If you haven’t seen this episode from the Food 911 show, it shows Tyler Florence patiently showing an elderly lady from Orlando how to make his perfect lasagna. The main problem with hers was a drippy, sloppy quality (despite her homemade “gravy”), which Tyler of course remedied, creating a multi-layered perfection which stood firm yet juicy.
Be warned though, this is a lasagna that takes quite a bit of effort and time, but well worth it in the end.

1 pound dried lasagna noodles
Olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, sliced
2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh oregano, chopped
3 bay leaves
1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1 pound ground Italian sausage
6 ounces tomato paste, (1 can)
30 ounces ricotta cheese, (2 containers)
1/4 cup Italian flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh oregano, chopped
Salt and black pepper, to taste
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
4 cups tomato sauce, prepared
1 pound mozzarella cheese, shredded
Grated Parmesan and mozzarella, for topping

Cook the lasagna noodles in plenty of boiling salted water until pliable and barely tender, about 10 minutes. Stir with a wooden spoon to prevent sticking. Drain the noodles thoroughly, coat with olive oil keep them moist and easy to work with.

Coat a large skillet with olive oil. Saute over medium heat, onion, garlic and herbs. Cook 5 minutes. Brown beef and sausage until no longer pink, about 15 minutes. Drain fat into a small container and discard. Stir in the tomato paste completely. Set aside to cool.

In a mixing bowl, combine ricotta, parsley and oregano. Stir in beaten eggs. Add Parmesan, season with salt and pepper.

To assemble the lasagna: Coat the bottom of a 13 by 9-inch pan with a ladle full of tomato sauce. Arrange 4 noodles lengthwise in a slightly overlapping layer on the sauce. Then, line each end of the pan with a lasagna noodle. This forms a collar that holds in the corners. Spread 1/2 of the meat mixture over the pasta. Dollop 1/2 of the ricotta mixture over the meat, spread to the edges with a spatula. Sprinkle 1/2 of the mozzarella on top of the ricotta. Top with a ladle full of tomato sauce, spread evenly. Repeat with the next layer of noodles, meat, cheeses and sauce. Top last layer with noodles, sauce and shredded mozzarella and Parmesan. Tap the pan to force out air bubbles. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 1 hour. Remove from oven. Let lasagna rest for 30 minutes so the noodles will settle and cut easily. Cut into 2-inch squares and serve.

Bright eyed and bushy-tailed Tyler is the kind of guy you wouldn’t mind to be your daughter’s prom date. He’s earnest, clean cut and the type who makes lasagna and apple pie – very Americana.

I first saw Tyler on TV with his Food Network show, the mildly annoying Food 911, where Tyler would come to “rescue” ordinary folk’s meals and cooking dilemmas, large canvas bag in hand (emblazoned annoyingly again with “911”). I dont know if it was the drab looking kitchens he always seemed to visit or the lack-luster people whose meals he saved, or even his own overtly keen persona – whatever it was, the show was not his best in my opinion.

But this was obviously not the public opinion as the show apparently did very well, and Tyler’s contemporary “honest” American style described as “real kitchen cooking” took off with the masses.
To be fair to Tyler however, he has evolved somewhat, at least with his shows’ sense of style. I have not seen “How to Boil Water” yet (please, couldn’t he have thought of a more clever name?), but I have seen Tyler’s Ultimate, and it was a lot better than 911.

Born in 1971, Tyler was educated in the culinary arts in South Carolina, moving to New York in 1992. By 1998 he opened and became executive chef at the critically Cafeteria, which went on to winning Best New Restaurant in New York’s Time Out magazine.

He made his television debut as early as 1996, with a few guest appearances on the Food Network. Aside from his own shows, the affable young Tyler has hosted other Food Network shows, as well as made appearances on E!, Rosie and the Today’s Show. He has also written two cookbooks – Tyler Florence’s Real Kitchen and Eat This Book: Cooking With Global Fresh Flavours.

Ferran Adria’s recipes are so un-mainstream that it is virtually impossible to find one your kitchen at home could handle, or even one actually written down for that matter.

Well, I did manage to find one online, which luckily was adapted for home cooking. Perfect for a very special occasion – a real show-off piece if there ever was one.

Try it out if you dare!

Ferran Adria’s Apple Caviar

Ingredients:

* Apple Juice 1 ¼ pounds golden apples

* Apple Reduction ¾ pound Granny Smith apples

* Caviar 8 ounces Apple Juice
* ½ teaspoon Alginato
* 1/8 teaspoon citric acid

* Calcium Chloride 2 cups water
* ½ teaspoon calcium chloride

* Garnish 4 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and very cold
* ½ teaspoon cinnamon
* 3/8 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

Method:

For Apple Juice:

Wash and core apples and cut into quarters. Purée apples and pour liquid into a tall and narrow container. Freeze about 30 minutes so that the impurities solidify and rise to the top. Remove from freezer and extract impurities with a skimmer. Strain juice and reserve.

For Apple Reduction:

Wash and core apples and cut into quarters. Purée apples and pour liquid into a tall and narrow container. Freeze about 30 minutes to solidify impurities, which will rise to the top. Remove from freezer and extract impurities with a skimmer. Strain juice and place over medium heat until reduced to caramel consistency.

For Apple Caviar:
While cold, mix 1/3 of juice with Alginato in blender until Alginato has dissolved. Heat mixture to 205°F, then remove from heat and stir in remaining juice. Add baking soda and stir to dissolve. Strain and freeze until service.

For Calcium Chloride:
Dissolve the calcium chloride in water and reserve.

To Serve:
Purée Granny Smith apples and freeze in a very tall and narrow container 5 minutes. Fill 4 syringes with apple solution. Release one drop at a time into Calcium Chloride and cook 1 minute in water. Strain and rinse caviar in cold water bath. Drain and add 2 teaspoons of Apple Caviar. For each serving, put ¾ ounce of caviar in a cylindrical mold, season caviar with a little Apple Reduction, cinnamon and 3 drops vinegar. Seal and serve.

Although I love to cook and actually dont mind labour-intensive recipes (if I have the time on that particular occasion that is), I must admit that I’ve never really made the effort to do a proper “dip”.

And I’m not talking about a salsa, hummous or cheese spread-type thing, but the sort of dip that one usually purchases with a big bag of chips, with the idea that an evening of full-on couch potato sloth is on the agenda.

Here’s Rachel’s version, which involves much less guilt than the bottled variety, for snobbish as well as health reasons -as you serve this one with raw veg as well.

French Onion Dip and Chips

1 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, a turn of the pan
1 tablespoon butter
2 medium onions, quartered lengthwise then very thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 cube beef bouillon
1/2 cup water
Black pepper
1 teaspoon ground thyme, 1/3 palm full
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce, eyeball it
2 cups sour cream
8 ounces cream cheese, softened in microwave for 20 seconds on high
Pinch salt, optional
2 tablespoons chopped chives, 5 to 6 blades

Chips:
2 sacks chips (recommended: Onion and Garlic flavor Terra brand Yukon gold chips or other specialty chips of choice)
2 large carrots, peeled then very thinly sliced on a heavy angle
1 very firm medium sized zucchini, very thinly sliced on a heavy angle

Place a medium skillet over medium to medium high heat and add the extra-virgin olive oil and the butter. Melt butter into oil then add onions and garlic cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add bouillon cube to the pan with 1/2 cup water and cook until it “melts” coats onions, stirring frequently, 3 minutes. Season the onions with pepper, thyme and Worcestershire sauce. Remove from heat and transfer to a plate to quick-cool a bit.

In a medium bowl, mix together the sour cream and softened creamed cheese using a rubber spatula. Stir in the onion mixture until completely combined, add salt if necessary and adjust your seasonings. Serve at room temperature or chill. Garnish with chives.

Pack up chips as-is. Season the veggie chips with salt and pack up with a paper towel to capture excess moisture in a plastic food bag. If serving at home, salt vegetables in single layer, let stand 5 minutes then pat dry. Arrange chips and vegetable chips around dip and serve.

When I saw this book written by 30-minute-meal-maker Rachael Ray, I immediately thought of those travel guides used by backpackers. When I lived in London in my college days, backpacking friends would pass through the city and stay at my flat, and every single time they came with a copy of “Europe on $20 a Day”.

So back to Rachael’s $40 take, which is less of a travel guide and more of a companion to her tv show of the same name. In the show, Rachael packs her bags and bids goodbye to her sunny kitchens at the Food Network and travels in search of the best eats for $40 a day.

Although Rachael travels the world in search of gourmet meals on a tight budget, most of the venues are in the southern Atlantic coast and Northeastern parts of the US. Abroad, she does visit obvious foodie countries like France and Italy.
There are a few recipes of pretty basic recipes (think clam chowder and french toast), and although the book does not have an index (my other bone of contention with her “30 Minute Meals” cookbook), the restaurants are grouped geographically which makes things somewhat simpler.

In general, this book picked up mixed reviews. Most of the people who bought it were fans of the show (or of Rachael) anyway and thought the tips and photos to be great – but if you were expecting a recipe-worthy cookbook or a concise travel guide to restaurants, you’d probably be disappointed.

My favourite thing about Keith Floyd are his television programmes where the chef, despite being somewhat soused, proceeds to cook in the most amazing locations – in the middle of a busy street in Ho Chi Minh, bundled up on a sleigh in the arctic or my favourite – amid gawking ostriches in the African wilderness. And in the latter, the cooking was interrupted by the hungry ostriches who decided to eat the ingredients and what Floyd was cooking.
There’s been a lot of not-so-good press about old Keith lately – his inclination to drink (a common English pastime anyway), financial troubles and so on. But the fact is, the man’s cookbooks sell very well ( I have a couple, and they are among my favourites), and his shows are among the most entertaining in the tv cooking show world.

Born in 1943, Keith learned the fundamentals of solid, old fashioned British cooking and the importance of fresh ingredients through his parents, simple country folk who cooked well. He gave up journalism and joined the British army, later entering the catering world through a variety of odd jobs – including vegetable peeler, barman and dishwasher.

He then opened a string of restaurants over the years, all of which had disastrous results. By a stroke of luck, Keith was offered a role as presenter on the BBC and gained popularity quickly, becoming the celebrity chef he is today.

His cookery shows span the world -and Keith can be seen in the most far flung places of the globe from India to America, Africa to Australia. All part of the charm of this old English chap travelling the world and enjoying food, and why not, drink.

Fishcakes were one of the first things I learned how to cook – its so simple to do and the ingredients are usually at hand in the pantry or fridge, making it the perfect reliable standby when you’re feeling unimaginative. All it really is is fish (fresh or tinned) and mash, coated with breadcrumbs.

Quintessentially English, you can pretty much find fishcakes in most cafes and pubs around the UK. These days, there are other versions – like the spicy Thai type served with a cucumber dipping sauce, or with salmon and capers coated in matzo meal.

Delia’s original recipe from “How To Cook” was served with the traditionally English accompaniment, parsley sauce. My version below uses Delia’s as its foundation, but I’ve adapted it to my family‘s tastes – which includes it being served with a cheat “Aioli”. Recipe also provided below.

Fishcakes With Aioli

4 medium potatoes – peeled, quartered – boiled and mashed
1 large slice of fresh tuna (or a tin of pink salmon) – de-boned and skinned.
Butter, olive oil
3 tbsp. capers
2 tbsp. chopped cornichons
Fresh parsley, chopped
2 large cloves garlic, crushed
1.4 cup mayonnaise
2 tbsp. plain yoghurt or creme fraiche
Lemon juice
Bread crumbs/ matzo meal
Egg, beaten

1. Grill the tuna with a little olive oil, season.

2. When tuna is done, sprinkle with lemon juice, chop into smallish peices.

3. Add fish to the mashed potatoes, with a little olive oil to moisten.

4. Add cornichons, capers, more lemon juice, parsley. Season to taste.

5. Form into patties, dip in beaten egg, roll in breadcrumbs or matzo meal. Chill in fridge.

6. Mix mayo with garlic, a squeeze of lemon juice, pepper, yoghurt. Chill in fridge.

7. Cook patties until golden brown, serve scattered with some capers and parsley, with aioli alongside for dipping.

I think the secret to Delia’s success is the way her recipes are never daunting- especially for beginners. She actually prides herself on trying and testing her recipes over and over to come up with something thats easy to follow and best of all, achievable.

Delia started out without any prestigious diplomas, or any formal qualifications to speak of. She was a trainee hairdresser, shop assistant and travel agent before she finally got her feet wet in the food industry – as dishwasher at a restaurant.

Her moment of inspiration came when a boyfriend told her that his ex was an excellent cook – and this got Delia cooking seriously. She studied English cookery books at the British library and practiced on family and friends – some of which produced less-than-perfect results like the famed “Rice Pudding Disaster” which lacked one vital ingredient – sugar.

By 1969 Delia was a cookery writer for “the Mirror” and later the “Evening Standard”. At this time, cooking at home in Britain was in steep decline, so Delia came up with the idea of a TV show on the BBC to revive it.

Her televised cookery course backed up by cookbooks were an instant hit and it got Britain cooking at home again, trying new ingredients and buying fancy cookware for the first time ever. Since then, Delia has written 15 cookbooks as well as 2 religious works owing to her staunch Catholicism.

Delia’s other passion is football. In 2003, Delia retired from TV cooking and bought majority shares in Norwich City Football Club where she and her husband take an active role in all aspects of running the club – especially the catering.

One last bit of trivia: Delia baked the cake seen on the Rolling Stones album cover, “Let It Bleed”.


I first started to take a proper interest in cooking about 12 years ago in 1994. I was out of school, out of a flat I shared with 3 girls (where dinner involved a baked potato or a takeaway), and on my own. Well, not really on my own, but with a new flat and a hungry boyfriend who liked to eat at home.

I started off with “doctoring” spag bol from a jar (Barilla of course), and one year later when we moved into a little house by Victoria station together, it was by pure chance that one of the books the landlady left in the kitchen was an old copy of the book you see above ” Delia Smith’s Complete Illustrated Cookery Course” – which I promptly devoured.
Fast forward to 2006 – 5 kitchens, 2 continents and 2 kids (I married the hungry boyfriend) later. As a friend who stayed in my home rightly observed of the current state of my lifestyle ” …she’s in the kitchen all day!”.

Yes, I do spend a large part of the day pottering around the kitchen preparing something for someone in my family, but I love it. And what I can honestly say is that I owe a large part of my love for cooking to Delia and that cookbook.
I dont know if it was her non-nonsense approach, the way she taught in words that made it seem so easy, or the simple food that always tasted good – but she really did teach me the basics of cooking, and as I discovered, millions of other people in Britain as well.

She doesn’t have the panache of Nigella, the funky youth of Jamie, or the celeb-suave of Wolfgang, but what Delia does is actually get you to cook (and enjoy it too).

As we were on the subject of Anthony Bourdain, I thought it would be interesting to talk about his recent experience in Beirut while filming an episode of his new show “No Reservations”. Definitely some good old-fashioned excitement for this blog.
This happened in July, when Israel started bombing Beirut, and Tony and his crew found themselves smack in the middle of it. He watched the bombings unfold from his hotel balcony, found himself face to face with the Hezbollah, and finally was dramatically evacuated by a very sympathetic (according to Tony) US marine force.

Upon their return to the States after being trapped in Beirut for weeks, Bourdain was interviewed by the Washington Post. Here are some of the most interesting quotes from the interview:

“As it happened, I was standing with a Sunni, Shiite and a Christian when Hezbollah supporters started to fire automatic weapons in the air celebrating the kidnapping of the Israeli soldiers as a few supporters drove by the three people I was with all instantaneously took on a look of shame and embarrassment as if a dangerous and unstable little brother had once again brought the whole family into peril. At no time during my 10 days in Beirut did I ever hear an anti-Semitic or even explicitly anti-Israeli statement. ”

“To the contrary, there was a universal sense of grim resignation and inevitability to what Israel’s reaction would be. Dating to the first seconds after Hezbollah started firing in the air, we were a largely Jewish crew. The last person to leave us as Lebanese fled in droves, was the Shiite from south Beirut. We had to plead with him to leave us and join his family. His house was later destroyed.”
“I can’t possibly say enough good things about the U.S. Marine Corps or enough bad things about the embassy and the State Department”

“There are times in one’s life when tuna noodle casserole and macaroni and cheese speak directly to the heart.”

The last quote was Tony referring to US Navy food where they spent a few days en route back home.