Culinary Anthropologist


  1. The milk of human kindness

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    We are in the Rodopi Mountains in southern Bulgaria, pondering why it is people here are said to live longer than anywhere else.  The fresh air and clean spring water?  The famous yoghurt (or “sour milk”, as it is classified here)?  Or perhaps what must be Bulgaria’s national dish – fresh salad piled high with excellent tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers – consumed in vast quantities.

    Having driven to Sofia for Matt to attend a conference, we decided to hang around afterwards to explore the mountains south and east of the capital.  Our previous experience of this country was limited, to say the least, and this needed rectifying.  Surely not everyone subsisted on green salad, rakia and cigarettes?


  2. Hubbub

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    Hubbub logo.jpgHubbub is a fantastic idea.  As more people abandon their local shops in favour of the convenience of supermarkets, Hubbub has stepped in to fix the missing link.  The lovely Hubbub people go to all the best local shops near me in north London (butcher, fishmonger, cheesemonger, deli…) and bring their goodies to your door.  So shopping is kept convenient, while supporting independent shops and top quality food, most of which is sustainably grown/fished/produced. 

    Hubbub and I have teamed up to offer courses and workshops using their ingredients – open to everyone who loves good food!  Check my class list for dates.

  3. Blackheath Cooks


    bcooks-header.jpgBlackheath Cooks is a wonderful new cookware shop and cooking school in Blackheath, southeast London, run by my friend Joy Neal.  They offer a wide range of cooking classes for children, young people and adults in their teaching kitchen behind the shop.  Blackheath Cooks is the home of Munchkins, which offers super after-school cooking classes and cooking parties for children.  I regularly teach (adult) classes at Blackheath Cooks, so do come and find me there too!  See their schedule of upcoming classes on their website.

  4. Riverford Cooks

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    smredrussiankale0002.JPGRiverford delivers delicious veg boxes from its network of sister organic farms across England.  I have been a customer for some time and greatly admire their business ethics and the high quality of their produce.  I wrote about them in my book Eat Slow Britain – see here for an excerpt. 

    Riverford Cooks is their initiative to get everyone cooking more vegetables.  As one of their network of Cooks, I give classes for customers and their friends, in homes, at my teaching kitchen and at Riverford HQ in Devon.  It’s all about getting excited about seasonal vegetables and learning new ways to cook them.  Some of my Riverford classes are open to non-customers too (although we hope to persuade you of the joys of a veg box!) – so look out for dates.  And check out the Riverford Cooks website for more events and my Cook’s profile

  5. Jennifer Altman, pastry chef

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    I had the pleasure of meeting and working with Jennifer Altman when I started out in my culinary career in San Francisco.  Jennifer, originally from Glasgow, is the pastry chef at Bay Wolf restaurant  – one of the top restaurants in the San Francisco Bay Area.  She is a highly experienced professional pastry chef and class instructor, having trained at San Francisco’s famed California Culinary Academy, taught professional level courses at Tante Marie’s Cooking School, and often attracted high prize for her delicious desserts in restaurant reviews

    Jennifer entered her first and last baking competition as a child – her towering multi-layered meringue cake was deemed too good for an eight-year-old to make and was disqualified!  Her cakes, cookies, confections and desserts continue to astound and delight diners and students.  As Jennifer is also a food scientist by training her classes are the perfect opportunity to learn about the fascinating chemistry of baking, pastry and confectionery. 

    In January 2011 Jennifer is flying over to London to run a series of very special masterclasses with me:

    Perfect Cookies Masterclass, Thursday 20th January, 6pm-9.30pm
    Perfect Pastry Masterclass, Saturday 22nd January, 10am-4pm
    Chocolate Masterclass, Tuesday 25th January, 6pm-9.30pm
    Perfect Cakes Masterclass, Thursday 27th January, 2pm-5.30pm

  6. The Sun Inn

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    esb.jpgExcerpt from Eat Slow Britain by Alastair Sawday & Anna Colquhoun:

    “People in Essex wanting good pasta or risotto come here,” says the Sun Inn’s proud Neapolitan chef, Ugo Simonelli. This fifteenth-century coaching inn may look quintessentially English, but the passion for good food and conviviality evoke an Italian trattoria. Owner Piers Baker says: “Sundays are mayhem: children dashing everywhere, parents reading the papers, grandparents nattering, and regulars at the bar laughing at us running around.” …

    smvictoriasplumsshop0001.JPGUgo exudes enthusiasm for Italian cuisine and, encouraged by adventurous diners, has unearthed vanishing dishes. Hare with chocolate and rosemary sauce is a relic of times when boundaries between sweet and savoury were blurred, and cassuola, a Milanese cabbage and pork stew, was traditionally eaten at the end of pig slaughtering season. Pumpkin and mussel soup, raw fish marinated with smoked Maldon salt and pan-fried lamb hearts have their fans too. For more conservative palates, there is grilled salt marsh lamb with roast beetroot, pan-fried calf’s liver with melted onions and sage, and sea bass with saffron potatoes and samphire.

    Between shifts Ugo tends his vegetable patch or experiments with bresaola and prosciutto curing in the cellar. He also teaches in the village school. “We make pasta, pizza and gnocchi, and the kids find they like garlic, parmesan and basil after all. I had them eating pesto by the spoonful!” he laughs …

    The Sun Inn, Essex, England

  7. Elan Valley Mutton

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    esb.jpgExcerpt from Eat Slow Britain by Alastair Sawday & Anna Colquhoun:

    If Tony Davies’ great-great-grandfather could see Henfron Farm now, he would hardly notice the difference. Here in the remote Elan Valley, in mid-Wales, seventeen-hundred acres of wind- and rain-swept moorland, peat bogs and heathered hillsides sustain the Davies’ resilient Welsh Mountain sheep, just as they have done for centuries …

    Tony checks his flocks on horseback. “Other farmers use quad-bikes, but our men love their horses, that keep them warm, know every crease of the hillside and offer a better vantage point. On a foggy afternoon they make it back in time for tea while the quad-bikers are still going in circles,” says Angela.

    Mutton was once one of Britain’s most loved meats. “Saddle of mutton … is a joint for an epicure,” wrote Dorothy Hartley, a food historian, in 1954. But around this time factors converged to start its decline: imported New Zealand lamb; working women with less time for slow-cooking; post-war affluence expanding the privilege of eating immature animals and expensive cuts.
    Recently, a niche market for the rich meat has appeared …

    Elan Valley Mutton, Powys, Wales

  8. The Mistley Thorn

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    esb.jpgExcerpt from Eat Slow Britain by Alastair Sawday & Anna Colquhoun:

    As a teenager, Sherri Singleton sold watermelon fruit cups on the beach in Los Angeles for pocket money. It was the first of a series of successful culinary enterprises, stretching from California to Essex, where she now runs two restaurants and a cooking school. “Food is in my blood: my great grandmother ran a gourmet food store, my grandmother had a restaurant, my mother cooked everything from scratch and grew vegetables, and our neighbour, a celebrated chef, roasted pigs in his garden. I was surrounded by people who adored food.”

    smmistleythorn0001.JPGArriving in Essex in the eighties was a shock to Sherri’s culinary system – where were the bundles of fresh coriander and basil, the heirloom tomatoes? She found excellent meat, seafood and cheese, but couldn’t lay her hands on local fruit and vegetables. So Sherri persuaded smallholders to grow for her, something many other restaurateurs wouldn’t catch onto for years.

    smmistleythorn0002.JPG“Now it’s ridiculously easy. People pick samphire for me, grow asparagus in their gardens, leave boxes of quinces and squashes on my doorstep. And we grow artichokes, sprouting broccoli and blackcurrants ourselves.”  …

    The Mistley Thorn, Essex, England

  9. Whitmuir Farm

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    esb.jpgExcerpt from Eat Slow Britain by Alastair Sawday & Anna Colquhoun:

    … At first cattle and lambs were trucked four-hundreds miles to a slaughter house in Devon, from where meat travelled to supermarkets across Britain. If supply outstripped demand, orders were reduced or delayed without notice. If animals grew too large, they were rejected as unsuitable for the mechanised processes. “For all we knew our meat ended up on shelves down the road, yet untraceable to Whitmuir. We wanted to take control and know our customers.”

    smwhitmuirfarm0001.JPGA gift of two Tamworth sows – Cinnamon and Nutmeg, thought to be sterile yet proving prolific – spurred the move to direct sales. A tiny shop was swapped for a bigger one and now they have a restaurant, too. “We invested everything and have more risk and direct accountability to consumers, but we wouldn’t go back to anonymous wholesale.”

    … Whitmuir’s Shorthorn cattle only eat grass. This gives their meat a healthier balance of Omega-6s to Omega-3s, and softer, yellower fat. Calves also wean naturally. An early attempt to hasten the process by luring cows away to a field of tasty kale resulted in disaster when they trashed three electric fences and a gate to reclaim their young …

    Whitmuir Farm, Scottish Borders, Scotland

  10. The Olive Branch

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    esb.jpgExcerpt from Eat Slow Britain by Alastair Sawday & Anna Colquhoun:

    “The Olive Branch is more than a pub, it’s a community project, too,” says Ben Jones, who with old friends Sean Hope and Marcus Welford, managed to get their hands on the pub before it was sold as a house. Locals were delighted: with no local shop or post office, the Olive Branch was vital…

    smolivebranchpub0002.JPGInside the beautiful stone house you can see the frame of the three cottages that were knocked together  – now they are cosy interconnected dining areas. Low beams, old wooden furniture, crackling fires, the chatter of happy diners and genuinely enthusiastic staff put people at ease. “We like to generate rapport with our customers, so we can tell them about our food and encourage them to try new things,” explains Ben …

    The menu changes constantly to capture ingredients at their peak: asparagus from Abbey Parks Farm in spring; courgette flowers from the Red Lion’s kitchen garden in summer; quinces from villagers’ trees in autumn; pheasant and partridge in winter. “We offered locals a pint per pound of food brought in. They soon twigged heavy items were a winner, and we were inundated with venison haunches!” recalls Ben …

    The Olive Branch, Rutland, England