WHO says Congo faces ‘very high’ risk from Ebola outbreak

GENEVA (Reuters) – Democratic Republic of Congo faces a “very high” public health risk from Ebola after the disease was confirmed in one patient in a major city, the World Health Organization said on Friday, raising its assessment from “high” previously.

FILE PHOTO: Congolese Health Ministry officials carry the first batch of experimental Ebola vaccines in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo May 16, 2018. REUTERS/Kenny Katombe/File Photo

The risk to countries in the region was now “high”, raised from “moderate”, but the global risk remained “low”.

The reassessment came after the first confirmed case in Mbandaka, a city of around 1.5 million. Previous reports of the disease had all been in remote areas where Ebola might spread more slowly.

“The confirmed case in Mbandaka, a large urban center located on major national and international river, road and domestic air routes increases the risk of spread within the Democratic Republic of the Congo and to neighboring countries,” the WHO said.

WHO Deputy Director-General for Emergency Preparedness and Response Peter Salama had told reporters on Thursday that the risk assessment was being reviewed.

“We’re certainly not trying to cause any panic in the national or international community,” he said.

“What we’re saying though is that urban Ebola is very different phenomenon to rural Ebola because we know that people in urban areas can have far more contacts so that means that urban Ebola can result in an exponential increase in cases in a way that rural Ebola struggles to do.”

FILE PHOTO: Congolese Health Ministry officials arrange the first batch of experimental Ebola vaccines in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo May 16, 2018. REUTERS/Kenny Katombe/File Photo

Later on Friday, the WHO will convene an Emergency Committee of experts to advise on the international response to the outbreak, and decide whether it constitutes a “public health emergency of international concern”.

The nightmare scenario is an outbreak in Kinshasa, a crowded city where millions live in unsanitary slums not connected to a sewer system.

The WHO statement said there had been 21 suspected, 20 probable and 3 confirmed cases of Ebola between April 4 and May 15, a total of 44 cases, including 15 deaths.

Mbandaka had three suspected cases in addition to the confirmed case.

The WHO is sending 7,540 doses of an experimental vaccine to try to stop the outbreak in its tracks, and 4,300 doses have already arrived in Kinshasa. It will be used to protect healthworkers and “rings” of contacts around each case.

The vaccine supplies will be enough to vaccinate 50 rings of 150 people, the WHO said.

As of 15 May, 527 contacts had been identified and were being followed up and monitored, it said.

Reporting by Tom Miles; Editing by Nick Macfie

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Here’s Where To Find A Bunch Of Healthy Meal Ideas For Kids

You want to be a role model for your kids. You want them to look up to you, to follow your lead, to respect you. But sometimes it doesn’t hurt to recruit ane outside influence to point the little ’uns in the right direction, especially when it comes to their diet. You can set a good example by wolfing down greens at every opportunity but there’s no way you can shield their impressionable eyes from ads for high-fat high-sugar high-calorie junk food.

So Coach is completely behind world-famous people backing you up when it comes to vegetables, and sports-wise they don’t come much more famous than Lionel Messi and his Barcelona teammates. The players and, less famous but probably more useful in this context, the nutrition team at the Spanish superclub have paired up with home appliance company Beko to create Eat Like A Pro, a website that lavishes you with recipes and healthy eating tips that will help your kids eat better – not least because Barcelona’s star men are telling them to.

RECOMMENDED: Make This Healthy Banana Flapjacks Recipe With Your Kids

Healthy recipes are a big part of what Eat Like A Pro offers. There’s a handy spinner where you choose the meal you want to cook (breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert) and how long you have to make it (from as little as ten minutes), which then offers a selection of recipes that fit the bill. There’s also a raft of recipes that you can make with your kids to get them interested in cooking, including a spectacular loaf of brown bread shaped like a rabbit wearing a bow tie.

Each recipe has a video and step-by-step instructions, along with noting the physical and performance benefits you get from eating the finished result. So the aforementioned bunny bread will benefit your agility, power and speed, for example. How do you think Messi won all those Ballon d’Ors? Bunny bread!

Along with recipes you’ll find a whole host of food styling tips on the Eat Like A Pro site, because creating a picture on a plate using food is one surefire way to interest your kids in healthy food. You can create a sloth using braised beef, mashed potatoes, carrots, dates and pickled ginger, or make a terrifying clown face poké bowl.

The Barcelona players get involved with the cheer generator, which allows you to select a player holding a customised board that applauds your child for finishing a portion of a certain food. There is also a series of video interviews where players discuss questions around healthy eating. Ivan Rakitic details how he started eating healthily, for example, while Luis Suárez is asked if he has ever eaten any weird yet super-healthy food and somehow passes up the opportunity to make a Giorgio Chiellini joke.

If you have a football-mad kid who rejects any and all healthy food Eat Like A Pro might be just the ticket for helping to change their mind. And even if your kids hate football as much as they do healthy food, they’re still going to enjoy making a bow-tie-wearing-rabbit-shaped loaf of bread, because no human on earth wouldn’t enjoy doing that.

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The Best Food Processors To Buy In 2018

Chop, dice, slice, blend, mix, grate and purée like a pro by adding a food processor to your arsenal of kitchen gadgets. A food processor can make light work of complex recipes and save you precious prep time when whipping up healthy midweek meals – it’s little wonder Jamie Oliver’s 15-Minute Meals TV show and cookbook used a food processor in almost every recipe.

It’s the ultimate helping hand in the kitchen, especially if you’re cooking for a crowd or filling your freezer with batch-cooked goodness. Whether whizzing up chunky marinades, mixing healthy snacks or blending protein shakes, a food processor is a multi-tasking marvel. Here’s our pick of the best buys.

Best All-Rounder: Kenwood MultiPro Compact FDP301SI Food Processor

Lightweight and compact, this space-saving gadget is reassuringly sturdy and comes with a range of blades for slicing, grating and chopping as well as an emulsifying tool for whipping cream and eggs. Unusually for such an affordable machine, you can adjust the power settings and use the pulse button to mix things up in short bursts. It’s a good pick for small kitchens (as long as you have somewhere to stash the included blender attachment). £65 (RRP £75), buy on Amazon

Most Stylish Food Processor: KitchenAid Classic Food Processor

This retro-looking appliance offers a number of useful and unique features such as an adjustable disc to control the thickness of your slices, as well as a jumbo feed tube that can handle whole fruit and vegetables. There’s a reversible shredding disc for fine and coarse grating, and a multi-purpose blade for all your mixing and blending needs. £166 (RRP £199), buy on Amazon

Best Budget Food Processor: Andrew James Food Processor And Blender

Easy on the pocket and to use, this affordable appliance chomps through ingredients using a range of blades, graters and discs. It comes with a blender for smoothies and shakes and there are special attachments for slicing French fries and juicing fruits. It might not be as powerful as some of our other picks but for versatility and value, you can’t go wrong with this inexpensive option. £60, buy on Amazon

Best Multi-Tasking Food Processor: Nutri Ninja Complete Kitchen System

Equipped with a punchy 1,500-watt motor, this jack of all trades serves as a food processor, a large blender and a NutriBullet-style smoothie maker. It can blitz, blend, grate, slice and crush ice in a flash, and its handy one-touch Auto IQ programme lets you throw ingredients together and stand back while it works its magic. It comes with a range of blades, discs, jugs and cups so you’ll need to make sure you’ve got storage space, but this all-in-one gadget should cover all your kitchen needs. £150, buy on Argos

Best High-End Food Processor: Magimix 5200XL

A quality buy for foodies and families, this solid piece of kit comes with a 30-year guarantee so you can rest assured that it’s built to last. It has three different bowls to deal with everything from a single egg to a family feast and they all nest inside each other for easy storage. The dough blade, egg whisk, citrus press and discs for grating and slicing cover all culinary bases and the powerful 1,100-watt motor is surprisingly quiet. £302 (RRP £340), buy on Amazon

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Contraceptive pill can boost your memory, study suggests

A recent study has found that the pill may actually have a positive impact on your memory. Researchers from Monash University determined that taking the pill improved women’s ability to remember words and language.

They also observed an improvement in visual-spatial skills with certain pills.

These improvements are “thought to be driven by oestrogen, which has been shown to positively influence memory-related brain regions,” study authors Jayashri Kulkarni and Caroline Gurvich wrote on The Conversation.

Oral contraceptives, combine different levels of the hormones oestrogen and progesterone. Researchers have determined that these levels are particularly important in determining the effect a pill will have on women.

For instance, they found that progesterone-only contraceptives (known as the mini pill) were the most likely to cause depression. They believe this is due to the fact that “synthetic progesterone (more than natural progesterone) has significant effects on the brain chemicals serotonin and monoamine oxidase, resulting in depression, irritability and anxiety.”

They also found that women who take the pill are more likely overall to suffer from depression as sex hormones found in the pill significantly impact on brain areas related to emotional and cognitive functioning.

Ultimately, the researchers said that it comes down to picking the right birth control to suit your body.“Women their doctors need to be aware that hormone contraceptives can contribute to mental health problems, and women should return to their GP if they experience mental health side effects,” they advised.

“Women must have the right to control their fertility without compromising their enjoyment of life.”

While we’re on the topic, here’s how your gut health could be impacting your memory. Also “no condoms, no pills and still I’m happily no baby.”

Know someone who’d love this? Share it with them!

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Report faults response to San Diego’s Hepatitis A outbreak

A grand jury report following the worst outbreak of Hepatitis A in the United States in 20 years faulted the response of San Diego city and county officials on Thursday and recommended improving communications to prepare for future health emergencies.

The outbreak killed 20 and sickened 577 people between November 2016 and October 2017.

The review, titled “The San Diego Hepatitis A Epidemic: (Mis)handling a Public Health Crisis,” criticizes the county and city for inadequate coordination that delayed sanitation procedures that could have slowed the spread of the disease, especially among the homeless population.

The report “correctly points out that there really was no playbook for dealing with what was an unprecedented health crisis,” San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer said.

“It’s clear there needed to be better coordination and communication when the outbreak was first identified and there were a lot of lessons that will help us going forward,” the mayor said. “The biggest lesson is that our community can’t put off difficult decisions on homelessness because it makes the problem worse.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says Hepatitis A is a vaccine-preventable, communicable disease of the liver caused by a virus. It is usually transmitted person-to-person or by consuming contaminated food or water. Symptoms include fatigue, low appetite, stomach pain, nausea, and jaundice.

The 20-page report commended officials for effectively contacting at-risk residents and getting them vaccinations, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune . Among the recommendations in the report are updating the county’s emergency operations plan, establishing clear lines of authority and designating a medical professional to report directly to the mayor.

It also recommends building more secure restrooms and hand-washing stations in areas where homeless people congregate.

Officials vaccinated more than 100,000 people, installed scores of hand-washing stations and cleaned streets with a bleach solution to contain the virus that lives in feces. The emergency ended in January.

The mayor said the city is undertaking a massive expansion of homeless services that includes building shelters and adding new restroom facilities.

The grand jury, which consisted of 19 retired professionals, interviewed administrative personnel from the county Health and Human Services Agency, upper-level management from several local cities and law enforcement personnel throughout the region before drawing its conclusions, the newspaper said.

Written reports, including local media accounts, professional medical papers and internal emails were also examined.

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Great vegan with fewer than 7 ingredients? I can do that. — The Know

I’m not ashamed to say that I still get intimidated by cooking at times.

You can blame it on a childhood largely spent outside of the kitchen, a pantry that typically needs restocking, and a general baseline of anxiety.

I’ll find myself standing in the kitchen, eyes fluttering between a recipe and my meek-looking vegetables (just how wrinkly can a bell pepper get before it’s unusable?). Then my phone buzzes and I’m reminded of things like Postmates and DoorDash that deliver food without me running the risk of starting a small kitchen fire.

So, yeah, I order in more than I should. But it’s a scary world in the kitchen.

At least that’s what I thought until I stumbled across “Vegan in 7,” a cookbook by Dutch food blogger Rita Serano. It’s a simple yet oddly ingenious concept: Plant-based recipes that have seven or fewer ingredients.

“If it’s simple, you think, ‘Oh, OK, I can do it,’” Serano said in a phone interview. “It’s much more of a motivation to keep you going. If you’re a new person to a vegan diet, you have a cookbook with 25 ingredients, you think, ‘OK, I’m not going to do this. Too complicated.’ ”

When Serano and I chatted in April, she was at her Dutch home. Serano, her husband and their 7-year-old daughter move back and forth between homes in the Netherlands and France quite a bit. But the couple has been sticking around the Netherlands more now that their daughter is in school.

Serano has developed a degree of fame on Instagram, where she has more than 45,000 followers. She first took to the social media platform nearly three years ago after getting a smartphone. Her husband suggested she post her food pictures to Instagram. “What’s that?” she asked.

She’s been promoting her recipes from “Vegan in 7” there. She said she wanted the book to be easy for those new to a plant-based diet but also interesting enough for longtime vegans.

“I’m not much of a preacher,” she said, adding that there are people who could write better or may have more knowledge.

But for her, plant-based cooking is adventurous and never boring. And on top of that, she believes healthy eating can truly help people feel better.

“If you see the book, read it, cook from it and think, ‘OK, this I can do,’ it gives a little bounce in energy and confidence. That’s the most important,” Serano said. “It’s doable and healthy and tasteful.”

Spring pea soup with roasted radishes

Serves 4

Rita Serano’s recipe for spring pea soup with roasted radishes in “Vegan in 7.” (Photo provided by Kyle Books)

From “Vegan in 7” by Rita Serano (Kyle Books, February 2018):

“I first made pea soup when I unexpectedly had to cook for guests with only a big bag of peas and a few leftovers on hand,” Serano writes. “My guests were astounded that I’d managed to concoct such a delicious and healthy-looking soup from so little. This spring variation includes roasted radishes and is a delicious way to celebrate the new arrival of fresh, seasonal produce — a nice prelude to warmer times.”

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup radishes, quartered
  • 4 1/4 cups (or 34 ounces) vegetable stock or water
  • 1 bunch of spring onions, chopped
  • 4 cups frozen peas
  • 5 ounces spinach leaves, shredded (or a mix of leaves, e.g. spinach, sorrel, wild nettle)
  • A swirl of Savoury Cashew Cream, to serve (optional)
  • Chopped fresh chervil, to serve (optional)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a baking tray with parchment paper.

Toss the radishes in a bowl with a splash of stock or water and a pinch of salt and pepper. Spread them out on the prepared baking tray and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, turning them every 5 minutes. They should be tender with a firm center and a have a lovely pink color when done.

Meanwhile, make the soup. Put the spring onions, reserving 2 tablespoons, into a pan with a splash of water and cook over a medium heat for 5 to 10 minutes until soft. Add the remaining water or vegetable stock and bring to the boil. Add the peas, spinach leaves, 1½ teaspoons salt and a good pinch of pepper. Lower the heat and simmer for another 2 to 3 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat. Blend the soup using a stick blender, then taste and add more seasoning if needed.

Serve scattered with the roasted radishes, reserved chopped spring onions and chervil, with some Savoury Cashew Cream if you like.

Savour Cashew Cream

Makes 2 1/4 cups

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups raw cashews, soaked overnight and rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar or the juice of 1/2 lemon

Directions

Place the cashews, vinegar, 1 teaspoon salt, and 2/3 cups water in a high-speed blender and blitz until very smooth. If you want the cream to be more liquid, add a tablespoon of water at a time to thin it out. Add other flavorings of your choice.

Store the cream in a glass container in the fridge for a maximum of three days.

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Fort Collins has bragging rights over Boulder in latest list of best U.S. cycling cities — The Know

Cyclists gather at The Cup food station on Pearl Street on Bike to Work Day in Boulder County earlier this year. (Cliff Grassmick, Boulder Daily Camera)

It’s common knowledge that Boulder is a pretty great place for cyclists, but who would have thought Fort Collins is even better?

PeopleForBikes thinks it is, anyway.

That national foundation dedicated to promoting bike ridership recently named Fort Collins the No. 1 city in America for cycling. Boulder placed third among the 480 cities on the list.

“We always have a friendly rivalry,” Fort Collins mayor Wade Troxell said of coming out ahead of Boulder. “We both have two wonderful communities, and I think Fort Collins, we’ve always felt that we punch above our weight. We’re a wonderful place to live.”

Boulder mayor Suzanne Jones was magnanimous toward her fitness-crazy town’s northern neighbor.

“I think it’s great that the northern Front Range is recognized as a great place to ride, and happy to be in good company with Fort Collins,” Jones said. “Fort Collins is up and coming, and more power to them. We are a great place to ride, for sure, and we’re proud of that, but glad that other communities are joining us in having more livable communities. They’re doing a lot of great things. I’m happy for them.”

Troxell said Fort Collins has actively sought to make cycling part of its branding, along with craft brewing and music.

” ‘Beer, bikes and bands’ is an often-used term to describe what people enjoy about our community,” Troxell said.

Melissa Collins rides her bike on the new Front Range Trail moments after it opened in November of 2017 in south Fort Collins. (Jenny Sparks, Loveland Reporter-Herald)

PeopleForBikes considered ridership, safety, network, “reach” (how a community’s bike network serves everyone) and acceleration (how quickly a community is improving its cycling infrastructure). Fort Collins ranked high in all categories and ranked No. 1 in safety. Since 2014, Fort Collins has been working at implementing “Low Stress” cycling routes to improve safety and encourage people to ride.

“The way the city was laid out, it’s different than other communities including Boulder and Denver, our streets are wider,” Troxell said. “We’re able to connect the trails, the natural areas, the bike lanes on main arterials, but there (also) is this low-stress network. We have this ‘safe route to everywhere’ concept. You can literally get anywhere in Fort Collins and do it in a low-stress network.”

Colorado Springs was No. 23 on the PeopleForBikes list and Denver ranked 27th.

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How to make the perfect hasselback potatoes | Life and style

Hasselback potatoes, named after the Stockholm restaurant said to have created them, are one of those dishes that tend to look better than they taste: painstakingly chiselled fans of gloriously golden carbohydrate perfect for the Instagram age, yet sadly soggy on the fork. As Ed Smith writes in On the Side, “disappointingly, some so-called hasselback potatoes turn out to be little more than roast new potatoes with a few cuts in them”, when they should be a showstopping cross between a roast potato and a fried one, both comfortingly fluffy and satisfyingly crunchy. They may be more work than a pan of mash and not, perhaps, the kind of thing you’d knock up on a Tuesday evening, but if you’re out to impress, hasselbacks are the perfect accompaniment to steak, roast chicken, meaty fish or just about anything else that might demand a helping of chips – and they’re considerably easier to execute, too. Plus, did I mention they look good on Instagram?

You say po-tay-to, I say po-tah-to

Ed Smith’s hasselback potatoes.



Ed Smith’s hasselback potatoes. Photograph: Felicity Cloake for the Guardian

Not everyone thinks that hasselbacks should be fluffy: Nigella Lawson writes that she loves them made with new potatoes, too, recommending charlotte or ratte, choices echoed by Smith, Stevie Parle and Trish Hilferty in her book Lobster and Chips, which calls for “medium-sized waxy potatoes”.

Ranged against them are Martha Stewart (her yukon golds, like Julia Moskin’s russets, are hard to get hold of in this country, but seem to be classified as “fluffy” by the British Potato Council, so I substitute Roosters), and Alastair Little, who calls for baking potatoes, which also get an airing in Moskin’s recipe, mainly because I can find no other spuds weighing a pound each.

Alhough I don’t think such huge potatoes are the best suited for the hasselback treatment, because the crisp exterior to fluffy interior ratio is all wrong, I do prefer their fluffy texture to the smoothness of the waxy kind, which, soaked in butter, are almost too rich for my taste – more like fondant potatoes. Like chips and roast potatoes, fluffy seems the way to go.

Peeling and cutting

Alastair Little’s hasselback potatoes.



Alastair Little’s hasselback potatoes. Photograph: Felicity Cloake for the Guardian

I’m pleased to discover that peeling the potatoes is traditional, but not mandatory: Little and Hilferty are the only ones to bother. In theory, it should help the exterior crisp up, but in practice it doesn’t seem to make much difference, and leaving the skins on gives the dish a better flavour.

It does pay, however, to spend time on the cutting of the potatoes. Many of the recipes dictate slicing them in 5mm intervals, but, in the hope of speeding up the cooking process, I’m going to copy Smith’s 2-3mm intervals, which also have the (possibly questionable) benefit of making the potatoes look like oversized woodlice. To help you slice down, but not through them, you could run a skewer through their length, as Hilferty and Little recommend, or cut them between two chopsticks, like Parle, but I find the simplest way is to put the potatoes in the bowl of a wooden spoon, as Molly Wizenberg suggests on her blog Orangette. As potatoes are not a uniform diameter along their entire length, slicing at a slight angle, à la Little, often makes life easier.

Rinsing off some of the surface starch, a tip from Hilferty, does seem to help stop them sticking together; Little’s cold water bath presumably serves the same purpose, but running water proves more effective.

The cooking

Martha Stewart’s hasselback potatoes.



Martha Stewart’s hasselback potatoes. Photograph: Felicity Cloake for the Guardian

Moskin’s is the only recipe to pre-cook the spuds, boiling the monsters for 10 minutes, then allowing them to cool completely before baking. Athough this proves inconvenient, the idea isn’t a bad one: potatoes are dense things, and many of the recipes I try wildly underestimate the baking time, so it makes sense to give them a head start. However, I prefer Smith’s method of braising them in water in the oven itself: although the bottoms might not be quite as crunchy as those roasted just in butter, the tops still crisp up satisfactorily, and there are no questionable bits of semi-raw spud in the middle.

The oven should be hot, but not too hot – Moskin’s 220C/425F/gas 7 leaves the potatoes charred on top before they’ve had a chance to cook through – and it’s essential, as most recipes acknowledge, to keep basting them throughout the cook, “in order for the butter to penetrate”, as Parle puts it.

The flavourings

Stevie Parle’s hasselback potatoes.



Stevie Parle’s hasselback potatoes. Photograph: Felicity Cloake for the Guardian

Butter is the order of the day here – and lots of it. You could substitute olive oil, if you’d prefer to keep them vegan, or swap in duck or goose fat or even good beef dripping, but, for me, potatoes and butter are a match made in heaven. You don’t need anything else, but garlic goes well with butter, of course, and also has the benefit of helping to wedge the slices open. If you don’t like garlic, shallots or onions work just as well, or you could use bay leaves or sage, but be careful not to overdo it, because a little goes a long way with both.

Smith also adds caraway seeds, and Moskin sweet and smoked paprika intended to replicate the smoky bacon she reckons the originals were wrapped in, but I find no mention of this elsewhere. It does indeed give her potatoes a “gorgeous ruddy colour”, however, and would be lovely with roast pork or barbecued meat or veg.

A recipe from Swedish restaurateur Leif Mannerström calls for the baked hasselbacks to be finished with breadcrumbs and potentially parmesan cheese. I like the extra crunch the former adds, but feel free not to bother: they’ll still be utterly delicious, whether you’re serving them with a leg of lamb or on their own with a bowl of wild garlic mayonnaise. (Interested parties may like to know that, in the writing of this piece, several people recommended Yotam Ottolenghi’s hasselback gratin to me: it didn’t seem to fit with the remit, but it does look amazing.)

Perfect hasselback potatoes

Prep 15 min
Cook 1 hr 30 min
Serves 4

8 medium floury potatoes, such as maris pipers or king edwards (about 800g-1kg)
6 garlic cloves, peeled
3 bay leaves (optional)
50g butter
2 tbsp dry breadcrumbs, tossed with a little olive oil (optional)

Heat the oven to 200C/390F/gas 6. Find an ovenproof frying pan or a heavy, hob-safe baking tin that’s just large enough to hold the potatoes in a single layer.

Put each potato in the bowl of a wooden spoon and, at roughly 2mm intervals, cut carefully down, but not quite through, the potato, maintaining a slight angle towards the centre of the potato.

Cut into each potato, being careful not to cut all the way through.



Cut into each potato, being careful not to cut all the way through. Photograph: Dan Matthews for the Guardian

Slice the garlic, and stuff several pieces into each potato, making sure you push them well down so they don’t burn. Tear the bay leaves, if using, into several pieces and do the same.

Fill the slices with garlic or bay for flavour.



Fill the slices with garlic or bay for flavour.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in the pan or tin over a medium heat until sizzling. Put in the potatoes one by one, and carefully turn them in the butter to coat, then pour in enough cold water to come halfway up the sides of the potatoes.

Coat the potatoes with butter, add some water and bring to a boil on the hob.



Coat the potatoes with butter, add some water and bring to a boil on the hob.

Bring to a boil, then roast for an hour and 30 minutes, basting every 15 minutes. Scatterwith the breadcrumbs, if using, for the final 15 minutes of cooking, at which point you can add any remaining garlic to the pan as well. Serve hot from the oven.

Put in the oven and baste every 15 minutes for good crunch.



Put in the oven and baste every 15 minutes for good crunch.

Hasselback potatoes: Scandi spud sorcery or more hassle than they’re worth? What do you serve with them and, following my discovery that most recipes are hopelessly optimistic about potato cooking times, which other food-related fibs would you like to see the back of?

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Welcome to cycle heaven: why we moved our family to the Netherlands | Cities

Before I’m out of bed, our 15-year-old slams the door and jumps on her bike, heading for school and meeting friends along the way.

Last week, our eight and 13-year-olds attended four parties between them. They scoffed the obligatory birthday sugar, went bowling, shot lasers, played mini-golf and patted sheep – travelling to and from all of these activities by bike. There wasn’t a helmet or scrap of hi-vis between them.

This is daily life in Houten, a suburb of Utrecht in the Netherlands. Spend any time here and you’ll soon see hordes of kids riding their bikes to gym lessons, parties, after-school care or sports activities through wind, rain or shine. One of my favourite Dutch expressions is Jij bent niet van suiker gemaakt” (“You’re not made of sugar”), meaning you won’t dissolve in the rain – so get on your bike.

This lifestyle drew us to the Netherlands from Britain. After 15 years of dreaming – via Sydney, London and Norwich – we went in search of a more cycle-friendly city.

Map of Houten



To move between neighbourhoods in Houten, cars must take the figure 8-shaped ring road. This leaves interior streets largely the preserve of pedestrians and cyclists.

Now we’re Houtenaars, citizens of a world-renowned cycling suburb studied by future town planners around the globe. Houten has been on the map since Roman times, but modern development began in the late 1960s as an overspill for fast-growing Utrecht.

Architect Rob Derks designed Houten to prioritise pedestrians and cyclists over motorists. A ring road circles the suburb, and residential districts within are only accessible to cars through these roads on the edge of town. Instead, there is an extensive network of paths and cycle lanes connecting these areas.

The Cityscape: get the best of Guardian Cities delivered to you every week, with just-released data, features and on-the-ground reports from all over the world

Sharp bends and low speed limits mean roads are intentionally difficult to navigate by motor vehicle: in Houten, cars are slightly unwelcome guests. Unlike drivers, cyclists and walkers can travel direct, making a two-minute walk or ride a 10-minute trip by car, for example.

It works: an estimated 98% of Houten households own at least one bike, with an average of 3.4 bikes per household. While many work trips are made by car – particularly journeys out of the city – cycling is by far the most popular mode of transport. A report by the ITDP found 53% of residents travel to the grocery shop by bike or on foot. This rises to 79% for errands like visiting the bank or getting a haircut, and for visiting friends and family in Houten.

A cycle route and a footpath in a residential area of Houten.



A cycle route and a footpath in a residential area of Houten. Photograph: Alamy

Residents do own cars – although rarely more than one, and some prefer to use a car-share company. Children ride bikes as soon as they can walk, people with disabilities move freely and independently, elderly people cycle everywhere and if they start to feel unsafe on two wheels, they swap them for three. Immigrants who’ve never had a bicycle are taught to ride.

Every now and again we get a strange sense of guilt about loving this perfectly planned life. We watch visitors’ first anxious sense that they’ve fallen into the Truman Show quickly disappear as they realise just how upside-down their perception of a “normal” city is.

Here, good public space and architecture is for everyone. There’s a large amount of social housing in Houten but you’d be hard-pressed to pick it out because there’s little written into these buildings to declare who has money and who doesn’t. The shared architecture and wonderful functionality frees people to be who they are. Far from being claustrophobic, it’s liberating.

My family were lucky – we had the Dutch passport my father-in-law handed down to his Australian-born children when his own family left post-war Holland.

Our daughters were old enough to know what they were leaving behind in Norwich. They may have hated us the day we dropped them into a local Dutch school with no language, but they survived. They missed their friends at first but now they love their independence, the clean air and Houten’s close community. On visits to family in London and Australia, all three kids are astounded at how much time they have to spend in the car, how noisy everything is and how dependent children are on their parents.

Not everyone has the chance to make the choices we did. But none of what Houten stands for is radical or alternative. This Dutch city’s choice to move away from the car, to clear the air, to invest in healthy individuals, is not an unreachable ideal.

Houten is the future many of us trapped in car-focused societies dream of, but it’s happening here and now. Nothing is stopping other cities from making the same decisions.

Kylie van Dam lives in Houten with her family, and teaches English through music.

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10 things to do in Boston this weekend: May 17-20

Skip Netflix this weekend—here are 10 ways to get out of your home and not be bored in the city. If you’d like BosTen delivered to your inbox every Thursday, click here. Want more things to do? Check out our events calendar at boston.com/events. You can also learn even more about awesome events around Boston by joining the BosTen Facebook group.

Friday is National Bike to Work Day, and the city of Boston will say thank you to its cyclists by offering free breakfast and coffee at City Hall Plaza to anyone who cycles to their jobs. Exhibitors will also have tents set up on the plaza and will offer a range of free swag and cool cycling-centric deals. Just be sure to bring your bike, helmet, Hubway/Blue Bikes key, and/or spandex to prove that your commute involved pedaling to receive the free breakfast goodies. (Friday, May 18 from 7 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.; City Hall Plaza, Boston; free; all ages)

Head over to Harpoon Brewery this weekend for two days of live music from bands like Howl at the Moon and The Revelations. There will also be lawn games, food trucks, free tours of the brewery, and, of course, plenty of Harpoon beers. (Friday, May 18 from 5:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. and Saturday, May 19 from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m.; Harpoon Brewery, Boston; $25-30; 21+)

The Langham Hotel will open the doors to Cafe Fleuri bright and early at 6:30 a.m. on Saturday for the Royal Wedding, allowing customers to munch on English scones, order a full English breakfast, and snap photos in a Royal Wedding photobooth before the ceremony starts. This is one of the only events in Boston planning to broadcast the ceremony live, so reservations are strongly encouraged. (Saturday, May 19 from 6:30 a.m. to 10 a.m.; Cafe Fleuri, Boston; free; all ages)

The Mandarin Oriental will host a Royal Wedding party, as well, throwing a fancy party from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Guests will have the chance to enjoy a 30-minute rosé reception followed by a traditional tea service, complete with a three-tiered tray of snacks like scones, finger sandwiches, and pastries as a rerun of the ceremony loops in the background. (Saturday, May 19 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.; Mandarin Oriental, Boston; $88; all ages)

Grabbing a drink on the roof of the Revere Hotel is a luxe experience in and of itself. Throw in a pre-cocktail rooftop yoga session, and you’ve got yourself a swanky Saturday. Yogatini, a company that, as its name indicates, fuses yoga and cocktails, will partner with Ghost Tequila on Saturday to host an hour-long vinyasa flow followed by a cocktail hour. (Saturday, May 19 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.; Revere Hotel, Boston; $40; 21+)

The Phantom Gourmet is known for visiting restaurants across the state. This weekend, the show will hold a “phest” of its own focused on craft beer. Around 20 local breweries, including Exhibit A, Night Shift, and Idle Hands, will take part, with visitors able to choose from an afternoon (2 p.m. to 5 p.m.) or evening (6 p.m. to 9 p.m.) session. (Saturday, May 19 from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. or 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.; Boston Center for the Arts, Boston; $40; 21+)

Boston certainly loves its marathon runners, but what about its sprinters? Adidas is banking on residents supporting both with its first-ever Boost Boston Games, a series of races showcasing some of the fastest runners in America. On Saturday, the Games will kick off at the Harry G. Steinbrenner Stadium at MIT. Olympians and world champions will compete in races ranging from 800 meters to 5,000 meters, and some of the best high school distances runners in America will face off in the Boys and Girls Dream Miles. On Sunday, the focus will shift to downtown Boston, where sprinters will race on an elevated track built between Boston Common and the Public Garden on Charles Street. The public is able to view all of the races at both locations for free. (Saturday, May 19 at 5:30 p.m. and Sunday, May 20 at 12 p.m.; Howard G. Steinbrenner Stadium, Cambridge, and Boston Common, Boston; free; all ages)

Much in the vein of “Globe Live” events, Pop-Up Magazine is a collection of professional storytellers sharing intriguing tales onstage. Saturday’s Boston iteration will feature contributors including Helen Rosner (The New Yorker), Brittany Spanos (Rolling Stone), and The Boston Globe’s own Meredith Goldstein. BosTen readers can use the code “ARTS” at checkout to receive $5 off their ticket. (Saturday, May 19 at 7:30 p.m.; Emerson Cutler Majestic Theatre, Boston; $29-39; all ages)

If you’d like to run a race of your own before watching the Boost Boston Games on Sunday, the Esplanade 5k is a good option. Starting at the nearby Fiedler Field on the Charles River Esplanade, this race will wind around one of Boston’s best running routes, and participants will raise money for the Esplanade Association. Afterward, runners can enjoy snacks and a cash bar at the post-race party held at The Yard at Liberty Hotel. (Sunday, May 20 at 9 a.m.; Fiedler Field, Boston; $45; all ages)

The American Lamb Jam is a nationwide competition that stops in five cities and pits 16 of the best chefs in each area against one another in a contest to become the Lamb Jam Master. This weekend, the tour will visit Boston, where chefs from 16 local establishments, including Moody’s Deli, Little Donkey, Our Fathers, and Townsman, will battle to become the top lamb. Along with tasting the chef’s lamb creations, ticket holders will be able to sip drinks from Allagash, Narragansett, Lila, and other beer, wine, and spirit providers. (Sunday, May 20 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.; SoWa Power Station, Boston; $75 GA, $125 VIP; all ages)

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