Our weekly food diary shares right-now ingredients, fun foodie events, Instagrammable restaurant dishes and trendy street eats.
In November we tried...
Already fed up of mince pies? Try the latest festive sweet treat: gingerbread s’mores. London-based French restaurant Aubaine has taken the American campfire classic, s’mores (gooey marshmallow sandwiched between cookies or ‘graham crackers’) and given it a modern festive twist. They use peanut gingerbread biscuits that are laced with classic Christmas spices and stick them together with super soft marshmallow. Then, to add a little more luxury (because it is almost Christmas), they’re dipped in chocolate and sprinkled with your choice of toppings. Pick from crushed pistachios and hazelnuts, vibrant freeze-dried raspberries or crunchy cocoa nibs. Find the Aubaine pop-up in Selfridges food hall, London, from now until Christmas. Or, why not have a go at making s’mores yourself – our pumpkin pie s’mores use ginger biscuits and a festive hit of cinnamon.
Gone are the days when plain tonic water was the only possible partner to your gin. Recent years have seen the market for premium, flavoured tonics absolutely rocket with brands like Fentimans and Fever-Tree reporting record sales. These days, you can find tonic waters with flavours like elderflower, grapefruit and Mediterranean orange. Now, just in time for the festive season, Fever-Tree has released a Christmas-inspired clementine & cinnamon tonic water. Available until the end of December, this limited-edition drink uses South African clementines to give a slight sweetness and citrus zing to complement the warming spice of cinnamon. The taste is subtle but enough to make this a delicious drink on its own, or partnered with gin – ideal for the party season. If you want to up the festive flavours, add a grating of nutmeg and a stick of cinnamon. Find it at Sainsbury's and Waitrose.
Sherry has become fashionable again in recent years and this week, our digital writer Georgie has been in Treviso, Italy, discovering her new favourite Italian variety: Elisir Gambrinus. It’s a sweet, spiced elixir based on raboso red wine from the Veneto area of northern Italy. The secret family recipe contains 22 different spices and has an intense aroma. With a blend of blackberry, cherry, prune and figgy flavours, it's a very festive tipple. Try a sip of it with classic Christmas pudding for a sensational fruity pairing. It’s also delicious used to macerate seasonal fruit, or enjoyed with a scoop of vanilla ice cream for a decadent end to a meal. First created in 1847, this unusual fortified wine is aged for five years in oak casks, as the original recipe dictates, enhancing the depth of flavour. If you fancy trying it yourself, buy it online – or better still, book a holiday to Italy!
With health-conscious millennials imbibing fewer boozy beverages than previous generations, there is a growing trend for innovative, non-alcoholic drinks and infused waters. No.1 Rosemary Water is worth trying, if only because its key ingredient – the rosemary, not the water! – has been making headlines lately. Far from just being a garnish for your Sunday roast, scientists are gathering evidence to support a theory that, together with diet and lifestyle, the compounds in this Mediterranean herb can aid and preserve brain function. That means incorporating it into your diet could give you a better memory and it's also thought to have anti-carcinogenic properties. Studies have centred around the residents of the tiny hamlet of Acciaroli, Italy, where researchers noted that there is an unusually high percentage of locals who live to around 100-years-old. Discover more reasons why the Mediterranean diet is so healthy and, to get the most out of any health benefits, we advise drinking rosemary water straight! If you're not too concerned, try mixing the sparkling version with Gin Mare, which also contains rosemary among other Mediterranean botanicals. Cheers!
It’s pannage season – when hundreds of pigs are let loose in the forest to forage for the fallen acorns and beech nuts that are poisonous to cattle and ponies. The practice dates back to the reign of William the Conqueror. But we forgive you if you've never heard of it; these days, the tradition is only observed by farmers around the New Forest. A few food producers local to the area also still make seasonal pannage pork from pigs fed on the fruits of the forest floor. We sampled this speciality meat in the café at Hockey’s Farm Shop and, we can tell you, it makes the most incredibly tender and buttery medallions of pork loin, with crackling so sweet on the first bite, we mistook it for the baked apple it was served with. Pannage season runs from now until mid-December, with stocks expected to last until January. Watch this space for ham made with pannage pork, apparently comparable to a premium acorn-fed Iberico ham.
Suckling pig rolls
In case you think Portuguese pastry begins and ends with custard tarts, we have exciting news... This week we dined at Bar Douro near London Bridge, a restaurant that serves fine Portuguese cuisine that's well worth shouting about. The menu offers an array of delicious dishes, including crispy salt cod fritters, smoked sausage croquettes and of course, the ubiquitous pastel de nata (custard tart), as well as a wide selection of Portuguese wines. Everything we tried was spot-on but the highlight was, without a doubt, a plateful of crispy suckling pig rolls. Featured on the specials menu, these are essentially crispy fried wonton wrappers stuffed with an unctuous, salty mix of suckling pig and spinach. They're beautifully complemented by a side-serving of a delicately sweet, silky cauliflower purée that perfectly offsets the balance between salty, sweet, crispy and smooth. The result is, quite frankly, an epic mouthful of flavour.
While gin has been stealing the limelight in drinks trends, whisky has been creeping up behind it. Suddenly, what was often stereotyped as ‘a bit of an old man drink’ is becoming the last word in cool. Why? Well, it’s thanks, in part, to companies like Whisky Me. This week, we went to the launch of this new whisky subscription service that sends a different, hand-selected whisky to your door each month. Whether you’re a complete whisky novice or consider yourself an expert, this is a great way to try new whiskies and learn about each one. Whisky Me transports the precious contents in laminated pouches, so the booze keeps well and is easy to transport with a screw-cap and durable casing that prevents breakages and leaks. Most importantly, it’s the right size to fit right through the letterbox if you're not in. What a lovely package to find waiting on the doormat!
Earlier in the year, our deputy food editor Miriam Nice went to NYC and fell in love with Mike’s hot honey – a New York wildflower honey infused with Brazilian chilli peppers. Sweet honey with slow-building chilli heat is a combination that works so well that we couldn’t believe it didn’t exist here in the UK. Well, now we’re elated to discover that it has arrived on our shores. Behold, WilderBee Urban Chilli Honey, handmade in London by WilderKitchen. It’s made using raw unprocessed London honey and British-grown chilli peppers. The result is an ingredient with a syrupy smokiness and just a slight kick that works well with so many different foods. We particularly like the contrast with salty cheeses like halloumi and goat's cheese, and it's utterly delicious drizzled over pizza. Hot chicken wings, too, are even more drool-worthy with a light basting of it. And it's not just a savoury treat. A little chilli honey poured over a chocolate dessert, ice cream or parfait works a treat, too. Have we tantalised your tastebuds? Buy it online.
We’ve seen charcoal pizza bases, burgers and even charcoal ice cream, but the black stuff has now reached the booze aisle. Kuro gin combines this trend with the current craze for designer gin, using a blend of botanicals including silver birch and spruce needles with activated bamboo charcoal to create – you guessed it – charcoal gin. This Japanese-inspired spirit was designed to evoke the cool alpine slopes of the Hakuba Valley, bringing more of an earthy element than the standard après-ski tipples. Heady with the aroma of 12 different botanicals, it delivers a ‘sensory experience’, say creators Craig Fell and John Thompson. We certainly enjoyed its complexity. If you fancy a G&T with a dark twist, Kuro Gin is available to buy online. And for all your other gin needs, check out our guide to the best gins on the market.
After the invention of the cronut (croissant/donut), cruffin (croissant/muffin) and chouxnut(eclair/donut), everyone has been waiting for the next best hybrid bake – and this may be it. A recent delivery from London’s Israeli restaurant Bala Baya introduced us to babka pretzels among a delicious array of other fusion treats that were sent to mark the launch of their new ‘shook’, or stall beneath the Union Arches in Southwark. It’s a hybrid we haven’t seen before, but boy, does it work. The shape and crispy exterior say pretzel, but the swirled, doughy interior is just like a babka (a type of cake made with yeast). Choose from a Middle-Eastern variety with pistachio, chocolate and rose, dipped in melted chocolate and studded with crushed pistachios; or a more familiar pretzel dusted with cinnamon and sugar; the classic babka-style with a chocolate swirl; or delicious salted caramel and peanut. Pure indulgence.
Forget popcorn, what if the food you ate at the movies was specifically designed to enhance what you were seeing on screen? This Halloween, we attended the Edible Cinema screening of ghoulish 80’s comedy Beetlejuice. The experience works by each audience member being provided with a tray of numbered containers, each with a small canapé-sized offering or mini cocktail inside. Each element is designed to be consumed at a specific moment in the film, in keeping with what you see in front of you. For example, the arrival of Juno, an old woman who enters the scene smoking, is matched with a canapé containing powdered charcoal for the smoke effect, plus a hint of lavender to evoke the kind of perfume she is wearing. Before the action even started we were greeted with this welcome cocktail, ‘The Bombay Beetlejuice’ using Bombay Sapphire gin, beetroot, Chambord, lemon and ginger – a fiery, blood-red drink, befitting of the experience that was to come... Events are hosted at various venues across London – sign up to the Edible Cinema mailing list for details.
Missed the last food diary? Find out what we ate last month, or visit our 12 month compilation to get fully up to speed...