Monday, March 28, 2011

Freshly squeezed vitamin boost, anyone?

When the clocks go back, the sun starts beating mercilessly down on my single glazed bedroom window, and the terraces begin to fill up with smiling, wine-sipping students at 2 o’clock every afternoon, I know that Spring has announced itself once again. The season of fresh starts, of forming new and sensible habits, after what feels like the dark, depressed hibernation of winter is upon us. We are all familiar with the proverbial purchase of a year’s gym membership for this exact reason. Don’t do it. There’s a far easier, more sustainable, and less soul destroying way of being kind to yourself: and that is getting into the habit of making your own juices and smoothies.

I am aware of the appeal of certain cleverly marketed, wildly overpriced shop-bought versions. These products are so successful precisely because they have cottoned on to the anti ‘mindless consumerism’ movement; they are careful not to include any artificial flavors or preservatives, make impressive efforts with respect to environmental sustainability and persuade us that they are simply making our lives easier by boosting our vitamin intake and saving us time. All of this would be convincing enough but the real clincher for most of us is that they just look so… healthy. Practically all of us consume far less fruit than we should. It almost seems perverse not to buy this stuff. The genius thing about this is of course that in doing so they are persuading us to invest heavily in both time and money in something we could do at home. For free.

But if that isn’t enough to persuade you, I would urge you to consider the argument for variety. What these products cannot possibly offer us is the vast amount of choice found in the fruit and vegetable sections of our local markets and supermarkets. Aren’t you bored with the same three flavors week after week? Shopping for our own ingredients (and this is a theme to which I will return time and again, being very close to my heart) is an essential way of reconnecting with our food, the lack of which has reached epic proportions in most Western European countries. Convenience has killed off our interest, knowledge and creativity in preparing food, and without these our relationship with food has suffered. Food is much more than fuel for the body. So if you only have time for one kitchen ritual this week, then get yourself a blender and start preparing your own juices and smoothies. You’ll have upped your vitamin intake, learned something new and said no to Fruit For Lazy People all in one go.

The healthy side of life

Food4Friends has a new best friend. This friend shows us what healthy, but most of all delicious food is! It’s name? Suitable as always: Food4Health. These days nearly all of us are searching for ways to lead healthier lifestyles. An essential part of this is, of course, a healthy diet. The motivation to eat healthily can arise out of specific circumstances, such as becoming pregnant or being overweight; whilst some individuals require a drastic overhaul of their diets as a result of being diagnosed with Diabetes. Whether you have special dietary needs or just feel like eating healthily, Food4Health apps will provide you with all the inspiration you need!
Want to learn more about these apps? Just go to You can also follow Food4Health on Twitter or Facebook.

Good day!

Chocolate Challenge

Attention all chocolate lovers: we need your help! The task is simple: send us your favorite, most mouthwatering chocolate recipes, and we’ll give them a go. (It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it). We’ll photograph them lovingly and those which really excite us we’ll feature in our upcoming Chocolate app! We want to be inspired: simple, complex, raw, frozen, dark, milk, white, whipped into a mousse or baked into a brownie- use your imaginations and surprise us! We’re not fussy- but we do insist that any recipe used in the making of this app is truly divine. Only true chocoholics need apply! Everyone has their own unique take on the world’s favorite sweet treat. Why not show off yours? A good excuse to dream about chocolate, anyway…
Think you’re up to the challenge? Then send in your recipes to!

What makes the perfect brunch?

We all have our own ideas about what constitutes the perfect brunch. It’s hard to say who does this lovely tradition best, with the Americans, British and continental Europeans all turning out their own unique versions. Having sampled many a brunch from Copenhagen and London to New York, Sydney and Amsterdam, I have formed a few passionate opinions on the subject of brunch myself. To all you brunch skeptics out there, yes it is a real meal and no, a mere croissant or a fruit salad at 11AM doesn’t count. So what elements does this elusive part-breakfast part-lunch contain, then? And what differentiates brunch from a mid-morning snack?

Firstly, and very importantly, there is the setting. Even before getting to the menu, the right atmosphere is required. You can never go wrong with a warm, cosy, wood paneled cafe, with lots of inviting cushions and the faint tinkling of jazz in the background. Somewhere with personality, the very opposite of the soulless, sterile minimalism that seems to be the hallmark of ‘quality’ everywhere these days. Perhaps a few glamourous black and white prints on the wall, an eccentric owner and definitely somewhere both pet and child friendly. (This is something that the French and Danish do so enviably well and the English, for example, do so appallingly: providing top rate facilities for both children and pets almost everywhere without encouraging intrusiveness and bad behavior).

So if you are lucky enough to have stumbled upon the right establishment, this is a good start. If you arrive on a Saturday or Sunday morning, however, you will inevitably be confronted by endless crowds. Depending on the place, you’ll probably be able to enjoy a brunch menu on weekdays, too, often aimed at the new up and coming ‘business breakfast’ professionals or ladies who lunch. If this is an option for you, you’ll get all the enjoyment of a great brunch with none of the queues or general air of contented chaos which seems to be inimical to cafes on weekends the world over.

So finally, we get to the all important aspect: the food itself. First rule? Freshness and quality of ingredients. Some of the best brunches I have ever eaten have consisted of just two or three ingredients, but were so wonderfully fresh I simply didn’t need any more. Lots of something quite good is never going to be a substitute for a little bit of something excellent. A good rule for life in general, I find, but especially where food is concerned. Go to Copenhagen for a plate of melt-in-your-mouth smoked salmon, creamy scrambled eggs and a batch of organic, whole-wheat bread and you’ll see exactly what I mean. Or to New York for a stack of authentic blueberry pancakes. A good selection of pastries (and these really must be fresh baked to be enjoyed) or a sourdough loaf with raspberry jam are also welcome additions to any brunch spread. The same goes for a refreshing bowl of fruit salad. Where so many brunches go wrong, however, is in trying to combine all of these things at once and doing all of them quite well, rather than one or two fantastically. This is always a letdown, and invariably results in a lot of wasted food. Brunch is a little bit like a hotel breakfast buffet- we don’t do it very often so get far too over excited and overindulge terribly when we do. Get into the habit of brunching little but often, and you won’t regret it.

A fun and affordable way to do this, of course, is by experimenting at home on your nearest and dearest. I have never met a man (or woman, for that matter) who doesn’t love waking up to eggs benedict and a paper on a sunday morning. And there’s always the slight chance the favor will be returned… so try it this weekend and let us know how you get on! Happy brunching!

By Zeena

Sweet Reflections…

Sweet Contemplations…

Having just been lucky enough to spend my days translating our mouthwatering Chocolate! cookbook for the Ipad App Store, it got me to thinking. Firstly about chocolate, then more generally about our relationship to sweet foods in general and their place in our daily culinary lives. Yep, that’s right- spending hours every day staring at mouthwatering recipes does bring out one’s philosophical side. And it struck me that when a craving for something sweet strikes, the first thing most of us tend to reach for is a packet of cheap, ready made cookies or candy masquerading as chocolate- but at less than 30% cocoa and packed with additives, sugar, artificial colorings and flavorings, these are a poor substitute for the real thing. If there was only some way you could whip up your own batch of biscuits, muffins or chocolate brownies in the same time and with the same amount of effort it takes you to pop to the supermarket, I’m sure we’d all happily make the swap. Just try it. Once you’ve gotten past the psychological barrier of whisking a few eggs and weighing out a bit of flour, you’ll see just how easy it is to satisfy your sugar cravings in a fun, easy, and additive free way. And your friends will love you for it, too! Should you need any inspiration, just have a sneaky peek at Sweet! in the Ipad store. Once you’ve tried our chocolate layer cake there’s no going back…

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The iPad – a cook’s best friend?

The way we cook is being revolutionized by devices like the iPad. Offering countless possibilities for the contemporary home cook, this tablet acts as a recipe database, a weight converter, a timer, an instruction video archive- and that’s just for starters. The kitchen is the heart and soul of a home, and cooking an essential means of bringing people together. With the ceaseless demands of modern life, we here at Food4Friends are bubbling with enthusiasm at the potential of the iPad as a home cooking tool. Anything that saves time is a plus. Anything, in fact, that makes things just that little bit easier is to be welcomed with open arms.

I have always yearned for quick and efficient trips to the supermarket. Instead I invariably end up sloping up and down the fresh produce aisle for half an hour with a nagging feeling that I’ve forgotten some essential ingredient. Needless to say, I always have. Not so with the various iPad apps and their plethora of user friendly features. Forgetting ingredients will soon be a thing of the past, as users can simply email whole ‘shopping lists’ directly to their tablets before popping out. Never again will I have to resign myself to overcooked pasta, or mumble apologetically as I take my dry, dessicated roast chicken out of the oven. With their integrated timers, these apps keep an eye on the time so that I don’t have to. And I don’t have to worry about floury fingerprints all over the screen, either- protective films that allow for full touchscreen interaction are widely available. There are some beautiful stands on the market, too. Treat yourself and invest in a good one- it’ll make the whole experience easier, more efficient and less prone to accidents.

The instruction videos are especially handy for those of us who need a bit of extra guidance with preparation methods. Clear, quick, and easy to follow, they are just one example of the kind of interactive functionality that culinary apps can offer. In fact, they are proving to be so useful I find myself wondering just how we all used to get by without them?

Recipe storage is another classic ailment of the home cook. I have lost count of the times I have jotted down the most wonderful recipe on a bit of scrap paper, only for it to mysteriously disappear, never to be seen again. Or saved it in some obscure file on a laptop, uncovered 6 months after I wanted to use it with no discernible explanation as to what it is doing there at all. This is where the iPad and its various apps really come into their own. Favorite recipes can instantly be archived into a single, easy to access location. My recipes are there where I want them, when I want them. Gone are the days of flicking through two hundred pages in the vain hope of finding that pan fried scampi recipe, or worse- being in the middle of it and losing your place!

All in all, I can’t think of a single reason not to love the iPad and all its culinary apps. Perhaps, like many home cooks, my sense of loyalty towards printed cookery books sometimes gets in the way of my appreciation, but its incredible user friendliness and efficiency in the kitchen soon remind me of why I fell in love with it in the first place. Plus, with the stunning high resolution images of these apps, along with all the history and factual information you could wish for, they each tell a story of their own. Whether it’s a savoury snack, a picnic spread or a sweet treat you’re after, these apps have it all- and on that note, I think it’s time for a quick bite.