Our weekly food diary shares on-trend ingredients, fun foodie events, Instagrammable restaurant dishes and must-try street eats.
In October we tried…
CBD oil has been hitting the headlines a lot this year. Also known as cannabidiol or cannabis oil, CBD is a botanical extract of the hemp plant, made by pressing hemp leaves and flowers, and its popularity is fast increasing. In fact, the Cannabis Trades Association UK recently revealed that the number of CBD consumers rose from 125,000 to 250,000 in the past year, which may be linked to its alleged health benefits (a report by the World Health Organization (WHO) revealed that CBD may help treat symptoms relating to Alzheimer’s, MS, anxiety and depression, among others). We’re now seeing it used in more of our food and drink. Holland & Barratt recently began stocking Love Hemp Water – the first cannabidol-infused spring water in Europe – and this week we’ve been at Farm Girl café in London, where the oil can be added to a number of drinks. We added a shot of it to this smoothie made from banana, spinach, chia seeds, kelp powder, date syrup and almond milk. The verdict? Delicious! The ingredients in the smoothie work well to disguise the taste of the oil. The same cannot be said of adding it to coffee, which was less pleasant…
Crab on chips
This might just be the hottest London restaurant opening this autumn: Two Lights in Shoreditch. Chef/patron Chase Lovecky serves up modern American cuisine in the same clever, considered style that he cooked when he was head chef at Clove Club. Our highlight? This starter of crab on beef fat chips. Perfectly crisp oblongs of potato topped with a light crab mayo, this refined take on American-style crab dip disappeared in seconds. At £4.50, it’s worth ordering two portions. Other dishes include sardine katsu sandwich, burrata with creamed kale and seaweed, and a contender for most refreshing dessert of the year – fragola grape granita with mint and shiso.
Pisco & tonic
Bored of gin & tonic? Say hello to the latest alternative: pisco & tonic. Pisco is a grape brandy produced in Chile and Peru (the jury’s still out as to which of these countries it originated in) and we’ve been in Santiago, Chile, to learn more about it. You may be familiar with pisco sour – a cocktail made from pisco, lime, sugar syrup bitters and egg white – but in Chile, it’s much more common to drink pisco with tonic or cola. We tried this pisco and tonic in Red Luxury Bar, Santiago. Made with Alto del Carmen pisco, the drink tastes similar to a classic G&T in its refreshing nature and slightly floral notes but has a sweeter, fruitier flavour. With pisco recently listed as a trend to watch out for in drinks next year, we reckon this Chilean favourite could be gracing more bar menus in the UK very soon…
Short rib beer mac & cheese
If you watched BBC Two’s Million Pound Menu earlier this year, you’ll have drooled as Graham Bradbury showcased his Camden-based Cheese Wheel – fresh, hot pasta stirred into a giant round of Grana Padano to create a sauce. He’s now expanded his cheesy empire to open The Mac Factory pop-up at the Debenhams store on London’s Oxford Street. It’s well worth a visit for its standout dish alone: The Factory Cheese Steak Mac. Fresh macaroni is drenched in a rarebit-like beer cheese sauce (the flour and butter roux is mixed with Birra Moretti instead of milk) and then topped with British beef short-rib, which has been dry-rubbed with spices and smoked over woodchips for five hours. The beef is then mixed with Spanish onions, red, yellow and green peppers and used to top the mac, before being sprinkled with their signature parmesan & thyme crumble and a drizzle of Reds True BBQ sauce. It’s heaven in a bowl for a tenner.
If seeing the word tripe on a menu fills you with dread, you’re not alone. Like other offal, the idea of tripe (the stomach lining of a cow, pig, sheep or ox) can be off-putting and it’s certainly not for everyone. Enter supper club maestros Felix Reade and Niall Galvin, aka Panhandle, daring to change your opinion. Felix, sous chef at London’s St John restaurant, has recently branched out on his own with Panhandle, which currently has a residency at Great Guns Social in Southwark, London. Part of an impressive five-course tasting menu, this dish reinvents tripe – it’s deep fried, coated in chilli and freeze-dried raspberries and served with radicchio and bagna cauda foam (an Italian dipping sauce traditionally made from anchovies, garlic, butter and olive oil). Felix’s version is aerated to create a light, sumptuous sauce which is both creamy and satisfyingly salty. This is tripe we can get on board with.
This bright orange, dense-textured French hard cheese might seem a bit of an acquired taste when you hear about how it reaches maturity to achieve its salty, sweet, caramel-like flavour. The secret? Mites. Yes, mites – tiny arachnids are introduced to the cheese to nibble away on the rind, which exposes the surface to air and speeds up the maturation process. It might sound unpleasant, but the results are complex and saliva-stimulating. When whole, mimolette looks like a cantaloupe melon, with a lunar, grey-brown pitted rind. It originates from Lille and is made in a similar way to edam. We tried it at a Paxton & Whitfield cheese and port pairing evening with Taylor’s port, one of the world’s oldest port houses, founded in 1692.
Put down your avo toast – brunch just got a whole lot more exciting. We’ve been at Mexican restaurant Santo Remedio in London Bridge for the launch of their new brunch menu. It features Mexican favourites, including tacos and chilaquiles as well as this tetela. A speciality of Oaxaca, Mexico, a tetela is made from corn masa that’s hand pressed and filled with black beans and then formed into a triangule. At Santo Remedio, this is covered in mole negro, a dark rich sauce (made with over 30 ingredients including nuts, seeds, dried fruits, chocolate and chllies) and cotija cheese (a hard Mexican cow’s milk cheese). Owners Edson and Natalie Diaz-Fuentes explain: ‘This was our favourite breakfast when we were in Oaxaca City at Criollo restaurant by Chef Luis Arellano. There, they make the tetelas in front of you on a traditional comal (circular metal griddle). Eating them straight from the comal with the smell of freshly toasted masa makes it one of the most delicious breakfasts Mexico. There are so many regional dishes from Mexico that are still not known elsewhere, so we’re excited to bring these little parcels of deliciousness to the UK.’
Lavender sour cocktail
Botanical infusions are booming on drinks menus everywhere – and the gin train shows no sign of stopping, with supermarket shelves sporting increasingly daring flavours, from jasmine and rose to festive gingerbread. Lavender is among those flavours seeing a surge in popularity, leaving the confines of your grandmother’s bathroom and entering the foodie universe alongside botanical flavours such as thyme and cardamom. This picture-perfect lavender sour from The Montagu Kitchen takes inspiration from seasonal British produce and hedgerow flavours. We can’t think of a better way to mark the changing of seasons than savouring the last notes of summer with this indulgent floral creation. It’s perfectly balanced, with the lavender complementing – rather than overpowering – the gin to create a wonderfully refreshing tipple.
Tesco is celebrating the 20th anniversary of its Finest range by collaborating with food alchemists Bompas & Parr to create ‘Devour’, a culinary adventure that celebrates the sensory pleasures of food. Reminiscent of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, Bompas & Parr has engineered an elaborate setting in which to explore the ingredients and origins of the latest Tesco Finest produce. Prepare to be shrunken like Alice in Wonderland as you enter a giant champagne bottle complete with floating edible bubbles. Embark on a trek through the forest to forage for mushrooms, explore a Himalayan salt mine, encounter coffee in its natural habitat and find out what’s hidden at the end of the rainbow. By the end of the evening, guests will have sampled a full meal, from aperitifs to puddings. The event runs 11-13 October at Kachette in Shoreditch.
New kitchen kit
If you’re a fan of nifty kitchen kit, read on. We’ve jumped aboard the latest kitchen craze from the US: the Instant Pot. This popular multi-cooker is an electric pressure cooker, slow cooker, steamer and rice cooker all rolled into one. We experimented with making super silky hummus from dried chickpeas (no need to soak them first) using the pressure cooker function. The result? This creamy dip (left), created in an hour and costing just 30p. Prepare to see the Instant Pot gracing kitchen worktops across the country and watch this space for our review of this handy piece of kitchen equipment, plus some recipe inspiration to get you started. Check out our reviews hub for more foodie gifts and our tried and tested kitchen kit.
With food and plastic waste continuing to hit the headlines, several new low- and zero-waste stores and restaurants have opened across the country. The latest on our radar is Pipoca, a unique new space in Brixton, which is a low-waste food shop and vegan crêperie. The shop sells everything from dried banana chips and cocoa nibs to rice, tea, olive oils and vinegars. Nothing is sold in packets – instead, customers are encouraged to bring their own containers or offered a free reusable jar to fill with whatever you’re buying and paying by the weight. The restaurant, sister to Senzala crêperie in Brixton Village, serves vegan crêpes, galettes, a range of savoury brunch options and smoothies. We enjoyed a savoury gluten-free galette packed with tomato lentils, sweet potato, red onion and olives, and a sweet crêpe with banana, strawberries, nuts and maple syrup.
Pickled and fermented foods are still bang on trend, and it shows no signs of slowing down. This week, we tried a range of raw fermented pickles, krauts and sauces from London-based company Eaten Alive, including this smoky pink kraut. Super crunchy with a sour edge and low-level smoky chilli kick, it makes an excellent addition to a wrap stuffed with hummus and falafel or halloumi, or perks up a basic bangers and mash meal. If you roughly chop a spoonful, it can be stirred into soups, too – try a sweetish pumpkin or sweet potato version rather than sharper tomato. The pink colour comes from beetroot and red onion as the cabbage used is white. You need to keep the jar cold as the contents are not heat treated in any way so they are alive – just like it says on the tin.
At the recent Young British Foodies’ Awards, we were blown away by the Anglo-Thai dishes from former finalist John Chantarasak. A chef at Thai restaurant Som Saa in London’s Spitalfields, John creates unique fusion dishes using British produce in his spare time. John explains, ‘one of my main passions is cooking a style of food that showcases both sides of my heritage. I’m half Thai and half British, so I’m what Thais call “luk khrueng”.’ This bowl of crispy sprats, herb salad, sea buckthorn & orange chilli was a particular stand-out, and so were the smacked ‘som tam’ cucumbers with chilli & roasted cobnuts; heritage tomatoes, fermented yellow bean & sawtooth coriander; palm sugar braised pork belly, pickled pink scallions & fried shallots; and raw beef, makhwaem ‘laab’ spice & sorrel. Not salivating yet? Find more of John’s amazing creations on Instagram.