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Showing posts from January, 2020

Meat-free and gluten-free entertaining

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As a confirmed meat eater with no allergies, I am in the fortunate position of being able to cook whatever I like when I cook for myself. I'm often challenged, though, by needing to cook for others who don't eat meat, are coeliac or have other dietary restrictions. I firmly believe my guests deserve the best of me, and I struggle with diets that are unfamiliar to me. I certainly wouldn't want any dinner guest to be served food that has something missing, taken out or replaced with a lesser substitute. For this reason, I dislike serving ersatz meat and jackfruit masquerading as pulled pork. Far better, in my opinion, to find dishes that make the best use of vegetables and plant protein on their own terms.

Discovering Japanese cuisine, a few years ago, has been a Godsend to me. In Japan, tofu and vegetables are cooked to make the most of their natural properties. Soy and tamari, rice wine and vinegar, and salted, fermented or pickled fruit and veg give the cuisine a livelin…

Bringing it all together

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Have you ever wondered about the influences that create our culinary culture and styles of dining? I have been creating dinners for the last few years that explore these influences – the places, the people and the moments that have made us who we are as diners and hosts. Since these dinners bring together all the attitudes and skills I've been blogging about (using aperitifs to create a sense of expectation, planning a menu, setting out a stunning visual scene...), a reader has asked me to give an account of some of these dinners and why I think these people, places and times matter.

One of the more colourful dinners we gave explored the social scene of the mid-1930s. In order to create a menu and a social atmosphere that made sense, I tried to imagine what kind of dinner would have been given by the people who lived at my address in 1936. Let's consider who those people were and how their world looked...

For a generation who had survived the horrors of the Great War, the 191…

Low alcohol drinks - an update

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I posted early last year about alcohol-free and low-alcohol drinks. At the time, there were very few alcohol-free drinks available in the UK that were intended specifically for aperitif drinking. How things change in a year! What follows is an update of that post, with some new products reviewed.

Our neighbour has commented that, as a non-drinker, she often feels infantilised by the choices offered when she goes out with others. While friends drink wines, spirits and beers to suit the adult palate, more often than not she is offered pop or fruit juice. No wonder she generally drinks water! I made it my mission to find some grown-up drinks that don’t compromise on alcohol.

We start with tonic water. One of the markers of the adult palate is that it tolerates bitterness much more than a child’s does. Tonic may be sweet and fizzy but it’s unmistakably adult. It’s also fresh and stimulates the appetite, so it works well as an aperitif. Try mixing it with grapefruit or orange juice (1/3 j…