Rosie Sykes’ recipes for Christmas cocktails and canapes | Cocktails and canapes

Cocktails and canapes: Rosie Sykes cleverly pairs edible treats with a perfect festive pick-me-up

Some days demand a stiff drink and a bite to feed, whether it’s a cosy night on the sofa, or the bright lights of Christmas. In this extract from her new volume, Rosie Sykes cleverly pairs each edible treat with a perfect festive pick-me-up …

Terrazzo…

Cooling like marble, nearly flinty and savoury. Decorated with diced lime, lemon, orange and a zigzag of bay leaf to create a jazzy terrazzo consequence, this fizzy aperitivo employs Cocchi Americano- a bitter Italian aperitif wine with citrus and herbal flavours- inducing it the perfect are beginning to any party.

Terrazzo Terrazzo with anchovy-stuffed eggs. Photo: Patricia_Niven/ Patricia Niven/ Quadrille

Makes 1
Crushed ice
Small segments of lime, lemon, orange
1 part gin
2 parts Cocchi Americano
4 portions sparkling wine
Paper drinking straw
Bay leaf

1 Half fill a highball or other tall glass with ice, adding small segments of lime, lemon and orange as you go.

2 Pour in the gin, Cocchi Americano and sparkling wine and stir well.

3 Top up with ice and citrus segments. Add a newspaper straw. Finish with a bay leaf garnish, decoratively cut with a pair of scissors to a design of your option- we usually go for a zig-zag.

… with anchovy-stuffed eggs

A throwback dish of unassuming style, stuffed eggs give immense amounts of pleasure. My dear friend Peter and I once met in a bar in Manhattan to drink martinis and share a couple of plates of their famous devilled eggs, bringing to mind this quote from Pulitzer-prizewinning journalist Herb Caen:” Martinis are like breasts: one isn’t enough and three is too many .” In my volume, it’s a sentiment that applies equally to stuffed eggs. The most delicious stuffed eggs I have eaten in recent memory- and the inspiration for this recipe- were at a supper cooked by the amazing chef James Ferguson.

Makes 1
2 eggs
2 tbsp tinned anchovies, finely chopped
1 tsp olive oil
Finely grated zest and juice of 1/4 lemon
1/ 2 tsp dijon mustard
A generous pinch of smoked paprika
2 tbsp mayonnaise
A small handful of parsley, finely chopped
Cornichons or small pickled onions, to serve

1 Set the eggs into a saucepan of cold water. Bring to the simmer, then lower the hot so the water is just simmer. Cook for 12 minutes. Meanwhile, set the anchovies in a bowl with the oil and mash to a paste, then add the lemon zest, mustard, paprika and mayonnaise and mixture until smooth. Stir in the parsley.

2 Lift out the eggs and cool completely in cold water until altogether cold- this will take a good few minutes. Then carefully peel the eggs and cut them in half lengthways. Scoop out the yolks and add them to the anchovy mixture, then mash gently together- I like a little bit of texture. Savor the stuffing mixture; season with lemon, salt and pepper to taste.

3 Depending on how many cocktails you are planning to have, it might be worth taking a tiny slice from the bottom of each egg-white “boat” so they sit steadily on the plate. Spoonful or, if you’re feeling super-fancy, tube the stuffing back into the egg-white barges, then serve at room temperature with a few cornichons or little pickled onions.

Light-emitting diode…

A variant of a whiskey sour that almost incandescences in the dark that they are able to relieve any excesses of dinner and have you jumping around in no time.

Light-emitting Light-emitting diode with a squash and truffle brandade. Photograph: Patricia_Niven/ Patricia Niven/ Quadrille

Makes 1
3 proportions rye whiskey or bourbon
1 part simple syrup, ideally infused with orange or grapefruit zest
1 part lemon juice
A dash of Pernod- or pastis or ouzo, if that’s all you can get your hands on
2 tsp egg white
Ice cubes
Frond of fennel or dill

1 Combine the whiskey, syrup, lemon juice, Pernod and egg white in a shaker, or a jar with a eyelid and add plenty of ice.

2 Shake vigorously until well chilled and the egg white is foaming.

3 Strain into a cocktail glass, ideally a stemmed one, use a mesh strainer or sieve – you may want to spoon some of the egg-white foam from the shaker on to your drinking if too much get left behind.

4 Delicately garnish with a frond of fennel or dill- a little bit of green foliage sitting atop the frothy head of this drink is most appealing. Sip and perform a backwards somersault.

… with a squash and truffle brandade

Strictly speaking, brandade is a Provencal dish of salt cod pureed with garlic, olive oil and sometimes potato, but I have utilized ithere because the texture of the end result is similar. We’re so spoilt these days with the broad range of squash and pumpkins available to us. In their many guises, they make such aIf you’re feeling extra-decadent, you can grate over a little parmesan as well.

Makes 6
1 small squash- about 680 g
Salt and black pepper
A small grating of nutmeg
2 tsp olive oil
60g( 4 tbsp) unsalted butter
1 tbsp truffle oil
3 pitta breads or flatbreads
A few shavings of fresh truffle( optional)

1 Preheat the oven to 180 C/ 350 F/ gas 4. Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds of both halves with a spoonful. Season the flesh side liberally with salt and pepper, then grate over a little nutmeg.

2 Put each half on to a large sheet of oiled foil, skin-side down, then splashing over the rest of the olive oil and a good smattering of water. Wrap up the squash halves to form two parcels and cook for 50-60 minutes or until entirely soft, but not brown. Scrape all the flesh out. If it seems waterlogged, tip-off into a sieve define over a saucepan and drain for about half an hour, or until the squash seems dry. Then put the pan over a medium heat and let the liquid simmer and reduce until syrupy.

3 Meanwhile, mash the squash. When the liquid has reduced, add the squash to the pan to warm through. Now gradually beat in the butter, bit by bit, until you have a lovely rich and glossy concoction. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then stir in three-quarters of the truffle oil.

4 Put the pitta breads or flatbreads under a hot grill to warm through, then cut into bite-sized strips.

5 Scrape the squash brandade into a warm bowl and sprinkle with the rest of the truffle petroleum( now is the time for a few shavings of truffle, if you have one tucked away somewhere ), then surround with the strips of bread.

Trainwreck…

This will either cause an incident or resurrect those at the scene. For this beverage, crushed ice is best, as it helps to cool the ingredients quickly and melts in such a way as to soften the harshness of the alcohol. But if you don’t have an ice-crusher or a powerful blender, ice cubes will do.

A A’ trainwreck’ is the perfect period for a croquette, tells Rosie. Photograph: Patricia_Niven/ Patricia Niven/ Quadrille

Makes 1
Crushed ice
2 portions rye whiskey or bourbon
1 part Campari
1 part simple syrup, ideally infused with orange or grapefruit zest
2 portions orange juice- or, if in season, blood orange juice
Orange slicings, for decoration
Paper drinking straw

1 Half-fill a small metal Julep cup or short tumbler with ice. Pour in the rye whiskey or bourbon, the Campari, syrup and orange juice and stir well.

2 Top up with enough ice to give your drink a bountiful appearance. Garnish with half-moon-shaped slicings of orange and add a newspaper straw.

… with white bean croquettes with herby mayonnaise

A few stints of living in the south of Spain have made me a croquette aficionado. I like this type for home cooking, because it doesn’t involve making a bechamel sauce, so it’s relatively simple and very tasty.

Makes 8
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 medium red onion, finely sliced
1 small sprig rosemary, leaves stripped and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
120g baby spinach leaves
400g tin of cannellini beans, drained
100g panko or other breadcrumbs
1 tbsp mint, finely chopped
1 tbsp parsley, finely chopped
A generous pinch of chilli flakes
75g mayonnaise
1 egg
6 tbsp light olive oil

1 Heat the extra virgin olive oil in a saucepan over a low heat and add the onion and rosemary. Cook very gently until soft and sweet, then add the garlic and stir about for a minute.

2 Add the spinach and mix well, stirring until it wilts. Add the beans and warm through.

3 Transfer the contents of the pan to a food processor and whizz to a smooth paste. Add 20 g of breadcrumbs. Pulse to combine. The concoction should be quite stiff- if it seems too wet, add more breadcrumbs. Scrape into a bowl and transfer to the fridge for an hour or so. Meanwhile, stir the mint, parsley and chilli flakes into the mayonnaise.

4 Lightly beat the egg in a shallow bowl. Put the remaining breadcrumbs into another. Scoop out tablespoonfuls of the croquette concoction, roll into balls and then flattened into pucks. Dip the croquettes in beaten egg and then breadcrumbs, shaking off any excess. Double-dip the croquettes to give them an extra-crisp shell, if you like.

5 Heat the light olive oil in a small frying pan and, when hot, fry the croquettes in batches of three to keep the oil hot. Keep turning them until the objective is golden all over, then drain on kitchen paper. Eat while hot, dipped in, or drizzled with, the herby mayo.

Rosie Sykes is a freelance cook and menu consultant. She is the author of The Sunday Night Book( Quadrille) and co-author of the Kitchen Revolution( Ebury) This is an extract from Rosie’s latest volume, The Sunday Night Book- Short Recipes to Build the Weekend Feel Longer( Quadrille, 10.99) out now

Nigel Slater’s light summer recipes

Yogurt adds a cool note to summer eating, as a herby highlight to chicken, or a lighter raspberry buffoon to objective the day. Plus, how to attain your own labneh

If there is a theme operating through this summers cooking it is that of yogurt and its strained and lightly salted cousin labneh. At breakfast, I prefer the wake-up-call sharpness of sheeps milk yoghurt, often with a glowing puree of alphonso mango and a gently sweetened compote of blueberries or blackcurrants. Use as replacement for some of the cream in a fruit fool, the refreshingly acidic notes of goats milk yogurt flatters the flavors of apricots, strawberries and raspberries, as well as stimulating the dessert less rich. Homemade labneh, attained with thick yogurt left to stres overnight through a muslin, has been in my fridge all summertime long. I use it as it comes, or with basil and mint threaded through and maybe a little black pepper. Cold for the refrigerator it accompanies lamb and chicken from the grill, and last week I used it to stuff aubergines with shredded cucumber and garlic. The blander, sweeter cows milk range can be used for this.

Labneh

You will need a large square of cheesecloth.

Makes about 500 g
ocean salt 1 tsp
strained yogurt 500 g

Stir the salt into the strained yogurt. Line a sieve with a piece of cheesecloth( a new J cloth will do at a push ), then suspend it over a bowl. Scrape the yogurt into the lined sieve, place the sieve and bowl in the refrigerator and leave to drip overnight. By morning you will have a thick cream that they are able to hold its shape. Should you want something spreadable, then you could leave it for another 24 hours.

Stuffed aubergine with labneh and cucumber

I love the soft, luscious stuffed aubergines of the Countries of the middle east, especially when they are allowed to stand after cooking and can be consume merely warm and when their flavour have time to marry. Rather than the usual tomato and onion stuffing, earlier this week I made a freshening filling with salted yogurt, cucumber and the flesh of the roasted aubergine. The recipe involved two textures of cucumber, one soft and mildy salted, the other fresh crisp. Both were folded, together with the soft aubergine into the labneh and stuffed into the aubergine shell with sesame and dill. One of those dishes that is pleasing warm or cold.

Serves 4
cucumber 1 large
salt 1 tsp
small, plump aubergines 4
olive oil 8 tbsp
a head of garlic
labneh 200 g
sesame seeds 2 tbsp
dill a handful
rose petals ( optional)

Set the oven at 200 C/ gas mark 6. Peel the cucumber, slice in half lengthways then, employing a teaspoon, remove and discard the seedy core. Coarsely grate the cucumber, using the largest matchstick disc on the food processor.

Divide the cucumber into two heaps, place one half in a sieve balancing over a bowl, sprinkle with the teaspoon of salt then leave in a cool place for an hour. This will introduce a soft, silky texture. Set the other half in a bowl, encompas and refrigerate.

Halve the aubergines lengthways, then score them, virtually through to the scalp, in a lattice fashion. This fosters the olive oil to penetrate more thoroughly. Place the aubergines snugly and cut side up in a roasting tin, trickle over the olive oil, add the whole head of garlic, unpeeled, to the tin, then cook for about 45 minutes until the aubergines flesh is soft and wholly tender.

Remove the aubergines from the oven and scrape their flesh into a bowl, returning each empty scalp to the tin. Peel the garlic, squeezing the soft, creamy filling into the warm aubergine flesh. Squeeze the salted cucumber dry in your hand, then add, together with the matchsticks of crisp cucumber to the aubergine. Season with black pepper. Add the labneh, then fold the ingredients together.

Spoon the filling into the aubergine scalps. Toast the sesame seeds in a dry, shallow pan till golden, chop the dill and, if you are using them, the rose petals. Mix the seeds, dill and petals then scatter over the filling and serve.

Grilled chicken, herb labneh

Grilled
Grilled chicken, herb labneh. Photo: Jonathan Lovekin for the Observer

I would be happy to eat sizzling, crisp-skinned chicken and chilled, herbed yogurt all summertime long.

Serves 2
For the marinade
oregano leaves 2 tbsp
olive oil 6 tbsp
garlic 3 large cloves
peppercorns a few

chicken legs 2
labneh 300 g
basil 10 g
mint 10 g
parsley 10 g
long thin Turkish peppers 2

Roughly chop the oregano leaves, set them in a shallow dish large enough to take the chicken, then add the olive oil. Peel and crush the garlic and stir into the marinade. Roughly crush a few peppercorns and add.

Remove the bone from the chicken legs with a sharp kitchen knife. The easiest way to go about this is to place the chicken leg flat on a chopping board, plumpest side down, then, following the line of the bone with your knife, cut through the scalp and flesh easing the bone out from within the flesh as you go. Worry not about the occasional hole or tear.

Using a piece of cellophane or clingfilm to wrap the meat and a cutlet at-bat or rolling pin, flatten each leg out to about 1cm in thickness. A few firm, measured jolts should do it. Peel the meat from the cellophane, place the meat in the marinade, covering, and leave in the fridge for a couple of hours.

Put the labneh in a bowl. Remove the leaves from the the basil, mint and parsley, leaving a few whole leaves for later, then approximately chop or tear and fold into the labneh, season with black pepper, cover-up and chill. Get a ridged griddle pan hot. Remove the chicken from the marinade, shake off any excess petroleum then cook, skin side down for 7-8 minutes until the skin is lightly crisp. You should expect some smoke. Turn the meat over and cook the other side, brushing with some of the marinade as necessary.

As the meat is cooking, place the peppers onto the griddle too, turning them as they brown. Spoon some of the herb labneh onto a serving plate, then place the chicken, hot from the grill on top. A few of the reserved herbs, torn and scattered over the hot meat is a thoroughly fragrant thing.

Raspberry fool, pistachio meringue

Raspberry
Raspberry buffoon, pistachio meringue. Photograph: Jonathan Lovekin for the Observer

Serves 6
For the meringue
caster sugar 250 g
shelled pistachios 95 g
egg whites 4

For the fool
doubled cream 250 ml
raspberries 250 g
natural yogurt 150 ml

To finish
raspberries 125 g

Put a large mixing bowl in the refrigerator to chill.

Set the oven at 140 C/ gas mark 1. Spread the sugar on a baking sheet and heat for five minutes till somewhat warm to the touch. Chop the pistachios finely in a food processor. Beat the egg whites until they start to stiffen( though they should not be quite stiff enough to stand in peaks) then add the sugar a large spoonful at a time, beating continuously. Carry on, with the beater at high speed, for 3-4 minutes until the meringue is thick and glossy. Line the empty baking sheet with baking parchment.

Fold the crushed pistachios into the meringue, then spread onto the baking parchment, smoothing the concoction flat and almost right out to the edges. Place the meringue in the oven and cook for 25 minutes. It will be lightly crisp on top, softer underneath. Remove and allow to cool.

For the fool, pour the cream into the chilled bowl, beat slowly and securely until it is just thick enough to hold it shape. Process the raspberries to a puree then push through a sieve into a bowl or jug to remove the seeds.

Fold the yogurt and half the raspberry puree partially into the cream, leaving ribbons of yogurt and scarlet fruit sauce operating through the cream. Break the pistachio meringue into rough pieces, and fold gently into the fool, keeping the pieces large and avoiding the temptation to mix thoroughly. Serve in small bowls. Add a few extra raspberries and the remaining puree to finish.

Baked yogurt with apricots

Baked
Baked yogurt with apricots. Photo: Jonathan Lovekin for the Observer

A light yogurt custard that sets to the consistency of a creme brulee.

Serves 4
For the apricots
apricots 500 g
cardamom 12
sugar 3 tbsp
water 400 ml
rosewater 1 tbsp
cinnamon stick half

For the baked yogurt
doubled cream 250 ml
condensed milk 200 ml
yogurt 300 ml

Halve the apricots and remove their stones. Crack the cardamom pods, withdraw existing black seeds within and grind to a very fine powder with a pestle and mortar. Put the sugar and water in a medium-sized pan, add the rosewater, ground cardamom and cinnamon stick and bring to the boil.

Lower in the apricots, turn the hot down so that the syrup simmers gently, and leave for 15 minutes or so, till the fruit is soft and tender. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool. Chill in the refrigerator.

Set the oven at 150 C/ gas mark 2. Put the double cream in a large bowl, stir in the condensed milk and then the yogurt. A whisk is useful. Pour the concoction through a fine sieve into a jug.

Fill a cook tin with enough water to arrive halfway up the sides of 4 small heatproof dishes or ramekins that will each hold 200 ml. Place the dishes in the tin, then carefully pour the custard into each one and bake for 15 -1 8 minutes until the custard is starting to set. The middle should be barely set. Remove from the oven, take the dishes out of the water and cold them in the fridge for a minimum of 2 hours.

Serve the custards with some of the chilled apricots on top, the rest offered in a bowl.

Mango and blackcurrant breakfast bowl

Mango
Mango and blackcurrant breakfast bowl. Photo: Jonathan Lovekin for the Observer

I have started my day with sheeps or goats yogurt for decades. In summertime, you typically mixed with a classic mixture of seeds, nuts and oats, but also fresh fruit compote and puree. A dazzling start to the day. It is not worth constructing less compote than the amount below, but it will keep for several days in the fridge.

Serves 2
For the blackcurrant compote
blackcurrants 200 g
caster sugar 2 tbsp
water 4 tbsp

jumbo oats 50 g
medium oatmeal 40 g
flaked almonds 40 g
hazelnuts, shelled 24
pumpkin seeds 20 g
mangoes , small, ripe 2
natural yogurt 250 ml

Pull the blackcurrants from their husks, drop them into a small, stainless steel saucepan, add the sugar and water and bring to the simmer. Lower the heat and leave to simmer for 5 or 6 minutes, till the fruit pop and is surrounded by deep purple juice. Remove the pan from the hot and set aside.

Warm a shallow pan over a moderate heat, add the oats and oatmeal, the flaked almonds, hazelnuts and pumpkin seeds and toast till the oats are tightly golden and the almonds are fragrant. Set aside.

Peel the mangoes then slice the flesh from their stones. Process to a puree use a blender or food processor.

Spoon the yogurt into a serving bowl. Spoonful in the mango puree, about half blackcurrants and their juice then scatter the oats, nuts and seeds over the surface. Stir briefly then serve.

Email Nigel at nigel.slater @observer. co.uk or follow him on Twitter @NigelSlater

Read more: www.theguardian.com

ABC Four Corners: five articles to get you informed on sugar and Big Sugar's role in food policy – The Conversation AU


The Conversation AU

ABC Four Corners: five articles to get you informed on sugar and Big Sugar's role in food policy
The Conversation AU
The ABC's Four Corners team interviews the Obesity Policy Coalition's executive manager, Jane Martin, who is frustrated that industry lobbying has scuttled efforts to make the health star system mandatory. The health star rating system was introduced
Sugar tax won't solve obesity but expands shopping billsQueensland Country Life

all 16 news articles »

Read more: theconversation.com

I shouldn’t be criminalised for using cannabis to ease my constant pain | James Coke

A new bill could give hope to millions of people suffering in the UK, argues the writer James Coke

For much of my adult life I’ve had to rise each morning and combat multiple sclerosis. Sometimes it’s a thankless task- my legs scissored together, locked in spasm as I fight to break free of its stranglehold.

I’m convinced cannabis has allowed me to live more of a normal life than would have been possible with the constant ache. I’ve always smoked it. But in recent years I’ve been stimulating cannabis oil and turning it into tinctures. A few drops of my special brew numbs any niggling aches, clear my intellect and help me get a good night’s sleep, spasm-free.

But smoking a joint or building cannabis tinctures could land me in jail for five years under our current drug statutes. For someone living with MS or any other affliction that can be soothed by cannabis- including Parkinson’s disease, post-traumatic stress ailment or cancer- the stigma of a criminal record is not ethical or fair.

Since the” war on medications” was launched in the early 1970 s millions of people with medical problems have been get a bum deal. Cannabis, for centuries lauded for its therapeutic benefits, was unjustly demonised, tossed in with the likes of heroin and cocaine, to be expunged from the reach of society. However, the war was lost long ago. It was found that the illegal global drug marketplace is worth about $400 bn a year. The figure represents the total failure of the policy and excludes the billions wasted fighting it.

Several UK police force, including Durham, effectively decriminalised the personal utilize of cannabis to prioritise resources. And public opinion supportings a change in the law, especially when it comes to medical cannabis. That is only likely to increase after the fight by the mother of a six-year-old boy with a rare form of epilepsy who has been refused a licence to be treated with cannabis oil.

Changes in the law in parts of the US, Canada and Germany mean that the use of medical cannabis is now legal there. The switching in policy has given people the opportunity to choose their medical track, letting many to escape addiction to prescription opioids.

The UK government appears reluctant to follow suit. Yet since 1998 it has licensed GW Pharmaceuticals to create Sativex. The medication, for people with MS, are from cannabis plants, mostly grown by British Sugar. It is a step forward, but ultimately it has ringfenced the development and sale of medical cannabis at a massively inflated cost. Merely a handful of those with MS receive it: the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence( Nice ), which authorises the use of drugs by the NHS deems it too expensive( a year’s supply can cost upwards of PS5, 000 ). You either have to live in parts of Wales or be able to afford a private prescription to benefit.

The formula in each 10 ml Sativex bottle includes the chief components in cannabis- THC and CBD( 2.5 mg of each ). It expenses PS125 a bottle and lasts on average 10 days. In comparing an ounce of medical cannabis will cost me PS250 and hold upwards of 900 mg of each component. Once extracted into cannabis petroleum and dosed accordingly, it can make about 350 bottles of a product that does the same task, at a fraction of the cost.

Obviously by making the spraying I am breaking the law- but it helps indicate the hypocrisy of the government’s posture and its inertia in facilitating real reform. The production process is surely not rocket science, and cannabis is a common herb in many countries, and should not cost an arm and a leg. People are just being held to ransom by an outdated law.

Much rests on the second reading of Paul Flynn’s private member’s bill on Friday advocating cannabis be made legal for medical employ. If it eventually passed into law, it would be a landmark day for people living with a chronic disease or in constant pain.

Big pharma and major corporations involved in the industry such as British Sugar may balk at a regulated free market in medical cannabis, seeking to protect their interests. The drugs pastor, Victoria Atkins, has shown antipathy for any kind of reform to the laws on medical cannabis.( Incidentally her husband Paul Kenward, is the managing director at British Sugar .)

Flynn has got a lot of backers in his corner, though. Legalising medical cannabis might be personal to me, but it should be personal to us all. There are more than 11 million people living with a disability in the UK, and an ageing population means few is likely to be immune from the pain that lies ahead. The benefits seen from the US and across the world offer us a template to build upon.

* James Coke is a novelist. He blogs at thedisabledchef.com

Read more: www.theguardian.com

I shouldn’t be criminalised for using cannabis to ease my constant ache | James Coke

A new bill could give hope to millions of people suffering in the UK, argues the writer James Coke

For much of my adult life I’ve had to rise each morning and combat multiple sclerosis. Sometimes it’s a thankless task- my legs scissored together, locked in spasm as I opposed to break free of its stranglehold.

I’m convinced cannabis has allowed me to live more of a normal life than would have been possible with the constant pain. I’ve always smoked it. But in recent years I’ve been building cannabis petroleum and turning it into tinctures. A few drops of my special brew numbs any niggling aches, clear my mind and help me get a good night’s sleep, spasm-free.

But smoking a joint or attaining cannabis tinctures could land me in jail for five years under our current medication laws. For someone living with MS or any other affliction that can be soothed by cannabis- including “Parkinsons disease”, post-traumatic stress ailment or cancer- the stigma of a criminal record is not ethical or fair.

Since the” war on medications” was launched in the early 1970 s millions of people with medical problems have been get a bum deal. Cannabis, for centuries lauded for its therapeutic benefits, was unjustly demonised, flung in with the likes of heroin and cocaine, to be expunged from the reach of society. However, the war was lost long ago. It is estimated that the illegal global medication marketplace is worth about $400 bn a year. The figure represents the total failure of the policy and excludes the billions wasted opposing it.

Several UK police forces, including Durham, effectively decriminalised the personal utilize of cannabis to prioritise resources. And public opinion subsistences a change in the law, especially when it is necessary to medical cannabis. That is only likely to increase after the fight by the mother of a six-year-old boy with a rare form of epilepsy who has been refused a licence to be treated with cannabis oil.

Changes in the law in parts of the US, Canada and Germany mean that the use of medical cannabis is now legal there. The switching in policy has given people the opportunity to choose their medical path, letting many to escape addiction to prescription opioids.

The UK government appears reluctant to follow suit. Yet since 1998 it has licensed GW Pharmaceuticals to produce Sativex. The medication, for people with MS, are from cannabis plants, mostly grown by British Sugar. It is a step, but ultimately it has ringfenced the growth and sale of medical cannabis at a massively inflated price. Merely a handful of those with MS receive it: the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence( Nice ), which authorises the use of drugs by the NHS deems it too expensive( a year’s supply can cost upwards of PS5, 000 ). You either have to live in parts of Wales or be able to afford a private prescription to benefit.

The formula in each 10 ml Sativex bottle includes the chief components in cannabis- THC and CBD( 2.5 mg of each ). It expenses PS125 a bottle and lasts on average 10 days. In comparing an ounce of medical cannabis will cost me PS250 and hold upwards of 900 mg of each component. Once extracted into cannabis petroleum and dosed accordingly, it can render about 350 bottles of a product that does the same job, at a fraction of the cost.

Obviously by making the spraying I am breaking the law- but it helps indicate the hypocrisy of the government’s posture and its inertia in facilitating real reform. The production process is certainly not rocket science, and cannabis is a common herb in many countries, and should not expense an arm and a leg. People are just being held to ransom by an outdated law.

Much remainders on the second reading of Paul Flynn’s private member’s bill on Friday advocating cannabis be made legal for medical use. If it eventually passed into statute, it would be a landmark day for people living with a chronic illness or in constant pain.

Big pharma and major corporations involved in the industry such as British Sugar may balk at a regulated free market in medical cannabis, seeking to protect their interests. The medications pastor, Victoria Atkins, has shown antipathy for any kind of reform to the laws on medical cannabis.( Incidentally her husband Paul Kenward, is the managing director at British Sugar .)

Flynn has got a lot of backers in his corner, though. Legalising medical cannabis might be personal to me, but it should be personal to us all. There are more than 11 million people living with a disability in the UK, and an ageing population entails few will be immune from the pain that lies ahead. The benefits seen from the US and across the world offer us a template to build upon.

* James Coke is a writer. He blogs at thedisabledchef.com

Read more: www.theguardian.com

This Genetically Modified Herb Could Help Save Millions Of Lives

Just in time for World Malaria Day, April 25, a team of China-based scientists have delivered some very good news. They have created a genetically modified herb that can create high levels of a key antimalarial, promising to slash the price and boost the world’s render of much-needed antimalarial drugs.

Artemisinin is a potent antimalarial naturally produced by the aromatic herb Artemisia annua , also known as sweet wormwood. The compound is used as the main “ingredient” for numerous antimalarial drugs, including Artemether, Artesunate, Artemotil, and Dihydroartemisinin. However, only tiny sums of the compound are naturally found within the plant, so it’s not unusual for these narcotics to fall short of global demand.

As reported in the journal Molecular Plant, scientists have now managed to pinpoint the genes responsible for making artemisinin. They then tweaked these genes to generate plants that make three times more artemisinin than normal. Typically, artemisinin builds up about 0.1 to 1 percent of the plant’s dry weight. In the GM shrub, it induces up 3.2 percent of the dry weight.

“Nearly half of the world’s population is at risk of malaria, ” senior analyze writer Kexuan Tang of Shanghai Jiao Tong University said in a statement. “Our strategy for the large-scale production of artemisinin will fulfill the increasing demand for this medicinal compound and help address this global health problem.”

Kexuan Tang’s research squad and their A. annua plants. Ying Liu/ Shanghai Xinhua News Agency

Malaria affects around 216 million people per year and causes an estimated 445,000 demises annually. It’s caused by a number of different single-celled parasites, the most prevalent of which is Plasmodium falciparum, transmitted by Anopheles mosquitos. In the early 1970 s, Chinese scientist Youyou Tu first showed how artemisinin could be used to fight the malaria-causing parasite, for which she was later awarded the 2015 Nobel Prize for Medicine.

Scientists have attempted to increase the yield of artemisinin many times in the past, but they never had enough of the plant’s genetic data to work with. To conquer that problem, the researchers had to sequence the plant’s full genome for the first time, creating a map of its 63,226 protein-coding genes.

Following their hard work, the researchers say their GM super-herbs are now “re ready for” large-scale production and will help meet the challenge of increasing global demand of artemisinin.

“It is not expensive to generate high-level artemisinin lines, ” Tang added. “We have propagated hundreds of high artemisinin producer lines via cutting and selection, and scaled up the production of these plants. Hopefully, our high artemisinin transgenic lines will be grown at a massive scale next year.”

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Russian snoop assault: Trump subsistences UK ‘all the way’

US president agrees Moscow must provide answers over poisoning as May prepares reprisals

Donald Trump has given Theresa May his full support for her strategy of confronting Russia over the poisoning of double agent Sergei Skripal, saying he is” with the UK all the route “.

The US president’s backing came in a phone call on Tuesday after he had said earlier that it was conditional on the facts supporting the British prime minister’s lawsuit. Downing Street said Trump had agreed that” the Russian government must provide unambiguous answers as to how this nerve agent came to be used “.

Quick guide

Timeline: the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal

1. 30 pm

Police have confirmed that Skripal and his daughter were in Salisbury city centre by 1.30 pm. It is not known if they walked from his home or whether they drove or were driven in.

Between 1.30 pm and around 4pm

Skripal and his daughter strolled around Salisbury and visited the Zizzi restaurant on Castle Street and the nearby Mill pub. They are believed to have been in Zizzi for about 40 minutes from 2.30 pm.

3. 47 pm

A CCTV camera at Snap Fitness in Market Walk captured two people initially thought to be Skripal and his daughter. The girl appeared to be carrying a red handbag. Afterwards it became clear the pair are likely to be not the Russian and his daughter. Police have been keen to speak to the couple.

4. 03 pm

The same camera caught personal trainer Freya Church. She turned left out of the gym and in front of her comprehend Skripal and the woman on a bench at the Maltings shopping centre. She said the woman had passed out and the man was behaving strangely. Church strolled on.

4. 08 pm

Footage that emerged on Friday from a local business showed that people were still strolling casually through Market Walk.

Approx 4.15 pm

A is part of the public dialled 999. The Friday footage shows situations of emergency vehicle racing through the pedestrianised arcade soon after 4.15 pm. A paramedic also ran through. Police and paramedics worked on the couple at the scene for almost an hour in ordinary uniforms.

5. 11 pm

The woman was airlifted to hospital; Skripal was taken by road.

5. 13 pm

Images taken by a passerby show that policemen were still clearly unaware of the severity of the situation. They did not have specialist protective garment and members of the public also strolled nearby.

5. 48 pm

Police told Salisbury Journal they were investigating a possible drug-related incident. At about this time officers identified Skripal and his daughter and by Sunday evening they were at his home- in normal uniform or street clothes. At some phase DS Nick Bailey , now seriously ill in hospital, visited the Skripal house, but it is not known where he was contaminated.

Approx 8.20 pm

Officers donned protective suits to examine the bench and surrounding areas.

By 9pm

Officers were hosing themselves down. It was not until the next day that a major incident was declared.

Photograph: Ben Stansall/ AFP

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