Thursday, 6 March 2008

Breaking Into Tesco

There's a new foodie tv series, Breaking Into Tesco. In a twist on the current local organic Zeitgeist, participants have to invent a processed food product to pitch to Tesco.

Unlike the inspiring Masterchef, where we we watched talented cooks making impressive food, this series featured contestants who didn't seem to have much of a clue.

One of the contestants had invented cherry ravioli. There's nothing wrong with the concept of sweet ravioli, though Tesco's shoppers may not be ready for it yet. But it didn't seem to have occurred to him that cherries are seasonal and so may not be the best choice for a retailer that likes year-round consistency in what it stocks. It also seemed to be news to him that egg pasta is nicest if made with lots of eggs.

Then there was the woman who made 'free-from' muffins. This was a noble aim, and she threw herself into it with embarrassing gusto. But when her original muffins weren't muffiny enough in texture, it took Simon Rimmer to suggest she added beetroot. Now, wouldn't you have thought, given that carrot cake has been around a few years now, that if you were that interested in developing sugar-free cakey things, you'd have thought of trying a bit of root vegetable yourself? At one point she complained, 'I'm not a scientist', which made me throw my copy of Harold McGee at the screen. Is random messing around in the kitchen by members of the public with no special knowledge really the best way to come up with a new product? Can't Tesco do better themselves with their highly trained food scientists and research labs? Really? Surely this show's not really just a barely disguised advertorial for Britain's biggest supermarket?

Monday's winner was a Malaysian woman from York, Jennie Cook, who wanted to sell a noodle soup to officeworkers for lunch instead of a sandwich. Unlike the others, she seemed to know what she was doing on the basic recipe. Her only problem was how to do it in one pot to keep the packaging down without the noodles getting soggy. Jenny was quoted in the Yorkshire Post saying that she entered the competition because,
'I do not like cooking just for myself....I want to see supermarkets
stocking my dishes so I do not have to prepare them myself and can just nip
down the road to buy them and heat them up in the microwave.'

Good luck to her, particularly as she seemed to be the only one on Monday who knew what she was doing.

Of course, I might be being unfair. They might all have been highly educated foodie experts ruthlessly edited to look bad. But then, that's tv for you.

Monday, 3 March 2008

Pigs' trotters are good for your skin

...according to this article in the Telegraph.

Apparently there is a new restaurant in New York, Hakata Tonton, specialising in 'collagen cuisine'. Pigs' trotters are high in collagen, the protein responsible for skin strength and elasticity. As you get older its degradation leads to wrinkles. So if you eat pigs' trotters, so the argument goes, you'll replace the broken-down collagen and have lovely younger-looking skin.

I'm no nutritionist, but surely the problem with this is that when we eat food we digest it and turn it into something else?

If anyone wants to test it, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's brilliant River Cottage Meat Book includes at least four recipes for pigs' trotters. I will be looking carefully at his skin next time he comes on tv to see if he has any wrinkles.