In September we tried...

Veg-based cocktails


Still putting fruit in your cocktails? That is SO last year. These days we’re finding more and more veg in our drinks, and we’re not just talking about that celery stick in your Bloody Mary. Bars across the country are serving up innovative, vegetable-based cocktails, using whole blitzed veg (boozy-smoothie style), veg syrups or veg garnishes. This week, we’ve been at Archer Street bar in London’s Soho where this green number is on the menu. Named ‘defying gravity’, this zingy cocktail is made from Plymouth gin, lime juice and a yellow pepper & basil syrup. The result is an unusual-tasting but absolutely delicious cocktail – the herby basil flavour and sweet pepperiness works well with the sharp lime for a really refreshing drink. Elsewhere, Apotheca bar in Manchester’s Northern Quarter shines the spotlight on beetroot with ‘Just beet it’ – a cocktail made with beetroot (obviously), balsamic liqueur, basil, lemon and chilli. Fancy getting your 5-a-day in booze form? We have plenty of veg-based cocktail recipes to try, including courgette martini, blood beetroot cocktails and a chicory Collins.


Rhubarb beer


Talking of vegetables in drinks (yes, rhubarb is a vegetable – who knew), we’ve noticed a particular rise in the use of rhubarb in our favourite tipples too, from soft drinks to cider and even gin. The latest? Rhubarb IPA. We came across this unusual beer on a trip to Northern France. While the word France might normally conjure up thoughts of fine wine and champagne, the Nord-Pas de Calais region actually has a long history of brewing beer and there are several breweries in the area. We visited one of these, Page 24 brewery in Arras, for a brewery tour. While Page 24 is perhaps most famous for its blonde beer, the team make a number of different beer varieties, including this one – rhubarb IPA. Brewed with rhubarb, the Rhub’IPA has a very slight rhubarb aroma which combines well with the citrussy hops. It is surprisingly not very sweet, and instead just provides a freshness that means the beer feels lighter and more refreshing than a classic IPA. We’re yet to see this in the U.K, but we have a feeling it won’t be long…

Churros with tomatillo salsa


Churros are impossible to ignore at the moment, particularly if you’re in the business of frequenting street food markets and taco bars. Everyone loves a doughnut so as a dish they’ve easily been assimilated into the British lexicon of deep fried items we love. Generally, they all follow the same format - sticks of crunchy, cinnamon-dusted dough with a thick chocolate (of varying quality) or dulche de leche dipping sauce, so it was refreshing to see a potential new trend at Santo Remedio, where they come with a sweet-sharp tomatillo salsa. Tomatillos are also called Mexican husk tomatoes, and as both names suggest look like green tomatoes, though the green papery covering shows their relation to physallis. Commonly used in salsa verde we expect you’ll be seeing more of them in the coming years as they are already grown in the UK. Santo Remedio has recently reopened near London Bridge after an earlier incarnation in Shoreditch, with Edson Diaz-Fuentes at the helm in the kitchen, co-owner with his wife Natalie. The menu includes a chunky guacamole with a good blast of chilli that knocks most other versions into a cocked hat, tacos with varied toppings including soft shelled crab and fabulously tender lamb chops that alone are worth the trip.

Blood orange beer


“Bottle of the house beer, please?” Never mind wine, pairing food with beer is a trend that's on the up and restaurants are taking it so seriously that they’re even brewing their own beers to match their dishes perfectly. The latest comes from London’s Santa Maria Pizzeria which has collaborated with Peckham-based Bianca Road Brewing Company to create the Santa Maria Blood Orange IPA. Why? Well, beer and pizza is an obvious combination. After all, they share three key ingredients: water, yeast and grains. By adding the zest and juice of tangy, sweet blood oranges at both the ‘boil’ and ‘fermentation’ stages of the brewing process you end up with a beer that has a refreshing citrus punch, ideal for cutting through a rich cheesy pizza, while still complementing the tomato sauce. Genius. Fancy trying it yourself? The Santa Maria Blood Orange IPA is available in Santa Maria’s London pizzerias from September.

Bottled seawater


Yes, bottled seawater is a thing… Bear with us; we’re not advocating going to your local British beach, filling up a bottle and swigging it. No, we’re talking about H2O from the stunning seas around Sicily. Aqua Maris is launching a bottled Sicilian seawater that has been twice-filtered and sterilised using UV technology, meaning it's clean and safe to consume while retaining all the minerals that make it such a wonderful ingredient. The locals have been using seawater for centuries – traditionally, because seasonings were expensive to buy. Not only does it impart salty flavour, it's believed to be healthier than table salt due to the mineral content. Plus, sprinkling salt means dishes can be unevenly seasoned, whereas cooking with seawater allows it to permeate. With chips made from potatoes boiled in seawater, you’ll find no additional salt is required. But we really love octopus simmered in seawater for a genuine, deep taste of the Mediterranean. We’re not advising you cook everything in seawater, especially as this once inexpensive ingredient is now more costly (the cleaning and bottling process comes with a price tag…), but we think it would be great for cooking vegetables or fresh seafood for special dinners. Or, try adding a splash to a Margarita instead of the salted glass rim.

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Calling all budding bakers! Do you know how to make the best sourdough loaf? Want to master the perfect icing on a naked cake? Well, now is your chance to learn! Our brand-new BBC Good Food Show, Feast, is the place to be over the weekend (22-24 September) at the Tower of London. Our team of experts will be there running workshops, so you can learn the secrets of bread-making in our sourdough workshop, ice to perfection with our naked cake decorating class, or channel your inner mixologist making jug cocktails. Plus, Anjula Devi will be sharing tips and recipes in her Authentic Indian Cooking class while The Ginger Pig and east London bar The Jones Family Project are collaborating to bring you the ultimate steak butchery demo and tasting. As always, you'll also be able to see plenty of celebrity chefs at the show, including Yotam Ottolenghi, José Pizarro, John Torode and Tom Kerridge. Don’t miss our first-ever Tower of London show – buy your tickets now.

Parmesan ramen

Parmesan ramen in bowl

Ever thought of putting parmesan in a ramen? Us neither, but it turns out it’s a real game-changer. We’ve been at Japanese restaurant Nanban in London’s Brixton (the brainchild of 2011 MasterChef champion Tim Anderson) where this epic ramen is on the menu. The dish, called lamb tan tan men, is actually a Sichuan-inspired chilli and sesame broth with thin noodles, topped with Szechuan-spiced lamb mince and thick slices of roasted lamb neck fillet (because, why have just one type of lamb?). The addition of spring onion, ground sesame, Chinese leaf and that all-important grated parmesan results in more flavour than you can shake a chopstick at. Though not a Japanese ingredient, the parmesan adds extra umami punch. With the mince and noodles, the dish feels like a hybrid of ramen and spaghetti Bolognese… and we love it. For more inventive Japanese recipes by Tim Anderson, check out his new book Japaneasy, available from 21 September.


Spatzli in pan

This week, we visited the picturesque Swiss village of Saas-Fee for a celebration of the region’s food history at the Nostalgic Culinary Mile festival, which is now in its 13th year. On the menu? Indulgent and seriously comforting dishes that offer the big, warm hug you need when you’re up in the mountains. Think hot, cheesy fondue, raclette, potato rosti with a range of meats and plenty of rich game dishes. Here’s something we hadn’t tried before though: spätzli (or spätzle, depending on where you eat it). Somewhere between pasta and mini dumplings, these squidgy little nuggets of dough are seriously addictive. In Switzerland, they are traditionally served alongside meat stews but you’ll also find them in Germany, Hungary and Austria accompanying other dishes. Visiting the region? Try them covered in cheese for a neat twist on mac n’ cheese. Dreamy.

Blackberries, beetroot & plums

Beetroot, chicory, blackberries & dry aged duck

This week we saw out the summer and welcomed in autumn with a mouthwatering seasonal menu from Roux at Parliament Square. Hosted by Michel Roux Jr and head chef Steve Groves (another MasterChef winner, from 2009), the menu guided us through the end of summer with sweet, ripe blackberries and tender beetroot, through to autumnal girolle mushrooms and delicate English greengages. To top it all off, our five-course tasting menu was paired with some unusual tipples. Ever tried a spoonful of matcha tea powder in your cocktail of choice? Together with our dessert course we sipped on a Japanese plum sake and matcha blend. The sweetness of the plum, balanced with the slightly bitter matcha was the perfect light, citrussy accompaniment to our rich almond, honey and jasmine sweet. We were also treated to a crisp Portobello Pilsner paired with a rich chalk stream trout. We’re well and truly primed for more comforting, cosy dishes as the nights draw in.

Sake slushie


It may be grey and miserable outside but we're clinging on to summer with one of this season's biggest drinks trends: the boozy slushie. And this particular version takes it to the next level. You may have heard of the sensation that is frosé (rosé wine, in frozen slushie form), but have you ever tried a sake slushie? We've been at regional Chinese pop-up restaurant Lucky & Joy in London’s Bethnal Green, where this bad boy is on the cocktail menu. Sake (a.k.a Japanese rice wine) has increased in popularity in the UK over the last few years. Not for the faint-hearted, it can taste very alcoholic when drunk neat, but it’s great in cocktails. We loved this one, called the 7-spice slush, it’s made with Honjozo sake infused with schichimi togorashi (a Japanese spice mix, made from chillies, plus other ingredients that typically include sesame seeds, poppy seeds and citrus peel). This is blended with zingy yuzu juice, vodka and sugar syrup to create a balance of sweet, sour and spicy, recreating the kind of flavours you’ll find in the food (which is also great, by the way). Plus, it’s in slushie format so you can’t help feeling like a kid at a fun-house… but make no mistake, this is strictly for grown-ups!

Manouri cheese


Imagine a cheese with the satisfying saltiness of halloumi, the slightly sharp tang of feta and the fluffy, creaminess of ricotta. Sounds dreamy, right? Well, it's also a reality. Manouri is a semi-soft whey cheese produced from sheep’s and goat’s cheese (in fact, it’s a by-product of the feta-making process, made from the milk whey that’s drained from the feta during production). The texture is firm, meaning you can fry or grill it, a little like halloumi. We had ours griddled with mushrooms, but you can also eat it as it is. In fact, the inside is so deliciously creamy, with a texture a little like whipped ricotta, that it would be great as a replacement for cream cheese in a cheesecake, or drizzled with honey and eaten as a dessert. The good news? You can now buy this unctuous cheese from Odysea in Waitrose (£2.50, 170g).



It looks a bit like a pork pie but this is in fact a mooncake – a sweet Chinese cake eaten during the Mid-Autumn festival. Considered to be the second biggest date in the Chinese calendar, the Mid-Autumn festival takes place on the evening of the season’s first full moon (hence, mooncakes). This year it falls on 4th October and several restaurants here in the UK are already gearing up for celebrations. We tried these mooncakes at Soho’s Bun House & Tea Room, where they’re on the menu in the lead-up to the festival, as well as at a special mooncake party on the aforementioned day. Guests can enjoy the traditional mooncake, made with lotus seed paste and a salted duck egg yolk inside, or Bun House’s alternative take, with a sweet custard-like filling. Downstairs in the Tea Room, there'll be mooncake offerings available on selected dates that include matcha, purple yam and candied winter melon flavours served alongside signature Baijiu cocktails, so you can really fill your (moon) boots.

Black pepper ice cream


Sweet and sticky salted caramel, cool ice cream and hot, cinnamon-dusted churros. All together, THAT is what we call dessert. We want to shout about it, but we must be fairly discreet, because we tried this epic creation at the brand-new and (warning: before you click that link) colourfully named Flavour B*****d in London’s Soho. Newly opened, the restaurant uses innovative, exciting flavour combinations and interesting textures in its range of small plates, from miso & mango aubergine with peanut crumble to duck egg with pickled watermelon and cauliflower. And this sweet is no exception – a delicious amalgamation of contrasting textures and flavours. The genius bit? Black pepper ice cream. Yep, these guys have taken salt and pepper to the dessert menu. Using fruity, cracked black pepper (not the dusty ground kind) you get a fragrant warmth that enhances the spiced churros, salty caramel and creamy ice cream. Yes, salted caramel is old news now, but black pepper is creeping into desserts more and more. Not convinced? Try Tom Kerridge’s roast whole pineapple with black pepper & rum.

Kiwi berries


If you’ve ever thought a kiwi would be better without its fur coat (and a fraction of the size), then you’re in luck. Kiwi berries are here to answer your prayers. These small, round fruits, about the size of a large grape, are also known as baby kiwi. Unsurprisingly, they taste just like normal kiwi. The only difference is their smooth, bright green skin which means these juicy berries can be eaten whole. As well as making a healthy snack, their attractive seed-dotted interior means, when cut in half, they make a pretty addition to fruit salads, on top of breakfast granola or as a garnish on savoury dishes. Plus, like kiwi, they're full of antioxidants and vitamin C. Trialled in a limited number of supermarkets last year, these little beauties, sometimes sold under the brand name Nergi, were so popular that they’re back on sale from now until mid-November. Grab ‘em while you can!

Cherry molasses


Say hello to our new favourite ingredient: cherry molasses. If, like us, you’re a fan of using sticky-sweet pomegranate molasses in Middle Eastern salads and dressings, then you’re going to love this new alternative from Arabica Food and Spice. A recent addition to their Middle Eastern range, this sweet, sticky sauce is made entirely from sour Montmorency cherries, resulting in a rich and intense fruity flavour. So that means a little goes a very long way (making the £8.95 price tag a little easier to swallow). Originating from Turkey, where it’s traditionally mixed with iced water for a refreshing drink, cherry molasses has a huge number of other culinary uses. Arabica founder James Walters recommends it drizzled over a warm aubergine salad, stirred into breakfast yogurt or with ice cream, but we reckon it would also be great for cocktails, used in a sauce for venison or artily drizzled onto dessert plates, MasterChef-style. Your dinner guests will be seriously impressed. Buy it online or in Selfridges' food hall.

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
What we ate in March
What we ate in February
What we ate in January
What we ate in December 2016
What we ate in November 2016
What we ate in October 2016
What we ate in September 2016
What we ate in August 2016
What we ate in July 2016
What we ate in June 2016
What we ate in May 2016
What we ate in April 2016

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