Independent Plus Channel 4's 'The Taste': Judges Ludo Lefebvre, Nigella Lawson and Anthony Bourdain

By Ellen E Jones

With Team Nigella already whipped into a state of expectant devotion by her court appearances, her show couldn’t have arrived at a more opportune moment. But The Taste, which began on Channel 4 tonight, is no ordinary Nigella Lawson cookery show and no ordinary competition, either. The contestants may come from the ranks of professional chefs or enthusiastic home cooks, but all will be judged, sight unseen, on the flavour of a single spoonful.

Weekend Work: Time for winter pruning

Album: Satie, Works for Two and Four Hands (KML)

Tiered cakes, pears and desiccated embryos.

Weekend Work: Dry leaves can be piled on top of agapanthus and nerines for insulation

What to do



Mild November weather has been tempting geraniums into fresh bud in the south of the country, but you should be prepared to bundle these (and fuchsias) inside at a moment's notice.

Win comedy tickets in London and Birmingham

Magners Pear Cider and The Independent have teamed up for a night of laughs with some of the best UK-based breakthrough comedians at The Roundhouse, London on the 11th November and The Glee Club, Birmingham on the 18th November. We’ve got five pairs of tickets to giveaway for this invite-only gig at both venues.

The Turn of the Screw, Britten Studio, Snape

A taut, angry production on the composer's home turf finds thrills aplenty still in an adaptation of James's ghost story

Alex James: Pear tree provides summer's last show

Rural Notebook

Branching out: If you're rooting to plant new trees, now is the time to start digging

With a jigsaw puzzle, the last pieces are the easy ones. You can immediately see what fits where. You might expect it to be the same with a garden but there, fitting in the last plants is much more difficult than sorting out the first ones. I've a few spaces left for a small tree or a big shrub, but at this stage of garden-making (we've been here four years), I'm hemmed in by all kinds of constraints: the newcomers have to match the living conditions on offer; they have to fit in with their neighbours; and they have to deliver a particular gift to the garden, something that's presently missing in that place. I need a shrub that performs in late summer to fill a gap on the bottom bank, and a smallish, thinnish tree for the top corner of the flower garden, something that won't tangle with the rampageous perennials already growing there.

Strawberry and pear tart

Serves 8

Salad of poached pears, walnuts and Gorgonzola

Serves 2

Soften the crunch: Skye Gyngell reveals how to get the best out of early-autumn pears

Firm, early-autumn pears have quite a bite – but bake them in a tart, poach them in wine or soak them in sherry and their sweetly soft nature will soon shine through. Skye Gyngell shows how

Letters: Broken Britain

It's not just the NHS – nothing works in this country

Michael McCarthy: Singing the praises of a humble plum

Nature Notebook: In France it is prized, as one of the supreme fruits of high summer

Consuming Issues: Crunch time for our core assets as English apple season approaches

Their names drip history as juicily as their flesh. Allington Pippin, Demelow's Seedling, Sir John Thorneycroft, Hoary Morning; all hint at the rich heritage and provenance of English apples.

Kabir suffers another injury setback

Worcestershire paceman Kabir Ali is to have a second scan to determine the extent of his back problem in the latest setback of an injury-hit season. But the former England player, who has already missed two months of the campaign with a hamstring problem, is optimistic of a quick return.

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