What we ate in February 2020

Our weekly food diary shares on-trend ingredients, fun foodie events, Insta-friendly restaurant dishes and must-try street eats.

In February we tried…

Sea urchin

Photography: Marius Fiskum, Norwegian Seafood Council
It may look inedible at first glance, but beneath the vicious-looking spikes of a sea urchin lies a delicate-tasting sweet meat that’s creamy, salty and smooth. Perhaps best known for sitting atop rice as a Japanese sushi dish (also known as uni), it’s something we’re seeing crop up on menus outside of Japanese cuisine, including in pasta dishes and on tasting menus. Food editor Anna Glover tried it at Cornelius restaurant this week – located on a small island a short boat ride from Bergen in Norway. Often thought of (by Anna and others) as too ‘rich’ or ‘strong flavoured’, the lightly cooked urchin in a creamy broth, topped with dill oil and shredded spring onions, changed her mind. It was part of an 8-course seafood extravaganza, featuring other local stars like scallops, curtain clams and oysters. The rich, umami flavour was perfectly offset with fresh green onion and velvety sauce. We’re ready to give sea urchin another go! 

Photograph: Marius Fiskum, Norwegian Seafood Council

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Black tahini

sesame crackers
Tahini is (still) seriously hot right now. It started with the explosion in popularity of Middle Eastern cuisine, spearheaded by chefs like Yotam Ottolenghi and Sabrina Ghayour, now it’s everywhere. In fact, Waitrose & Partners reported earlier this year that searches on waitrose.com for tahini had gone up by 700% in the past year. You’ll no doubt have eaten the sesame paste in hummus, dressings or even cakes, but have you tried black tahini? As the name suggests, it’s made with black sesame seeds, resulting in an intense black colour and a richer, toastier and more bitter flavour. We think its intensity would work well with sweeter ingredients, for example drizzled over roasted squash or used in bakes like our black tahini & white chocolate cookies. It could also be used in baba ganoush or a dramatic, deeper-flavoured hummus. We used Belazu’s brand new black tahini to make these super crispy sourdough crackers, studded with sesame seeds and finished with sea salt. They’re delicious on their own but even better dunked into hummus or taramasalata.  
 

Fat rascal

smiley face on bun
Did you spot fat rascals on TV this week? We noticed a huge spike in online searches for these dried fruit-studded bakes, following an appearance on Celebrity Britain by Barge. Never heard of them? Think scone meets rock cake – often spiced with cinnamon, they’re packed with dried fruit and usually almonds. Originating in Yorkshire in the mid-nineteenth century, they were made popular by Betty’s of Harrogate, who’ve trademarked the name and design (a smiley face on top, made with glacé cherry eyes and an almond or dried citrus peel mouth). This week, we tried Betty’s ‘gooey rascal’ (pictured), a newer variation with chocolate chips alongside dried fruit, filled with a gooey chocolate centre, hence the name. 
 

Onion bhaji Yorkshire puddings

bhajee yorkie
You lot love a Yorkshire pudding. In fact, it’s in the top five most searched recipes on the BBC Good Food website at any given time. To keep up with such high demand, our cookery team have created many different recipes over the years, from our best ever Yorkshire pudding to our Yorkshire pudding wrap and flavoured varieties like wild mushroom and sage & onion. But the latest, from our Yorkie king Barney, follows a recent foodie trend we’ve noticed for fusing Indian cuisine with the great British roast dinner. Yes, following the success of Tommy Bank’s roast butter chicken recipe and after seeing Indian-style versions of a classic Sunday roast in restaurants like Kricket, Barney came up with the ultimate mash-up: onion bhaji Yorkshire puddings. So popular on his Instagram feed that he’s bringing the recipe to the site soon (watch this space), they combine a classic batter with turmeric, cumin and chilli, as well as onions and a final flourish of fresh coriander. 
 

Marmalade gin

oranges and marmalade and marmalade gin liqueur
Marmalade making season might be over for another year, but that means marmalade eating season is just beginning! Or in this case, marmalade drinking. We’ve tried a fair few of the new marmalade gins and liqueurs on the market. While some miss the mark, tasting synthetically orange flavoured, the latest to land on our desks is spot on. Yorkshire-based Rosebud Preserves makes a mean Seville orange marmalade, now available in liqueur form. Produced with local small-batch distillery Spirit of Masham, the liqueur is made in a traditional copper still and combines the deep, zesty flavour of Seville oranges with gin and a touch of molasses-like sweetness. The result is, quite literally, like drinking marmalade – in the best possible way! It’s great on its own, over ice or with tonic. 
 

Winter tomatoes

tomatoes on toast
Think ripe, juicy tomatoes and you’ll probably think of a hot summer day, but we’ve spotted winter tomatoes on several restaurant menus recently, including Padella, Brat, Salon and Little Duck the Picklery (all London). The term ‘winter tomatoes’ usually refers to a few key varieties, grown in Europe, that are at their best now – Sicilian Marinda, Sardinian Camone and Spanish Black Iberico. Our tomato-adoring deputy food editor Esther picked these (a mix of black Iberico and Marinda) up at her local grocer, Newington Green Fruit & Vegetables, and had them on toast with a pinch of salt and a drizzle of olive oil for a proper taste of summer. These varieties have a thicker skin than summer tomatoes and the flesh is firm and meaty. They are juicy and packed with satisfying, umami tomato flavour. Can’t find any winter tomatoes in you local grocer? Buy them online from specialist grocer Natoora on Ocado.
 

Multi-grain porridge

porridge with rhubarb and nut brittle
Bored of your morning porridge? Try upgrading to multi-grain. Adding seeds and grains to your food is seriously à la mode right now, most likely because it’s an incredibly easy way to add texture and nutritional value to a dish. In fact, Waitrose & Partners recently reported sales of its seeded and mixed grain bread loaves have shot up by over 22% in the last three months, and we’ve spotted several multi-grain porridges, both available in supermarkets and on restaurant breakfast menus. We had this one at newly opened Stoney Street in Borough Market, London. A twist on the classic oat porridge, it’s made with oats, rye, malted wheat, quinoa, spelt and barley, giving it a more wholesome and complex flavour. The porridge is topped with lightly poached rhubarb, rose yogurt cream and buckwheat nut brittle. Want more porridge inspiration? Check out our best porridge recipes
 

Smoked eel 

plate of pasta with bits of smoked eel
Move over smoked salmon! We’ve been to several top restaurants recently with one menu item in common: smoked eel. Meaty yet delicate, fatty yet light, and with that all-important (and still very much on-trend) smoky flavour, it’s not surprising that smoked eel is a popular ingredient among chefs. We’ve spotted this versatile ingredient served with coronation remoulade at Lyons Seafood & Wine Bar, with mackerel, beetroots and leeks at Kitchen W8, in a pithivier at Allegra restaurant and a risotto at 7 Saints restaurant (all London), but the latest to grace our table was this smoked eel pasta at the newly opened branch of London’s popular pasta restaurant Padella, in Shoreditch, East London. Here, freshly made and perfectly al dente, tagliatelle is tossed in cream, lemon and parsley and loaded generously with tender, buttery chunks of intensely smoky eel. The dish is on special, so get it while you can, but don’t worry if you miss it – the pici cacio e pepe is epic and always on the menu. 

Mushrooms

striped brown bowl of mushrooms
This mushroom and rice dish, served as an amuse bouche at chef Daniel Humm’s new opening Davies and Brook at Claridges, follows a trend of mushroom love across the capital. We recently enjoyed Decimo’s ode to funghi, in the form of their mushroom bomba rice (recipe coming to BBC Good Food Magazine soon) and there’s even an exhibition, Mushrooms: the art, design and future of fungus at Somerset House. This shitake dish was followed by enoki mushroom in lemongrass broth and a round of butter topped with a deeply savoury, almost marmitey mushroom reduction to go with flaky croissant-like rolls. Umami heaven. 

Wheelcakes

While it may be a little early for Pancake Day, we’re loving the Taiwanese ‘wheelcakes’ from Wheelcake Island. These soft, fluffy pancakes (also known as imagawayaki in Japan) are made fresh on a hot griddle and loaded with creamy fillings in a variety of flavours. These include traditional azuki (red bean paste), vanilla custard and a vanilla & chocolate combo. Our favourite was the matcha, a punchy green tea flavour made with high-quality Japanese ingredients. Wheelcake Island also offers limited-edition, seasonal flavours, like pumpkin during autumn and mince pie around Christmas. It prides itself as being the only wheelcake specialist in the UK, bringing authentic Taiwanese street food to London markets. Try these wheelcakes yourself at Old Spitalfields Market, Seven Dials Market and Westfield Shopping Centre.
 

Acqua Bianca

Treat your tastebuds to a new liqueur created by cocktail-making legend Salvatore Calabrese. Acqua Bianca stands out as a fragrant drink with floral, fresh notes. We tried it in a few cocktails, our favourite being the Acqua Bianca frappé, which consists of the liqueur poured over crushed ice with a mint leaf garnish. We also liked the salvamento (Acqua Bianca, calvados and amaro montenegro) and Sal’s stinger (Acqua Bianca with cognac). Recently, there’s been a rise in the amaro/aperitifs/digestif area, with things like Campari, amaro montenegro and Fernet-Branca being used in new cocktails, even though they’re well-established classics. This liqueur sits happily among them while also being a bit different. It’s light and sweet, but not sticky, like other liqueurs can be, and the mint, rose and citrus flavours are aromatic and familiar. If you love fresh mint tea, baklava, marshmallows or Turkish delight, you’ll enjoy this.
 

Cascade tiramisu

If you thought you knew tiramisu, think again. Award-winning pastry chef Dominique Ansel has launched his latest project: an all-day café in Covent Garden. Dominique Ansel Treehouse is a lofty, two-story space with casual seating throughout, designed to look like a treetop canopy. Near the front of the café is a bakery counter stocked with viennoiserie, pastries and desserts for takeaway. Dominique offers a completely original menu, highlighting his signature pastry techniques as well as new additions, like handmade pasta. We enjoyed the chicken liver millefeuille served with mandarin orange confit and sprinkled with dehydrated brown butter. But the true star of the show was the innovative cascade tiramisu: a showstopping dessert designed to share. It’s filled with layers of espresso, amaretto-soaked almond biscuits and mascarpone mousse, and topped with a light whipped cream that cascades down the sides after a ring of acetate film is lifted off. Find Dominique Ansel Treehouse at 24 Floral Street, Covent Garden in London.

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Missed an entry in our food diary? Find out what we’ve eaten previously…
What we ate in January 2020
What we ate in December 2019
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 May 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

What we ate in August 2018
What we ate in July 2018
What we ate in June 2018
What we ate in May 2018
What we ate in April 2018
What we ate in March 2018
What we ate in February 2018
What we ate in January 2018
What we ate in December 2017 
What we ate in November 2017
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What we ate in September 2017
What we ate in August 2017
What we ate in July 2017
What we ate in June 2017
What we ate in May 2017
What we ate in April 2017
What we ate in March 2017
What we ate in February 2017
What we ate in January 2017
What we ate in December 2016
What we ate in November 2016
What we ate in October 2016
What we ate in September 2016
What we ate in August 2016
What we ate in July 2016
What we ate in June 2016
What we ate in May 2016
What we ate in April 2016