Charles Campion: Food & drink notes

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You say potatoes

Farmers and plant breeders are continually tinkering with potatoes in search of ever better returns. The primary weapon in their armoury has been to develop potatoes that retain water – because water is heavy and we pay for it at the checkout. An example of these commercial potatoes is the modern variety Nadine, a spud so soggy it defies the finest cook. This autumn we can try the Mayan Gold potato. The potato company Greenvale has spent the past 15 years working with the Scottish Crop Research Institute to produce a newpotato that goes back to the original South American potato called the “phureja”. The new Mayan Gold potato has a high dry matter content, a golden-coloured flesh and it roasts and chips very well.

Limited supplies of Mayan Gold at Sainsbury’s and Tesco from 7 Nov; around £1.70 per kg

Baking hot

Forget comfort eating, let’s talk about comfort reading. Sue Lawrence has a well-deserved reputation as the queen of home baking (wouldn’t it be wonderful to see a showdown between Sue and Mary Berry ¿ tray bakes at 20 paces?). Sue Lawrence’s Book of Baking is full of homely, sensible, practicable recipes that cover all the winter bases: flapjacks, Madeira cake, Dundee cake, mince pies, Christmas cake and bûche de Noël. But just when you think you’ve got this book neatly pigeon-holed, it springs some surprises: Swedish saffron cake, anchovy pirozhkis, tuna and artichoke tart. Asked to give an opinion, that most forthright of cooks Clarissa Dickson Wright said, “Sue Lawrence’s recipes always work. She is a particularly fine baker.” I concur.

‘Sue Lawrence’s Book of Baking’, £14.99, Headline

Grate expectations

Peregrine Trading is a small company that is split between London and Tuscany. They are known for the excellent Seggiano olive oil, honeys and a large range of interesting “sott’olios” – vegetables preserved in oil, perfect for antipasti. As part of the pruning regime for very old olive trees, there is a procedure whereby they cut out the whole of the centuries-old main trunk and leave the tree to put all its strength into smaller subsidiary trunks. As a result, this part of Tuscany has plenty of beautiful old olive wood, which is where these elegant cheese grater boxes come from. Catch the grated Parmesan in the box and add to your pasta.

Seggiano olive-wood box and grater. Small £9.99, medium £12.99 and large £14.99, available from good cook shops everywhere and over the web at www.thegreenglutton.com

Let’s get fizzical

At last the principle of seasonality is beginning to sidle into the mainstream. It’s not a new idea; when you visit India you will find the same fresh “chutney” differs according to the time of year. In the summer, the chef may use more mint (which is a “cooling” herb), while in the winter the proportions change with the emphasis on coriander (a “heating” herb). This autumn, the soft-drinks stalwart Schweppes has introduced a “Winter Blend” lemonade. It is still clear and suitably fizzy, but adds some flavourings such as bitters and lime to create a more aromatic and grown-up drink. It will be interesting to see what new cocktails are possible with this new “seasonal” lemonade.

Schweppes Winter Blend Lemonade is available from Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose, priced at 89p per litre

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