Family life: Grandma Nell with a gun, the Kinks’ Lola and a secret recipe

Readers’ favourite photographs, songs and recipes

This is my favourite photo, taken at Blackpool Pleasure Beach shooting range in about 1935, because of the determined woman on the left and how it predicts the future. My grandmother Nell (Ellen Truman) wields the gun while her admiring family look on. To her left is Gordon, her 14-year-old son, and her sister-in-law Ethel Truman. Behind in the flat cap stands Tom Yarnall, Ethel’s fiance. Blackpool was the holiday destination of preference for the Birmingham working classes of the 1930s, at least for those employed.

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leek recipes croustade cheese crumble bread pudding fritters recipe swap

Your allium endeavours for croustades, crumbles and soups sing the quiet praises of this silken stalwart in a fitting swansong for the Swap

It feels more than a little odd to bring this four-year-old veteran column to a close with a handful of leeks. Then again, ending on an allium is a good way to go: it’s the veg that’s always there, the one most dishes start with, and the one more than a few finish off with (I’ll top anything with chopped chives).

And of all the alliums, the leek is perhaps the richest in flavour potential, combining the melting sweetness of the onion with the green pungency of the garlic plant.

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Claire Ptak’s recipes for honey chocolate cake and almond macaroons | Baking

As Pooh Bear will tell you, honey can be a tricky ingredient. But here its sweetness deftly balances bitter dark chocolate in a gooey cake, and allies itself with almonds in a tray of crumbly macaroons

I like honey in my tea and on my granola at breakfast, but I don’t usually reach for it as a way to sweeten my baking. The flavour of honey can change with baking and I don’t always like the way it goes. This week’s recipes, however, capture everything I love about honey – its unctuous texture, its earthy sweetness, and its ability to make you feel like a child.

Coincidentally, we have started reading Winnie-the-Pooh as a bedtime story to our daughter, Frances, who turned one this week. The world of Pooh is wonderfully simple: he is thoughtful and considerate but – a bear after my own heart – all he really wants to do is eat and read poetry. Each evening that my husband or I read to our daughter from our tattered copy, we end up discussing the musings of Pooh with a glass of wine after she’s gone to sleep. It is light-hearted, yet profound:

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Americans Are Scarfing Down a Record Amount of Cheese

Americans Are Scarfing Down a Record Amount of CheeseOne thing that unites America? Our common love of cheese.

The consumption of cheese and butter in the United States is at an all-time high, Bloomberg reports, citing a December report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Cheese consumption has risen especially sharply in the last two years, now clocking in higher than it has since the government began keeping tabs on it, in 1975.

The amount of butter Americans are eating has also climbed to a 40-year high, up 25 percent in the past decade alone, reflecting changing consumer tastes and shifting scientific guidance on fats. (Case in point? McDonald’s recently moved fast to ditch margarine in its Egg McMuffins and use butter instead.)

Meanwhile, the amount of milk we’re drinking is on the decline and has been for decades, thanks to the diversification of our beverage options — more juices, sports drinks, sodas. So it’s kind of a wash for dairy farmers. And cows.

“We’re just seeing a greater trend toward cheese consumption in people’s everyday diets,” Matthew Mattke, director of the Market360 Dairy advisory team at the commodity consulting firm Stewart-Peterson, Inc., in West Bend, Wisconsin, told Bloomberg. “With the beverage market, there’s a lot more choices. But you can’t replace cheese on a pizza.”

So true, no matter how you slice it.

Photo: iStock

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The weekend cook: how to make ramen at home – recipe

Ramen is the ultimate Japanese comfort food, and it’s nowhere near as hard to make as you might think

Ramen is the ultimate comfort food, but for something that seems so simple – it’s just broth, noodles and a few toppings, after all – it is quite involved. You could, of course, use ready-made noodles (many specialist Japanese and Asian food shops sell a wide range of both fresh and dried ramen noodles; failing that, use some thin Cantonese-style egg noodles, which you can get in any supermarket), though any self-respecting Japanese domestic cook will tell you that you can’t beat homemade (it’s no harder than fresh pasta). The broth is by far the most important element in any ramen: it’s what gives the dish its deep flavour. For today’s chicken ramen, for example, you make a simple stock, then concentrate it further. Don’t skip this second stage: it’s well worth the minimal extra effort, plus the smell of proper stock bubbling away in the kitchen beats a scented candle any day.

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Cocktail of the week: Joe Allen’s cup of Joe

Joe Allen, long-time haunt of West End actors and theatre staff, celebrates its 40th birthday with a take on the espresso martini

Theatre-land favourite Joe Allen is 40 tomorrow, and this timeless classic from our list is as good a way as any to celebrate. It’s essentially an espresso martini, and easy to recreate at home. Serves one.

25ml vodka (we use Stolichnaya)
25ml shot espresso
25ml Kahlúa
2 coffee beans, to garnish

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What You Should Know About Hydroponic Vegetables

Soil seems so essential to our concept of vegetables that those grown hydroponically – that is, in water rather than soil – may seem confusing. Even futuristic. But hydroponic crop farming is in fact here now. In the last five years, the hydroponic crop farming industry has shown an annual growth of 4.5 percent, according to the U.S. market research firm IBISWorld, and new companies are projected to continue to expand over the next five years.

Hydroponic farms produce high yields in a small area. Often grown indoors – in warehouses or greenhouses and in artificial light instead of sunlight – they are protected from extreme weather. Hydroponically grown vegetables, which are fed by nutrient solutions in the water, may be just as nutritious as field-grown vegetables and, depending on the solutions they’re fertilized with, can help meet the rising demand for organic produce.

Curious to learn more about hydroponic vegetables, we asked Rebecca Elbaum, MPH, RD, CDN, a clinical dietician in New York City who has worked with hydroponic farms, particularly small, rooftop gardens, to fill us in on some of the basics:

 

What, exactly, are hydroponic vegetables?

Hydroponic literally means “water-grow or survive,” so basically hydroponic vegetables are those that survive, and likely thrive, in water. Hydroponic vegetables are grown in a closed system in which their roots are submerged in water. This water is fortified or “spiked” with nutrients, such as potassium, magnesium and phosphorus. In conventional farming, natural soil contains vitamins, minerals and trace elements that water does not, so hydroponic farmers need to add those nutrients into the water. Conventional farming also uses the natural light of the sun, which helps vegetables develop their nutrients.  Hydroponic farming mimics sunlight through greenhouses. 

 

How do they compare to field-grown vegetables from a nutritional standpoint?

It is not yet fully known whether hydroponically grown vegetables are nutritionally superior to conventionally grown ones. There are studies that show the nutrient content to be the same, while there are others that show hydroponic vegetables to be richer in nutrients than conventional. While we can artificially add nutrients to water, we might not know certain components in soil that are important for the growth of nutritious vegetables. We also don’t know the impact of natural sunlight versus greenhouse light on the nutritional quality of the vegetables.

 

What are some of the nutritional advantages of hydroponic vegetables, and what are the disadvantages?

In hydroponic cultivation, nutrient quality can be very carefully controlled. While nutrients are also added to soil in conventional farming, it is more difficult to control and more likely to have fluctuations in its nutrient content. The downside of hydroponic vegetables is that how trace elements in soil affect the nutrition of vegetables is unknown. We might not be able to replicate the nutrient quality as well in hydroponic farming.

Another advantage is we can grow almost any produce locally, all year round.  Lettuce and tomatoes grow beautifully hydroponically. A local tomato contains more nutrients than one that has been imported and has sat on a truck for a few days before making it to your plate.

 

Do you see hydroponic vegetables as assuming a greater role in American diets?

Since hydroponic vegetables can be grown just about anywhere with the right space, I do think they will become more prevalent in American diets. Hydroponic gardens are playing a bigger role in cities, with people growing fruits and vegetables on their rooftops. With a growing population and climate change, alternative methods of growing fruits and vegetables are coming into play. We may already be buying hydroponic vegetables in grocery stores without knowing it. Growing hydroponically allows us to grow a variety of fruits and vegetables locally, rather than importing them from other countries, which causes a loss of nutrition in transit. This not only improves the nutritional quality of the vegetables that make it our plates or kitchens, but it is almost more environmentally friendly.  We unfortunately won’t know the nutritional impacts of hydroponic vegetables for a number of years, as more studies need to be done, but I think we will see them become more prevalent in grocery stores and on menus.

 

What do you see as the key takeaway for consumers here?

Bottom line: Eat vegetables. These alternative methods are growing and are here to stay with the boom in agricultural technology and climate change. Since we don’t have conclusive evidence at the current time about which method produces nutritionally superior vegetables, I would tell my patients to buy any vegetables they can get their hands on. Since very few people actually consume the three servings of vegetables and two servings of fruits recommended daily, I would not want to restrict consumers further on what produce they should buy. As the research continues to grow however, it will be interesting to see if indeed hydroponic vegetables can be nutritionally superior to conventional.

Also, though it would be great to have delicious local lettuce and tomatoes all year round, there is something very special about savoring the fresh tomatoes of summer while they are in season.

 

Amy Reiter is a writer and editor based in New York. A regular contributor to The Los Angeles Times, she has also written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, Glamour, Marie Claire, The Daily Beast and Wine Spectator, among others, as well as for Salon, where she was a longtime editor and senior writer. In addition to contributing to Healthy Eats, she blogs for Food Network’s FN Dish.

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Out of flavour: why tomatoes have lost their taste

After exhaustive studies, an international team of scientists has worked out why tomatoes don’t taste like they used to

An international team of scientists claims finally to have cracked one of the most common consumer conundrums: why don’t tomatoes taste like they used to?

After conducting exhaustive taste tests of 100 tomato varieties and sequencing the genomes of nearly 400 varieties, researchers have found the 13 volatile compounds that give a tomato its inherent flavour.

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What to Watch: The Ultimate Game-Day Snacks and the Finale of Triple G’s Triple D Tournament

The Kitchen
Super Bowl Sunday is just around the corner, and this weekend Ree Drummond, Giada De Laurentiis and some more of your favorite Food Network chefs are sharing some of their best crowd-pleasing, game-day recipes. It all starts Saturday morning when Ree whips up her pull-apart Pizza Rolls and Taco Quesadillas. Then, Trisha Yearwood is hosting a halftime themed party, serving sliders, dip and some fruity gelatin shots. After that, join the co-hosts of The Kitchen as they make three massive submarine sandwiches.

On Sunday morning, the co-hosts of Kitchen Sink are mashing up classic appetizers, making Loaded Baked Potato Tots and Stuffed Onion Rings. Then, Giada makes gourmet game-day food like her Spicy Calabrian Shrimp and Three-Way Tie Sandwich.

On Sunday night, head over to Flavortown for the finale of Triple-G’s Triple-D tournament where one lucky chef will take the champion title, and then tune in to Worst Cooks where the recruits will have their culinary prowess tested in a game-day edition of Family Food.


Pizza Rolls
The Pioneer Woman: Truly Madly Crazy — Saturday, Jan. 28 at 10a|9c
Ree is cooking up some crazy, fun ideas for game night food. There’s a whole new take on a football favorite with pull-apart Pizza Rolls (pictured). Then she makes over-the-top Hawaiian Burgers piled high with grilled pineapple, and mashes up two winners with Taco Quesadillas. Finally, Ree supersizes some Husky Bark inspired by Coach Ladd and the team colors.
Meatball Sliders
Trisha’s Southern Kitchen: Halftime Funtime — Saturday, Jan. 28 at 10:30a|9:30c
Football season’s coming to an end, so that means it’s time for the big game! Trisha invites family and friends over for a halftime-themed party, featuring crowd-pleasers like Pimento Cheese Queso with Toppings Bar, Spicy Artichoke Dip and Nashville Hot Chicken Meatball Sliders (pictured). Plus, there’s Lime Wedge Gelatin Shots and an end zone dance competition.
Chili Cheese Skillet
The Kitchen: Big Game Day — Saturday, Jan. 28 at 11a|10c
It’s game time at The Kitchen as the hosts share big ideas for a big-game party, kicking off with an epic sub sandwich made three ways. Learn how to decorate with nothing more than a roll of tape, plus secrets for an ultimate burger bar from the Feltner Brothers. Katie Lee shares her Chili Cheese Dip with Biscuit Dippers (pictured), then fashion icon and food lover Olivia Culpo joins the fun and shares her creamy buffalo chicken-stuffed French bread and a refreshing recipe for a Michelada.
Dessert Tacos
Kitchen Sink: The Ultimate Party Menu — Sunday, Jan. 29 at 11a|10c
Spike Mendelsohn kicks off the show with his super-easy sloppy sliders that will feed a crowd. Then, Sunny Anderson mashes up three crowd favorites into a mozzarella stick pizza onion rings appetizer and puts a spin on the classic loaded baked potato. The hosts check in with our Food Network Kitchen correspondent, Vivian Chan, who shares the latest boozy trends. Then, inspired by the trends, the hosts create a Dessert Taco Bar (pictured).
Spicy Calabrian Shrimp
Giada Entertains: Super-Sized Sunday — Sunday, Jan. 29 at 12|11c
Giada invites friends over to watch the big game and makes gourmet super-sized versions of some of our favorite game foods, including a Three-Way Tie Sandwich, a bar made up of game day dips and chips, and Spicy Calabrian Shrimp (pictured).
Guy's Grocery Games
Guy’s Grocery Games: Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives Tournament 2: Finale — Sunday, Jan. 29 at 8|7c
For the finale, Guy Fieri takes the final four chefs on an epic cross-country road trip by dividing Flavortown into the East Coast, Midwest and West Coast. First, Guy turns the frozen section into a chilly New York scene, where chefs must thaw out ingredients for an East Coast high-end dinner. Next, the chefs must make an all-American dish by shopping the Midwest — or at least the middle aisles of the store. The tournament ends with a huge twist as the last two chefs serve up a West Coast winner’s dinner and battle it out for the shot at an additional $20,000 and the champion title.
Worst Cooks in America
Worst Cooks in America: All Fun and Game Day — Sunday, Jan. 29 at 9|8c
Competition is in the air as the recruits enter Boot Camp to discover it’s been transformed into a game-day arena. They must put their culinary knowledge to the test in a game of Family Food, where only one team can earn the win. For the Main Dish challenge, the recruits must cook for a crowd and impress their guests with the ultimate game-day sandwich and an appetizer.

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