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

Monday, April 30, 2007

Pig Tarts Get the Chop

Baker Val Temple from Dorset in England was stunned when barmy British bureaucrats forced her to rename her novelty ‘Robin Tarts’ because they don't contain any birds. In fact Val must now rename a number of her delicious snacks which have cute little edible animals on top, as ‘Novelty Cakes’ in case her customers are confused by the labelling. Her sweet ‘Pig Tarts’ obviously don’t contain any pork so they are also to be renamed, along with her popular Paradise Slice as it doesn’t come from paradise. (Where is paradise anyway?). Val’s Regular customers seem to have retained their sense of humor about it all suggesting that she makes a new cake in honour of the pesky bureaucrats and label it "Nutty as a Fruitcake". 60 year old Val says “Of course my cakes don't contain pig, robin or come from paradise. It's absolutely ridiculous. What's next - Shepherd's Pie?” Where will it all end? Christmas cake with no Jesus?

Saturday, April 28, 2007

World's Top Ten

Interesting Huh? Incase you’re wondering what it is, it’s a dish from the restaurant just voted the word’s best by Britain’s ‘Restaurant’ magazine for the second consecutive year. ‘El Bulli’ that holy grail of restaurants located in Roses on the Catalonian Coast and created by the man that has perfected the art of deconstructing food to challenge the mind and pleasure the palate ‘Ferran Adria’. In fact Spain continues to remain a hotspot for culinary brilliance with 3 of its restaurants making the world’s best top ten. ‘Mugaritz’ in San Sebastian took the number 7 spot for gastronomic wizard ‘Adoni Aduriz’ a protegee of Ferran Adria and hailed as the “foie gras king”. Another San Sebastian restaurant ‘Arzak’ made it in at number 10 for renowned chef Juan Mari Arzak. 22 panels of writers, critics and chefs from some 75 countries were responsible for the enviable task of judging the worlds best 100 restaurants. (I’d love to know the criteria for making the panel) No real surprises in the top ten, although not a single London restaurant made it. (That must-a hurt) :

1 El Bulli Spain
2 The Fat Duck England
3 Pierre Gagnaire France
4 The French Laundry United States
5 Tetsuya's Sydney
6 Bras France
7 Mugaritz Spain
8 Le Louis XV Monaco
9 Per Se United States
10 Arzak Spain

By the way the dish in the picture is a delicious snack from El Bulli ‘Deep Fried Rabbit Ears with Aromatic Herbs’. Not my cup of tea, but I’d definitely try them if I had the chance - I hear some people find them earrisistable.

Safe Sandwich?

Doesn't look to happy does she? Imagine biting into a cheese sandwich to find that the cheese is a little more chewy than you like, in fact SO chewy that you open the sandwich up to have a look and find a condom nestled between the lettuce and tomato! Poor Michelle Lewis bit into a Tesco’s £1.30 ploughman's sandwich earlier this week, chomped down onto an unwrapped prophylactic and promptly rushed to the toilet to be sick (as you would). Now although covered in Branston Pickle the condom didn’t appear to have been used (phew!) but understandably, Michelle says she will never touch another pre packaged sandwich again and still awaits an official response from Tesco. The offending vegetarian sandwich, certainly didn’t live up to its label which claimed 'no artificial flavours'.

Gordon Ramsey Upsets Posh!

This tickled me this morning, it looks like Posh and Becks have had a falling out with celeb chef pal Gordon Ramsay. You would have thought when ‘His Gordoness’ asked to be able to keep some lambs on the Beckhams country estate, that they would have realised the lambs were ultimately destined for the dinner table. In fact the lambs are to star on a future episode of Gordons new series of ‘The F Word’, showing their lives from conception up until their final resting of Gordons dinner plates. According to a spokesperson for Victoria, The Beckhams had no idea what was in store for the lambs who have been gaily frolicking around their lawns. As a devout vegetarian Posh is apparently “Distraught” upon discovering Ramsey’s intentions. I cant imagine why the words ‘Gordon Ramsey’ and ‘Lamb’ didn’t raise their suspicions in the first place. I guess that’s the last dinner party that Gordon will cater for the Beckhams. I wonder if they’ll issue a restraining order?

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Foodie Fashion Takes Off

Last week we discovered designer t-shirts for foodies at Café Press. This week I see Hillel at also has some fabulous fashion options available for hardcore foodies. Choose from tasty little gems such as:
& many more.......

Appetite Suppressants for Babies????

News this week that British scientists are experimenting with adding the hormone ‘leptin’ to baby formula in the hope that it will stop children from over-eating in later life. (Scarey stuff huh?) Tests performed on rats have produced the desired hunger-suppressing effect, (note the words, hunger-suppressing) but so far their research on humans has been disappointing. Head of research Dr. Mike Cawthorne truly believes that if the new wonder milk formula is consumed for a short period early on in life, it will hard wire the body’s energy balance. Now I recently did a show taking a look at whether babies can be TOO fat. It turns out that some experts say YES, those adorable double chins can be too much. But appetite suppressants for babies? I love having an appetite! Of course I’ve had to learn to control it along the way (and boy has THAT been a long hard road) but I can’t imagine life without one. Critics of the new research say the notion of a wonder formula to prevent human obesity is currently in the realms of wildly optimistic science fiction, so I guess it will be some time before we see this product on our supermarket shelves. My little boy is definitely not obese and just about to turn 9, and YES I admit I look forward to that look of anticipation when he spots his birthday cake. How sad to go thru life ‘appetiteless’ (is there even such a word?) never really experiencing the joy and the journey that food can inspire. Are we humans becoming so stupid that our only option is to have no choice?

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Sexy Beer Gets The Chop

A new lager has crossed the line with regard to ‘responsible’ marketing and branding, resulting in its withdrawal from UK shelves. ‘Rubbel Sexy Lager’ is considered to promote an irresponsible link between alcohol and social success with bottles that feature labels adorned with a busty babe wearing swimwear that peels away to reveal her lucious naked body. (Ooh Wah!) Incidentally this beer has been produced in Belgium for the last seven years, with no complaints from the locals. The Portman Group – the drinks industry watchdog, have now blocked the sales of ‘Rubbel Sexy Lager’ and its scratch and see packaging, and though the labelling might be considered a little on the risqué side, I cant help wondering how many women were on the Portman judging panel? If the makers of the beer had only done a ‘his and hers’ set, the busty babe lager for the boys and a lite lager with a dash of lime for the girls with George Clooney (substitute your own fantasy there girls) under the label in all his glory, perhaps it would then be at least considered ‘equal’ encouragement!

Saturday, April 21, 2007

MiniBar Capers

Are you one of those naughty holiday makers that use up the contents of your hotel mini bar over night and then pop out to the nearest supermarket to replenish the minibar before ‘housekeeping’ turns up to make up your room? Well you are NOT alone. Aquabar reports this week on how travelers worldwide have cottoned on to “beating the system” in what is a major hotel profit center. A survey has revealed that it is becoming more and more common for hotel guests to play the old ‘Beat the Mark-up’ game. Incidentally some hotels can charge as much as 400% to 600% on in-room items such as bottled water, chocolate bars, crisps and nuts etc. Some have installed sensors in an effort to curb this trend, but some smarty pants guests just argue that they changed their mind and returned the item. Perhaps the people responsible for actually purchasing the minibar items should use a little more imagination and purchase less standardised brands. Then again, I guess your in-room ‘Gourmet’ crisps would probably end up costing as much as last nights main course.

Futuristic Produce Labels

Soon to be gone are the days when you could pick up a couple of ordinary fresh green peppers and impress your guests with stories of “I only use organic produce”. Lasered Fruit stickers are the latest technology from a Georgia manufacturer, designed to alleviate the problem of having to peel off those pesky little stickers that currently identify most of our fresh produce and are just as easy for supermarket checkouts to use as a PLU code. The $38,000 laser machine etches indelible but edible labels onto the skin of the fruit and veg and has been available for two years. So far the US FDA are still to approve commercial use of the machine. If approved apart from a lot of unemployed label makers, will we really want to be serving up PLU codes to our dinner guests? Somehow I don’t think that lasered labels are going to enhance the visual presentation of a lovingly compiled fresh fruit platter.......And what about the after taste?

Daiquiri's for Breakfast Anyone?

More fruity news and I bet the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture is probably not high on your list of bedtime reading, but their latest studies have just given us the go-ahead to mix fruit with alcohol to maximise the antioxidant capacity. How fantastic is that! Of course it’s not ALL fruits, but the study found that treating strawberries and blackberries with alcohol boosts the fruit's power to neutralise destructive molecules called free radicals, by a whopping third. Free radicals are highly reactive oxygen molecules which damage DNA and cell membranes and are linked to a wide range of diseases. The scariest thing about free radicals is that they are thought to be one of the chief causes of ageing. Needless to say no further motivation needed for this little old reporter. At last! A justification for strawberry daiquiri’s at breakfast. Of course read the fine print and nutritionists are quick to throw a bit of a damper on things saying that the "detrimental effects" of such drinks could cancel out such benefits.......Oh well, ignorance is bliss!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

A Seasonal Spanish Specialty

Seasonal has been the buzz word in foodie circles for years now, and that perennial Basque favorite ‘Angulas’ the young of the eel are caught at this time of the year as they reach Spanish shores from their migration journey from the Sargasso Sea which is roughly within the vicinity of the Bermuda Triangle (A bit of useless trivia for you there).
For centuries they have been scooped out of the rivers just above the mouths in northern Spain and as a much anticipated ingredient of extreme and fleeting seasonality ‘Angulas’ have come a long way from the traditional way of serving them salted and covered in olive oil.
Although a Spanish favourite, Elvers (as we know them in English) are now popping up on Michelin starred menu’s throughout Europe, and being raved about for their barely there fishiness. So if you live here in Spain, and have always looked at those tiny , squirming, silvery, translucent, worm-like things and wondered about them, they are a very coveted Spanish specialty and if you don’t try them soon you will miss out until March next year. Incidentally before a Basque bites into a baby eel he or she usually wants to see its face. Apparently the only way to be sure of what you are about to eat is to look into those tiny little baby black eyes.

Designer Tea’s

Tea Parties are back with a vengeance and the current tea venue for London’s deeply glamorous is ‘Artesian’ in the Langham Hotel, Portland Place. This latest hot spot tea-room has been gushingly heralded as a ‘Contemporary Geisha boudoir style cocktail bar’ and designed by prolific restaurant designer David Collins. Madonna has already held a bash at ‘Artesian’ where the actual teas are the designs of former canapé queen, now food consultant Lorna Wing and include (of course) tiny sandwiches made from specialist breads and filled with deliciousness such as: Wiltshire ham and wild rocket with mustard butter on light rye. The designer tea fare also includes tiny cheese and pancetta, triple citrus and coconut and lime muffins, teacup and saucer iced biscuits, glittery cupcakes , Ladurée macarons and mousse shots. ( Yummy descriptions courtesy of 'The Better Foodie' ) If you are not a tea-totaller Artesian is also a cocktail bar, so tea can be served with a martini chaser….Phew!

Pizza Downunder Hits Rock Bottom

The evolution of the humble Aussie meat pie has taken a monumental leap in history, with the union of Australia's two biggest pre-game footy food rivals – meat pie and pizza.
Now the traditional Aussie meat pie isn't known for its looks, and neither is Domino’s new meat pie pizza, the result of three months of research and development as the company looked for a distinctly Australian taste. The Meat Pie Pizza comes with beef mince, onions and peas topped with thick pastry and tomato sauce – and apparently it looks about as pretty as a half-gobbled dog's eye.
With an estimated 3 million Aussie dollars committed to the launch of the new pizza one has to wonder how arch rivals ‘Pizza Hut’ will respond. Marsupials with the lot anyone?

Pizza for Health?

Now this next bit of pizza news has to be just too good to be true. Yet more new scientific research has found that the nutritional value of pizza, everyone's favourite junk food, can be significantly boosted just by baking it longer....hallelujah! Since Americans eat more than 90 acres of pizza a day, (according to Dominos), University of Maryland food chemists decided to experiment with the baking temperatures, baking time and fermentation time of whole-grain wheat pizza dough. (Aaah theres the catch, it has to be a wholegrain base). They found that increasing the baking temperature from 200C to 290C caused antioxidant levels to rise by as much as 82 per cent, and giving the dough a two-day fermentation period raised them up to 100 per cent. Of course Antioxidants protect cells from damage and they are linked to reduced risks of cancer, heart disease and other illnesses. Contain your excitement though as the researchers advise that despite the boosted levels of antioxidants, high-fat toppings on pizza could negate any health benefits, so we’re back to square (or should I say ‘slice’) one.

Late Night Munchies

‘Disco Fries’ have now become the artery clogging snack of late night revellers world wide.
An attempt to temper the effects of a long ambitious night of consumption, but only when ingested on the way to bed.
Originally known as ‘Poutine’ a French-Canadian dish consisting of French fries topped with fresh cheese curds and covered with hot gravy (usually brown), Disco Fries are basically steak-cut French fries placed on an oval stoneware plate and topped with a couple of squares of processed cheese which are then thrown under a grill and topped with a thick gravy. (Ugh!) Now you may be thinking you can do the same thing with plain old ‘Chips with Curry Sauce’ but with the Marbella summer party season already upon us, ‘Disco Fries’ sound so much more ‘Puerto Banus’ don’t ya think? And of course if you are dining with an elegant companion you can always ask for your gravy to be served on the side in a cup.

What’s in a Kiss?

The powerful effect of chocolate on the brain has surprised scientists during recent research.
Their findings have indicated that our partners may be more stimulated by a piece of chocolate than a romantic smooch.
After young volunteers wearing heart monitors and electrodes on their scalps alternated kissing their partners and munching on chocolate, it seems that the taste of chocolate melting on the tongue is four times more pleasurable than enjoying a passionate kiss.
The results found that all areas of the brain received a far more intense and longer lasting boost from the chocolate than the kiss, with the chocolate also having a more stimulating effect on heart rate. In some cases the number of beats per minute of the resting heart rate (60) more than doubled to a racing 140 from one taste of the sweet stuff. So next time they pucker up girls, here’s your excuse to tell them what you really want.

Wine Charms are Back

In your eternal efforts to be the ‘Hostess’ or ‘Host’ with the ‘Most-ess’ or the ‘Most’, perhaps it’s time to resurrect a little novelty trinket that has been around since 1998 but is now experiencing a re-vamp? If you’re not familiar with the concept of wine charms, then just think back to your last dinner party, where after putting down your wine glass to sample the latest foam topped canapé you turned back to your glass and found 4 identical glasses all looking the same except some were fuller than others. The ‘Wine Charm’ helps your guests identify their own glass with a personalised little charm that dangles from the foot of the stem. Now you can of course make your own beaded wine charms, or make charms out of crocheted wire, or you can take the easy way out and buy them in cheap boxed sets, usually from china OR at (A place that is proudly making the World a Better Place, One Evil Mad Scientist at a Time) you can learn how to create your own extra-snazzy ‘Wine Charms’ out of electronic components. They look great, are easy to make, cost next to nothing, and make great conversation pieces....apparently.

A Pint of Giggles Please

Two Israeli chemical engineers, (more mad scientists) have developed a beer that contains laughing gas.
The beer is likely to cause its drinkers to laugh, though the amount of laughing gas bubbles the brew contains is small and they quickly leave the body. The entrepreneurs also plan to market a similar hybrid vodka. They've obtained Health Ministry approval and are now looking at patenting the new brew, though it's been censured by Israel's Anti-Drug Authority as laughing gas is a controlled substance.

Presenting 'The CHORK'

Now whether you like it or not this is STILL the era of fusion and it’s not just food, everything from cuisine to cutlery has been tweaked and we’ve now gone from the spoon, the knife and the fork to the Spork, the Knork and Chork. Most people are familiar with the Spork (the spoon-fork). The Spork has been around for years as has the Knork, (a fork with outer "prongs" that have increased cutting capability). Definitely what you would call convenient cutlery, but even more interesting is the CHORK! Wait for it..... A chopstick fork. Designed for those of you unable to master the art of chopsticks, the Chork is a much better idea than those awful chopsticks with a rubber band twisted around them, its basically a chopstick with two long prongs, and it will make life easier at your favourite local ‘Asian’ if you don’t want to be seen with a fork! Available from

Sushi Chefs Spit the Dummy

More Japanese cuisine titbits as the Michelin Guide announces that it will publish for the first time in Japan, causing mass indignation amongst sushi chefs and possibly even thoughts of ‘Hari Kari’. Although Michelin stresses that restaurants have nothing to fear from the guide, which rates cooking, service and decor, you can’t really blame them for being suspicious after what happened when the Michelin guide published in the USA. (What a disaster). Yoshikazu Ono, head chef at Sukiyabashi Jiro, a revered Tokyo sushi restaurant says "The French do not understand anything about sushi and are so far behind in handling fresh fish. So how can they judge us??? If they want to appreciate Japanese cuisine, they must first study Japan's history and culture. Then they can write their guide." Campai! (That’s ‘Cheers’ in Japanese)

To Foie or NOT to Gras?

I have mentioned a number of times with bemusement on my food radio show ‘The Main Ingredient’ the raging foie gras war in the USA where the food police have stirred up such a fuss that some cities such as Chicago have banned it from all restaurant tables. I’ve even had genius chef ‘Will Goldfarb’ admit that he now serves foie gras with absolutely everything just because they say he can’t. Now I like foie gras, but at the same time I CAN imagine life without it. The idea of the process known as la gavage, force-feeding birds with grain by using a metal tube to enlarge their livers, does leave a bit of a foul (fowel?) taste in my mouth. Meanwhile over in the UK Britain’s gourmands are insisting on an "ethical" form of foie gras that is actually created here in Spain by naturally allowing the birds to overeat as they prepare for the winter avoiding the dreaded force feeding. Apparently the geese normally eat much more just before their winter migration. So foie gras lovers can now relax in the knowledge that although the goose is still killed BEFORE its perfectly natural migration to Africa, its last meals are a naturally pleasurable belly filling experience. In fact I know of one cheeky chef residing and working in Africa that thinks they should just let the geese get on with their natural migration, then he could have ethical foie gras, free of any import duties.

Restaurant of the Week

In modern but superstitious Singapore, getting locals to dine at new restaurant ‘Aurum’ could be a tall order, as the ethnic Chinese who make up 75 percent of the city-state's population tend to shun anything that connotes death or sickness. Aurum's restaurant reception is a fake morgue and operating theater. On the second floor, where the restaurant is located, customers sit in gold-painted wheelchairs and eat from metal tables designed to resemble operating top things off, next door to arum is a bar called The Clinic, where customers are served by waitresses in nurse outfits and sip alcohol from mock drip packets.....if you do get over to Singapore and get a chance to sample arum, be prepared for a somewhat bizarre blend of foods, such as ‘isotonic lychee caviar’ and ‘piglet deconstructed mosaic of pear with coleslaw’. So far Asian food critics are not convinced. One critic going so far as to write "Why are we courting disaster by sitting in a wheelchair for no reason? It's like asking people to go and sleep in a coffin for fun".

Fabulous Fashion for Foodies

It was only a matter of time, and some bright spark has now come up with amusing T-shirts and other fashionable items that will appeal to foodies far and wide. Captions for the designer foodie t-shirts read:

‘Hollandaise can sense fear!’ ‘ Your Misenplace or Mine?’ ‘ I came I saw I concassed!’ And my personal favourite ‘Please stop putting Foam on my food!’. Of course the foodie fashion items are probably only funny if you're a cook, chef, or some other type of hardcore foodie.

So, basically in Chef John’s own words, “I’ve designed a fashion line that only 1% of the entire population will understand”...if that! Just google Café Press for more info.