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5th June 2019

Local asparagus


Why is it that when we have in our borough the allegedly largest producer of asparagus in the country, the asparagus in our shops comes from Kent, Essex, Devon and goodness knows where else?


5th June 2019

Climate change and the wine industry


There has been a fair bit in the press recently about the wine industry becoming carbon neutral to combat global warming.  Really?


They are on to a bit of a hiding because that process of fermentation produces carbon dioxide – a global warming gas.  Then there are the costs of production, transport, etc.  Three actions are often quoted…


1.     Reducing the weight of bottles but bottles are made as strong as they are for a reason – so they do not break in transport.

2.     Replace glass bottles with another material, eg plastic.  No more need be said about that!

3.     Ship wine across the world in bulk and then bottle in the target market country.  That already happens to a certain type of wine!


Unfortunately, it appears that these and other measures are likely to reduce the quality of wine.



31st March 2019

Cucumbers in the fridge


My experience shows that if you keep cucumbers bought from Waitrose in the fridge for over two weeks they go soft and mushy.  On the other hand, treat cucumbers bought from Aldi in the same way and they go hard.  Why the difference?


31st March 2019

Food solutions


Commenting on the recent results from Greggs the bakers, their CEO said, “These results show that our customers love our food solutions.”  Really?  What is a food solution?  Why can these people not talk English?



26th February 2019

Enjoying summer-like weather


What fantastic weather we have been having.  Do not forget that last year, the beast from the east came in the first week of March!



26th February 2019

New year environmental scares


We have had the new year food health scares.  Now we are told that we shall have to get rid of our gas hobs and, presumably, gas ovens and gas-powered Agas.  Gas hobs must be replaced with induction hobs.  That means replacing most of our saucepans – how much greenhouse gas will that produce?  Also, if you have a pacemaker or implanted defribulator, care should be taken to not get too close.


The main point, however, is that, whilst there are academics undertaking legitimate research into the causes and effects of things that could affect public policy, these researchers are not qualified to set public policy and they should not do it.  Leave it to, yes, the politicians.


6th January 2019

Fish bones and heads


Why do supermarkets refuse to sell fishbones and heads – or even give them away?  They throw them away but will not let me have them?


6th January 2019

What is the difference between dinner and supper?


You may have noticed that sometimes we call our wine-food pairing events “dinners” and sometimes “suppers”.  What is the difference between dinner and supper? 


An interesting definition I heard was, “Supper you get two courses – dinner you get more that two courses.  Dinner you get the family silver – supper you get the stainless steel”.


6th January 2019

New year health scares


New year is the time that the government produces a tsunami of health scares.  This year is no exceptiion.  Salt and nitrites in processed food such as ham, sugar (again) with a proposed pudding tax and NICE wants to drive cars off the road.  How are we going to survive until 2020?


13th December 2018



You probably gathered that I like to prepare the nosh for Christmas (The more you do to prepare food, the more you will appreciate it).  The one job I do not like doing is peeling the chestnuts for the chestnut stuffing.  I have tried everything and followed every bit of available advice (boiling them, baking them, steaming them and doing all those) and still I finish up with burnt sore thumbs.  If anyone has a secret method for peeling them, do please share it with me.


13th December 2018

Smoked trout


Our supplier of smoked trout has gone bust and the only other local supplier we have found only sells it sliced.  Why?


13th December 2018



Another fish rant!  Why does everyone who sells hake sell it in fillets?  They are very nice, but hake steaks (cut across the fish) are very special and truly gastronomic.


25th October 2018



It has been a fantastic summer and autumn for foraging.  Blackberries, crab apples, field mushrooms, forest fungi and chestnuts have all been fantastic.  It is a great way to stay active and spend time outdoors connecting with nature and learn more about where your food comes from and the food is free!  Although foraging is a natural thing to do and for which we have a natural instinct, there are people who want us to stop it.  The most ludicrous ban this year is the ban on collecting chestnuts in the Royal Parks.  Why?  So that the squirrels have something to eat!  These are grey squirrels which were imported and which have nearly made our native red squirrels extinct.  Anyone got a recipe for squirrel and chestnut pie?


25th October 2018

Food or feed


Why is it that we eat fOOd but animals eat fEEd?


9th September 2018

Weird recipes


I keep coming across weird and inappropriate recipes.  These are usually produced by minor celebrity chefs (and, yes, that is meant to be an insult) who are paid (I assume) to produce recipes for leaflets and other promotional material.  Two of many examples… (1) A book produced by the European Commission promoting Burgundy (and a couple of other regions).  The recipes for Burgundy include: Salmon sushi rolls, Tandoori chicken and Moroccan lamb tangine!!!  (2) a leaflet promoting a very special breed of English beef has a recipe for chilli beef.  When we can produce some of the best beef anywhere, the recipes should promote the flavour rather than destroy it!



9th September 2018

People between 35 and 65 told by the NHS to abstain from drinking 2 days a week


Pheww!  I’m over 65!


How about having two days a week when we do not get nanny state scare stories from the NHS?


9th September 2018

What has happened to McVitie’s ginger nuts?


Bought a packet recently and they appear to have forgotten to put in the ginger!  Taste of coconut.


Could this be because McVitie’s is a brand of United Biscuits and they are owned by pladis, a Turkish(?) company.  I think ownership should be displayed on the label / packet.



12th July 2018

Green Stuff


People who know us will be aware that we are very keen on a Majorcan liqueur called Tunel.  This is known at home and amongst our friends as “Green Stuff” – the reason is obvious.  Last month at the Lovitaly Puglian wine food pairing event we were given a stunning liqueur called “Liquore allorino”.  This takes Green Stuff to a new level.  I was so inspired and because we have a thriving bay tree, I decided to make some.  I shall let you know how it is in 12 weeks, when it is ready for drinking!  Can’t wait



12th July 2018

More hail in Bordeaux?


Bordeaux has again be ravaged by hail.  This time the Right Bank, particularly the Côtes de Bourg and Blaye were badly hit.  Another price hike and shortages are likely.


30th May 2018



I have held the view for some time that there are far more recipes for fish than for meat.  I wondered why.  Perhaps, I thought, it was because there are more varieties of fish than there are of meat.  On the other hand it could be argued that there are more parts of an animal (or bird) warranting different ways of cooking than there are separate, eatable parts of a fish.


In fact, the situation is quite different.  I counted up my recipes and the largest number is for poultry.  Really not sure why.  The second largest number is for game.  That can be explained by my liking for game. 


Where there is some truth in my original view, there are more fish recipes than there are recipes for beef or lamb or pork.




30th May 2018



After my piece on labels in the last newsletter, I was depressed to read a news item that an international wine body is proposing to introduce nutritional quantity information on wine labels.  Won’t that be useful… “Oh I must buy this bottle of Tannat as opposed this bottle of Château d’Yquem because it contains more Vitamin C and less sugar and to not be so fattening.”  Is that really how people will think?


6th April 2018

Good for Alsace


Decanter Magazine (May Issue – yes, it was out in March) reported on a tasting of Pinot Gris (“World’s best Pinot Gris buys”).  Of the top 10 wines, 9 were from Alsace.  There were wines from 11 countries.  Curiously France is only the fifth largest producer of Pinot Gris.  Producing more are Italy (Pinot Grigio is the Italaian for Pinot Gris), USA (California) Germany and Australia.



6th April 2018




 I always thought that tapenade was all about olives – they seem to be the main ingredient supported by raw tuna, anchovies and capers.  In fact the word tapenade comes from the Provence for caper – tepenas


8th February 2018


What has been happening in the world of wine?


According to a well known wine magazine, not much in the news.  A robbery or two.  A death or two.  Coop concentrating on vegan wine.  Prices to soar!  New appellations in Burgundy and Italy.



8th February 2018

Another food “scandle” 

It was recently reported that Russell Hume, a wholesale meat producer, was forced by the authorities to withdraw some products from the market.  One of their customers, Weatherspoons, was apparantly snatching steaks from their customers as they were about to put it in their mouths.  Why?  The reported reason was “non-compliance with hygiene regulations.”  The FSA said: "There is no indication that people have become ill from eating meat supplied by Russell Hume."

We, the public, do not know exactly what went wrong or how serious it was.  There are questions to be asked and answered but this suggests that the food supply chain has become too consolidated and concentrated in too few hands. 


7th January 2018


Coleman’s not of Norwich


Coleman’s have recently announced that, after over 200 years, they are going to leave Norwich and move to Burton upon Tent and Germany.  This is another case of a multi-national company (Unilever bought Coleman’s in 1995) destoying a Britsh food manufacturer.  Will they change the “Coleman’s of Norwich” logo to “Coleman’s not of Norwich”?  Will they dub down English mustard to make it more acceptable to foreigners (like Heinz appears to have done to Worcester sauce)?



7th January 2018


The difference between French classic cuisine and modern English cooking


Although there are differences with the ingredients, the main difference is the composition of the dishes. 


In classic French cuisine, a dish consists of the meat, poultry or fish and the vegetables (or garnish) that goes with it.  This complete ensemble is reflected in the name of the dish; such as: Sole à l’amiral, Steak à la Dijonnaise, or Œufs à la Florentine.


In English cooking, the meat is plonked on the plate and, an often random, selection of vegetables either served sepatately or scattered round, under or on top of the meat.


Then there is a difference in the meaning of the term, “Garnish”.  In classic French cuisine, garnish implies the vegetables and sauce that goes with the meat to make the dish.  In English cooking, garnish usually means a light sprinkling of chopped herbs.


7th January 2018


January is the time for buying and eating pheasants


January is an excellent month for buying pheasants.  They are more mature and larger than in October and November and therefore larger.  They have also been frosted and are therefore fatter and more succulent.  Remember that the shooting season ends at the end of January.  Fresh pheasants will, however, be available for a week or two into February.


o O o


The economics of the pheasant supply chain


It is all a bit odd.  There are so many pheasants on the market that they are now being given away by the shoots!  This does not mean that they are free to you and me, but they are cheap and they represent good healthy food.



21st November 2017

Support for British farmers?

 We were in a local butcher shop a couple of weeks ago when a wholesaler delivered some boxes of meat from Holland.  Showing our surprise at this, we were told it was for local restaurants.  We were not told which ones.  My message is, if booking or ordering a meal in a restaurant, hotel or pub, always ask the source their meat and, if it is not British, either go elsewhere or name and shame them.




21st November 2017


Label skullduggery


We recently bought a bottle of wine from Waitrose.  It was Côtes du Rhône Villages Cairanne, Réserve des Hospitaliers, 2015.  This is not about the quailty of the wine (good value for money but bland for a Cairanne) or about price (cheaper elsewhere) but is about the providence of the wine.  Anybody who knowns me will recognise that I am obsessed with knowing the origins of my food and drink.  Here is my problem with this wine. 

On the label it says “mis en bouteille par F71084A pour J. Boulard 71570 France”, which, according to my school boy French, translates as “put in bottle by F71084A for J. Boulard 71570 France”. 

Who is J. Boulard? Do not know.  No trace of him on the internet – except for this wine and some other similar wines.

Is 71570 the postcode?  In which case it is in Beaujolais.  This could be possible if J. Boulard is a large negociant.

F71084A is presumably the producer but who is he?  Again no information available.

Following up some obscure tracks, there is a suggestion that the wine might have been produced by a Cheadle-based company called Boutinot.  According to their website, “Boutinot are grape growers, wine makers, wine importers, wine suppliers and exclusive agents for over 150 of the world’s finest and award-winning wine producers.” 

Why the secrecy?  The only conclusion that I can come to is that much of the label information is manufactured; particularly “Réserve des Hospitaliers” and “J.Boulard”.  If this is the case, then can we trust the “Appellation Côtes du Rhône Villages Protégée”?




21st November 2017

How should beef be hung?

 To intensify the flavour, beef should be dry hung on the bone – that is the carcass should be hung in cool, dry free air so that there is some loss of moisture.  This results in enzymatic breakdown of the tougher tissues within muscle fibres which enhances the texture and produces a very tender finished product.  There is some dispute over the length of time for this hanging.  Some butchers say from 3 to 4 weeks.  Other people say 6 weeks.  The problem with supermarket meat is that, irrespective of the claimed hanging period quoted, the meat is “hanged” vacuum packed, so there is no loss of moisture (and therefore weight and therefore price) and the meat does not mature in the same way as hanging dry.




4th September 2017

Top 10 winemakers in South America - really?

I just came across a magazine article entitled, “South America’s top 10 winemakers.” Although it sounds ambitious to try to identify a whole continent’s top 10 winemakers, I did wonder whether it might be even more difficult to identify France’s 10 top winemakers. The reason for this is that it is hard enough to name 10 top winemakers from each of France’s wine regions (Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, Loire, Alsace, Rhône, etc). As these regions produce such diverse styles of wines, it is near-on impossible to compare and rank their producers. The fact that someone thinks they have identified South America’s top 10 winemakers rather suggests that diversity of South American wines is significantly less than that of France. I think I already knew that. It is the diversity for French wine that is one of the things that attracts me to French wine.




25th August 2017

What is happening?


When Heaton Wines was open, it prided itself on supplying wines that were not available in supermarkets. At the time only one of its wines was sold by a supermarket – Herbert Beaufort Carte d’Or in M&S. Now wines from three of its producers appear in supermarkets. Two wines from Doudet-Naudin (prides itself on producing high-quality Burgundies) now appear in the Coop (which does not have a reputation reputation for selling the greatest wines). The Coop is also selling Domaine de la Noblaie Chinon. Majestic stocks Domaine Durieu Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Côtes du Rhône Villages Plan de Dieu.



11th August 2017



What does the latest food scandal tell us about our food supply chains?  First, regulation is not working.  Second, it seems that most or all the contaminated eggs have gone into processed food – therefore keep away from processed food because you do not know what has gone into it.  Third, it seems that this is another case of cost pressures in the supply chain leading to short-cuts in processes. 

Therefore…. Buy local.  Prepare your own food.  Government, make the parties in the supply chain who are responsible for price pressures responsible for public health by fining them so heavily that they do not gain by excessive price pressures.




4th August 2017


It was recently reported that stocks of cod in the North Sea had now recovered sufficiently that they were “sustainable”.  Reports of this good news were accompanied by the message that we could now eat cod “with a clear conscience”.  That is strange.  I had not noticed any shortage of cod in the fish mongers, supermarkets or fish and chip shops.  I am sorry but I never felt guilty about eating cod.  Now I feel guilty that I did not feel guilty!


o O o


Bad news from Beaujolais where the Cru vineyards have been hit by a massive hail storm.  Why is it that it appears that it is always the best bits that get hit? 


My thoughts are with the good men and ladies of Beaujolais.


o O o


The average price of a bottle of wine sold in the UK has reached the staggering figure of £5.56 – yes, average price.  Lost for words.  


o O o


A bulk wine producer, Raphaël Michel, of whom you have probably not heard, is being prosecuted for allegedly allowing cheap table wine from outside of the Rhône to be labelled as appellation wines from the region.  No one from the Rhône is implicated but that does not help the Rhône-loving consumer.  My philosophy is keep away from bulk-produced wines.








26th July 2017

What have Heinz done to Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce? Recently bought a bottle and, instead of being black and spicy, it was amber colour and sour. Took it back and was given another one - just the same.

8th May 2017


I was forced to have a rant recently about websites promoting Romsey as a tourist destination.  They are so out of date to be damaging.  Places that have closed (The Abbey Hotel, Berties) are shown to be open and functioning.  Other places to eat or stay (for example The Palmerston Rooms do not appear).  The sites should be updated or removed now.


o O o


Two weeks ago, we suffered a severe frost which did huge damage to plants and crops.  The reporting of this was almost completely focused on wine producers.  Whilst I feel extremely sorry them, I am wondering why there was no press coverage of other fruit growers who presumably were hit by the frost just as severely.


o O o


For the last six months or so, economists and supermarkets have been warning us of impending price rises because of the fall of sterling.  Could it be that these forecasts are now being exploited by the supermarkets.  I have had a suspicion that egg prices have been soaring (it is difficult to prove because historic data is not available).  What I do know is that the price of 12 large free range eggs in one supermarket is now nearly twice that of another supermarket.  I recommend shopping around.


I suspect that the price of butter has also been climbing.  What is interesting is that both the eggs and the butter are produced in this country and the price is not directly affected by the value of the pound!


Image result for candles in vineyard


17th March 2017

It is a lovely time of year when fresh herbs are just beginning to grow.  We already have sorrel, rosemary, mint (if not enough for mint sauce, there is enough to flavour the potatoes), marjoram, winter savory and fennel (enough for decoration).  Food already tastes better.


o O o


According to The Daily Mail, Mark Price, Deputy Chairman of the John Lewis Partnership has said that a perfect bottle of wine costs £10.  I’m lost for words...  Is that really what he thinks?  £10 might be the lowest price at which you can get a decent bottle of wine (I don’t actually think that) but you certainly do not get a perfect  bottle of wine at that price.


o O o


UK ports will be ‘stopped dead’ and wine could be held there for days if a customs deal is not reached in Brexit negotiations, the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) has warned (see Decanter).  Currently, only imports and exports from outside the EU are subject to customs controls.


It is sad that the UK’s leading drinks trade body seems to have no knowledge of importing or exporting alcohol across EU borders.  It is an incredibly difficult thing to do.  There is no free wine trade flow between the UK and EU.


o O o


The Chancellor in his last budget increased duty on wine again.  There’s a surprise! The amount of duty (and the VAT on the duty) is now £2.60 for each bottle of typical wine and £3.33 for each bottle of sparkling wine.