Weekend on a Plate

The weekend digested: Christmas controversy erupts over turkeys and Veganuary momentum builds

All the news, reviews and trends from December 14-15, including a fresh foie gras scandal and the pub operator mulling dark kitchens.

16 December 2019
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Food news

Are turkeys sold as fresh misleading consumers?

Allegations that supermarkets like M&S and Sainsbury’s are “conning the public” have arisen after it was revealed that turkeys being sold as fresh – and costing up to 72% more than frozen ones – were slaughtered last month and kept in ‘deep-chill warehouses.’ While the British Poultry Council says this is in line with EU regulations, others point out that the public is unlikely to be aware that this is the case, raising questions over whether the ‘fresh’ designation is misleading shoppers.

image credit: Getty Images

Foie gras investigation tarnishes industry

France’s already controversial foie gras industry has been tainted further by the revelation that one of the leading producers of the delicacy has been breaking the law. After a video showing ducklings slowly suffocating and starving to death inside plastic bags was posted online by animal rights group L214, the state veterinary services inspected the Domaine de la Peyrouse farm, confirming that the business was breaking regulations that require the immediate killing of unwanted ducklings. The video also appeared to show live ducks being sliced open and their livers removed, but this was not confirmed by the investigation.


Jackfruit tops more pizza NPD

Chicago Town will celebrate Veganuary 2020 by becoming the latest pizza brand to launch a jackfruit-based creation. Retailing for £3.50, in January, the Vegan Society-approved pizza will be topped with BBQ jackfruit, peppers, onions and dairy-free mozzarella, as well as coming with a tomato-stuffed crust. Tesco, Asda, and Iceland will all stock the frozen option from January.


Spare pub space could become dark kitchens

Pub operator NewRiver is considering plans to rent unwanted kitchen spaces to businesses like Deliveroo and McDonald’s, as the demand for so-called ‘dark kitchens’ continues to rise. Up to 100 locations have been identified as potential sites for this usage.


Brighton Pier goes vegan

A new plant-based kiosk named Veg Up Your Day will open on Brighton Pier early next year, replacing the existing doughnut booth. Dishes like fishless fish and chips, portobello mushroom burgers and hoisin mock duck are expected to appear on the menu, following trials at the neighbouring Palm Court restaurant.

Patisserie Valerie may trigger accounting reform

The UK’s accounting regulator is hoping to pass reforms that would place greater responsibility on company directors to ensure the books are in order. The move comes in the wake of scandals like the £94m Patisserie Valerie accounting black hole uncovered last year.


Caffe Nero acts to retain EU staff

Following the sweeping Conservative victory in the most recent general election, Caffe Nero has announced it will be running drop-in clinics for overseas staff that will help them fill in right-to-remain forms, as well as setting up an internal helpline to explain EU workers’ rights following Britain’s exit from the union.


Food trends

Six vegan Christmas centrepieces

London's Metro newspaper has picked its six favourite vegan Christmas meals. The list includes a vegan no beef Wellington and three nut and mushroom roast from Sainsbury's; a Christmas log made of sweet potato and red cabbage from Tesco; a vegetable tart with beetroot, butternut squash, cranberry and onion chutney from Morrisons; Waitrose’s carrot-based Root en Croute and Aldi’s chestnut mushroom and butternut squash wreath.

Vegan home cooking

Speaking of going vegan this Christmas, The Guardian has road-tested three meat-alternative recipes, as more supermarkets begin to offer vegan ingredients in addition to ready meals. However, neither the glazed tofu roast, nor the seitan-based vegan ham, nor the pre-prepared Field Roast Celebration Roast (also made of seitan) pass muster with the omnivore tasters, though the latter is most successful.


Nostalgia for classic chocolate bars

More restaurants are experimenting with desserts inspired by popular chocolate bars and other snacks, according to Stephen Harris, chef owner of The Sportsman pub, in his latest Telegraph column.


Food interviews

Steve Murrells, CEO of The Co-op Group

“Our food business’ outperformance of everybody else is very strong, but we have seen it drop off against our run rate in recent weeks,” Steve Murrells tells The Evening Standard, in a wide-ranging interview that takes in several aspects of The Co-op Group’s operations. While food sales have been a “little lacklustre” lately, the CEO is expecting a good Christmas performance.


Food reviews

Noto, Edinburgh EH2 1DY

Yuzu kosho, togarashi and katsuobushi suffuse the Asian-inflected menu at this casual eatery, which arrives by way of New York (“gorgeously faux-trashy” chicken and waffles are on the menu), according to Marina O'Loughlin. Eggs royale are made with Loch Etive trout, “hollandaise given tingly heat from the Korean chilli paste gochujang,” while the beef tartare is “given a bump via yuzu kosho, a paste made from the Japanese citrus and fiery chillies.”


Bluejay Café, London SE25 4PP

As part of musician Stormzy’s guest edit of The Observer, Jay Rayner pays a visit to the rapper’s favourite cafe, a neighbourhood Caribbean joint selling dishes like salt fish fritters and oxtail stew. Curry goat is an “earthy yellow, presumably from turmeric, and has a powerful kick of allspice and Scotch bonnet,” while jerk chicken is served in penne pasta.

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