Sunday, 31 May 2009

Taste of Asia 2009 (London Festival)

DSC00671


This weekend I had the choice of going to Taste of Spain in Regent Street and Taste of Asia in Potters Fields.

After dithering a bit, I plumped for the latter (fellow blogger bellaphon went to Taste of Spain).

DSC00654


Taste of Asia is part of Celebrasian (don't laugh), a UK/India festival celebrating all the best of Asia through a series of events.

These include Taste of Asia, Face Of Asia, Business India Forum, The Celebrasian Cup, Masters Cricket and Asia Cup Polo.

DSC00647


Obviously the only event I'd be interested in would be food-related, so yesterday hubby and I turned up to Taste of Asia in Potters Fields, London (next to Boris's house).

Apparently Cherie Blair had opened the show by cooking onstage with Anjum Anand, but I was heartbroken to find I'd missed this clash of the titans.

DSC00650


We did see a rather peculiar fashion show where it took me a few minutes to realise that those were in fact models coming onstage one by one, since the male ones at least looked quite lost.

There were also a fab couple of musicians playing beautiful Indian music on drums and the sitar.

DSC00648


I was tickled by the Asian Interactive Media people (showcasing Asian Bride, Asian Groom, Asian Home and Asian Woman) who handed me a sturdy branded carrier bag (Yes! I am an Asian Bride!) and Panjab Radio who for some reason were selling remote control cars.

That wasn't quite as weird as the yellow TARDIS though.

DSC00666
<DSC00660
DSC00659


As for food, there were a fair few stalls, but the Taste of Korea stand was the most colourful with charming, brightly-dressed stall holders handing out Korean rice punch (gorgeous and thirst-quenching), aloe vera juice and chunks of pajeon (Korean pancake) and bulgogi (barbecue beef).

I bought some funky crisps, a jar of kimchi and a ready-to-eat bowl of dolsot bibimbap - slightly underseasoned but comforting.

DSC00651
DSC00653
DSC00679
DSC00681


The Vietnamese Cafe was also packed with customers (including us) wanting triple macchiatos with lotus green tea chaser, weasel coffee and cà phê sữa đá (Viet iced coffee).

They were also selling other Viet foodstuffs, so I picked up some shrimp paste, some seasoning packets (Bún bò Huế, thit nuong and canh chua) and some coconut nước màu (caramel sauce) from Bến Tre.

DSC00674
DSC00675
DSC00677


The Shana Foods Paratha Stall was my hubby's favourite - he scoffed a plate of paratha with paneer and chana masala which was dirt-cheap at £1.50 and really tasty for a ready meal.

We watched them searing the paratha on enormous hotplates (I use a Breville Sandwich Press) before I picked up some of the paneer packs to take home.

DSC00664
DSC00665
DSC00662
DSC00661


At one point, I spotted someone scoffing fried bits and bobs from a dinky little wicker basket - I'm a sucker for nice presentation, so I tracked down the source which was Thai Square.

This proved a stroke of luck as these mixed starters were fresh and tasty - tod man pla fishcake, prawn toast and crispy wontons with sweet chilli sauce.

DSC00669
DSC00667
DSC00673
DSC00668


We wandered around the usual stands offering beautiful but overpriced Oriental pseudo-antiques, eg Buddhas and chinthés and wall carvings and singing bowls, and swatted away people offering guided tours through the whole of Asia.

I was also handed a couple of free magazines - one the type of PR-packed dross you get inflight and one more of a food fanzine by The East which was earnest but actually quite interesting, though I was mildly alarmed to see the article on Garlic had been reproduced "courtesy of Wikipedia".

There was also a rather glossy-looking affair for sale, but I baulked when I saw it referred to "recipies" on the front cover.

DSC00656
DSC00655
DSC00658


Just as we were leaving, I noticed the Cookery Theatre was setting up and I was delighted to see Reza Mahammad appear through the curtains. I've had a soft spot for Reza ever since he did "Delhi Belly" with Sanjeev Bhaskar.

He popped in and out, busying himself by preparing the ingredients himself, which seemed very sweet - as Lou at knit one bake too tells me that most chefs swan on just before the demo, leaving the home economists to do all the prep.

DSC00689
DSC00685


Ross Burden (Celebrity Chef MC of the whole affair) also materialised, but I totally didn't recognise him, as he's lost his pomadey quiff.

Anyway, though the festival as a whole seemed a bit muted, we had some pretty fab food and saw some cool performances, and hell, unlike every other festival these days (I'm looking at you Taste of London) entry to Taste of Asia was free, so I'd definitely go again.

footprints



It was also a glorious day, with kids splashing around the More London Place fountains, and so I was almost sorry that we were off to the darkness of a cinema - although Drag Me To Hell turned out to be pretty awesome too, even if I felt the absence of Bruce Campbell keenly ...

DSC00701




See Taste of Asia 2009 in action:

Friday, 29 May 2009

Rant: Great British Menu 2009 - The Final Results

DSC00628


Yes, it's finally here - the Results of the Great British Menu 2009. We voted; the judges voted; together we may have created an unholy mishmash of flavours, but dammit if we don't love the chefs that made them.

All the finalists have gathered at the Imperial War Museum to find out if they will be feeding servicemen and women returning from Afghanistan at a special banquet at RAF Halton House.

Just to remind you, the eight chefs in the final are:

Great British Menu Judges

Jennie Bond makes all manner of totally inappropriate military-related metaphors ("The chefs' fight has reached the culmination of their campaign"; "Who'll be in the front line and who has fallen by the wayside?") - I mean, the soldiers have actually been out there fighting for their lives; I bet the worst these chefs will have seen is a hot oil burn.

Then Oliver Peyton, Prue Leith and Matthew Fort pat each other on the back for having eaten another 96 gourmet meals, and Oliver remarks "I think we've seen the best cooking ever, more than in previous competitions". LIES! In the past they've given Glynn Purnell, Sat Bains and Jason Atherton perfect scores - who got that this time around, eh, eh? NO-ONE!

Anyway, the votes are in and here are the top three and the winner for each course:

STARTER

DSC00615
DSC00614
DSC00613


AND THE WINNING STARTER IS:

Kenny Atkinson with Salad of Aberdeen Angus Beef, Carrots, Horseradish and Shetland Black Potatoes - a shock overturning of the judges' 1st choice of James Sommerin, who is sweet enough to take it really well; guess people really don't like ravioli.

Great British Menu Starter: Kenny Atkinson for the North East

FISH COURSE

DSC00618
DSC00617
DSC00616

AND THE WINNING FISH COURSE IS:

Glynn Purnell with Masala Spiced Monkfish and Red Lentils with Pickled Carrots and Coconut

DSC00542

MAIN COURSE

DSC00622
DSC00621
DSC00620

AND THE WINNING MAIN COURSE IS:

Nigel Haworth with
Lonk Lamb Lancashire Hotpot, Pickled Red Cabbage, Carrots and Leeks

DSC00574

DESSERT

DSC00626
DSC00625
DSC00624

AND THE WINNING DESSERT IS:

Shaun Rankin with
Treacle Tart with Jersey Clotted Cream and Raspberry Ripple Ice Cream

DSC00601

So the Great British Menu for the 2009 Banquet reads as follows:

DSC00631
DSC00635
DSC00638
DSC00640
DSC00637

Many, many congratulations to Kenny, Glynn, Nigel and Shaun! Of course, I adore Glynn anyway, Nigel is the Daddy, and Shaun really deserved a break, but
I'm especially chuffed newbie Kenny won something as most of his dishes were really strong (and his starter and dessert were incredible looking).

Commiserations to the rest of the chefs (don't give up Tom and Danny!), but I'm sure they'll be drafted in to help on the big day (ooh, more army puns!)

DSC00633

Anyway, it's been emotional.

Thank you and good night.

DSC00587


All screencaps copyright BBC/Optomen, but created and edited by me - if you want to use them, please ask first and credit me - thanks :)