Takeda AS Gyutou, 10 Year Review

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Pre thinning

Ever read a proper kitchen knife review? They’re usually found on specialist discussion forums, places that regular people with an interest in food rarely visit. Those forums are subsets of knife-as-weapon forums and crossover with gun forums. And in them lie a whole world of crazy. I’m not into all that, I’m only really interested in kitchen knives and have been for a long time. This Takeda knife was bought over 10 years ago. So it’s probably time to review it. I think this timescale is a reasonable user testing period. Continue reading

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The Other Side of Brum Chinatown

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Suckling piglet and rice £8.60

Chinese food, you’re probably getting bored of it by now. Takeaway sweet and sour pork comes way down the fast food list after curry, Nandos, KFC and new wave “streetfood”. Going out for a meal? Sesame prawn toast, chow mein, lemon chicken, shredded crispy duck and all the other Anglicised Chinese food is seen as the safe option for a crowd with fussy eaters. But it doesn’t have to be like this. The Chinese food that I know has never been like that anyway. With more and more mainland Chinese folk living in the city, the options are expanding beyond the watered down Cantonese fare we all grew up eating in the UK. Fiery mouth numbing dishes from Sichuan, mutton skewers from the North, hotpots and hand-pulled noodles. Never let them show you the English menu ever again. I’ve written guides about the great mainstream food you can get in Birmingham Chinatown but now here’s a guide to get really under the crispy crackling skin of Chinatown. Continue reading

Refugee Community Kitchen, Calais

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My friend Audrey Gillan suggested we should volunteer at the Refugee Community Kitchen in Calais. Who as part of a larger network in L’Auberge Des Migrants cook up to 2000 hot meals everyday to refugees stuck in the infamous camp in Calais known as “The Jungle”. We’d batted the idea around for months, the heart willing but minds and bodies experiencing the kind of inertia that by each passing day makes resolution more and more difficult. It took an unusual burst of energy, a “now or never” attitude, 3 days of frenetic planning and stuffing my Volvo full of donations that found us driving to the door of the French warehouse on Sunday May 1st. We met some amazing people in the two days helping in the kitchen and cooked a vast amount of food. In the end seeing the happy faces of the refugees eating the meals we cooked was ample reward for our small endeavour. Continue reading

L’Enclume

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Collage de l’Enclume

If you ask me what my favourite restaurant in the country is I will not hesitate to say L’Enclume in Cartmel. We first went in 2010 and tend to revisit it every year or so, usually in different seasons. Last week was our fifth time and even though in the interim the baton has been handed to a new head chef there’s still that seemingly effortless perfection to the cuisine. At its core are the ingredients, all taken from the lush Cumbrian land and coast. Every bite is a reflection of the season and locale, the essence of every ingredient amplified using cutting edge techniques but naturalistically presented with simple grace on the plate. There’s a sense of whimsy in the way the food is almost too beautiful to eat, but when you get over this the flavours actually hit you between the eyes.

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