Our weekly food diary shares right-now ingredients, fun foodie events, Instagrammable restaurant dishes and trendy street eats. Written by Anna Lawson.
In August we tried...
Good Food chocolate brownies
Hands up who likes gooey chocolate brownies…? Us too. That’s why, this weekend, we’re bringing you something very special – the Good Food brownie van. Yes, our team will be at BBC Good Food’s Feast at Hampton Court this Saturday in our first ever food truck, serving freshly baked chocolate brownies using your favourite Good Food recipes. These include our top-rated best ever chocolate brownies, epic salted caramel brownies and cheesecake-swirled black & white brownies. Drooling yet? Get yourself down to Hampton Court on Saturday (26 August) from 10am-6pm and look out for our van! The show will be on for the whole bank holiday weekend at Hampton Court Palace with cooking demonstrations and interviews with John Torode, Michel Roux Jr, Antonio Carluccio and more. As well as our chocolate brownie van (Saturday only), you’ll find plenty of other food stalls serving shawarma, crêpes, hot dogs, ice cream and even oysters – and you can wash it all down with a glass from the prosecco or cocktail stands. Get your tickets here.
August may spark thoughts of ice cream, berries and burgers, but did you know that it’s also the beginning of grouse season? You may have heard of the Glorious Twelfth, referring to the day in August that marks the beginning of grouse shooting season. While critics call it a "ridiculous tradition", those who participate will remind you of its importance to the rural economy and that these birds enjoy a life in the wild that isn't always afforded to animals destined for the supermarket. We attended a special dinner at The Harwood Arms in London’s Fulham, with a menu entirely dedicated to grouse (some of it shot that very morning by a gold-medal-winning clay pigeon shooter). The meat is rich and with that distinctive gamey taste. We tried it in a variety of dishes but the highlight was this oh-so theatrical one, brought to the table on a smoking bowl of hay. Using liquorice root as a kind of skewer, the grouse meat had been minced and shaped around it, a little like a kofta, before being coated in a salty-sweet, sticky glaze. Fancy cooking with grouse yourself? Why not try our roast grouse with red wine gravy, or with blackcurrant & beetroot sauce.
These days you will barely find a restaurant without some element of pickled or fermented food on the menu. We're all for it, too! Not only is it a great way to preserve fruit and veg, the sweet and sour tang that you get from pickling makes a delicious accompaniment to so many dishes – and none more so than meat. We spotted this luxurious dish of venison with pickled cherries, shallot purée and charred radicchio by chef Sophie Michell on the menu at Meatopia. If you've never heard of it, we're talking about a three-day celebration of – yes, you guessed it – meat, which this year takes place 1-3 September at Tobacco Dock in east London. With over 50 chefs invited to create bespoke meat-based tasting dishes, there’ll be plenty to choose from. Along with Sophie’s venison, you’ll also see dishes from Yotam Ottolenghi, Nathan Outlaw, John Torode and Great British Menu’s Pip Lacey. You can still buy tickets for Friday 1st September, but they're going fast...
Written by Georgina Kiely.
Have you ever swigged drinking vinegar? You usually down them as shots for gut health, but shrubs are the latest tipple trend, made by combining drinking vinegar with fruit and water along with herbs and spices, and leaving to infuse to make into a sort-of cordial. This brings a hint of sweetness with a tart edge making it more drinkable while the vinegar retains all its gut-healthy probiotics. We tried this blackberry and basil infusion by Our/London micro-distillery and preserve maker Kylee Newton of Newton & Pott. Kylee is the pioneer behind reviving this 17th-century English drink and explains how it ties into her ‘waste not, want not’ philosophy. “I think people are getting more into eating what’s in season, using fresh local produce and knowing where their food comes from. Shrubs are a great way to save the season.” We enjoyed our late-summer shrub in cocktails crafted by the Our/London team that showcased the fresh fruity flavours and herby undertones. Want to try making your own shrubs at home? Try this blackcurrant & lemon verbena recipe or our raw raspberry version.
Can’t resist a crunchy shard of crackling? Neither can we, especially when it’s dusted with chicken salt (a spice blend commonly used on fish and chips in Australia and New Zealand) and served with soured cream sauce. We tucked into this bowl of extra crispy crackling at The Elephant pop-up restaurant at the John Lewis Gardening Society on London's Oxford Street. The idea of the garden is to create an oasis of green in the city's bustling shopping hub and the relaxed, unfussy food mirrors the feeling. Head chef Simon Hulstone takes inspiration from his time in New Zealand when it comes to the irresistible seasoning that makes these bites so moreish. “To create the salt for the scratchings, we’ve used a special mix of seven spices. The texture and quality of the scratchings is perfect for a tasty snack that matches the relaxed roof garden surroundings.” Want to try recreating this dish at home? Try our chicken crackling recipe to add texture and a hit of umami to salads and soups.
Beef bourguignon burger
Yes, you read that correctly. The classic French beef stew but grilled in a patty and served in a bun. Say ‘bonjour’ to this succulent creation from The Patate food truck at White City Place market where the meat, topped with raclette cheese, drips with spicy herb mayo, soaked up by fluffy brioche bread. It was impossible to ignore those mountains of melted cheese on the Instagram feed, so we decided to treat ourselves to this meaty masterpiece. A couple of years ago, raclette may have conjured up old-fashioned images of Swiss chalets and snow-capped mountains. Nowadays you’re more likely to find it smothering a portion of chips at any hip, London street-food market. The team at The Patate makes ideal use of that gooey golden goodness to complement their tender, trademark beef bourguignon burger. It's a juicy work of art that has all the traditional flavours of bourguignon from the slow-cooked meat, pre-soaked in red wine with plenty of seasoning. Pair it with their classic French fries and a dollop of chilli Béarnaise sauce and you’ve got yourself a seriously indulgent lunch.
Foragers are already out harvesting purplish-black elderberries and we've been enjoying them too, but we found this crop on a night visit to New Covent Garden market (open midnight to 6am). They're not normally commercially available, so if you want to try these sweet and tart beauties, you'll need to get picking and read our top tips on how to pick and cook elderberries. Raw elderberries don't agree with everyone and their flavour packs a punch so mix them with apple or pear if you fancy a seasonal pie or crumble. You could also whip up a batch of sloe-inspired elderberry gin, or our tangy hedgerow ketchup, the perfect accompaniment to a late summer barbeque.
This week, we've also been exploring contemporary twists on classic Greek desserts. This eye-catching light-as-air mastic parfait with caramelised pistachios and raspberry consommé is from the team at Meraki, led by head chef Dimitris Siamanis. This London-based Greek restaurant uses fresh Mediterranean ingredients with a stylish modern flare. The key ingredient to this smooth chilled treat is mastic, commonly used to add texture and a fresh, herby flavour to ice cream in Mediterranean and Arabic countries. Mastic is a translucent sap from trees that were traditionally grown on the island of Chios – hence the moniker 'the tears of Chios'. It is then sun-dried, broken into brittle and used in aromatic liqueurs and bakes. These unassuming yellow shards lie somewhere between liquorice and fresh pine on the flavour scale and when ground up can be used in a variety of sweets, including this impressive parfait.
Written by Anna Lawson.
It may be August but after a week of rain, a bowl of steaming hot dumplings is just what the doctor ordered. We had these at Carousel, London, where chef Olia Hercules has a special residency until 12 August, cooking dishes to mark the launch of her new book Kaukasis, billed as ‘a culinary journey through Georgia, Azerbaijan & beyond’. These khinkhali dumplings are a typical Georgian dish. With a pasta-like dough and meat filling (usually a mix of beef and pork) served in a hot broth, they’re incredibly homely. Olia serves hers with brown butter, crispy onions and chilli for extra oomph. But there's a technique to eating them as well. We were lucky enough to have an expert at our table, so if you’re ever faced with khinkali, here's what to do: first, pick up the top knot of the dough and turn the dumpling upside down, take a small bite and suck out the broth before eating the meat filling and the surrounding dough. Traditionally, you leave the top piece of pastry behind as a tally of how many you’ve eaten, but we didn't leave any evidence...
Sobacha crème brûlée
If you read ‘sobacha’ and wondered what on earth it was, then join the club! We ordered this crème brûlée at Japanese restaurant Flesh & Buns, in the hope that whatever sobacha was, it wouldn’t taint what is one of our favourite desserts. And good news – it didn’t! In fact, our eyes have been opened. As it turns out, sobacha (or soba-cha) is a Japanese tea made by infusing toasted buckwheat kernels in hot water – soba, being the Japanese name for buckwheat and cha meaning tea. The result is a nutty, almost malty flavour, which works well with the sweetness of the crème brûlée and the shard of almond brittle served on top. When used in a crème brulee, the result is a nutty, sweet finish, complemented by a shard of almond brittle served on top. Move over matcha, we’re using sobacha in our desserts from now on!
Bone marrow jollof rice
A growing interest in West African cuisine is sweeping the nation right now, demonstrated by the popularity of London based Ghanaian restaurant Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen and the success of Hibiscus, the West-African cookbook by rising star Lope Ayrio. This week we’ve been at newly opened Ikoyi, which takes West African cuisine to a whole new level. Expect regional dishes and ingredients like suya (a kind of Nigerian meat skewer) and deep-fried plantain, but with an exciting, modern twist. Picture the scene; you have just been given a heady, fragrant plate of jollof rice and alongside it sits a hot smoked bone full of marrow, which you scoop out and let melt through the rice – it’s utterly outrageous!
Steak & kidney pudding
Steak and kidney pudding isn’t the most obvious choice for an August evening, but at Simpson’s in the Strand it’s a ‘must order’ dish, and so order we did. Afloat in a pool of unctuous gravy, the pie is served alongside bobbing peas and a perfect dollop of velvety mashed potato. The newly refurbished restaurant serves up comfort in style with green banquettes, red leather chairs and wood paneling, enormous chunks of British cheese rather than an elegant cheese trolley and a menu chock full of dishes you know will make you happy. There’s history here (it’s been running since 1828), in the Winston Churchill table in the far corner, the roast trolley and on-the-spot carving for which Simpson’s is famous (this method of service didn’t interrupt the chess matches that were played there) and in some of the dishes, which with tweaks to bring them up-to-date, have stood the test of time. Beef for the tartar comes from the Buccleuch Estate with smoked egg yolk & Gentleman’s relish, an elegant reworking of a classic, as is the custard tart made with scorched egg, making it the perfect marriage between the classic original and a crème brûlée.
After the huge explosion in popularity of bao buns and bubble tea, Taiwanese food is now well and truly on our radar here in the UK and there are even more surprises to this exciting cuisine. We spotted Bian Dang at Eat Food Fest in Reigate last weekend. These guys, who also trade at KERB food markets across London, serve Taiwanese lunch boxes. A base of fluffy rice is topped with crunchy pork or chicken (or crumbed oyster mushrooms for the veggies), pickled veg, shiitake mushroom sauce and a soft-centred marbled tea egg. We went for the chicken which is marinated in garlic and soy sauce, then coated in sweet potato flour and fried until it’s super crunchy on the outside yet meltingly tender and juicy on the inside. The secret to the crunch is the sweet potato flour; not an ingredient normally used for fried chicken here in the UK, but it’s traditional in Taiwan. It helps achieve the extra crispy texture as well as adding slight sweetness to complement the salty soy marinade.
As the craft beer movement continues to grow, breweries are branching out into bold and experimental new flavours. Who knew that key lime pie or even tzatziki-flavoured beer could exist, and more to the point, taste good! Well, as it turns out, they do. We’re always on the hunt for exciting new flavours in beer – last month, it was watermelon wheat beer. This week we stumbled across grenadine beer. Normally used in cocktails, grenadine is a sweet, red syrup originally made from pomegranate… something that shouldn’t work in a beer, but does! Found in local craft beer shop Hops Burns & Black, this fruity bevvy comes from Liverpool-based Mad Hatter Brewing Company who specialise in weird and wonderful beer flavours (in fact, they’re responsible for the aforementioned tzatziki beer, too). The pomegranate beer is a great one for summer, sweet but balanced well with the sour flavours in the beer, and the pomegranate flavour is subtle. We think it's great sipped cold alongside a zingy grain-based salad, sprinkled with pomegranate seeds. Cheers!
Kiwi sorbet bar
Pastry chef Dominque Ansel made headlines back in 2013 when he gave us the cronut and has continued to create innovative desserts at his bakeries in New York, Tokyo and London’s Belgravia. His latest, the kiwi sorbet bar, is definitely one for summer – if summer ever comes back, that is! A take on the choc ice and a playful tribute to the humble kiwi, the first thing you'll notice is the 'fuzzy' chocolate finish, evoking kiwi skin. We enjoyed the satisfying crack of quality chocolate, rich in cocoa flavour, as we broke through the shell, countered by the fresh, pleasantly grassy tang of fresh kiwi sorbet inside. Then, the really clever part: a layer of crispy poppy seeds wrapped around Tahitian vanilla ice cream to mimic the look of a kiwi sliced through the centre. Besides the impressive visual aesthetics, it’s also a great mix of textures and tastes. As a bonus, it’s not too messy to eat if you’re on the go – it comes wrapped in brown paper and the shell is just thick enough not to fall to pieces in your grip.
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 July
What we ate in June
What we ate in May
What we ate in April
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 2016
One year of food trends