Bitter harvest – how Ukraine’s wheat has always been coveted

Publishers love books with ambitious subtitles such as ‘How Bubblegum Made the Modern World’, and this one’s, about American wheat remaking the world, was no doubt devised to appeal to readers in the United States. It is not really appropriate: for ‘American’, read ‘Ukrainian’. The focal point of Oceans of Grain lies very far from the vast wheat fields of North America. This is mainly a book about Ukraine and the Black Sea, and the importance of Ukrainian grain in world history. Its appearance during the current war is extraordinarily timely. Scott Reynolds Nelson insists that grain supplies have lain at the heart of millennia of conflict. He describes the

How Israel’s Prime Minister got burnt by bread

Jerusalem For nearly ten months now, ever since his surprising elevation to the Israeli prime minister’s office, Naftali Bennett has been focused mainly on one thing. He has been trying to prove to Israelis that he can be every bit the master statesman his predecessor, the eternal Benjamin Netanyahu was. And by all accounts that has worked well. He’s had two successful meetings with Joe Biden and met twice with Vladimir Putin as well, the second of those meetings, a surprising flight to Moscow after the invasion of Ukraine began, was made in the hope of brokering a ceasefire between the two countries. He charmed world leaders with ‘green tech’ ideas

How to make the perfect toastie

Are toasties the ultimate comfort food? For me, they have to be in the top three at the very least. Toasties mean late nights or early suppers; they mean eating in the kitchen, standing up, or sitting on the sofa, probably in your pyjamas; they mean picking the little bits of escaped melted cheese from the pan before you plate them. They mean waning hangovers and catch-ups with close friends; they mean solitude and they mean company; they mean ease and speed, a direct route to something crisp and hot and oozing. But crucially, toasties are completely delicious. They don’t rely on nostalgia (although I have plenty of nostalgia for

Simple flat bread recipe

Continuing in the vein of the last couple of weeks of Vintage Chef columns, this week’s recipe is designed to make the most of common ingredients, and give maximum reward for minimum effort with these incredibly simple flatbreads. Last week, I wrote about the joy that baking can bring even in adverse circumstances, how it remained a source of solace to me in this brave new world. These flatbreads are joyful (warm, pliable, smoky from the griddle), but when I make them, I tend not to be seeking joy as much as stability. These flatbreads require so little: no yeast, no proving time, no kneading – they don’t even need