Officially published last week, Anthony Bourdain's A Cook's Tour and the author have been around since before Christmas. Along with the disgust, respect and bravado that season his made-for-TV gastronomic buccaneering, his appreciation of Nigella, worship of Fergus Henderson, admiration for Gordon Ramsay and the incident in Vietnam when he ate the still-beating heart of a cobra have already reappeared more often than the turkey carcass. But you may have read it here first. Truffler revealed the cobra heart experience as long ago as last June. For those who haven't had enough of the Keith Richards of the kitchen, Bourdain is reading A Cook's Tour as Radio 4's Book of the Week from January 21-25, at 9.45am on FM, repeated – if you're able to sleep despite indigestion – at 12.30am on both frequencies. On 24 January Bourdain talks as part of the South Bank's Feast: Cooking and Culture series. Tickets for this are £6. Before it's his turn, on 12 January, Susie Orbach discusses women's attitudes to food, based on 25 years experience in the subject and her new book, On Eating. On 22 January Mark Kurlansky, author of Cod, and the forthcoming Salt, joins Sophie Grigson to share their knowledge of and passion for fish. Book tickets for these on 020-7960 4242.
Twelfth night isn't just when the Christmas cards and tree are supposed to come down. Tomorrow's festival of the Epiphany, the day the three kings are supposed to have reached Bethlehem to pay homage to the baby Jesus, is another excuse for feasting, especially in France and Italy. The French celebrate it with galette des Rois, a puff pastry and frangipane pastry. Each contains a fève – a hidden charm or bean – and whoever finds it becomes king or queen for the day. The splendid French bakery and patisserie Paul at 29 Bedford Street, London WC2 (020 7836 3304) is selling a paper crown with each of its galettes, which cost from £8 to £12 and are being baked throughout January. The Poilâne bakery, 46 Elizabeth Street, Belgravia (020 7808 4910) also bakes the cakes in a hazelnut as well as almond version, and, like Paul, sells them all month.
January isn't generally jolly, but it's already looking as if jelly is the thing this month. First, I come across Tokyo Café's elegant jellies from Waitrose – so slender in their pot, so slimming in their calorie content, so unseasonal. So what? Well, they're vegetarian (which can't be said for most jellies), they come in raspberry flavour with nectarine slices and raspberries, or passion fruit with mandarin and pineapple or apple with apple and blackberries, are rather delicious and cost 99p. Then the gelatine information people send me a sample tub of gelatine – of all the glamorous incentives. "A pure, natural protein," it says. E-number, sugar, fat, cholesterol and additive free, low in calories and easy to digest. "Creates clear sparkling jellies with unsurpassed mouthfeel. Provides texture, stability and succulence," it adds, rather unappealingly, in what might be interpreted as a gentle dig at the squelchier vegetarian version. For gelatine's disadvantage – which it's easy to overlook – is that it is made from pig or cattle bones and hide. UK gelatine manufacturers had to import the raw materials from outside while the use of bones was banned here, but last month research results confirmed that the gelatine manufacturing process removes BSE artifically added to the raw materials, so if there ever had been any present – which they say there wasn't – it would have been safe anyway. And for my final adult jelly moment of the month. At J Sheekey, the apogee of fashionable West End dining: a mirabelle jelly, firm, see-through (so the Sheekey name on the plate could be read through a bottle-bottom window of jelly) delicious, and with a pot of optional Jersey cream...jelly good.
It's not all swanning around in fancy West End restaurants, you know. I have to get down there on the shop floor like everyone else. Once I'm there, I can't help spying on other shoppers. Overheard in Waitrose: "What do you think vegetarian caviar is?" Ever a sucker, Truffler had to buy a jar – because I couldn't be bothered to write down the horrible list of ingredients on my shopping list and wanted to do it at home. They include: alginates, stabilisers (xanthan, methyl cellulose), preservatives (potassium sorbate, sodium benzoate), antioxidant, colouring. Despite this litany, Cavi Art's facsimile sturgeon's roe proved a pretty good substitute, with the requisite marine quality thanks, perhaps to the seaweed-derived alginates and to the sodium benzoate it has in common with real caviar. And vegetarians and anyone who feels bad for the endangered sturgeon can eat it with a conscience clearer than the Caspian Sea. It's kosher, too, and the people who make vegetarian caviar also make the gelling agent for sweets acceptable to vegetarians. That really is my last word on jelly.Reuse content