The Chinese New Year, which starts on Sunday, is one of those annual events that really captures the imagination. It is celebrated in such a colourful and joyous way and Chinese food is so delicious, quick and simple to make that I hope you won't be able to resist having a go at it. Buy in the dim sum and make the ice cream ahead and all you need make on the night is the stir-fry.
One of the simplest Chinese recipes but a perfect one for the Chinese new year according to cookery writer Fuchsia Dunlop, author of the brllliant Every Grain of Rice
It must be the unseasonally hot weather but I've been drinking a lot of soft drinks lately. There seems to be much more choice on the market, especially more sophisticated drinks that are full of flavour but not too sweet. And which go well with food.
With the icy weather it’s been a week for staying duvet-wrapped indoors as much as possible so I haven’t encountered my usual range of stimulating food and wine matches but this was a top one, facilitated by my friends Todd and Jess of cheesemongers Trethowan's Dairy.
There’s an improbably good tea shop and café near where I live which is as good as any I’ve been to. I say improbable not because it’s in Bristol but because it’s in a far-from-smart shopping parade in one of the less cultish areas of the city. It also has a brilliantly clever name - ATTIC - which stands for All The Tea In China.
When I met Christine Manfield the other day I gave her the impossible task of picking one recipe out of her stunning new book Tasting India. This was the one she chose. It comes from the southern state of Karnataka, the former state of Mysore and is typical of the surprising straightforwardness of the recipes in the book.
It’s rare to go to a wine event and be blown away by the matches at every course but my recent lunch at Murano devised by Angela Hartnett and her sommelier Marc-Andréa Lévy was as close to perfection as it gets.
A recent email from a reader asked me to suggest a wine to go with “a triple coconut cake with a tangy pineapple icing served with fresh fruit salsa that has kiwi, strawberry, madarine oranges, blueberries and fresh pineapple in it”. Quite a challenge (I suggested demi-sec Champagne or a peach-flavoured liqueur topped up with fizz) but it got me thinking that there are many possible matches for cake beyond a cup of tea or coffee, particularly if you're serving it as a dessert.
One of the all-time favourite British desserts sticky toffee pudding is super-sweet so will overwhelm most wines you might think of pairing with it so what should you choose?
Whatever you get up to on Valentine’s night (and truly, I’d rather not know) my guess is you’ve got better things to do than spend it slaving over a hot stove. So this is an unashamed cheat’s menu for you to romance your loved one with the absolute minimum of effort. Needless to say, buy only the very best ingredients.
If I told you we’d kicked off a tasting menu with a dish of barely seared, pepper-crusted tuna, with a punchy sesame and ginger dressing paired with a chilled cherry beer you’d probably think we’d dined at one of London’s cutting edge Asian restaurants rather than one of its most venerable institutions, the two Michelin-starred Le Gavroche. But its chef-patron Michel Roux Jr is quite prepared to challenge his well-heeled Mayfair clientele. In fact I suspect that if he felt he could get away with it his whole menu would be packed with similarly bold combinations.
Q I am the best man at a wedding and agreed to provide the wine for the head table. The couple is serving a soy, ginger salmon and chicken dish (i assume you get a choice). Any thoughts?
I’ve been a bit of a sceptic in the past about pairing food with whisky. Not that there aren’t some great combinations but I find it hard to sustain for more than one dish.
We rarely think of tawny port as a flexible partner for food. We serve it with stilton, obviously and with hard cheeses like cheddar, with nuts and dried fruits and over Christmas with fruit cake and mince pies but that’s usually as far as it goes.
Mince pies are not that different to Christmas pudding and Christmas cake so you could drink much the same sort of wine with them. But tradition obviously plays a part in terms of what most people expect and they do pair particularly well with fortified wines like port, sherry and madeira