In April we tried...
Vegetables have made their way onto dessert menus in recent years, but this is the first time we’ve tried a pea-based pud. On the menu at Poulpette in Cognac, France, this pea sorbet is served with chocolate ganache, sunflower seed granola and a drizzle of peppery olive oil. A winning combination, the sweet, refreshing pea sorbet complements the richness of the silky chocolate ganache, while the granola provides that much-needed crunch. And to drink? Each course was expertly paired with a different gin, this one served with Citadelle Old Tom Gin. With its balance of sweetness and spice, this is a spirit that’s robust enough to serve with the intense flavour of the bitter chocolate.
When eight chefs with 13 Michelin stars between them come together for an evening, you can expect interesting food. When they’ve been marshalled together by Massimo Bottura (of Osteria Francescana) to raise funds for his non-profit organisation Food for Soul, at an evening put on by appliance giant Grundig in Milan, then they really pull out all the stops. Donut alla bolognese is the brainchild of chef Matias Perdomo – cleverly made with a pasta sheet to look like a ring donut, stuffed with ragu and glazed with béchamel, it’s a divine take on the ordinary. Food for Soul opens community kitchens across the world in order to use food that would usually be thrown away, and each kitchen has a group of well-known chefs that support it. Bottura’s dish at the event was based on the idea of waste, with passatelli (a pasta made with breadcrumbs, eggs and cheese) made with pizza crusts and served in a tomato broth – an idea he came up with when his daughter had ordered too many pizzas. Waste not, want not.
Cheese toasties continue to dominate our social media feeds, because what’s more Instagrammable than a ‘cheese pull’? But here’s a cheese you might not have thought of using before – Queso Oaxaca. This Mexican cheese is made by stretching the curd by hand in 80C water into long strands and then wrapping it by hand. We tried this one, made by artisan cheesemakers Gringa Dairy on London’s Old Kent Road. It has the texture of a cooking mozzarella, making it a superb melter. We had in a cheese toastie and the ‘cheese pull’ was extraordinary. Fancy trying it yourself? You can buy it online (one 250g ball costs £7) or look out for Gringa Dairy at the London Cheese Project festival (May 26-28).
Hyper seasonal and local dining
‘Tis the season for excellent British produce and The Orangery at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire is certainly making the most of it. Head chef Billy Bush has devised a menu which celebrates local producers and seasonal ingredients in every dish. Delicate rhubarb bellinis are made with rhubarb grown in nearby Bletchley and honey from the bees at Blenheim Palace; beautiful first-of-the-season asparagus is local too, served with a poached quail's egg and hollandaise; and the spring lamb in our main course came from the oldest butcher in Oxford. A stunning meal from start to finish, championing local, sustainable eating. We’re fans.
Ever seen a pink chocolate bar? No, this isn’t some crazy millennial fad like ‘rainbow’ or ‘mermaid’ food, it’s a new, all-natural kind of chocolate. Completely free from colourings, flavourings and additives, ruby chocolate is made using ruby beans. While the beans were actually discovered many years ago in Ecuador, Brazil and the Ivory coast, it took ten years to perfect the chocolate itself. This month, Fortnum & Mason began selling ruby chocolate bars, truffles and hot chocolate powder in stores and online, while KitKat also announced the launch of its ruby KitKat, which is available now in Tesco stores. So to the all-important question: how does it taste? The answer is, like an incredibly smooth white chocolate with a slight berry tang.
Les Plats Familiaux
Forget stuffy fine-dining – restaurants have embraced a more relaxed dining style over the last few years, with a big emphasis on sharing. We visited Sardine in Islington for the launch of its ‘plats familiaux’, a range of rustic southern French sharing dishes, designed to bring friends and family together. We loved diving into this succulent roast chicken with creamy brandy and cep sauce, and the saltiest, crispiest shoestring fries. The menu also features French classics such as bouillabaisse, a tapenade-stuffed leg of lamb, and roasted veal shin. Fancy trying it yourself? You’ll need to pre-order your dishes and bring a group of between two and six people.
Heard about UK coffee week (16-22 April)? We celebrated in truly caffeine-fuelled fashion at The London Coffee Festival (12-15 April) which closely precedes it. A yearly event, it features over 250 artisan coffees, food stalls, barista demos, tasters and workshops. Our resident cocktail enthusiast Miriam Nice was in attendance on Friday 13 April and Sunday 15 April making coffee-based cocktails, including this upcycled white Russian. It's a great way to use up leftover coffee grounds and on top of that, Miriam uses Black Cow vodka – a milk-based spirit made using a by-product of the cheese-making process. So, less waste and great taste.
Definitely not a new kid on the block but trending heavily on restaurant menus at the moment, whipped cod’s roe is appearing in many guises. It's being served with radishes for casual dipping at Rochelle Canteen at the ICA, or you can enjoy it with inky black cuttlefish toasts at XU and – in a reimagining of his dish at Kitty Fisher’s – Tomos Parry is offering the most chic dish of cod’s roe on toast (pictured) at his new restaurant Brat in Shoreditch, London. Oh, and rumour has it that Bob’s Lobster will be serving it with crisp salmon skin when they open at London Bridge in May. With these platefuls of blushing pink, it's starting to feel like summer...
When talking about chickpeas, ‘nose-to-tail’ doesn’t quite fit, nor does ‘leaf-to-root’. But ‘zero-waste’ cooking is all the rage now, and that’s central to the way the menu is devised by chef Ramael Scully at Scully in London. This means that while chickpeas are featuring in his dishes, so do sheets of egg-free meringue that are made using aquafaba (the water that the chickpeas are canned in). They have a satisfyingly crisp snap and are served here atop a refreshing sorbet of parsnip and coconut with pandan syrup. Scully believes in making as little food waste as possible, whatever the ingredient he’s working with. To make your own vegan meringues using aquafaba, check out our egg-free meringue recipe.
Boxty pancake fries
Who would have thought that there could be a better crispy potato snack than chips? Well, it turns out there is – enter boxty pancake fries. For those not familiar, boxty is a traditional Irish potato cake made using a mix of mashed and grated potato. A boxty pancake is made when this is added to pancake batter, then fried to create a deliciously crispy potato pancake. If that already sounds like heaven to you (it does to us) then you’ll be excited to hear that Gallagher’s Boxty House in Dublin takes it one step further with its boxty pancake fries – crispy, deep-fried strips of boxty pancake served with a rocket & garlic mayo dip. This potato cake-pancake hybrid knocks the humble French fry out of the water with its incredible crunchiness and fluffy interior. It’s the ideal vessel for dunking into garlic mayo or a thick Irish stew (also served at Boxty House). We couldn’t agree more with the restaurant’s slogan, ‘The humble spud made beautiful’ – it certainly was. If you’re visiting Dublin, be sure to pop in to Gallagher’s, in the middle of the famous Temple Bar, and give it a try!
It’s well and truly artichoke season at the moment, specifically small, purple varities such as mammole or violet de Provence that can be cooked and eaten whole or deep-fried until they open out like sunflowers. But just because these artichokes are small, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re young – they’re often the ones that grow further down the plant stem, while the big ones come from the tops of the stalks where they get more light. We’ve seen artichokes on the menu at newly-opened Scully where they’re served with black shallot aioli, and this gorgeous version, violet artichoke giudia (a Jewish-style speciality of Rome), is on the menu at Evelyn’s Table at the Blue Posts. The artichokes are deep-fried until tender throughout (even the stalks can be eaten) with satisfying crisped edges, then served with pickled artichoke.
It might look like a box of giant chocolates but these are, in fact, mochi. If you’ve been to Japan, or eaten dessert at a Japanese restaurant, chances are you will have come across mochi before. Made from sweet rice flour which is steamed until sticky then pounded to create a soft, chewy consistency, it’s usually filled with sweetened red bean paste (most traditionally) or ice cream. The result is a squidgy, glutinous dumpling-esque ball with a smooth, sweet filling. Like many other Japanese delicacies, we’ve noticed a rise in the popularity of mochi in the UK, and you can now find the ice-cream variety at Little Moons in flavours like coconut, vanilla and matcha, and in some of the major supermarkets. We received a delivery from new London-based company Ai No Mochi, which is shaking things up with freshly made mochi in a range of exciting and unusual flavours. This selection included chocolate with a ganache filling and cocoa dusting, vanilla cheesecake with a crunchy biscuit coating, and salted caramel topped with fudge pieces. The verdict? Well, they certainly didn’t last long. Fancy trying them for yourself? Ai No Mochi delivers nationwide and you can order online.
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