Books of the Year: Food

How to choose between a vast crop of cookbooks?

Barbecoa, 20 New Change Passage, London, EC4M 9AG

Before the TV shows, the bestselling books, the school-food campaigns and the browbeating of obese Americans, Jamie Oliver's approach to cooking was that of an experienced brickie – grab this brick, mix this cement, trowel the cement on here, plonk the mixture down there and bish, bosh, zing, zing, hey presto it's done. He convinced the nation that simplicity, rather than complexity, could deliver big flavours. Through the unveiling of his 15 restaurant, and his immensely popular Jamie's Italian chain, he has kept faith with the basic, the tasty, the honest-to-God. Devotees will be relieved to hear that his newest incarnation mostly maintains the tradition, at least when it comes to food. If only everything else about it were so simple.

Elton John Diary: Lansley gets sweet on Oliver

Since June, when he criticised the Jamie Oliver approach to healthy eating in schools, Andrew Lansley has changed his tune (to "Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word"? – Ed.). It was "counterproductive", said the Health Secretary, to be "constantly lecturing people". The net effect of Oliver's campaign, he claimed, "was the number of children eating school meals in many of these places didn't go up, it went down... children are actually spending more money outside school, buying snacks in local shops, instead of on school lunches." Lansley later sent a letter of apology to an incandescent Oliver, and yesterday, launching a White Paper on public health, said he "actually thought what Jamie Oliver did was terrific... We were very supportive of [The Ministry of Food]." Could've fooled me. Meanwhile, on a food theme, I can exclusively reveal that Elton John was keen on the executive editor's lemon-glazed pistachio cake, which he enjoyed with his hot beverage at morning conference. He also chose a chocolate-covered biscuit from the plate on the conference table. Reports suggest it was a "digestive, or possibly a hobnob".

Seven education quangos cut, nine face uncertain future

Seven quangos attached to the Department for Education will disappear under the reforms, while the future of another nine bodies remains uncertain.

Trullo, 300 St Paul's Road London N1

Islington might be a byword for north London middle-class smuggery, but one thing N1 residents can't feel too smug about is the local food scene. There can be few areas which offer so many restaurants, and so few decent places to eat. Since the demise of Granita, where the Blair/Brown deal was famously (and it turns out mythically) struck, there hasn't been a new arrival to generate more than local interest. Ottolenghi is clearly fab, but not suitable for all occasions, or pockets.

The axe factor: Why are people queuing up outside a provincial butcher's in a tiny village in Tuscany?

Prince Charles is a fan. Jamie Oliver urges his readers to seek him out. Elton John even paid him £2,500 for a steak. So what is it about the Dante-spouting Dario Cecchini that has the carniscenti queuing up outside a provincial butcher's in a tiny village in Tuscany?

Meet Jamie Oliver's son, little Buddy Oli

Daft names are not clever, they're cruel, says David Randall

On Rhiannon Harries: 'I'm going to give up stripes'

You have to question the motives of those women you see in glossy magazines with their collection of 500 pairs of shoes, grinning beneath a headline saying, "I'm London's answer to Carrie Bradshaw." Maybe they occupy the same planet as those celebrities who confide in interviews that they "simply can't pass Liberty without dropping in to pick up a darling little silk scarf". Yup, we all have our little sartorial OCDs, but keep it under wraps if you can – and pity those of us with little choice but to wear our weaknesses for all to see.

It's nice to have a boy, says Jamie Oliver

Delighted father Jamie Oliver proudly showed off his first son today and said he was "shocked" to have a little boy.

GQ awards: Simon Kelner is Editor of the Year

Simon Kelner, the editor-in-chief of The Independent, has been named Newspaper Editor of the Year at GQ magazine's Men of the Year awards.

Retailers and celebrity chefs set for City battle

The first major retail development in central London since the financial crisis will open its doors on 28 October to many of the high street's biggest names, and see the country's two most famous celebrity chefs going head to head with new restaurants.

Diary: Time to get real, Jamie

Apart from the odd lard-chomping American telling him just where he could put his recent healthy eating campaign, Jamie Oliver's culinary empire has continued to expand with little trouble. Yet I hear Oliver could have his work cut out convincing some potentially troublesome natives in St Albans, where he's just bought The Bell pub – nostalgically renowned among local romantics, I'm told, for its trademark aroma of "stale lager and cheap perfume".

Build it and they will come: Family-run company Pedlars is marketing a whole lifestyle

Remember when Jamie Oliver first came into the national consciousness, with that debut love-it/hate-it television series where he bished, bashed and boshed out stylish, accessible and wholesome food for his stylish, accessible and wholesome friends in his stylish, accessible and wholesome warehouse pad? His lifestyle was enviable and, even though a television show, lack of unattractive pals and a Shoreditch loft apartment were out of reach for most viewers, the Oliver style – letting you into his world, including you in the banter and jokes – made it all feel somehow attainable. And thus the sprawling Oliver brand, fingers in more pies at every step, was born.

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