Here’s a fine example of a food that really lives up to its name. Bitter melon, also known as bitter gourd or its Indian name karela is a seeded fruit (although it resembles more of a vegetable) which tastes, you guessed it, extremely bitter. Commonly used in Asian cooking, particularly Indian, this green fruit looks a bit like a cucumber, but is usually much smaller and with a thicker, ridged exterior, although this depends on the variety. As we’ve seen from the popularity of gin & tonic and Aperol, we’re no longer adverse to bitterness in our food and drink so it’s not surprising that we’ve noticed this ingredient appearing in more restaurant dishes lately. We spotted it on the menu at Vivek Singh’s Cinnamon Kitchen as well as in our brunch at Hotel Café Royal. Featuring on a menu of filling, flavoured-packed brunch dishes including truffled eggs benedict, bitter almond French toast and a buttermilk fried chicken sandwich was this pork kimchi fried rice (left). It’s topped with a golden-yolked fried egg and, just below that, a slice of lightly pickled bitter melon, which adds a punch of bitter flavour as well as a slight acidity to the dish. Fancy experimenting with this bitterness bomb? You’ll find it fresh in certain Asian supermarkets, or frozen in Tesco.
Carrot cake muffin-pancakes
They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day and last weekend we met a couple of chefs who, quite literally, couldn’t agree more. ‘Brunch is dead’, or German ‘brunch ist tot’ is the slogan written not just on the website, but actually tattooed on the arms of the chef-owners of trendy Michelin-starred restaurant NeoBiota, in Cologne, Germany. The seasonal menu changes regularly but usually includes a homemade bircher muesli and their signature tall pancakes (right) which we just had to try. Unlike any pancake we’ve had before, think of a cross between a muffin, a Yorkshire pudding and a fluffy American pancake. These ones are inspired by carrot cake and have a sweet, carrot-packed batter and a topping of fresh shredded beetroot, ginger cream and crunchy walnut biscuits. But what makes this the best breakfast for us is the fact that here you can order breakfast dishes as full-sized portions for around €8-10 or opt instead for medium-sized portions of three of the dishes for €25, which we happily shared between two. Forget toast or cereal, this is our kind of breakfast!
We’ve all heard of fillet, sirloin and rib-eye steaks, but there’s so many more beef cuts to try. If you’re more of an adventurous beef lover, then recently-opened Omnino Brazilian Barbecue in London’s St Paul’s should be on your radar. Here, hunks of beef from lesser-known cuts from the rump, ribs and underside of the animal are skewered then grilled medium-rare over coals, before being presented at your table, expertly carved and served alongside an array of tapas from across Brazil. Chef Eduardo Barsotti specialises in seam butchery, breaking down the individual muscles. Picanha – the top of the rump, with a cap of fat – is the most famous of the cuts, but we were particularly taken by maminha, the ‘tail’ of the rump, with its crispy, juicy fat that reminded us of Iberico pork presa; fraldinha, from the flank, with its more open texture; and heart of rump which the chefs had studded with creamy Provolone cheese. Absolute heaven for our meat and cheese loving magazines editor, Keith Kendrick.
Edible cocktail capsules
Speyside distillery The Glenlivet has partnered with East London bar Tayēr + Elementary to create whisky-filled cocktail capsules. Rather than sipping your dram from a glass, you can try bursting a whisky bubble with their spirit-filled pods. The edible seaweed-based capsules were developed by Notpla, a brand devoted to sustainable packaging, and as they’re tasteless, they don’t alter the flavour of the drink inside. Better yet, the packaging biodegrades naturally in four to six weeks – the capsules have already been used at events such as the London Marathon to help eliminate plastic waste. As well as being an experiment in sustainable technology, these boozy bites are a lighthearted way of shaking off the stereotypical image of the tweed-clad whisky drinker. Inspired by the flavours of The Glenlivet, the three capsule expressions – citrus, wood and spice – are pre-mixed cocktails made with a dash of whisky, and contain less alcohol than a standard shot. They’ve already caused quite a stir in the online whisky community, being dubbed everything from an ‘abomination’ to an ‘interesting and tasty project’. Our verdict? We’re not sure capsules will be taking over from the tumbler anytime soon, but innovation and experimentation is an integral part of the drinks industry – and arguably, that’s even more important for a spirit trying to shed an old-fashioned image. The edible cocktail capsules are available during London Cocktail Week (4-13 October) at Tayēr + Elementary in London’s Shoreditch.
Yes, it’s only October, but at Good Food HQ it’s already Christmas – or should we say ‘crisp’-mas! It seems that festive-flavoured crisps are trending this year, and we’ve tried many different varieties from several brands over the past two weeks. The latest and most impressive to land on our desks so far is the offering from Walkers. Why? When we conducted a blind taste test with our cookery team, they managed to guess nearly all of the flavours by taste alone, from turkey & stuffing, and pigs in blankets to cheese & cranberry and Brussels sprouts. Naturally, the most divisive were the sprout-flavoured crisps – they taste very vegetal and have a slightly off-putting green hue – but most identified the flavour (however, it also tastes reminiscent of crispy seaweed from a Chinese restaurant). If you fancy trying them yourself, find them in most major retailers from now through Christmas. As for the competition, we’ve tried tree-shaped (and flavoured) tortilla chips from Morrisons and turkey, sage & onion crisps from Fairfields Farm – both were sadly unconvincing – and spotted more Christmas dinner-inspired crisps at Tesco (turkey & stuffing) and Co-op (cauliflower cheese).
As we become increasingly aware of our impact on the environment, finding out more about how our food is farmed is more important than ever. Organic grocer Abel & Cole works with several biodynamic farmers, such as Brambletye Farm in Sussex, a supplier of biodynamic mushrooms. But what exactly is biodynamic farming? First developed in the early 1920s, it’s similar to organic farming – in fact, for farms to be accredited biodynamic, they must first be certified organic – in that the aim is to be as environmentally friendly as possible. But, biodynamic farms put a particular emphasis on being as self-contained as possible, too. For example, if a source of nutrients or pest treatment is needed, it’s grown or raised on the farm itself. In the case of mushrooms, this means sourcing the substrate (the substance mushrooms are grown on) from the farm. Brambletye Farm make their own substrate from woodchips reserved from the maintenance of the hedges around the farm, and in keeping with biodynamic regulations, the wood is not chemically treated after felling. Then, once the mushrooms are harvested, the spent mushroom substrate is spread around Brambletye’s fruit trees as mulch, a practice typical of the kind of ‘circular farming’ you find at biodynamic farms. We enjoyed these mushrooms in a hearty risotto. If you fancy trying them too, order online from Able & Cole.
A classic Italian carbonara is hard to beat, so when we spotted a carbonara on the menu at swanky Chinese restaurant Park Chinois in London’s Mayfair, we were dubious. The ‘Park Carbonara’ combines classic Italian carbonara ingredients egg and guanciale with ingredients you wouldn’t usually find in the dish, that are more typical of Asian cuisine – udon noodles, sea urchin, seaweed powder and shisho leaves. Head Chef Liang Koon Cheung explains, ‘The Park Carbonara was inspired by our chefs’ global travels – it gives a nod to the best of Italian cooking but using ingredients and cooking techniques from around the world. Each ingredient is chosen for its ability to emulate the best of a carbonara, despite not being typically associated with it – the sea urchin for instance adds both creaminess and saltiness to the dish that complements the guanciale; the egg is cooked to 65 degrees so that it has both the perfect texture and mouthfeel, meaning the dish doesn’t require the traditional butter or cheese as this gives the much-needed creamy quality.’ The result is a super silky, creamy-tasting and satisfyingly umami pasta dish that rivals the Italian classic. Prefer to stay true to the original, though? Try our next level carbonara.
Orkney wild goose
Sales of game have increased by 73% over the last decade, but while you may be familiar with cheffy favourites, such as venison, grouse and rabbit, wild goose will be new to you. That’s because, since 1981, wild goose meat has been illegal to sell under the Wildlife and Countryside Act. But now a carefully-managed, sustainable population project has made the meat available across Scotland. Because of the rising numbers of geese, The Orkney Resident Greylag Goose Project shoots the birds to protect agricultural crops and help boost local businesses. So, what does it taste like and how should you cook it? The meat is dark and rich – similar to duck breast, but denser – so pan-frying to medium-rare is ideal, then serve with a fruity or spicy sauce. It also works well cooked low-and-slow in goose fat, before shredding and forming into rillettes or pulled and served in tacos. Or serve cold, like ham, carved thinly and enjoyed with pickles and chutney. Both a hunter and a butcher of Orkney greylag goose are entrants in the forthcoming Eat Game Awards, which celebrates contributions to the cooking and eating of game. To nominate your favourite chef, restaurant, pub, farmer’s market or street food stall, game meat product, retailer, butcher or hero, go to the website. Entries close on 1 November and winners will be announced in January next year.
Can’t get enough of croquetas? Typically a Spanish snack involving a creamy Iberico ham filling coated in crispy breadcrumbs, these soft-centred, crunchy morsels have become so popular that you’ll now find variations of them on menus all across the country. There’s even an annual croqueta challenge held by London’s Salt Yard restaurant group where chefs compete to create the best. This year, our very own Lulu Grimes was invited to be a judge in the final. The eight finalists competing were Dehesa, Ember Yard, Paradise by way of Kensal Green, Inko Nito, The Coach, Galvin, Bubbledogs and Salt Yard. Competition was fierce, but we loved The Coach’s chorizo & Danish blue entry, which was served alongside a complementary amontillado sherry – bonus points from us! And hats off to Japanese outliers Inko Nito whose croquetas (pictured) will feature on the Salt Yard Group’s menus as a prize. These beef-cheek-centered beauties are delicate and soft yet crisp and flavoured with chilli, sake and sesame. And the winner? Paradise’s spiced lamb with smoky chilli aubergine, packing excellent flavour, texture and a good kick of chilli.
Pumpkin spice almond butter
The leaves have begun to fall, the warmer jackets are coming out – pumpkin spice season is upon us! Yes, thanks to our friends across the pond, ‘pumpkin spice’ has become synonymous with autumn. Inspired by pumpkin pie – typically spiced with a warming blend made from cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and allspice or cloves – coffee giant Starbucks began making pumpkin spice lattes in 2003, and the world went crazy for them. Since then, online searches for recipes relating to pumpkin spice have continued to increase, and we see new products launching every autumn, from the bizarre (pumpkin-spiced Spam anyone?) to the delicious. The latest is this limited-edition pumpkin spice almond butter by nut butter specialists Pip & Nut. A sweet almond butter heady with cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves, it also contains pumpkin seeds for an extra nod to the theme. We love it swirled through porridge (as pictured here) but it would also be excellent in baking – add it to biscuits or drizzle over carrot cake for extra warmth. Got the pumpkin spice fever? Try making our pumpkin spice scones, pumpkin spice latte or traditional pumpkin pie.
Everybody’s favourite prickly plant has been trending for the past few years in homeware, and when it comes to succulent-themed kitchen kit, we’ve seen it all, from glasses and citrus squeezers to plates and tea towels. But this week, we’re taking the idea of cactus in the kitchen a little bit further by eating it. Popular in Mexico, cactus (specifically the nopales, or ‘prickly pear’, variety) is used in several dishes, including salads, and can be eaten raw or cooked. Now you can try this Mexican delicacy in the UK thanks to Gran Luchito, which is selling jars of its sliced cactus in Waitrose & Partners stores and on Ocado. The peeled, sliced cactus is jarred in a vinegar-based brine along with onion and spices. Don’t be put off by their slimy appearance – trust us, they don’t taste as bad as they first look and feel! In fact, although tender, they still have some bite, and taste a little like pickled jalapeños without the chilli heat. These ones also have a strong oregano flavour, which must be part of Gran Luchito’s ‘secret blend of herbs and spices’. For those who aren’t keen on chilli, they’d make a great alternative to pickled jalapeños for adding a bit of extra texture to tacos, nachos, quesadillas and Mexican salads.
We are a nation of tea and chocolate lovers – research suggests that we eat around 660,900 tonnes of chocolate and drink around 36 billion cups of tea a year – and recently, we’ve spotted several chocolatiers combining the two. Pierre Marcolini’s new autumn collection is entirely inspired by teatime, and includes dark and milk chocolate bars flavoured with jasmine or smoky lapsang tea, yuzu & matcha ganache hearts covered in white chocolate and, our favourite, a gluten-free Earl Grey cake topped with a yuzu-matcha white chocolate ganache. And we’ve seen plenty of other tea-inspired choccies out there too, including brand-new matcha truffles from Willie’s Cacao, Earl Grey-inspired afternoon tea truffles from Charbonnel & Walker and a matcha white chocolate bar from Compartes. Love the combination of tea and chocolate? Try making our Earl Grey & chocolate torte, matcha & white chocolate blondies or chocolate tea-pots.