Weekend on a Plate

The weekend digested: chocolate melts while fried chicken sizzles

The news, reviews and trends from August 18-19, including the plastic tax set to hit manufacturers in the autumn and shocking new food waste figures.

20 August 2018
chefschocolatefood wasteplasticpoultryrestaurant openingvegetables

Food news

Chocolate crunch

Thorntons is hoping to turn around its ailing fortunes by investing more in the supermarket sector. Revenues for the chocolatier were down more than a quarter last year to £140m, according to the Telegraph, with losses more than doubling to £37.5m. New owner Ferrero has been slimming down the Thorntons estate, closing shops while building the supermarket business.

 

What a waste

Around a third of produce grown on British farms is discarded, according to new research from the University of Edinburgh, principally because it does not conform to aesthetic standards. That waste is responsible for nearly 1,000 kilotons of greenhouse gas emissions. The Sunday Times argues that this is partly due to an EU regulation that places emphasis on the appearance of fruit and vegetables rather than nutritional value, and that Brexit would provide an opportunity to benefit farmers financially as well as lessen food poverty. Supermarkets like Tesco, Asda, Aldi, Lidl and Morrisons already sell so-called ‘wonky veg’ in order to counteract the problem, while a number of them also contribute to charity programmes designed to redistribute unsold food.

 

Finger lickin’ good

Burgers may be the world’s number-one fast food, but fried chicken is a much faster growing market, notes the Guardian, which highlights that KFC’s appalling logistical blunders (which led to 646 out of 900 UK outlets closing temporarily because they had no chicken) caused a social media outpouring that evidenced just how many Brits dine regularly at the fast-food chain. Smaller operations with fried chicken are appealing to younger diners, including Chick ‘n’ Sours and Bird, while KFC has used social media to launch “a number of hyperbolic products,” including the chizza (a pineapple and ham pizza with a deep-fried chicken base in place of dough) and a croque monsieur with deep-fried chicken replacing bread. However, the article also argues that brands like KFC need to keep one eye on the trend for meat-free meals if they want to continue to remain on the menu.

image credit: bhofack2/Getty Images

Taxing plastic at point of production

Manufacturers are going to be on the end of new taxes this autumn, reports the Times, with Chancellor Philip Hammond set to penalise companies that produce single-use plastics. Previous suggestions to tax coffee cups and takeaway boxes, which would have targeted consumers, have been ditched in favour of plans to address the problem at the point of production. “Manufacturers should be forced to pay the highest possible rate of tax to account for the damage they cause,” said Samantha Harding, litter programme director at the Campaign to Protect Rural England, while Sian Sutherland, co-founder of A Plastic Planet, noted: “We must incentivise those brands that are going plastic free. Those who continue to use plastic must be taxed heavily.”

 

Hot potatoes

In more news out of Scotland this weekend, scientists at the James Hutton Institute have discovered a way to counteract the harmful effect of high temperatures on potato crops – which may be essential if British summers continue to reach records highs on the thermometer. The researchers “identified a heat-resistant gene after analysing a potato version of the human genome in a search for genetic features that help potatoes to grow in hotter, drier conditions,” reports the Sunday Times, adding that the wild Mexican potato variety could be grown commercially in Scotland within five to 10 years if trials are successful.

image credit: YelenaYemchuk/Getty Images

Turning infertile land into a biodynamic haven

Skye Gyngell and a team of farmers and chefs are turning the infertile land around Heckfield Place into a biodynamic wonderland. The Hampshire hotel opens its doors next month and boasts Gyngell as its culinary director, creating dishes like fig-leaf stracciatella. The Telegraph digs into how the nutrient-impoverished grounds have been revitalised.

 

Food interview

Tomos Parry, chef-founder of Brat

Tomos Parry is the UK’s hottest chef, according to the Observer, which talks to the 32-year-old about his broadly Basque methodology, taking cues from pinxtos bars in San Sebastian and perfecting the perfectly grilled turbot that gives his Shoreditch restaurant its name.

 

Food reviews

Stem, London W1B 2LF

Shelled Cornish mussels on a reduction with slices of raw cauliflower and buttery cabbage; poached chicken breast with chargrilled baby leeks; risotto made with pearl barley and piled with mushrooms that have been lightly fermented – this is the stuff of which Stem is made of, writes Jay Rayner, who is delighted to find not just good food but a reasonably priced menu, courtesy of Mark Jarvis (founder of Anglo and Neo Bistro) and Sam Ashton-Booth (former head chef at Story).

image credit: Stem

Pique-Nique, London SE1 3LD

Things have improved dramatically at this French affair since Marina O’Loughlin last visited it, though it’s still “never going to be anything other than a funny little joint where you might end up on the wretched communal table.” If you can risk such savagery, however, dine on the seiche carbonara: “ribbons of cuttlefish tenderised and, to the eye, indistinguishable from tagliatelle. To the tooth, there’s more elastic resistance; on the tongue, a tiny suggestion of the sea.”

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