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