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Ask the experts: First-time foraging, pizza making, and craft beers in London

Whether it’s the best culinary tours or the equipment needed to recreate your foreign food experience at home, our panel has the answers

Ask the experts: First-time foraging, pizza making, and craft beers in London

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I’d like to make pizza at home, but obviously don’t have a traditional wood-fired oven. Do pizza stones work?
I find pizza stones are a bit of a red herring — a normal home oven will never get hot enough to cook a great pizza. There are two options that are way better if you’re making pizza at home. The first is the ‘frying pan method’, which makes tasty pizza by recreating the heat of a Neapolitan oven in two steps (the hob, then the grill) — you can find out more information at pizzapilgrims.co.uk. The second is to buy a Roccbox. This amazing piece of kit is essentially a one-pizza Neapolitan home oven — reaching the requisite 500C and cooking your pizza to perfection in one minute. At about £500 it’s not cheap, but it’s a good way to make brilliant pizza at home. Thom Ellio, co-founder of Pizza Pilgrims

I’m almost always underwhelmed by the beer I’m offered when I dine out. Are there any London restaurants with interesting craft beers on their drinks list?
Craft beer is booming in the UK, there are loads of places in London that celebrate the culinary kinship between beer and food. Booma in Brixton is a relaxed restaurant that pairs an eclectic range of artisan brews with delicious north Indian dishes. Try Rodenbach, the Burgundy of the beer world, with pudina lamb cutlets; its acidic finish slides effortlessly through the indulgent textures. The Italian Job, with branches in Chiswick and Notting Hill, sources some of the best beers from the thriving Italian artisan brewing scene. Go for brunch and try eggs Benedict with a bracing glass of New Morning — a fresh saison from Birrificio Del Ducato inspired by Bob Dylan and brewed with chamomile, ginger, green pepper and coriander. Those with weightier wallets should visit Mayfair’s Westbury Hotel, where Michelin-starred chef Alyn Williams has curated a nine-course, £140 tasting menu paired with a rotating selection of beers that include Harviestoun Ola Dubh, a Scottish stout aged in Highland Park whisky barrels. Ben McFarlan, drinks writer and one half of Thinking Drinkers

I’m heading to Bali for two weeks and would love to get to grips with the cuisine. Are there any cookery classes you’d recommend?
The Balinese don’t have scheduled mealtimes; they prefer to graze, eating the same spicy dishes whatever the time of day, so whenever you’re hungry and wherever you are, you’ll likely find a roadside warung (casual cafe) where you can refuel. To find out more, visit Bali Asli in the rural east, with its view of Mount Agung. Here you can get a true taste of this Indonesian island’s terroir as you learn to prepare age-old recipes using organic ingredients grown on site. The small, personalised hands-on half days include excursions to rice fields and palm wine producers. You’ll leave having mastered the art of making spice mixes or curry pastes, such as bumbu Bali, from scratch. At Casa Luna Cooking School, Janet DeNeefe, founder of Ubud Food Festival, has been teaching Balinese cooking since 1987. The four-hour sessions are aimed at demystifying Indonesian food and giving you the confidence to tackle it at home. Javanese tempe penyet is the star of the new Food as Medicine class on Saturday mornings. After soaking the tempe (a cholesterol-free superfood) in crushed coriander seeds, sea salt, garlic and water, it’s elevated to a fragrant, tender, delicate texture. The class culminates in a feast washed down with homemade hibiscus tea and coffee from Kintamani, which claims to be the oldest village in Bali. The Balinese start their day with a health drink called jamu. At the charming Hotel Tugu in Canggu, Kadek Muriadi coaches you in how to make this bright-orange turmeric-rich tonic of healing herbs and spices in an hour. Made from roots, flowers, leaves and bark, jamu hails from Java, and is now a beloved beverage across the archipelago. Juliet Kinsman, freelance writer

I’d like to get into foraging — where should I start?
Foraging starts with the familiar. Dandelion flowers for wine or syrup, its leaves for a bracing salad, its roots, dried and roasted for ‘coffee’. Young stinging nettles for soup and hairy bittercress — so often doomed to the compost heap — for sandwiches. Perhaps the elder tree near the shed for elderflower wine — white and sparkling in June or red in September. We encounter wild food everywhere —mushrooms in the park, roadside blackberries, sea beets and black mustard at the seaside. I run several courses in East Devon, and the Association of Foragers website lists slightly odd people like me all around the country who will lead you with passion and enthusiasm through the natural, edible world. If you prefer to do it yourself, books can prove a great help. I’ve written three through my work with River Cottage, but there are many more, such as Miles Irving’s The Forager’s Handbook and Roger Phillips’ Mushrooms. Getting started can seem daunting, but anyone who has ever picked a blackberry has already demonstrated the human talent for recognition. All you need is a bit of guidance to learn the edible plants, fungi and seaweeds and avoid poisoning yourself. John Wright, author and foraging expert at River Cottage

I love Vietnamese summer rolls — how do I make a veggie version?
Head here for Thuy Pham‘s delicious recipe.

Published in Issue 1 of National Geographic Traveller Food