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I’ve moved!

Hello all,

The blog has now moved to the altogether simpler www.jamesramsden.com.

I’m in the process of moving your subscriptions over to the new site, but you’ll need to click ‘confirm’ when you get the email. That’s if you’d like to.

Would be thrilled if you did.

All best,

James x

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Pigs in Pinnies

On a fairly regular basis I get a friend to come and host a night at the Secret Larder. We’ve had Al Instone from the School of Food, Ravinder Bhogal, Stefan Gates, and Oliver Thring, and I’m very excited to have Alice Hart and Georgie Fuggle, of the hugely successful Hart and Fuggle, next week.

But I’ve yet to let someone take over my kitchen entirely…(Jeremy Clarkson voice)…until now…

On the 20th June Pigs in Pinnies will have complete control of the kitchen, and I will not lift a finger, or indeed interfere. At all. Promise.

If you’d like to come to this glittering evening then send me an email – jteramsden(at)gmail(dot)com – it’s going to be a cracker.

And yes I know Friday is usually food news day but that’s happening tomorrow instead, with any luck.

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Action Against Hunger

One of the great luxuries of writing about food (and indeed simply of living in a developed country) is that one is rarely hungry. We get to eat delicious scran and, when not stuffing it in our mouths, are generally thinking/dreaming/tweeting about it. However, (at the risk of sounding evangelical) there are many who don’t have this luxury.

For over 30 years Action Against Hunger have worked to bring food and clean water to places where it is wanting. Yesterday, for my small part, I ran the London Marathon in aid of AAH, in the dignified if not world-beating time of 4 hours and 37 minutes. Today I feel like I’ve been run over by a tractor. Happily, I can console myself with a huge lunch. If you fancy donating a few shekels to those who aren’t so lucky, then you can do so here – www.justgiving.com/ollieandjames

Many thanks,
Jx

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Happy New Year!

Hello lovely people, and a happy new year to you all. I’ll be away this week doing some cooking in the Midlands, so blog posts may be tricky.

See you next week, J

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20th May 2010 – An extra Secret Larder

My sister and I have had the most amazing time doing the supper club at our flat in North London. We’ve also been incredibly lucky to have mentions in Urban Junkies and the Evening Standard, which have led to a surprisingly full booking list. So we’ve decided to add another date, and are now taking bookings for an extra special night on the 2oth May. Please email me for spaces – thelarderlout(at)hotmail.com

COMPETITION

We are offering two free spaces at the Secret Larder. Send me an email with your perfect menu before 13th May for a chance to win.


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Beer – how do you like yours?

I haven’t written a great deal – if at all – about beer. Like wine, I know good beer from bad beer, but that’s about as far as my expertise goes. And like wine I do enjoy a beer or two. But what’s the best way to drink it? I realise that this is an incredibly broad question. It all depends on what kind of beer you’re drinking, where you’re drinking it, what with (if anything), why you’re drinking it – to refresh yourself? To enjoy your food more? To get immeasurably hosed? These factors all matter.

But there are two elements in particular that interest me – the glass and the temperature. Because, like with wine, these two factors play a huge role in the drink’s potential. “I quite like the Belgian custom of a different glass for each beer,” says food and drink writer Fiona Beckett, “but you can hardly do that at home”. Herein lies the problem. It is all very well acknowledging that each beer has its own identity and therefore requires a different vessel, but this is impractical for home drinking. Even in most pubs the options are pretty limited (if there are any options at all). Beer expert Rupert Ponsonby has particular beef with the dimple-sided beer mugs. “Every time someone drinks from one I go and find a flinted stone wall and bang my head against it, ” he excoriates. This seems like unnecessary vitriol towards something so symbolic of the good old-fashioned boozer. But it really just comes down to making the most of the beer. He goes on to explain: “Your mouth to your nose – those two interlinked sensory orgasmos – is 1 inch, and yet the distance from one side to the other of a dimpled pint is 3.5 inches. So every time any beer supper sups their beer from that receptacle they are losing 70% of the aroma and flavour of the beer.”

It makes sense. Beer is fast becoming as specialised and as respected as wine. Charlie McVeigh, owner of The Draft House, writes on his blog “we aim to do for beer what our culture has done for wine and food in the past twenty years – namely to take its sourcing, cellaring, selection and serving seriously.” It is, then, understandably a travesty to swill the beer thoughtlessly out of any old receptacle. “What is the point,” asks Ponsonby, “of using top quality cleverly roasted or kilned barley and top quality hops kept sous vide to keep the flavours fresh, if some muppet goes and offers the poor drinker what is, in effect, a bucket?” The glass isn’t just a conduit – it should contribute to the overall enjoyment of the drink.

And what of temperature? For foreigners Britain is infamous for serving warm beer, and certain ‘connoisseurs’ will insist that ‘real beer’ (ideally said in a Yorkshire accent) ought to be served at some uric temperature.  Not so. “The idea of ‘warm beer’ is a myth,” suggests Ponsonby. “Though older brewers do prefer their beer not too chilled, as chilling closes down the flavours”. This argument does hold some sway. You can test this with pretty much anything. Eat a cold tomato, then eat a room temperature tomato. See?

But isn’t a nice cold beer what you want? “Temperature should be cool cellar temperature,” says Beckett. “Room temperature is too warm and fridge temperature too cold for anything but lagers, pilsners and witbiers”. Ponsonby adds: “if you are drinking beer with food you need the beer to be a couple of degrees cooler so the beer cuts through the richness of the food.”

Plenty of ale for thought then. There’s a simple way of testing these theories. Go out and buy two bottles of the same beer (I chose Black Sheep ‘Golden Sheep’). Stick one in the fridge for an hour, and one in a cool place (not, like, a trendy nightclub – just somewhere with a draft). Take the cool one and pour it into a pint glass. Have a slurp, taking in what it smells and tastes like. Now pour it into a wine glass and do the same. Much better yes? The pint glass beer has no nose whatsoever, whereas with a wine glass you’ll find your head blown off with amazing, fruity, beery aromas.

Repeat the procedure with the chilled beer. You’ll find it refreshes you more and is crisper, edgier…but it don’t taste as good.

What do you reckon? A load of hokum? Would you dare ask for a different glass in a pub?

While we’re on the subject, this promises to be a cracking beer festival, with lots of local Yorkshire D-ales to sup on and enjoy the bank holiday. There’s your plug, Dad.

Beers on show include Black Sheep, Timothy Taylor’s, Rooster’s, Copper Dragon, Naylors, and Hambleton. All for £2.50 a pint.

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This week’s food news | 23rd April 2010

Food inflation rises

After February’s drop in food inflation, this month the price of fruit has nudged food inflation up to a 6 month high, reports the Grocer. Quite how the eruption of Eyjafjallajokullasoiasdgonyeos will impact on this is unclear, with some suggesting a food shortage is likely and others observing that a relatively small proportion of our grub comes via air freight. Either way, best to avoid them Kenyan beans and buy British when you can.

Loyalty cards come under scrutiny

We’ve all been there. Months – nay – years of accumulating these mythical, intangible points. Finally the day arrives when you think to yourself ‘you know what, I’m just going to fly by the seat of my pants and ruddy well use my Nectar card points today’. And then you’re told you have 79p on it. A YouGov poll found that half of shoppers thought them a waste of time. What do you think?

Latest health scare – well-done meat a cancer risk

Research in Texas has found that eating well-done meat more than doubles the risk of bladder cancer. Though mainly referring to red meat, the study also suggested that even eating fried chicken or fish ‘significantly raised the odds of cancer’. How do you like your meat cooked?

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Other food news this week:

* Christie’s auction house accused of selling ‘fake’ vintage wines, reports the Independent.

* BNP cause scandal at Unilever by using Marmite in an online political broadcast. Read more here.

* There’s been a rise in the use of ‘lazy’ foods such as ready-peeled carrots. Do you use them?

* Red Bull to blame, says Hull Asbo woman.

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Blog of the week: Cheese and Biscuit’s review of The Fat Duck was refreshingly lacking in any bombast or verbosity.

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Recipe of the week: A D-Lish looking midweek supper recipe of Old Bay seasoned crispy crumb chicken from A Glug of Oil.

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Videos of the week: Two stunning and emotionally charged covers of Lady Gaga’s ubiquitous ballad ‘Poker Face’.

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