Weekend on a Plate

The weekend digested: listeria outbreak prompts NHS overhaul and using whey for energy

The news, reviews and trends from June 15-16, including the latest on gut health and a taste of Nathan Outlaw’s new restaurant.

17 June 2019
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Food news

Listeria outbreak prompts NHS overhaul

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has called for “a radical new approach to the food that is served in our NHS,” following five confirmed deaths linked to listeria infections. These fatalities have been linked to the consumption of sandwiches and salads supplied by The Good Food Chain, which has voluntarily ceased production in the wake of the investigation, writes The Guardian. While this is expected to prevent further exposure, due to the long incubation period of listeria it is still possible that more cases will be identified. The Good Food Chain supplied products to 43 NHS trusts across the UK.


Patisserie Valerie’s desperate cost-cutting measures

As the dust settles around the Patisserie Valerie fiasco, The Sunday Telegraph analyses the signs that things were in bad shape with Matt Scaife, a partner at turnaround fund Causeway Capital, which recently snapped up the bakery chain for a mere £5m. The paper reveals that the company had removed butter from puff pastries to try and save money, while ovens were left broken for months, creditors went unpaid and one location in Birmingham operated with a hole in its roof. Patisserie Valerie was also running without a head of safety, according to Scaife, who notes that the company had 37 different menus offering 800 different products – this will shrink to two menus with 150 items from July 3.


Cheese leftovers to power 4,000 homes

Food Spark has previously talked about ways to turn waste whey into new dishes, but it can also be used to create energy. That’s the plan for the leftovers from the Wensleydale Creamery, which has agreed a deal to supply the byproduct from its cheese manufacture to a bioenergy plant, which will use the process of anaerobic digestion to turn it into enough energy to heat 4,000 homes. “The project helps tackle a triple sustainability challenge for the UK by shrinking the carbon footprint of energy and reducing waste while helping to develop sustainable farming practices,” reports The Guardian.

image credit: Getty Images

Bighams falls from profit to loss

Ready meal maker Bighams suffered a pre-tax loss of £1.8m in the year to the end of August 2018, largely due to higher food prices and the cost of a new kitchen, reports The Sunday Times. This dip came despite record sales, which rose 19% to £59m. Bighams made £4.1m profit the year before.


French cooks opt for robotic aides

Robot chefs are all the rage in France, according to The Times, which notes that the desire for sophisticated machines that can help prepare food has been developing over the past five years. The trend was brought into focus by Lidl’s release this month of Monsieur Cuisine Connect, a low-cost device that sold tens of thousands in 10 days. The sales were reportedly fuelled by lower middle-class cooks aiming to emulate the wealthy, who splash out at least €1,000 on more upmarket robot chef models.


Pod shareholders vote on the chain’s future

Healthy food chain Pod "faces oblivion," writes The Sunday Times, as the brand teeters on the verge of administration. Later today, shareholders must decide whether to accept a £2.7m bid for the business tendered by the Azzurri Group. This deal would effectively wipe out more than 100 investors, who would receive just 5p for shares that cost them up to £6. The alternative, however, is likely dissolution. Pod’s directors have been accused of awarding themselves enormous salaries and bonuses even as the business struggled, simultaneously making “a series of strategic blunders.”

image credit: Pod

Nathan Outlaw’s Siren call

“I just want to create a busy restaurant where people have good fun, and eat the best fish they’ve ever tasted,” says Nathan Outlaw of his brand-new venture, Siren, located inside the Goring hotel. Talking to The Telegraph, the Michelin-starred chef explains that his latest endeavour will focus on carefully sourced seafood from the south-west coast, drawing on the same blueprint that has made Outlaw’s Cornwall eateries such successes.


Food trends

Gut health and the microbiome

The Telegraph dives into the microbiome and how gut health can affect everything from mental health to cancer prevention – though the exact mechanisms of how it does this remain a topic of great debate. Diversity is key, with some diets encouraging consumers to eat 50 different kinds of food in seven days to breed a broad range of bacteria. The article also touts 10 foods as particularly good for the gut: goat’s milk kefir, kimchi, artichokes, garlic, sauerkraut, brown rice, beans, oats, kombucha and wild salmon.

Food reviews

Lucknow 49, London W1S 2PQ

Raan masala is the star dish at this Indian restaurant, according to Jay Rayner, who praises the lamb – cooked over several hours till it is almost ready to fall off the bone into the rich, dark sauce – as a “boisterous bit of overtly butch cookery.” In a mixed review, the food critic also praises the double lamb chops cooked over charcoal as “big, meaty beasts, with a fine char, hot, crisped fat, and the rising scent of newly roasted spices,” but notes that the quail dish is overwhelmed by “stridently spiced sauce,” while the goat biryani is dismissed as “dry and meagre.”


Hjem, Northumberland NE46 4EE

“This is food to make you beam with delighted surprise,” writes Marina O’Loughlin of this restaurant, situated within The Hadrian Hotel. Opting for a 12-course tasting menu, she bites into everything from “glassy-crisp chicken skin sandwiching smoked cod’s head” to “cabbage leaves with slivered mussels and a bouquet of edible flowers.” Part of Britain’s ‘new northern’ vibe, the food is dubbed “exciting and wildly creative,” epitomised by the heritage potatoes served with frozen butter and blackcurrant leaves, “a homage to simplicity and the beauty of the Northumberland… terroir.”

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