Everything You Can Build With Leftover Pickle Juice

As part of HuffPost’s “Reclaim” project, HuffPost Taste will focus the entire month of July on simple ways you can reduce food waste in your own home.

There’s a feeling of sadness that occurs when one eats the last pickle from the jar. Pickles are great, it’s understandable to mourn the end of them. But what’s left behind in that jar the pickle juice is full of possibilities . It can be used in a number of recipes to impart its briny, pickle-y flavor to a multitude of dishes. So whatever you do, don’t dump it.

Dumping pickle juice is throwing away an invaluable ingredient.

If you love the flavor of pickles, then you love the flavor of pickle juice. And so naturally, you should be using it as an ingredient in your kitchen. From cocktails to salad dressings, there are a whole lot of ways pickle juice going to be able to liven your recipes. Here are six of our favourites 😛 TAGEND

Brine chicken with it.

Skinny Taste

Try it with this Pickle-Brine Chicken Tender recipe from Skinny Taste

Make butter even better with it.

Noble Pig

Try this Dill Pickle Butter Compound recipe from Noble Pig

Use it to punch up sauted vegetables.

James Ransom/ Food5 2

Try it in this Mushrooms in Pickle-Brine Butter recipefrom Food5 2

Use it to perk up some bland potatoes.

Cinnamon Spice And Everything Nice

Pickle juice was built for potatoes. Add to potato salad to give it a tangy kick, or brine them for frying — either way, you can’t go wrong.

Try the Pickle-Brined French Fries recipe from Cinnamon Spice And Everything Nice

Mix it into cocktails.

James Ransom/ Food5 2

Try it with this Very Good Bloody Mary recipe from Food5 2

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Where have all the pilots run?

You’d think everybody would want to fly. It’s been a universal human dreaming since the first cave person considered the first pterodactyl1. You’d think better technology, greater demand, economic growth, and population growth would entail more and more pilots. But the surprising, counterintuitive fact is that fewer and fewer people are flying, and now Earth needs pilots, badly.

Airline industry facing a massive deficit of pilots .”” Yes, there is a definite pilot famine. It is true in all parts of aviation .”” The US Air Force is short more than one-quarter of the fighter pilots it needs .”” Asian airlines are running out of trained pilots .”” ‘Extraordinary’ Pilot Shortage Threatens Flights; 637,000 Needed .”

Meanwhile, the number of active pilots in the US has declined from over 800,000 in 1980 to barely 600,000 in 2017, a one-quarter of whom are student pilots, a certification for which you need no experience at all. Of course there are pilots and there are pilots. A private pilot in a little Cessna is very different from an airline transport pilot guiding a 777. And one reason there’s a shortage is that, while that 777 pilot pullings in six figures, an overworked copilot at a remote feeder airline gets paid peanuts.

But this overall broad decline in piloting is still truly remarkable. Why are we flying so much less in person, at the same hour that we are flying so much more remotely?( The demand for commercial drone pilots, who in the USA must qualify for a” remote pilot credential” by passing an aeronautical knowledge quiz and a TSA security check, is also growing .) Why are less and less people taking to the skies, when they have never been more accessible, and flying vehicle startups, some of them self-flying, are erupting like mushrooms after rain? Might self-flying aircrafts ultimately solve the pilot shortfall?

To try to answer these questions and more, I have recently taken up flying lessons myself, as a sterling instance of investigative journalism on behalf of the members of TechCrunch’s readers.

I jest. Really this was my friend Nat’s fault.” The thing about flying ,” he said to me over dinner once,” is it blends romance, adventure, science, and exploration .” A heartbeat of stunned stillnes afterwards I managed to retort,” Well, that voices terrible ,” but the damage was done.

Taking off seems easy enough, at first, on a demo flight. Just thrust the throttle forward, and feel the whole airplane thrill with the engine’s unleashed power as you accelerate down the enormous runway. The flight teacher next to you tells you when to pull up, gently — you’re not even moving that fast, maybe 70 miles an hour , normal freeway velocity — but when you do, just like that, you’re flying. You are so accustomed to vehicles on wheels that the freedom from the totalitarianism of the earth, the is a lack of the sensation of ground against tires, feelings nearly vertiginous, like weightlessness.

Around you the earth falls away: runway, airport, golf course, the San Francisco Bay glittering in the sunshine. From a cockpit 2500 feet up the Bay Area looks almost too gorgeous to be real, like a special-effect matte painting of ocean, rippling mounds, great pale swathes of builds, cargo ships arrayed in their unloading queue, the wood of skyscrapers that is downtown San Francisco, the pale arc of the Bay Bridge, the clenched fist of Alcatraz, the famed distant silhouette of the Golden Gate.

I’m a terrible cliche now, of course. A Bay Area tech CTO who takes up flying is about as remarkable as a coastal Australian who takes up surfing. I blame Nat.

Does self-deprecatingly admitting that you’re a terrible cliche make it better or worse?

“Science,” he told, and there’s some of that, but truly it’s mostly engineering, a kind very different from the engineering I know professionally. This is physical, visceral, greasy. Not a Matryushka doll of nested software abstractions, operating on some faraway server whose physical details you don’t know or care about; not digital chipsets and circuit board, taking advantage of Moore’s Law and the peace dividend of the smartphone wars, to drive LEDs or solenoids or little electric motors. This is airfoils, spars, composite materials, airflow vortices, a changing center of gravity as gasoline burns, physical forces opposing to hold you aloft against the relentless pulling of the Earth. This is pistons, spark plug, carburetors, magnetos, ga pumps, propellers.

You need to understand how all this engineering works because it is there to keep you aloft and alive. Light aircraft are not dangerous — the one I’m learning in, the Diamond D-A4 0, a 21 st-century aircraft with an excellent safety record, is statistically safer per hour than a motorcycle — but that’s because of pilot developing , not their inherent security. Whether you like it or not, part of the escapade of flying is that it’s replete with dangers. Weather hazards, largely: thunderstorms, icing, gust shear, and especially clouds.

( Yes, clouds. Basic pilot training is for “VFR”( visual flight rules) and if you’re not trained to fly “IFR”( instrument flight regulations) then clouds can and will kill you, because without a visual horizon to track, your instincts and senses will promptly start telling you lies about your airplane’s stance and behavior, and if you’re not trained to override those gut feelings, and follow what the instruments say, then you are asking for a controlled flight into terrain. Fun fact: night flights over water can still be “VFR” in the USA! See also the sad fate of JFK Jr .)

But technological hazards are very real too. Did water get into your fuel tanks? Were they accidentally filled with jet fuel instead of avgas? How do you know? Is your engine operating rough today? Maybe you simply need to lean the mixture for a few minutes during the course of its run-up; and perhaps you need to turn around and call a mechanic. What speed will this airplane stall at? Trick question! Stalls aren’t dictated by speed. You better know what they are dictated by, if you want to fly.

And you do. Or at the least I do. It’s glorious. It’s adrenalinizing, it’s breathtaking; it’s freedom, it’s beauty; it’s like dreaming while awake.

That said, learning to fly is often more Type II fun than Type I. I always actively loved it while I’m doing it, but at the same period, it is often tense, drain, and stressful. You need to always be on when you are in the cockpit. It takes time to get accustomed, at a gut level, to lunging through the sky at high speeds in a little shell of fibreglass and carbon fibre with wings and a tail. And at the least at first, you are drowning in information and obligations.

Student piloting is brief periods of pleasant inactivity interspersed with frequent periods of frantic multitasking. Aviate, Navigate, Communicate, they say — but at first aviation alone seems to take more attention and brainpower than you can allocate. You have rudders, ailerons, elevators, trim, and throttle to control. Sometimes you will be required to tweak the propellor, the mixture, and the active fuel tank. All this while constantly watching your airspeed, altitude, heading, and vertical velocity; preserving awareness of your engine indicators; and keeping an eye out for other airborne traffic.

It’s easier than that sounds, but it’s not as easy as it looks. Even takeoffs are harder than they first seem.( When you push the throttle forward, four separate physical forces skew the nose of the airplane sharply to the left, so you need to step on the rudder, without stepping on the brake, to keep the nose straight-ish .) Landings are hard full stop. Well, sometimes they feel easy, but consistency is hard.

Are self-flying planes on the horizon? I am skeptical, barring a new breakthrough in machine learning, which admittedly I don’t rule out. But there are two roadblocks. First, when will safe self-flying is a possibility? Self-driving automobiles are hard enough, and they only have one axis of control, and don’t get blown around by gales, and if something is wrong with you you hit the brakes. Aircrafts have pitch and roll as well as yaw, and move within a highly dynamic medium, and if something is wrong with you — like an engine failing, or a bird strike — a quick halt is generally the exact opposite of a desirable outcome. I can easily envisage self-flying AI which handles 99.99% of flights, but that 0.01% of exceptional situations will be awfully hard to develop for.

Second, even if we get there, when will it be practical? While people might volunteer to be bleeding-edge adopters, how are you able demonstrate its legality to the FAA and other regulatory authorities? We’d need to add many more nines before self-flying software start competing with professional human pilots, who, unlike human drivers, have a remarkable safety record; commercial aviation had zero fatalities in 2017. Better autopilots for ordinary conditions are one thing, but removing pilots from flying altogether is quite another. Maybe after we build up a long, deep history of perfect security with comparable dronings or military flights; but not any time soon.

Better technology will however help with navigation. I don’t mean point-to-point, I mean in familiar places. Navigation may seem relatively easy above the San Francisco Bay, a well-known province full of landmarks. Guess again. That sky is a possibility empty but it is not unoccupied. Instead it is segmented into dozens of complex three-dimensional zones, and woe betide you if you stray into the wrong one.

Bay Area VFR airspaces

Picture a tiered wedding cake, upside-down, with radiuses measured in miles. That’s the airspace of San Francisco International. But right across the bay you have Oakland International, which has its own smaller but still sizable wedding cake, and a little south San Jose International has its own, and both of those intersect with SFO’s. Then you have the half-dozen smaller regional airports, each jealously guarding their own disc of space, except where squashed by one of those cakes. Each of those kinds of airspace has its own rules and regulations.( SFO’s have the virtue of being exceedingly simple, for student pilots: keep out .)

You may not enter any of those airspaces without first communicating with their controllers, and to communicate you first must master aviation’s snip, dense, custom speech.” Hayward Tower, Seven Papa Victor holding short at runway Two Eight Left Alpha, petition right crosswind departure .”” Norcal Approach, D-A4 0 Seven Eight Seven Papa Victor, three thousand over Lake Chabot, inbound to Oakland for touch-and-gos with info Foxtrot .”” Seven Papa Victor, squawk oh three five seven and contact Oakland Tower .” It would be unremarkable to change frequencies several times, and talk to a few different controllers, during a half-hour Bay flight.

Knowing what frequency to utilize, what to say, who to say it to, and when, while picking your own call sign out of the frequent chatter, the majority of members of which is irrelevant to you, and parsing/ copying down the important information you need — that would be nontrivial all by itself, at first. But it’s not by itself. It’s something you do simultaneously with everything else you’re doing while flying the airplane.

Does the heavy use of voice communications over often( and manually) shifted shared channels seem a little … well … 20th century? A little technologically backward? Well, yes, and no. Voice over radio is simple, powerful, flexible, and time-tested. There are a lot of old airplanes and old pilots out there. Aviation as an industry is understandably loath to induce rapid changes — many of its rules are, as they say, written in the blood of people who learned the necessity of achieving them the hard way.

That said, modern aircraft like the D-A4 0s I’m learning on tend to have” glass cockpits ,” with one LED screen displaying an artificial horizon and all the important instrument data so you don’t have to look at the actual dials( which are still there as backup ), and the other displaying a zoomable map with terrain, your heading, airspace bounds, nearby traffic, etc ., and containing databases of information such as airport places, runways, and frequencies — all at your fingertips if you can master their perplex and perverse knob-and-button user interfaces. (” Turn the big knob left. Now turn the little knob right. Now push ENT. Now turn the little knob left …”)

Apps like ForeFlight make it easier yet. And we happen to be 20 months away from a massive technological stage shift in general aviation, after which much American airspace will require “ADS-B” technology that will essentially let every aircraft be tracked in 3-D in real period; this should construct communications and aircraft spacing much easier.

It feels a little bureaucratic, it’s true. The romance of the glory days of flight, Antoine de Saint-Exupery and company wrestling their planes over the Andes and the Sahara, with the freedom of the whole sky thanks to their skill and their machinery, feels distant from today’s strictly ruled, tightly regimented airspaces, and constant surveillance anywhere near a major airport. But then the skies were empty back then, and the machinery all too often so lethal that skill meant nothing, in the end.

And, I mean, these too are the glory days. You can fly. All by yourself . It isn’t an easy thing to learn, or to do.( OK, some people are naturals. I myself am not .) Multitasking is hard. Kinesthetic learning is hard. Establishing new muscle memories is hard. Developing good judgement is hard. Flying an airplane smoothly, with coordinated turns( using the ailerons and rudder together) while maintaining precise control of altitude and airspeed and bank angle, is … actually that’s not very challenging; but doing all this while at the controls of an aircraft that’s, say, being buffeted by crosswind gusts as you turn towards a runway, in a busy traffic pattern, with the stalling alerting beginning to whine because you banked too late and too hard, but it’s too late to fixing that judgement error now, and the radio crackling in your ears as the tower says something which might or might not be germane to you —

— well, the instructor who made that first takeoff seem easy told me, afterwards that same day, that most people who begin pilot train never finish it. There are plenty of good reasons for that. It is, as my friend Dillo put it, more expensive than a cracking habit. People reach plateaus and get frustrated and give up. But I think the main reason is because it’s complicated, and difficult, and stressful, and when the lessons stop being novel, people stop forcing themselves to do the hard thing, despite the ultimate rewards.

Is that why there are far fewer pilots in America than there were in 1980, even though there are 100 million more people? Would better, modernized navigation and communications technology go a long way towards building flying a little less drain, and a bit more appealing? Maybe. There are culture reasons, too, though, and I think they’re more significant. I think we now lean more towards the abstract than the physical, and towards comfort rather than adventure.

I remember, years ago, assuring online reactions to a study reporting that teenagers in gifted programs were likely to quickly drop things they weren’t instantly good at, the hypothesi being that they feared losing their gifted designation, and that this instinct persisted into adulthood. An astonishing number of my friends, especially my friends who worked in tech, said they strongly identified with this. I wonder if that’s a factor.

Most of all, though, I believe flying seems like a very 20 th-century activity in the popular imagination. But I suspect that won’t last. Something, whether hardware or software, will propel it into the 21 st century mindset soon enough.

1Yes, I know. It’s a joke.

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‘ How do I cut my sleeves off ?’- 2016′ s most-Googled fashion questions answered!

These are the style queries most asked of the search engine this year. But what does an algorithmic rummage of the millions of web pages know that the Protector fashion desk doesnt?

1. How to cut sleeves off a shirt ?

This year was largely focused on vandalising your clothes: razoring your jean hems, cropping your tops and, apparently, de-sleeving your shirts. To do this one, you need scissors and good limbs. Were fairly confident this question was made up.

2. How do I start modelling?

A bleak perennial on the search engines annual manner question roundup but, anyway … To start, you need remarkable genes. If the years catwalk was anything to go by, you also needed curly hair and a decent manage on Instagram.

3. What is haute couture?

Thought 2,000 for a dress was expensive? Believe again! Haute couture is like catwalk fashion except route, route more expensive, made to order as opposed to ready to wear and as close as style gets to art.

Kendall Jenner strolls the runway during the course of its Chanel SS1 6 haute couture show at Paris Fashion Week. Photo: Pascal Le Segretain/ Getty Images

4. How to wear loots with skinny jeans?

In fashion parlance, with a sliver of ankle flesh illustrate. In normal parlance, only shove them on, mate.

5. When can you start wearing white?

Before Labor Day, but also when you dont have or want a baby , no longer take public transport, give up coffee and are the Flotus present or elect.

6. How to become a fitness model ?

Sign up to Instagram. Get a handle like StrongIsSexxxxi4 1. Remember that the straw of your green juice is a conduit to alternative solutions reality where your Lycra athletics bra is never three sizes too small and that all burgers are props not sustenance.

7. What is boho ?

Essentially: dressing up like Florence Welchs cat-lady aunt after a day spent foraging for oyster mushrooms.

Boho chic. Photo: Liz Devine/ WWD/ REX/ Shutterstock

8. What did people wear in the 90 s ?

Lots of layers. So many layers that people questioned the eyesight, savor and sanity of a generation( insure: the entire wardrobe of the Spice Girls ).

9. How to dress like a hippy ?

Repeat( 7) but with less awkwardly perched hats and a more laissez-faire attitude to personal hygiene.

10. How to become a fashion designer ?

The best thing a burgeoning decorator can do is put down the mood committee, appear on Im Dancing on Ice in the Big Brother Bake-Off and fell a sex tape. Celebrity is the new St Martins( find: the Olsen twins, Kanye West and Beyonc ).

Fashion-designer twins Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen. Photo: Timothy A Clary/ AFP/ Getty Images

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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5 Real Climate Changing Devices That’ll Clearly Doom Us All

The planet is getting hotter. I know some people don’t believe that, and if that describes you, well OK, but come up, human . I’m not going to try to convince you here, because if you’ve built it this far in life without being convinced about global warming, an article on a yuks-and-chuckles website isn’t going to make any difference. But! We’re not going to get much farther unless we all start from the same page, so if you want to keep reading, we’re going to need to accept the global warming thing for a few minutes. If you need any further convincing, this stock photo of a melting Ground should clinch it .

Anyways, the Earth is getting hotter. But what if, through some insane accomplishment of engineering, we determined a style to stop this? Not by doing something sensible like cutting carbon emissions. That’s boring. What if we could induce something cool and kind of reckless ? Like something the fucking -ATeam would weld up in a barn? Could we stop global warming with something like that?

Actually, yes, likely. It’s called geoengineering. I’m not exactly an expert on the matter, but I do wail profanities at the sunshine every day, and I also got way, style too deep into this very topic while doing research for my latest fiction, Freeze/ Thaw ( out today, coincidentally ). Here’s how it could be done, and also how we’ll almost certainly fuck it all up .

# 5. Marine Cloud Brightening

How It Could Run:

Clouds are generally white. A brown one means you’ve got a dust storm, a black one means you’re dealing with a volcano or an old Volkswagen, and a red one means Sauron is on the marching. But for the most component, the regular ones are all white. And that’s helpful, because white clouds reflect more sunlight than the blue water of the ocean, sending those damned sunshine rays back into space where they can fuck up someone else’s planet. Which means that anything which gives rise to more clouds over the ocean should lead to a more reflective and ultimately cooler Earth.


Making clouds is easy in theory. There are a few ways of doing it, most of which involve spraying sea water in the air — tell with fans, or ultrasonic waves, or a whole bunch of dudes with airplane skis. And it could be fairly effective. One analyze has suggested that merely 1,000 of these weird ships would be enough to halt the effects of global warming.

Could It Backfire Horribly?

Oh my goodness, yes.

This is actually one of the tamer techniques on this list, largely because it’s just messing about with seawater, and we’ve already got a pretty good handle on what clouds do( angels sit on them ). But anything which has a large enough consequence to halting global warming could have a large enough effect to do lots of things. We’ve surely never done this before, and it’s close to impossible to model all the possible consequences. A global reduction in temperature might happen, at the cost of unpredictable and negative local consequences. Would all that extra moisture in the air change weather patterns? Mess with the aquatic food chain? Will it confuse the stupid birds?

Yes .

That problem is going to show up a lot in this article. Basically, the Earth’s ecosystem is complicated, and monkeying around with one facet can have unpredictable effects elsewhere. Admittedly, this particular system should be reversible. If something runs strange, like all the whales up and leave the ocean or cats start laying eggs or something, we could just turn off the spitting boats and hopefully everything would go back to normal in a few days. But it’s still a big ask, and seeing as this would impact the entire world, “were supposed” come to some kind of consensus before doing it.

Getting seven billion people to reach agreement on something shouldn’t be hard.

# 4. Stratospheric Aerosol Injection

How It Could Work:

Aerosols are little bits of dust and blobs of liquid that float around in the air. When you sneeze on someone, that’s an aerosol, and also rude. They can be basically anything, but the aerosols we’re most interested in for this particular strategy are variants of sulfur. When floating around in the atmosphere, sulfates are slightly reflective, which means that if we could get a whole bunch of them up there, we could get some of that dreaded sunshine “re going away” .

Get the fuck out of here, sunshine .

The nice thing about this technique is that there are already sulfates in the atmosphere; a bunch get sprayed up there every time a volcano explosions. And we already have actual measured evidence of their effects. In 1991, in accordance with the eruption of Mount Pinatubo, there was a significant reduction in global temperatures .

Thanks, volcanoes ?

Also, unlike some of the other more exotic techniques on this list, stratospheric aerosol injection use technology which actually exists. Spray bottle and aircraft technology are pretty well understood by this phase. There are details to be worked out, because ugh , man, injecting thousands of tons of chemicals into the ambiance always has details. But it can be done. Various proposals have suggested utilizing balloons, aircraft, or goddamned cannon to do the job.

Yeah, sure, let’s shoot our way out of another damn problem. Nice one, humanity .

Could It Backfire Horribly?

Oh my goodness, yes.

Aside from the unpredictable ecosystem problems that are going to crop up every time us chimps monkey with the entire planet, there are a few issues specific to this technique. Sulfates in the upper atmosphere can deplete the ozone layer, which we kind of need to not turn into mutants. Sulfates in the lower atmosphere also contribute to acid rain. Admittedly, this technique entails injecting into the upper atmosphere, where’d they float around longer and stay out of the route, but it’s something to be considered. I mean, what are the odds we’d spray millions of tons of chemicals in the air without stimulating some mistakes?

I’m sure we’ll find a way to shoot the mistakes . Also, the sky knows no laws . When you spray stuff up there, it will blow around — meaning this technique could have effects which vary widely with geography. Some areas could get much cooler or rainier or apocalypticier than others.

# 3. Carbon Removal

How It Could Work:

The current accepted prescription for dealing with global warming is to reduce our carbon emissions. The reason the Earth is getting hotter in the first place is the greenhouse effect caused by a couple hundred years of filling the atmosphere with carbon dioxide emissions and cow farts. But that sounds like hard work. Is there a route we could continue pumping carbon into the sky like assholes, but simply Mr. Wizard it out of there somehow? Well, it turns out there is, and it starts with something we’ve all get in our back yards.

“What is up, my animal bitches! ”

That’s right. Plants. All those leaves and branches and delicious, brightly-colored berries are made out of carbon. Plants suck carbon dioxide out of the air all the time. It’s basically the only thing they can do. The main problem with plants is that they also die all the time, and when they do, they release all that carbon back into the air as they decompose. Bigger plants, like trees, can lock the carbon away a little more permanently, as can plants buried in mudslides.

Thanks again, volcanoes ?

But this basic ingredient of plant corpses forms the basis of a few other geoengineering solutions. First, we can simply burn biomass in place of some of our existing fossil fuels, which somewhat reduces the amount of carbon we render. Combining that with carbon capture technology — believe like a big sock or something on the exhaust pipe — can result in a net reduction in atmospheric carbon. The captured carbon then gets injected into the ground. Alternate technologies burn dead plants and turn them into a charcoal product which can be spread over the soil as a fertilizer.


Even more advanced technologies try to imitate plants, generating what are essentially artificial trees that use fans and chemical processes to capture carbon straight from the air.

Could It Backfire Horribly?

Oh my goodness, yes.

Anything which requires biomass wants a lot of it to have any practical effect. We already have some trash biomass in the world we could use — stuff we grow that we don’t commonly have a use for, like some grasses or corn straws or goddamned mushrooms. But we would need so much of it that the temptation would always be there to begin growing a specific harvest to satisfy our ga wants, and all sorts of possibilities problems show up when you start growing a lot of a particular harvest.

The variants that use artificial trees, like some kind of Forest 2.0, would themselves need a lot of energy to operate, which is one of their own problems that got us into this whole carbon mess in the first place. There are styles around that, but if we’re not careful, we’ll end up burning coal to power our electric plants to take the carbon out of the air which we just set there.

And there’s one other carbon removal scheme which we need to talk about, but it’s so specific that it really deserves its own entry …

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John Berger:’ If I’m a storyteller it’s because I listen’

On the eve of his 90 th birthday, one of the most influential writers of his generation talks about migration, Brexit, growing old and his fondness for texting

On 5 November, John Berger will turn 90. As I travel to Paris to meet him, I carry a bagful of books. There are recently published art historical writings, Portraits, and, to coincide with his 90 th birthday, Landscapes( judiciously selected by Tom Overton for Verso ), a fascinating series of encounters with the intellectuals who have mattered to Berger, from Brecht and Walter Benjamin to Rosa Luxemburg. A marvellous miscellany of most recent work, Confabulations, has just been published by Penguin, and A Jar of Wild Flowers: Essays in Celebration of John Berger( including tributes from Ali Smith, Sally Potter and Julie Christie) is coming soon from Zed books.

The homage continues on film in The Season in Quincy: Four Portraits of John Berger, shot during his late 80 s a collage of informal dialogue and political discussion, with offerings by Tilda Swinton, the writer and producer Colin MacCabe and others. It was shot in the hamlet in Haute-Savoie, in the French Alps, where Berger lived for more than 40 years. These jostling admirers depict not only that the man is greatly loved, but an intellectual indebtedness behind the wish to say thank you. Critic , novelist, poet, dramatist, artist, commentator and, above all, storyteller Berger was described by Susan Sontag as peerless in his ability to make attentiveness to the sensual world fulfill imperatives of conscience. His volume Ways of Seeing, and the 1972 BBC television series based on it, changed the route at the least two generations responded to art. And his writing since then especially about migration has changed the route many of us find the world.

Berger now lives in Antony, a suburbium seven miles outside Paris, where he stays with his old friend Nella Bielski, an actor and novelist who grew up in the Soviet Union. They open the door together, and as we sit down to lunch, she turns to me and says: The thing you have to understand about John is that he is not interested in talking about himself. While the chorus of approval get louder on this side of the Channel, he is, unlikely as this might voice, barely well informed any fuss brewing. When I create a proof of A Jar of Wild Flowers, he turns it over in his hands in delighted astound. That is a drawing by Melina, he exclaims, surveying the flowers with spindly stems on the encompas, my granddaughter. He gets up from the table and returns with an petroleum portrait, the size of a sheet of A4 paper. It is of an ageless face and yet Melina is only 13.( Berger has three children Katya, Jacob and Yves and five grandchildren .) He props it next to us and we look at her, as if she had joined us for lunch. If you ask me who I am, Berger tells, Id like to see myself through her eyes, in the way she looks at me. Her gaze is disconcertingly level. She looks, we agree, as if she knows more than she could possibly know or have seen.

The The paint of his granddaughter, Melina, 13, by Jules Linglin, of which Berger says: If you ask me who I am, Id like to see myself through her eyes. Photo: Jules Linglin/ Kate Kellaway

There are two things that are wonderful about this moment. The first is the reminder that Berger is as interested as ever in ways of find; that he still has the ability to give himself the slip-up, to turn perception into an out-of-body experience. And second, it is characteristic that he is keen to champ the young artist who painted his granddaughter. Fetch me a piece of card from that side table, he says. He writes in his not-quite-steady, attractively looping hand: Jules Linglin. He is going to be very well known one day, he proclaims, handing the card back to me.

In spite of his wish to be seen through his granddaughters eyes, it is Berger himself I now find. He is smallish, but his face is big handsomely hewn, with blue eyes and thick white hair. I have recently watched Ways of Seeing on YouTube, and it is extraordinary how commanding the four episodes still are. Berger had no time for ivory towers his way of considering was radical. Forty-four years ago he was a charismatic presence, looking into the camera with penetrating eyes and a frequent frown, as if constantly on the leading edge of disagreeing with himself. The appear was fitting because what the series did was to attain people rethink. He never ducked difficulty: he described, for example, how girls, in traditional paint, were there to feed an craving , not to have any of their own. Unlike Kenneth Clarks patrician Civilisation( 1969 ), Ways of Assuring was never overbearing. In each episode, Berger sports the same groovy shirt with a geometric brown design on a cream background. His voice is clear and emphatic and fudges its Rs. His final words in the series are: What Ive proven, and what Ive said must be judged against your own experience. That is what everything he has written asks us to do.

For me, Berger will always be the author of To the Wedding a moving, unexpectedly affirmative fiction about Aids, in which truth pursued fiction because he discovered only after he had started writing it that his daughter-in-law was HIV-positive. When I was a Booker judge in 1995, it was, out of 141 contenders, the novel I most wanted to win although it perhaps attained for a quieter life that it didnt. Berger famously gave away half his Booker prize money to the Black Panthers in 1972, when G, his postmodern fiction about an Italian philanderers political coming-of-age, secured the prize. A lifelong Marxist( although never a is part of the Communist party ), he disapproved of Booker McConnells historical association with indentured labour in the Caribbean. The other half of the money went to funding Bergers book, A Seventh Man, with the photographer Jean Mohr, about European migrant workers a work he has since said is the one he would most like to survive him. Apparently, one of the Black Panthers went with him to the Booker ceremony and repeatedly advised him to keep it cool.

And now Berger is looking at my proof copy of Confabulations a miscellany of his essays and describes( he went to the Chelsea School of Art as a young man, examining under Henry Moore, and taught there before being hired as the New Statesmans art critic ). We consider his lively sketch of half a dozen topsy-turvy mushrooms. Underneath, in his hand, is written: Consider you afterwards, Omelette People be borne in mind that Berger is funny. And curious. And that he listens how he listens. Over lunch, the small talk is of artichokes and an incredible Georgian dish involving walnuts, but this then results Nella to talk about Bergers American spouse, Beverly Bancroft( mom of Yves; the older children are from an earlier wedding ), who died in 2013, and of her artistry as a gardener. This attains me think of the most moving scene in The Seasons in Quincy, in which Berger urges Tilda Swintons teenage twins to pick raspberries because Beverly loved them. Berger suggests the twins gather photos of Beverly and they go ahead and make a kind of homemade shrine and feed bowlfuls of raspberries alongside it. Your pleasure will give her pleasure, Berger tells them. Towards the end of lunch, Nella whispers to me, in an aside, that she has nicknamed her Parisian house Hotel Spinoza after Bergers favourite 17 th-century philosopher. His book Bentos Sketchbook( 2011) was inspired by Spinoza, whose day task was as a lens grinder. Like his hero, Berger opts not to distinguish between the physical and spiritual. Spinozas vision, he now tells me, is that all is indivisible.

After lunch we move into his analyse, a lair of paints, a place of lighting, its windows hurled wide, seeming on to trees. He tries to induce himself comfy on the white sofa, an arthritic back devoting him difficulty. As a novelist, Berger has that rare and wonderful gift of being able to construct complex guess simple. He once told, in a BBC interview with Jeremy Isaacs, that he likes, in all his run, to follow the advice of the photographer Robert Capa: When the picture is not good enough, go closer His eye for detail remains unrivalled and consistently surprising( think of his irresistible observation that cows walk as if they were wearing high heels ). Reading him is like stands at a window perhaps a bit like the window of this study with no one blocking the view. The way I find arrives naturally to me as a curious person Im like la vigie the sentry guy on a barge who does small jobs, maybe such as shovelling stuff into a boiler, but Im no navigator perfectly the opposite. I stray around the boat, find odd places the masts, the gunwale and then simply look out at the ocean. Being aware of travelling has nothing to do with being a navigator.

Berger was born in Stoke Newington , north London. His father, Stanley, was a Hungarian migr who came from Trieste via Liverpool to London and was much affected by the first world war, in which he served as an infantry policeman and was awarded the Military Cross. He loved painting and was self-taught( paternal conscience resulted him, when he found John reading Joyces Ulysses, to confiscate the book, along with five others, and lock them up in his safe ). In Colin MacCabes film for The Seasons in Quincy, Berger informs Tilda Swinton( a friend for more than 20 years) on how to one-quarter and peel apples in the way his father are applied to do, and affectionately recollect how his father wanted him to be a lawyer, a doctor, an English gentleman.

Berger Berger with Tilda Swinton in The Seasons in Quincy.

Bergers mother, Miriam, received from Bermondsey, south London( her father worked in the docks and looked after brewery dray horses ). She had been a suffragette and, Berger has said, was a very mysterious person, very secretive. But she was not secretive about her ambition that her son would one day become a novelist. Berger prefers to avoid talking about his boarding school, St Edwards, Oxford, which he once described as lunatic and with sadism, torturing, bullying an absolutely monster place, a little totalitarian system. He was sent there aged six and ran away at 16. Was it at school he first understood that the world was unjust? I learnt even earlier, he replies, at about five. And he pauses and I wait. It is like watching a fisherman pulling on a line: My mom to make money to send me to school made cookies, sweets and chocolate to sell. I didnt insure much of her as she was always in the kitchen, running. But once I was in the kitchen and a young man on a bicycle came in and asked for two bars of chocolate. She picked them up, told him the cost and he told: Oh, forgive me, Ive not got this money, theyre too expensive for me, and strolled out without any chocolate. And I was tremendously struck by this incident. I did not judge. I did not judge my mother nor did I judge him for not having enough money. He pauses, I was just waiting for Karl Marx, and he laughs.

In his essay Impertinence( in Confabulations ), he describes the New Zealand governess( pre-school) who used to banish him into what she called the Cry Cupboard whenever he wept. Sometimes his mother would come upstairs to see how he was doing and cheer him along with a box of her chocolate fudge. School, rather than confronting me with something, confirmed something I already felt because, from a very early age, I had this sense of harshness and the need for endurance.

In 1944 he joined up, rejecting the regional commissions with the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire illuminated infantry, and became a lance corporal at a training camp. He preferred the company of working-class recruits, for whom he became a scribe, writing their letters home. In a sense, he has continued to do this all their own lives: telling other peoples tales lest they vanish. In a dialogue with Susan Sontag, he once told: A story is always a rescuing operation. And he has also said( in The Seasons in Quincy ): If Im a storyteller its because I listen. For me, a storyteller is just a passeur who gets contraband across a frontier.

In his 1975 book A Seventh Man, about migration, the rescuing impulse is clear. Berger writes in the foreword: To outline the experience of the migrant worker and to pertain this to what surrounds him both physically and historically is to grasp more surely the political reality of the world at this moment. The subject is European, its meaning is global. Its topic is unfreedom. When he considers todays refugee crisis no longer confined to Europe does he consider the first world as suffered by a failure of imagination? There is another extended pause, like a ravine into which one might fall. Eventually he replies: What two different people have in common will always, in all cases, be larger than what differentiates them. And yet for dozens of various types of reasons, circumstances blind people to that.

And what does he think about Brexit? He leans back on the sofa( we have now changed from the overheated analyse into a cooler parlor, a sofa crawl in operation) and acknowledges it has always been important to him to define himself as European. He then attempts to describe what he sees as “the worlds biggest” image: It seems to me that we have to return, to recapitulate what globalisation meant, because it meant that capitalism, the world financial organisations, became speculative and ceased to be first and foremost productive, and politicians lost nearly all their power to take political decisions I mean legislators in the traditional sense. Nations ceased to be what they were before. In Meanwhile( the last essay in Landscapes) he notes that the word horizon has slipped out of position in political discourse. And he adds, returning to Brexit, that he voted with his feet long ago, moving to France.

John John Berger c1 962, the year he moved to France. Photo: Peter Keen/ Getty Images

We talk about what it is for a person to adopt a foreign country as home, and about how it is possible to love a landscape like a familiar face. For Berger, that face is the Haute-Savoie. This is the landscape I lived in for decades[ he left merely after Beverly succumbed; his son Yves still lives there with his family ]. It matters to me because during that time, I worked there like a peasant. OK, dont lets exaggerate. I didnt run as hard as they did but I worked pretty hard, doing exactly the same things as the peasants, working with them. This scenery was part of my energy, my body, my satisfaction and discomfort. I loved it not because it was a position but because I participated in it.

He explains: The connection between the human condition and labour is often forgotten, and for me was always so important. At 16, I went down a coal mine in Derbyshire and expended a day on the coal face just watching the miners. It had a profound effect. What did it attain you feel? Respect, he says softly. Just respect. There are two kinds. Respect to do with rite what happens when you visit the House of Lords. And a quite different respect links with threat. He says: This is not a prescription for others, but when I look back on my life I think its very significant I never went to a university. I refused to go. Lots of people were pushing me and I said, No. I dont want to, because those years at university sort a whole way of thinking. And you feel free from that? Yes.

Berger fittingly, given his work with peasants means shepherd in French. Do the French insure him as one of their own? My writing in France has not had a huge impact. The countries where Im most read are Spain, Latin American and until recently, oddly, Turkey and Italy. Nor has he lived up to his surname, except Ive occasionally taken a ewe on heat in the back of my 2CV to satisfy a ram. I say we dont call that shepherding, we call that something else. He giggles. He is a man of action: until a few months ago he was( a most dashing octogenarian) still riding a motorbike. Nella tells me they hope it wont be long before he rides again and swimmings. Berger is a keen swimmer and, in Confabulations, writes brilliantly about the democracy of swimming people stripped of telltale trappings, doing their durations. When you are swimming, he says, you become almost weightless, and that weightlessness has something in common with gues. There is also a wonderful account in Bentos Sketchbookof a friendship he strikes up with a Cambodian female who shares the same Parisian swimming pool. She dedicates him a painting of a bird and, he preserves, teaches him something about homelessness.

As he nudges closer to 90, Berger feels his own style of find has changed astonishingly little, although, he points out, technology has changed the route younger generations explore art. He acknowledges, then, to his exuberance for texting: Ive been a fan for a long while because its like whispers and with that goes intimacy, secrecy, playfulness But there is nothing fixed about the way he considers. He believes one never watches the same scene twice: The second hour I saw the Grnewald altarpiece was after a terrorist attack it was the same painting yet I assured it differently. The importance of certain painters has shifted too. He venerates Modigliani less, admires Velzquez more: When one is young, one likes drama, excitation, bravura Velzquez has none of this.

As a writer, Berger has always had a gift for making absences present. Can he summon the people he has lost in his mind? Yes, yes, yes they are very present. I tell him how moved I was by his essay Krakow( in Landscapes ), in which he recollects a New Zealand teacher, Ken, a huge influence on him. And his eyes fill as I speak. It was Ken who told him that whenever he could not sleep, he should imagine you are shuffling a pack of cards advice he still follows. Ken also taught him the trick( not so useful now) of how to walk into a saloon for a spot of underage drinking: Dont look back dont doubt for a moment, just be surer of yourself than they are. And he advised against self-pity. Whenever I might have been filled with self-pity, I turned it into furious rage. Even at my old age, Im still capable of getting very angry.

But Bergers greatest strength in old age is his ability to live in the present. I cultivated this early on and this is the paradox because it was an escape from prescriptions, prophecies, consequences and causes. The present moment is key to his thinking too. In Ways of Seeing, he suggests that paints exemplify the present in which they were painted. Defining the secret of reading aloud well, he says it is refusing to look ahead, to be in the moment. And he says that a tale sets its listener in an eternal present. He has also written about the circularity of period. Does he think that applies to an individual life? Is there, in old age, a route in which one starts to hold hands with ones younger self?

Time is circular, and in relation to that portrait of Melina, that is exactly what I feel. He suggests I take a photo of the painting. We carry it into the sunlight, prop it against the back of a chair. I say the Observer will need a photograph to go with this interview and he asks with boyish mischief: Couldnt we use her instead?

It is merely after I get home that I realise I failed to ask him how he intends to expend his birthday. I text him and he rings straight back. Listen, he tells, I feel so grateful to have reached 90 it is such an age and to my friends for wanting to celebrate, but what Ive told them all is that what we ought to do on the working day is be silent. My birthday should just has become a day like any other.

To order Portraits, Landscapes or Confabulations by John Berger at a discount, go to bookshop.theguardian.com or call 0330 333 6846
The Season in Quincy will be screened on 11 November at the Birkbeck Cinema, 43 Gordon Square WC1, 6pm, as part of the Faces of John Berger symposium; and on 17 November at Curzon Goldsmiths, London SE1 4, 6.30 pm

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'Magic mushrooms' could help people battling depression recognize a friendly face: Study shows psilocybin boosts … – Daily Mail

Daily Mail

'Magic mushrooms' could help people battling depression recognize a friendly face: Study shows psilocybin boosts …
Daily Mail
Research has found psilocybin-based treatment, the primary substance in 'magic mushrooms', can improve emotional processing in depressed patients; Drug changes mood, sensory perception, time perception, and sense of self; Found psilocybin was …

Read more: www.dailymail.co.uk

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The 20 best brunch recipes: proportion 2

Observer Food Monthly selects its favourite recipes for brunch including steak and eggs, classic pancakes and congee

Robert Reids steak and eggs

At Balthazar, we use Angus Aberdeen grain-fed beef for this, and we cut the 300 g steak from a small loin to ensure a consistent thickness of around 2cm. Before cook, leave the steaks out of the refrigerator for about 15 minutes to bring them up to room temperature; this will help the cooking process.

Serves 2
steaks 2 x 300 g
table salt a pinch
freshly ground black pepper
sunflower petroleum 100 ml
free scope eggs 2
Maldon salt flakes

Season the steaks on either side with table salt and black pepper. Heat up a non-stick griddle pan on a medium heat. When hot, put the steaks on the pan diagonally( if you cant fit both on, do one at a time) and cook for 2 minutes, then move diagonally for another 2 minutes so that you get a diamond lattice effect on the steaks. Repeat on the other side. Take out of the pan and put onto 2 warmed plates to rest for five minutes. The steaks will be cooked medium( see below ).

While the steak is resting, start frying your eggs in a non-stick frying pan. Set a little sunflower petroleum into the pan and heat up on a medium heat. Slowly crack your eggs into the pan. Cook slowly. When cooked, gently remove and put one on top of each steak. Serve immediately.

A good rule of thumb for cooking steaks is: three minutes on both sides for medium rare; four minutes on each side for medium; 5 minutes or longer on each side for well done, all on a consistent heat. Always leave to rest for five minutes before serving.

Robert Reid is executive cook at Balthazar London WC2; balthazarlondon.com

Nigel Slaters crepes with apples, maple syrup and vanilla cream

Crepes with apples, maple syrup and vanilla cream. Photo: Jonathan Lovekin for the Observer

My own route with the humble pancake.

Serves 6
For the filling
sharp apples 1-1. 2 kg
maple syrup 3 tbsp

For the batter
butter 30 g
plain flour 100 g
egg 1, large
egg yolk 1 extra
caster sugar 1 level tbsp
milk 350 ml
extra melted butter for cooking

For the sauce
creme fraiche 200 g
maple syrup 2 tbsp
vanilla extract a little

To attain the apple filling peel, core and roughly chop the apples. Put in a pan with 4 tablespoons of water and simmer, encompassed, for 10 -1 5 minutes. Stir occasionally. Stir in the maple syrup.

To build the flapjacks, set the butter in a small pan, melting, then set aside. Sift the flour with a pinch of salt into a large bowl. Softly beat the egg and egg yolk and stir with the sugar, milk and the butter into the flour. Leave to rest for half an hour. Brush a 20 -2 2cm frying pan with melted butter. Stir the batter then pour in a small ladleful, tipping the pan so the batter simply encompasses the base. Cook for a minute or so, until the underside is golden. Loosened with a palette knife, then turn to cook the other side. Lift it out and set aside.

To finish, defined the oven at 180 C/ gas mark 4. Place a pancake on the work surface, spread with the apple fill, then fold in half then half again to give a plump, loose triangle. Place in a warm serving dish and continue until the pancakes and apple are finished. Place in the oven for 10 minutes. Heat the creme fraiche over a moderate heat until melted. Stir in the maple syrup and a few drops of vanilla extract, stirring. Spoon the sauce over the flapjacks and serve.

Sri Owens nasi goreng fried rice

Nasi goreng fried rice. Photograph: Haarala Hamilton for the Observer

This is one of the better known Indonesian dishes, although it originated in China. It has become an everyday dish that can be served with whatever you have, be it cold meat or leftover roast, or a vegetable stir-fry.

A good nasi goreng is light and hot; the rice grains moist but separate, and quite fluffy; and the garnish fresh and attractive to look at. The rice should be cooked 2-3 hours before it is to be fried, so that it has time to get cold. Freshly cooked still-hot rice “il be going” soggy and oily if you fry it. Rice that has been left overnight is toos stale to build first-rate nasi goreng.

If you are going to use seafood or meat, it is best to stir-fry this separately. Mix the meat or seafood into the rice in the final 2 minutes before serving; or simply spread on top of the rice on the serving dish.

Serves 4-6
peanut( groundnut) oil 2 tbsp
butter 1 tbsp
shallots 3, or 1 small onion, very finely chopped
sambal ulek 1 tsp( see note below) or tsp chilli powder
paprika 1 tsp
tomato puree or tomato ketchup 2 tsp
light soy sauce 2 tbsp
carrots 3, very finely diced
button mushrooms 115 g, cleaned and quartered
hot water 2 tbsp( optional)
salt to taste
long-grain rice 450 g, cooked by the absorption technique or in an electric rice cooker, and allowed to cool completely
to serve fried eggs, sliced cucumber, sliced tomato and crisp fried shallots

Heat the oil and butter in a wok or large frying pan. Stir-fry the shallots for 1-2 minutes, then add the other ingredients, including the hot water( if use ), but not the rice. Continue stir-frying for about 6 minutes until the vegetables are cooked. Add the rice, and mix exhaustively so that the rice is heated through and takes on the reddish tinge of the paprika and tomato. Adjust the seasoning.

Serve hot on a warmed serving dish by itself or as an accompaniment to a main course; garnished with sliced cucumber, sliced tomatoes, watercress and crisp-fried shallots; or topped with seafood or meat as described earlier.

Sambal ulek
Commonly spelled sambal oelek in English, sambal ulek is made by crushing chopped fresh red chillies with a little salt, employing a mortar and pestle. It is available ready-made from Asian food stores and supermarkets.

From Sri Owens Indonesian Food by Sri Owen( Pavilion, 20 )

Rose Carrarinis classic pancakes

Classic pancakes. Photograph: Haarala Hamilton for the Observer

Pancakes are on the brunch menu at Rose Bakery every weekend, whether served with bacon and maple syrup or fruit. Like bacon and eggs, flapjacks are so popular I know I will be building many people happy by dedicating these recipes. The important thing to remember when inducing flapjacks is never to overmix the batter. Once the wet is added to the dry, you must turn the batter over with a large spoon no more than eight times!

At Rose Bakery we often serve these pancakes with sliced bananas, or we sprinkle blueberries over the pancakes in the pan just before we turn them over.

Serves 4-6
eggs 2
milk 220 ml
unsalted butter 5 tbsp, melted, plus a little for cooking
plain flour 190 g
salt tsp
caster sugar 1 tbsp
cooking powder 4 tsp
maple syrup and your choice of fruit to serve

In a bowl, beat the eggs with the milk and melted butter. Set aside. In another bowl, sift together the flour with the salt, sugar and cooking powder.

Pour the egg concoction into the flour and stir very lightly until the wet and dry ingredients are only blended. Rub a small frying pan with a little butter, heat the pan to hot and pour in 3-4 tablespoons of batter.

Tilt the pan so that the batter encompasses the base evenly and turn the heat down to medium.

Cook until a few bubbles come to the surface and then turn the pancake over.

Cook for about another minute.

Continue building flapjacks until all the batter is used up, adding more butter as necessary.

Serve immediately, as pancakes are best feed hot, with maple syrup and fruit.

From Breakfast, Lunch, Tea: The Many Little Meals of Rose Bakery by Rose Carrarini( Phaidon Press, 19.95 )

Zijun Meng and Ana Gonalvess Ta Ta Eatery congee

Ta Ta Eatery congee. Photo: Tata Eatery

Congee is a dish that Ana and I eat for brunch so much it has attained it onto our weekend menu. Our congee incorporates our own Asian style herb sauce inspired by a green sauce we once tried at St John but, particularly at brunch, we often experiment with different flavors.

Serves 2
For the congee
short grain rice 100 g
lighting chicken stock 1.5 litres
white pepper 1 tsp
salt to taste

For the green sauce
fresh ginger 50 g
oil 150 g
coriander bunch
parsley bunch
garlic 2 large cloves, peeled
black vinegar 10 g
fish sauce 20 g
wasabi 10 g

To serve
dough stick sliced you can find these in most Chinatown bakeries, or you can replace it with croutons

For the congee, place the rice and chicken stock together in a pot and simmer on a low heat until the rice breaks down. It shouldnt take more than an hour. Make sure you stir every 10 minutes or so, so it doesnt stick to the bottom of the pan. If the congee becomes too thick add more water. Finish with white pepper and salt.

For the green sauce, peel the ginger and mince in the food processor. In a pot place all the petroleum and bring it virtually to boiling point( 200 C ). Drop in the minced ginger and fry until golden, stirring always so as not to catch.

Remove the pot from the hot and leave the petroleum to cool down; strain and discard ginger, but keep the oil.

Rinse the herbs. In a food processor, blitz together the cold ginger oil, coriander, parsley and garlic. Season with black vinegar, fish sauce and wasabi.

To serve, we recommend a small bowl of congee per person finished with a tablespoon of green sauce and a couple of slicings of dough stick.

Leftover sauce can be use as a dip sauce for grilled meat and fish, or served with potatoes and steamed vegetables.

Ana Gonalves and Zijun Meng are cooks and co-founders of T T Eatery, London E8; tataeatery.co.uk

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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Is this cook for moronics? My week eating nothing but’ recipe box’ food

Meal ingredient subscription services build you feel like a kitchen pro by telling you what to cook and delivering every component in cardboard compartments. Does this mean well never have to go supermarket shopping again?

Unlike standard veg boxes, which feel like homework( what do you do with celeriac ? ), recipe boxes are the clever child who’ll let you copy their work in class. They tell you what to cook, how to cook it and only give you enough ingredients to get it done. The recipes, which change every week, are broken down into an nearly insultingly easy series of steps. The boxes make you feel like a kitchen pro, while lifting the need to think or make choices. Are they the perfected kind of home cooking? Or a symptom of our spoonfed uselessness? Can one live exclusively on them? To find out, I have ordered a selection of the best boxes available in the UK, and I’m going to spend virtually 10 days comparing them. I’ll scarcely have to leave the house, and will pass that time exclusively eating. In other terms: the dreaming, squared.


I kick off with the daddy of recipe boxes from award-winning Riverford. It has a range of weekly recipe boxes: two or three meals, vegetarian or omnivore, with different lighting or quicker options in each category. I’ve gone for three regular vegetarian meals, which at PS33. 95 is not cheap. The huge box arrives, rolling into my flat like a tank into township, and I investigate its incongruously cute ingredients: three garlic cloves, two carrots, a baggie of bouillon, a mini-sachet of sesame petroleum. Meat and dairy are surrounded by frozen water bags, wrapped in wool-lined envelopes, which I will eventually acquire so many of, I could knit into a blanket.( As render is seasonal throughout the boxes, I treble up on leeks, mushrooms and athlete beans during the week, at one point owning eight punnets of cherry tomatoes, which is oppressive .)

Riverford’s organic recipe delivery box. Photo: Rhik Samadder for the Guardian

Riverford advises on the best order in which to cook its dishes, and first up is romanesco and leek korma. I take a moment to admire the romanesco, that most fractal of brassicas, and dive in. Toast a small pot of almonds; add a sachet of korma spice to shredded veg and ginger; simmer the romanesco in coconut milk, while preparing the rice. I’m paraphrasing, obviously. There’s much garlic peeling and chilli chopping, at which I’m slow, but it’s liberating to launch into a recipe without reading ahead. As with all the boxes, there are no ambush phases: no” hurl 24 peeled shallots into the pan” or” soak your lentils overnight “. Every step is factored into the instructions, while a frontispiece lists the pans and cookware required, with estimated hour and a picture of the dish. It’s cooking for dummies.

I’m not korma’s biggest fan- I find the creaminess to be a baby’s blanket, muting the punchy stuff. I also get one duff lime in the Riverford box, which cannot be juiced, retaining its moisture in crunchy, gemlike flesh, like an Australian finger lime. Extraordinary, but useless, and it contributes to an overall blandness in the dish, an early shock in the experimentation. Heroes will fall, people.

Romanesco and leek korma, an early bland shock in the experimentation. Photo: Rhik Samadder for the Guardian


I have five boxes, containing three snacks for two or more people. So that the experiment doesn’t last the rest of my natural lifetime, I am selecting two recipes from each box, switching providers every meal.

Today it’s the turn of Gousto, which produces boxes for couples or families – you choose specific recipes every week, from a pool of 20( three recipes for two comes to PS29. 99 ). I’ve gone for” easy biryani”, albeit sceptically.

I remember dum biryani as a multi-day affair, involving meat marinaded in spices, then soaked in yoghurt and cooked slowly, underneath a tart eyelid. I’m intrigued that Gousto thinks I can pull this off in less than an hour. Yet its easy biryani is surely that: I add a sachet of curry powder to diced onion, break in lamb mince, chicken stock, tomato paste and uncooked basmati rice, and simmer for 10 minutes. Mince may be a poor cousin to cubes of shoulder meat, and there’s no fragrant lift from cardamom or cinnamon, but the result is incredibly fulfilling. Meaty oil given off by the mince coats the rice, sultanas pull their weight, and the deep curry flavor is warming, balanced by a dollop of natural yoghurt. It’s a comforting bastard, and ready in an astonishing 35 minutes. Perfectly wolfed down.

The’ easy biryani’ from Gousto lived up to its name- and was wolfed down.


Hello Fresh offers classic( ie meat ), vegetarian or household box subscriptions, which can arrive weekly, fortnightly or monthly( three classic meals for two costs PS34. 99 ). I’m staring at the card for “Mexican cottage pie” guessing it should have a different name, because the one it has is meaningless. It has mozzarella and blocks of sweet potato in it, so could just as well be called Italian goulash. I’m also turned off by the recipe’s unvarying utilize of the word “veggies”, which absence the dignity of “vegetables” and the brevity of “veg”. Wash the veggies, roast the veggies. I’d rather not infantilise anything I’m about to skin and incinerate, thanks.

The company does, I confess, package prettily. There’s a dinky pot of fajita flavouring, an idyllic wax-papered pat of butter from Netherend Farm.” You leave my nether objective out of this ,” I chuckle benignly, before recollecting I am totally alone. I take stock of the box’s contents. It’s not for anyone worried about carbon footprints, but the quality is undeniable. Latterie Carsiche mozzarella from Italy, feta from a Greek dairy, 100% grass-fed beef steak mince, which is bouncy and full-flavoured. Freshly soured cream from Longley Farm is thick and golden, actually tasting of its name. I cook the beautiful beef and onion up with fajita spice, beef stock pot and tomato puree, then oven finish, topped with roasted sweet potatoes and fat shreds of mozzarella. The unpretty outcome looks like a little like sick, but the savor is elevated by the class of ingredients. I Hungry Hippo the leftovers in brutal nanoseconds, and pick at the pan.


At risk of super-sizing his belly, Rhik opts for a healthy plaice dish from Mindful Chef.

I’m now in Super Size Me province: eating meaty snacks for two every night, polishing off korma or lamb biryani for lunch. It’s taking a toll. My bloodstream feels 90% cream, and the tomatoes aren’t going down fast enough. In desperation, I turn to Mindful Chef.

Its recipes are gluten and dairy free, sourced from award-winning farms. You can choose from 12 recipes each week, with vegan options. They are wincingly expensive- three dinners for two expensing PS42, but also the only company that offers recipes for one, and for every dinner in the box, it donates a school meal to a child in poverty, and the virtue by proxy is already settling my stomach.

I plate up orange-mottled Cornish plaice with peas I pod myself, salsa verde and crushed potatoes. (” Potatoes help to detoxify and balance excess acidity in the body, as well as fostering healthy blood circulation ,” I’m informed .) The salsa verde of parsley, mint, capers and lemon could do with a little chopped anchovy and mustard, but overall it’s gratify yet light, the fish shimmering with freshness. This must be the plaice.


A standard affair but a fine dish … Red Thai prawn curry from Simply Cook. Photo: Rhik Samadder for the Guardian

Simply Cook does things differently: you have to buy ingredients yourself. For PS9. 99 it sends four recipes weekly, each with an accompanying cartridge of spice and stock pots, which fits through the letterbox. Shopping listings are short, with each recipe designed to be cooked in 20 minutes or less. It’s a violate from mountains of cardboard, and means you can select your own quality of ingredients; or if, like me, you live in an area without posh stores, crawl back to Tesco with your tail between your legs.

Its red Thai prawn curry is a standard affair: heat peppers, add coconut milk and Thai paste, finally prawns, basil, a twist of lime. I pay particular attention to the stocks. The garlic paste is fruitful, potent, heavy with fish sauces, while the red Thai paste does heavy lifting of its own( more so than the pot of Thai garnish, principally there to make up the numbers ). These big-hitting flavour bombs entail there’s no chopping up chilli or garlic. It still takes me 30 minutes, longer than it should, but the dish is fine, piquant with tomatoes, fragrant with basil and jasmine rice. Fine, I tell you.


Undeniably, these boxes have nailed convenience. By any normal view, I’ve scarcely moved in six days. Like Howard Hughes without the money, I pad around the flat, mumbling how I’ve beaten the organizations of the system, which is my phrase for anything that involves going outside. Unwilling to break my streak by getting milk, I’m breakfasting on weird stuff scavenged from the cupboards- peanut butter on crackers, Kendal mint cake, promotional chocolate. It’s a real-life version of Home Alone: a problematic premise once examined in any detail.

Still, Creole blackened cod tacos by Gousto are laughably easy. I approximately chop a salsa, mix chipotle into mayonnaise. Combining smoked paprika and allspice, I coat cod fillets in it, before charring in a hot pan. I’m perturbed by squeezing out single-serve sachets of Hellmann’s mayo. Is this cooking? It feels more like the semi-feral desperation of a man living in his car. But I’m done in a record 25 minutes, and this dish should come with an allergy warn, because candidly, it is the nuts. Taste is superb, the pillowcase of each taco housing pert salsa, smoky fish and a amazingly long note of spice from the chipotle. An absolute keeper of a recipe.

An absolute keeper of a recipe … Creole blackened cod tacos, although having to squeeze out single-serve sachets of mayo was perturbing. Photograph: Sarah Lee for the Guardian


Can Riverford redeem itself? Time to give it another go, politenes of baked mushroom and chard gnocchi. I soak dried mushrooms to a brooding stock, reduce with portobello garlic mushrooms, nutmeg, gnocchi and chard, before folding in unspecified Italian cheese and mascarpone. Tomatoes round proceedings out, vinegar-macerated baubles creating a salad with a self-made garmenting. Rather than the predicted 45 mins, it takes me an hour; there’s some washing and chopping, a few stages with the mushrooms, reduction and then 20 minutes of baking, but the result is well worth it. Intensely earthy, yet classy. It’s soporifically comforting, as if I’ve injected it intravenously. Yes, yes, yes.


Christ, I’ve been doing this for a week. I’m getting cabin fever. Breaking my rules, I hit up Gousto for a third dinner, breakfasting on fish nuggets with Asian dipping sauce. It’s tasty, but basa fillets fried in a panko crumb coating are, let’s be honest, fish thumbs for Guardian readers’ kids. I turn to Mindful Chef in search of vegetables. Ginger and beef kebabs don’t quite fit the bill, though the rice is brown and paired with chilli mango salad. (” Zingy ginger helps with digestion and fightings rednes .”) Getting all the flesh out of a mango is an existential penalty, and the simple recipe takes 45 minutes. I’m not sure my digestion is thrilled to contend with cubes of flat-iron steak , no matter how much ginger they’re in.


Chipotle grilled steak … a glorious punch of a dish but Rhik was so delirious with incipient gout by this stage that he left half the snack in the oven. Photo: Sarah Lee for the Guardian

More slabs of meat, this time in Simply Cook’s chipotle grilled steak salad. It strikes me as the sort of dish ingested heavily in the 1990 s that now feels out of step with food trends. Neither dirty enough for the burger mob , nor quite right for vegans, it falls between two stools. Trying not to be considered stools, I rub my sirloin with a peppy, fennel-heavy mixture, and sizzle. Served on a salad bed with avocado and feta, topped with sour cream mixed with their chipotle paste, it’s a glorious punch of a thing. Delirious with incipient gout, I don’t notice I’ve forgotten the lemon-herbed roasted peppers, which burn in the oven and function as a sort of air freshener for the rest of the day.


Crispy chicken-skin with veg, except it’s turkey steak instead. Photo: Rhik Samadder for the Guardian

I turn- with zero appetite, bad dreams and acne- to Hello Fresh’s crispy-skin chicken and buttery veggies with basil oil. Except I don’t, because they’ve run out of chickens, and have replaced turkey steak. I speak for all right-minded people when I tell: screw turkey steak. It doesn’t have any skin to crisp, but the pouch does contain an appealing sum of vegetable. I soak bulgur, finely chop the courgette and leeks for sauteeing. I suspect the recipe to be heavy-handed on fat and salt, but having abdicated all persons responsible for more than a week, do what I’m told. After dissolving a large chicken stock pot in simply 200 ml of water for the bulgur, I salt and pepper the turkey steaks, salt and pepper the vegetables, salt and pepper the basil oil. Even the bulgur isn’t immune, the instructions exhorting me to add salt and pepper if I fancy( high blood pressure ). Something snaps, though, at the point of being ordered to crumble an entire block of feta into the vegetables; veggies that have been fried in 30 g of butter.

Made it over the finishing line, but not in good shape … Rhik Samadder. Photograph: Sarah Lee for the Guardian

It is an unheroic resistance, coming too little and too late( I know the feeling ). Without skin, my oven-finished turkey is dry, the bulgur is drunk on chicken stock, the vegetables are salty. At least I’m not devouring a pack of cheese.

I have struggled over the finish line , not in good shape. I suspect myself to be in the early stages of gout. While recipe boxes use less gratuitous packaging than a supermarket store, I’m collapsing cardboard boxes so frequently my recycling must look like a cubist montage. More than that, an element of imagination has gone astray. Starved of human interaction, I’ve started to find precise instruction very comforting, and I am reminded of the movie Synecdoche, New York, in which Philip Seymour Hoffman wanders an apocalyptic scenery in isolation, while an earpiece issues short, affectless commands. Get up. Go into the kitchen. Prep the veggies. Autumn face-first into cherry tomatoes. Recipe-kit living will be a game changer for some; for me, this is just too much convenience. Time to break out of the box.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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