For People with an APPETITE for LIFE!

Welcome to THE MAIN INGREDIENT a place where Food News, Food Politics, Food Culture, Food Fashion & Food Humour meet. Each week you can preview topical foodie matter from my 'Gourmet Lifestyle' radio show called (wait for it) THE MAIN INGREDIENT. Food for the belly & the brain, I hope you'll enjoy the journey with me. Regards Kel

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Books for Evil Cooks!

Having recently spent a couple of days on planes and in and out of terminals trying to get home to Australia, I decided it would be as good a time as any to catch up on my reading and googled the latest foodie publications. Here’s an intriguing book that I couldn’t get my hands on for the trip but absolutely tickled my fancy ‘The Axis of Evil Cookbook’. When they're not actively attempting to develop weapons of mass destruction, 'Axis of Evil' countries such as Iraq, Iran and North Korea are busy enjoying their region's finest dishes. And their 'Axis of Somewhat Evil' cohorts, such as Cuba and Syria, are at it too. With over one hundred recipes, from soups and salads to meat dishes and desserts, this unique cookbook includes snapshots of each country as well as profiles of famous leaders. Regional recipes appear alongside dictators' favourite dishes - from Kim Jong-Il's ruthless appetite for shark fin soup to Saddam's celebrated rack of fresh roasted gazelle. Full of cultural anecdotes, political insight and delectable recipes, 'The Axis of Evil Cookbook' is an intriguing and forbidden treat.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Designer Rice!

The Washington Post recently featured an article on the Japanese and their changing relationship with rice. It seems that if you are Japanese the days of eating rice for breakfast, lunch and dinner are fast becoming a distant memory, especially for the younger generation. Their national rice bowl is increasingly seen to be less full with trendy Western delicacies becoming the norm such as croissants, spaghetti, baguettes and French fries. The devastating effect on the Japanese rice industry of late has farmers and retailers racking their brains for new ways to entice people back to their beloved rice before it’s too late.

Keep an eye open for a new range of ‘Designer Rices’ that will no doubt eventually work their way into our already bursting gourmet product isles. In reality these designer rices are unmilled grains that when added in small amounts to a rice cooker turn traditional white rice pink or purple. An exciting concept for some people I guess, although I have to admit for me there is nothing nicer than a fluffy bowl of pristine white steamed rice, but I guess desperate measures are needed as per capita rice consumption in Japan has fallen to half of what it was in the late 1960’s. There are also new offerings for the health conscious in the form of sprouted rice, high-fiber mixtures such as oat rice and brown rice that have been steeped in water until sprouts emerge. Japanese bakers are also being invited to help boost rice consumption by baking tasty creations that are made from rice flour.

Of course the current trend for western style food has done more than just affect the rice industry in Japan. In 1988, 18.9 percent of Japanese children were considered obese, according to a survey. By 2005, the percentage had risen to 24.3. Unfortunately for the Japanese as rice becomes a thing of the past….. The Japanese waistlines go West!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

House Bottled Water at $2.50!

Here’s something a tad worrying…. With recent studies on the harmful toxins in plastic bottles casting a shadow over the bottled designer water industry and even glass bottled water being hit by ecologists for the long term damage the bottles inflict upon the planet, an industrious restaurateur over in Los Angeles came up with the idea of selling all-you-can-drink ‘house-bottled’ water at $2.50 a pop. Now my initial reaction to this idea was one of furious indignation! How very dare they? Make us pay for tap water in a fancy bottle?

However……. I’m afraid I jumped the gun as further research on my part has shown that the owners of ‘Grace and BLD’ in Los Angeles have invested in a specialised water-filtration system to do away with expensive, wasteful bottled water and the charge for the new ‘house bottled water’ has been implemented to compensate for the costly purchase and maintenance of the new water filtration system.

Having thought a little more about this i’ve realised that serving bottled water is indeed a wasteful practise as the plastic or glass containers are manufactured, transported and then often end up trashed and dumped in land fills rather than being recycled. Not to mention the old cancer causing chemicals that are reported to leak into the water from the bottles that are plastic.

So! Perhaps this bottled house water idea isn’t such a bad one? Setting up such a filtration system can be expensive, but it does offer customers an affordable and fresh tasting alternative to bottled water. Meanwhile the owners of ‘Grace and BLD’ restaurant in Los Angeles have had such a negative response to their idea of charging patrons for their house bottled water that they now offer it for free.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Are you a NORKER?

You know once upon a time it was a sign of social status to be able to successfully negotiate your way thru a huge line up of cutlery at a dinner party wasn’t it? You know the old salad fork, soup spoon, fish knife, dessert spoon & butter knife. But sadly it seems those days are almost gone. The KNORK is apparently what we humans are increasingly using in place of the traditional knife and fork to shovel food into our gobs. A fork with a serrated edge that can conveniently double as a knife. A TV Dinner was always something I associated with those ready made meals of the 60's (remember the old 'Vesta' curries?) but apparently we are now more than ever a tv dinner generation and we have absolutely no use for most of the items in our cutlery drawer, preferring to eat with our hands or shovel it in with the all purpose Nork. Plus! The 'NORK' has the added benefit of allowing us to be able to eat with one hand and keep the other on the all important remote control.

Now if you, like me, are at all concerned at our rapidly diminishing cutlery skills then you will be further dismayed to hear that one in ten young adults find even the 'NORK' an encumbrance, saying they regularly eat their evening meal using only their hands. A survey of 7,684 people by supermarket chain Sainsbury's has suggested that the busy lifestyles of working families have led to a wider reliance on 'finger food' with more than one in seven adults eating breakfast with their hands, and almost half of them tucking into a sandwich or wrap for lunch. To make matters worse around 5 per cent continue the habit when they get home, snacking solely on bitesize foods such as mezze and tapas. Now I LOVE fingerfood but I am a little concerned to discover that our current passion for little nibbly bits is challeging the traditional table setting of knife, fork and spoon. Apparently only just three per cent of those surveyed admit to using a full set of cutlery for breakfast. Ian Jarmarkier, the head of Sainsbury's Food and Innovation Centre, says this is a fascinating insight into how we eat now. 'It shows that the way that we eat food is evolving to match our changing, busy lifestyles. Although convenience eating these days by no means implies a trade-down in nutritional quality.' Yes but ahhhhhhh...... I did so love a good fork on the table!

ORTHOREXIA: An Obsession with Healthy Eating

In the wake of all of this publicity about what we should and shouldn't eat, here’s an eating disorder that might not look so bad at first glance. People who fuel their bodies with only organic foods and meticulously count calories, and are obsessed with exercise are now being called ORTHOREXICS. Some doctors are saying Orthorexia CAN become dangerous “when food becomes a source not just of nutrition, but of virtue or self-worth, when eating ‘bad’ food implies that one is a bad person, and when the diet becomes a source of either self-esteem or, conversely, guilt and self-loathing So if you are doing all of that you are officially Orthorexic!

Symptoms of the disorder:

You spend more than three hours a day thinking about healthy food.

You plan your day’s menu more than 24 hours ahead of time.

You take more pleasure from the “virtuous” aspect of your food than from actually eating it. You Are increasingly rigid and self-critical about your eating.

You base your self-esteem on eating “healthy” foods, and have a lower opinion of people who do not.

You eat healthily to the avoidance of all those foods that you’ve always enjoyed.

You so limit what you can eat that you can dine “correctly” only at home, spending less and less time with friends and family.

You derive a sense of self-control from eating “properly.”

Finally a name for those irritatingly disciplined people who meet you for a drink and will only order a mineral water and refuse to eat anything from the cheese board! Not something I need ever worry about then.

Research, Research, Research

Earlier this week the British public were rudely awakened to horrifying news from the World Cancer Research Fund saying that they now have enough evidence to strongly recommend that all processed meats whether they have been smoked, cured, salted or preserved with chemicals be banished from our diets FOREVER! No more bacon butties, no more ham ‘n’ eggs, sausage and mash a thing of the past? Their report has taken 5 years to compile and says processed meats are a convincing cause of colorectal cancer. What’s worse there is no level of intake that can "confidently" be shown not to raise the cancer risk. Processed meats are also thought to bring about an increased risk of cancers of the oesophagus, lung, stomach and prostate. The World Cancer Research Fund says in its headline summary: "Evidence shows that salt and salt-preserved foods probably cause stomach cancer." Meanwhile of course the meat industry tells us it’s all a load of bull (Ha!) and being blown way out of proportion. Just days later the results of a study at James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough inform us that although we have been told for years, decades in fact, that salt can cause strokes and heart attacks, they have found “no conclusive proof that eating less salt will be of any benefit to us". Now I don’t know about you but I’m starting to feel overwhelmed by all of this bloody research. In the past few months we’ve discovered that eating grapefruit can increase the risk of developing breast cancer, having more than a glass of wine a day can contribute to oral cancer, even orange juice has taken a bashing. Then there’s processed baby food, bbq’d meat, bottled water, celery, they’ve all been hit by the food police of late and the list is becoming endless. I’ts getting to the stage where it’s becoming impossible to fill the shopping trolley! Meanwhile yet another study tells us that our life expectancy continues to increase by several years a decade, DESPITE our decadent eating habits. Surely we all realise by now that the key to a healthy life is good nutrition & regular exercise? Don’t tell me the occasional bacon, lettuce and tomato sarni is going to be the end of the world as we know it? Could this all be a part of the British Governments supposed plan to turn their country completely vegetarian?

Meanwhile, as the British frazzled their brains over the prospect of their beloved bacon and sausages being banned from their breakfast tables yet MORE exciting news from a different set of scientists, the perfect excuse for heading to the pub after work and something that will probably cause a national holiday in Australia. The LATEST research has shown that a glass of BEER is far better at rehydrating the body after exercise than water. Researchers suspect that the sugars, salts and bubbles in a pint may help people absorb fluids more quickly. This amazing bit of news was discovered at Granada University here in Spain. So there WILL be life after bacon after all?

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Nigella's a Porker?

The Daily Mail rather unkindly points out this week that TV chef Nigella Lawson seems to be getting bigger every day, and they're not talking about her celebrity status. I for one have always rather admired Nigellas refusal to cover up her comfy curves. Besides she's always the first one to admit that she loves to eat! Apparently hundreds of comments have been posted by viewers of Nigellas latest TV extravaganza 'Nigella Express' on internet forums and the BBC's official Points of View website claiming her fondness for decadent and indulgent creations is starting to show on the old hips. One viewer even goes so far as to call her "A Porker". Another viewer asks the question: "What sort of an example is she with her weight and appetite for high calorie sweets and cream?" Now you see i hardly think the point of Nigella's latest cooking show is to prove that eating high calorie foods and indulging yourself with sweet treats is a way of maintaining our figures. So what if she allows herself to pile on a few pounds? Thats her decision isn't it? At no time in any of the episodes so far have i noticed Ms Lawson encouraging us to dig in as a sure fire way to lose weight. So she's looking a little more voluptous these days. We're all adults, we know the consequences of our choices. At least we still have some!

Finger Food Fun?

Sorry but i do think certain people are starting to take this whole 'Finger Food Fun' thing a little too far. Just have a look at this ridiculous invention that supposedly allows us to forget the old "Don't Eat With Your Fingers" mantra. A set of plastic cutlery that encourages us to take eating with our fingers to a whole new level! A knife, fork and spoon that fit comfortably on the end of any of your fingers (you get to choose) and reportedly make eating with your fingers more fun. Aren't they forgetting that one of the 'fun' things about eating finger food is being able to lick your fingers?

And sorry to do this but to make the situation even worse i've found these little beauties as well! Apparently designed for that terrifying situation where you are presented a buffet option and dont feel it would be polite to use your fingers. Give me a break!

Huge Hotpot Created with Tiny Spoons!

Here we go with yet another WORLDS BIGGEST attempt. This time it's a 'Lancashire Hotpot' big enough to feed 800 people that has been cooked up as part of an attempt to make the largest dish of its kind in the world. Soldiers from Weeton Barracks and chefs from Lancaster and Morecambe College used 75lb (34kg) of local Bowland lamb in the regional speciality, alongside 75lb of onions and just over 190lb of potatoes. The huge hot pot was unveiled by celebrity chef Loyd Grossman at the opening of this years Taste Lancashire festival. Note the tiny utensils the record chasing chefs are using to create their rather unappetising hotpot. Surelythis recipe calls for something a tad bigger?

So much for the Cod

Despite our best attempts as concerned consumers when visiting the fish market the reformed EU common fisheries policy (CFP) is failing to prevent overfishing five years after it was implemented. A frankly disheartening midterm report from the environmental charity WWF suggests thata look at the progress of the reformed policy halfway through its mandate, finds that it is failing in its primary purpose "to achieve the sustainable management of European fish stocks". WWF argues that the necessary reductions in quotas for cod have not gone ahead and they want the sustainable management of fish to be managed within a wider marine portfolio. They’ve been campaigning for a UK Marine Act that would protect marine wildlife and the marine ecosystem. Less that 1% of our seabed is currently afforded high levels of protection.

Desiring? Or Indifferent?

Im one of those girls for whom chocolate just doesn't do it at all. Other women look at me in disbelief whenever i cautiously divulge this bizzarre information. They just dont understand how a person can be unmoved by the prospect of Chocolate Cake, Cookies, Fudge, Mousse, Sauce....You know what i mean. Now finally it seems i can justify my aversion to chocolate as a new study suggests that it all has to do with your particular balance of stomach bacteria. Scientists at the NestlĂ© Research Center have discovered that chocoholics have different strains of digestive microbes than those who claim they aren't in the least seduced by chocolate. In the current study, 22 healthy men were identified as either “chocolate desiring” or “chocolate indifferent” based on a chocolate preference questionnaire. In a double-blind cross-over study design, subjects followed a one week standard diet including chocolate and a placebo. Samples of blood and urine were collected for metabolic analysis. Specific post-prandial lipoprotein profiles and gut microflora biomarkers in subjects revealed a metabolic signature for the “chocolate desiring” group. …Get all of that? And why MEN?

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Mushroom Lovers Rejoice

Those of you living here in Spain that just happen to be Mushroom lovers take note: Several HUGE mushi's, the biggest of which weighed in at nearly two stone (that’s 12kg) have been found in an oak forest near the town of Orihuela del Tremendal in Teruel province. The gigantic mushrooms are the result of excellent climatological conditions and the over abundant rainfall we've had during the month of September. Time to get picking. They'd make one hell of a mushroom omelette!


I’m sure many of you have been watching Raymond Blancs THE RESTAURANT on BBC 2, and of course its now time for Chef Blanc to put his money where his mouth was and back the series winners Jeremy and Jane Hooper and their concept EIGHT IN THE COUNTRY into a fully fledged restaurant. Located in Oxfordshire the eatery will open next month with a little help from series judge Lee Cash and of course overseen by Raymond himself. Blanc has commented that the winning couple were fixated with becoming restaurateurs, he also felt that they were the most passionate about their vision and what it meant to them to win ‘The Restaurant’. Jeremy and Jane were in competition with eight other couples to be crowned the winners of the TV reality show. It will be interesting to see how they cope with taking a reality TV restaurant into the real world.

Family meals have more than a PINCH of salt!

Research results out yesterday that are quite SHOCKING. Especially for any parents out there. A pressure group in the UK run by independent health specialists has investigated some of the bigger fast food chains and their family meal, in particular the kiddie meals, and the results are enough to make you really THINK about ordering that fast food fix this weekend. Some menu choices have been found to contain FOUR TIMES the maximum level of salt recommended for youngsters. And dare I say it... Pizza Hut and Kentucky Fried Chicken have emerged as the worst culprits. Eating a family pizza for 4 meal deal could result in EACH member of the family eating an alarming 12.3 grams of salt. That’s more than twice the recommended maximum of 6g for an adult and almost two and a half times the 5g limit for a child aged seven to ten. If your kids are under 6 its more than FOUR times their recommended 3g per day. KFC comes in at a little less, with a Deluxe Boneless Box shared between four containing up to 5.2g of salt per person. Scarey stuff indeed!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Greek the new Italian?

At the beginning of the year I was asked to put forward my food trends for 2007 and one of the tastes on the top of my list was ‘Greek Cuisine’. Of course Spanish cuisine has been enjoying huge popularity overseas for years now thanks to the work of our fabulous Spanish new wave chefs many of them inspired by El Bulli and Spanish gastronomic guru Ferran Adria. But despite the movie ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding’ inspiring a resurgence of plate smashing, Greek cuisine and restaurants have remained within the minority unless you happen to live in Greece. Until this year that is! New York magazine has declared Greek food this years top trend and an interest in Greek everything has exploded. Restaurants, Recipes, Cookbooks, you name it, if its Greek it’s HOT! Tourism to Greece as a foodie destination is quickly growing and there are now a multitude of Greek cooking schools that cater for the ‘gastro tourist’ who now requires not only snapshots but also recipes to return home with.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Fly Me To The Moon

If your idea of a fabulous long weekend is checking into a hotel to admire the view and enjoy some room service then a must for your list of possible establishments must be the ‘Galactic Suite Space Hotel’ although you’ll have to wait until 2012 to check in. Xavier Claramunt a Barcelona based architect is promising a 3 night stay in his space hotel, 300 miles in orbit for a mere 3 million Euro. Claramunt says he believes that there are at least 40,000 of us here on earth that can actually afford his luxury getaway. Perhaps not the most relaxing long weekend experience though as guests will use Velcro suits to crawl around their pod style hotel rooms by sticking themselves to the walls a la Spiderman. Showering will also be a challenge to say the least as guests will have to enter a spa room filled with floating bubbles of water. No news yet as to the galactic goodies on the roomservice menu, but Oh My God…. Just think of the view. Guests will be able to watch the sun rise 15 times per day! Although I cant help worrying about the zero gravity toilets… To make your reservation send an email to

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Plastic is not so Fantastic

Ahhhh..... Research, Research Research. So much of it being done and so much of it being available to us these days its getting hard to know which study results to take seriously. Once upon a time the future looked bright in the world of ‘plastics’ but as more and more designer drinks and miracle waters hit the beverage market in their prettily branded plastic bottles you may want to think about the recent results of yet another study that were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. A research team at Duke University have found that exposure to bisphenol A, a chemical widely used in the manufacture of plastic bottles and food containers, can alter genes in fetal mice. A couple of scarey things happened to the poor mice. Apart from the exposed rodents becoming prone to obesity, diabetes, and cancer as adult mice, their fur also turned bright yellow! The study did not examine the effects of the chemical in humans who consume food and beverages stored in plastic so I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.

Master Porridge Maker of the World

If you love your porridge and want to taste the best porridge in the world you’ll now have to make the journey to Scotland. Maria Soep from Kilchrenan, Argyll has walked away with the coveted Golden Spurtle, or stirrer, at a competition where a dozen cooks from across the UK had gathered for a tense porridge cook-off where the appearance, consistency and taste of their oats were evaluated. The reigning porridge champ, now officially titled 'Master Porridge Maker of the World' claims that pinhead oats bought from Oban on Scotland's west coast are the secret behind her success. Aside from that she says don’t forget to soak them overnight, added a bit of salt and some good water.

Spanish Health The Best In Europe

News from this week. The health of the Spanish people is among the best of Europeans according to a new study of the Academy of Healthy Ageing. The Mediterranean diet and the Spanish quality of life mean that the average life expectancy in Spain is now 70 years for men and 75.3 for women. The numbers are beaten only by the Italians at 71 and 76 years. The report says that that in the Mediterranean Countries not only do people live longer, they enjoy a better quality of life than others in the E.U. So for those of us enjoying the expat lifestyle, fingers crossed that a little of this will rub of on us! However there IS a bad side to the numbers. The low birth rate here, coupled with the long life expectancy, will make Spain one of the countries with the OLDEST population in the world.

Chef Shortage?

Whilst British cuisine continues to gather a growing reputation for world-class cuisine, it is facing a shortage of skilled chefs, according to reports from the BBC. Chefs of ethnic origin are the most in demand, and some experts are now calling for fast-track immigration of foreign-trained, expert chefs to help deal with the problem. However restaurant industry experts argue that it’s the pay and working conditions that need to be improved to attract more skilled chefs towards the industry in general and with the multitude of celebrity chefs now hitting our TV screens the hospitality industry could also be suffering due to the unrealistic portrait that chefs paint of their profession. Peter Harden co-editor of Harden's restaurant guides says "It does seem so sexy on TV, but it's a lie isn't it? You are spending your entire life in a hot, stainless steel box. All the glamour is on the other side of the kitchen door."