sloe Gin Chutney (220g)
- 2008 Berrys’ Good Ordinary Claret (75cl)
Another suggestion: Take your dad to a Fyne’s restaurant for some super fish dishes. We’ve eaten twice here and both times loved the menu offering interesting and tasty dishes. The presentation is always excellent.
Their menu is seasonal and for Father’s Day a Specials Menu has been carefully put together. Could be brunch, lunch or dinner. Dining after 6? Then you will receive a complimentary glass of prosecco or a bottle of Old Golden Hen beer.
The specials on offer include the Fisherman’s Plate starter, a feasty combination of potted and peppered Scottish mackerel, classic Loch Fyne smoked salmon with capers, Brandan Rost fillet, Kinglas fillet sashimi style, rollmop and Madeira-marinated North Sea herrings with crusty brown bread.
Mains include a half lobster tail with chargrilled octopus and clams and, for those unable to decide between the delicious meat and fish dishes, there is a Father’s Day Surf & Turf option, tender sirloin steak with a half Canadian lobster tail served with bernaise sauce and french fries.
There are some mouthwatering desserts, or a luxurious cheese choice served with a dram of Glenfiddich whisky.
If your dad isn’t a fish lover there is an a la carte menu that includes a large selection of meat, poultry and vegetarian dishes.
To find out more information or to make your reservation visit:http://www.lochfyne-restaurants.com/
However if pies and restaurants are not your thing, why not make him a really luscious strawberry dessert.
Sweet Eve is a new variety promising a sweet full flavoured berry. This impressive Strawberry Victoria Sponge is easy to make, so great for kids to prepare ahead for Father’s Day, with a little help from Mum. Serve Dad up a mighty, manly slice.
There are more recipes to choose from, have a look at http://www.sweetevestrawberry.co.uk/recipes/serving-ideas.html We were impressed!
Whatever you choose for your dad I’ll bet he’ll love it! It’s good for you both to make him feel special.
Lucy Trengar Guest Food writer
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