The Anti-diet: Pop

Posted in: Uncategorized

I’m afraid there’s no easy way to say this: fizzy drinks may in fact be the work of Satan. A 500ml bottle contains over 200 calories and a whopping 53g of sugar. That’s basically 60% of your GDA for sugar. 60%! Diet drinks fare temptingly better on the face of it: Coke Zero has as the name suggests, well, zero calories. But there’s no such thing as a free lunch as they say, and let’s not forget the tiny matter of our health:

Fizzy drinks: Aspartame, sugar.

There were press rumblings last year over artificial sweeteners such as Aspartame and their links to cancer. What’s more, diet drinks are a false economy. Duped into thinking we’ve gulped down sugar (or food), our meticulous bodies set to work on producing stomach acid and insulin… only to find there’s nothing to digest. Cue: hunger and superfluous eating.

We live in a world where the disturbing Size Zero ambition sells beauty magazines that paradoxically, sit alongside waist bulging, super-size portions of addictive fakeness. As a rule, I err away from dogmatic approaches to eating: everything in moderation, right? This is one instance where I must humbly disagree.

For more Anti-diet tips click on the Tag in the right or type Anti-diet into the Search box at the top of the page.

The Gift Guide Top 5

It’s that time of year again; we’ve hit December and already passed the busiest online shopping day of the year apparently. Well versed in the art of shopping, I thought it only fitting I share my failsafe food inspired gift guide, hopefully taking some trauma out of your Santa duties.



The coolest cookie cutters


I have a sneeking suspicion the sunshine eggs could be a bit of a faff; maybe one to delegate to your sous chef / spouse / kids. You can always thank them with some Made with Love cookies.

Sunyside eggs £7.95 from Rocket St George and Made with Love cookie stamp £6.00 from Anthropologie.


4th Wave Coffee at home


One morning spent researching cafes and sampling espressos with Gather & Gather in house coffee guru, Paul Hallit and I came home with the above (essential) haul. We’re now entering the 4th wave in coffee apparently: Beyond independent cafes and single origin beans, it’s also about the science behind the perfect cup. Anyone who appreciates coffee will thank you for this kit, or simply some decent beans.

V60 coffee makers for single (01) and double cup (02) filter: From £35. You can also buy the V60 on its own to sit directly on your cup: From £20. Multiple options available from Brewed by Hand or Coffee Hit.


Union Hand Roasted for a wide range of single origin beans (best for V60 brewing) as found in Gail’s Artisan Bakery, Harris & Hoole and Gather & Gather. Coffee from Shoreditch roaster All Press is also hard to beat.


Seggiano stars


Seggiano. God of taste: flavour and design. Everything from panettone to olive oil, chocolate clementines to raw honey. Packaged so beautifully, wrapping paper wrestling is a thing of the past.

Available from Wholefoods or independent delis. Olive oil: £11.50. Honey: £8.50. Foraged tree: Free from Clapham Common.


Compulsory cookbooks



Two years in and these are still my failsafe classics. For the creative cook keen to go off piste: The masterpiece that is The Flavour Thesaurus. Jerusalem, the latest kitchen handbook by My Favourite Places Godfather, Yotam Ottolenghi is a must that no self respecting food lover should be without.

And for the adventurous: Milk of New York’s Momofuku Milk Bar fame, as recommended by uber chef and Gather & Gather colleague, Dan Rampat. Momofuku means Lucky Peach. Sold!

£10+ from Amazon


Spa scents


Because, as much as I love to cook, there are few kitchen smells I want to curl up on the sofa with. And let’s face it, smelling of Eau de Honey Roast Ham outside the kitchen is  offensive. End of.

Diptyque Baies and Jo Malone Grapefruit are clean classics guaranteed to win over the fussiest of recipients. At £40 neither candle comes cheap but the quality is second to none: dripping in perfume oils = stronger and longer lasting spa scents. RK Ridings does a huge selection of similar diffusers and candles at 1/3 of the price.

Space NK stock most of Diptyque’s range. Their online and customer service is super efficient and given their giant selection of Christmas gift ideas, this is a no brainer for filling your Santa sleigh. Jo Malone and RK Ridings stock direct.


Christmas mugs




When all else fails, opt for a mug. 19 carat gold rim mug with horse design (obviously) and coffee cups you can bake in. Genius. In the spirit of giving, I’ve tested festive Orange, almond & chocolate cake in said super mugs.

Designer tartanry brand ANTA also do a range of throws and cushions as cozy as a Christmas jumper. Sign up for Tartan Tuesday (2 for 1 offers) and their Advent Calendar of daily discounts in the run up to Christmas.

Horse mug £20 from Rocket St George; Tartan cups £22 from ANTA.


Some more failsafe gift ideas

Best cookery courses: Ginger Pig butchery classRick Stein Seafood SchoolBread Ahead bakery school.

For Little Miss Fussy: Big rocks are in! Try Bex Rox or Aurelie Bidermann. The Outnet also has a wide range of heavily discounted designer jewellery (and clothes).

For kids: Cox & Cox have an inexhaustible selection of games and trinkets for kids of all ages.

For The Friend Who Has Everything: Diageo Brand Store offers a 6 ltr bottle of Ciroc vodka for £250. You can even have your own bespoke swing for a mere fifteen hundred quid.


Gather sustainably

Posted in: Uncategorized

Unpacking the spoils from a recent trip to the parental homestead I was struck by just how much produce comes out of Mum Garcia-Macintyre’s Highland garden and kitchen: Everything from Wild Boar bacon and sausages to Jerusalem artichokes and marmalade. In fact, the farm to table philosophy is commonplace in Scotland and quite frankly, when frosty November delivers so much, why would you want a summer strawberry?



Piglet-trough. Netherton Farm

Netherton Farm 3 day old piglets

Not for bacon, Whitney pig and not yet for bacon, weaners. AKA Suckling Pig. In spite of some of my favourite London restaurants serving the latter, anything this small is surely too young. As the name suggests, said piglets are still feeding from their mum’s. And quite frankly, the difference in size between mother and and off-spring says it all. Spot the 3 day old bambino. #FarTooCute.

Black Isle Brewery, Scotland + Netherton Community Garden produce

Apple & Bramble Crumble. Wholesome Seduction.

Curry night. Black Isle beef, beetroot and beer. Apple, (frozen) bramble & almond crumble. Recipe coming soon.

Golden Ball Turnip, Netherton Farm produce. Scotland.

Netherton Farm Wild boar bacon & sausages + free range eggs.

Coriander seed & chillis, Netherton Community Garden.

Netherton Farm (Mum’s) is also host to the local Community Garden, churning out Golden Ball turnips (as tasty as David Beckham), coriander seed, chillis and all the veg for Sunday’s roast. Breakfast courtesy of the hens, Whitney’s Wild Boar cross Tamworth off-spring (when grown!) and mum’s Spiced tomato relish.

Elderberry juice, Netherton Farm & Wholesome Seduction

Foraged elderberries for juice. Mum boils (poisonous otherwise apparently) and strains this “wonder berry” to have on hand for smoothies, veg juices, crumbles and just about anything she can get away with. Any wonder I’m now blogging wholesomely seductive tips?


Golspie smoked salmon on Oliver's Bakery rye.

Catch of the day. I even managed to bag some Golspie smoked salmon, netted in the traditional manner (definitely qualifies as Slow Food) from the Cromarty Firth in front of the house. Not part of mum’s ‘garden estate’ I hasten to add. This dense, smoky delicacy bares no relation to the slippery, insipid stuff from the supermarket. Served simply on Oliver’s Bakery rye with lemon and black pepper.

For more recipes and posts like this, type Netherton Farm into the Search box. See also Foraging for Scottish brambles & other things.


Edinburgh Eating: The Lowdown

Posted in: Featured, Reviews

I’m a big Edinburgh fan. Growing up in the Highlands with a large chunk of our relatives effectively defecting to the Lowlands, week-end trips south were a formative part of my childhood. Edinburgh’s not only one of the most beautiful cities architecturally, it’s also hugely inspirational from a food perspective. Independent restaurant concepts have long been embraced here and as a result, you’d be hard pushed to get through my pick of the best fuel stops in two days:


Timberyard’s Armani does Ski lodge style compelled me to congratulate the affable and obliging staff within approximately 3 seconds of entering the building.


Provenance and the Slow Food philosophy are king so expect Scottish ales and local ingredients; some from Ben (In House Forager); some from the back garden.

Urban Angels


Urban Angel’s chain of Wholesomely Seductive cafés are my breakfast, supper or train journey packed lunch staple.

Top picks: Smoked haddock, poached egg, hollandaise & tattie scone. Cooked to such creamy perfection I’ve since questioned why more cafes don’t feature as an alternative to the ubiquitous Eggs Benedict / Florentine clan…


The Goat’s cheese, caramelized onion quiche skimps not on the good stuff: Abundantly cheesy with sweet onion and a deliciously substantial pastry base. Lightened by the addition of fresh tang and crunch from Pineapple, fennel & sultana slaw. Not to be missed: Almond & honey Florentine. Trust me.

Ship on the shore

The Ship on the Shore  in Leith (seaside Edinburgh) manages to impress not just Little Miss Fussy, but Hippy Mum and even the more traditional, OBE decorated, Edinburgh Great Uncle. Fish and shellfish at its best. With wild garlic, haggis mash, in a pint or just about any way you like it. This is a must tick when visiting Edinburgh. #intelligentcooking

While Starbucks is inevitably prevalent, it’s far outweighed by the long established and increasingly popular coffee shops who’s look is anything but that of a cookie cut corporate. And their coffee strong and smooth enough to cause a discerning Antipodean barista to weep.

Brew Lab


A stone’s throw from the university, Brew Lab leads the way, even securing colleague Paul’s much coveted high praise. Paul’s title reads: Gather & Gather Coffee Guru. And he’s Australian, of course. Following in the trend for ‘We’d Serve You From A Urinal If EHO Allowed It Styling’, Brew Lab’s exposed brick makes Havana’s perilously pinned together buildings look positively pristine.


The fresh mint tea (with egg timer) resulted in much jubilation from a non-coffee drinking colleague and the ridiculously tasty and rich Almond & cherry cake inspired me to covet my personalised Spanish version no longer. Next week I’ll bring you Orange, almond & chocolate cake: Uber moist; sophisticatedly sweet and tangy; distinctively almondy. A cake for grown ups.

Other Edinburgh hot spots: The Gardener’s CottageThe Dogs, Peter’s Yard.


Anzac biscuits

Posted in: V

In honour of Anzac day next week (25th April), and of our Gather & Gather brand launch, my very talented Kiwi colleague and chef, Tony has somewhat altruistically shared his closely guarded recipe. Thank you land of Antipodeans!

Anzac Biscuits

Takes: 15 mins. Makes: 15 biscuits



85g oats
85g coconut
100g caster sugar
100g plain flour
110g unsalted butter
1 tbsp golden syrup
1 tsp bicarbonate soda


Preheat oven to 180C
Combine oats, coconut, sugar and flour and melt butter.
Stir bicarb with 50ml of hot water and add to dry mix, followed with the melted butter.
Roll your dough to the size of golf balls and press to 1″ thick.
Bake on a lined tray for 20 mins and Bob’s your uncle.

Anzac biscuits were originally sent by wives to Australian & New Zealand Army Corps (ANZACs) abroad because the ingredients didn’t spoil easily. So you too can enjoy yours way beyond the 25th!

Gather & Gather talent

Pre joining us at Gather & Gather, Tony worked with Wholesome Seduction food guru and Favourite Places owner (see The Tapa Room or the new Kopapa), Peter Gordon. #yesthisiswork Sorry, gloating is so vulgar but I couldn’t resist.

Anzac day remembers Australia and New Zealand’s major casualties of the First World War.

Gather & Gather Tom’s tasting masterpiece

Posted in: Reviews, Uncategorized

There are days when I thank the employment Gods for blessing me with a vocation that surrounds me with food, cooking and creativity. This was one of those days. I had the chore of eating my way through ten courses of culinary glee from colleague Tom Gore, Exec Chef at The Brewery. I’ll let the pictures do the talking:

Barrettia w. basil and dried olive & Strawberry granitta w. smoked milk ice cream


Tom Gore at The Brewery, London.


Oxtail, bone marrow mash & black pudding. Scallop ceviche, yuzu & flowers.

Oxtail, bone marrow mash & black pudding. With bone marrow on the side for extra measure. And scallop ceviche, yuzu & flowers. Were it not for my witnessing colleagues, I may well have licked the plates.



Military Precision Prep. The Brewery, London

Tom Gore

Chinese Scented Duck

Military precision prep. Tom leads; team follows. The guys do this for a mind boggling 800 covers.


Pudding prep

Steve's pineapple upside down cake

Pudding number two: Pineapple upside down cake. Courtesy of Head chef, Steve Connell. #yesthisiswork


Bibendum Wine Pairings

Did I mention there was booze? Tom & Team catered for over 1000 hospitality and events delegates at a Bibendum wine tasting event (also hosted at The Brewery) pre our humble supper. The lovely people from Bibendum kindly supplied us with wine to be paired with each of our ten dishes.

A tough day at the office. Hiccup.

Stags, sterling board & street food

Posted in: Reviews, Uncategorized

I’m ashamed to admit, blogging has taken a back-step of late. But I can explain: For the last 5 weeks, social lives and sleep have been shelved; yoga memberships even put on hold, all in the name of creating our very own street food pop-up. Let it not be said that we don’t love what we do.

SkyPopup.Arancini Bros.ChurrosGarcia.ByronBurgers.

My latest crusade involves teaming up with a host of my favourite street concepts and Gather & Gather to feed a certain telly broadcaster. I think I may have found my vocation.

I’ll report back on week one very soon. In the meantime, join me on the journey with Twitter and #skypopup.