What we ate in December 2019
Our weekly food diary shares on-trend ingredients, fun foodie events, Insta-friendly restaurant dishes and must-try street eats.
In December we tried...
The world of weird and wonderful sweets and chocolates is no longer just a fantasy dreamt up by Roald Dhal in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Luxury department stores Selfridges, Harvey Nichols and Fortnum & Mason all launched new confectionary departments recently, selling a huge range of both classic and more unusual sweet treats. Selfridge’s boasts over 1,500 sweets and chocolates, including a huge vegan chocolate counter, while Harvey Nichols’ new range features old-school favourites, cocktail-flavoured hard-boiled sweets and gold-coated almonds. This week, we visited Fortnum & Mason’s new ‘confectionary wonderland’ and felt, well, like a kid in a sweet shop! The store sells over 500 varieties of chocolate, including many unique offerings, many of which are inspired by the company’s history. Alongside chocolates filled with earl grey, kalamansi, passionfruit & guava and even beetroot & red wine vinegar ganaches. There’s also ruby chocolate filled with Kent honey (a nod to the fact that Fortnum & Mason was the first company to introduce ruby chocolate to the UK), a truffle flavoured with the company’s Royal Blend tea and the most attention-grabbing of all, a white chocolate baked bean truffle. Yes, you read that right. Fortnum & Mason was the first store to stock Heinz baked beans so have created a special chocolate in their honour. A divisive addition to your Christmas chocolate box?!
Sri Lankan cod curry
Fancy a fragrant new take on fish & chips? We’ve been to the newly-opened Sri Lankan restaurant Paradise in London’s Soho to taste their menu, which includes their signature yellow cod curry, described as ‘Paradise’s take on fish and chips, via the Negombo fish market’. The team explains the idea behind the dish ‘In many coastal areas of Sri Lanka, fish often takes the place of meat, which is generally more expensive. Sinhalese fish curries are best when made with firm-fleshed varieties. At Paradise, Chef Charith Priyadarshana uses fresh dayboat fish for the yellow cod curry. The inspiration came from both Charith’s and owner Dom Fernando’s family Sunday lunches, but with a modern edge to fit the restaurant’s Soho setting. Sri Lankan curry leaves, cumin, fenugreek, rampe (pandan) leaves and lemongrass are infused into a fresh coconut milk base to create a rich, creamy yet aromatic curry. It’s then seasoned with lime and topped with lightly spiced shoestring fries as a nod to fish and chips.’ Other menu highlights include a rich, melt-in-the-mouth pork cheek curry made with Lion stout and refreshing charred pineapple salad. This is the second Sri Lankan restaurant to open in the area in the last six months (Kolamba being the other), joining the popular Hoppers and proving that, as we predicted at the beginning of the year, the trend for Sri Lankan cuisine is in full swing.
Looking for a fun foodie secret Santa gift? This edible candle could be the answer. ‘An edible candle!?’, the entire Good Food team cried, foreheads furrowed, when they heard about the product in question. But yes, it really is a thing. Made by confectionary wizards Smith & Sinclair, this is a fully functioning candle which will burn when lit – the only difference is that the wax is entirely edible. Made in two festive flavours, we tried the ‘candy cane’, otherwise known as peppermint. The ‘wax’ is made from a mix of cocoa butter, coconut oil and peppermint and spearmint oils, which makes it solid enough to act like a candle, remaining hard when cool but beginning to melt around the wick once lit. Once the candle is burning and the pool of peppermint-flavoured oil develops, not only will the room smell minty fresh, but you can then use the resulting liquid just as you would any peppermint oil – add a couple of drops to a festive hot chocolate or try using some to make our polar bear peppermint creams! Buy online from Smith & Sinclair (£15), or for more foodie secret Santa ideas, don’t miss our round-up of the best foodie secret Santa gifts under £10.
Celeriac was something of a star in the world of vegetables this year. Back in January, ‘ugly vegetables’ were touted as a trend for 2019 in the Waitrose Food & Drinks report, and celeriac took the limelight when chefs began serving it in innovative ways, such as the famous celeriac shawarma (by René Redzepi, Noma and Ottolenghi, Rovi). Now, just when we thought we’d seen celeriac in all its possible guises, we find a new one, and a seriously impressive one at that. One of the first dishes of an exceptional eight-course tasting menu at Lake Road Kitchen in Ambleside, this is a taco, but not as you know it. The team has created the taco wrap entirely from celeriac. The versatile vegetable is foil-wrapped and baked until it reaches a core temperature of 70 degrees, so it becomes flexible. It’s then peeled, finely sliced and dry-cooked in a sandwich press to create the slightly toasty edges you’d find on a tortilla. Genius. The taco is almost always on the menu, but the fillings change regularly. When we visited, it was succulent duck leg in a sweet homemade plum sauce glaze, topped with zingy pickled cabbage and koji mayo.
Irish Black Butter
While its name might suggest otherwise, this Irish black butter doesn’t contain a drop of dairy. It’s made from Armagh Bramley apples, cider, brandy, brown sugar and treacle, with a hint of liquorice, but acquired its name because of its spreadable consistency (and the fact that it’s delicious on toast). We came across it at the BBC Good Food Show, where Portrush-based owner Alistair Bell explained, ‘Over the years I had been aware of black butter and how it was said to date from medieval times. It's an old, traditional recipe that's been in use here on the island of Ireland.’ Wanting to create ‘a new taste of Ireland’, he teamed up with award-winning chef Paul Clarke, from En Place Foods, to create a recipe for the very first Irish Black Butter product, and even pitched it to the entrepreneurs on BBC Two’s Dragons’ Den. The dark, rich spread can be used in a variety of ways – it’s ideal as an accompaniment for cheese and cold meats, used as a glaze on ham, spread on toast or even scones and cream! We’ll be using ours to coat sausages for an easy, satisfyingly sticky, sweet-savoury party snack. Keen to try it yourself? Buy it online at Irish Black Butter.
All-you-can-eat cheese parties
Cheese lovers, let us introduce you to the supper club of your dreams. Homeage2fromage is a cheese club created by a pair of fromage-loving friends, bringing all-you-can-eat cheese events to the nation. That’s right, ALL YOU CAN EAT CHEESE! The premise is simple – each Homage2Fromage party has a theme (the one we attended celebrated cheeses of the British Isles); eight cheeses are presented whole; the cheeses are numbered, not labelled; then everyone fills their boots with cheese along with local bread, chutneys, crackers and fruit. It's not until the end that the cheeses are revealed, and their unique stories are told. Homage2Fromage began as a conversation between cheese fans Nick Copland and Vickie Rogerson on Twitter back in 2011. Their first event took place in a tiny deli in Leeds, attended by 15 people, but it soon grew, with parties of as many as 80 ‘turophiles’ (aka cheese connoisseurs) across Yorkshire and Manchester. The duo’s first event into London took place recently at The Bull in Westfield shopping centre, Shepherd’s Bush, and monthly events are planned for 2020. Themes include Scottish, Irish, Welsh, French, Spanish and Portuguese cheese parties. Sign us up! For tickets and information, visit the Homage2Fromage website.
Next level baked potato
Ah, the humble baked potato. We might associate it with comforting midweek dinners and quick canteen lunches rather than fine dining, but chef and BBC Good Food contributor Tom Kerridge has just upped the game. The menu at Tom’s new Manchester restaurant The Bull & Bear features plenty of examples of what he does best – taking comforting classics like chicken kiev, burgers and chilli and elevating them to something truly special – and this baked potato is exactly that. Rotisserie-baked to create a really crispy skin and hot, fluffy interior, the potato is then spread with a creamy, chive-heavy crème fraiche and a scoop of incredibly melt-in-the-mouth beef tartare, dressed in a punchy, mustardy marinade and dotted with capers and cornichons. And as if stuffing a baked potato with steak tartare wasn’t cheffy enough, Tom finishes the dish with a cured egg yolk to add extra richness. We won’t look at a baked potato the same way ever again.
There’s a new cheddar in town and it deserves a place on your Christmas cheeseboard. Pitchfork has only been around for two years but has got people in the world of cheese talking. The organic, unpasteurised, traditional cloth-bound cheese from Somerset-based Trethowan won Best Traditional Cheddar at the 2019 British Cheese Awards and scooped three prizes, including Best British Cheese, at the Guild of Fine Food’s World Cheese Awards in Bergamo, Italy. Golden in colour with a smooth, closed texture, it has clean bright flavours, which range from savoury and mustardy to hints of honey. Pitchfork cheddar is made by brothers Todd and Maugan Trethowan, who produced another award winner – Gorwydd Caerphilly – before branching out into cheddar. They started making Pitchfork in 2017, using milk from a pedigree herd of Holstein and Jersey cows. Looking to stock up for Christmas? Find it for around £8 per 250g online at Paxton & Whitfield, Neal's Yard Dairy and Fine Cheese Co.
Fried cacio e pepe raviolo
Cacio e pepe, literally ‘cheese and pepper’, is an Italian dish from Rome made with just three main ingredients. Most commonly made with spaghetti or tonnarelli pasta, a sauce is created by mixing lots of the finely grated pecorino cheese with pasta water (and sometimes butter) until it becomes silky and deliciously cheesy, before it’s seasoned with a kick of black pepper. The dish has become popular here, seen on the menu at lots of Italian restaurants including London’s Trullo, Padella, Pastaio and Bancone. This week, we’ve been at newly opened pasta restaurant Officina 00 in East London, where cacio e pepe features on the menu, but not as we know it. Behold, our new favourite snack: fried cacio e pepe raviolo. Head chef Elia Sebregondi explains, ‘The idea behind our cacio e pepe raviolo began when we were experimenting with the classic Italian recipe. We wanted to reinvent the ingredients (pasta, pecorino romano cheese and black pepper) to become something our guests can experience in one perfectly portioned bite.’ And it's a hit. Plump, hot, crispy-edged and oozing with peppery cheesy goodness, what better way could there be to kick off a meal?
Korean-style Brussels sprouts
Still a sprout hater? This might just change your mind. Declared by our managing editor Lulu Grimes as ‘probably the best Brussels sprouts I’ve ever had’, these are on the menu at Pacific London, the latest restaurant residency at Mayfair’s 10 Heddon Street. The menu, by Australian chef Shaun Presland, is largely Japanese but ‘with Australian attitude’ and includes such trending treats as a monkfish katsu sando, seabass sashimi with white soy dressing and this, our favourite new way with seasonal sprouts. These Brussels sprouts are tender in the centre but super crisped-up around the edges, giving a delicious charred flavour. They are then tossed in a punchy Korean-inspired vinaigrette and topped with edamame beans, chilli and lime, for added zing. Need more sprout inspiration to convert the haters? Try them charred with chilli or Marmite butter, grated into a fresh remoulade or baked into a cheesy gratin.
Already planning your Christmas cheeseboard? We are! And this week, we tried a cheese accompaniment that we hadn’t seen before. Featuring on the cheese course of a ten-dish tasting menu at Xier London in Marylebone, these so-called ‘fizzy grapes’ were created by the restaurant’s chef-owner Carlo Scotto, by accident. After leaving fresh red grapes in dry ice overnight (eight hours), he thought the result was so good that he put them on the menu. The dry ice gives the grapes a much sharper taste and an almost fizzy texture, which makes them perfect for cutting through the flavour of creamy cheeses, like the Swedish Wrångebäcksost (pictured) – a rich, fruity, complex cheese with a unique sourness. Along with the grapes, the cheese is also served with three sweet jellies (spiced red wine, white wine and a nutty chutney) and spicy gingerbread biscuits. That’s it, we’re ready to get experimental with our festive cheeseboard!
Mo is a pop-up, currently at Legs Eleven coffee shop in Funchal, Maderia with hyper local eating and bread at its heart. Now, those are two things we can really get behind. And with the variety of fresh produce available in Madeira so bountiful, it’s the perfect place to be able to eat entirely locally-grown food. We tried the ‘golden slice’ made with butter-fried sourdough bread (baked from scratch using local grains); local farm-raised eggs and fresh milk; a sauce made from tamarillo (a locally grown fruit that tastes like a cross between passion fruit, tomato and guava), plus macerated apples, crunchy walnuts and a refreshing scoop of guava ice cream. All the fruit, and even the nuts, are sourced from the Island and the result is a delicious amalgamation of flavours and textures and a great example of how to make the most of your surroundings.
Missed an entry in our food diary? Find out what we've eaten previously...
What we ate in November 2019
What we ate in October 2019
What we ate in September 2019
What we ate in August 2019
What we ate in July 2019
What we ate in June 2019
What we ate in February 2019
What we ate in January 2019
What we ate in December 2018
What we ate in November 2018
What we ate in October 2018