Posts Tagged ‘food’

Venla vs food

Monday, April 10th, 2017 | Family & Parenting, Photos

Venla hasn’t started with solids yet. But we have been giving her some things to try.

Like this plate, for example.

I don’t know why they make baby’s spoons out of rubber. It essentially turns them into a catapult, allowing them to fling food right across the room.

Normal human beings shouldn’t be able to eat a lemon without wincing, right?

Is organic food better for you?

Thursday, February 23rd, 2017 | Food, Science

Organic food sellers are constantly touting the superior taste and health benefits of their products. But can they back this up with any evidence?

Organic food can often cost far more than the “non-organic” alternative. But is it really worth paying more for it? Is it any better for you, or for the environment?

So far, the scientific consensus is clear: no. Organic food is not any more nutritious, does not taste any better, nor is any safer than traditionally grown crops. It does not seem to be any better for the environment either, especially compared to genetically engineered crops that, by design, require fewer pesticides that traditionally-grown or organic food.

In 2012, a study by Stanford University confirmed what the rest of the scientific community had already been saying. There is just no evidence that organic is better.

So why do some people swear by it? The most obvious reason is the placebo effect. Because the branding will typically make claims about it tasting better, and because people will almost certainly have paid more for it, they are likely to receive some placebo effect from expecting it to be better.

However, when it comes down to the option of buying a luxury brand or an organic brand, the choice is clear. Even if the luxury brand is no better either, the placebo will probably be even bigger. For the rest of us, it is time to save some money guilt free.

Holiday Food Drive 2016

Monday, December 26th, 2016 | Foundation, Humanism

I would like to say a big thank you to everyone who helped out with the Humanist Action Group‘s 2016 Holiday Food Drive for local homeless shelters.

Once again it was a heroic effort from Sarann, charity coordinator at West Yorkshire Humanists, who organised the entire event. We also want thank Jo James for allowing us to use Mill Hill Chapel, and all the volunteers who donated items and turned up at the final boxing to help us package and deliver everything.

Here are some of my favourite photos from the event:

Shepherd’s pie

Tuesday, November 8th, 2016 | Family & Parenting, Food, Photos

shepherds-pie

God bless parents.

How to make a better pizza

Wednesday, September 28th, 2016 | Food

better-pizza

We never buy pre-made pizzas in at the Worfolk household. However, I had begun to wonder whether we would actually get better results buying them frozen. My homemade ones were okay, but not the magic I was hoping for. For one, I could not get them crispy enough. I even tried pan frying them.

However, a few weeks ago everything finally came together. Reviewing what I did, I think it was a combination of all the different things I have been trying. So I have tried to codify them into one list.

Give the dough a good knead

I use my stand mixer to knead, so it is easy to leave it running for a while. So I did. I did not time it exactly but I think it was in there for over 10 minutes. I also gave it a longer rise: 2 hours compared to 90 minutes.

Get the oven really hot

Your oven wants to be as hot as possible. Mine, like many domestic ovens, only goes to 250 degrees, so I turn it up to that. I have a granite pizza stone and I have been gradually increasing the time I put it in the oven to heat up. Now I put it in to heat up for at least an hour, maybe even longer. If the pizza does not sizzle when it goes on there, it is not hot enough.

Spin the dough

I have tried spinning the dough round in the air, but not with any real structure to it. Now I use a proper system. Roll it out, then spin it. Does this a little at a time and repeat the process over and over. Each spin moves the dough to the edge of the pizza, so you can then roll that out a bit more. This allowed me to get the dough thinner than I have previously.

Leave a gap

When dressing the pizza with the sauce, cheese and toppings, you want to leave a nice thick border round it. This allows the edges of the pizza to puff up and create a lovely light by crispy edge.

Use a wooden peel

I was using a medal peel (pizza paddle) because I was hoping the pizza would stick to it less. Actually, it turns out it sticks to it more. This meant I had to dust it with loads of flour, and so the base ended up tasting of flour if I was not careful. Using the wooden peel means I have to dust less, avoiding any flour left on the base.

Kezie Foods review

Tuesday, September 20th, 2016 | Food, Reviews

kezie-foods

I ordered some exotic meat from Kezie Foods. They offer a great range of non-mainstream options including horse, kangaroo, camel, crocodile and edible insects.

The problem is that they are delivered via a standard courier. You might wonder how they keep them frozen in transit. The answer seems to be that they do not. They put the products in a polystyrene case that they pack with dry ice. This is supposed to keep everything frozen for 48 hours.

However, when I received their delivery, everything had defrosted. I spoke to their customer services and they were very nice about it, arranging another delivery. The problem is, the exact same thing happened the next time.

Maybe I have somehow misunderstood the definition of frozen. But it feeling exactly like defrosted meat does not seem correct.

So I am giving up. I cooked what I could from the latest batch and will leave it there. At least until I can progress my backup plan of starting an ostrich farm. The products themselves seem good quality: the meat I did manage to eat very good.

How to plan a dinner party

Thursday, September 15th, 2016 | Food

dinner-party

You probably know how to cook a meal for a group of people. You do not need the many gems of wisdom on offer from Pippa Middleton. Nevertheless, I have a clear and well-defined process for how I prepare for a dinner party, and I thought it might be useful to share that so that we can compare notes.

Decide what to cook well in advance

I do my grocery shop weekly and I don’t really want to have to spend any other time shopping. Therefore, ideally I want to know what I am going to take a week in advance of the event so that I can get it included in that. If I need something fresh I might go out a day or two before to get it, but I want all of the dry and store cupboard ingredients to already be there.

At the planning stage, I make sure everything will work together. Like most people, I have just one oven and four hobs. Therefore everything has to fit on them at one time. This is a limit that is easily reached if you have your starter and your main overlapping.

Draw up a plan

I get pretty detailed with my plan. I tak an A4 sheet and divide it into 5-minute segments. In each of these I can list actions like “turn potato on” and “remove chicken from oven”. If required, I can put multiple columns into the sheet to deal with each part of the meal. This means I don’t have to worry about what I am supposed to be doing while in the heat of battle because I just need to check what is on the plan.

This normally includes two sections before the clock starts rolling: morning prep and evening prep, both discussed below.

The other thing you need is a clock. This is a strange thing to have these days. Many people have replaced their clocks and watches with using their phone to tell the time. However, if you don’t want to be constantly checking your phone every few minutes, you will want a nice big visible clock so you know when each 5-minute segment is up. The solution: more technology. I have an alarm clock on my iPad that I put in a prominent position in the kitchen.

dinner-party-plan

Morning prep

The first stage of prep I do for the party. This is anything that can be done on the morning, or even the day before. This could include baking bread, making a marinade, preparing batter mix for Yorkshires or baking and chilling a dessert.

Evening prep

Second round of prep. This is stuff that I want to do as late as possible, while still doing before my guests arrive. Things like chopping vegetables and pealing potatoes for example. I want to do these as late as possible to keep everything fresh. However, it’s not as important as talking to my guests, so it is stuff I want to get out of the way ideally just before they walk in the door.

This section should include as much stuff as possible, such as:

  • Laying the table
  • Lighting candles
  • Putting some plates in the plate warmer
  • Getting all the utensils and making trays out
  • Cleaning the kitchen
  • Preparing a pan full of potatoes so I can literally just turn the pan on
  • Slicing bread

Cleaning

Nobody has a kitchen as big as they would like, so I find it important to keep it as clean and tidy as possible. That means ensuring it is clean and tidy before I start. I make sure that the dishwasher is empty and after it runs its last cycle in the afternoon I tend to wash everything by hand to ensure I have everything I want to hand: the only things that go in there are things I know I definitely will not need.

Then I clean as I go. If I find myself with a spare minute as I bring a pan to boil I will wash something up. Or, when I clear the table I will load it straight into the dishwasher, rather than dumping it on the side for later. This does take a bit of time away from my guests, but also makes for a far less depressing end to the evening when I am left with a far smaller pile of clearing up to do.

Anglesey Come Dine With Me

Monday, August 15th, 2016 | Food, Friends

anglesey-bread

For our holiday in Anglesey, Norman suggested that we take it in turns to cook dinner. This soon turned into a Come Dine With Me style event with teams and menus. Though I will add that we stopped short of scoring!

Sunday

Chris & Cara kicked us off. The starter was roasted tomatoes and honey-and-breadcrumbed butternut squash. This was amazing. Delicately roasting these produces fantastic results. I might have to steal the idea for our next party. The bulgur wheat was also good.

The main could have been better. You might think it was the high level of intoxication that let Chris down, but the biggest problem was that we couldn’t find any fresh fish on Anglesey! The only thing the island seemed to have was frozen cod fillets, that did not defrost in time. The homemade tartar with dill was very good.

Monday

Kieran & Shweta took day two. I might be doing Shweta an injustice by suggesting they were a team of two (or maybe not). She cooked up a kedgeree. Mine have always come out rather soggy, but this suffered no such problems. They even had a paired champagne to serve with it.

Tuesday

Elina and I tackled day three. We started with a hot and sour prawn soup served with a variety of breads and prawn crackers. For the main we did black bean chilli in sweet potato skins and citrous-soy marinated fish with a side of spicy blackberry chutney and cashew nut salad. Finally we finished off with Swedish super-gooey chocolate cake served with homemade ice cream and a sprig of mint.

Wednesday

Wales as shut while everyone watched the football.

Thursday

Norman and Tom took to the stage for the final entry. They slow-roasted a harissa-spiced lamb over the barbecue and served it with cous cous and roasted vegetables. This was all complemented with a yogurt sauce. Dessert was baked apples.

Maximising your veg-based vitamins

Friday, July 22nd, 2016 | Food, Health & Wellbeing

tomatoes

Recently, I wrote about Freakonomics Radio and all the good stuff on there. One was a show entitled “Food + Science = Win” and contained some interesting information on maximising the amount of good stuff you get from vegetables.

Tinned tomatoes are the best tomatoes

Well, almost the best. Tomato paste is even better. But this seems the wrong way round. Usually, fresh is better. Asparagus for example should be eaten as close to harvesting as possible. Other vegetables are less time-sensitive. With the case of tomatoes, the process used to tin them is actually beneficial as it helps build up the lycopene. The Guardian go into detail on it.

Iceberg lettuce is bad lettuce

Especially in the US, where the podcast is based, iceberg lettuce has been bred for flavour rather than nutritional value. As a result, it has lost a lot of the latter. Comparing it to basically any other kind of lettuce, such as romaine, the other lettuce has much more nutritional content than the iceberg lettuce does.

Lightly cooking veg is good

So much for raw food being amazing. Raw food can be good of course, but typically lightly cooking vegetables makes them even better because it actually boosts their nutritional content. The best way to do this? A microwave! It may not do wonders for taste, but it is actually the best way to give vegetables the light steaming they need.

Let your garlic sit

Heating garlic can destroy a lot of the good stuff in it. However, there is some evidence that if you crush it, and then let it sit for ten minutes, more of the benefit will be retained. The jury is awaiting more evidence on this one, but there are some studies that indicate there is a benefit. The Huffington Post have summarised the case.

Cadbury and their nutritional information

Tuesday, July 19th, 2016 | Thoughts

wispa-bar

This is a Cadbury Wispa chocolate bar. I am annoyed by it. Here is why…

I buy chocolate bars in multipacks. It makes sense because it is cheaper than buying them individually and I have to go shopping less often. I have recently written about my diet, which involves tracking the amount of kcals I am eating.

They’re smaller

I took a look at how the multipacks were advertised on Sainsbury’s website. They’re not actually called “multipacks” but labelled “4×30.5g”. I suspect the reason behind this is because the term multipack could be seen as misleading: given you are not actually getting a multipack of normal Wispa bars. The ones you get in the multipack are smaller.

wispa-sizes

This is a side by side comparison of a regular bar and the one I got from my multipack.

They say multipack on

I have long found the habit of companies printing on things like “multipack bar – not for resale” annoying. The reason they do this is to try and stop stores from buying the multipacks, splitting them up and selling them on separately.

However, they can’t just ban it, because splitting a multipack and selling the individual items is perfectly legal. So they write these messages on instead.

In my opinion this is an unfair business practice. I often see multipack items for sale, but never in a big-business context. It is family-run corner shops, small sandwich merchants and refreshment stalls at community events. Such practices disproportionally affect small businesses.

No nutritional information

As if this tactic is not bad enough, Cadbury also remove all of the nutritional information and ingredients list from their multipack bars. You are legally required to list the ingredients on your products, and the food industry has agreed to provide nutritional information too, but Cadbury provide neither.

back-of-packs

The way Cadbury get round this is to insist that the ingredients and nutritional information is available on the outer wrapper of the multipack. However, this is completely at odds with the way most people use multipacks. When I buy one, I open the packet, tip the bars out into my bag of goodies, and throw the multipack wrapper away.

The alternative, is to keep a stash of multipack wrappers hanging around in case I want to check nutritional information. Perhaps you could argue that it is merely industry standard to do this and that everyone does it. But you would be wrong…

lilt-can

Here is a can of Lilt Zero, a product of The Coca-Cola Company. It is a multipack can as you can see from the back bar with white writing and the top. And yet somehow, Coke remembered to put all of their ingredients and nutritional information on the can.

Summary

I will not claim to know the mind of Cadbury. However, if I was to guess at their thinking, I would say that in my opinion they choose not to include ingredients or nutritional information on their bars in an attempt to prevent local shops exercising their legal right to break multipack products, even though this means impacting the consumer and not providing the vital information that should be there.

I see no reason why this information cannot be included on each individual bar.

Nor do I believe that enough is done to make it clear to consumers that the bars they sell in the multipacks are noticeably smaller than the bars you would typically buy individually.