Our weekly food diary shares on-trend ingredients, fun foodie events, Insta-friendly restaurant dishes and must-try street eats.
In September we tried
Steamers at the ready – it’s nearly National Dumpling Day (Thursday 26 Sept)! Don’t know your har gow dumplings from your siu mai? We went to Dumplings Legend in London’s Chinatown to find out about some of the most popular dumplings in Chinese dim sum. First up, Shanghainese Xiao Long Bao (pictured, bottom), commonly known as soup dumplings. Pork is mixed with a gelatinized meat broth, then packed into thin rounds of dough and folded into pleated dumplings before being steamed so that the broth liquefies, poaching the pork in a delicious savoury soup. We had a chilli-spiked version and it’s a real winner. Although these are originally from Shanghai, they’re so popular that they have become an integral part of dim sum, which is typically Cantonese. Next, we tried two of the three main pillars of Cantonese dim sum: Har Gow and Siu Mai. Har Gow (pictured, left) are made from thin, rice-flour dough (which must have at least seven-10 pleats!) and are packed with prawns. Siu Mai (pictured, right) are traditionally filled with chopped pork and wrapped in a fresh dumpling skin that’s left open to reveal some of the filling, then topped with cod’s roe. Fancy something a bit different? Catch Australian chef Brendan Pang’s residency at the restaurant (26 Sept–26 Oct) – he’ll be making Chinese dishes (including dumplings), with an Aussie twist. Crispy salt & pepper crocodile, anyone?
Cheese & chocolate
Sweet dreams are made of cheese, and this new venture from Mathew Carver, the man behind Camden restaurant The Cheese Bar has made our wildest cheesy dreams come true. In a genius first, Mathew has made cheese & wine more accessible (literally!) with a conveyer-belt-style restaurant – think Yo! Sushi, but with cheese. Part of the newly opened Seven Dials Market in central London, Pick & Cheese consists of a large bar along which a conveyer belt runs. On the belt are different coloured (according to price), numbered plates of British cheese and charcuterie. A well-designed menu explains each cheese and what it’s paired with, as well as a suggested accompanying wine. Don’t expect bog-standard accompaniments like chutney and grapes though – Mathew, along with cheesemonger Sam Wilkin, has chosen unique, unexpected pairings which might raise eyebrows, such as Cropwell Bishop stilton with a chocolate & oat cookie. Sam explains ‘Why does blue cheese and chocolate work so well? Put simply, it’s about the contrasting flavours of salty and sweet. We chose to bring chocolate to the dish in the form of a biscuit for texture – the fudginess of the cheese is cut through by the snap of the cookie. A match made in heaven.’ And we agree! Hats off to the Pick & Cheese team.
From poké and sushi bowls to burrito and Buddha bowls, the past three years have seen our love of ‘bowl food’ skyrocket – it was even served at Prince Harry and Megan Markle’s wedding! This week, we experienced a kind of bowl food that we haven’t tried before: koshari (also kushari) is an Egyptian dish, traditionally made from a filling base of rice, lentils and macaroni topped with a spicy tomato sauce, chickpeas, fried onions and garlic, vinegar or chilli. It’s widespread in Egypt because it’s not only nutritious, it’s also filling and cheap – you’ll find it served on almost every street corner of Egypt, as well as in Egyptian homes. Now though, you can find it in central London too. Koshari Street in Covent Garden sells koshari bowls in a range of traditional (the classic koshari) and other varieties with exciting, healthy toppings. Our favourite is the Plant Power koshari, which swaps the usual base for quinoa and is topped with tomato sauce, spicy cauliflower & sweet potato, chickpeas, a fresh, vibrant sumac & mint dressing, fried onions and a spicy doqqa nut mix (a special blend of herbs, spices and nuts). Fancy being bowled over? Check out our best ever bowl food recipes.
Hear the word ‘barbecue’ and your first thoughts might be of juicy burgers, sizzling sausages or even hot, charred halloumi but we’ve noticed another ingredient gracing the grills this summer: sweetcorn. Yes, barbecued corn on the cob is making a comeback, spearheaded by food writers and chefs across social media. Not only is it inexpensive and veggie-friendly, it’s absolutely delicious cooked on the coals, as the kernels char and blister for that sweet-smoky taste. That sunshine-yellow hue is also very Insta-friendly! We had it recently at east London’s Rochelle Canteen as part of a collaboration dinner with barbecue makers Big Green Egg. Charred to perfection, it was rubbed with a spiced burnt butter for added oomph. If you fancy making something similar at your next BBQ (quick, while it’s still warm!), try our grilled corn with chilli mayonnaise, coriander & feta, BBQ corn cobs with comté & herb butter or check out our five ways with corn on the cob.
English wine is most definitely on the up. With over 200 vineyards in the UK that you can visit and tour, we’re spoilt for choice. Thanks also to a bumper 2018 harvest, producers are looking at new ways to use surplus grape juice – and one of the most popular options is vermouth. A fortified wine made with various botanicals and spices, it is a key ingredient in plenty of beloved cocktails, including martinis, negronis and manhattans. We’ve noticed more and more English vermouths riding in the slipstream of wine producers and taking flavour inspiration from the English countryside. We visited Bolney Wine Estate in Sussex to try their new rosso vermouth, which uses up excess produce and ingredients from the local hedgerow, including sweet sloes and elderberries, which would normally go to waste. We tried it with elderflower tonic and a sprig of lemon thyme for a refreshing summery drink – a delicious mix of bitterness, earthy botanicals and jammy sweetness.
Vegan bacon sandwich
With veganism bigger than ever, we’ve tried many plant-based meat alternatives at Good HQ – the good, the bad and the ugly – and the latest to grace our table was, thankfully, in the first camp. You may already have heard of This™, which makes meat alternatives, including ‘THIS isn’t chicken’. Now, thanks to a collaboration with London-based Italian-to-go brand Coco di Mama, you can buy a ‘THIS isn’t bacon’ sandwich in the capital. Although the texture and appearance is more reminiscent of roast beef or pastrami, the taste is incredibly meaty with the salty, smokiness of bacon and it makes a very satisfying sarnie. We’d go as far as to say, this a great bacon alternative, especially when compared to other fake bacon (or ‘fakin’!) we’ve tried. Made largely from GM-free soy beans, peas and water, it’s high in protein but lower in calories than bacon, plus it’s nitrate- and antibiotic-free, and creates far less carbon emissions in production than meat. If you’re keen to try This™, you can also find it on Ocado.
Zero waste week
Despite the autumnal chill in the air, we’re still clinging to summer with this drink. Elemental Cucumis Sativus is a crisp, sour ale with clean, refreshing cucumber flavours, and it screams summer with every sip. The perfect tipple for Zero Waste Week (2-6 September), London-based brewery Fourpure Brewing Co partnered with social enterprise brewery Toast Ale to make a beer that uses surplus bread (that would otherwise be wasted) from local bakeries, in the brewing process instead of malted barley. The beer was created for Tate in line with its recent collaboration with Studio Olafur Eliasson Kitchen. The emphasis for both Tate and Studio Olafur Eliasson Kitchen is sustainability, with a focus on keeping food miles and waste low and using ingredients sourced from ethical producers. And if the food is going to be sustainably made, the drinks should be too, hence this new collaboration. Find Elemental at Tate bars or buy online.
We’ve noticed a new wave of Indian chefs, restaurants and cookbooks lately and a particular rise in those with a vegetarian and vegan emphasis. Last week, we cooked veggie dishes from Meera Sodha’s latest book, East (which focuses on vegetarian and vegan dishes from across Asia), and this week, we’ve been at the launch of Romy Gill’s new vegan Indian book, Zaika. Romy prepared a feast to celebrate the launch, including a samosa chaat, which combined spiced potato with crunchy bits of poori and pomegranate seeds; rich baby aubergine cooked in coconut milk with the unexpected (but delicious) addition of dill; a beautifully fresh kachumber with fennel and apple, and Romy’s special cauliflower that was lightly pickled and roasted – a true feast of vibrant flavours and textures. If that has you salivating, you can also find an exclusive vegan recipe from Romy, the squash & cabbage sabzi (pictured), in our September issue. Plus, Romy has just been announced as one of the chefs on the soon to be revamped Ready Steady Cook – you heard it here first!
Stuff on skewers is all the rage at the moment, be it beef or lamb, pork or chicken, tofu or veggies. But how about insects? They might not sound appealing to our British sensibilities, but in Thailand, people have been eating them for years. On holiday in Thailand, our magazines editor Keith Kendrick and his family found stall after stall at street food markets selling insect skewers, deep-fried and sprinkled with chilli and salt, alongside the grilled meats and fruit smoothie makers. A vendor in Koh Samui’s Fisherman’s Village – a popular destination for Brits – said they’re low in calories and high in protein, so if you’re thinking of cutting back on meat, why not try a crunchy cricket or a (bigger) grasshopper (careful of the legs though – they get stuck in your teeth)? Perhaps silkworms are more your thing (they have a creamy texture like tofu)? Or if you’re feeling particularly peckish, a giant water bug (Maeng Da) – though the wings can be tricky to swallow! So, what do they taste like? Well, of nothing much, really: a little bland, like potatoes, until you season them. Still, if eating less meat is your mission and you’re not ready to go fully vegetarian, insects are the way to go. Here, we’ve tried (and not hated!) peri-peri flavoured roasted crickets from Eat Grub and seen crickets being used in flour, cereal bars and other snacks.
Though some varieties start to pop up in spring, it’s mid-late summer that truly marks the start of the wild mushroom season, and with all the rain and shine we’ve been having, they seem to be in abundance. We’ve seen our contributing editor, Tom Kerridge, post a picture of a punnet of the most perfect ceps (aka porcini or penny buns), and London restaurant Quo Vadis has had immaculate beach-ball sized puff balls in its kitchen this week. Our very own Barney Desmazery spent the bank holiday weekend in Wales with expert forager Craig Evans, a.k.a the coastal forager, where they found these enormous parasol mushrooms which he sliced and fried in butter and served with an egg yolk – ‘they had the deep woodland flavour of ceps with the silky texture of oyster mushrooms’, described Barney. Edible fungi are one of nature’s true gifts to the kitchen, but please never pick mushrooms unless you’re with an expert, or, for a safer option, you can find several varieties of wild mushrooms, both dried and fresh, in your local greengrocers or large supermarket. Still got shroom for more edible fungi inspiration? Check out our best ever wild mushrooms recipe collection.
Vegan ‘tuna’ poké
Since Hawaiian poké bowls arrived in our capital around three years ago, their popularity has continued to rocket. The word poké comes from the Hawaiian word ‘to chop’ or ‘cut’, and the bowls usually consist of chopped raw fish, marinated in Asian sauces like sesame and soy, served on sushi rice, with various veg-based toppings. Until recently, opting for a vegan version would mean having a bowl in which the main ingredient (the fish) was simply omitted, and perhaps tofu added. Not anymore, though. London-based Island Poké has created ‘Europe’s first plant-based tuna poké bowl’, using an ingredient you might not have expected as a tuna substitute: melon. Yep, watermelon is marinated with similar ingredients to Island’s tuna marinade, and gently cooked to result in a look and feel that, at first, does seem to mimic raw tuna. We say ‘at first’ because beyond its impressive tuna-like appearance and slightly similar texture, it does taste like marinated melon. That said, we found it a nice complementary addition to the bowl, which also got the thumbs up from our resident vegan.
Bull’s heart tomatoes
The fresh flavour of ripe tomatoes is the true taste of summer, and right now is a great time to eat them. We’re seeing restaurants making the most of all kinds of delicious varieties, from small, sweet datterini tomatoes to bigger, meatier bull’s heart tomatoes. Named after their ox-heart-like shape and size, bull’s heart tomatoes (also known by the French as Coeur de boeuf, or Italian Cuor di Bue) are special in that they have more flesh inside than juice and seeds, so are not only firmer and meatier in texture, but are also less acidic. They’re mild, sweet and fresh. We’ve spotted them on the menu combined with sweet onions in a salad at Hackney’s Bright restaurant; with peach, salted ricotta & fennel at Little Duck the Picklery and served on toast with whipped ricotta and marjoram at Brixton’s Salon. At home, they’re delicious simply sprinkled with sea salt and a dash of olive oil eaten by themselves, in a simple tomato & mozzarella salad or on toast. Find them in specialist greengrocers.