Tag Archives: cooking

Masterclass In Food Writing, Interesting?

The Guardian has started to present masterclasses in various topics and one of the first ones is about food writing. £500 for two days sounds a little steep for me but the description of the contents is well worth an inexpensive visit.

Tom Parker-Bowles leads the course and his credentials include being an award-winning food writer, a Contributing editor to GQ, as well as the author of three books, E is for Eating – An Alphabet of Greed; The Year of Eating Dangerously; and Full English – A Journey Through the British and Their Food.

The course aims to provide a brief history of food writing, as well as practical advice on everything from attracting the eye of the commissioning editor, to restaurant criticism, blogs and self-publishing.

The main parts are as follows and knowledge of these should be an asset to any food writer:

History of food writing – reading and knowing about food is seen as important. The course discusses all the greats apparently, from Apicius and Acton through Glasse and Grigson, via Liebing, Trillin, Davidson, David, Fisher, Meades and Slater.

How not to write about food – there will be an examination of bad reviews filled with cliches and pointless adjectives I presume. This will be useful in finding out which “clichés, words and phrases to avoid at all times”.

Writing the food review – during the course there will be an opportunity to enjoy a specially prepared lunch, write about it and then discuss it.

20 books to trust and love with your life – the students will be told about some favourite books.

Blogging and self-publishing is a session that provides advice about how to get on with practical matters and grander visions of setting up your own magazine. What are the pitfalls? How much cash do you need? And are you mad for even contemplating the idea?

The last parts are about a passion for food and ending with an open discussion “food writing, contacts, and the best places to work.”

Please note that this isn’t just a promotional piece on the Guardian’s masterclass. Instead, I’d like to use the contents as a starting off point for interviewing food reviewers. Based on the above I would ask the following questions:

  • Who do you consider to be the greats in the history of food writing?
  • Which are your current top five books about food?
  • What are some of the worst cliches and pointless adjectives you avoid in your writing?
  • Which is your favourite review that you have written?
  • What advice do you have about food blogging and / or selling reviews?
  • Which has been your favourite place to work?

If you have any suggestions for further questions then please let me know. On my side, I will let you know how I get on and you will hopefully see the results on these pages. If you are a food reviewer and want to send me your replies, then please comment and I will be in touch.

Love Food

Love Cooking Festival, Bristol

Whenever I brag and rave about Bristol, I tend to mention the festivals that are such a huge part of life here. Sometimes there’s one every weekend, I say and what I really mean is that they’re all the same, pick one and go to it and you’ll find the same stands, the same crafts, the same people wandering in and then leaving again. Some charge and some don’t and occasionally that seems to be the biggest difference.

With this thought in mind, there wasn’t much surprise when reading about the Love Cooking Festival although its location at Colston Hall was an interesting twist. However, who would want to go see people cooking on stage at around £20 a ticket? A visit seemed to be a good idea.

Richard Allen was the first chef I saw and she was announced on stage by Nigel Barden, the food and drink presenter for BBC London TV, Radio and Online.

Nigel did not just do the presenting and introductions but stayed on to help Rachel with the banter and consistency. She had been up since 2.30am to make her way to Bristol and my heart sank a little at the potential half-hearted performance. The show proceeded at a steady pace and Nigel filled in with chat for about half of it.

Rachel cooked a three course menu of Scallops with Brussel Sprouts, Bacon and Orange; Roast Duck Legs; Lentils with Red Wine and a Treacle Tart. Her commentary was consistent, her manner professional and by the end I thought I would try out the recipe. I couldn’t help but be distracted throughout the session, however, with crying babies, half empty rows of seats – it was held at 2pm – and general thoughts of ‘this would be just as good on TV’.

All the slight detachment disappeared when Ainsley came out to play. Ainsley Harriot was on between 4 and 5pm and he was magical. A well seasoned TV presenter who has hosted various TV shows and food specials and is probably best known to daytime viewers as the host of Ready, Steady, Cook for 20 seasons. His ease and charm with everyone in the room meant that Nigel’s role quickly became redundant as he sat back and also enjoyed the show.

Ainsley danced and cooked and sweated and told us all about his life. In the early 1990s he was part of the musical act Calypso Twins with schoolfriend Paul Boross and released a hit record in the early 1990s, “World Party”. We were treated to various renditions of calypso music throughout the show which accompanied his dishes. The chilli cornbread muffins were prepared as a side to Peppy’s Ackee And Salt Fish In De Pan which brought with it stories of his mum. The Chargrilled Jerk-Slashed Chicken brought up opportunities for banter with the audience and he even promised some food to a woman a few seats in front of me.

Ainsley stepped out into the crowd, joyfully hugged a woman celebrating her birthday, interviewed the catering college students from the City of Bristol College who helped out with the preparations, and brought to the stage an audience member tasked with tasting the wine and the food.

He put on a show and I would pay to see him again but I must confess it was Rachel’s duck dish for which I passed by a supermarket and bought the ingredients. The Love Cooking Festival in Bristol was a great example of how not all festivals are alike and there was not a Pieminister pie in sight.

Love Cooking Festival sessions: London, 2 November. Harrogate, 5 December. Tickets are still available.

Food: tyropita (cheese pie)

A post by eatbigbristol had me thinking about vegetarian dishes and not many recipes initially came to mind. This was surprising as most of the dishes I eat are veggie but they’re usually food thrown together or selected from a restaurant menu. Vegetarian dishes as intentional and known recipes aren’t that common for me but as a Greek-Australian there are plenty of traditional dishes with which I grew up. One of the most typical ones is tyropita (translated to cheese pie) and my mum’s version is wonderful and not as salty or fatty as most other ones. The dish is best used as a side rather than a main, or at least as an accompaniment:

Ingredients
Cheese mix:
6 eggs, 1 cup of milk, 150gm of cheddar, 150gm of feta, 150gm ricotta.
Salt and pepper for seasoning, filo pastry, butter (for drizzling).

Method
Mix the eggs and milk. Grate or cut up the cheese into little pieces, mix in with the milk and eggs.

Melt and spread some butter on the tray (deep dish), lay down one layer of filo pastry, put some of the mix on (you will use it to distribute between all the layers so plan accordingly), add a layer of filo pastry, sprinkle some butter, more mix, and continue to do this until the last layer on top.

Sprinkle water and butter on the final layer. Before baking cut the tyropita into diagonals on one side, and then the other (the final pattern to be rhombus shaped pieces). Rough cuts are fine. You will need to cut again when baked and this will make it easier.

Bake for around 45 minutes at 180c.

I made this dish tonight for my housemate as he is having a very late night at work. The cheeses can be changed and variety is encouraged. I used double Gloucester cheese, feta and mozarella (Sainsburys had no ricotta) and the flat certainly smells lovely.