It has been both the handicap and the saving grace of the English-speaking countries not to have a recognised centuries-long gastronomic tradition behind them. Settlers and colonists brought their own food customs with them to what became the British dominions.
Vegetarians often get overlooked at this time of year so if you’re vegetarian yourself or cooking for one here are some perfect pairings for some delicious festive recipes from the web.
If you’re not drinking for whatever reason - because you’re driving, pregnant or just taking a break - it’s sometimes difficult to find something that makes a good match for what you’re eating. Soft drinks can be sweet and sugary. Water sometimes too plain.
If you’re on the wagon this month, mealtimes can suddenly seem a bit drab and colourless. But if you’re missing the taste of your favourite wine try substituting a fruit juice that has similar flavours.
If you’re used to choosing wine - or other drinks - to match with meat or fish you may be flummoxed when it comes to chosing one for vegetarian friends. But as I explain in my Guardian column today it’s a question of finding out how the wine is made - and in particular whether any animal-based products have been used in the fining process.
The book I’ve been looking forward to most so far this year has just started being serialised in the Guardian today. It’s by Yotam Ottolenghi who founded two exceptional London restaurants and is simply called Ottolenghi: the Cookbook. l love Ottolenghi's food - it’s so generous and big-flavoured, piled high on bright, colourful platters - you can't fail to be tempted by it. It also lends itself perfectly to entertaining for large numbers at home.
One of the most irritating recommendations you find on wine labels is ‘Drink with chicken’. Which kind do they mean - a simply roast bird or a coq au vin? A chicken salad or a Thai chicken curry? Chicken is such a neutral meat it depends entirely on the way that it’s cooked and the other flavours in the dish.
Last week our local tapas bar, Ocean, held a Brazilian evening with a talented local Bristol singer Frances Butt who is really into Latin music. (So much so that she has issued an album called The Girl from Wolverhampton - where she grew up though obviously not where her soul lies . . .)
With its intense citrussy flavour ceviche - marinated raw fish - is a tricky dish to pair with wine.
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.