Food & drink notes

It's in the bag; Italian lessons; choctastic
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Indy Lifestyle Online

It's in the bag

If you want to boost your eco-credentials, then sip on a cup of Green Green Tea. Winner of the Organic Industry Awards' "Product of the Year" accolade, Green Green Tea teabags are made using Chun Mee tea from the Jiangxi province of China and are produced by the irreverent Today was Fun company. Tea experts describe the flavour as having a "plum-like aftertaste" and with an "almost buttery note" to the nose. As well as ticking all the anti-oxidant and nutritional benefit boxes, the tea is carbon neutral, as the company operates a planting scheme to offset the carbon emissions of the production process. Other teas in the range include Happiness Tea, and Expectancy Tea for pregnant mums. £6.45 for 20 bags, at Harvey Nichols, and independent food shops ( www.todaywasfun.com)

Italian lessons

Gennaro Contaldo runs Passione, a restaurant on Charlotte Street in London serving authentic Italian regional dishes, but he is forever tagged with the label of being the man who taught Jamie Oliver how to cook focaccia. When Oliver was starting out as a chef, Contaldo was his mentor. They have remained firm friends, as the quote on the front of Contaldo's new book, Gennaro's Italian Year, confirms: Oliver calls him "the master of Italian cookery". There is an unpretentious feel to both the writing and the recipes; it's a far cry from the usual glossy coffee-table book. One memorable recipe is "baked chestnut and bread soup", a rustic, one-pot, cook-in-the-oven dish that teams toast, cabbage, chestnuts and cheese cooked in stock. 'Gennaro's Italian Year' (Headline, £20)

Choctastic

In South America they make chocolate by placing a lump of bitter chocolate into boiling milk and amalgamating the two with a giant swizzle-stick, the handle of which is rolled between the palms. It really works. Now Choc-o-Lait have developed a smaller and more sophisticated version suitable for greedy Europeans. Each stick comes with a cube of chocolate on the end. Just fill your mug with very hot milk and then twiddle the Choc-o-Lait until you have a sumptuous drinking chocolate. Choose between dark, milk, hazelnut-flavoured and Cointreau-flavoured Belgian chocolate. £1 each, available at specialist chocolate shops, or House of Sarunds (call 01258 450 200 for stockists)

Know your onions

Now's the traditional time of year for pickling, and it is always interesting to see what new ideas are about. At the 2006 Great Taste Awards, I was intrigued to taste Ross's Gourmet Pickles (made by an old-established Newcastle company), which won a gold medal for their Onions in Dark Balsamic Vinegar. Instead of using harsh malt vinegar, the onions are pickled in a more subtle, sweeter, balsamic vinegar, with the spicing adjusted accordingly. The result is delicious onions that have an excellent mellow flavour - and they stay crisp, too. Ross's also won a gold for another good product, the Baby Beetroot in Raspberry Red Wine Vinegar.

£3.75 for a 445g jar, available from specialist food shops (or call 0191-267 6321 or visit www.pickles-r-ross.co.uk for stockists)

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