What we ate in December 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. Written by Anna Lawson.

In December we tried...

Scallops with popcorn crackling

Looking for inspiration for an extra special Christmas starter? We’ve just found ours at Wright Brothers in Spitalfields, London. The menu at this ‘sea-to-plate’ restaurant changes regularly to include the freshest seafood and shellfish, including oysters from the British Isles and France, and platters of fruits de mer. It was the scallop starter that really caught our imagination. Hand-dived scallops are sliced very thinly, lightly seasoned with cracked black pepper, Cornish sea salt and a drizzle of Somerset truffle oil and then topped with pork ‘popcorn’. Head Chef Richard Kirkwood explains, ‘for the pork popcorn we use dehydrated pork skin. This can be made at home by drying the pork skin overnight in a very low oven. They are then pan-fried in rapeseed oil so that they crisp up into little porky cushions of goodness’. Impress your friends by serving it in a cleaned out scallop shell. Or for those of you who would rather someone else make it, head to Wright Brothers Spitalfields.

Yuzu kara ramen

Ramen has got a firm foothold on the restaurant scene, and UK palates are now becoming accustomed to the many different variations of this epic Japanese comfort food. This pork bone broth ramen is blended with a spinach and yuzu mix, giving it its distinct green colour. Topped with pork chashu (Japanese braised pork), wood ear mushrooms, bamboo shoots, spring onions and a soy, mirin and sugar marinated Burford brown egg, it’s one of seven ramen variations at Yamagoya, a pop-up ramen bar in London’s Soho. Founded by Masatoshi Ogata in 1969, the restaurant originated from humble beginnings in Japan’s Fukuoka City and has been using the closely guarded family recipe ever since. Legend has it Masatoshi searched the length and breadth of Japan to find the ultimate formula for perfect ramen. Worth it? We think so! The menu also includes their celebrated signature ‘Yamagoya’ ramen and the ‘Tobanjan’, a fiery broth using tobanjan spice paste, known to locals as ‘the fire of food’.

Whole baked celeriac

With ‘flexitarianism’ the buzzword of the moment, restaurants are making more of their veg-based offerings. We’re seeing impressive vegetarian dishes on menus right now, including this whole baked celeriac at The Mash Inn, a pub-restaurant with rooms in Radnage, Buckinghamshire. With their own vegetable garden on site, the menu makes the most of seasonal fruit and veg, prepared simply. For this dish, Head Chef Jon Parry covers a whole celeriac in a thick paste made with egg whites, salt and fennel seeds. He bakes it on high for 30 minutes to form a crust, then leaves it to cook on a low temperature for a further 3 hours. The result is a spectacular side dish – slice the lid off and scoop out the soft celeriac, a perfect accompaniment to our lamb rump main course - full recipe coming to BBC Good Food magazine and online in February...watch this space!

 

Aubergine – the new avocado?

Could aubergine be the new avocado? After an impressive reign as the nation's (if not the world's) favourite fruit, our obsession with avocado may be appeasing, after the realisation that our avo-a-day habit is having a detrimental effect on the environment. Next on the list? The aubergine. A versatile fruit seen more and more on restaurant menus, it’s now even found its way into avocado’s favourite territory: brunch. We tried this delicious Middle Eastern-style brunch dish at Caravan’s new restaurant in Bankside, London. A plate of silky aubergine purée with poached eggs, punchy preserved lemon gremolata, sumac yogurt and merguez sausage, served with grilled flatbreads for dipping. Even better than avocado on toast if you ask us!

Manti 

Move over gyozas, there's a new dumpling in town. These little lamb-stuffed dumplings are a staple dish in Turkey, known as manti. Any Turkish restaurant worth its salt will sell manti, but new restaurant Yosma in London have taken them to the next level – the delicate parcels (made with a thin pastry similar in texture to steamed gyozas or wontons) filled with shredded stewed lamb neck are served in a puddle of yogurt sauce with vibrant chilli oil and mint.  For a twist on the traditional Turkish dish, head to Flat Iron Square in London where you’ll find manti by Mike & Ollie. They specialise in Turkish dumplings with a range of unique fillings. Otherwise, head down to your local Turkish restaurant.

Boiled peanut and sorghum ice cream

Sorghum is a type of grass from which a small round grain can be harvested and made, among other things, into a syrup or molasses. Though it’s a staple in Africa, the majority of production is in America where it's grown to make ethanol. Sorghum flour is gluten-free so even if you don’t think you’ve tried it before you may well have done.  With a nutritional profile similar to oats it’s likely to become a more common food stuff and can already be found as a cooked grain in salads and side dishes, in baked goods and used as a sweetener. This gorgeously rich ice cream studded with slightly salty boiled peanuts (a revelation - why have we not come across them cooked like this in a dessert before?) was served at a lunch prepared by Chef James Lowe of Lyles, London in collaboration with Linton Hopkins of restaurant Eugene in Atlanta, Georgia for Delta Airlines – it’s a limited edition match day menu for Chelsea football club. Lucky fans.

Pay-by-weight veggie dishes

The number of vegans in the UK has risen by a massive 360% in 10 years, with at least 542,000 people in Britain now following a vegan diet, according to the Vegan Society. With this huge increase has come an influx of new cafés and restaurants opening up across the country to cater for the demand. This week we visited Ethos in London’s Fitzrovia, a restaurant specialising in vegetarian and vegan dishes where you pay by the weight of your food, a popular concept in Brazil, apparently. Dishes are global and packed with flavour. The menu is constantly changing and right now there are plenty of festive options from a mushroom, cranberry & chestnut tart to crunchy red cabbage salad. We love the signature aloo Scotch egg but the real winner was dessert - vegan millionaire’s shortbread and a raw blueberry cheesecake.

 

Unbelievably easy mince pies

This week, Chris Evans and the BBC Radio 2 team have been raving about our unbelievably easy mince pies, both live on air and on Twitter. With over 85,000 page views in four days, this recipe has easily been our most popular this week!  So what makes them so easy? This recipe requires no rolling. Make a 3-ingredient shortbread-like pastry and push it into cake tin holes with your fingers. Add a spoonful of mincemeat into each and then press the remaining pastry onto the top. The result is crumbly, biscuit-like pastry with sweet mincemeat filling. Struggling to believe the unbelievable? Try the recipe and find out what all the fuss is about... 
 

Seitan

Seitan (pronounced ‘say-tan’) is a wheat-based product used in vegetarian cooking as a substitute for meat. Also referred to as ‘wheat meat’ or ‘gluten meat’, it’s high in protein and has a look and texture similar to meat when cooked. This means it makes a better ‘mock meat’ than soybean based alternatives like tofu, and you’ll find it in restaurants as a veggie version of chicken wings. With the rise in vegetarianism making meat-free protein options so widely sought after, could this be one to watch in 2017? Easier to cook than tofu, seitan may look a little brown and depressing but it soaks up flavour like a sponge. This seitan dish, served at SHA wellness clinic in Alicante, was lightly sautéed with Mediterranean spices and served with tabbouleh.
 

Toasted marshmallow topped tres leches cake

It may go against all our cooking intuitions, but burnt food is having a moment right now. We’re not talking blackened to a cinder, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find a menu that doesn’t feature ‘toasted’ or ‘charred’ dishes. The menu at Corazon, a new taqueria in London’s Soho, is no exception. The toasted marshmallow topping on their tres leches cake is a stroke of genius. A hugely popular dessert in Central and South America, a traditional tres leches is a sponge cake soaked in evaporated milk, condensed milk and cream, then (as if that wasn’t indulgent enough) topped with cream or frosting. Corazon have upped the game by topping theirs with toasted marshmallow, adding a whole new dimension to an already delicious dessert.
 

Afternoon tea with a twist

The savoury tier of Terre a Terre’s afternoon tea (cleverly named Terre a Tier) ticks a lot of boxes on the trendometer. This year has been a big one for pickling, preserving and fermenting, and the first layer of our 4-tier tea featured all three. First up, we enjoyed a crisp tapioca seaweed cracker with crunchy pickled vegetables. The most traditional offering was a warm homemade mini muffin with peppered Sussex Slipcote cream cheese and pear perry chutney, the slight tang of the creamy sheep’s cheese being a perfect match for the sweet pear. But the undoubtable star of the show was a steamed rice bun stuffed with Szechuan marinated halloumi, kimchi cabbage, lapsang souchong pickled watermelon and cucumber and a miso chilli sauce (a mouthful, in all senses of the word). Bao bun, miso, kimchi and halloumi – could this be any more on-trend? Thankfully, the dish is currently on their à la carte menu too, so you can have double the portion. Try it at iconic vegetarian restaurant, Terre a Terre in Brighton.

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 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

 

Comments, questions and tips

Sign in or create your My Good Food account to join the discussion.
Be the first to comment...We'd love to hear how you got on with this recipe. Did you like it? Would you recommend others give it a try?
Be the first to ask a question about this recipe...Unsure about the cooking time or want to swap an ingredient? Ask us your questions and we’ll try and help you as soon as possible. Or if you want to offer a solution to another user’s question, feel free to get involved...
Be the first to suggest a tip for this recipe...Got your own twist on this recipe? Or do you have suggestions for possible swaps and additions? We’d love to hear your ideas.