Cocktail Recipes, Spirits, and Local Bars

The World is Finally Getting a ‘Game of Thrones’-Themed Restaurant

The World is Finally Getting a ‘Game of Thrones’-Themed Restaurant

A ‘Game of Thrones’-themed three-day pop-up restaurant will be opening in London this Valentine’s Day weekend

On the menu: meat, mead, and murder (just kidding about that last one).

Brace yourselves: dinner is coming. That’s right, the world is finally getting a Game of Thrones-themed restaurant. The menu is being kept secret, but promises to be a “lavish five-course meal” not unlike a “private, clandestine meeting of the Small Council in King's Landing,” according to the Verge.

The pop-up banquet is in celebration of the release of the fourth season of Game of Thrones on DVD, and will likely be incredibly difficult to snag tickets for, especially since the experience is described as “intimate.” Indeed only 36 lucky people will experience the pop-up, and you can enter the competition to get a seat at the Westeros banquet table.

Feast organizers told NBC News to expect “a course on ‘the lies of Tyrion Lannister and his proclaimed innocence’ and a dish of poached veal tongue with beetroot, oldtown mustard, and horseradish,” along with lavish, themed cocktails.

A press representative for HBO ominously told The Verge that “hopefully there'll be no poisonings or suspicious deaths."


Smooth operator: 17 dreamy recipes with Guinness

I t has been a whole 12 months: St Patrick’s Day 2020 was one of the first celebrations to be widely cancelled because of Covid, leaving a lot of people with surplus Guinness and no one to drink it with. Who imagined we would be in the same situation a year on?

Clearly some people only drink Guinness on St Patrick’s Day. Pre-pandemic, an estimated average of 13m pints of the stuff were poured worldwide each year on 17 March. But if you once again find yourself with more Guinness than you know what to do with – and first and foremost, I suggest that you try simply drinking it – there are a number of recipes that employ the good Irish stout as a key ingredient. Here are 17 of the best for this 17 March.

Of all the many different dishes that make use of Guinness, approximately three-quarters are some version of stew. A traditional Irish stew is made with mutton, but it doesn’t usually have any beer in it. So here’s a beef and Guinness stew from Allegra McEvedy that fulfils the brief: carrots, onions, braising steak and horseradish dumplings.

Beef and Guinness pie. Photograph: Tim Hill/Alamy

Pies are also common, usually of the traditional steak variety, but using stout instead of ale. Rick Stein’s beef, Guinness and oyster pie adds shellfish to the mix. There’s a debate as to whether a pastry-lidded stew such as this one counts as a pie, and I intend to play no part in it. Meanwhile, this recipe for smoked baby back ribs comes directly from the Guinness website, which may explain while it tells you to use four cans of the stuff.

Matthew Fort’s sausages with onions and Guinness reminds us that stout is a very good thing to have on hand when you want to make gravy. Tamal Ray’s Guinness mac and cheese heretically contains no macaroni – he prefers rigatoni, or almost any other pasta – but it does have a welcome measure of Guinness (300ml) in the cheese sauce. This Guinness mushroom rarebit uses much the same tactic and James Martin’s non-French onion soup uses dark beer where you might normally add wine.

Guinness also figures in a surprising number of desserts, including Nigella Lawson’s chocolate Guinness cake and this fruity, St Patrick’s Day-specific cake from Colman Andrews, which uses stout instead of rum or whisky, although there’s nothing to stop you adding a splash of the latter as well.

Liam Charles’s nan’s coconut bread pudding. Photograph: Yuki Sugiura/The Guardian. Food: Valerie Berry. Food assistant: SongSoo Kim.

Liam Charles’s recipe for coconut bread pudding comes from his nan and is a hand-mixed combination of ripped up wholemeal bread, dried fruit, desiccated coconut, eggs, butter, sugar and Guinness. In spite of the Irish stout, this Guinness pecan pie is actually a US Thanksgiving recipe, with US ingredients (such as corn syrup) and measurements (such as “1½ sticks butter”), but don’t let that stop you. Substitute golden syrup for the corn syrup a stick and a half of butter comes out to 170g. As for the cups, do what I do: choose an average-to-generous mug, and eyeball the fractions.

There aren’t that many vegan Guinness recipes in spite of the fact that Guinness itself is vegan and has been since the brewery stopped using isinglass as a clarifying agent a few years back, having developed a new filtration process. Isinglass is made from dried fish swim bladders, which is generally something you only tell people after you’ve stopped using it. But here’s one for a vegan Irish stew in which the meat is replaced with a substitute called seitan, which can be bought jarred or tinned, or as a flour to make at home. The result may be vegan, but it certain isn’t gluten-free, because seitan is made from gluten.

This vegan Guinness cake from So Vegan and these Guinness triple chocolate brownies by Wallflower Kitchen are both dairy-free takes on desserts such as Nigella’s chocolate cake, although, inevitably, they contain alcohol. For the moment there is no other option: a zero-alcohol version of Guinness did briefly appear last autumn, before being quickly recalled due to potential microbiological contamination. Its reintroduction still awaits.

An Irish goodbye. Photograph: Dan Matthews

In the meantime, regular Guinness can also form the basis of a number of St Patrick’s day drinks. Black velvet – Guinness and champagne in equal measure – is famous, but among the lesser known cocktails is the St Patrick’s Day flip, which makes an excellent nutritional supplement for those whose diets happen to be deficient in both alcohol and condensed milk.

Finally we have a cocktail from Kieran Monteiro of Boma Restaurants called the Irish goodbye. It’s a shaken-not-stirred blend of Guinness, Irish whiskey, creme de cassis and lemon juice. The Irish goodbye may turn out be a drink not just to commemorate St Patrick, but also to commiserate over the Brexit-induced, ever-hardening border between these islands. Yeah, cheers for that. Same again.


[UPDATE] Game Of Thrones-Themed Oreos Are Finally Available, And Here's What They Look Like

It's happening. The Game of Thrones final season premiere is just two short weeks away, and Nabisco is officially debuting its line of GOT-themed Oreos four days prior. So, you'll have plenty of time to stock up ahead of your watch party.

The news first hit Instagram back in February, but when originally reported we knew little about the launch. "Yes, these are legit. The image is from a very reputable source. No, these are just normal Oreos in a redesigned package," @CandyHunting wrote. And they were correct. The limited-edition cookies, which will hit shelves on April 8, come in four designs inspired by the series including a dragon for Targaryens, wolf for the Starks, lion for the Lannisters, and a White Walker.

And while you don't have to restrict your snacking to one Great House, Oreo is encouraging fans to jump online and pledge their support to House Lannister, House Targaryen, House Stark, or The Night King. You can also tweet or post on Facebook with the hashtag #GameofCookies and #FortheThrone for a chance at winning free sweets.

ORIGINAL POST: February 25, 2019

According to popular food Instagram account @CandyHunting, Game of Thrones Oreos (and winter, of course) are coming. So if you needed something to console you about the series ending, this news is for you.

Alongside a somewhat grainy shot of the reported package design, the post promised: "Yes, these are legit. The image is from a very reputable source. No, these are just normal Oreos in a redesigned package. No, these are not exclusive to a particular store."

The caption continued: "Game of Thrones Oreos will be out sometime before the debut of the final season on April 14. I really want to see these built up in the opening sequence. Winterfell, King's Landing, Oreo package, the Wall. Or maybe Daenerys munching on some Oreos while riding Drogon."

The new Nabisco collaboration&mdashwhich will supposedly include the dark GOT-inspired packaging, house names, and all&mdashis not the first promotional push in honor of the series' return. It looks to be a part of the show's continued #ForTheThrone campaign, as they've already teamed up with Urban Decay for a show-themed line and with Bud Light for a Super Bowl commercial.

And while we don't know exactly when the Oreos will be hitting shelves, it's definitely before GOT's April 14 return. So if there's any good news here, it looks like we can start planning our premiere party menu.


Emu Eggs Are Crazy-Looking And They Might Be The Next Big Thing

Emus are the second-largest living bird in the world, after the ostrich. They can grow up to six and a half feet tall. Often confused with ostriches, emus are found in Australia, while ostriches are native to Africa. Both birds are part of the ratite family, a group of birds who can't fly. In recent years, both emu and ostrich eggs have been turning up in grocery stores and restaurants in the U.S., and it looks like the emu egg may finally be having its moment.

New York City chef David Santos of Louro, a restaurant in the West Village, has been getting some attention recently for the emu eggs he offers on his menu. An emu egg at Louro, soft-scrambled and served with wild mushrooms and black truffle, serves two to six people and goes for $90. You don't have to go to Louro to find emu eggs, however. According to the New York Post, emu eggs are sometimes available at Whole Foods for $29.99 each, and they're very popular at the farmers markets that sell them. Other high-end restaurants have been putting the eggs on their menus as well. Wylie Dufresne's WD-50 at one point featured an emu egg fondue, and Blue Hill has offered an emu egg pasta.

A $30 egg at the grocery store or $90 egg dish at a restaurant sounds pretty outrageous (or just right for NYC prices, depending on how you look at it), but emu eggs aren't just any ordinary chicken egg.

First of all, one emu egg weighs about two pounds, or the equivalent of roughly 12 chicken eggs. “It’s kind of like a kitschy delicacy … It was like a pterodactyl egg. It was huge!” a diner at Louro told the New York Post.

Size, however, isn't the only trait that sets emu eggs apart. Their stunning, emerald color makes them one of the most striking eggs on the planet. The blue-green hue is for camouflage, Lou Braxton of Roaming Acres Farm, an ostrich farm in New Jersey, told CBS. Emus lay their eggs in the grass and the color keeps them hidden from other animals.

Of course, emu eggs also taste good, otherwise they wouldn't be making such a splash in the culinary world. One diner at Louro described the egg as "very rich and very decadent.” Its texture is more similar to a duck egg than a chicken egg, Braxton of Roaming Acres Farm told CBS.

While diners may still be warming up to the emu egg (and its $90 price tag), Chef Santos may have just the right tactic to turn it into a full-blown trend. On two nights this April he hosted a "Game of Thrones"-themed supper club at Louro that featured dishes inspired by the show. Emu eggs made the perfect dragon eggs.

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This Woman Spent $400 On A Game Of Thrones Themed Dinner

If you’re a Game of Thrones fan you’ll know that we’ve all been eagerly waiting with bated breath for Season 7. First, they cut down on the number of episodes per season, then they pushed the release date by almost 3 months (pretty much a lifetime in GoT years).

There was much joy and celebration when the theme song finally played on our screen. In fact, many held elaborate celebrations to welcome the series back into our lives. However, none did it quite so well as Kate Santichen.

Kate started watching GoT two years ago when her boyfriend suggested that she start watching it. In her own words “halfway through the first episode, and my first of two bowls of lamb stew, I was hooked on both the show and his cooking.”

“Marcus is a huge fan of the books, and he’s thrown a Game of Thrones premiere party each year since the series debuted. He spends days planning, shopping and cooking recipes from the official Game of Thrones cookbook, A Feast of Ice and Fire.”

This year was different though, Kate and Marcus created an entire meal inspired by each of the Seven Kingdoms with ‘Dornish Snake’ even being featured on the menu. They even hired a calligrapher for the occasion and figured out where to find freeze dried locusts – no mean feat!

Kate’s entire menu cost about $400, so by no means was this a feast the Frey’s would have thrown. You can see the entire break down of the meal here. Check out the feast below!


Décor

Bring a taste of Winterfell to your apartment with some basic GOT-terminology.

The host used these custom Game of Thrones fold-up banners to set the general House of Stark vibes for the party.

Next on the list: commemorating everyone’s favorite lovable giant with more worded-decor. This “Hold The Door” banner calls back to season six, when we learned about Hodor’s true origins.

Give your guest of honor the seat they deserve. Craft your own iron throne from with paper, spray paint, and a whole lot of glue. Add some gold streamers to give your throne the royal treatment it deserves.


It Took a Global Pandemic, But Generation X is Finally Getting Love

Generation X has been training for this moment its entire lives. It's their time to shine.

Long lines don't bother Gen Xers.

Product shot of a Pet Rock, displayed with its own carrying case. (Photo by Al Freni/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)

The original generation of "gamers" we have a high tolerance for boredom.

We ate entire boxes of cereal just to get to the prize inside.

T he Baby Boomers were born to the Greatest Generation. They have changed nearly every aspect of society ― by their sheer numbers and their dominant influence. And Millennials have captivated attention for the past two decades ― they demand to be seen and heard.

But there’s something missing — that forgotten generation, sandwiched in between the Boomers and Millennials.

What are they called again? Anyone, anyone? Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?!

A few months ago when the phrase “OK Boomer” really took off, my own teenagers tried a few times to pin it on me. In an attempt to completely dismiss me, they would laugh and say “OK Boomer” with that presumptuous eyeroll.

Those cherubs got a quick lesson in the wonders of being a Gen Xer.

There are roughly 65 million of us ― but we are easy enough to overlook. Generation X is generally accepted to have been born in that sliver of time between 1965 and 1980. What my teens didn’t know was that my entire generation has been dismissed from day one, and what’s more we don’t really care.

It seems that it has taken a global pandemic for anyone to sing our praises ― to even call us by name. All of the sudden folks are impressed by our remarkable resilience, our ability to entertain ourselves for hours on end and our willingness to shelter in place without whining.

All hail the forgotten generation ― we’re finally getting the recognition that we deserve.

Gen X folks can actually thrive on solitude and enjoy their downtime, due to our advanced tolerance for boredom. We spent untold hours alone in our homes after school, fending for ourselves, living off Ding-Dongs and macaroni and cheese, as the first generation of latchkey kids.

Social isolation is not only tolerable for us, Gen X requires a regular dose of it to recharge our batteries. So while you might already be flipping out, we are basking in the down time.

We once focused all our attention on making mix tapes. Some of our best products took the entire weekend to create. Now that’s dedication. My first stereo had an 8-track player as well as dual cassettes for just that purpose. In fact, music and fashion are what really bind us together. Our music, while overly synthesized, remains gloriously unfaded. Our fashion choices, however, were tragic and I’m not going to make any excuses for those.

Generation Xers are generally pragmatic, independent and resourceful. We don’t require a lot of hand holding. As Cold War kiddos, our duck and cover drills had more purpose. They were not only to prepare for a possibility of a tornado ― we also needed to identify our nearest nuclear fallout shelter. . . you know, just in case.

Waiting in lines is no problem for us. We spent plenty of time chillin’ in the back of a station wagon or suburban (long before seat belt laws went into effect), waiting in those endless gas lines with our parents in the late-seventies. We queued up in lines that snaked through parking lots, and around buildings, just to score tickets to Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back.

Gen Xers have limited expectations too. We were completely satisfied to play with our Pet Rocks (which was literally just a rock), or the world’s first video game, Pong (literally a dot on the screen, moving between two cursors). The first generation of “gamers” we cut our teeth on joystick games like Frogger, Pac Man and Galaga. In other words, we are pretty easily entertained.

Product shot of a Pet Rock, displayed with its own carrying case. (Photo by Al Freni/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)

We took Polaroid pictures and waved them in the air while we patiently waited for them to develop. Our mood ring always read relaxed. Our Magic 8-ball always replied “don’t count on it” ― and so we didn’t.

There were only about three hours of television programming devoted to us, and if you missed it. . . you simply missed it for the week. Generation X was firmly planted in front of the television for The Bugs Bunny Road Runner Hour every Saturday morning, followed by The Wonderful World of Disney and Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom every Sunday night. Beyond that we had to make do with 1960s reruns of Scooby Doo, Speed Racer, Gilligan’s Island, Bewitched and I Dream of Jeanie. But, you never heard us complain.

Gen Xers were mesmerized when MTV launched. We pretty much watched “Video Killed the Radio Star” on a loop for months without blinking, and were never annoyed.

In the build up to the current coronavirus pandemic stay at home directives, while you were busy getting in fist fights over toilet paper and bread, Gen X shoppers were quietly stocking up on Pop Tarts, SpaghettiOs and powdered drink mixes. We’ll be just fine. We used to eat entire boxes of sugary cereal, just to get to the prize at the bottom.

So when faced with the prospect of sheltering in place for an unspecified number of weeks, Generation X knows for sure that we got this. Heck, we’ve been training for a moment like this all our lives.

It might feel like “the end of the world as we know it” ― but Generation X feels fine. We have instantly become our nation’s unsung heroes. So watch and learn people, watch and learn.


How the Lost Kitchen, one of the nation’s hardest-to-book restaurants, survived a lost year

FREEDOM, Maine — It’s midway through the six-course dinner at one of the nation’s hardest-to-book restaurants, the Lost Kitchen. On this chilly night in October 2019, Erin French comes out of the open kitchen into the rustic dining room and, in keeping with the restaurant’s convivial atmosphere, greets her guests with a toast.

“No one grows celery around here,” the chef and owner tells the 48 diners seated inside the old mill building in this tiny town. “It uses too much water. My friend grew it because she didn’t know better, and we are lucky enough to have harvested it this morning so I could make you a celery and leek soup with smoked ricotta, sweet crab and brown butter.” The dining room moans in anticipation. “I’m so happy you are all here for the final dinner of the 2019 season,” she says, with a sudden choke in her voice. Her eyes turn moist, and she dabs at them. “Oh no, I think I’m getting really emotional, and I don’t even know why.”

French couldn’t have known that this would be the last indoor dinner at the Lost Kitchen for a year and a half and counting. Certainly no one knew that just a few months later, a pandemic would shut down the restaurant and much of the world. But French says she had a premonition of sorts. “There was just something that felt final, like it really was the last dinner,” she recalls.

To keep the Lost Kitchen going in the covid era, French — along with her husband, Michael Dutton, and the team of women that run the restaurant — scrambled to replace lost revenue, like so many others have been forced to do.

In 2020, they created a farmers market, an online store featuring Maine goods and an outdoor dining space for small lunches and dinners, and they began building tiny cabins in the woods for private dinners and overnights. As if that weren’t enough to keep her occupied, French’s memoir, “Finding Freedom” (Celadon Books, $28) will be published April 6, on the heels of a six-episode television series, “The Lost Kitchen,” released in late January and available on Discovery Plus.

“There isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t feel over-the-top thankful,” French said in a recent Zoom interview. Wearing a checkered flannel shirt, her hair up in a casual ponytail, she sat next to Dutton, also in flannel, surrounded by towers of boxes ready to be shipped to customers from their online store. In a lengthy conversation, French recounted the stamina and effort it took to keep the business alive.

“I never imagined all these things that we would be forced to do that would create something beautiful,” French says. “When covid hit, everything was changing so rapidly, and we had to keep figuring out how to keep the staff and clients safe. Maybe it’s the Mainer in me: The way my grandparents taught me, there is just no giving up. You have a hard time. You just have to keep finding ways to reinvent yourself. Get scrappy. Go deep. I’ve done it before.”

Indeed she has. The restaurant’s huge success — it takes reservation requests only by notecard, and receives more than 20,000 a year — didn’t come easy.

As she describes in her memoir, French originally started the Lost Kitchen in Belfast, Maine, with her first husband. After a contentious divorce, she lost the restaurant and eventually reinvented herself by cooking out of an Airstream, driving around mid-coast Maine doing pop-up dinners in local barns, fruit orchards and farms. When she heard the crumbling old mill building in Freedom was going to be renovated, she decided to take a chance, against all the odds.

“Starting over from the beginning and building a restaurant from the ground up — in the middle of nowhere, no less — was a daunting task to consider,” she writes. “I was a woman in a male-dominated industry with no culinary degree and a tattered past. … I took donated pots and pans and old stand mixers that people didn’t want.”

“Finding Freedom” tells the harrowing tale of that “tattered past”: her troubled first marriage the bitter custody battle for her son, Jaim and her struggles with depression and addiction to alcohol and prescription drugs. When asked why she feels compelled to tell this dark story now, in the middle of a pandemic, she pauses.

“I hadn’t really processed all of this and put some things to bed,” she says. “Even if I was just writing this memoir for myself, putting it all down on paper to be done with it, I thought maybe I could feel a little lighter. When I was in the darkest depths, I had a hard time finding the light, and there were moments when I could have ended it all. I recognized that there are people out there who are fighting the same demons … addiction, being a single mom, trying to find good work, tough marriages. All of these people struggling who may not be able to see the light on the other side. I guess I wrote the book for them, to maybe help at least one person to keep on going.”

Initially, the television show was meant to focus on one May-through-October season in the life of the Lost Kitchen and zoom in on French’s relationship with mid-coast Maine farmers and fishermen.

She says she and Dutton, a media executive, “never wanted to do a TV show just to be on TV.” But when Dutton was approached by Joanna and Chip Gaines’s new Magnolia Network, they saw an opportunity. “There is such a mystique about the Lost Kitchen,” Dutton says. “We wanted to lift the veil and share this special place with all the people that can’t get in.”

The production crew was there for that October 2019 dinner, just months before the pandemic rewrote the show’s narrative, says Dutton, executive producer of the series. “Some people have said, ‘Hey, maybe you guys got lucky with this emotional story. Maybe covid gave you a far more dramatic, challenging story to tell.’ ”

Donning a mask and maintaining social distance, French visits a local farm for peaches, climbs onto a fishing boat with Dave Cheney of Johns River Oyster to learn about local shellfish, and then harvests last-of-the-season heirloom apples from a friend’s orchard for an all-apple dinner.

But we also witness French struggling to find a safe way to welcome guests back to the restaurant. Outdoor lunches, which began in July, are abruptly canceled when a tearful French explains that someone on staff came into contact with a person who received a positive coronavirus test. (It turned out to be a false positive, and lunch quickly resumed.) Their first outdoor dinner wasn’t served until mid-August, halfway through the restaurant’s normal summer season. The cabins were still being built in 2020 and had yet to bring in any income. In all, revenue was down 86 percent.

“We almost lost the entire year, and yet we still weren’t willing to stop trying to figure something out,” says French. Thanks to a combination of a federal Paycheck Protection Program loan and a state grant, they were able to keep their entire 13-person staff on the payroll.

Throughout the memoir and the television series, French strives to get everything just so, even during the struggles to keep the restaurant afloat. She repeatedly uses the word “perfect” to describe the flavors she’s seeking, the “feeling” she wants to give diners, the look of the cabins they are designing in the woods. Asked if she thinks she’s a perfectionist, French laughs. “I’m the kind of person who is always perfectly imperfect,” she replies. “It’s a feeling I’m after in everything I do. I have a very clear vision, and when I look at something or taste something, I just know when it’s there, when it’s just right.”

Despite her success running one of the country’s most sought-after restaurants, French is embarrassed when people call her “chef,” since she never received formal culinary training. “It feels like a title I never earned,” she says. “It’s like calling me ‘doctor’ when I didn’t go to medical school.” And in a reference to the teen physician on the 1990s TV show, she adds, “I feel like I’m playing Doogie Howser.”

French learned to love food and cooking at home and at the small diner her father owned in Freedom. In “Finding Freedom,” she writes, “From the very first day I ever set foot in the place, that little diner on the ridge had burrowed its way into my heart. It made me start to see the world differently. … It was a way to care for people — something that struck at the core of who I was and what drove me.”

When she was young, French washed dishes and cleaned up, and eventually ran the line, churning out plates of fried eggs, home fries, bacon, fried scallops and onion rings. Sometimes she would gather edible flowers from the family garden and add them to the plates, trying to create food that not only tasted good but was also beautiful.


Melting pot: 17 delicious, warming stews – from a Moroccan fish dish to Persian lamb

S tew doesn’t have a poor reputation so much as bad branding. The name itself has an aura of disappointment about it, especially the way my children repeated it back to me, after they asked what we were having and I told them. “Stew!” they would say, with heavy emphasis on the “Ew!” It probably doesn’t help that “stew” shares an etymological source with the word typhus.

It is perhaps for that reason that we are often drawn to more exotic names for what is essentially the same idea: tagine, ragout, daube. But a basic, unfussy, slow-cooked stew can rival any of these, as Felicity Cloake’s perfect beef stew demonstrates. As with most beef stew recipes, this one begins with browning the meat on all sides, in batches, and then removing it before adding anything else.

Lancashire Hot Pot, a long slow casserole of lamb, onions and finely sliced potato. Photograph: Getty Images/Monkey Business

Browning brings about a chemical reaction called the Maillard reaction, producing new flavour compounds from the lightly charred proteins and carbohydrates. It’s considered a vital part of the process by most cooks, and totally unnecessary by a heretical few. I brown the meat most of the time out of habit, but the idea of not bothering – and it not making a blind bit of difference – certainly appeals to me.

Andy the gasman’s stew – created by Jamie Oliver for a mate who was reluctant to cook because he thought using his oven would devalue his house – is one of the great no-browning recipes: you chuck everything in – veg, lamb, chickpeas, spices – swish it around on a high heat for a minute, then shove it in the oven for either three hours (at 180ºC/350ºF/gas 4) or six hours (at 140ºC/275ºF/gas 1) depending on that day’s diary.

Lancashire hot pot is another – even simpler – dish to put in the oven and forget about. In Nigel Slater’s version, the lamb (best end of neck chops, cut into chunks) forms the bottom layer of a heavy casserole pot. Onions come next, followed by a topping of thinly sliced, neatly overlapping potatoes. It needs about two and a half hours cooking time, but requires very little else from you in the way of input.

Anna Jones’s root vegetable stew with celeriac dumplings. Photograph: Matt Russell/The Guardian

Welsh cawl also skips the tiresome browning stage. This not-quite-traditional take from chef Tommy Heaney owes a debt to Irish stew, and brings carrots, leeks and swede to the mix. For novelty, a slightly odd muffin-topped winter beef stew comes with a sort of cheesy dumpling lid, with the dough spooned over the top for the last 15 minutes of cooking time.

Sometimes the slow cooking most stews call for just isn’t convenient, no matter how little effort is involved. Slater has an easy recipe for sausage and mushroom stew that will be ready to eat in about half an hour. It was originally intended to use up leftover Christmas cocktail sausages, but don’t let that stop you.

Spiced lamb shank stew from Berenjak, a Persian restaurant in Soho, London. Photograph: Lizzie Mayson/The Guardian

If you are looking for a broader frame of inspiration, start with a daube de boeuf Provencale, which includes such continental additions as garlic, orange peel, red wine, thyme and a garnish with capers in it, but is otherwise as basic as anything above. This Persian spiced lamb shank stew, from Kian Samyani, chef at Berenjak in Soho, London, will require you to seek out some dried limes, but you probably have everything else (turmeric, kidney beans) in your store cupboard. It’s an ideal dish for two because lamb shanks take up a lot of room. Try cooking it for six and you’ll end up using a pot that won’t fit in your oven.

Perhaps the easiest way to avoid browning meat is not to include any in the first place. Cloake’s perfect vegetarian tagine contains winter squash, baby turnips and prunes. Meera Sodha’s vegan recipe for rose harissa chickpea stew with burnt chard serves as a late vindication for any of us who have burned chard by accident: somewhere, people are doing it on purpose. And her fasoulia, an Iraqi white bean stew should be admired for the sheer economy of its ingredients list: tinned cannellini beans, tinned tomatoes, onions, a few spices and a lemon.

Caldereta de pescado y marisco, a fishy treat from Michelin-starred chef Nieves Barragán Mohacho. Photograph: David Loftus/The Observer

Here are two more vegetarian stews from Anna Jones: a root vegetable dish with celeriac dumplings, and a Greek potato yahni with tomatoes, olives, parsley and feta. Thomasina Miers’ courgette, mint and butter bean stew may sound a bit summery, but everything you need is available all year round, so don’t wait: at this rate summer may never get here.

Miers also does a Moroccan fish stew, reminding us that seafood stews are the very opposite of slow cooking – the vegetables are softened, the liquid goes in and the fish is added at the last minute. Cooking times are best measured in seconds.

For Nathan Outlaw’s fishmas stew, even the marinated seafood only takes an hour in the fridge. Like Slater’s sausage stew, this is technically holiday fare, but if you have squid, scallops and mussels, you are already celebrating something. Finally this Spanish variation (caldereta de pescado y marisco) from Michelin-starred chef Nieves Barragán Mohacho is almost too elegant to go by the name stew. It’s not difficult to make but can run to serious money, containing as it does langoustines, prawns, monkfish, mullet, cod and four distinct types of booze: white wine, manzanilla, Spanish brandy and pastis. This is definitely one to order for your last meal, if only to annoy your jailers.


A restaurant refresher course: how do I behave in one?

‘Restaurants are magical, and the world has felt like a barren, dystopian landscape without them’ – finally, it’s time to head back to the likes of Littlefrench in Bristol. Photograph: Emli Bendixen/The Guardian

‘Restaurants are magical, and the world has felt like a barren, dystopian landscape without them’ – finally, it’s time to head back to the likes of Littlefrench in Bristol. Photograph: Emli Bendixen/The Guardian

As 12 April nears, it may be time to have a refresher course on restaurants. It’s been a long old while. What, actually, is a restaurant, and how do I behave in one?

A restaurant is a place that isn’t your home where you can eat dinner. It’s someone else’s home, in a sense, because it’s run by a dysfunctional family who live there practically 24/7. Let’s call them “the staff”. Exactly as in your own home, the arguments are constant, everyone has a slightly cruel nickname and the flush handle in the toilet is broken once a month.

Due to a considerable amount of smoke and mirrors – officially known as hospitality – the customers rarely detect this. In fact, from the moment you sweep past the maître d’s desk into a restaurant in mid-service, everything about the rotten, outside world should feel perceptibly nicer. Have a seat, rest your feet, let a smiling face bring you a bowl of spaghetti alle vongole and a cold glass of picpoul. How about a slice of moist orange polenta cake and a small glass of moscato d’Asti? See? Isn’t the world more affable now? Haven’t these simple, kind, emotionally nourishing acts transformed your psyche? This is why restaurants are magical, and why the world has felt like a barren, dystopian landscape without them.

Yes, I’m being dramatic, but did I mention the washing-up? Did I say that, after the chef and servers have worked actual, tangible magic, all the ferrying of plates, machine-loading, washing and stacking is somebody else’s woe. These heroes – the kitchen porters – will still be scraping plates at 11pm, long after you’re back on your sofa, wearing track pants and with your hands cradled over your satisfyingly full belly. It’s around about now that the restaurant manager will realise that his mixologist has impregnated the pastry chef and done a runner with the cash float, and that a mysterious customer has blocked the bathroom sink with paper towels, which will require calling out a 24-hour plumber. It’s worth remembering this when you’re charged £21 plus service for the spaghetti vongole. There’s more going on behind the scenes than the pasta.

Now that we’ve covered what a restaurant is, we should also cover what it isn’t. A restaurant is not a creche, unless you are roped off at the back of a Hungry Horse fun pub, where some level of screaming, running around and soiling yourself is de rigueur. A restaurant is not a magical sticking plaster over your terrible relationship. None of us wants to eat downwind of you sulking and hissing about that time he “liked Tina’s Instagram bikini photos, and she knows what she’s up to. Well, you can have her!” A restaurant isn’t a TikTok backdrop so, please, no standing on the seats for an aerial shot of your onion rings.

A restaurant isn’t a back-up plan if your other plans fall through, either. Unreserved space is as scarce as hen’s teeth right now, and this summer all no-shows will be punished for eternity in the afterlife by Satan himself playing Show Me Love by Robin S on a very out-of-tune accordion. You have been warned.

A restaurant is not your own home: if you have booked a table for a 20-person birthday party, then no, you cannot bring your own cake. Or have the screaming abdabs on TripAdvisor if you’re charged a fee for doing so. The manager needs the cash to pay for an advert for a new mixologist. Do not tell the staff you could cook this cheaper and better at home. You probably cannot, and anyway, life is far too short to make your own fondant potatoes. No one over the age of 45 throws dinner parties, because by that stage of life, you should have realised that this involves a full day of shopping, prepping and cooking, followed by a tiny bit of eating, then four hours of your guests droning on about buy-to-let mortgages.

There’s none of that nonsense at a wonderful, magical, heavenly restaurant. You eat, you pay, you leave in a taxi, envisaging a glorious time, mere moments away, when you can loosen your bra and get horizontal. So, to sum up: show up on time, be nice, tip your server. Restaurants are open for business, and by gosh we’ve missed them. We won’t take them for granted again.


Watch the video: Ο Κόσμος Ανάποδα - 22062014 (October 2021).