It was the week that saw new twists and extremes in food sustainability and sourcing, and the price for Christmas food reached new dizzying heights.
A more positive side to squatting has been seen, after a couple in their twenties moved into an abandoned plant nursery near Heathrow airport and created a small community to grow and sell organic vegetables. They rely on wind turbines and solar panels for energy, and therefore have virtually no carbon footprint. Joe Blake and Reuben Taylor have named the scheme ‘Grow Heathrow’ and also put on workshops for the local community.
Supermarkets are to relax standards and sell ‘ugly’ vegetables for the first time after bad weather and flooding left many crops small and misshapen. Stores, including Sainsbury’s and Morrisons, are making the change in order to support struggling farmers. It’s a great development in food sustainability and waste issues, as previously farmers have been throwing away up to one fifth of their produce because it didn’t meet supermarket guidelines.
Swedish chef Daniel Berlin has taken food provenance to new heights, by only using produce that comes from Skane, his childhood hamlet in rural Sweden. The Swedish chef creates an exquisite 12-course tasting menu, and finishes by personally driving people back to their hotel. Berlin, who previously won the San Pellegrino Cooking Cup and is the rumoured heir to Rene Redzepi’s legacy, produces dishes such as steak tartare with smoked beetroot and marrow, and iced goat cream with blackberries and jam.
M&S has announced that for the first time in its history it will be opening storesat 12am on Christmas Eve morning in a bid to lure last minute shoppers. The chain will open over 160 stores across the UK at this early time joining a number of supermarkets who will have been trading around the clock in the build up to Christmas. The decision came after Chancellor George Osborne refused to allow large shops to extend Sunday opening hours on the 23rd of December, typically the busiest day of the year for food shopping.
Turkey, potatoes, Brussels sprouts and a handful of tangerines are on most people’s shopping lists this Christmas. But then chef Ben Spalding of Roganic isn’t most people. On his list this year you’ll find dry ice, caviar, truffles, Wagyu beef heart, gold leaf, a £37,000 bottle of Champagne that pre-dates World War One (served, naturally, in diamond-studded champagne flutes), a limited edition Japanese watermelon costing £2,600 and beans of coffee berries excreted by the Asian Palm Civet cat. Spalding has set himself the task of creating the world’s most expensive Christmas dinner, available for just one group of four for an eye-watering total of £125,000.
The World’s Most Expensive Mince Pie, Alistair Foster
Do Mr Kipling’s mince pies no longer quite cut the mustard? Well, The Salt Yard’s Executive Chef Ben Tish has created the country’s most expensive and most luxurious mince pie for charity- coming in at £3, 500. Decadent it may be, but Ben’s ingredients were carefully chosen to make the perfect tasting festive treat. Foie gras replaces the traditional beef suet for richness, whilst rare manuka honey, brandy-soaked goji berries and sherry-soaked mixed fruit add moisture and the necessary boozy touch. White truffle and white truffle essence balance the sweetness. The necessary accompaniment is a dollop of brandy butter, and a rare XIII cognac, that costs £800 a shot no less. For that final festive touch, Ben decorated the finished pie with gold leaf. The mince pie will be part of the mince pie raffle at Taste of Christmas, which opens today at Excel London.
Hazel Henbury and Alexandra Wardall