Our weekly food diary shares on-trend ingredients, fun foodie events, Instagrammable restaurant dishes and must-try street eats.
In December we tried...
Boozy smoked salmon
Smoked salmon and booze – no doubt both are on your Christmas shopping list, but ever tried the two combined? The brilliantly named Pished Fish specialise in delicious, booze-infused cured salmon after founder James Eagle began smoking fish in the garden shed in Camberwell, London, about four years ago. He says, 'I used to travel a lot in Scandinavia and I always thought the gravadlax had more interesting flavours as it's cured in herbs, spices and alcohol. I started curing my own salmon the same way, with an emphasis on the alcohol and complementing herbs and spices.' Using fresh Scottish salmon is also key for a meaty texture with well-balanced, delicate flavours. The alcohol is subtle, too, and combined with a range of flavours from whisky & maple syrup to cocktail-inspired varieties like dark & stormy and Margarita. Plus, just for Christmas there's 'sozzled Santa' with brandy, cinnamon, nutmeg and clementine zest. Find stockists, or buy online.
Christmas pudding doughnuts
Calling all doughnut lovers – your favourite sweet treat just got a festive makeover. This is a Christmas pudding doughnut from Bread Ahead, a bakery that has become famous in London for its fat, pillowy doughnuts. The Christmas pudding flavour is a special (on sale at Bread Ahead's Borough Market site Monday-to-Friday and all other London sites on Saturdays and Sundays) for the festive period. A twist on their classic vanilla crème pâtissière-filled variety, the doughnuts are rolled in cinnamon sugar straight from the fryer before being generously filled with spiced crème pâtissière that includes Christmassy flavours like nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves. To make it even more festive, it's topped with a gingerbread star – great for scooping up the crème pat overspill! The flavours are delicate, not at all sickly or too heavily spiced, and the texture is light and fluffy. If you fancy trying your hand at making doughnuts, Bread Ahead's Justin Gellatly has shared his doughnut recipe with us (for what he calls 'pillows of joy'). Merry Christmas!
Christmas pudding brownies
If doughnuts aren't your thing, how about a festive chocolate brownie? We may seem obsessed with all things Christmas-pudding flavoured, but 'tis the season after all! This Christmas pudding brownie comes from Gourmet Brownie. After appearing at various farmers' markets, delis and cafés, the company decided to offer a mail order service and have a range of gift boxes to buy online. Part of their Christmas box, which includes festive flavours like gingerbread and winter berry, the Christmas pudding brownie is rich, gooey and chocolatey with notes of Christmas spice, dried fruit and a hint of brandy and orange. For the Christmas pudding haters out there (we know there are quite a few of you), this could be the dessert that changes your mind. Feeling inspired? Try making our mulled wine brownies.
If you’ve ever been to the Czech Republic, chances are you've come across trdelnik. A little difficult to pronounce, but all too easy to eat, these sweet pastries, also known as ‘chimney cakes’, are made from dough wrapped around a long wooden, or metal, stake where they're grilled, rotisserie-style, usually over an open flame. They're then immediately rolled in sugar and nuts to give a crunchy, caramelised finish – think brioche meets doughnut but with a sweet crust. Our social media manager, Laura, enjoyed some while exploring the Christmas markets in Prague. But it was the trdelniks at one particular shop that made a big impression; the Good Food Coffee & Bakery sells these golden chimney cakes with a huge variety of fillings from apple strudel to charcoal ice cream. They also do savoury versions like bacon & egg and even mac 'n' cheese! We don’t think it will be long before these tubal treats are gracing Christmas markets here in the UK.
While a traditional Italian panettone is hard to beat at Christmas, we’ve noticed a move away from the norm. Good news for raisin haters, as dried fruit is often swapped for other kinds of exciting additions to this enriched bread, from salted caramel, to prosecco, and of course, chocolate. But this week, we found our new favourite. Pistachio panettone from Italian producer Fiasconaro has a lovely light consistency and no dried fruit. It’s topped with white chocolate and whole, crunchy pistachios, but what really makes it sing is the sweet, pistachio cream it comes with. Sold together at Sous Chef, it's designed to be slathered onto a nice, fat slice of the panettone. The verdict? Well, we’ve never seen anything get devoured so quickly at Good Food HQ. The sweet pistachio cream, alone, is one of the best things you can find in a jar. In fact, you can buy the pistachio cream separately to be enjoyed on croissants, in baking, or let’s face it, eaten straight from the jar (yes, it’s that good). If you prefer a traditional panettone, check out our 2017 Christmas Taste Awards for our pick of the best supermarket offerings, or, better still, make your own.
A huge trend in desserts this year are chocolate domes that ‘reveal’ a dessert hidden beneath when you pour over a warmed sauce. Well, why not a chocolate bauble for the festive season? You’ll find this one being served by Happy Endings LDN, part of The Kitchens at Old Spitalfields Market. A fantastic, beautifully decorated bauble, it's served with a rich, hot chocolate sauce that melts the fine chocolate shell to reveal a creamy soft-serve vanilla ice cream. And if that isn’t enough to make you drool, there's a moreish medley of ingredients that provides an even more delicious nest for the bauble to sit in. That's made up with a combination of chocolate crumbs, cocoa-dusted chocolate twigs, sweet crunchy praline, zingy freeze-fried raspberries and heady sprigs of rosemary. The mix of textures, flavours and aromas make it a treat for the senses. If you can't get to Spitalfields, but want to impress dinner guests with a super trendy ‘reveal dessert’, make our mulled wine brownie surprise.
You may have heard of okonomiyaki – a savoury Japanese pancake. 'Okonomi' means 'what you like', because customers can typically choose which ingredients to have in it. Here in the UK, the okonomiyaki we find at restaurants and street-food stalls normally consists of an egg-based pancake with cabbage and a choice of seafood or pork, drizzled with mayonnaise and sometimes topped with bonito flakes. However, this week, our senior art editor Rachel has been exploring the food scene in Hiroshima, where they have their own version. While traditionally, okonomiyaki is made by mixing the ingredients together in the pancake batter, in Hiroshima, distinct layers are assembled onto a pancake base, including, importantly, a layer of noodles. We’re big fans of this version as the differently textured layers – especially the added carby layer of soba noodles – make for a more satisfying snack. If you have a sudden hankering, check out our okonomiyaki recipe.
Mince pie croissant
Drop everything – we may have just found the perfect festive breakfast! French bakery Paul has launched a mince pie/croissant hybrid and we’re wondering why on earth this hasn’t been done before. On sale online and in Paul stores across the country, the mince pie croissant is a glorious combination of super light, flaky pastry filled with sweet, gooey mincemeat. Though it doesn't meet all the criteria of a croissant (fun fact: ‘croissant’ means ‘crescent’ in French, so it's the wrong shape), we can let that slide due to its deliciousness. The pastry is well layered and crisp while the mincemeat is fragrant with spices, albeit a teensy bit heavy on the orange peel. If you’re stuck for a festive breakfast or fancy a change from the usual mince pie, this one’s for you.
Advent calendars have been cracked open and the streets are filled with slightly panicked-looking shoppers… Yep, it’s official – the countdown to Christmas has begun! If you need a break from the madness, how about a festive cuppa? We tried a new variety of Christmas tea at Láng restaurant in the Shangri-La hotel, London. The aroma is so Christmassy, it may as well have been brewed by elves in Santa’s grotto. But, the taste is a lot subtler; pleasantly fragrant and mildly spiced. Ideal for cold winter nights. Another seasonal tea by Camellia’s Tea House is just one of many products featured at the café on their ‘Five Mile Menu’ – a fantastic concept meaning that all the ingredients used in Láng's kitchen have been sourced from within a five-mile radius. (Fortunately, they're just down the road from London’s famous Borough Market.) If you fancy warming up with a Christmassy cuppa, you could also try our new recipe for jasmine & ginger festive tea.
Missed an entry in our food diary? Find out what we've eaten previously...