Nigel Slater

This month: Easter bak­ing recipes, a cook’s tour to Venice and the rise of hen-keep­ing

The Observer Food Monthly - - CONTENTS -

The foxes are back. Sleek, hand­some and per­pet­u­ally hun­gry in equal mea­sure, and with ap­palling ta­ble man­ners. Their pres­ence is the sole rea­son I don’t keep chick­ens in the gar­den. But plenty of peo­ple do and there has been a quiet rise in the num­ber of those who keep a few birds in the back­yard. In this, our spe­cial Easter is­sue, we talk to some of those who take plea­sure in look­ing af­ter a feath­ered fam­ily and for whom the col­lec­tion of warm eggs has be­come some­thing of a daily joy.

We are cel­e­brat­ing Easter a lit­tle early this year with cakes and bakes from Claire Ptak (hazel­nut choco­late chip scones, al­mond turmeric cakes, rasp­berry marsh­mal­lows, milk choco­late and bay leaf tarts, Nige­rian puff puff and pis­ta­chio palmiers). And we have en­listed He­len Goh of Ot­tolenghi to help us find the best choco­late eggs and bun­nies, and hot cross buns, on the high street.

Rus­sell Nor­man is the per­son I like to blame for in­flict­ing the “no-book­ings” sys­tem on Lon­don’s din­ers (of course, he wasn’t the first but I feel some­one needs to take the blame) but he does make ex­ceed­ingly pleas­ing restau­rants. (His Polpo group stands al­most alone in giv­ing restau­rant chains a good name and his two pre­vi­ous books re­main a fix­ture in my kitchen.) For his lat­est tome, Venice, Mr Nor­man im­mersed him­self in Vene­tian life, and his recipes for sweet and sour slip soles, frit­tata with prawns and dill and mack­erel caponata are prob­a­bly bet­ter than any­thing you would eat in the city it­self. We have a taster for you.

New restau­rants are still open­ing on an al­most weekly ba­sis, and I can’t help won­der­ing where all the staff are com­ing from. The coun­try has been suf­fer­ing a short­age of chefs for some time, so we sent Tim Lewis to in­ves­ti­gate. Is work­ing in the in­dus­try as tough as it used to be? Is that hideous mon­ster called Brexit to blame? And, if so, what’s to be done about it?

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