A cuppa, petal?
"Flowering Teas" appeal to the child in all of us. You take a tall glass of water (just shy of boiling) and add this beautiful greenish pod. As the water soaks into the bundle it unfurls and turns into a jasmine blossom while the casing turns into green tea leaves. Then you get to drink the tea. The small but sophisticated tea company China's Secret has had some success selling specialist teas into upmarket retailers such as Fortnum & Mason. Via their website you can buy a large range of different tea flowers – jasmine, iris, rose or peacock flower. Start with a mixed box of four; green tea is not only packed with anti-oxidants, but these tea flowers make a dramatic end to any dinner party. Flowering teas from China's Secret.
4 tea flowerballs (1 each of the 4 varieties available) £9.95 www.chinasecret.co.uk
In her book Medina Kitchen, Fiona Dunlop tells the story of the cooks she has encountered in North Africa through the medium of their recipes. From the walled quarters of Marrakech and Fez to the cooks of Tripoli, Tunis and Carthage; from Islamic kitchens to Jewish households, Dunlop does a good job of bringing both the people and their recipes to life. Simon Wheeler's photography captures both the bright colours of the places and the simple richness of the dishes. The recipes also appeal – a lamb tagine with figs and apricots garnished with walnuts and a "seven vegetable" couscous from Latifa Alaoui in Fez; Gastro-tourism without even having to leave your own kitchen! Most enjoyable.
'Medina Kitchen' by Fiona Dunlop, published by Mitchell Beazley, £20
Rack it up
Have you ever been tempted by those leaflets from the posh marketeers keen to sell you a wine storage system, perhaps one of those pre-fab jobs that means that you need to dig a huge hole under the garage to accommodate it? And if so, has it been followed by the creeping realisation that you couldn't even afford to keep it stocked, let alone pay for it? Legonart is an Italian design company that makes objects which are both utilitarian and elegant. This prosaically named "Wall Mounted Wine rack" is made from bamboo and aluminium. It looks good, holds 10 bottles, keeps the corks wet and takes up the minimum room. It would look good on the back wall of any kitchen.
Buy it from Mediterranean Touch via the web for £49.50, www.mediterraneantouch.com
Not so long ago, many chefs would have a small squeezy bottle handily placed near the stove where they "finished" or "polished" their sauces. It is all very well reducing pan juices to make a sauce, but the more you reduce a sauce the stickier it gets and the flavour of caramel gets the upper hand. The chef's bottle would contain what was left of a bottle of decent red wine reduced to 100ml with a hint of stock and salt, and a shake of Worcestershire sauce, perhaps. Two drops of this elixir would lift the flavour of even the most dullard sauce. Now a commercial equivalent is available. "Balsamico" glazes are made by reducing Balsamic vinegar and adding flavourings; they come in drip bottles. Choose between Original, Fig, Cherry, Garlic, Chilli and Vanilla. They can be used in sauces or to tweak salad dressings. Use sparingly.
£2.99 for 150ml; buy at Tesco and Sainsbury's