Let’s be honest, unless you have a regular telly spot or a newspaper column that will, in effect, advertise your books, there’s not a lot of money in food writing. But there are occasional perks. Every so often, someone sends you stuff.
This can present one with a moral dilemma. Do you write about everything you get sent? Do you write honestly, or simply lavish praise on all of it? If the former, then a bad review can seem churlish and mean-spirited; if the latter, what does your opinion mean anymore? You’ve surrendered your judgment in favour of… well… getting sent stuff.
My solution is this: if I receive something and I love it and use it, I write about it. If it’s something I’m either not so keen on or actively loathe, I write a thank you note to the sender to say I appreciate it, gently explain why I won’t write about it, and generally try to be constructive. After all, it’s so easy to be negative, especially for a cheap laugh, and who needs it?
All of which is worth re-stating because a) I haven’t posted randomly online for quite a long time, so people might have forgotten my position on this; and b) I want to recommend some stuff that was sent to me by the very brilliant people at Belazu.
And what stuff! I love their olive oil. Their pesto sauce has proved invaluable for a quick lockdown pasta dinner. The artichoke and truffle sauce, which I ought to stir through a risotto, I’ve been eating from the pot with a spoon. And Fred’s become utterly enamoured of their Shawarma paste to the extent that I have to say, no, it doesn’t go with Thai food, though I have caught him sneaking a spoonful into the sauce of his infamous kick curries for an extra kick.
When I cater for shoots, I cook a lot of Middle Eastern food, especially if the client’s vegetarian. It means I can deliver big satisfying flavours in bulk and on brief. So harissa and tahini and their friends have long lived in my cupboards. And, while I still buy frequently from my local Middle Eastern supermarket – it’s a brilliant place to pick up recipes; I had a super chat with an Algerian lady the other week about how to cook lambs’ tongues – Belazu has become a vital supplier for ingredients across the Med.
As with everything at the moment, deliveries take longer than normal. But I cannot recommend them highly enough. And, if you need any further incentive, they’re currently throwing in free olives if you spend more than £45.