Our weekly food diary shares right-now ingredients, fun foodie events, Instagrammable restaurant dishes and trendy street eats. Written by Anna Lawson.
In June we tried…
We clearly can’t get enough of avocado – even the recent threat of an avocado shortage hasn’t fazed us. It’s appearing in different forms on dozens of restaurant menus, but the fact that it’s turned up in a cocktail is worthy of special note. This week, we’ve been at Scandi-influenced bar & restaurant The Harcourt in London’s Marylebone for the launch of its new cocktail menu. Among the seasonal cocktails, it was the abacàtchy that caught our eye. The drink is made from avocado, honey and orange purée mixed with grape syrup and cachaça, and just to make it that little bit trendier, it’s finished with a frozen avocado popsicle made with honey and lime and dipped in coconut flakes. Our thoughts? What a surprise! We expected a thick, heavy consistency, a bit like a boozy smoothie, but it was light and refreshing. The flavour was wonderfully balanced and the avocado added smoothness.
Forget bowl-food, how about ball-food? We’ve noticed a huge increase in spherical food at restaurants, food events and bars lately. From meatballs to mac ‘n’ cheese balls, croquettes and arancini, these days if it’s a boule, it’s cool. Don’t believe us? We’ve been at newly opened Curveball in Balham, London, where most dishes on the menu take a globular form. Inspired by a love for the humble meatball and grown through a collective passion for travel, the founders of Curveball have created a menu of internationally-themed tasting plates, featuring all kinds of meat and veg-balls. Lovers of the traditional meatball might opt for the (already highly instagrammed) Tony Soprano – beef and pork balls in short rib ragu with rigatoni and melted cheese. But our highlights were these crispy fried chicken balls, swimming in hot sauce and topped with punchy blue cheese, skewered lamb balls with preserved lemon relish and harissa yogurt and vegetarian crushed pea, mint and parmesan croquettas with a crispy exterior and hot oozy centre. The verdict? Amaze-balls (naturally).
If you haven’t already noticed, watermelon is SO HOT RIGHT NOW (if not, then where have you been?)! Traditionalists eat it by the slice, but these days there are endless incarnations — watermelon lollies, watermelon slushies, watermelon vodka jelly shots and you can even buy toasted watermelon seeds for snacking or sprinkling on salads. It was only a matter of time before someone had the genius idea to combine watermelon with beer. In fact, there are a number of watermelon wheat beers out there, mostly from America, but we found this one from Tailgate beer at Craft Tooting, London. A fun summer drink, it has that refreshing watermelon sweetness and isn’t too heavy. You’ll only find watermelon in wheat beer because it lends itself better to the soft, fruity flavour that might get lost in a pale ale or bitter. You’ll find watermelon wheat beers in craft beer shops across the country. And for more watermelon recipe inspiration, make sure you pick up a copy of our July issue, on sale 6 July.
Vietnamese street food – Banh trang nuong
Vietnamese street food has really taken off in the UK recently but our editorial assistant Anna has been in Vietnam for a taste of the real deal. The streets of Da Lat are literally lined with food, whether it’s mountains of fruit and veg or small carts selling the Vietnamese street food we recognise here, including banh mi, noodle soup and fresh spring rolls. But here’s one you may not have heard of – banh trang nuong, often referred to by Westerners as ‘Vietnamese pizza’. Popular among the younger generation in southern Vietnam, particularly Da Lat, it’s cheap and incredibly quick to make (and eat!). Although each vendor has a signature way of topping theirs, the base is made up of the same essential ingredients. The seller puts a disc of rice paper on a small grill over hot coals, cracks over a chicken’s or quail’s egg and then sprinkles over spring onions, chilli and dried shrimp before whisking it up on the rice paper, like a thin layer of omelette. She’ll add a drizzle of chilli sauce (and in some cases, a range of intriguing extras, from whole shrimps to Dairylea cheese!) before rolling it up like a tortilla for eating on the go. It’s super simple, full of flavour and the best bit is…it was only 35p!
Miso apple turmeric kimchi
Spotted at the BBC Good Food show in Birmingham this weekend is a brand new product that ticks all the boxes on the trend-o-meter. In fact, it combines four of the hottest food trends in one little jar: fermented food, miso, turmeric and kimchi. More to the point though, it’s absolutely delicious. As fermented food, particularly kimchi, becomes increasingly popular, it was only a matter of time before we saw more creative variations on the Korean staple cropping up. British producer Barrel & Bone specialises in handmade, live fermented foods and their latest creation is a stroke of pure genius. Where standard kimchi provides a spicy umami punch, this miso, apple and turmeric version is far more complex in flavour – earthy turmeric, salty miso, and sweet apple results in an incredibly well-rounded flavour sensation. We can’t get enough of the stuff!
Duck confit kibbeh
What happens when Middle Eastern meze meets classic French cooking? Well in this case, something truly delicious. Yes, this is fusion food at it’s very best and one of our standout dishes at this year’s Taste of London. The festival in London’s Regent’s Park takes place 14-18 June and is a celebration of London’s best chefs, restaurants, food & drink. This epic morsel came from Taste Makers of London restaurant stand where food Instagrammer Clerkenwell Boy has teamed up with Melissa Hemsley, Laura Jackson and Rosie Birkett to serve a menu of their favourite dishes. This duck confit kibbeh was chosen by Clerkenwell Boy from the #CookForSyria recipe book, so £1 from every dish sold is donated to the cause. The original dish was created by The Good Egg and combines succulent duck confit with crisp, sesame-crusted kibbeh and is served with a creamy, smoked aubergine labneh. If you’re going to Taste of London this year, we recommend heading to the Taste Makers tent. Our regular contributor Rosie Birkett will also be there serving up popcorn cheesecake… Need we say more?
Jerusalem artichoke ice cream
With the weather finally heating up (hooray!), we’re all screaming for ice cream. We’ll pass on the vanilla, strawberry and chocolate though. We love to seek out the UK’s (and in this case Europe’s) most unusual ice cream flavours like last week’s black coconut and last month’s coffee & chicory. So, can we top those this week? We certainly can. Senior writer Sarah has been staying at the Hotel Relais Villa Del Golfo & Spa in Cannigione, northern Sardinia, and dining at the MiraLuna restaurant. The menu focuses on taking locally sourced ingredients and transforming them into fresh, modern takes on traditional Mediterranean cuisine. The star of the show? Jerusalem artichoke ice cream (yes, you read that right). It’s not a traditional Sardinian dish, but this interesting flavour, also seen at Noma Copenhagen, really works. The artichoke adds a delicate, mellow note to the ice cream, which pairs beautifully with the intensity of the dark chocolate mousse that it’s served alongside. This has got us thinking: which other vegetables would make delicious ice cream?
It seems not a week goes by without some twist on a gin & tonic gracing our tables. We’ve seen gin & tonic with cucumber and coriander, ginger and even cherry tomatoes but here’s a new one – plankton G&T. Yes plankton, the microscopic organism found in the sea, also known as microalgae. Intrigued? It’s still yet to kick off as a trend in the UK, but chef Angel Leon has been cooking with plankton at Aponiente restaurant in Cadiz, Spain for some years now, and even farms it on site. We visited the two-Michelin-starred restaurant last week for a truly inspiring meal. With four marine biologists working at the restaurant, these guys take the sea very seriously. And it shows. We tried such unique and interesting dishes as cuttlefish doughnuts, ‘sea sausages’ and crispy shrimp fritters, and to drink, this plankton gin & tonic made with Gin Mare, the all important plankton and some tonic water. The plankton is freeze-dried into a fine green powder, which is then reconstituted in water to use in the cocktail, resulting in a vibrant green drink. There’s even plankton added to the ice-cubes too. So what does it taste like? Well, somewhere between spirulina, spinach and nori – earthy-tasting, with a hint of the sea. Could plankton be the next big thing…?
Goth ice cream
Sick of the unicorn food craze? Well forget pink, sparkly and rainbow-coloured food and start channeling your inner goth because the latest trend to emerge is all about BLACK. While black food isn’t a new concept (think licorice and squid ink pasta), using charcoal or black sesame to colour foods has become more mainstream recently, with black ice cream (often referred to on social media as ‘goth ice cream’) set to be a big trend this summer. In fact, the trend began last year in New York (duh) when the coconut ash ice cream from Morgenstern’s creamery became an insta-sensation. This year, LA-based Little Damage ice cream has caused a similar stir with its almond charcoal version and, here in the UK, Jude’s has followed suit with a black coconut offering, available at Pear Tree Café in Battersea. We’ve been experimenting here at GF HQ but instead of using charcoal or coconut ash, we used black tahini, mixing it with honey, greek yogurt and cream. Admittedly, our choice of sprinkles isn’t very goth…perhaps we’re still hanging on to the unicorn trend after all! If you fancy giving goth ice cream a go, watch this space… Recipe coming to BBC Good Food soon.
Kimchi & stilton gougères
You may have heard of gougères – the light, fluffy bites of cheesy choux pastry from France, often served as a canape – but chances are you won’t have ever experienced gougères like this. These little delights were served at The Laughing Heart in Hackney as part of a special collaboration with pop-up project Snackbar for London Food month. Chefs Seb Myers and Freddie Janssen created an informal, Asian-fusion style snack menu which included unusual dishes such as crispy pork dumplings in eel broth, a mortadella banh mi and these totally epic kimchi & stilton gougères. We’ve long been fans of the cheese & kimchi toastie, seen at Antipode, London, and now these morsels of joy have taken the combination to another level. The lighter-than-air choux pastry, rich, creamy stilton and notes of spicy, umami-rich kimchi make these salty little bites a heavenly bar snack.
With a boom in newfound superfoods like teff, Ethiopian staples are starting to hit the mainstream, and we couldn’t be happier. Watch this space for more emerging Ethiopian food trends. These injera flatbreads made from teff flour are spongy, slightly sour and perfect for mopping up delicious meaty stews, spiced lentil mixes and crunchy salads. Until recently, the Ethiopian government had placed a ban on exports of teff for almost a decade. This was to combat domestic costs rising in a repeat of what happened in Bolivia when ‘quinoa fever’ gripped the UK. However, as teff production has doubled over the last five years, the ban has been partially lifted and the trickle through of this gluten-free grain has begun on a small scale. Why not try creating your own Ethiopian feast with these fabulous flatbreads and your favourite dips and spicy stews?
Bí Mật Tomato
The UK is embracing the next generation of Asian food trends, with Vietnamese and Filipino dishes becoming more commonplace. We’re all about exploring emerging cuisines with plenty of exciting herbs and spices. At Go Viet, a polished offshoot of Jeff Tan’s restaurant Vietfood, we were treated to these baby tomatoes. They might look simple, but don’t be deceived. These tomatoes have been marinated in 12 herbs and spices for 10 hours to give a refreshing, complex flavour on the palate. Some of our favourite traditional Vietnamese flavours like lemongrass and pandan leaves are blended with some more unusual flavours such as slightly bitter wild yam and hot Vietnamese mint. We reckon these chilled, bright red beauties would be perfect with a cool vodka martini, shaken or stirred.
Coriander and mint choc chip gelato
Following on from last week’s chicory and coffee treat (see below), this week we continued our search for unusually addictive ice cream flavours. This coriander and mint choc chip scoop is a blend of traditional creamy gelato and modern flavour touches from Vico at Cambridge Circus, an Italian eaterie that also boasts the award-winning Gelupo gelateria and café. We enjoyed the blend of classic mint and chocolate chip with earthy coriander, perfect for a refreshing afternoon pick-me-up. These innovative flavour combinations are the brain-child of chef Jacob Kenedy. He cites a dense, creamy texture as being key to a good gelato, with a huge dose of flavour, undiluted by sugar or water, and a clean finish. Grab yourself a cone and see for yourself what all the fuss is about.
Missed the last food diary? Find out what we ate last month, or visit our 12 month compilation to get fully up to speed…