What we ate in August 2016
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.
In January we created a prawn katsu burger and predicted that seafood burgers would be big in 2016. Seven months later, our food editor Barney is at Green Man festival in Wales getting his chops around this epic crab burger from street food stall CLAW – handpicked Devonshire crab, crunchy samphire slaw and lemon aioli in a brioche bun, served with fish roe and tarragon salt fries. Can we say we told you so? Shredded or battered, crab is rivaling beef in burgers nationwide. London’s Bull in a China Shop (Shoreditch) serves tempura soft shell crab with pickled Asian salad and sesame mayo in a charcoal bun, while Solita in Manchester drizzles theirs in sriracha mayo and scatters with fiery wasabi pumpkin seeds.
First came Dominique Ansel’s famous croissant-doughnut hybrid, the ‘Cronut’, then we heard people were crossing muffins with bagels in the ‘mufgel’. This week we were sent a new creation, the chouxnut - a choux pastry ‘doughnut’ or effectively, a circular éclair. London-based choux pastry specialists Bijou Choux are the masterminds behind this doughnut-shaped éclair filled with oozing flavoured crème pâtissière and topped with icing. We tried two - chocolate with popping candy and pistachio and rose. Needless to say, they didn’t last long in the office!
Ethiopian is still an underappreciated cuisine in the UK, but we predict a surge in its popularity as platter-style dishes and international food are hot on diners' wishlists. This week we visited Harar in Vauxhall, London, for a traditional platter of spicy stews known as wat, served on injera – a sour pancake made from fermented teff flour used to mop up the sauces. Teff is a grain similar to quinoa which is grown in Eritrea and Ethiopia and has only recently begun to appear in the UK. London has a number of Ethiopian restaurants including Queen of Sheba, Flamingo, and Addis. Elsewhere, try Blue Nile in Birmingham and Habesha in Nottingham.
Cereal for breakfast? Nope. Toast? Not today. Long gone are the days of boring breakfast choices. We’ve seen a move towards more exciting international options such as shakshuka and chilaquiles. And this dish from the breakfast menu at Chiltern Firehouse takes it one step further. Breakfast kippers are swapped for cured and smoked mackerel (in season May-Sep), while the usual garnish of butter and lemon is shunned in favour of punchy Asian ingredients guaranteed to wake up your taste buds. Head chef Patrick Powell explains: 'For the butter mooli we melt raw mooli in butter with red onions, then we add our house made kimchi (turnip tops, salt, chilli paste, leek, garlic, mooli, sugar and carrots, left to ferment for one day). On top of this mix, we place a fillet of smoked mackerel and two fried eggs seasoned with black pepper. Last, we add sprigs of coriander and shiso furikake, a Japanese seasoning mix.’ If that's not exciting enough to get you out of bed in the morning, we don't know what is.
Fermented tomato juice
Pairing tomatoes with raspberries is bold enough – add in a fermented juice dressing and our interest is piqued. The newly opened Clipstone in London's Fitzrovia takes tomatoes from the Italian Isle of Sicily and Liguria on the mainland (singled out by head chef Merlin Labron-Johnson as the best on the market) and Sussex-grown fresh raspberries and douses them in a dressing of fermented tomato juice and basil. To make the juice, water is extracted from tomatoes, salted and fermented for two days. This, along with the raspberries, acts as the acidity in the dish, while basil and good quality olive oil add roundness and body. Deceptively simple in appearance, surprisingly complex in flavour – we’ve found our new favourite summer salad.
‘Raw’ has been a buzzword in health for some years now, but the trend continues to thrive as cafes specialising in uncooked, veg-based dishes open up across the country. We visited the Wild Food Café to try it for ourselves. These ‘bliss balls’ are a mix of spiced quinoa and olives, served with raw cauliflower couscous, aubergine yoghurt and rose harissa sauce. And yes, they lived up to their name. Blissful. London boasts a number of raw cafes including Rawligion, Nama and Tanya’s Café. Elsewhere, Sheffield’s Pure On Raw café specialises in fresh vegan and often raw dishes, and Eat Naked in Brighton offers super healthy salads and raw desserts.
No longer simply a means to set the barbecue alight, charcoal is fast becoming the new black when it comes to innovative ingredients. With origins in the health food industry (the activated ingredient is said to have toxin-absorbing properties), charcoal can now be seen across a variety of top-end menus. This week we visited BYOC in London's Soho, where head chef James Cochran (formerly of The Ledbury and The Harwood Arms) has taken up residency, offering a range of seasonally-led menus. We dined on cured Cornish mackerel, gooseberries and shiso – a leafy, slightly astringent herb, popular in Japanese cuisine – served with charcoal-speckled mayonnaise, which added a pleasantly granular texture and colour to the plate.
Suffolk smoked eel summer salad
This colourful plate was served at Pump Street Bakery at a preview dinner for the Aldeburgh Food Festival, a celebration of Suffolk producers. True to the spirit of the festival, the star ingredients on the plate were local and cooked by Suffolk chef Peter Harrison. As well as baby leaves from Thorpeness, High House apple juice dressing and a rainbow of summery samphire, radishes, broad beans and roast beetroot, the main act was smoked eel from Pinneys in Orford. The family smokehouse hot-smokes British silver eel over oak, which has a firmer texture than traditional smoked trout, mackerel or salmon. We’d like to see more wild fishing of native stocks, and an appreciation of oft-overlooked eel. Slithery chic!
Fika in Uto
We recently travelled to Uto, an island on the southern tip of the Stockholm archipelago. Largely covered by a nature reserve, the small island is an unspoiled haven of beautiful greenery, cliffs and sandy beaches, with very few buildings. Among these is Uto Bageri, the only bakery on the island, whose popularity is clear from the herds of people who spill out of its doors all day, every day. We were more than happy to join the queues for a sweet taste of this kanelbullar (cinnamon bun), and our new favourite - the vaniljbulle, which oozed with thick vanilla custard. Swedish fika (that’s a coffee & pastry break to you and I) is a trend we just can’t get enough of. To get your fika fix here, try Peter’s Yard (Edinburgh), Fika (Bristol) or the Nordic Bakery (London).
Fruits de mer
Soho restaurant Randall & Aubin are celebrating their 20th year of serving platters of fruits de mer, dressed crabs, lobster and chips and oysters (not forgetting the rotisserie chicken and slow roast Aubrey Allen pork belly) to a steady flow of locals and visitors. Bonkersly busy at times, noisy and fun (there’s a giant disco ball in the middle) it’s a place to go with the person you most like, and if you score a window seat you can watch old-style Soho merge with the new in an endless parade passing on the pavement. Chef Ed Baines and co-owner Jamie Poulton are as passionate about their producers and ingredients today as they ever were, so go and taste for yourself if you're planning a trip to London.
‘Gut health’ may not sound sexy, but it’s certainly hot in health news at the moment; recent research has linked gut microbes to obesity, allergies, arthritis and depression among other ailments. Fermented plant-based foods are thought to be particularly beneficial to cultivating a diverse range of friendly bacteria. We tried making our own homemade sauerkraut this week, and also tucked into some delicious and unusual raw sauerkraut crackers from PaMa, made from beetroot, seeds and spices. Try making your own kimchi, cook with miso, or read more about the health benefits of fermenting.
New Zealand-born chef Peter Gordon has been introducing us to new ingredients since he burst on to the London restaurant scene in 1989. So we knew this Crosstown doughnut, specially made to celebrate 15 years of his influential restaurant The Providores, wouldn't disappoint. Instead of the usual strawberry jam, Peter's doughnut was filled with a compote made with feijoa (pronounced fey-yoh-uh) - an exotic fruit grown in New Zealand and South America, also known as a pineapple guava. Could this be the new fruit on the block? Both sweet and sharp, it was the perfect foil to the manuka honey glaze and crumbled Anzac biscuit topping. All perfect with an Antipodean-style flat white, of course...
Forget matcha tea and latte, we’re moving onto the hard stuff. This week we enjoyed a matcha-infused cocktail at Oki Nami, a Japanese restaurant and bar in Brighton. The Kyoto’s Dream was a refreshingly zesty mix of gin, shochu (a Japanese spirit), matcha, keffir lime leaves, lime & soda. Topped off with an edible flower, it was not only delicious but pretty too. Matcha martini is also being served nationwide at Cau Argentinian, or ambitious home mixologists may prefer to pick up a pot of matcha powder to try it themselves. The green scene is well and truly where it's at...
You’ve heard of courgetti, and maybe even brocoodles, but the latest hybrid to hit the health food scene is 'zoats', aka zucchini and oats. A trend that started in the US – hence ‘zucchini’ rather than courgette – it’s simply a case of adding grated courgette to your morning porridge for an extra hit of fibre, and it’s taking Instagram by storm with over 35,000 hits for #zoats. We tried it topped with frozen blueberries and almond butter for a nutritious breakfast bowl.
Missed the last food diary? Find out what we ate last month, or visit our 12 month compilation to get fully up to speed...