What we ate in January 2017

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 January we tried...

Burns night

Once a strictly Scottish affair, Burns Night (25th Jan) has gained traction outside of Scotland and is now a huge night for restaurants, with chefs across the UK creating special menus for the occasion. In celebration of Robert Burns, we donned our kilts (in spirit) on Wednesday and checked out some of London’s best Burn’s Night suppers. First up, we visited newly opened modern-British restaurant Plot in Tooting. Their homage to Rabbie came in the form of two super-crispy and delicious haggis doughnuts. Our food editor Barney was at The Capital hotel, where Tom Brown and Nathan Outlaw were joined by guest chef Roy Brett from Ondine restaurant, Edinburgh. Their feast was truly Scottish, featuring Ayrshire oysters with wild boar sausages, Tobermory langoustines with herb mayo and Orkney scallops with mutton broth, as well as the all-important haggis with neeps & tatties. And you can forget dry January, each course was washed down with a dram of Scotch whiskey. As for dessert, our lifestyle director Lulu was at Merchants Tavern ending the night in true Scottish style – with crisp, hot nuggets of deep-fried Mars bar. 
 

The Luxembourg food scene

This week, we’ve been exploring the food scene in Luxembourg City. Relatively small and built over a valley, the city boasts some jaw-droppingly beautiful views, along with a wide assortment of enticing restaurants, cafés and delis. Peruse market stalls bursting with fruit and vegetables, fresh meat, cheese, preserves and baked goods at the Place Guillaume II on a Saturday morning – we enjoyed a crème Berliner while wandering around on a crisp, January day. We stopped for coffee in a gleaming new patisserie owned by Cathy Goedert, and sampled a Prali-Brest – a take on the Paris-Brest, but presented in a straight, éclair-style shape instead of the traditional round - delicate choux pastry filled with praline mousse, studded throughout with crunchy caramelised hazelnuts and finished with a dusting of icing sugar. Also on the menu was the Eleganza – a matcha-flavoured financier with white chocolate mousse and a glossy raspberry glaze, topped with a vanilla macaron. A quick stop at chocolatier Oberweis yielded the perfect holiday gift – we brought a bar of dark chocolate with salted cashews back to the office, which disappeared in record time. Our stand-out savoury Luxembourgish dish? Rieslingspaschtéit – a loaf-shaped meat pie with a hole in the top, into which white wine jelly is poured and left to set – widely available in bakeries throughout the city.

48-hour yogurt-injected aubergine 

Ever wanted to know how to get meltingly soft aubergines? We’ve found the answer at new Israeli fusion restaurant Bala Baya in London. A staple ingredient in Israeli cuisine, head chef Eran Tibi wanted to take the aubergine and elevate it to new heights. How? By subjecting it to a 48-hour process involving several different cooking methods. First up, it’s smoked in tea, ‘mountain herbs’ (sage, rosemary, thyme and oregano), wood chips and brown sugar, to give a tea-scented smokiness. Next, it's steamed above a vegetable broth to soften it and add yet more flavour before caramelising the edges in a pan. Then - when it's smoky, caramelised and steamed to as soft a texture as is possible without it falling apart - it's injected (yes, injected) with a seasoned lime yogurt. This means the yogurt mix oozes all the way into the flesh, giving a buttery, near-liquid texture when eating. Finished with date glaze and sprinkled with a hazelnut crumb, this is aubergine like we’ve never had before. Is it time we all started injecting our vegetables?

Sweet potato yogurt

All hail the sweet potato - the healthier, sweeter sister to the humble spud, and just as versatile. As a nation, we adore it, and sales have soared in recent years, with M&S reporting a rise of 76% in 2016. You've probably tried it roasted, baked, stuffed and even masquerading as 'toast' but have you ever had it in a yogurt? In November, Waitrose released their annual food & drink report which predicted that vegetable yogurts would be the next big trend for 2017. Our assistant food editor Miriam is in New York, where vegetable yogurts are already all the rage. She tried this one from Blue Hill, a company who make grass-fed milk yogurt in a variety of vegetable flavours, from beetroot to parsnip. With a more savoury taste than fruit yogurts, these are versatile enough to be used in a variety of both sweet and savoury dishes. But the natural sweetness in the sweet potato variety (helped by a dash of maple syrup) means this one is also delicious on its own, straight from the tub. We’re hoping this will make it across the pond soon!

 

Whole octopus tentacles

Octopus tentaclesWe’re ‘suckers’ for a bit of octopus…(ahem). And we’re clearly not the only ones, as whole octopus tentacles are a popular item on restaurant menus at the moment. We had this one at British/Indian chef Romy Gill’s latest residency at Carousel. Boiling the octopus first means the texture becomes deliciously tender and meaty – a great vehicle for punchy flavours like this Indian-spiced marinade. Romy rubs the boiled tentacles in ginger, garlic, fennel and nigella seeds, chilli and tamarind, then pan-fries right before serving for a charred, sticky finish. Served with sour tamarind chutney and crunchy fennel, apple and dill slaw to bring a little freshness, it was one of many flavour-packed dishes on the nine-course menu. Romy is due to return to Carousel in autumn, so keep checking the website for details.

Childhood sweets

sweet shop flavoursThere’s nothing like biting into something that sends you back to your childhood. Right now, nostalgia is a huge trend in food and chefs are tapping into our favourite memories by bringing back classic retro dishes and reinventing old school sweets. And what could be more old school than a sherbet dip dab? We tried this take on the sweetshop favourite for dessert at The Mash Inn. Forced Yorkshire rhubarb was used for dipping (and dabbing…) into the sherbet, which was made from dehydrated pomello pith and skin, blended with icing sugar and acetic acid powder for that characteristic tang. More of a rhubarb & custard sweet fan? Longflint cocktail company are getting behind the trend too, having just created an exclusive rhubarb & custard cocktail recipe for Good Food, complete with crushed rhubarb & custard sweets to make the glass’s sugar rim. Check it out in February’s BBC Good Food magazine, on sale 26 Jan. 

‘A Window to the Ivy’

The IvyThis year marks the 100th birthday of one of London’s most renowned restaurants, The Ivy. So how does a restaurant like this celebrate such an epic birthday? With a year-long schedule of events, of course! Kicking off in December with a performance by Kylie Minogue, this month saw the unveiling of a green plaque to mark the centenary and the launch of this beautiful new dessert. Designed to look like the iconic restaurant windows, the white chocolate ‘window’ sheet hides a stunning, rich chocolate mousse, with a smooth cherry centre and a layer of chocolate sponge. It’s served with macerated cherries and chocolate ivy leaves. The rest of the year will include great deals on pre- and post- theatre menus throughout spring and the arrival of new book “The Ivy Now” in summer. See the website for more details. 

 

Nonnette

Have you ever heard of a nonnette? A French bake meaning ‘little nun’, these small, round cakes are a speciality of Dijon, allegedly first made in religious convents in the Middle Ages, hence the (very cute) name. A variation on pain d’epices (a lightly spiced French bread-cake hybrid made using rye flour and honey), nonnettes differ in the addition of orange marmalade, which is typically baked into the centre or on top. We spotted this version at Putney market. Inspired by a trip to Dijon, the guys at Bonobo Social brought the idea back to the UK, but with a twist – ginger. If you’re a fan of ginger, you’ll love these. Not only has the orange marmalade been swapped for a delicious ginger jam, but the cake itself also contains chopped ginger, along with traditional spices like cinnamon and nutmeg. The cake is then topped with a sweet icing, crystallised ginger and flaked almonds. Could this be a new baking trend?

Kombucha

It’s January, so chances are you’re one of the many people trying to cut back on unhealthy habits. Recent reports have warned that fizzy drinks can contain more sugar than your entire daily allowance in just one can. If you’re trying to kick a can-a-day habit, then kombucha might be the answer to your prayers. Back in April, we identified kombucha as a trend to watch. Since then, it’s grown in popularity and is now more accessible thanks to brands like Jarr Kombucha, who sell 240ml bottles online and in health food stores. Kombucha is raw fermented tea. While that may raise a few eyebrows, it’s actually got a huge following. A refreshing fizzy drink, it makes a great healthy alternative to other soft drinks – not only is it much lower in sugar, with less than 4 grams of sugar per 100ml, the fermentation means it’s also full of probiotics, antioxidants and vitamins. It'll make a good alternative to alcohol if you’re doing dry January! 

Welsh rarebit baked potato

There’s an emotional upswing that can be gained from a comforting dish of pure pleasure, making January a brighter month. Our vote goes to the Welsh rarebit baked potato at Smokestak. Crisp potato skin, unctuous cheesy, potato filling and that gorgeous crisp-at-the-edges browned top. Too nice to share, you’ll need one to yourself. To try it at home, bake potatoes and make the Welsh rarebit mixture from our classic recipe. Scoop out the potato, mix it with most of the topping, stuff the mash back in and spread on the remaining topping. A couple of minutes under the grill will finish things off nicely. 

Coronation cauliflower

Another day, another way with cauliflower. As vegetables take centre stage on more menus, chefs are experimenting with new and exciting ways to elevate cheap veg into something extraordinary. And cauliflower has really been pushed to its limits in 2016 – fried as steaks, made into ‘rice’, used as ‘pizza crusts’. Just when we thought we’d seen it all, we tried this – coronation cauliflower. It’s on the menu at Counter Culture, a tiny restaurant in Clapham that serves small plates, with an emphasis on pickling and fermenting. A take on the retro classic, charred chunks of roasted cauliflower are served with a coronation-style spiced yogurt sauce. Plump, pickled raisins bring an element of sharpness which cuts through the sweet curried sauce and the dish is finished with a sprinkling of crunchy flaked almonds. Does it beat a coronation chicken sarnie? No contest. 

 

Our latest Healthy Diet Plan

New year, new delicious and nutritious dishes to try! This week our writer Sarah has been following our free January 2017 Healthy Diet Plan – and so far she’s loving every bite. Our latest seven-day plan features easy, fuss-free recipes, which have all been nutritionally analysed and provide around 1,500 kcals and more than your five fruit and veg per day. As with all our plans, we’ve steered clear of processed foods and stocked up on fats, lean protein and slow-release carbs. Dishes include soda bread topped with sliced pear and blue cheese (yes, CHEESE), poached eggs with avocado on toast (our brunch fave) – and there’s even a Sunday roast! Sound good? Sign up today and you’ll join more than 150,000 people who have now tried and tested our Healthy Diet Plans. Don’t forget to share your photos on Instagram and Twitter using #HDPdiary – we’ll repost our favourites!

 

Samphire pakora

It wasn’t too long ago that samphire was a rare delicacy, not widely available to consumers and mainly used by chefs as an accompaniment to fish and seafood. But in recent years, sales of this salty sea vegetable have soared, with Tesco reporting an 80% increase in sales last year. Now, we’re seeing samphire on more menus and served in increasingly unusual ways. At modern Indian fusion restaurant Kricket, it’s given star status in one of their most popular starters – samphire pakora. Coated and deep-fried, the result is a bowl full of deliciously salty, crisp and completely addictive samphire bites. Balanced by a drizzle of sweet, sticky date & tamarind chutney and served with a creamy chilli & garlic mayonnaise for dunking, this is our new favourite way to eat samphire. Trust us, you’ll want to order another bowl. Find it on the menu at Kricket in Brixton and Soho.
 

Galette des rois

A galette des rois (‘King cake’ or 'Epiphany cake’) is a French pastry, eaten on 6th January to mark the feast of the Epiphany. The tradition is huge in France, where every patisserie sells them throughout January. The galette des rois is somewhere between a tart and a pie – golden puff pastry encases a sweet, soft frangipane filling. Traditionally, a fève (a charm, normally in the form of a porcelain figurine) is hidden within the pie - whoever gets the slice containing this is crowned the king for the day (some galettes des rois are even sold with a paper crown for the winner to wear). Luckily for us, with more French patisseries in the UK now, we get a slice of the action too. We got our hands on this buttery, golden galette des rois from popular French bakery PAUL. Find it in PAUL stores until the end of the month. Or, if you’d prefer to make one yourself, try our galette de rois recipe.
 

Ghee

You’ve seen the news... fats are in. Good fats, that is. That’s the message being spread by Nick Barnard, owner of Rude Health and author of Eat Right. We recently joined Nick at Rude Health Café to learn about good fats, including one in particular - ghee. Ghee is similar to clarified butter but, contrary to popular belief, not the same thing. Both involve heating butter to remove the milk proteins, but ghee is made when clarified butter is heated at a higher temperature and for longer so that most of the water is driven off. This means ghee has a higher smoke point than both butter and clarified butter, making it an incredibly useful fat to cook with. Making your own may seem daunting but Nick shows us it’s actually very simple. All you need is unsalted butter, a heavy-based saucepan and a bit of patience! The longer you heat the milk solids, the more caramelised it becomes in flavour. We can’t get enough of it spread on crusty bread but it’s also great stirred through porridge and used for cooking. Removing the milk proteins also means ghee has a great shelf life and can be kept unrefrigerated for months. Nick is running another demonstration on ghee in February. 

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 December
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

 

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