Our weekly food diary shares on-trend ingredients, fun foodie events, Insta-friendly restaurant dishes and must-try street eats.
In July we tried...
Meat the new snack on the block. We’ve noticed a rise in ‘meat-based snacks’, with jerky and biltong gaining popularity in the last few years. Ocado reported a 74% increase in biltong sales in 2018. But, for those who aren’t keen on the chewy texture, there’s an exciting new snack on the scene: charcuterie crisps. New in M&S, these salty, super-crispy snacks are made by air-drying thin slices of cured meat (salami, chorizo and serrano ham) until they’re as crunchy as potato crisps, and almost as addictive. While far too salty to eat a whole packet, they're a perfect nibble to enjoy with a cold beer, or great as a garnish crumbled over mac & cheese, risottos, or salads for crunch and flavour. Ahead of the curve with this trend is Made for Drink, who also make meat crisps for pairing with booze.
Whether it's Heston Blumenthal’s famous meat fruit, or French patissier Cedric Grolet’s stunning patisserie apple, everyone loves a dish with an element of surprise to spark a bit of wonder at the table. This dish from newly opened ArrosQD, by renowned Spanish chef Quique Dacosta, does just that. Designed to look like the stones in the garden of Dacosta’s eponymous three-Michelin-starred restaurant in Spain (moulds were even taken from those stones), these dark grey 'pebbles' are, in fact, a mix of cream cheese, parmesan and manchego coated in darkened cocoa butter. How do they taste? Super-rich, incredibly smooth and extremely indulgent. Although they're on the menu as a snack, those who love a cheeseboard might enjoy these at the end of the meal.
You might have tried traditional Turkish manti; parcels of pasta-like dough filled with ground meat and onions, usually drenched in a yogurt sauce and chilli. At The Mantl, a Turkish restaurant in London's Knightsbridge, founder Serdar Demir has reinvented it. He explains: 'Manti is a famous meal in Turkey which takes time to prepare, but is well worth it. The dumplings are served with a delicious homemade yogurt sauce and chilli oil, but it can be heavy. Our version is known as feraye and is crispy and much lighter.' They're not only much smaller in size but also baked, rather than boiled, to result in light, crunchy morsels. The heavy sauce is swapped for a spoonful of smoked yogurt and a drizzle of mint butter, which adds freshness.
Last week we told you cold brew tea was trending (see below), but it’s not the only tea that’s hot (or more accurately, cold) right now – we’ve noticed a rise in popularity of other cold, tea-based drinks like kombucha and iced tea, which have both seen an increase in google searches recently. Now, hot on the heels of the trend comes an innovative new drink from Fortnum & Mason: sparkling tea. Made from a blend of Fortnum’s best and rarest teas combined with grape juice and lemon juice, the resulting drink doesn’t really taste like a ‘fizzy tea’ as the name might suggest, but it’s light, refreshing and dry with fruity and floral notes. We took it to a BBQ and it was extremely well received – it makes a great non-alcoholic alternative to champagne or sparkling wine as it’s not too sweet and tastes refined.
We’ve tried cheese sealed in wax, cheese with furry washed rinds, even cheese wrapped in nettles, so how about cheese aged in hay? This is Witheridge, from the Nettlebed Creamery in Oxfordshire – a cheese developed as a solution to a problem. Creamery owner Rose Grimond says, ‘We had been making an Alpine-style cheese for a while but as it needed at least six months to age, we were finding that it was losing moisture before the flavour arrived. Then, our chief scientist Patrick Heathcoat Amory and I both noted that there are few greater aromas in the world than that of baled hay. In northwest France and in the Savoie it is common to age cheeses in hay. This acts like a thatch, keeping the moisture in, but it also imbues the rind with wonderful herby notes. We think we are the first British cheesemakers to do this. As we are in hay season right now we have been inspecting the pastures and leys (grasslands), identifying the myriad grasses and wildlfowers that make up the hay. As with the milk, the hay is organic and comes from the family farm. It is very gratifying to use a processing aid that, like the milk, reflects the terroir of the farm.’ The resulting cheese is incredible: complex and savoury with a minerally rind, and you can really taste the flavour brought by the hay.
Following the success of the world’s first non-alcoholic spirit, Seedlip, which launched in 2014, the number of booze-free alternatives to spirits – especially gin – on the market has now exploded. The latest to impress us is this ‘not gin’ by Sea Arch, tried last weekend at Dorset Seafood Festival. Inspired by the southwest coast of England, it’s made using sea kelp, along with other botanicals more typically found in gin, such as juniper berries, cardamom, angelica root and grapefruit. Unlike so many booze-free gin alternatives, this isn’t trying too hard to taste exactly like gin and has a more unique flavour, thanks to the sea kelp, which gives it a slight taste of the sea (in a good way!). It was the perfect tipple to accompany the seafood delights on offer at the festival, including scallops & chorizo from Jurassic Rocks and soft-shell crab tempura from The Mighty Soft Shell Crab. We had our ‘not gin’ mixed with tonic, lots of ice and garnished with salty samphire, but it would be great with a slice of cucumber too.
Cold brew tea
You’ve heard of cold brew coffee, but the latest trend in drinks is cold brew tea – in other other words, tea made by steeping tea bags (or loose tea leaves) in cold, rather than hot water, usually for a longer period of time. Tea giants Tetley and Twinings launched cold tea infusions products last summer, and more have followed this year, including Lipton and Teapigs. Louise, tea taster at Teapigs, explains the trend: ‛The herbal tea market has grown massively over the past few years and people are drinking less black tea. The cold brew trend is an extension of that and perfect for summer. Our infusions are specifically designed to brew quickly in cold water. They use fresh ingredients with no artificial sweeteners, flavours or added sugar so they’re an ideal healthy alternative to some of the more indulgent summer drinks.’ We tried the rose and lychee cold brew bag and really enjoyed its floral and slightly sweet and fruity flavour.
Pear and parmesan
After the realisation that the world couldn’t get enough of salted caramel, chefs began to get more daring with sweet-savoury combinations, using deeply savoury, umami flavours like miso and soy sauce in desserts. The latest example? Ice cream with parmesan. It might sound wrong at first, but in the case of this dessert at Italian restaurant Maremma in Brixton, it’s oh so right. The Maremma is a coastal area of Southern Tuscany in Italy and a favourite holiday destination for Brixton locals Alice Staple and Dickie Bielenberg, who decided to open a restaurant to bring the taste of the region to London. The menu focuses on simple, regional specialities and highlights include stunning wood-baked hake with clams, samphire and aioli and ‘torta di ceci’, a kind of chickpea pancake (the Maremma being one of the main chickpea growing areas in Italy) topped with artichokes three ways (puréed, roasted and crisp-fried), rocket and pecorino cheese. As for dessert, the Maremma is the furthest southern point in Italy where pears grow and here they are often eaten with cheese. In a nod to this, the restaurant designed a refreshing, slightly sorbet-like (yet still creamy) pear ice cream which is perfectly balanced in both texture and flavour with the salty, almost crystalline shavings of parmesan on top. A very pleasant surprise.
If you haven’t heard by now that plastic straws are bad news, then where have you been? The realisation that this kind of single-use plastic is detrimental to the environment has even led to a government ban on plastic straws, which will come into force in April 2020. So, whether at home or in a restaurant, pub or bar, we’re starting to see more eco-friendly alternatives to plastic straws, from paper to metal, but here’s a new one that certainly piqued our interest: pasta straws. Yes, straws made out of pasta, also known as ‘Stroodles’ are the latest to grace our glasses. It might sound a bizarre concept, but they really do have their pros – they’re more durable than paper, lasting for hours in drinks rather than minutes; they’re completely biodegradable and even edible (you could cook and eat them after use if you wanted to) and they’re flavourless when used in most drinks, although we found there was a very slight starchy flavour when we used one with plain water. Founder Maxim Gelmann, aka Mr Stroodle, sells his Stroodles to various bars but you can buy them to try out for yourself online at Amazon, see how ex-straw-dinary they really are…
Here at BBC Good Food, we can’t resist a good mash-up, so finding out that a street food truck in London’s Bethnal Green was serving up sushi tacos certainly piqued our interest. Inspired by street food markets in Tokyo (specifically the ever-so-charmingly named Piss Alley) and Latin America (mostly Mexico and Venezuela), husband-and-wife team Felipe Preece and Veronica Silva founded Sugoi JPN (sugoi meaning ‘cool’ in Japanese). From their tiny truck, they make seven varieties of ‘NoriTaco’, which combine Latin flavours with Japanese ingredients. The taco itself is made from a nori (seaweed) sheet which has been tempura-battered and deep-fried to create a shell sturdy enough to hold the generous fillings. Each one has a thick base of sticky sushi rice and fusion toppings. The Latin-and-Japanese flavours are no more apparent than in this Chingon taco (pictured), which combines sashimi-style chunks of raw tuna and salmon with pico de gallo, a Mexican salsa made from tomato, red onion, coriander and lime. We also loved the Señor Crab, topped with light, crispy tempura-fried soft shell crab, shichimi togarashi, coriander and spicy mayo. The only problem? Trying to eat it without making a mess!
A rather shocking report by the World Health Organisation earlier this year revealed that over 90 per cent of British people don’t eat enough fibre – which should be 30g a day for adults, according to NHS guidelines. In an attempt to alleviate the situation, GAIL’s bakery has just launched a new loaf that's full of natural fibre and nutrient-rich grains. The Einkorn & Whey Sourdough is made with red quinoa, soya beans, chia and millet seeds, and einkorn, nature’s oldest farmed wheat. The whey, which is a by-product of the cheese-making process, comes from GAIL’s long-standing partner, Quicke’s. The new loaf, which has 6g fibre per two slices, joins their existing collection of high-fibre loaves – Heritage Grain, 100% Rye, and Hove Wholemeal, all of which contain over 4g of fibre per 100g. And because Gail’s is known for their quality loaves, getting more fibre in your diet just got a whole lot tastier! If you’re still unsure about how much fibre you should be eating and how else to get it, check out our handy guide to fibre or try making one of our high-fibre recipes.
Vegetarian alpine cheese
Many of the world’s most famous (and favourite) cheeses are off-limits to vegetarians because they're made with rennet, an enzyme found in the stomach lining of cows that helps separate the curds and whey. These include parmesan, gorgonzola, pecorino romano, camembert and Alpine cheeses such as emmenthaler and gruyère. But Le Saint Mont des Alpes, a traditionally produced hard cheese from Savoie, France, is made with vegetarian rennet, which means that anyone who follows a meat-free lifestyle can indulge in the buttery, nutty, complex wonder of this melt-in-the-mouth fromage. The 10-month-matured cheese is produced by Sodiaal, France’s leading dairy co-operative made up of 11,800 dairy farmers. Savoie cows graze on the flowers of the Alps, producing incredibly rich milk which is then matured in cheese cellars and turned into 40kg wheels stamped with a floral symbol. We tried it at a cheese masterclass at London’s L’Atelier des Chefs, adding it to a walnut & apple salad as well as a luxuriously smooth and creamy macaroni cheese. To try it for yourself, find it in Waitrose & Partners stores.
Missed an entry in our food diary? Find out what we've eaten previously...
What we ate in June 2019
What we ate in May 2019
What we ate in April 2019
What we ate in March 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
What we ate in September 2018