Food Programme

Food Programme

United Kingdom

Investigating every aspect of the food we eat


Alastair Little: A Life through Food  

As he prepares to move to Australia, leaving a lasting culinary legacy here in the UK, chef and food writer Alastair Little shares his life in food with Sheila Dillon. Born in Lancashire, from a very early age Alastair Little paid careful attention to the food and flavours around him. On early holidays around Europe with his parents, his eyes (and tastebuds) started to open up to a new world of possibility. After graduating from university, a career in food was far from clear; but 1970s Soho in London became the launchpad for a self-taught chef who has had a real and lasting impact. His eponymous restaurant in Frith Street was pioneering; and legendary - and a new generation of chefs passed through its kitchen, sat at the tables and drank at its bar. His books, including Keep it Simple (written with Richard Whittington) and Alastair Little's Italian Kitchen, transmitted his simple, thoughtful approach to home cooks all over Britain. Featuring chefs Angela Hartnett and Jeremy Lee, baker and food writer Dan Lepard, former Editor of the Good Food Guide Tom Jaine, and the chef, restaurateur and writer Jacob Kenedy. Presenter: Sheila Dillon Producer: Rich Ward.

Women & Beer  

Think beer. Think boys with beards? Think again. The last time Sheila Dillon reported on the women in British beer, in 2013, she met Sara Barton head brewer at Brewster's brewery in Lincolnshire. At the time Sara was the only woman head brewer in the country and women were drinking only a tenth of all the beer sold in the UK. Today that figure has nearly tripled, Sara has become the first woman to be named 'Brewer of the Year' by the Guild of Beer Writers, and women all around the UK are turning to jobs in brewing. And yet Sheila still prefers a glass of wine in the pub. In this programme, beer sommelier Jane Peyton introduces Sheila to some of the most exciting beers being brewed by women brewers (or brewsters) in the country. Louise Mulroy and Lucy Stevenson, co-creators of podcast 'We Made a Beer' demystify the art of brewing. Chemical engineer-come-head brewer at London's award winning Wild Card brewery shares a one-off brew created by a group of brewers on International Women's Day. We hear from 'FEM.ALE' a British festival for all celebrating beer brewed by women. And Sheila asks if there is a biological reason she remains unconvinced by a pint of bitter. Presented by Sheila Dillon Produced in Bristol by Clare Salisbury.

Cult Fiction and Food  

From Confederacy of Dunces to Absolute Beginners and On The Road, Dan Saladino explores cult novels to find out how writers Jack Kerouac, Colin MacInnes and John Kenney Toole used food. Authors have always used food and drink in their narratives to help develop plots, bring characters to life and give a sense of place but Dan chooses three novels with in which food and drink plays a very specific role. In Jack Kerouac's On The Road, the "beat life" of the 1940's and 1950's turns out to be one of feast or famine. The book, a disguised autobiographical work based on his travel journals across America, contains some of the most delicious and rich descriptions of food, as well as mournful accounts of hunger and longing. Colin MacInnes, the author of the novel Absolute Beginners, set in late 1950's London, uses brief food and drink references to reveal the lifestyle and mind-set of a teenage counterculture and early modernist movement. DJ Ed Piller helps explains the surprising significance of a smoke salmon sandwich. And then there's A Confederacy of Dunces. A comic novel whose main character Ignatius has a legendary appetite for the junk food of New Orleans.


Sheila Dillon takes a journey into the culinary use, history and the latest medical findings about turmeric. Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a member of the ginger family of plants - and its rhizome, the part mainly used in cooking, has a deep orange-golden colour that marks it out. Responsible for this distinctive hue is the bioactive compound, curcumin. Turmeric - and curcumin - have attracted a lot of attention in recent years, and much has been claimed about medicinal properties. In India, where most turmeric is still grown, turmeric - or haldi - has long been revered and widely used both as an essential savoury food ingredient and as a medicine, with the golden rhizome being particularly valued within the ancient medical system of Ayurveda. Sheila investigates the health claims about turmeric and curcumin, talking to Dr Michael Mosley - former GP and presenter of BBC Two's Trust Me I'm A Doctor, about his team's recent research findings. Sheila also hears about an article published last month in British Medical Journal Case Reports, and speaks to its co-author Professor Jamie Cavenagh, a leading expert on blood cancer - and one of his patients Dieneke Ferguson, who turned to curcumin after all conventional treatment for her cancer was stopped. Also featuring in the programme are cook and food writer Monisha Bharadwaj - author of The Indian Cookery Course, Susie Emmett - radio producer who went to Andhra Pradesh, India, on the turmeric trail, as well as Dr Stephen Harris, Druce Curator of the Herbaria at Oxford University. Presenter: Sheila Dillon Producer: Rich Ward.

Mac 'n' Cheese  

Sheila Dillon charts the rise of the humble mac'n'cheese: a dish that crosses culture and classes and has established itself as a popular comfort food across the world. We discover the history of the dish. Food historian Polly Russell tells us how a macaroni recipe first appeared in the UK in the 1700s and slowly it became more and more prevalent over the subsequent centuries. We'll hear how macaroni cheese became a staple in the UK: cheap and easy to make its popularity spread. It was also embraced by Caribbean cuisine, regularly eaten as a side dish, especially with Sunday lunch, and now there's even an annual celebration of the meal. Each May Glasgow hosts 'Pastaval' - a festival of Mac n Cheese. The event sells-out each year and is popular with everyone. And whilst you can still buy basic packet versions, tinned macaroni cheese and simple home-made macaroni cheese is easy to make, there are many 'going-to-town' on the dish: Lobster mac n cheese anyone? This is the story of a dish that crosses cultures and classes to be the world's favourite comfort food. Presenter: Sheila Dillon Producer: Martin Poyntz-Roberts.

The Chef Who Vanished - The Story of Jeremiah Tower  

At the age of 30, with no formal training Jeremiah Tower became a chef. His approach to cooking changed the food world for good. Then he walked away. Dan Saladino tells the story of the man who many consider to be the first "celebrity chef". The food writer and broadcaster Anthony Bourdain has described Jeremiah Tower as a dangerous person to know, to others he's the Jay Gatsby figure of the restaurant world. Born in the USA, brought up in Australia and England, his childhood was, on a privileged one, born into a world of wealth, travel and a first class lifestyle. It was also strange and difficult with a mother and father who were unusually detached from their son. As he ventured into the world's best restaurants, hotels and ocean liners he sought comfort and pleasure in food, kitchens and cooking. At aged 30, and a failed architect, he answered a job ad to work in California's Chez Panisse restaurant, founded by the cook of America's counter culture Alice Waters. The restaurant and Jeremiah's cooking would become world famous. In 1984 he set up his own restaurant in San Francisco Stars, which went on to become the most famous and lucrative restaurant in America. Jeremiah's approach to breaking free from French influences and cooking with local ingredients would influence chefs and restaurants around the world. Night's at Stars would become the stuff of legend with diners ranging from Rudolph Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn to Pavarotti and the Beastie Boys. Just over a decade later Jeremiah Tower would put down his apron and walk away. Dan Saladino tells his story.

The Herbal World of Jekka McVicar  

Culinary herb grower Jekka McVicar shares her life through food with Sheila Dillon. Taking a walk through the small herb farm where Jekka grows some 600 varieties of herb (300 of them culinary), Sheila discovers a world of ancient knowledge, vivid flavours, and taste possibilities. Having worked closely with chefs from Jamie Oliver to Raymond Blanc, and played with her band Marsupilami at the first ever Glastonbury Festival (and being paid in milk), Jekka is also inspiring a new generation of chefs including Peter Sanchez-Iglesias at the Michelin-starred restaurant Casamia. Peter shows Sheila just two of the many ways he uses herbs in his highly original cooking. Presenter: Sheila Dillon Producer: Rich Ward.

Out Like a Lamb  

Lamb. Long a staple of the UK dinner table. But one glance at the statistics and it's obvious that 'Generation Y' aren't inspired. Estimates suggest under 30s are buying just 15g of lamb a week. That's just over 10 lamb chops in a year and less than half the UK average. In this programme Sheila Dillon asks young butchers, food entrepreneurs and a 3rd generation sheep farmer in his thirties whether there's any saving shepherd's pie, lamb shanks and Irish stew. She gets a lesson in Iranian midweek lamb cooking from cook and author of 'The Saffron Tales' Yasmin Khan. And Ben Ebbrell and Barry Taylor from SORTEDfood share the lamb recipes which excite their 1.7 million Youtube subscribers. Presented by Sheila Dillon Produced in Bristol by Clare Salisbury.

The Potato  

Sheila Dillon digs up the remarkable story of how potatoes changed the world, offer a whole spectrum of flavour, and might shape our food future. With Sheila are cook and food writer Anna Jones, Charles C. Mann - author of '1493 - How Europe's Discovery of the Americas Revolutionized Trade, Ecology and Life on Earth', and the potato revolutionary and agronomist Alan Wilson. Presenter: Sheila Dillon Producer: Rich Ward.

Food Stories from Venezuela Part 2: Maria Fernanda Di Giacobbe  

Dan Saladino meets a woman who believes Venezuela's escape from crisis rests on chocolate. Maria Fernanda Di Giacobbe is on a mission to reclaim her country's former cacao bean glory.

Food Stories from Venezuela: Eating in a Failed State.  

Venezuela is seeing its worst economic crisis in living memory. As some of the most basic ingredients become unavailable or unaffordable Dan Saladino tells the food story.


Blood in food is about as divisive as it comes. But Tim Hayward loves it. A rare steak, a carefully crisped slice of black pudding, a blood meringue...? In this programme Tim meets butchers, cooks and chefs determined to put blood back on the dining table. From the Fruit Pig Co. Cambridgeshire butchers taking black pudding to it's traditional routes; Otto Tepassé an Austrian born restaurateur preserving and performing the theatrical French canard à la presse with it's sumptuous sauce thickened with blood; to award winning writer Jennifer McLagan baking blood sweets - chocolate brownies, blood ice cream, and even blood cocktails. If the thought of a truly Bloody Mary makes you weak at the knees, don't adjust your set. As Tim explores the world of blood in food and drink, he also uncovers the deep relationship we have with blood - cultural, physiological, religious as well as culinary. Featuring Professor Emeritus of Cultural History Sir Christopher Frayling, and American author and academic John Edgar Browning. Presented by Tim Hayward. Produced in Bristol by Clare Salisbury.

Chef Dan Barber: The Third Plate  

Dan Saladino profiles the influential US chef and writer Dan Barber, author of 'The Third Plate - Field Notes on the Future of Food'. Originally with plans to become a novelist, Dan Barber opened his first restaurant, Blue Hill, in Greenwich Village in 2000 followed by Blue Hill at Stone Barns in 2004. He had early success as a 'farm to table' chef, but has since been on a journey, documented in his book but still ongoing, to reimagine the relationships between chef and farmer, landscape and deliciousness - and much more. Citing flavour as a 'soothsayer', and a passionate advocate of the role of the chef in bringing about change in the wider world beyond the walls of the restaurant, he is currently in the UK with a project called 'WastED London' - an unusual temporary restaurant taking aim at the problem of food 'waste'. Presenter: Dan Saladino Producer: Rich Ward. Photo: Richard Boll.

BBC Food & Farming Awards 2017: The Finalists  

You've cast your nominations in the thousands. Now it's time to reveal who's in the running in the BBC Food & Farming Awards 2017. Judges including Giorgio Locatelli, Joanna Blythman, Allegra McEvedy, Stefan Gates, Romy Gill and Gill Meller help Sheila Dillon to reveal this year's finalists. They prepare to embark on journeys which will take them up and down the UK in search of the best British food and farming the country has to offer. Presented by Sheila Dillon Produced by Clare Salisbury.

Tea: A Coffee Drinker's Guide, Part 2  

Do we pay enough for tea? Dan Saladino - a long-term and deeply committed coffee drinker - continues his look at our love affair with the leaf. Dan catches up with the BBC's South Asia Correspondent Justin Rowlatt, who has reported on conditions for tea workers in Assam, India. He also discovers a world of 'rock-star' tea growers and learns how to tell the difference between CTC and orthodox tea - and why it matters. There is also advice on how to make a 'nice cup of tea' from... George Orwell. Presenter: Dan Saladino Producer: Rich Ward.

Tea: A Coffee Drinker's Guide  

Hardened coffee drinker Dan Saladino investigates tea's past, present and future and finds out how our preference for the leaf has changed over three centuries. He visits the location of Britain's first tea retailer, hears the adventures of legendary tea hunter John Fortune and visits the site of an auction house which oversaw 85 per cent of all global tea trade. In south west India we hear from a team of tea pluckers and get an insight into the skill and labour involved in producing tea. Do we pay enough for a cup of tea? It's a question Dan will develop in the second instalment of this tea story. Presented by Dan Saladino and produced in Bristol.

Thailand: A Royal Food Legacy  

Historian Dr Polly Russell and chef Ashley Palmer-Watts visit farming communities in the Northern Chang Mai province of Thailand who have given up farming opium in favour of Western vegetables and salad crops for fine dining restaurants in Thailand's biggest cities. It's one of a series of hundreds of national development projects pioneered by the late Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej and started in Northern Thailand in 1969. Over the course of his reign Thailand's beloved monarch experimented with rice fields, vegetable beds, fish ponds, and a rice-mill within the grounds of his royal residence, before scaling the work up across the country. Polly and Ashley hear how these projects have become part of a food and farming system for Thailand. A food system that's unique in the world, but could provide a model for current opium growing regions. They hear how by growing Western vegetables, flowers and fruits and farming fish, a new supply chain for some of Thailand's finest restaurants is being developed which doesn't rely on expensive imports. Presented by Dr Polly Russell & Sheila Dillon Produced in Bristol by Clare Salisbury.

Let's Do Lunch  

What did you eat for lunch today? Whatever you ate, according to our recent national survey you took less than half an hour to do it. Twenty five minutes twenty four to be precise. We're living in an era of grab-and-go. It's a sector of the food industry already worth £16.1 billion pounds and which forecasts suggest could rise by more than a third by 2021. If we eat, we do so 'al-desko'... or maybe we don't eat at all. Whether you opt for sausage rolls or sushi, last night's leftovers or a just a latte, Sheila Dillon hears what the modern British lunch break says about us. And what it might suggest about where our midday meal is headed. She meets the thinkers and cooks who believe that in time poor Britain, it's perfectly possible to reclaim your lunch break. Presented by Sheila Dillon Produced by Clare Salisbury.


Sheila Dillon goes on a citrus journey, discovering vivid flavour possibilities and hidden histories. Joining Sheila are Catherine Phipps, food writer and creator of a new book 'Citrus - Recipes that Celebrate the Sour and the Sweet' out this week, Helena Attlee author of 'The Land Where Lemons Grow' and Michael Barker, Editor of Fresh Produce Journal. Presenter: Sheila Dillon Producer: Rich Ward.


What can one single dish can tell you about America's history? One particular bowl of soup gives us an insight about the future of cultures that convene around it. Gumbo is eaten by nearly everyone in New Orleans, but its past speaks of the deep inequalities in American history that still resonate to this day. The BBC's Dan Saladino looks into the origins of this dish and discovers influences from Native Americans, slaves from West Africa, settlers from Nova Scotia, and European immigrants from Spain, France and Italy. Dan tries to track down the perfect recipe for one of Louisiana's most famous dishes, and discover how the politics of which food belongs to whom, is still at play, hundreds of years later.

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