Welcome to January’s Observer Food Monthly

My gran would laugh to see malt extract being hailed as any modern chef’s “secret ingredient” – it was the flavouring of her mid-morning treat of malted milk biscuits, her beloved “Harvo” malt loaf and her bedtime Horlicks, but it has been in hiding for quite a while. No doubt she would be thrilled to see it pop up again in ice-cream and chocolate cake in 2022. In this, our new year issue, we shine a light on a few ingredients you can expect to see a little more of this year – the flavourings, pastes and spices that some our favourite cooks have been keeping up their sleeves. Some, such as chintextle (the traditional Mexican shrimp and chilli seasoning), or Giorgio Locatelli’s favourite elisir di gambero rosso – made with discarded prawn heads – may be new to many, but others may be tucked at the back of our own cupboards. They are probably behind the rose harissa and the tahini pastes, waiting patiently for their moment in the sun.

Jay Rayner gives us his personal tips for the top, the chefs he feels are destined to be in the spotlight this year, including Nokx Majozi at Holborn Dining Rooms and Patrick Withington at Erst in Manchester. I particularly like the sound of Adrian Luck and Tony Cridland’s vegan menu at Land in Birmingham.

We have recipes for you, of course. There is a clutch of them with which to celebrate the lunar new year including General Tso’s golden hake recipe from writer Ching-He Huang, and Fuchsia Dunlop’s tofu in a Sichuanese sauce.

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We have an interview with the comedian, podcaster and new judge on Great British Menu, Ed Gamble, and we take lunch with Elbow’s Guy Garvey. And I am particularly glad to see Jay’s piece suggesting restaurateurs might like to pay a little more attention to older people – both customers and staff. Enough of the low lights and loud music. Us oldies have lived through that once, if not twice before, and it didn’t work then either. No one wants a religious Michelin-star-hush in their restaurant but equally I would quite like to hear what others around the table are saying without resorting to communicating via WhatsApp. Happy new year.


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