Nature Queen's Blog

News from the world of Food and Beverages

Ruby Tandoh’s recipe for cherry blondies with bay cream | The Sweet Spot

Beautify your brownies with these grown-up blondies spiced up with citrus and cherries

Usually I like to take a recipe straight to its basest form: opera cake? Make that a chocolate sponge. Towering croquembouche? Serve ‘em a nice eclair instead. These blondies are unusual for me, then, because for once I’ve taken something a bit saccharine and naff and made it classier. Brought to life with citrussy cardamom and plump cherries, these avoid the cloying sweetness of traditional blondies, while the bay-infused cream adds a subtle aniseed warmth. They might only be brownies with a wig on, but they taste a million bucks.

Prep 20 mins
Cook 30-35 mins
Serves 12

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Not so fresh: why Jamie Oliver’s restaurants lost their bite

The chef’s chains are facing a crisis on the high street. Where did it all go wrong?

Jools Oliver, wife of the celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, set social media abuzz in December when she posted pictures of the couple’s £9m home. The seven-bedroom, Grade II-listed property in London’s rarefied Hampstead was as sumptuous as might be expected for a chef who has built a £150m fortune from a business spanning books, TV, endorsements and restaurants.

But as Jools’s followers admired the fruits of Oliver’s success, he was battling to save Jamie’s Italian, the centrepiece of his restaurant division. In December, Oliver pumped £3m of his own money into the business, and in January the chain said it would close 12 of its 37 UK branches, as part of a rescue deal with its creditors to keep trading.

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Thomasina Miers’ recipe for winter lamb salad

The salty, garlicky dressing on a crunchy seasonal salad makes a great foil for grilled lamb

While it’s tempting to eat only warm food in cold weather, sometimes something fresh and crunchy is called for, even if there’s a gale blowing. Add some warmth with spices or garlic, say, and you have a proper winter salad. The word salad, incidentally, means ‘salted herbs or vegetables’, so salad is named after its dressing, not the veg in the bowl; in other words, a salad without a dressing isn’t a salad at all. That also applies to these lamb leg steaks (a much cheaper alternative to chops), which just wouldn’t be the same without their garlicky, rosemary-scented marinade.

Related: Rachel Roddy’s recipe for lamb chops with greens

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How to make the perfect dan dan noodles | Felicity Cloake

A quick noodle dish laced with smoky chilli oil and tingly Sichuan pepper is the ideal choice for Chinese new year

If you’re not familiar with dan dan noodles, or if you’ve had this fiery, aromatic and addictively savoury snack in a restaurant but never made it yourself, this column will change your life. Named for the cry of the itinerant vendors who once roamed the streets of Chengdu with the tools of their trade slung on a bamboo pole – or dan – across their shoulders, dan dan noodles, as Fuchsia Dunlop explains, are traditionally served in small portions, “just enough to ease the hunger of scholars working late or mahjong players gambling into the night”, and should be eaten quickly, while the noodles are still hot and the fried topping crisp.

Liberally laced with the smoky chilli oil and numbing pepper for which Sichuan province is famous, they’re a fabulous winter warmer, and the ideal supplement to your Chinese New Year feast, should you be celebrating, noodles being a traditional symbol of longevity. Polish off a couple of tangerines for luck afterwards, and the Year of the Dog is sure to be a good one.

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Offended by Koreans eating dog? I trust you’ve never had a bacon butty | Chas Newkey-Burden

Frightened animals being caged, killed and turned into food – we’d never dream of such evils in the west … would we?

Would you eat rabbit? Even those who regularly consume meat from chickens, sheep and pigs will often balk at the thought of eating a cuddly little bunny rabbit. But what’s the difference? Why do we see some animals as furry friends and others as fair game to chop up and eat? With the Winter Olympics turning attention towards South Korea, dog meat has been put on the media menu. The west has gone into shock mode. They eat dogs? They must be mad!

Dogs are smart and friendly – but so are pigs

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How to eat flowers without poisoning yourself

I spent a week adding a floral touch to my meals – but if you don’t know what you’re doing, swiping flowers from the meadow can be a risky business

There are ups and downs in the world of edible flowers. By her own admission, Jan Billington, who grows and sells them from her organic farm in Devon, “smells amazing”. On the downside, she is regularly stung by Italian honey bees and is badly allergic, “although it’s just a matter of swelling”, she says. “It goes down eventually.”

Billington sells seasonal flowers to chefs and cocktail-makers, but more recently she has begun selling to amateur cooks who are hoping to inject a little personality into their cooking. Edible flowers are in the spotlight, or rather the polytunnels (thanks to the frost), because of Instagram, where they are used to zhoosh up food shots, and because of the rise of veganism, where they provide a bit of textural variation.

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