Archive for the ‘Trends’ Category

The continent of Africa is the second largest landmass on Earth, and is home to hundreds of different cultural and ethnic groups. This diversity is also reflected in the many local culinary traditions in terms of choice of ingredients, style of preparation and cooking techniques. And as such, it is a little difficult to generalise in terms of cuisine.

Variations on tastes and cooking techniques differ, depending on the environment as well as locally available fruits, cereal grains and vegetables, as well as milk and meat products.

It is a direct result of this vast difference in tastes and recipes, that leave African cuisine open to being led into the mainstream. Of course, the slow cooked stews of North Africa have already started to make the move into popular consciousness, with a flurry of essentials, such as preserved lemons, harissa paste and Tagines being readily available, while Southern African Brais and Biltong are relatively common. And yet, the culinary surface has only been scratched.

It’s against this backdrop, that I came across Kitchen’s of Africa. While not the first company to attempt to literally bottle the spirit of Africa (see Delta Spices and Marinades or Mama Africa’s Sauces), they are certainly one of the most stylish.

Based in Raleigh, North Carolina, Kitchens of Africa is a U.S. company, whose roots extend all the way to The Gambia, a tiny country in the western part of Africa, where founder, Jainaba Jeng was born and raised.  Her simmer sauces and jerk pastes allow authentic African cuisine to be easily prepared at home with fantastic results. Kitchens of Africa products eliminate the endless ingredient sourcing, lengthy prep work and countless hours of slow cooking. What once would have taken you hours to make, can now be on your dinner table in minutes.

The complete range consists of 3 jerk pastes, as well as Yassa simmer sauce – an onion based sauce that can be used for chicken or Maffé Peanut simmer sauce a  slightly sweet, spicy and tangy sauce that balances the rich and nutty peanut flavour.


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Ingenious Indian

Gaggan is a new restaurant in Bangkok that has taken molecular gastronomy and brought it to Thailand.

The restaurant opened in Bangkok in December.  32-year-old Chef Gaggan Anand was inspired to open when he became the first Indian to intern with the research team at Spain’s El Bulli restaurant, home of the Michelin-starred chef Ferran Adrià.

Peas - Gaggan style

Dishes at Gaggan are designed to use science to improve food, while not deviating too far from traditional practices.

Creations include a spherification in which a dollop of yogurt with cumin and black salt is transformed into a disk with a gel-like exterior and a spicy, liquid interior, as well as oysters with a chutney ginger foam; foie gras with a freeze-dried raspberry sauce; mushroom risotto with Kashmiri morel juice; and a chicken tikka with green chilies, peppercorn and chutney foam.



Additional dishes on offer at Gaggan include sous vide Scottish wild salmon with Bengali-style mustard, a freeze-dried

Foie gras with a freeze dried raspberry sauce

corn salad with tomatoes and Guntur chilies, and mutton brain with coriander leaves, sour cream and cumin.

The two-story restaurant is in a traditional Thai-style house, set back from a central Bangkok thoroughfare in a leafy courtyard. While the dishes are elaborately prepared, the interior is decorated simply, with white walls, chairs, and tables.

First floor of Gaggans

Gaggan, 68/1 Soi Langsuan, Bangkok, across from Soi 3. Tel: 66-2-652-1700.

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For March, as part of Harvey Nichols ongoing ‘Taste Lab’ project with Global Food consulting, renowned Chef, Franck Pontais will be taking up residency and bringing his unique Verrines (a playful exploration of layered colours, flavours and textures artfully presented in eye catching glassware) to the flagship store in Knightsbridge.

Consisting of a ten seat tasting bar, The Glass Kitchen will offer a choice of mains all served in a distinctive 3 tier glass pyramid  by Durobor.

Launching on 7 March, Franck and his team will be in residence at the Fifth Floor Foodmarket for just four weeks, from 11am to 8pm, Monday to Saturday and 12 to 6pm on Sundays.

Franck will also be hosting two exclusive workshops, to include a tasting menu with a glass of wine and the opportunity for customers to learn how to create verrines quickly and easily in the comfort of their own home.  Places cost £60, and will include a signed copy of Franck’s book, Terrines and Verrines.  Workshops will operate from 6-8pm on Wednesday 16 and Wednesday 23 of March. Places are £60 per person and include food, tuition, a glass of wine and a copy of Franck Pontais’ book, ‘Terrines and Verrines’. To book, please call 020 7201 8689 or 020 7201 8632, quoting ‘Glass Kitchen Workshop’.

An exclusive range of Durobor glassware made in Belgium with skilled production and creative flair, will be available to purchase, or for those who are looking to cheat at their own dinner parties, a refrigerated counter offering ready prepared sweet and savoury verrines to take away will also be available.

The Glass Kitchen will operate a ‘No Bookings’ policy.
The menu will change on a weekly basis. The first week’s selection will be: 
Light cauliflower flan with soft puy lentils and lardons, poached quail eggs in saffron with a fine slice of smoked duck breast.
Terrine of poached chicken in cardamom and seared chicken liver, plum fruit and spring onion salad with steamed ginger. Crisp of lotus root.
Smoked mackerel and hot smoked salmon terrine with crushed new potato, cucumber and cress salad with fine rustic bread wafer.
Carpaccio of smoked filet of beef with parmesan parfait and slow cooked tomato with garlic, fennel and oak leaf salad.
Traditional Moroccan vegetable soup ‘Chorba’ with plain yoghurt, cooked noodles and fresh coriander.
Fresh pomegranate set in a rose water jelly; white chocolate mousse and cherry confit served with a demerara sugared tuille biscuit.
Blackcurrant mousse top with a creamy lemon posset and fresh mango jam served with lemon and lavender shortbread.
About Franck Pontais
Iron Chef UK winner 2010 Franck Pontais has not only competed against the likes of Tom Aikens, Martin Blunos, Sanjay Dwivedi and Judy Joo, but has also been acknowledged in the media as being one of the most innovative chefs in the UK.
One of the world’s top specialists in the art of Traiteur and Charcuterie and a Disciple Escoffier International 2010, Franck has over twenty years of the finest gastronomic experience, training at the the prestigious Parisian culinary school CEPROC, then working for Harrods and Selfridges, launching the concept of ‘Traiteur’ in both London and Manchester.
He has cooked at parties for the ‘A’ list, and is the author of celebrated book, Terrines and Verrines and owner of Food Creation, his own food consultancy company.

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Playing with food

On my many explorations of cyber space, I happened to find instructions on how to make heart shaped boiled eggs. Although still recovering from the obvious heart shaped fest that is Valentines Day, I was rather intrigued, since as you can see from the picture, they do look rather good.

The blog is by a Japanese born, but American based lady called Anna, and the instructions for amazing eggs can be found here.

Upon further exploration, it seems that these ornate food creations are specifically for a type of Bento box called Kyaraben or Charaben, which is a style of elaborately arranged bento which features food decorated to look like people, characters from popular media, animals, and plants.

The history of Bento in Japan goes back some 900 years with the first boxes being wooden lacquered boxes made during the late 16th century.

Bento box lunches have been popular ever since, and there are thousands sold daily at train stations and aboard trains, but they aren’t nearly as artistic as Kyaraben.

Originally, a decorated bento was intended to interest children in their food and to encourage a wider range of eating habits, but now this craze has spawned hundreds of blogs, cookbooks and even a number of contests to find the best decorated bentos and characters.

Playing with food has never looked so good.

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Cupcakes are mainstream, whoopie pies are last year and decorated cookies are EVERYWHERE.

So what are ahead of the pack brides-to-be, fashionistas and fans of indulgent sweet treats meant to go for now?

Step forward the petits fours. Part fondant fancy, part mini cake, this new indulgence is waiting in the wings, ready to take the cupcake crown.

Admittedly, these aren’t particularly new: my mother’s Hamlyn All Colour Recipe book from the 70s has a recipe for these fondant covered mini cakes, while Konditor & Cook have offered Magic Cakes for years.

Where the potential is (like cupcakes) lies in the decoration and the flavour combinations of the sponge and fondant.

Dragonfly Cakes is a bakery located in Sausalito, California just north of San Francisco across the Golden Gate Bridge.

Their website illustrates a wealth of colours, flavours and themes – the stuff of women and gay men’s dreams.

It’s surely only a matter of time before they cross the water and head for our waistlines.

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In a pickle

One of the joys of summer is a glut of produce.  In times gone buy, people would lay down an excess of produce in various forms depending on environment and weather.  Luckily, the humble pickle doesn’t require hot sunshine, dry winds or moist atmospheres – just good vinegar, sugar and a key choice of spices.

Pickles seem to be cropping up on restaurant menus both in the UK and the US of late, and at the Fancy Food Show, two great brands were showcasing their wares:

Unbound Pickling

Based in Portland, Oregon, Unbound uses locally sourced vegetables and herbs in order to ensure production is the highest quality and made when produce is at its peak.  Unusual additions include their Bread & Butter pickles sweetened with blueberries and pear, as well as their Beatnik Pickled Beets with pomegranate and chai spice.

McClure’s Pickles

In 2006, using their great grandmother Lala’s recipe, Bob and Joe started McClure’s Pickles after years of making pickles in their tiny Michigan kitchen. Their pickles, relish, mustard and other McClure’s products are produced just outside of Detroit, Michigan and in Brooklyn, New York.  

They use as much local produce as possible when it is in season and when it’s not, they call up the farms and speak directly with the growers to know where produce is coming from and how it is being grown, making sure they are getting some of the best, freshest produce available. Every jar is hand packed, the cucumbers hand sliced, and their labels, printed by Rolling Press, use soy and vegetables inks with chemical-free plating and  wind-powered electricity.

The last brand featured was found at a new concept store at 331 Cortland Market Place (more on this later).

Paulie’s Pickling

Paul and Liz Ashby’s pickle obsession began one Sunday afternoon.  While waiting for Liz to finish her shift at a restaurant near Civic Center, Paul  decided to kill some time at the nearby farmer’s market. Drawn to the tiny cucumbers, he decided to pick up a couple of bags and try his hand at making pickles. …

Together, for months afterward, the couple tried many different recipes and techniques, striving for the perfect pickle. And the dedication paid off, resulting in a briny, spicy, crunchy, delicious pickle that pays homage to the traditional Jewish foods that Liz grew up with.

Apart from offering an array of seasonal specials that use the best of in season produce, favourite pickles include their Spicy Green Beans, made with jalapenos for an extra kick, as well as Paulie’s Zesty Originals – zesty and crunchy small cucumbers.

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Water water everywhere..

..but in this case, there was plenty to drink.

The Winter Fancy Food Show here in San Francisco has revealed a huge number of waters: functional, flavoured with herbs, artisan..the list is extensive, but these were my top 3 in terms of interesting ideas:


A new premium water, blk. is pure Canadian spring water infused with Fulvic Acid, which is considered to be the most powerful organic anti oxidant. blk. has a low acidity level and contains 77 trace minerals. The infomation sheets says that it contains no dyes, yet the water is jet black.


SanTasti is a new beverage that is just like a lightly sparkling water. Invented in San Luis Obibspo, California, it refreshes your taste by moderating sweetness, acidity and astringency. The two variations are made from all natural ingredients, have only ten calories, and work to restore your palate so you can experience more flavours from more foods. Perfect for wine tasting, after coffee or as a low calorie special treat to enjoy with your meal.

SanTásti is available in two refreshing flavours… Classic and Cucumber.


Sourced from one of the deepest aquifers in New Zealand, this creates a natural filtration process that has lead

to it being classed as the deepest and highest quality artesian water in New Zealand.

This is a carbon neutral water, bottled at source in a pristine environment where no human contact comes between the water and the bottle.  The bottle itself uses local recycled glass.

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