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Escapes

Nuts; It began with the pilgrimage to the sweet chestnut tree...

Letter: In a nutshell

From Mr Peter Hurcomb

FOOD & DRINK : PAT A CAKE, PAT; A CAKE...

And learn to bake one as fast as you can. For the final part of our series on flour power, Michael Bateman consults an expert cake-maker and selects some of her recipes, from simple bara brith to quite sinful brownies

FOR THE GOOD OF THE PARTY

When Caroline Waldegrave gives a dinner, she keeps

A game of Russian poulette

It was the ultimate cultural exchange, a Cordon Bleu cook sent to Moscow to pass trade secrets to the Russians. Her mission? To make five amazing dishes from a single scrawny chicken. Deborah Antel managed to do just that

Confessions of a walnut

Book Review: Sid James by Cliff Goodwin (Century), pounds 15.99

BOOKS; On the trail of the walnut presser's wife

CLESTINE: Voices From a French Village by Gillian Tindall, Sinclair- Stevenson pounds 17.99

Food & Drink: So simple it's sophisticated: Jim Ainsworth finds the kind of cafe where the decor is canny, the cooks serene and nothing happens by accident

THE Union Cafe opened in the Marylebone pocket of the West End of London on Tuesday, and I went for lunch. It took me back 15 years to the day I opened the doors of my own restaurant for the first time.

Where shall we meet: Cafe de Columbia

Your friend from overseas is standing outside Lillywhites, A-Z in one hand, camcorder in the other. So this is Piccadilly Circus. You, meanwhile, are sitting in a comfortable hessian chair enjoying a Columbian espresso (pounds 1.45) and a treacle tart (pounds 2.95) in Justin de Blank's fan-cooled Cafe de Columbia. Fortnum's clock is just striking twelve as your tourist poodles past the Royal Academy down Burlington Arcade, turning right into the Museum of Mankind. Pausing only to video the Easter Island statue given to the museum by Queen Victoria (who had no idea where to put it), they join you for a fashionable salad of rocket, parmesan, pears and walnuts (pounds 7) and a bottle of chilled white wine (pounds 9.95). Let's hope your friend is paying. Mon-Sat 10am-4.30pm/Sun 2-5pm.

Racing: Ryan's return is near

WILLIE RYAN is hoping to make his comeback on Saturday after successfully coming through a workout yesterday morning. Ryan, 33, has been on the sidelines since breaking three ribs when unseated by Foyer in the Derby.

Health Update: A nutty diet

MEN WHO want to avoid heart attacks would be well advised to eat more almonds and walnuts. A study of 16 Australian men, reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, showed that they reduced their cholesterol levels by 7 per cent when taking

TRIED & TESTED / Taking a crack at it: We sample seven nutcrackers. The hard shell won when it came to the crunch

Most of us would probably eat a lot more nuts - and they are now sold loose in supermarkets all the year round - if cracking them were made easier. It can be off-putting, when your nutcracker sends minute pieces of kernel flying all over the room, or if you spend more time excavating stubborn fragments from the shell than you do eating the nuts. So to find a nutcracker that is really easy to use, and effective, we asked four regular nut eaters to try out a selection. We gave them a supply of walnuts, brazils, hazelnuts and almonds to test each one against. Read on, to find out which would crack even the toughest nut.

Captain Moonlight: Spy scoop

NO HOLIDAY relaxation for the dedicated team that produces the Daily Mirror. While you were rewinding the video and thinking about more cake, two Mirror men were infiltrating the new London headquarters of MI5 at Vauxhall Bridge and gasping at the walnut, the marble, the gym, the squash courts, the German kitchen units and a little railway for whizzing documents around. Not that the Captain begrudges any of this; a happy spy is a good spy, say I. No, what caught my eye was the reference by one of the contractors quoted in the story to a 'trophy room'. Now what sort of trophies does MI5 gather in? Best Supporting Agent? Best Designed Dead Letter Drop? The Silver Spool for Bugger of the Year? Runners-up, Most Efficient Internal Security Agency, 1978, behind the Secur itate and just ahead of the Tontons Macoutes? And what will be mounted in there? The Head of MI6? I did try to ask, but a Government spokesman refused to comment. If anyone knows anything, make a rendezvous with the Captain, usual place, no umbrellas.

Put some bounce in your bird: Liven up turkey and other dishes with the help of the versatile, hardy cranberry

For years I've longed to see an American cranberry harvest. By all accounts, it is a spectacular sight. The boggy fields of low, heather-like bushes are artificially flooded, the cranberries knocked off into the water, then drained off in an enormous scarlet wave. Imagine this on a perfect autumn day, with blue skies and gold- and orange-leaved trees.
Arts and Entertainment
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Rio Ferdinand, Alan Shearer, Alan Hansen and Gary Lineker during Hansen's final broadcast
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Brendan O'Carroll has brought out his female alter-ego Agnes Brown for Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie
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Ian Thorpe has thanked his supporters after the athlete said in an interview that he is gay
people
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Professor Kathy Willis will showcase plants from the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew
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Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

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Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

The Open 2014

Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?