Morning Call: pick of the papers

The ten must-read comment pieces from this morning's papers.

1. We’ve left it too late to save Syria – this conflict can never be won (Daily Telegraph)

It would be madness to arm the rebels in what has become a brutal religious war, says Boris Johnson.

2. Iran has changed course. Now the US must do the same (Guardian)

Hassan Rouhani's election victory can help ease tension in the Middle East and with the United States, writes Jonathan Steele.

3. Iran's new leader offers hope for the region (Daily Telegraph)

Hassan Rowhani is politically astute, and has a vision for a more moderate regime , writes Jack Straw.

4. The best way to fight the EDL's anti-Muslim bigotry is by showing solidarity on the streets (Independent)

This racist group has been indulged by Britain's mainstream media, writes Owen Jones. We need to drown them out.

5. Boris the bold can be the Tories’ salvation (Times)

The Mayor is no standard-issue Conservative, says Tim Montgomerie. He has an Olympic-sized belief in the positive power of a strong state.

6. The red lines over Syria have not been crossed (Guardian)

The country is already awash with weapons, which are at the limit of what can be safely given to the rebels, writes Alastair Crooke.

7. West must be cautious over Iran election (Financial Times)

Embracing Hassan Rohani too warmly could hinder nuclear negotiations, writes Martin Indyk.

8. The Treasury must come clean over Lloyds (Times)

A failed Co-op bid that looked odd from the start raises suspicions of ministerial interference, writes David Davis.

9. The whistleblowers are the new generation of American patriots (Guardian)

The violation of civil liberties in the name of security has had a profound impact on those who came of age after 9/11, says Gary Younge. 

10. Obama needs to embrace the promise of the US city (Financial Times)

The US president could do a great deal more to embrace the city as the chief magnet and incubator of the intellectual capital his country needs, writes Edward Luce.

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With the BBC Food’s collection under threat, here's how to make the most of online recipes

Do a bit of digging, trust your instincts – and always read the comments.

I don’t think John Humphrys is much of a chef. Recently, as his Today co-presenter Mishal Husain was discussing the implications of the BBC’s decision to axe its Food website (since commuted to transportation to the Good Food platform, run by its commercial arm), sharp-eared listeners heard the Humph claim that fewer recipes on the web could only be a good thing. “It would make it easier!” he bellowed in the background. “We wouldn’t have to choose between so many!”

Husain also seemed puzzled as to why anyone would need more than one recipe for spaghetti bolognese – but, as any keen cook knows, you can never have too many different takes on a dish. Just as you wouldn’t want to get all your news from a single source, it would be a sad thing to eat the same bolognese for the rest of your life. Sometimes only a molto autentico version, as laid down by a fierce Italian donna, rich with tradition and chopped liver, will do – and sometimes, though you would never admit it in a national magazine, you crave the comfort of your mum’s spag bol with grated cheddar.

The world wouldn’t starve without BBC Food’s collection but, given that an online search for “spaghetti bolognese recipe” turns up about a million results, it would have been sad to have lost one of the internet’s more trustworthy sources of information. As someone who spends a large part of each week researching and testing recipes, I can assure you that genuinely reliable ones are rarer than decent chips after closing time. But although it is certainly the only place you’ll find the Most Haunted host Yvette Fielding’s kedgeree alongside Heston Blumenthal’s snail porridge, the BBC website is not the only one that is worth your time.

The good thing about newspaper, magazine and other commercial platforms is that most still have just enough budget to ensure that their recipes will have been made at least twice – once by the writer and once for the accompanying photographs – though sadly the days when everyone employed an independent recipe tester are long gone. Such sites also often have sufficient traffic to generate a useful volume of comments. I never make a recipe without scrolling down to see what other people have said about it. Get past the “Can’t wait to make this!” brigade; ignore the annoying people who swap baked beans for lentils and then complain, “This is nothing like dhal”; and there’s usually some sensible advice in there, too.

But what about when you leave the safety of the big boys and venture into the no man’s land of the personal blog? How do you separate the wheat from the chaff and find a recipe that actually works? You can often tell how much work a writer has put in by the level of detail they go into: if they have indicated how many people it serves, or where to find unusual ingredients, suggested possible tweaks and credited their original sources, they have probably made the dish more than once. The photography is another handy clue. You don’t have to be Annie Leibovitz to provide a good idea of what the finished dish ought to look like.

Do a bit of digging as part of your prep. If you like the look of the rest of the site, the author’s tastes will probably chime with your own. And always, always, wherever the recipe is from, read it all the way through, even before you order the shopping. There is nothing more annoying than getting halfway through and then realising that you need a hand blender to finish the dish, just as the first guest arrives.

Above all, trust your instincts. If the cooking time seems far too short, or the salt content ridiculously high, it probably is, so keep an eye on that oven, check that casserole, keep tasting that sauce. As someone who once published a magic mince pie recipe without any sugar, I’m living proof that, occasionally, even the very best of us make mistakes. 

Felicity Cloake is the New Statesman’s food columnist. Her latest book is The A-Z of Eating: a Flavour Map for Adventurous Cooks.

This article first appeared in the 26 May 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The Brexit odd squad