Food File

 

Spice trail
The selection of fresh herbs available in mid-winter can be limited, so these tubes of herb and spice blends from Gourmet Garden are a handy kitchen standby. The tubes, which last for three months in the fridge, or nine months in the freezer, can be used straight from the freezer, and contain only fresh herbs that have been washed, chopped and blended; there are no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives.

As well as the Indian, Thai, Moroccan and Mediterranean blends, which are intended as recipe bases, the Gourmet Garden range includes basil, chilli, coriander, chives, garlic, ginger, lemongrass and parsley. The herbs are amazingly fresh and vibrant, and although they’ll never replace fresh ones, they’re an excellent alternative. Gourmet Garden spices are on sale in Dunnes Stores, Superquinn and SuperValu at €2.49 for the blends and €2.99 for the individual herbs. For recipe ideas, see gourmetgarden.com.

Party time

“Jamie at Home” is a party-planning concept – along the lines of tupperware parties sof old – based on cleverly designed and stylish homewares and cooking equipment that carry Jamie Oliver’s seal of approval. Good design is to the forefront, and there are lots of covetable pieces, unavailable elsewhere, including these gorgeous, retro-style stoneware bowls with a handy pouring lip (below left, £13 and £16) and American oak platters (below left, £15-£45). Prices in the catalogue are in sterling, but are converted to euro for Irish parties.

Linda Gillett from Shankhill, Co Dublin, saw an ad recruiting Jamie at Home consultants at the Ideal Homes exhibition in the RDS last October, and in the period leading up to Christmas she was involved in six parties, at which the average spend was £40 per person (three-quarters of the items in the catalogue cost under £30). The hostess receives 15 per cent commission to spend on products, and the consultant earns 20 per cent of the total spend.

Gillett brings the range with her to the host’s house, sets it up and plays an introductory DVD, and demonstrates some of the products. “It’s really easy to sell,” she says. And the bestseller? “The antipasti raised platter (above left, £45), which Jamie designed for a friend’s wedding.” Gillett’s contact number is 086-0590070. For further information on becoming a consultant, or to host a party, see jamieathome.com.

Bulli for you?

The period during which reservations can be made for Ferran Adrià’s much talked about El Bulli restaurant in Catalonia, Spain, has changed from October to mid-January. There are more than two million requests for the 8,000 places available each year at the 40-seater temple of gastronomy, and they are allocated by lottery. So if you fancy your chances, you’ve got until the middle of this month to apply. See www.elbulli.com/reservas for details. The first El Bulli service for 2010 is on June 15th, and the restaurant closes for the year on December 20th.

WEB WATCH

www.dinnerdujour.org

Need some menu inspiration when planning what to feed the family? Kristin Jensen and Kelly Fortier are high school friends who collaborate on a food blog about the meals they cook for their families, even though Jensen has been living in Co Louth for the past decade, and Fortier lives in Milwaukee in the US.