In September we tried…
If cookies and milk take you right back to childhood, you’ll love this grown-up take on the nostalgic trend. From Friday 30 September, the trendsetting creator of The Cronut®, Frozen S’mores and DKA (‘Dominique’s Kouign Amann’) is bringing his trademark blend of French and New York flavour to the UK with the launch of his eponymous establishment, Dominique Ansel Bakery London. Our favourite is The Cookie Shot, a soft chocolate chip cookie cup lined with warm dark chocolate and filled-to-order with vanilla-infused milk. Sip, nibble and savour until nothing remains, then move onto something equally modish from the menu – your Instagram account (and stomach) will thank you!
Rum baba is a benchmark dish – it’s the enduring classic on any menu, untouched by time and fashion, always on trend amongst pastry chefs. A great baba – light as air, not too sweet, bathed in syrup and rum – is a game changer. You can judge a restaurant (or Bake Off contestant) by this bake alone. Angelo Ercolano, pastry chef at Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester is the equivalent of their secret weapon. Every day he makes a batch of ‘baba like in Monte-Carlo’ which are served with a choice of five different rums and whipped vanilla cream, the sort of detail that takes a dessert from bakery counter standby to nirvana. We recommend the Diplomatico from Venezuela with a slightly sweet finish.
Smoked cod’s roe
Forget fishy luminous pink paste, in the hands of skilled chefs taramasalata has become an addictive smokey spread that’s popping up on posh starter menus across the country. First we spotted it at Oldroyd simply described as smoked cod’s roe and served with leafy radishes for dipping and in the last two weeks we’ve been served it twice by its proper name. Welsh chef James Sommerin serves it at his restaurant as an amuse bouche on a puffed rice cracker over pebbles from Penarth beach outside the dining room. Pictured here, Roy Brett of Edinburgh seafood emporium Ondine served it during his guest week at London’s Carousel scattered with powdered seaweed and with warm sourdough to spread it over. As well as this delicious dip Roy’s menu showcased the best from Scotland coastline with langoustines and garlic laced aioli and scallops in shony (seaweed) butter.
The biggest oyster we’ve ever seen
We were so impressed with Roy Brett’s seafood skills that we invited him into the test kitchen, where we unwittingly ambushed him with a sea monster of an oyster, sent from Maldon, Essex. Bear in mind that this is a man whose single Edinburgh restaurant sold 8,000 oysters in August alone, and who has a sell-out weeknight oyster happy hour selling six different types of oysters: even he had never seen an oyster this big. This creature from the deep can’t be gulped in one go, and would require a knife and fork to eat. Roy (deferring to Scottish stereotype) suggested we deep-fry it. We’re still reeling from this marine beast!
We can’t decide which we love more – the creamy, tangy taste of this raw milk or the retro bottles that it’s packaged in. We tasted this unpasteurised milk, from Fen Farm Dairy’s grass-fed Montbeliarde cows in Suffolk, during a visit to the Aldeburgh Food Festival. Raw milk is naturally higher in protein, vitamins and butter fats, making it arguably more nutritious and flavoursome than pasteurised. You can buy the milk at the farm in Bungay, where it is dispensed in a vending machine, or online.Squirrel biscuits
Autumn is officially upon us! Thursday marked the Autumnal Equinox this year, and we are (dare we say it) a little bit excited to start eating toffee apples and wearing big cosy jumpers. What better way to celebrate than with these squirrel biscuits, adapted from our bunting biscuit recipe, with 2 tbsp of flour substituted for 2 tbsp cocoa and cut out using squirrel biscuit cutters from Meri Meri. We’d love to see which autumnal treats you’ve been baking – send us photos on Twitter, Instagram, or Snapchat!
Eastern European dishes have become much better known in the UK, thanks to Ukrainian chefs such as Olia Hercules, as well as the ever-increasing availability of authentic Polish and Romanian ingredients across the country. This take on the traditional bierock (a bread parcel usually filled with beef mince and cabbage) is served at The Rockery (found at Islington craft beer bar The Taproom). Chef Ben Taylor has added his twist with flavour-packed combinations including cumin, red pepper and walnut, buttermilk chicken and garden herbs, and fennel and apple pork, all served with signature Rockery beetchup and mustard sauce, with a modish home-brined pickle. Bread, meat and beer – does it get any better than this?
Lemon drizzle gin
Cake and cocktails are two of our favourite things, so we were excited to try a tipple that captures the spirit (pun intended) of both. Independent distillers Sipsmith have managed to get the sweet-sharp balance just right, using a blend of both sundried and fresh lemon peel with aromatic lemon verbena. It certainly lives up to the name – with an almost biscuity scent reminiscent of the golden crisp top of a lemon drizzle cake, followed by a distinctly fruity flavour. Available exclusively in Marks and Spencer stores from Monday 26th Sept.
Cheese + cheese = a winning trend in our books. Gougères are a French favourite; little baked bites of choux pastry, light and fluffy with a golden exterior. The newly designed Bluebird restaurant in Chelsea has taken them to the next level, using Beaufort and making them slightly crunchier than usual, served with a cheese dip made of fromage Blanc with chives and shallots. As fromage aficionados, we might just have found our new favourite bar snack.
Danish pastries are passé, we’re over the cronut already and the Portuguese custard tart frenzy seems to be cooling. Cue our next pastry obsession – the ensaïmada. Originating in Mallorca, Spain, this is a light-as-air, attractively coiled pastry. Traditionally made with a kind of reduced pork lard called saïm and a mother ‘starter’ dough, ensaïmadas can be plain or filled with sweet cream, chocolate, turrón paste, or cabell d’àngel (literally ‘angel’s hair’) – sweetened strands of pumpkin rolled up in the dough. We’re crossing our fingers this Mallorcan tradition extends its sweet tentacles into UK bakeries.
Forget beef. This week we tried duck carpaccio with a French cherry vinegar dressing and stuffed courgette flowers eaten at Michelin-star restaurant Les Trois Domes in Lyon, a beautiful restaurant with panoramic views over the city. Carpaccio – traditionally a dish of thinly sliced marinated raw beef – is everywhere at the moment, and many other ingredients, particularly fish, vegetables and fruit, are being used in place of beef. We have our own courgette carpaccio recipe if you fancy trying it yourself.
Soft, milky white cobnuts are a type of hazelnut grown in Kent. They’re available for a short season and, unlike some other nuts, they’re picked and eaten fresh. At the start of the season they’re sold in clusters in their green, furry husks. Sweetish and mild with a texture a little like chestnuts, they’re lovely eaten on their own as a snack, with cheese or chopped over salads. You can also scatter them around a roast chicken as it cooks to serve as a nutty accompaniment. By the end of the month and through October you’ll be able to buy them matured to a golden brown without their husks, by which point they’ll be sweeter and more nut-like in both taste and texture. You can find them at greengrocers, in some Waitrose branches or buy them online.
Crispy cockles and chilli vinegar
We love it when an old classic makes a comeback. Once a common bar snack in pubs, pickled cockles seemed to fall out of favour for a while, but we’ve spotted them turning up on seaside menus ever since we snaffled a jar at Coast restaurant in April. The beautifully located Harbour Master restaurant in Wales have cleverly built on two trends by ‘popcorning’ the little molluscs in batter, turning them into crispy little pop-in-the-mouth bites, served in a half scallop shell with chilli vinegar to add acidity and a fiery kick. Add in the breath-taking harbour view and you’ve got a fantastic seaside snack.
Clay pot negroni
Step away from the cocktail shaker – the latest way to mix your drinks is in pottery. The Athenaeum Hotel, Mayfair, serves a negroni steeped in a clay pot for 48 hours before serving to intensify the flavour. It’s a bespoke cocktail from the new range by world renowned Italian bartender Giancarlo Mancino, eponymous creator of Mancino vermouth. The rosso vermouth coats the inside of the pot, infusing the gin and bitters with earthy botanicals, making for a super smooth and complex blend of flavours. Time for an aperitif? Here’s how to make a perfect negroni.
Basque cooking is big news at the moment. It’s the subject of Jose Pizarro’s most recent book, and homages to Northern Spain’s celebrated cuisine have been increasingly popular across London, from meat specialist Sagardi to new opening, Eneko at One Aldwych. Award-winning chef Eneko Atxa takes rustic Basque dishes and refines them, such as this take on cod bizkaina. Traditionally made with salted cod loin and thickened with bread, this rendition uses far more delicately flavoured tripe and a slow-cooked sauce with Basque chorizo peppers, simmered for four days to thicken. The final flourish are the tempura-battered cod bites, deep-fried until crisp and golden. The result? An exceedingly rich dish, best shared and paired with a Basque red wine.
Peruvian popped-corn monkfish
It seems our appetite for Peruvian cuisine just keeps growing. This week we headed to Chelsea to try Chicama
, a new Peruvian-inspired seafood restaurant and the younger sister of Pachamama
in Marylebone. We started with brined monkfish cheeks dipped in tempura batter, finished with popcorn and deep-fried until crisp and golden, served with lashings of vibrant, piquant dip made with aji amarillo (a bright orangey-yellow, thick-fleshed medium-to-hot chilli pepper), lime and mayonnaise. We found it paired perfectly with Chicama’s signature cocktail, Barberola, made with Dry Acerola Cherry and Barsol Quebranta (pisco), rhubarb, raspberry and tonka bean – a take on the classic spritz.
First there were drinkable yogurts, then came kombucha – now there’s a new gut-boosting drink in town. Water kefir is a probiotic beverage, made from small, translucent ‘grains’ of good bacteria and yeast, which are fed with sugar water and left to culture. With a faster ferment and milder taste than the sometimes vinegary kombucha, water kefir is easy to make and flavour, and we predict that it will be an even more popular product in the months to come. We tried some at the Rude Health Café
in Putney, where their small batch house brew is made using filtered water, fed with organic raw cane juice sugar and organic raisins, then finished with seasonal fruits, herbs and spices.
Canadian sticky buns
Once we fell in love with poutine, then with the sweet-salty pairing that is bacon and maple syrup. Now we’re discovering that Canadian buns are giving their Scandi counterparts a run for their money. Lighter on the cinnamon but generous with the caramel, this is a cross between a cinnamon swirl and a Chelsea bun. Bakeries gain legendary status based on the stature of their bakes; Kelly’s Bake Shop
in Alma, New Brunswick is a prime destination for bun enthusiasts, selling thousands per day in the summer season. We sampled an extra-special treat (pictured) from The Maroon Pig
, Georgetown on Prince Edward Island, with a thicker, glossier caramel that had set to a wafer-thin brûlée-like layer on the very top.
Missed the last food diary? Find out what we ate last month, or visit our 12 month compilation to get fully up to speed…
What we ate in August
What we ate in July
What we ate in June
What we ate in May
What we ate in April