What we ate in April 2017

Read our weekly food trends update to discover right-now ingredients, fun foodie events, Instagramable restaurant dishes, exciting street eats and exactly what you should be eating to stay ahead. Written by Anna Lawson.

In April we tried...

Candied lemon peel pasta

You may have seen it adorning lemon tarts, cakes and mousses or even eaten it as a sweet, but have you ever tried candied lemon peel with pasta? Our cookery assistant Ellie is in Puglia, Italy, experiencing new and exciting ways with pasta. This one from La Farmacia de Sani truly blew our minds. Chef Valentina Rizzo blitzes pistachios and anchovies to make a punchy, nutty sauce for the bucatini, then tops it with crunchy breadcrumbs and thin strips of sweet-sour candied lemon. An utterly genius combination, the sweetness of the candied lemon cuts through the oiliness of the pistachios and intensely salty anchovies. We can’t wait to try and recreate it at home. Fancy giving it a go? Try our recipe for candied citrus

Kefir panna cotta

If you've ever read anything about gut health, ‘good bacteria’ or probiotics, you'll have probably heard of kefir. A fermented milk drink, it contains high levels of probiotics, making it beneficial to our health. As these benefits have become more apparent, UK sales of kefir drinks have increased, so it was only a matter of time before kefir ended up in our food. We've been at new restaurant Sparrow, London where this kefir panna cotta with roasted rhubarb is on the menu. Co-founder Yohini explains the idea behind it: "We thought it would be a good addition to the menu as kefir has such fantastic digestive properties – so a great way to end a meal! The kefir is used in approximately equal parts to the cream and must only be added after the cream, sugar and gelatine have been gently heated and then cooled back to room temperature, so as not to kill off the probiotics in the kefir that make it so beneficial." The verdict? A creamy panna cotta with a yogurt-like tang which works perfectly with the sweet, wine-roasted rhubarb. Delicious and with added health benefits – win-win!

Cold brew coffee liqueur

Good news for coffee lovers! Dorset-based spirit company Conker has recently launched a coffee liqueur with a difference. Unlike other coffee liqueurs, which are usually sickly sweet, this one is all about that rich espresso flavour. Using blends of Ethiopian and Brazilian coffee beans and a touch of demerara sugar, it’s like drinking (very slightly sweetened) espresso, only cold… and alcoholic. After testing 96 different recipes, the guys at Conker have come up with a stonker! Not for the faint-hearted, each bottle contains ‘a ludicrous amount of Dorset-roasted coffee beans’, according to Conker. Its complex, well-balanced flavour means it can be drunk on its own over ice, or it’s perfect for making espresso Martinis.

 

Wild garlic

Wild thing, you make our hearts sing. Yes, ’tis the season for wild garlic and we just can't get enough of the stuff. Every year, from March to June, you can barely open a menu that doesn’t feature it. Our food-editor-at-large Barney has been out foraging in the Brecon Beacons and came back with an impressive haul. At this time of year, wild garlic is found in abundance in damp, shady woodlands and hedgerows. Fancy foraging? Just make sure you’re in an area where it’s legal, or you have landowner’s permission. Despite a strong garlic scent, the flavour in wild garlic leaves is subtler than garlic itself, and has a more herby taste. We think it looks delicious used as a stuffing in Barney’s Easter lamb. It’s also great mixed through butter and used in chicken kievs or garlic bread, in place of basil in a pesto and stirred through soups. Or why not try making Tom Kerridge’s wild-garlic crusted salmon? The flowers are edible too, and once blossomed, make a pretty addition to salads, with a spring onion-like flavour.


Passatelli

We’ve died and gone to pasta heaven, otherwise known as Sfoglia Rina, a super trendy pasta restaurant and shop in the centre of Bologna, Italy. Here, you can buy fresh handmade pasta to make at home from the counter at the front, or have it cooked for you in the restaurant at the back. There’s a huge range of traditional Bolognese dishes on offer, including tortellini served in broth and tagliatelle with ragu (you wont find any ‘spaghetti Bolognese’ as we know it in the UK in Bologna!). But it was this passatelli with asparagus and formaggio di fossa (a regional cheese) that had us swooning. Passatelli is a pasta-style dish from the Emilia-Romagna region, made with breadcrumbs, eggs, Parmesan and, in this case, lemon, which is typically served in broth. These thick strands of slightly chewy, al dente pasta soak up the flavours in the glossy, zesty sauce wonderfully, while the sharp, mature cheese adds a powerful punch of umami to the dish. We’ll have three more bowls please! 


Pommeau de Normandie 

It might not feature on many drinks menus here yet but it should. This is Pommeau de Normandie – a calvados-based aperitif made from one part young calvados brandy to two parts apple 'must' (cider apple juice), aged in oak for smoothness. Our travel editor Sarah has been in Normandy, where you’ll find Pommeau on most restaurant and vineyard menus. Forget Aperol spritz, this is the very taste of the sunny season. With a flavour reminiscent of baked apples and prunes, it’s wonderful sipped on its own in a frosty, tulip-shaped glass, or use it as an ingredient in brandy-based cocktails. It's brilliant alongside Normandy cheese and foie gras and makes the easiest, most indulgent sauce for apple or chocolate puds. Simply melt butter and sugar in a pan without letting it colour, add water and Pommeau, bring to the boil, then remove immediately from the heat. Pour over apple tart for added depth of flavour. Are you salivating yet? We are. You can buy Pommeau de Normandie online – we love this one from venerable Normandy producer Christian Drouin with its beautiful, bacchanalian label. 

 

Yellow curry cocktail

Yellow curry cocktailThe cocktail scene is awash with trends right now – there's a real push for lower ABV (alcohol by volume) drinks, more savoury tipples and anything with a story or a little bit of drama. This drink from the bar at StreetXO in London's Mayfair delivered all of the above. Simply titled ‘Yellow Curry!’, this concoction, featuring saffron, ginger, lemongrass, cumin and basil, arrived nestled in a wok-like dish with clouds of curry-scented vapours billowing out – all very Heston. The drink itself didn't taste overly boozy, but it was packed with flavour, and the ginger and mandarin cut through the creaminess. It felt neither like a curry nor a cocktail but it was utterly delicious and like nothing we have seen before.
 

Lemon parfait

Lemon parfaitDespite the steady stream of visitors all year round, Cambridge has always lacked a certain je-ne-sais-quoi on the hotel front, coasting along on a traditional, rather than modern vibe. This month, in a new build near the up-and-coming (and substantially revamped) area near the station, The Tamburlaine has opened and immediately redressed the balance. Its huge brasserie offers dishes including this light-as-air lemon parfait, crisp, iced and sweet-sharp all at once – the perfect dessert to end a meal, delivering all the promise of its looks while embodying spring. 

 

Nettles

NettlesWatch your legs – it's nettle season. While nettles grow in abundance throughout much of the year, it is this time (March-April) that they’re at their best for eating. Right now, we’re seeing nettles crop up on restaurant menus, as chefs make the most of the season. Similar to spinach but with a more robust texture and slightly richer flavour, nettles can be used anywhere that you might use spinach – pastas, soups, curries or simply on their own, wilted in butter. The best bit? The cost – most of us will find nettles growing nearby, in our gardens or anywhere where there's rich soil. You don’t need to be a seasoned forager, just cover your legs, put on a pair of thick gloves and get picking. Fancy giving it a go? We have plenty of recipes for nettles, along with foraging advice from our food editor Barney. Try his wild garlic & nettle soup or nettle gnudi with wild pesto.

 

Mini egg pancakes

Mini egg pancakesEaster: The time of year when the question on every foodie’s lips is 'what else can we do with a bag of chocolate eggs?' Turns out, the possibilities haven’t been exhausted yet. With each new year, we’re seeing more and more creative, innovative and mouth-watering ideas hatch across the internet, from Easter egg brownies, rocky road and cheesecake to chocolate scotch eggs. Last year, here at Good Food HQ, we even managed to incorporate your favourite Easter chocolate into a drink (behold the Mini Egg martini). This year? Our writer Sarah has been experimenting with easy Easter pancake toppings including these mini egg pancakes. If that's not enough for you, our guide shows you 5 ways to cook with mini eggs. Happy Easter!

 

Hot cross buns

Check out our buns… all 27 of them! That’s right, we worked our way through an abundance (yep) of hot cross buns to bring you our favourites and it turns out things in the bun world are getting pretty experimental these days – think cheese & chive, white chocolate & cranberry and carrot cake flavours as well as buns made from sourdough and brioche. A success? Debatable. We experienced the good, the bad, and the extremely questionable, including a brioche bun that tasted like foam banana sweets and an apple & cinnamon variety with notes of Marmite… how that happened we will never know. To find out which buns we liked best, check out our hot cross buns on-test results. Fancy making your own? Try our top-rated hot cross bun recipe


Puntarelles

Eats, shoots and leaves. We’ve been at Ombra in Bethnal Green doing just that. Puntarelle is a type of chicory (cicoria di catalogna or cicoria asparago) that you are most likely to come across in an Italian restaurant, made into a salad of the same name. It has long, fleshy, pale green stems and dark green leaves that look a bit like a giant dandelion, and it’s big – an entire armful of greens per head. It’s the stems that make up the bulk of the salad, shredded or cut into pieces and soaked in cold water until they curl up into a crunchy tangle. The dressing is traditionally made by pounding anchovies with garlic and oil to make a mayonnaise. What you end up with is a plate of crisp, mildly bitter greens with a punchy dressing that works brilliantly as a palate cleanser – either as a starter or after a plate of rich meat. 

Cobia

Ever heard of cobia? This white fish is little known in the UK but popular in parts of Asia and Australia. We tried it served with wild mushrooms, hazelnut and sage at Italian restaurant Ormeggio in Sydney. Almost too pretty to eat, this dish tastes just as special as it looks. The fish itself is firm and white with a mild flavour, a little like swordfish, so it copes well with the bold flavours in the rich, velvety wild mushroom sauce and earthy sage oil. As its easy to farm, cobia was once tipped to be the next ‘fish of the future’, but its popularity has been slow to rise. We’ve spotted it on the menu at Lima in London, where it’s served in a starter of cobia tiradito – a Peruvian sashimi style dish, with black tiger’s milk, Jerusalem artichokes and chia seeds. We reckon we’ll see it on more menus to come.

Easter eggs

The countdown to Easter begins! This weekend marks the start of April, which means it’s perfectly acceptable to start eating Easter eggs. We’ve got our eye on this masterpiece by Pierre Hermé. Paying tribute to Italian artist Lucio Fontana (and his oval shaped work Fine di Dio), Pierre Hermé has created a range of brightly coloured, statuesque chocolate eggs. Made from pure origin Belizean dark chocolate with a box of rich chocolate ganaches inside, these are truly special… with a hefty price tag to match. For this, and more (affordable) Easter eggs, check out the results of our 2017 Easter egg taste test.

 

Missed the last food diary? Find out what we ate last month, or visit our 12 month compilation to get fully up to speed... 

What we ate in March
What we ate in February
What we ate in January
What we ate in December
What we ate in November
What we ate in October
What we ate in September
What we ate in August
What we ate in July
What we ate in June
What we ate in May
What we ate in April
One year of food trends

 

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