Our weekly food diary shares on-trend ingredients, fun foodie events, Insta-friendly restaurant dishes and must-try street eats.
In August we tried…
Are you a fan of soft-serve ice cream? How about cheesecake? What if we told you there’s a dessert that combines the two? We spent last weekend on a sugar high at the London Dessert Festival, sampling innovative sweet treats, from exotically flavoured candy floss to edible bubbles (!). Our favourite was this from Whipped London, newly opened in Covent Garden and specialising in cheesecake. It sells three main kinds – 8-hour baked cheesecake, a mousse-like whipped cheesecake, and frozen. We had the frozen swirled with fresh strawberries and strawberry purée, then churned for a soft-serve texture and sprinkled with biscuit crumbs (because what’s a cheesecake without buttery biscuit?), honeycomb and meringue kisses. Genius and delicious!
‘What are pullet eggs?’ we hear you cry. Well, they’re laid by young chickens, sometimes referred to as pullet hens or pullets. At around 16 weeks, hens start to lay their first eggs, but these are much smaller than the standard (see the difference, left). In many cases, they’re either wasted, or end up mixed with other eggs in industrial food processing. Waitrose & Partners has become the first supermarket to make them available to customers and among those, many prefer them to standard eggs, noting a richer yolk with superior flavour. We couldn’t taste the difference in a blind test, however, we can see the benefits of these dinky eggs, which poach very neatly and reveal golden yolks. They also work well in mayonnaise or crème pâtissière. Find Clarence Court pullet eggs at Waitrose & Partners (£1.99 for a pack of four.)
Aperol spritz is all the rage but the bitterness isn’t to everyone’s taste, so step up Hugo, a cocktail made with elderflower, prosecco, mint, lime and a splash of sparkling water. Invented by barman Roland Gruber in South Tyrol and fashionable across central Europe, we’ve been drinking it this summer in Croatia. Some versions use a fancier syrup made with lemon balm, others are more heavy on elderflower. If you fancy giving it a try, fill a large glass with ice, add 3-4 tbsp elderflower cordial and top up with equal amounts of prosecco and sparkling water, or soda. Stir and garnish with mint leaves and a slice of lime. You can be heavy-handed with the prosecco, but a Hugo should be a light, refreshing drink. Just in time for another heatwave. Cheers!
Ever tried a fresh goji berry? We hadn’t either. That’s because here in the UK, we’ve only ever been able to buy the dried form – the small, slightly pointed, deep-red berries with a sweet-sharp, slightly bitter taste and a texture like raisins, often used in granola. Now for the first time, fresh goji berries are hitting the shelves (M&S shelves, to be precise) thanks to S&A Fresh Produce, a British fruit grower that partnered with a Moroccan grower to bring the berry to the UK. Hailed as a superfood, goji berries are high in beta-carotene, calcium and iron – but how do they taste? The answer: very different to their dried form. There’s no sharpness or bitterness, just a burst of slight sweetness, with a flavour that some of the team described as a bit cherry-like, or almost tomato-esque.
You would be forgiven for hearing the words ‘vegan sushi’ and feeling dubious. After all, to most of us, sushi is associated with raw fish, with vegan options in Japanese restaurants often limited to cucumber or avocado maki rolls. But with the rise in popularity of veganism, it’s no surprise that you can now find vegan sushi to rival its fish-based equivalent. Brighton’s Happy Maki takes the basic premise of a maki roll (small sushi rolls stuffed with veg or raw fish and encased in sushi rice and nori seaweed), but makes it bigger (think a sushi burrito), and fills it with all kinds of delicious vegan ingredients. We tried the hoisin ‘duck’ roll, packed with crispy vegan ‘duck’ made from textured soya protein, house-made hoisin sauce, roasted sesame seeds, creamy avocado, cucumber, red pepper, spring onions, wasabi and pickled ginger. Unlike maki rolls, this is a meal in itself – it’s succulent and satisfying, with complementary layers of flavours and textures. Are we still dubious? Absolutely not. Are we planning our next visit? Yep! You’ll find Happy Maki at festivals across the UK this summer, or at the Brighton shop.
While micro herbs are used extensively by restaurant chefs for scattering over dishes at the end as a final flourish, you don’t see them used as much in the home kitchen. Not only are they expensive for a small amount, they don’t have a long shelf life, which is why you won’t often find them in supermarkets. Enter Silly Greens, a novel subscription box that allows you to grow your own micro herbs at home. A Silly Greens box includes three pre-sown micro herbs from a selection of over 20 kinds of greens (chosen for their differing tastes, growing times, and seasonality), and you can choose to have one delivered every one, two, four or six weeks. The compact cardboard box fits through the letterbox and all you need to do is take the lid off and water the herbs to let the greens grow. Micro herbs are like double-concentrated herbs – they’re smaller, but pack a punch in flavour and take less time to grow. This makes them ideal for growing at home, giving you a supply of unique, interesting greens to flavour your meals with, while saving money and eliminating waste.
Next level egg bap
An egg-citing new restaurant has just hatched in London’s Notting Hill. The crudely named Eggslut (no, we don’t know why) started life as a street-food truck in L.A. where it gained a mass following that includes several Hollywood celebs, thanks to its simple but finely executed and highly Instagrammable egg dishes. As we’ve seen with poké bowls and sushi tacos, any L.A. food trend worth its salt will eventually make its way to London, so we went to the launch of this hotly-anticipated egg-stablishment to see if it’s all it’s cracked up to be… Eggs are thrust centre-stage, so something as humble as an egg sarnie is elevated with top-notch ingredients. Our highlights are the ‘gaucho’ – strips of seared wagyu beef, chimichurri, rocket and an over-medium egg, in a warm brioche bun; and the cheeseburger (pictured) with ground angus beef, soft, sweet caramelised onions, pickles, cheddar and ‘dijonnaise’ topped with a gloriously golden-yolked, oozy egg. Be warned, it’s not cheap, so if you’re after a cheap eat you may leave with egg on your hands – and face!
We’re nuts about these. We discovered pili nuts at artisanal deli The Camden Grocer. They’re a bit like a cross between a macadamia and a cashew, but are much creamier, (in fact, astonishingly so), light and delicately crunchy, with a buttery taste. In the Filipino rainforests, where they grow on huge trees in the shadow of the mighty Mount Mayon volcano, locals eat them as a deep-fried snack, tossed in sugar. Now they’re available in the UK thanks to a Fairtrade collaboration between the Mount Mayon brand and farmers and experts from the University of the Philippines. The nuts are wild-harvested and then pre-sprouted in purified mountain water before undergoing a 17-stage drying process to produce the smooth-yet-crunchy texture. They’re naturally high in protein and fibre, plus free from gluten, trans-fats and cholesterol. For added oomph, Mount Mayan dusts its pili with a variety of seasonings and flavourings including (pictured here) Himalayan pink salt, Ecuadorian cacao and Kyoto matcha. The nuts have proved such a hit that they’ve scooped no fewer than 10 awards in the last year, including Great Taste Supreme Champion 2018 and Superior Taste at the International Taste & Quality Awards 2018. Again, they’re not cheap at £16.99 for a 130g can (available from the Camden Grocer and Borough Box). Trust us, though, they need to be tasted to be believed!
Arabian-style afternoon tea
Looking for somewhere to celebrate Afternoon Tea Week (12-18 August)? If you want a slightly different take on this British tradition, you can do it Arabian-nights-style at Mamounia Lounge in Knightsbridge, London, where British afternoon tea classics are given Moroccan and Lebanese twists and accompanied by traditional sweet mint tea (alternative brews are offered), and champagne, if you fancy. Date scones are served with clotted cream and prickly pear or fig jam, and instead of sandwiches there are flatbread wraps with various Levantine fillings including falafel and farruj meshwi (lightly spiced baby chicken), along with Moroccan cheese briout (a filo-wrapped parcel deep-fried and served hot, while the cheese still oozes) and, of course, baklava. But our favourite is the mahalabia (pictured) – the Middle Eastern answer to panna cotta. The milk is spiked with rosewater, orange blossom water and mastic (or Arabic gum, from the resin of the mastic tree), which gives it a subtle sweet pine flavour. The quivering jelly sits in a sticky pool of date molasses and is scattered with contrastingly crunchy, caramelised pistachios. Moorish…
Pink drinks are so hot right now – and as the same goes for vermouth, it was only a matter of time before this year’s biggest drinks trends would come together. We’ve spotted several rosé vermouths on the market recently – Lillet rose, Regal Rogue wild rosé vermouth, Belsazar vermouth rosé and the newest release from Spanish vermouth brand El Bandarra, to name a few – and it might just be our new favourite tipple. Made using rosé Grenache grapes, macerated red fruits and herbs such as rosemary and thyme, El Bandarra’s rosé vermouth has a sweet vanilla flavour on the initial sip combined with the fruity, floral notes of rosé wine, and finally the slightly bitter finish you’d expect from a vermouth. Light and fresh, it makes a great summer drink served neat, chilled, or with ice and a splash of soda water. It’s perfect alongside something salty like olives or charcuterie, which means aperitivo hour is sorted.
Veggie campsite breakfast
Going camping this summer but feeling daunted by the prospect of campsite cooking? Fear not. We cooked this satisfying meat-free brunch on a single camping burner at last weekend’s Port Eliot festival in Cornwall. Using our recipe for soy mushrooms, we were able to whip up a veggie version of a cooked breakfast that’s just as satisfying as the meaty one. The clever combination of soy sauce, smoked paprika and maple syrup tossed through sliced mushrooms before frying mimics the sweet-salty, smoky flavour of maple-cured bacon. We served the mushrooms on quick-cook polenta which we softened in stock and mixed with grated cheese, then topped with a boiled egg. When camping for a whole weekend or longer, keeping meat products cold is near impossible, so veggie and vegan dishes make sense – especially since fruit and veg often doesn’t have to be refrigerated, unlike meat or dairy products. Want more easy veggie recipes that you can make on a camping stove? Try curries and dhals, stews, jazzed-up baked beans and any kind of eggs! Plus, check out our guide to the best camping stoves on the market right now.
Tahini ice cream
Ah, tahini, how we love you. The Middle Eastern sesame paste has exploded in popularity here in the last few years as we’ve come to realise just how versatile it is. Right now, we’re loving it in sweet dishes, like Diana Henry’s banana & tahini cake, our sesame chocolate cookies and, our new favourite use of the trend, ice cream. We tried this tahini ice cream (along with a scoop of mint choc chip for good measure) at last weekend’s Womad Festival. It’s made by Shepherds, which makes its ice cream with whole sheep’s milk, resulting in a smooth, creamy ice cream that contains less fat than cow’s milk ice cream. Here, it’s flavoured with tahini and honey along with black sesame seeds for some added crunch. We love the smooth texture, slightly salty-sweet flavour with notes of honey, and strong tahini taste. The Shepherds truck will be at various festivals this summer, or visit their ice cream parlour in Hay-on-Wye.