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East meets West – wild garlic, Sichuan-style

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This week we went foraging for what’ll probably be the last of this year’s wild garlic. It’s rare to be able to gather it so close to the start of June, and after a late start – disrupted by the snows at the back end of March – this year’s ended up yielding a good crop. I’ve made plenty of wild garlic butter; there’s a kilner jar of pesto in the fridge, ready to add a splash of bright viridescence to a bowl of pasta; and we’ve sprinkled flowers over half the dishes we’ve eaten this week. Forget the adage of ‘make hay while the sun shines’… more like make the most of nature’s most abundant free food while you can.

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I love cookbooks, but it’s rare a cookbook excites and engrosses me as utterly as Fuschia Dunlop‘s Every Grain of Rice. Recommended by a swathe of foodie friends, I got it six weeks ago and have been rapt with attention… more so than her other writing. The sheer simplicity and balance of the many recipes chimes with my style of cooking; and the comprehensive yet conversational tone draws the reader in. As a result I’ve already cooked a broad selection of recipes from the book, with many more earmarked to try soon. However one recipe leapt out at me as soon as I opened the book… and it’s one of the very simplest. It’s called Stir-fried Garlic Stems with Bacon (La Rou Chao Suan Tai).

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Little Lamb… and huge portions

A rare opportunity to have dinner with my mum in London beckoned this week and it was the perfect opportunity to visit Chinatown. I like to try something new each time I visit so we decided this was the perfect chance to sample ‘hot pot’ at Little Lamb on Shaftesbury Avenue.

For those of you who haven’t tried this delight, hot pot is the Chinese equivalent of fondue where you dip small portions of meat, fish or vegetables in steaming hot stock to cook it at the table, eating as you go. Also known as ‘steamboat’ or ‘shabu shabu’, it is a fantastically sociable eating experience as you congregate around a steaming pot of stock and pass plates of deli-thin meats and tantalising seafood around, soaking up the smells and aromas as you eat. Read more