My love affair with food

I was going to write another self-indulgent post this week and then I thought “Emma, get a grip”.

Instead I thought I would write about food.  I would describe myself as a bit of a foodie and yet, weirdly, I haven’t written a blog about it although I seem to think about the darn stuff for at least 23 1/2 hours a day. I admit it; I’m greedy and love all food – I try and be healthy but you know what sometimes nothing beats a pint and packet of crisps (Walkers Cheese & Onion to be precise).

I’m pretty sure it’s genetic as I was reading the diary my nanny (I know!) wrote and even when I was still in nappies I would throw a strop if there wasn’t chocolate cake for pudding.  Plus I lost the top of a finger helping my mother mince roast lamb to make shepherd’s pie – let’s not go there either… And, as I grew older I was allowed to choose the restaurants for our family special occasions.  In my mid-teens my favourite was Coconut Grove (I think it’s a Carluccio’s now) in St Christopher’s Place off Oxford Street.  It was Caribbean-themed and you could order gaudy cocktails and have platters of ribs, chicken wings and anything else that gave a nod to those tropical islands.  I still salivate at the thought.

My love affair has continued fueled by a number of years in the wine industry, eating and drinking at Michelin-starred restaurants and surrounding myself with foodies working on delicious. Magazine and Sainsbury’s Magazine.

Now that family life dominates, my husband is more of a fuel-for-life kinda man and my waistband has increasingly thickened my tastes have changed and I long for simple foods beautifully executed with fresh, clean flavours. Our go to treat at home when we have people round for dinner is a rare rib of beef with Vietnamese coleslaw.

I would say my favourite restaurants in Central London which I will happily go back to time and time again are Roka, Barrafina, Quo Vadis, J Sheekey, Lima and you can’t beat The Hawksmoor chain for some serious steaks.  Locally our go-to restaurant is Naturally Chinese and for special occasions The French Table but I do wish Kingston had more independents as they all seem to be chains.

And in terms of cooking, I do like to create but I also have a folder full of recipes that “one day I’ll cook” and a shelf loaded with cookbooks.  I did a sort out recently and sent some to the charity shop as I just never used them.  However I go back to the same books/ chefs time and time again:

Mary Berry’s Cookery Course – I bought that for our au-pairs so they could learn the basics and it’s a really good reminder for basic weights, temperatures and cooking times for classic home cooking

Nigella Lawson – Kitchen – you can’t beat her recipes as they work and taste fab.  Try her lemon polenta cake or chicken with 40 cloves of garlic and you’ll be hooked

Made in India – Meera Sodha – a new and v welcome addition to my collection.  Delicious curries, salads, breads and chutneys.  So far I’ve tried the chicken and fig curry, masala roast chicken and chaat salad. Yum!

Dan Lepard Short and Sweet – he’s my go to for baking and bread-making.  Easy to follow down to earth recipes. Banana butterscotch cake, farmhouse loaf and his long-prove sourdough are my weekend hit list bakes

Anything by Ottolenghi as long as I’ve got the time and ingredients.  His recipes can sometimes feel rather long-winded but they are worth it if you’ve got the patience.  I did his version of a Waldorf salad and I could have troughed the lot before our friends arrived for supper

Falling Clouberries – Tessa Kiros – a loving collection of recipes from around the world and from her family.  Mouthwatering and I’ve yet to find a better carrot cake recipe (sorry Dan)

Finally I really enjoy reading Felicity Cloake’s column in The Guardian.  I love reading about the history of recipes and the different versions chefs make.  She then creates the definitive recipe based on her research.  I’ve made her gazpacho and cinnamon buns recently and they’ve gone down a storm.

It would be lovely to hear what your favourite restaurants and cookbooks are.  I’m off to cook Bill Granger’s stir-fried  Vietnamese lemongrass chicken….




The Food Revolution – A very personal revolution

This week’s blog is brought to you by Erik Brown of Grayhawk Consulting and stems from a conversation we had a few weeks ago about the food revolution in the UK.  I was in the midst of writing a content strategy for the BBC Good Food Shows and Erik; beginning to work with a new food concept so we were coming from it from different ends of the consumer market – mainstream and niche:


Google the words ‘food revolution’ and you’ll find at the top of the results page John and Ocean Robbins’ Food Revolution Network. A little further down you’ll see British TV chef Jamie Oliver.


John Robbins was heir to the Baskin Robbins ice-cream empire until he ‘walked away from the money and the power after realising that ice-cream made people unhealthy’. His book Diet for a New America was a best seller; Ocean, is his son. The network claims 350,000 members.


You are probably aware that Jamie Oliver has lambasted the food we serve to our children in schools. But there is more to it than that: his talk on has been seen by 6.8 million people and the committed, angry young man on stage is a long way from the cheeky-chappie of his Naked Chef years. It’s worth watching.


So, are we in the throes of a food health revolution? If the answer in America is a tub-thumping ‘hell, yeah’, in the UK, it is a more reticent, ‘perhaps’. Or, on a good day, a more determined ‘probably’.


For we Brits – still undemonstrative as a nation – it’s personal. Sure, we have the beautiful Hemsley Sisters spiralising courgettes on TV, and Nigella Lawson promoting avocado on toast. But if there’s a food health ‘movement’, it’s a movement of individual choices.


In the nation’s fastest-growing sport, the triathlon, getting on for 200,000 athletes a year are becoming full-time nutritionists as they get to grips with carb-loading. And of the 2.5 million in the UK who are living with or have been treated for cancer, many will turn to excellent books like The Anti-cancer Diet by French oncologist David Khayat MD to discover the health benefits of pomegranate and turmeric.


Throw in those concerned with climate change and animal welfare and those simply dismayed by pantomime food science – ‘Butter is bad for you’ … ‘Oh, no it’s not’ – and a picture begins to emerge in which individuals, perhaps many individuals, are taking back control of what goes into their bodies.


It may be reflected in the sales of spiralisers and avocados, and be visible in the nation’s 750 farmers’ markets, it may even play to our national mistrust of politicians and conglomerates, but it is happening.


So, where do you stand? Let us know.