Sunday, February 11, 2007

I'm counting tea towels...

I was browsing through the March edition of Good Food magazine and noticed something quite peculiar; they seem to have a very impressive collection of folded tea towels. And this inspired me to go through all this month’s food magazines and count all the tea towels that are featured in their food photographs. But before you think I need to get out more, remember I have been ill this week and counting tea towels is almost the most strenuous action I can perform at the moment.
And it really does seem they’re all at it, it was Good Food that set me off and they were top of the pops with 27 pictures of a random tea towel or thick napkin folded casually under the plate or dish that they were featuring. Olive were close behind them with 25, Delicious with 22 and Fresh and Waitrose Food Illustrated use less food shots and had 4 and 2 respectively. What is it with the tea towels? Let’s be honest if you’re lifting a dish from the oven maybe you’d grab a tea towel and then if you put this dish down it may still be sitting on the said tea towel. But personally I’d grab my skin burning hot dish from the oven with an oven glove. The clue is in the name, oven gloves are for removing hot meals from the oven and are pretty good at their job and tea towels; are generally for towelling ummm tea things? But apparently when photographing food, it’s just not going to look tasty unless a gently folded tea towel or napkin is somewhere in the frame. Even the advice on the UKTV Food site has “ten tips to making your food look good enough to eat” recommends both folded napkins and tea towels. Napkins I understand as you’d normally have some fine linen cloth to hand to drape over your lap or tuck into your collar if you insist to protect you from splashes. But as the photographs generally show the plate on top of the folded cloth, how is one expected to retrieve it and use it?

But apart from the proliferation of tea towel photographs what else has this month’s Good Food got to offer to tantalise my taste buds? Okay to be fair probably the reason I got distracted and started counting superfluous cloths was that there’s some good old stalwarts of recipes that I’d happily eat but very little to set the foodie world alight. There’s cheesy ham with leeks, Swiss cheese schnitzel, baked cabbage & cabbage risotto and salmon, broccoli & potato bake. For St. David’s day there’s a lovely looking Welsh goat’s cheese & leek tart obviously rather spoilt by the inclusion of goat’s cheese, a cheese substitution would make this very palatable. There’s a stack of things to do with tortillas illustrated with a shredded chicken and Brie dish. There’s a step-by-step on how to roast a chicken and as much as I love, absolutely adore a good roast chicken, I’m not sure I need another recipe. In the get kids cooking there’s some interesting looking Welsh rarebit muffins which getting back to my original rant, are sat rather incongruously plonked on top of a striped folded towel or possible paper serviette. The caramleised passion fruit & lime tart looks rather splendid and John Torode’s pepper steak and big oven chips is never going to be a bad thing and his gooey chocolate pots with boozy cherries sat, naturally on top of a folded black & white spotted cloth.

I’m always partial to pan-fried pork with crème fraîche & prunes and the rare beef with mustard Yorkshires looks succulent.

I’m also intrigued by the warm duck salad with walnut & orange dressing and the sticky marmalade loaf featured on the front cover looks tasty but I’m not sure I’d be crazy about eating it.

I thought it was a little naughty interviewing the chef that won the role of pub landlord of The Cock on Jamie Oliver’s new show Jamie’s Chef as I read it before the episode which showed the eventual winner had been aired. So the surprise was spoilt somewhat. I was pleased to read however, that Nigel Slater’s excellent ‘A taste of my life’ is returning and a new five-part series called rather magnificently ‘Kill it, Cook it, Eat it’ come to BBC3. They print the legendary Simon Rimmer’s mum’s lasagne recipe that uses cottage cheese instead of béchamel and somehow got Something for the Weekend’s (nutritionist) devout vegetarian Amanda Hamilton to tuck into it before realising it contained meat! Obviously all that tomato would have put me off but Amanda just forgot what lasagne normally contains! Hmmm!

So reliable old Good Food had some recipes that I might try but mainly it was all about the tea towels!

Not slow to spot a trend, I realise that the way to pep up my food photography and be in vogue is to deploy more indiscriminate use of folded tea towels and other cloths from now on. Here’s a picture of some figs that I took whilst in France back in October, perhaps I was just ahead of the game with my folded white linen tea towel? But going forward, I intend to raid my tea towel collection and join the fashionable crowd.

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