26 February 2014

Playing with my Honey (no, not him!)

My God you guys must have had some horrid weather whilst I was away sunning myself – when we got home our entire honey stash was crystallised.  We always have quite a lot due to our habit, inspired years ago by both having bad colds at the same time, of having a delicious drink of honey and lemon on first waking.  This takes about 3 teaspoons of honey each so we get through a fair bit.


Now I am not, of course, put off by crystallised honey.  In the first place it is absolutely fine in every way, just a bit crunchy/chewy and secondly it is really easy to de-crystallise it by standing the jar in a pot of hot water till the crystals melt. I saw, it however, as a chance to have a play.

Whipped or Creamed Honey

I think there are scientific guidelines about how to do this properly (see here for instance) but I just wanted to whip up the honey and see what happened, so I did …



From this .........................to this!

The honey became creamy, soft and spreadable and it occurred to me that this would be a good time to add some flavouring. I considered lemon zest, whisky, lemon zest and whisky and ginger but decided to go with vanilla paste (details of this wonderful stuff here). Good decision.

I also tried making a simple honey sorbet because I have decided to write an eBook on the subject as an addenda to my ice cream book (see sidebar and watch this space!). It turned out a bit too soft, but I know why and it was lovely anyway.




Raw Honey

Whilst we were away we went cold turkey for a few weeks on our honey and lemon drink because honey is so expensive in the islands.  Well most of it is but after a while we found some lovely Caribbean raw honey which was cheaper … $6 as opposed to about $15 for the same amount of normal honey!  Why is this, I wondered.  Raw honey (a bit like extra virgin olive oil – it hasn’t been heat treated) still contains all its antioxidants, enzymes and antibacterial usefulness and is quite pricey in the UK. 

Other Things about Honey ...

~   My sister (of the superb Art Caf├ęs in West Mersea and Colchester) sent me some White Truffle Honey a while back and … Boom!  It’s an eye opener, especially on cheese!


~   Did you know that in Liverpool honey is sold by the postcode (read all about it here)! Obviously different locations have different plants for the bees so the honey tastes different, apparently the flavour can vary from one street to another!  Something I may have to look into.


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21 February 2014

Airline Food Suggestions to Avoid Food Waste (and make customers happier!)

Air Stewardess ~ “Chicken or Pasta?” (oddly enough not chicken or beef this time)
Passenger ~ “Which is nicest?”
Stewardess “I like them both, well … not really, of course, its airline food”!


We are home from Tortola (and I am missing my friends already – yes you lot!) and I apologise for having posted nothing at all for five weeks which is mostly due to having very limited internet and partly due to being out enjoying myself all the time! Sorry!

It was a long trip home; up at 7 am Tuesday, car, 2 hours in airport (of course), flight to St. Maarten, flight to St. Kitts, flight to Antigua (island hopping is nowhere near as romantic as it sounds, believe me), 5 hours in Antigua airport, 8 hours or so across Atlantic, train to Reading, hour wait, train to Tiverton, bus to Plymouth, hour and a half wait in unheated waiting room, train to St. Austell, car home (thanks to good neighbour Bill) at about 7 pm Wednesday. Allowing for time difference this is about 32 hours. We went to bed as soon as we got in the door and slept till almost noon, nearly 16 hours.

That’s enough of “poor me” – I had a wonderful, wonderful time and have put lots of pics on my Pinterest board, “My bit” of the Caribbean. 

Back to Airline Food.

In my experience, always travelling economy, food on planes has never been good but it seems to be getting worse!  Watching fellow travelers at mealtimes they all look disappointed to say the least and few people eat much.  As a result there is a lot of food wasted.

“Dinner” was a choice of a small amount (luckily!) of very overcooked pasty with bits of tomato sauce clinging to it, a spoonful of lettuce, ¼ of a large tomato and a very cold bread roll with just about enough butter for half of it. 



I realise that catering for hundreds of people in the confines of an airplane is not easy and I think, especially considering the amount of this food that is thrown away, that a whole new approach is needed.

The problems, as I see it are …

~   On long haul flights meals have to be heated from scratch in surely less than ideal conditions. I have frequently served meals for 200+ people and even with plenty of working space and no turbulence it’s quite a job!
~   A tight food budget, which seems to be getting tighter.  I don’t know the figures but it has been suggested that the budget is $5 per person!
~   A wide range of diners with all sorts of preferences and needs such as vegetarians, vegans, Muslim, Jewish, Rastafarian and other dietary requirements, people with allergies, gluten or lactose intolerant chaps, super tasters (like my real man) who can’t abide strong flavours, people on various diets such as Atkins (is that still popular?) 5:2, Dukan, Paleo etc. and, of course, Fussy Buggers.
~   Travelers who are already a bit grumpy, maybe feeling unwell and with suppressed or changed taste buds which is apparently one of the side effects of reduced air pressure and humidity.

Sometimes an airline will say that they are taking advice from one famous chef or another to improve their meals but it doesn't seem to work, at least not in economy. I am not famous (*** yet but maybe getting there - see below!) but if I was in charge I don’t think I would try to emulate a proper meal be it breakfast, lunch or dinner. Instead I would offer a selection of easy to serve choices which, if it would make life easier, could be selected at the time of booking.  My suggestions include …

Breakfast – just whole fruits and/or yogurt, these are both best served cold and come in their own containers, in the case of fruit its own natural wrapper. How about a sachet of granola which can be sprinkled on or stirred into the yogurt?  Perhaps add a portion of honey or maple syrup. But if none of this works just a granola bar would be good.
  

Lunch/Dinner – bearing in mind that airline food has always been a huge compromise why not admit this and just go for a sarnie? I know some people complain that they will go soggy but Marks and Spencer seem to have got over this problem, maybe consult them! I also wonder if a pork pie would be out of the question!  Crisps or similar are an ideal and easily served accompaniment and a salad is also possible as this is also best served cold. Desserts can be fruit again or biscuits, chocolate bars etc. None of which need any preparation or any serving dishes.

Afternoon Tea – it may be because I live in Cornwall but a cream tea seems a good idea here. Two scones, a container of jam (which you spread onto the scone first), a container of clotted cream (dollop this on top of the jam) et voila as we say in the Duchy. Other ideas include any number of simple cakes (nothing too fancy - the carrot cake dessert following the aforementioned pasta was served upside down so that the thin smear of frosting on it was stuck to the plastic container); fruit loaf for instance with a butter pat or two or maybe something along the lines of a Viennese whirl, Eccles cake, chocky brownie, muffin or even a French Fancy!!!


As I say these are compromises and in no way replace a full meal but then nor does the food airlines serve now and at least my suggestions might be enjoyable.  Perhaps unopened packs of crisps, biscuits etc. could be served again but, if for some Health and Safety reason, this is not allowed the staff could eat them thus avoiding unnecessary food waste!

Until these superb suggestions are adopted by the airlines it might be an idea to either bring your own food or at least to carry a little seasoning in your hand luggage. Salt and pepper, or course, plus maybe sauces or dressings of your choice, see here for a few suggestions.  IMPORTANT - Of course these accoutrements must all be in containers of less than 100ml all of which must be in a single, transparent, resealable plastic bag, which holds no more than a litre and measures approximately 20cm x 20cm. They must all fit comfortably inside the bag so it can be sealed and the bag must not be knotted or tied at the top. You are limited to 1 plastic bag per person and you must show the bag at the airport security point.  All well worth it for a good dinner!

*** In Other News

I have been mentioned in today's copy of The Independent in an article entitled ... "This one's for me; Chefs and food bloggers reveal their favourite solo suppers"



To read the rest of the feature (which includes Claudia Roden so you can see the sort of company I keep!) buy the paper or go here to read it online.


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