Our weekly food diary shares on-trend ingredients, fun foodie events, Instagrammable restaurant dishes and must-try street eats.
In July we tried...
Londoners, prepare to get to grips with this Chinese street food staple. After the success of its hole-in-the-wall shop in Soho, jian bing specialist Pleasant Lady Trading has now opened a stall in east London’s Old Spitalfields Market. Not familiar with jian bing? It might just be the ultimate street food – super-quick to prepare, easy to eat (although it can get a bit messy) and packed full of different flavours and textures. Watch in awe as staff make these crispy, stuffed pancakes at record speed. Crêpe-style batter is spread around a hot stone and an egg is cracked over before the toppings are added: fermented bean sauce with sesame and peanut paste, daikon pickles, coriander and parsley salad, and your choice of Iberico pork, miso chicken or cumin lamb (or you can keep it veggie) – not forgetting house-made crispy wontons for an added layer of crunch!
The word ‘deconstructed’ on a menu can sometimes ring alarm bells. We’ve had our fair share of dishes that shouldn’t have been tampered with (tiramisu, taken apart to result in dry sponge, a shot of coffee and a small amount of cream? No thank you.) So we were a little sceptical about the concept of deconstructed pizza. But this one that we tried on a trip to Varese in northern Italy exceeded expectations. Served at La Piedigrotta restaurant, it's formed of a perfectly baked pizza base, slathered with basil sauce and topped with a small shot glass of yellow tomato sauce and a wedge of smoked mozzarella. The idea is to put the mozzarella on the pizza slice and pour the tomato sauce over. Then, if that’s not enough, in the centre is a jar of stracciatella cheese (the soft, creamy inside of burrata) – the best, most indulgent thing for dipping your crusts into. Thanks to well-paired, high-quality ingredients, it turns out this is not only a delicious but also a fun way to eat pizza. We’re hoping it might catch on here...
Mary Poppins afternoon tea
Themed afternoon teas are huge right now, and it seems there’s one for everyone. We tried this Mary Poppins-themed afternoon tea at Aqua Shard, on the 31st floor of The Shard in London. As a special treat, it’s well worth it for fans of the film and/or book, as the dedication to the theme is impressive. The sandwiches and cakes arrive on Mary Poppins’s boots, shaded by her umbrella, and the scones? Well, they appear out of Mary’s bag, of course! As for the food, our highlights were the crumbly scones with jam and the golden syrup-soaked sponge with cream and raspberries. Full review coming to bbcgoodfood.com very soon – watch this space.
Peru's cuisine lends itself well to fusion with other cultures, such as Japanese (ceviche plus sushi and sashimi, also known as ‘nikkei’ cuisine) and Mexican (think ceviche tacos). But here’s a more unusual fusion that we hadn’t seen before – Peruvian meets Italian! For this month only, Virgilio Martinez, head chef of celebrated Peruvian restaurant Lima, has created a guest pizza for Jason Atherton’s Italian restaurant Hai Cenato in Victoria, London. The fluffy sourdough base has stayed the same, but Martinez has created a Peruvian-inspired topping, with a layer of pumpkin and coriander purée flavoured with cumin, red onion, garlic and amarillo chilli paste, topped with cheese and melt-in-the-mouth slow-cooked short ribs. Intrigued? It’s available this month at Hai Cenato – and for each pizza sold, £1 goes to the charity Hospitality Action.
Brown Shrimp Ränhofer
We’ve been to several new restaurant openings lately that all have one thing in common: some form of seafood on toast (or, as we saw last month, seafood on crumpets). For example, take this starter from new restaurant Cora Pearl in Covent Garden, London. Named ‘Brown Shrimp Ranhöfer’, it’s made using brown shrimps with a smoked anchovy, mustard, chilli and herb mayonnaise, served on a sourdough crouton that’s been fried in butter and seasoned with homemade scotch bonnet salt. In other words, amped-up prawns on toast. We know what you’re thinking, though: ‘What’s Ranhöfer?’ Well, the question is actually who. Charles Ranhöfer was the private chef for Cora Pearl – the celebrated British courtesan, originally from Covent Garden, who the restaurant is named after! It's said he used to cook a dish very similar to this one for Cora.
Cobnuts are coming! They're traditionally grown in Kent, but these ones were plucked from the tree early (so not yet ripe) in our very own Food Editor Barney’s London garden – before the squirrels could get at them! A variety of hazelnut, cobnuts have a short but celebrated season, usually starting in mid to late August when the nuts are young, green and slightly soft, with a taste that's been likened to fresh coconut. They turn golden throughout September, becoming harder and sweeter. You can pre-order green/golden cobnuts online now via Allens Farm or Potash Farm. You’ll also find brown cobnuts in greengrocers, specialist shops and some Waitrose branches throughout autumn. We love them salted, roasted and tossed into a salad with bitter leaves and blue cheese, finely grated over pasta for a nutty alternative to parmesan, or steeped in alcohol to make a cobnut liqueur.
With summer in full swing, there’s an abundance of excellent British fruit and veg around. We visited the Knight's Bar at Simpson’s in the Strand to try the new cocktail list, ‘inspired by the bountiful and often overlooked British produce available on the market’. The cocktails on the Allotment Menu are designed to complement the restaurant menu – both menus change with the seasons, and right now is a great time to go with plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables and herbs in their prime. Each cocktail focuses on a different British-grown ingredient, from fig to basil. We tried the Peach (with white rum, grape and pineapple) and the Strawberry (with vodka and English sparkling wine).
Peas with everything
To mark Great British Pea Week (9-15 July), we popped in to The Pea Place – a pop-up café set up on London’s Brick Lane in honour of the great British pea. The aim of the game? To remind us that peas are not only healthy (they’re packed with vitamin C, vitamin B1, iron and zinc, to name a few) but also extremely versatile. No longer seen as just a side dish, peas are a great ingredient in their own right. We had them here in a pea, feta & basil frittata, a zingy Asian-dressed quinoa, fresh herb & pea salad, a pea hummus, and even a pea, mint & honey ice cream. Their sweetness lends them to not just savoury but also sweet dishes. Still not convinced? Try our brand-new pea mousse recipe for dessert, and you soon will be – or see our recipe list for more pea inspiration.
Gooseberry & elderflower sour beer
The trend for sour beers isn't going anywhere, and they seem to get more popular every summer, as our fondness for astringent and fermented flavours grows. On offer at nearly all of the beer stalls at Canopy Market in London’s Kings Cross, this sour beer by Brick Brewery caught our attention. Sour beers are always a good choice on a hot day, as the mouth-puckering sharpness makes them even more refreshing, and the addition of elderflower and gooseberries in this one made it even better matched to the season – not to mention it’s a flavour combination we hadn’t seen in a sour beer before. One to watch out for.
White miso ice cream
Made with white miso ice cream, natural wine syrup, British strawberries (both ripe and underripe) and elderflower sponge, this dessert is nothing less than trend-tastic. We tasted it at The Laughing Heart in Hackney, London, as part of a collaboration between head chef Tom Anglesea and Mitch Orr of Acme in Sydney. In desserts like this, white miso adds a salty, savoury edge, intensifying the other flavours it mixes with. As for underripe green strawberries, René Redzepi of Noma has been a fan for years – their tart, vegetal flavour plays well against aromatic ripe fruit, adding a sweet-sour note to dishes. Useful to know at the end of the season if you have strawberry plants, as there are always a few that won’t ripen...
Street food specialists Gourmet Goat serve up Eastern Mediterranean delicacies in Borough Market, London. This month they’ve teamed up with pizza restaurant 400 Rabbits to create their latest collaboration pizza, the ‘meat special’ – topped with baharat-spiced kid goat mince, crème fraîche, aubergine, tomato sauce, preserved lemon, mozzarella and fresh oregano. Passionate about sustainability, Gourmet Goat source their free-range meat from Gourmet Goatling (@GGoatling), who raise surplus billy goats from the dairy industry.
Ice cream eclairs
Choux pastry (used in eclairs and profiteroles) is definitely dazzling us at the moment, and elegant patisserie is everywhere. What better way to adapt it to the continued heatwave than to add ice cream? As part of a new dessert range from Marks & Spencer, we tried these semifreddo eclairs in chocolate & pistachio and the heritage raspberry with white chocolate decoration. They're stylish, smart and not too sweet – the semifreddo filling is neatly piped between either chocolate choux or plain. The chocolate version is topped with a glossy chocolate glaze and pistachio nibs, and the raspberry dusted with edible lustre dust over a raspberry gel.
Missed an entry in our food diary? Find out what we've eaten previously...