Olives that aren’t olives
This week, we’ve taken our taste buds to La Rioja, a province in the north of Spain for a dinner with a difference. The region is most famous for, you guessed it, vineyards and vino. You might even be familiar with classic rural Spanish stews with tender local meats, pulses, plenty of spices and sausages. What you won’t be familiar with is the fare served up at the Marqués de Riscal restaurant. Chef Francis Paniego has created an experimental menu full of eye-opening twists on the traditional. We won’t spoil all the surprises this creative culinary experience has to offer, but we will share a highlight. This dish might look exactly like the cluster of shiny black olives you’re familiar with, sitting in a drizzle of olive oil with a fresh sprig of rosemary. Except they’re not. Bite through the soft gel-like, olive-flavoured exterior and you might taste soft cream cheese or briny anchovies. The team behind this eclectic menu have gone to great lengths to make sure each item is exquisite.
Giant party rings
There’s nothing we love more than a hearty dose of nostalgia. The bigger, the better. We’ve sampled everything from giant jaffa cakes to massive scones and even a giant mint choc ice. So trust us when we say we’re connoisseurs of super-sized childhood favourites. Now prepare yourself for the ultimate retro super treat. Clear your diary and prep the kitchen because these giant party rings from our cookery writer Sophie Godwin are the show-stopping party piece you’ve been waiting for. These classic biscuits have been given a 2017 makeover with modern flavour combinations like zesty lemon and floral Earl Grey for a decidedly grown-up afternoon sugar buzz. If you’re looking to bedazzle them at the bake sale or make something special for a birthday surprise, we’ve got you covered.
Chef Skye Gyngell has launched Table, a community pop-up with a waste-busting menu following a report from Wrap (the Waste and Resources Action Programme) that shows the UK throws out around £13 billion in edible food every year. All the dishes will be made using scraps from the kitchen at her busy restaurant, Spring. We tried this fresh, cheesy labneh made from leftover frothed coffee. This delicate dish was served with yesterday’s porridge sourdough loaf, wild flowers and greens with re-milled rye crackers. If the recent success of WastED from the team at Selfridges is anything to go by, we think this is a trend that will continue to develop and gather steam as restaurant chefs and home cooks alike are being encouraged to shop smarter, plan meals and find creative ways to use everything in the fridge to its fullest. Long live the food waste revolution!
Coffee and chicory ice cream
This is the summer of unusual ice cream. Forget your standard mint choc chip cone and embrace the unexpected. We were in the mood for sunshine and the finest pub grub around, so naturally we headed to Pub in the Park, the brainchild of Tom Kerridge. It was held in the picturesque, pastoral town of Marlow; a laid-back festival of tasting dishes, craft ales where we munched our way through Michelin stars, stall by stall. From The Hand and Flowers we tried this freshly churned coffee and chicory ice cream, with candied chicory and frosted pecans. A caffeine-packed treat, it has the perfect balance of sweetness and a slightly bitter, slightly spicy hit from the chicory, with a little crunch from the pecans. We enjoyed the fun juxtaposition of flavours in this fresh summer scoop.
Despite recent news that avocado prices are at a record high, our nationwide obsession shows no sign of slowing down. We can’t get enough of avocado toast, smoothies, cakes and bakes, so it was only a matter of time before it ended up in a chocolate bar. That’s right, inventive American chocolate brand Compartes has launched an avocado chocolate bar, made from white chocolate and California avocados. Here in the UK, similarly creative chocolate producer Paxton chocolate has added an apricot & avocado chocolate disc to its summer collection this year, along with other unique flavour combinations including strawberry, basil & lime. Admittedly, the avocado doesn’t give a distinct flavour to the chocolate, but rather adds a creaminess to the texture. We think we’ll see more avocado chocolate to come…
As if eggs weren’t Instagrammed enough already (there are over 7.7 million hits on Instagram for #eggs alone), a new way of cooking them has emerged and it’s taking the web by storm – cloud eggs. Yep, that’s eggs that look like a cloud. Insta-friendly indeed… but how do they taste? We experimented in the GF test kitchen to find out. Cloud eggs are made by whisking egg whites until light and fluffy then baking them in the oven, a bit like a savoury meringue. After 5-8 minutes, the yolk is added into a well in the centre for the final 3 minutes of cooking (or longer, depending how hard or soft you like your yolk). The result is an egg dish that certainly ticks the ‘light, fluffy and cloud-like’ boxes but fails to deliver on taste. Much like an egg white omelette, a serious amount of seasoning is needed to pull this out of the bland zone. We did, however, try a deluxe version, adding grated courgette (strained to reduce moisture), three types of cheese and a whole load of seasoning. This we could bear.
Just as we were getting used to seeing burrata on every restaurant menu, another Italian cheese variety stepped in to steal the limelight. Meet stracciatella, the silkier sister of our beloved burrata. In fact, stracciatella is quite simply the milky, creamy inside of burrata, without the protective outer layer. The verb stracciare in Italian means ‘to tear’ or ‘shred’. In cheese terms, stracciatella refers to strands of shredded mozzarella which are soaked in fresh cream to create an unctuous, creamy cheese. Our cookery team has been experimenting with the cheese and came up with a delicious spring salad – a mix of wild garlic flowers and peas, silky stracciatella, a drizzle of basil & mint oil and a scattering of savoury granola for added crunch. Forget caprese salad, we’ve been converted! You’ll find stracciatella at Italian restaurants across the country, including Palatino in London, Cin Cin in Brighton and Salvi’s mozzarella bar & restaurant, Manchester.
Gin & tonic tart tart
Gin & tonic fans, you’re going to want to read this… Not content with simply drinking it, chefs and food producers have been trying to emulate the flavour of gin & tonic in food recently (with varying degrees of success). We’ve seen gin & tonic ice cream, gin & tonic cakes and even gin & tonic crisps (yep, that one had us baffled too), but the latest to hit our supermarket shelves is gin & tonic tart. This Earl Grey and lemon-spiked dessert was created for Waitrose by king of experimental chefs Heston Blumenthal. The verdict? Biting into it is like biting into a gin & tonic – it’s some kind of Willy Wonka wizardry! Encased in a thin pastry crust, the zesty lemon filling and layer of jelly have aromatic juniper notes and are topped with a fizzy sugar, creating the exact flavour of a gin & tonic in pudding form.
You know fried chicken has peaked on the trend-o-meter when there’s a two-day festival dedicated to it! That’s right, street food collective Kerb put on the event of all events last weekend, showcasing the best chicken dishes from eight different street food vendors, all competing to win the crown (or in this case, the golden chicken). A trend that has shown no signs of slowing down, restaurants and street food vendors have been elevating this fast food staple to new heights in recent years. This isn’t the kind of fried chicken you eat mindlessly at 3am after a night out; it’s a new breed of flavour-packed deliciousness to savour. Among the offerings were these finger-licking spicy Korean wings from Mother Flipper and triple ginger beer battered jerk chicken from Only Jerkin, as well as the winner – masa fried chicken pieces with guava glaze and habanero mayo from Venezualan traders, Petare. A fried chicken party is our kind of party.
Forget starting your day with a cup of coffee, now you can have it on toast. Intrigued? So were we when this espresso spread from Flat Brew landed on our desks. Thick and dark, its appearance resembles tar – but don’t let that put you off. This sweet spread is a blend of dark-roasted Arabica coffee beans, cocoa butter, sugar, cream and butter. Imagine a sweet coffee buttercream, the kind you’d find on a coffee and walnut cake, then ramp up the flavour by about 100. We think it would be great spread on crumpets, pastries or even toast, but even better for a coffee cake. A world first, it’s only available for a short time at Selfridges Food Hall.
A cheese restaurant
Sweet cheesus, a bar completely dedicated to cheese – aptly named The Cheese Bar – has just opened in London and we couldn’t brie any happier. Concept restaurants continue to grow as a trend, from chicken wings (Randy’s Wing Bar) to champagne & hot dogs (Bubbledogs), so it was only a matter of time before cheese made it into the limelight. The idea came from the guys behind the incredibly successful The Cheese Truck, who specialise in epic, oozy cheese toasties. Wishing to expand into other cheese-based dishes, they opened a restaurant, with a menu that features more cheese than you can shake a mozzarella stick at. And talking of mozzarella sticks… these bad boys are a dream. Encased in super crisp, herby breadcrumbs, the mozzarella is hot, soft and stringy. Served with a vibrant marinara sauce, they are then topped with, yep, even more cheese (Parmesan this time). There’s also fondue, poutine, raclette and those ever-popular toasties, all made using British cheese. It’s a must for fans of fromage.
Thought going to a cocktail bar was fun? Well it just got even better. With so much competition, bars are upping their game (quite literally) to keep us entertained when drinking, whether it’s with ping-pong tables and games or increasingly theatrical cocktails. But here’s a new one – a self-service cocktail machine. This contraption, which looks like a cross between a 1950s kitchen dresser and an old-school arcade game, is at new pop-up rooftop bar Sisu, in London’s Mayfair. Simply purchase a coin token at the bar, load it into the machine, pick your poison (choose between a negroni or an old fashioned), stick a glass under the spout and wait for the magic to happen. It’s a thing of joy! We’re not saying that robots should take over the world or anything… but just this once, having a cocktail miraculously appear from a machine made us feel all giddy (…or was that the negroni?)
Tori paitan ramen
Ramen lovers among you may have eaten shoyu, miso and tonkotsu ramen, but have you ever tried tori paitan? New on the menu at the latest branch of Bone Daddies (St Christopher’s Place, London), it’s relatively unknown in the UK, but according to Bone Daddies founder Ross Shonhan, tori paitan ramen is just as popular as tonkotsu in Japan. So what’s the difference? Tonkotsu ramen is made by boiling ground-up pork bones for around 12-15 hours until the collagen has emulsified into the stock, resulting in the silky consistency that makes it so popular. While tori paitan is similar, the broth is made using chicken bones (boiled down for a whopping 20 hours), resulting in a slightly cleaner, lighter broth than its porky cousin. Ours was topped with charshu pork belly, spring onions and an egg, as well as a nice thick hunk of hispi cabbage for a seasonal twist. We may have been converted…
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 April
What we ate in March
What we ate in February
What we ate in January
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 2016