Our weekly food diary shares right-now ingredients, fun foodie events, Instagrammable restaurant dishes and trendy street eats.
In October we tried...
Salted cherry blossom
You’ve probably admired pretty pink cherry blossom on the trees in springtime, but have you ever eaten it? This week we visited Serge et le Phoque at the Mandrake Hotel, the first overseas outpost for this Michelin-starred Hong Kong restaurant, where this unusual ingredient features on the dessert menu. Finishing an impressive meal, this rich chocolate tart is a signature dish beloved by Hongkongers and you can see why: a freshly baked tart base is filled with a dark chocolate ganache made with Valrhona Guanaja chocolate, cream and butter. The ganache is left to set at room temperature before being sliced and topped with a small piece of cherry blossom that has been pickled in plum vinegar, dried then salted for preservation. It’s an unexpected flavour but one that works well with the intense chocolate, particularly due to its saltiness.
Save your groans, we know it’s not quite that time of year just yet, but here at Good Food HQ we’ve been thinking about Christmas since August (and by the way, our Christmas issue is on sale now)! The latest festive offering to come our way is Yuletide gin, one of the highlights of a very enjoyable gin-tasting with That Boutiquey Gin Company. The team tasted a wide variety of this fashionable tipple with unique flavours from cobnut to chocolate-orange, but it was this Yuletide gin that came out on top. Why? Because it’s Christmas in a bottle! It’s packed with warming seasonal spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and allspice; and here’s the clincher – it sparkles with flakes of gold, frankincense and myrrh… You can’t get any more Christmassy than that. If you fancy trying it yourself, it will be on sale 1 November. Merry Christmas!
Pheasant & trotter pie
Pheasant & trotter pie is as seasonal as it gets and if there’s any theme behind the menu at the new Rochelle café, bar & restaurant at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, it’s seasonality. Besides that, they simply offer very well-made, utterly delicious food in a calm, clean white setting. This is the second Rochelle from Melanie Arnold and Margot Henderson with head chef Ben Coombs at the pass. Pale salmon and whipped smoked cod’s roe comes with crisp radishes while quail arrives looking as if it's nonchalantly sunbathing in its dish, and a slab of pâté is a thing of beauty – perfectly smooth with a generous pile of cornichons (most places don’t give you nearly enough yet here there were at least 10). And let’s talk about that pie: deep golden pastry (just like the lemon tart that followed) cooked to biscuity crispness holding big chunks of meat and plenty of gravy. Perfect.
Yam & paneer chaat
If you’re a fan of inventive Indian cuisine, there’s a restaurant in Spitalfields, London, with your name on it. The husband and wife team behind Gul & Sepoy combine traditional Indian recipes with unusual ingredients from international cuisines such as escargot, partridge and jackfruit. We sampled this yam & paneer kofta chaat from the exciting new menu. It's a real veggie delight that's pretty yet substantial, jewelled with pomegranate seeds and equally rich in flavour and textures, finished with dramatic shards of poppadum. The menu is split into two halves; the ‘gul’ are small plates, inspired by the royal courts of northern India whilst the ‘sepoy’ dishes echo the laidback cuisine of the coastal south-west.
When we dine out we want to try it all, so we love the opportunity to indulge in a variety of small plates. The team behind Smoke & Salt are catering to this fashionable way of eating with their interpretation of British tapas. On top of that, they're not afraid to use offal – innards that were once traditional in British cuisine, then reviled and now, downright trendy. And thankfully, tasty, too. Methods like smoking, curing or preserving are characteristic to the menu and deliver real depth of flavour. Their motto is 'modern dining, ancient techniques'. Think PBJ buttermilk fried chicken with grape jam & peanut butter, or our standout dish: molten Gorgonzola roast potatoes with delicate slices of duck heart. A mouth-watering, unctuous plate of food among many innovative dishes.
Blond hot chocolate
A comforting hot drink is just what you need when the weather turns chilly and the nights draw in, so pull on a jumper, cosy up on the sofa and try a mug of this caramelised blond hot chocolate. Crafted by The Chocolate Society, this winter wonder blends Valrhona blond chocolate with cinnamon to create a gently spiced, smooth caramel biscuit flavour that we can’t get enough of. The chocolate itself isn’t overwhelmingly sweet, with notes of buttery shortbread and golden toffee, ideal for pairing with seasonal warming spices. Super indulgent, it's almost like a liquid dose of speculoos. If you can resist drinking it all yourself, the attractive packaging makes it a lovely Christmas gift. (Yes, we said the C-word!) It's on sale at Selfridges from 25th October, so get your mugs at the ready...
Pumpkin & yuzu sour
Dust off your hats and scarves and zip up those jackets because autumn is officially upon us. And that means…pumpkins! Here at Good Food HQ, October is another chance to get creative with the squash, whether it’s making pumpkin pies, soups, or even pumpkin hummus. But here’s a new idea that we can really get behind: pumpkin cocktails. Yep, it was only a matter of time before someone put pumpkin in a cocktail, especially since the world is already obsessed with other pumpkin-based drinks (pumpkin spice latte, we mean you…). We tried this pumpkin & yuzu sour at Salon, Brixton, and it was truly delicious. Made using a pumpkin syrup, yuzu and gin, the cocktail is shaken together with aquafaba (the water from a can of chickpeas) to create the foam. The result is a drink with the sweetness of pumpkin, sharp zingy flavours of yuzu and a foam that’s lighter than the standard egg-white version (not to mention vegan-friendly). Salon, we salute you!
If your favourite part of home baking is licking the spoon, then this one’s for you... Eating raw cookie dough has long been a norm in the US and the trend took hold here some time ago in products like cookie dough ice cream. But, years on, we’ve finally gone full throttle on cookie dough. Not only can you now buy pots of the stuff online, there are also cafés selling it in cones or pots, just like gelato. We had this peanut butter & chocolate chip delight at Naked Dough on Old Street in east London. The verdict? Just as you’d imagine – soft, sweet (if not slightly sickly) and moreish. Plus, it’s safe to eat, unlike the raw mixture you get when baking at home, which normally contains eggs. Fancy trying it yourself? Buy Cookie Doe online, find Naked Dough on London’s Old Street, Blondie’s Kitchenin Selfridges on Oxford Street, or have a go at making it yourself with our safe-to-eat cookie dough recipe from Emma Freud.
You’ve all heard of green tea, but what about blue? Yes, it’s a thing. Now taking Instagram by storm, this tea turns a vibrant cobalt blue after just a couple of minutes' brewing. Why? Well, it’s made using blue pea flowers, a plant native to South East Asia, also sometimes known as butterfly pea flowers. Not technically a tea in itself (as the blue flowers aren’t from a tea plant), this particular blend from Yumchaa, named ‘Blue Voodoo’, also contains green tea, goji berries, lemongrass and pomegranate. Aside from its impressive hue (here’s the science bit...), the drink boasts plenty of health benefits from antioxidants to anti-inflammatory agents and is also reputed to have an anti-glycation effect. That means it fights the signs of ageing in the skin, apparently. The important question, though, is: how does it taste? The answer is sweet, very sweet. Thanks to the addition of pomegranate and goji berries, this tea has the taste and aroma of jelly sweets. It’s fruity, sweet and slightly floral, so a great tea for those who want the health benefits of a green tea with a sweeter taste.
Barrel aged negronis
We love a recipe that goes above and beyond for flavour’s sake, and these barrel-aged negronis from The Kitty Hawk do just that. We’re familiar with barrel-aged whiskies, but these aged orange-flavoured beauties are our new favourite tipple. A cross between the classic recipe and the American-born boulevardier, these negronis add a splash of bourbon along with the bitters. All the ingredients are then aged in a virgin American white oak barrel from anywhere between 1 week and 1 month until the flavours have intensified. The white oak gives the drink a deep, smooth flavour with just a hint of smokiness from the charring on the inside of the barrel. Letting the ingredients mingle for a while before serving gives the cocktail an intensity of flavour that can’t be achieved without a little time. It’s true that the best things come to those who wait, and that includes amazing cocktails.
You might not normally associate octopus with Indian cooking, but grill king Neil Rankin has taken the eight-legged cephalopod to an ingenious spicy level at his new restaurant, Temper. Served on a bed of dahl that’s been cooked in chicken stock, the octopus is poached in water, lemon, garlic and white wine for an hour, then dressed in black vinegar, chipotle, soy, and green and red chilies. The result is mouth-tingling and tender: as soft as butter with a punch of fiery heat. For us, it was the stand out dish when we visited @frontlinechef’sfollow-up restaurant to his hugely popular Soho Temper. We munched (more like, drooled!) our way through crab beignets, mutton rolls, Korean haggis and kimchi lamb skewers. Order one of the curry thali plates and you’ll find a delightful side: Monster Munch. Drinks-wise, gin is in at Temper – a choice of 20 from around the world.
‘tis the season of proper comfort food, so we’re getting stuck into the beautiful pasta hybrid that is, the pastitsio. This bubbling, beautiful, cheesy thing is an Italian-Greek hybrid, originating from southern Italy, although there are delicious variants to be found throughout the Mediterranean. The best way we can describe it is the ultimate meeting of lasagna, moussaka and macaroni cheese. Treat yourself to layers of tubular pasta, topped with beef mince, a seriously creamy béchamel sauce and grated cheese. In Malta, hard-boiled eggs are sometimes added, in Egypt, it’s made with penne and a Mornay sauce, in Cyprus this essential celebration dish is made with pork and grated halloumi cheese. This versatile dish is pasta perfection and ideal for seeing us through those cold winter nights.
Missed the last food diary? Find out what we ate last month, or visit our 12 month compilation to get fully up to speed...