Culinary whizz talks British food trends

Left: Ina Paarman with Sandy Bayley at Buitenverwachting.

Walking food tours and tight black skirts worn with fluffy big jackets and boots are in fashion in London.

This according to businesswoman, cook, speaker and teacher Ina Paarman who recently returned from a working visit to Britain to catch up on the latest culinary trends.

Ms Paarman is a household name to many and thoroughly Constantia Valley, living and working in the area. She was guest speaker at a recent Thursday Club meeting held at Buitenverwachting.

Qualified as a home economist, she left her position as senior lecturer at the Cape Technikon to start a cookery school.

During this time, she was also food editor of Die Burger and Femina, and won both the Mondi and Galliova awards for excellence in journalism. She had her own regular television cookery slot and has, to date, written eight cook books.

She is surprisingly small in stature and softly spoken for someone so worthy of the title “matriarch”, but she was not prepared to put up with competing noise from the kitchen.

Whisking away at lightning speed, she sorted out the staff, testament to early years of teaching at Wynberg Girls’ High School, before proceeding to tell everyone about her trip.

She travelled with her youngest son, Graham, who joined the business in 1990.

Walking tours are popular and you can try typical English dishes from bacon sandwiches on home-made sourdough bread, at Henderson’s, to bread- and-butter pudding with creme anglais in the centre, at Poppies, they ate fish (crispy batter) and chips wrapped in designer newspaper, with waitrons wearing 1950s skirts surrounded by decor from that era.

Ms Paarman said there was much snobbery around hake, and she tasted that very good fish at San Sebastian. The secret was not to overcook the fish and to season correctly and leave the skin on.

Not forgetting pubs – public houses where in the old days beer was served and sold in the sitting room watched by the pub cat. Ms Paarman says a few houses still do this.

Ms Paarman said that as immigrants moved to Britain they introduced curries, kosher, bagels and various fish dishes.

Another misconception, said Ms Paarman, was the popularity of healthy food, with many people paying lip service to it, but indulging in salty dishes.

She visited prepared food sections and delis in department store chains Harvey Nichols and Waitrose where she tasted a “fantastic” chicken sandwich; Harrods – over the top as always and where she spent much time browsing in their bookshop; Selfridges, which is continually being renovated; and Ottolenghi – fresh, healthy foods with lots of vegetables.

“People are too busy to cook, so they drink their vegetables and fruit. I have fresh vegetable juice every day, carrots, beetroot, ginger,” she said.

She learnt from one of her teachers who drilled into them that “you are what you eat” and that “a balanced diet, in moderation using natural ingredients is best.”

Ms Paarman encouraged people to read the ingredients label of packaged food because often there were some unwelcome additions.

For more information about the Thursday Club, contact Sandy Bailey at 021 685 8016, or