It's unlikely any publisher is going to want a book titled Interesting Things You Learn About Aubergines From Watching Monday Night Telly. But in case one does, I now have the first chapter sorted thanks to likeable Israeli chef Yotam Ottolenghi.

Vegging in front of his cookery-cum-travel series Ottolenghi's Mediterranean Feast tonight I learn that if you buy aubergines with no trace of green at the base, they'll be seed-free. The information comes from a Turkish restaurateur showing Ottolenghi round an Istanbul market and is as much news to him as it is to me. But having spent the best part of 20 years trying to master this difficult vegetable I'm delighted when serendipity throws another new aubergine fact in my direction.

Loading article content

My current obsession, by the way, is baba ganoush, which involves roasting the aubergines, whizzing the flesh, adding whatever Claudia Roden tells me to add, then trying to persuade the kids it's hummus, a rare example of an exotic foodstuff they will tolerate. If I shop more wisely in future the question: "Why has this hummus got seeds in?" should be heard a little less frequently in our house.

Actually I'm lucky I can shop for aubergines at all. A report today illustrates the extent of food poverty in the UK, with increasing numbers of children going hungry and the health of people in all age groups suffering as diets take a turn for the worse. The one bright spot is that Scotland is bucking the national trend and seeing a slight increase in the number of people eating their five a day. Or are we just troughing more chips to get us through the bad times?


My daughter, who's five and loves chips but is rapidly going off hummus, has been given a role in what she calls the school "activity" play. In her case, the activity in question involves dressing as a sheep and going "Ba-a-ah". Only on cue, though. It doesn't do to make unscripted farmyard noises in front of the infant Messiah.

Today, however, a theological spanner is dropped into the theatrical works when Pope Benedict publishes Jesus Of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives. It's the third part of his trilogy about the life of Christ – the first two passed me by, I confess – and deals with the nativity.

In the book, which has an initial print run of one million copies and could soon be outselling even Cheryl Cole's memoirs, the Pontiff states that the animals traditionally represented in the stable scene bit of the nativity are latter-day inventions. So it's goodbye to the ox and adieu to the donkey, staples of many a school nativity play. Yikes. Will it soon be the turn of the sheep to be airbrushed from history? It's bad enough that my daughter's first acting job involves being festooned with cotton wool balls – I'd hate her big day to be ruined by theological revisionism too.


If the book on aubergines doesn't fly, there's another I fancy writing called Things You Learn About Death In The Butcher's. The emporium in question is in Stockbridge, an area of the capital now favoured by Yummy Mummies with off-road strollers and husbands in finance, and where even the charity shops sell Yves Saint Laurent. I'm only visiting today, seduced by the thought of a pickled fish sandwich at a Swedish artisan bakery I've heard about. It doesn't disappoint.

Lunch over, I stroll into the butcher's shop where I buy venison, talk game birds and learn that demand from London restaurants for pellet-free meat means that some birds – partridges among them – are being intensively reared in farm conditions and dispatched there rather than being shot out of the sky (or, more seasonal, out of the pear tree they've settled down in to watch drunken humans sing carols).

I'm not absolutely sure that one fate is better than the other, but the butcher thinks being shot is best and under the circumstances – I haven't got my change yet – it seems polite to agree with him.


There have been rumours for some time that a Susan Boyle biopic is in the offing and now it's in the on-ing – green-lit, as they say in Hollywood, and starring George Clooney and Julie Walters as SuBo and her manager. Not that way round, though. Even Clooney isn't that good an actor. Nor, despite being the nephew of 1950s chanteuse Rosemary Clooney, is he that good a singer. Walters will play SuBo.

Actually Clooney and Walters aren't stick-ons for the roles, they're just the actors Boyle says she'd like to appear in the film. Still, it has grabbed the headlines and distracted attention from the SNAFU that occurred when Boyle's record company tried to elicit some publicity on social media for her new album.

Here's what happened next: the hashtag they used was supposed to say "susan album party" but took on an altogether different meaning when it was run together as #susanalbumparty. Anything leap out at you there? If so, you'll understand why SuBo was soon trending on Twitter. And not in a good way.


Next year will see a deluge of events celebrating the 50th anniversary of Dr Who. The countdown starts today, on the 49th anniversary of the first broadcast. So I raise a glass of Gallifrey Beaujolais at 5.15pm – and hope that the Beeb pulls out all the stops ahead of the actual half-century next year: over 100 episodes from the first six years of the show are still missing or lost.


ANOTHER double bill of the third series of The Killing to enjoy. Once again it pits Sarah Lund against a fiendish killer. Once again Lund goes into battle armed only with a torch and a scowl. Where it will all lead I care not, as writer-creator Soren Sveistrup long ago won my unquestioning trust.

I'm not happy about this new jumper. Lund's knitwear, made to a traditional pattern by small Faroese design company Gudrun & Gudrun, became iconic because only the colour-way ever changed. Now, everything's changed. Lund wears a new Gudrun & Gudrun jumper in mohair called "the V-Knit" which bears a knightly chevron design. The company says it "has a slimming effect that doesn't require fitness or starvation to wear". But Lund never eats anyway, so what's the point in that? Besides, it's too bold, too confident, too jazzy. If the jumper is meant to be an indicator of Lund's psychological state, it's all wrong. At the risk of sounding like the folk singer in the lightbulb joke, I want the old one back.