Our weekly food diary shares on-trend ingredients, fun foodie events, Instagrammable restaurant dishes and must-try street eats.
In January we tried…
The Scots may have been eating savoury porridge for centuries (traditional Scottish porridge is seasoned with salt only), but we’ve noticed a recent trend that goes much further than a pinch of salt. Forget blueberries and bananas – think Indian dhal-style porridge, leek & mushroom, or even cauliflower porridge with poached egg. The latest to pique our attention was this Asian congee-inspired number on the brunch menu at Hackney’s Rawduck. This bowl of hot, umami goodness has a texture somewhere between porridge and slightly al dente risotto, thanks to the brown rice. Kombu (seaweed), soy sauce and bonito flakes (Japanese dried fish flakes) provide saltiness and added layers of texture, while a sprinkle of togarashi pepper gives gentle heat. It’s then topped with an oozing poached egg. That’s what we call brunch. On the breakfast menu at sister restaurant Little Duck, you can also find a more classic oat-based savoury porridge with shiitake mushrooms and wakame seaweed. Head chef Tom Hill describes the porridge as ‘a warming savoury start to the day, and a nice thing to draw people away from avocado on toast’. Hear hear.
We all love naan bread with our curry, but what if it was the main event? This week, we’ve been to the newly opened Hankies Marble Arch in London, named after a type of Indian bread. The restaurant – situated inside Montcalm hotel – serves great-value North Indian small plates and specialises in roomali roti, which is a type of Indian roti that’s hand-spun until it’s paper-thin and cooked on a burning hot roomali tawa (a rounded hot plate that looks a little like an upside-down wok, used for cooking chapatis). These thin rotis are then folded up like a hanky and eaten with different dipping sauces and toppings. There are also Indian street-food bites, grilled meats and curries on the menu. Our stand-out dishes were the lamb chops marinated in Kashmiri chillies, paprika & mustard, and the spiced sea bream, plus those all-important (and seriously addictive) hankies, dunked in mango & basil chutney.
Squid ink bao buns with fermented leeks & smoked eel
Here’s a dish that ticks a lot of boxes on the trend-o-meter… it’s black (tick), it involves bao buns (tick), there’s something smoked (tick) and there’s something fermented (tick). Celebrating Salon restaurant’s fifth birthday, this dish was one of several courses created especially for the event by chefs from some of London and the South East’s best restaurants. This one came from Lee Tiernan of Highbury’s Black Axe Mangal. Taiwanese steamed buns are still very much on trend right now, and these super light and fluffy buns are made with added horseradish and squid ink for a striking twist on the classic. Inside, thick slices of meaty, home-smoked eel are cut through by the sweet, crunchy leeks, resulting in a perfect mouthful of textures and flavours.
A thud reverberated around the office this week when our head of magazines threw an unidentified object to the floor. “It’s the only way to open it”, he claimed. The object in question was large and oval-shaped, with a suede-like outer coating and a stalk at the top, a bit like a slightly furry young coconut. In fact, a baobab. You may have heard of it in connection with its numerous healthy properties including high levels of antioxidants, vitamin C and potassium. Once smashed open, the innards look like chunks of chalk. Eaten in pieces, it has a similar flavour and texture to sherbet – slightly powdery and very tangy. The fruit grows on baobab trees in Africa and parts of Australia. On these shores until recently, we’d only seen it in powdered form at health food shops, but Yeo Valley is now using it in its limited edition baobab & vanilla yogurt. The verdict? Well, it’s made with whole milk so is super smooth and creamy. Add to that a hint of vanilla and the subtle citrus notes of baobab and you’re onto a winner! Find it in all the major supermarkets (£1.55, 450g).
Here at Good Food HQ, we love a spud. Just search ‘potato’ on our site and you’ll find over 1200 recipes… There’s almost no end to what you can do with them – from baked, fried and mashed to Dauphinoise and domino – but a favourite among our cookery team (particularly with food-editor-at-large Barney Desmazery) is Pommes Anna. A classic French dish, it involves layers of thinly sliced potatoes and lots of butter, baked in the oven to result in a crisp, layered potato cake. Heaven. Our cookery assistant Elena Silcock was delighted to come across an epic variation on the concept during a recent trip to South Africa. At Capetown restaurant Ash, the all-important crisped up potato layers are still in evidence, but rather than a round potato cake, they are squarely stacked and compressed to make the texture soft on the inside and unbelievably crispy on the outside – they taste like they’ve been deep-fried. Served with fresh thyme and lemon mayo for dunking, we may have just found our favourite new way to eat potatoes. If you fancy making your own, check out Barney’s crackling Pommes Anna recipe.
If you haven’t heard of aquafaba yet, where have you been? This magic ingredient has become increasingly popular in recent years, thanks to the rise of veganism. It refers to the liquid that you find in a tin of chickpeas which, when whipped up, mimics whisked egg whites. We’ve got plenty of vegan recipes on the site using this clever ingredient, from gingerbread people to vegan meringues, but now it’s making its way into new products. The latest to land on our desks is this aquafaba mayo from Rubies in the Rubble, a sustainable food company that makes sauces, condiments and preserves from ingredients that would otherwise be wasted. We’ve tried plenty of egg-free mayonnaises over the years but none have felt like a match for the egg-based original – until now. Hats off. Find it online at Rubies in the Rubble or in Whole Foods Market (£3.50, 210g).
If you thought 2018 would be the year we finally stopped talking about gin, well, you’d be wrong. The Gintleman, aka Carl Hawkins, of Birmingham cocktail bar and gin parlour Jekyll & Hyde has opened our eyes to savoury gins at one of his regular gin tasting events at Loki wine bar (also in Birmingham). These are gins specifically designed to be enjoyed with food. For example, if you’re cooking a tomato-rich Italian dish like spaghetti Bolognese, you can pair it with Black Tomato Gin. As the name suggests, it’s made from black tomatoes grown in volcanic soil for their sweet, intense flavour. It’s also got a slight peppery kick, perfectly complementing Italian cuisine as well as seafood. And what about a gin to go with curry? We’ve got you covered there, too: Crazy Gin. Made by a producer from Wolverhampton who wanted to inject his Punjabi heritage into a gin, it contains a range of spices you’d find in curries, including coriander, turmeric and black pepper. We tried it with a range of Indian snacks like pakoras, samosas and bhajis and it was the ideal pairing.
Have you heard? The great British banger has been given a flexitarian makeover. Good news for the health-conscious, veg-crunching generation and parents who want to reduce the amount of meat the family consumes. The last few years have seen a steady rise in sausages that contain less pork and more veg and pulses, without compromising on flavour. We’ve previously tried (and loved) smoky chipotle sweet potato & red pepper sausages from The Crafty Carnivore, but now supermarkets are getting in on the action too. The latest to land on shelves are Good Health sausages from Waitrose that contain at least 25% veg, fruit or pulses. Choose from pork with butternut squash, quinoa & kale, mini Toulouse-style with butterbean, lentil & garlic pork, or pork with chickpea, spinach & tomato. So, do they taste good? This week, we put them to the test the best way we know how: by giving them to our head of magazines Keith Kendrick and his kids – the ultimate sausage connoisseurs. The verdict? Not only are they bursting with flavour, but the texture sets them apart from your traditional banger. Each ingredient is identifiable and the nuts and grains add satisfying bite.
You may have heard of Chinese hotpot and you may have tried Korean BBQ, but have you ever had the two combined? Introducing ‘mookrata’, a concept we are very excited about. The word mu kratha in Thai literally means ‘pan pork’ but is commonly used to refer to the combination of Korean BBQ and Chinese hotpot, which is hugely popular in Thailand. This month, it’s come to the UK in the form of the Mookrata pop-up, upstairs in London’s Shuang Shuang restaurant. In a highly interactive, fun way of eating, diners are given a hot plate for grilling meats (the Korean BBQ part) with an integrated, moat-like ring around it for the hot broth to go into (the hotpot part). Add veg and noodles to the broth whilst frying the meat on the hot plate, then amp up the flavour with a range of toppings and sauces including miso, ginger and garlic, or a hotter, sriracha-based sauce. A conveyer belt also travels round the room, offering extras like kimchi, more noodles and other meat and fish options. We hope to see more of this fun fusion concept appearing across the country.
Fondue is back! You may know it as a French Alpine favourite or 70s dinner party classic, but sales of fondue sets recently doubled at Lakeland and it’s now popping up on restaurant menus. Not surprisingly, cheese-only eatery The Cheese Bar in Camden, London, got in on the action with the launch of ‘fondue Thursdays’ in November and it’s proved so popular it’s being extended till February. And we can see why. Their classic fondue combines four quality cheeses – Coolea, Ogleshield, Doddington and Mayfield – plus a splash each of white wine and kirsch, and there’s also a blue cheese & cider option. If those don’t have you salivating, the sides will. As well as fresh baguette and pickles (that come as standard) there’s Cobble Lane Cured charcuterie, truffled roast potatoes, pigs in blankets and deep-fried Brussels sprouts. Dipping a herb-studded sausage wrapped in crisp, salty bacon into a pot of hot, oozy cheese has been a highlight of January – comfort food at its best. You could try making our easy fondue recipe at home or watch our fondue video guide.
Healthy Diet Plan
For those wanting to start the year in healthier fashion, as opposed to eating sausages dipped in cheese (fair enough), this one’s for you. We’ve just launched our free 2018 Healthy Diet Plan, a seven-day menu created alongside nutritional therapist Kerry Torrens. It features well-balanced breakfasts, lunches and dinners packed with healthy fats, lean protein and slow-release carbs, plus expert tips and advice. If eaten in the recommended order each day, the plan provides a balance of protein, fat and carbs to achieve optimal nutrient levels and manage hormone and blood sugar levels. Plus, you’ll get your five-a-day, every day. Our health writer Sarah Lienard has been following the plan and her highlights include steak with sweet potato fries (this diet sounds good so far…), beetroot & halloumi salad plus lamb biryani. Whether you want to lose weight, increase your energy levels or just feel better, you can find the Healthy Diet Plan in our January issue (on sale now) or sign up for free.
Sometimes you just can’t beat a plate of chips – each one crisp on the outside, fluffy on the inside, and generously sprinkled with salt. Over the years, we’ve seen a number of different vegetables trying to compete with the classic potato chip. Great for those who want to cut the carbs, you can use just about any veg for fries – provided they are well seasoned and boast that combination of a crunchy exterior with a soft middle. We’ve tried fries made from carrots, courgettes and even avocado, but the latest vegetable to get the chip treatment – and our favourite so far – is aubergine. Enjoyed by our cookery writer Sophie Godwin on a sun-soaked restaurant terrace on Australia’s Gold Coast (alright for some!), these aubergine fries had a lightly spiced, crunchy coating with hot, meltingly soft aubergine flesh inside. Dunked in ‘kewpie’ mayonnaise (a popular Japanese mayo made with rice vinegar) they’re a lighter, Asian-inspired take on French fries. We reckon it’s only a matter of time before aubergine fries appear on menus here, too. If you fancy turning veg into fries at home, check out our recipes for skinny carrot fries or more indulgent asparagus fries with baconnaise.