A tender age? Eating when you’re older

I use a lot of grooming products on my face. As a man approaching his late 30s, the daily slathering of retinol and hyaluronic acid has turned from prevention to attempted cure as the slope on the downward spiral towards my demise gets ever steeper. Wow, what a jolly, uplifting start? This sharpened sense of my own mortality brings with it many thoughts. Do I really want children? Am I successful enough in my career? Do I have any nostril hairs left that aren’t grey? And, most importantly, will I still enjoy the food I do now when I’m older?

When I’m at my parents’ I do all the cooking. I was an unofficial consultant on their kitchen renovation and as such lay claim to the space when I visit. There was a period where my nan would come over to my folks’ for Sunday lunch which would always be prefaced with a friendly reminder from my dad to not present any food that was “mucked about with”, her words, not his. ‘Mucked about with’ included but was not limited to spices of any kind, almost every herb (I vaguely recall thyme making the cut once), anything that had an exotic name regardless of its flavour, garlic, alcohol (she was a teetoller all her life save for a famous incident in a Bath pub with a double Archers and lemonade and a story about my dad’s circumcision), sour things and anything that would bother Mr Scoville’s scale. For a while I took it as a challenge – how could I make a meal that would pass the nan-test while still tickling the pickles of those with broader tastes?

Suffice it to say it was trial and error. Red wine in the gravy was a big no-no. She clocked that straight away. Mustard on the outside of a joint of beef didn’t go completely undetected but was eaten nonetheless. And then there was the curious time I slashed up a lamb leg and poked garlic, rosemary and anchovy into the little cuts which was an unwitting slam dunk success. Who knew?

But as time has gone on, my wonderful nan has found even the most basic flavours a challenge. Sweet trumps savoury. Some components of the roast are now off-limits. Black pepper has became a contentious issue. Ham, egg and chips is a sure-fire winner.

We come into the world with 30,000 taste buds in our mouths but by adulthood only about a third remain. After forty, taste buds stop regenerating, so it’s a fast train to Bland Central from there. Older people’s sense of smell diminishes over time too, while they also need more sugar and salt in their meals for it to register – not great for their health but let’s leave that Pandora’s chocolate box closed for another time. 

But there is one big difference I’m dearly holding on to to give me hope I won’t end up eating sad sliced white and custard creams in my dotage. Growing up during WWII, the availability and prevalence in cooking of the ingredients people of my generation and younger consider everyday was so restrictive, today’s 80-year-olds have never really been exposed to these new flavours. Their eating habits were established in an era when food was generally served in black and white and it wasn’t the discovery/ social currency/ performance art/ political hot potato/ onanistic popularity contest it has become today.

I can’t even fathom how I would begin explaining to my nan that last night I opened up my phone and used an app to order some Vietnamese food which then got delivered to me. But for most of us this seems as normal as having a shower or disagreeing with Donald Trump’s policies. Modern life can be scary and intimidating, so it doesn’t come as a surprise that you can’t give an old dog new treats. 

But in the same way I cannot conceive a day that I’ll give up slim-fitting jeans in favour of DadSlacks, I can’t see me giving up my beloved spice rack. Only time will tell.

Recipe: Charred squid with a new take on Greek salad

Charred squid with greek salad

Well how about that then? The birthplace of moussaka and mythology has managed to avoid its own ‘Grexit’ (what a horrid term?) and remains, for now, part of the Eurozone. But while I’m hardly an expert in the intricacies of the relationship between the IMF, Brussels, Angela Merkel and our Hellenic friends, I feel like this dish is a suitable way of celebrating the agreement, even if it may be a tad premature to pop the corks just yet.
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In review: Berber & Q


As should be apparent from a quick glance into my archives, I’m really quite keen on small plates and caring-sharing setups over the dinner table. A reflection of how our attention spans have narrowed to that of a gnat, even the way we consume food hasn’t escaped the 140-character-style morsels. It seems like a restaurant can’t open (in London anyway) without it investing heavily in side plates, tiny crockpots and mini rustic boards. Despite the slightly sneery way some regard the ‘trend’, nevertheless it’s a very sociable way to eat.
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Marrakech, Morocco: a photo story


I know it’s about a million years ago, but back in March I popped over to Marrakech to shoot a couple of summery menswear stories. Now they’re both finally live (here and here), I can at last show you a few shots from the trip that in no way at all capture the true vibrancy of the Moroccan city. From the chaos of the snake charmers, monkeys and dubious food hygiene of the Medina to our own peaceful riad via the ultimate luxury of the Selman Hotel, the trip was a riot of colour and noise, smells and heat. Suffice it to say, it was a little warmer than our trip to Carmel College in Oxfordshire.

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Recipe: Harissa chicken with soft herbs and shaved raw asparagus salad

Harissa chicken with soft herb and shaved asparagus salad

OK, I get it. Salads can be dead boring. But this bright and satisfying dish certainly isn’t any ordinary chicken salad. Weirdly I’m really into finely slicing and shaving raw vegetables at the moment – the crunch of the asparagus and sugar snaps here is a great contrast to the supple chicken, but you could also add something like fennel if you wanted extra freshness. Similarly, if chicken’s not your thing, prawns or a griddled fish fillet will work equally well with the harissa, a spicy North African chilli paste.

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Recipe: Garam masala cod with charred green vegetables, watercress and a killer curry sauce

Garam masala cod with charred green vegetables, watercress and a killer curry sauce

If you’ve been following me on Instagram, you’ll have seen I dabble in a bit of cooking. A few brave souls have asked me for recipes to some of the dishes I rustle up so here’s the first. Enjoy.

This is one of those cracking low fat, low carb recipes for when you’ve got tickling for a takeaway but want something a little healthier. OK, so it won’t quite hit the same spot as a ghee-laden, mega-madras complete with pillowy naans bigger than your face, but it also won’t leave you groaning on the sofa, calculating how many burpees it’ll take to burn that bad-boy off.

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Carmel College, Oxfordshire: a photo story

Carmel College Oxfordshire

At the end of March a team of intrepid explorers (read: soft fashion types) embarked on a trip to deepest, darkest Oxfordshire to shoot a men’s sportswear story at Carmel College, a deserted school campus. Looking like something straight out of the Day After Tomorrow, the place has more than a slight eeriness about it – offices and cupboards are strewn with certificates, exercise books and information posters as if the pupils and staff disappeared overnight. In a way it was beautiful, and, despite (clearly) having no proper photographic training and only an iPhone for company, it was something I wanted to capture.

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In review: José Pizarro, Broadgate Circle

Jose Pizarro - a view down the bar
The City is strange place. What is a bustling hub alive with endeavour, exaggeration and excess on work days becomes an eerily deserted collection of marbled squares and pitch black chain pubs at the weekend, as if traders are Cinderella-esque characters who leg it, afraid they’ll turn into gourds come 5pm on a Friday.

It was wandering through one such abandoned expanse of polished mineral, en route to the gym, that me and the other half first laid eyes upon Broadgate Circus, a rounded hollow barely a stone’s throw from Liverpool Street station. The jazzy decals in the windows bore evidence of the impending opening of José Pizarro’s latest venture, a prospect that, to us, was rather exciting.

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A Lidl shop of horrors? Hardly – it could be the future of food retail


It’s been a big few weeks for me – first of all I popped my yoga cherry and last weekend another first, losing my value supermarket virginity. Now I’ve been to an Asda before, I’ve ventured into my fair share of Morrisons, hell, I’ve even worked in Safeway (for two, hellish weeks). But never had I crossed the barriered threshold of a cheap-and-cheerful emporium until the weekend, when I embarked upon Mission Hungover Roast Dinner in Lidl’s Hackney branch. I don’t really know what I was expecting exactly and wasn’t anticipating much but what I found definitely caught me by surprise.

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