Wine: if you’re looking for a bottle to pair with dinner, a Tuscan red will usually fit the bill

Tuscan wine doesn’t tend to follow fashion, and it’s all the better for itOne of the most dispiriting things about wine in the last decade has been the tendency of producers to make wine in a uniform, fruity style, presumably to please supermarket buyers and impress influential wine critics.Happily, that doesn’t generally happen in Tuscany, where the wines, like the cuisine, are much the same as they’ve always been. To some palates, the reds – almost all based on the local sangiovese grape – might appear sharp and even thin on their own, but drink them with food, as the Tuscans would, and they burst into life, providing the perfect accompaniment to an Italian meal. Continue...

Food in books: fish cakes from Iris Murdoch’s The Sea, The Sea

Kate Young reflects on the pleasures and hurdles of cooking for one and revisits Iris Murdoch’s Booker-winning novel, filled with accounts of solitary mealsBy Kate Young for The Little Library Café, part of the Guardian Books NetworkThe orange feast did not dim my appetite for lunch, which consisted of fish cakes with hot Indian pickle and a salad of grated carrot, radishes, watercress and bean shoots. (I went through a period of grated carrot with everything, but recovered.)The Sea, The Sea, Iris Murdoch Continue...

Japanese police raid restaurant serving potentially deadly tiger blowfish liver

Chefs are banned from serving poisonous parts of the fish – which some brave diners are still willing to eat despite riskA members-only Japanese restaurant serving tiger blowfish liver, a banned and potentially deadly delicacy, has been raided by police.Blowfish – also known as pufferfish or balloonfish – are named after their ability to expand into a roundish shape to ward off predators. Continue...

Ducksoup’s recipes with herbs and spring’s first alliums | Residency

Herbs and alliums together form the bedrock of many cuisines. Use them to ground the flavours of a dish, and to add flourishes of freshness, as in these seasonal recipes with lamb, potatoes and peas ...Ducksoup will be taking over Cook’s Instagram pages (@guardian_cook) this weekend. Log in for all kinds of fresh ideas and inspiration. @ducksoupsoho I used to keep a pot of Greek basil growing outside my front door. I’d heard the ancient Greeks did this so that guests who entered the house could brush their hands through the leaves, cleansing them of the outside world before coming in. I’m not sure if it’s an accurate story, but I like the idea of a stimulating aromatic cleanse before entering the house.Herbs have a similar way of stimulating our cooking; they are a meadow of culinary gems that provide an earthy intensity. They also allow a dish take on a choice of aromatic guises, from Asian and Byzantine notes to more familiar Mediterranean and British accents. Some of the most unforgettable dishes I’ve eaten have been adorned with herbs – smoked cod’s roe piled with freshly torn marjoram, or flatbreads sprinkled with wild za’atar and olive oil. Continue...

Sourdough taste test: can supermarkets do artisan bread?

We’ve come a long way since Poilâne’s £10 loaf caused us to spit out our Mother’s Pride in 2002. But can the supermarkets really produce decent pain au levain?The past, it is said, is another country. Nowhere is this more true than in Britain’s relationship with bread. In 2002, the launch of Parisian bakery Poilâne’s pain au levain in London was met with outrage and sniggering amusement. Priced at almost £10 a loaf, this sourdough, made with a starter that was then 70 years old, seemed utterly fantastical.But no one is laughing now. Sales of white, sliced factory bread are reported to be in steep decline, and you can buy a sourdough loaf in Asda for £1.40. If we are not quite a nation of sourdough addicts – it remains, for most, a posh weekend treat – we have definitely embraced the idea of slow-proved, natural loaves fermented with live starters that teem with billions of wild yeasts and lactobacilli bacteria. Visit benchmark bakeries such as St John in London, Hart’s in Bristol or Price’s in Ludlow, Shropshire, and you will encounter revelatory sourdoughs with chewy crusts, airy, elastic interiors and profound, complex flavours – breads that would score eight or nine out of 10 in this test. Bakers skilfully manipulate the precise sourness in their breads, but many of us now crave the distinctive lactic tang of San Francisco-style sourdoughs. Continue...