Food News & Reviews: pork belly; kitchen knives; soup club; Christmas hampers; blended whiskies


This week I've been eating...old spot pork belly

A pinkish slice, slightly sweet from the molasses reduction, as long as your forearm and 2cm wide with a top of ruler-like crackling which snapped with a poke of the knife. Undoubtedly the highlight of the changing weekly four courses (plus snack course) set £39 menu at the Young Turks neon-adorned pop-up above the Ten Bells pub in London's Spitalfields. Before that, after too long a wait on a chair that may have been used in The Spanish Inquisition, came a parsnip, oat and pheasant creation which looked beige but tasted divine – the creamy oats against the paper-thin parsnips slices created a pleasing texture contrast (the leitmotif of the Young Turk's cooking here). The first course – grilled leek, dried scallop and a chewy red seaweed – was interesting rather than particularly fine; the chewy seaweed squashing the other, daintier, flavours. Wine is gently priced, starting at around £20.; the pop-up runs until 29 January.

Cutting edge

On the face of it, collecting kitchen knives seems a pretty niche preoccupation, and that's to put it charitably. But when you see the knives sold by the Japanese Knife Company, it would be a hard foodie heart that didn't beat a little quicker. The hand-made Aogami knives, commissioned by the owner Jay Patel from fourth-generation makers in Japan, are the perfect meeting of form and function, light in the hand, made from ultra-hard high-carbon Tungsten steel and, if Patel is to believed, able to cut a tomato into 150 pieces.

From £99,

Bowled over

We've had supper, pudding and even sausage clubs, so why not a soup club? That's the thinking behind Devon farmer and soup-maker extraordinaire Rod Hall's latest venture. The man behind Rod and Ben's soup has opened the barn at his Bickham Farm for monthly meetings where enthusiasts can thrash out those pressing soupy matters of the day, like is leek really a good match for celeriac in a winter soup? Rod will be on hand to ladle out the advice.

Box clever

It's always been a mystery to me as to who actually buys Christmas hampers. Undoubtedly they have a certain pyrotechnic luxury but, really, how much stilton and pickled relish does one household need? Kudos to SeeWoo then for creating two affordable hampers. Rather than heavy English fare, they're packed with East-Asian treats, ranging from every day things like soy sauce to more exotic items like crushed yellow beans and Sau Tao noodles. Plus they even throw in a wok, for good measure. £49.95,

Mine's a double

Purists may sneer, but blended whiskies are increasingly making their presence felt at the top end of the whisky market. The new honey-hued Johnnie Walker Blue Label has a sophisticated fruity palate and an earthy nose. Worth a look if you're after an extra-special christmas present. Though be warned, it comes in at a cool £129.

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