Read our dispatch from the world of food as the roving BBC Good Food team hits the scene to discover new trends, hot ingredients and what you should be eating to stay in vogue. Here's what we ate in July...
London’s Carousel hosts supper clubs in a restaurant, meaning you get to bypass the queasy unease that comes with entering someone’s domestic lair for the first time. The timetable of resident chefs has featured some of our favourite emerging names – Rosie Birkett and Ollie Templeton to name two – and this week Olia Hercules brought her homely Ukrainian cooking to Marylebone tables. Magazine deputy editor Elaine snapped this standout dish – tartar steamed dumplings with pork belly. She also enjoyed green borscht, with sorrel in place of beetroot, Georgian poussin and Soviet-Korean pickled carrots.
Manning the steer of our good ship brunch – we’re on a mission to circumnavigate the globe ad infinitum – this week was Cassie, who tucked into a lush breakfast of shakshuka. This dish of eggs braised with tomatoes & peppers is eaten in some iteration all over the Middle East and North Africa. It’s one of Israeli chef, Yotam Ottolenghi’s favourite breakfasts, but as it’s such a basic blueprint, different versions of it can be found across the globe. Cassie enjoyed her shakshuka a little closer to home, at Suffolk’s Darsham Nurseries, and it came topped with yogurt, micro purple basil and a generous dusting of sumac – eggcellent.
Our assistant food editor Miriam was waxing lyrical about London’s Hill & Szrok this week. This diminutive unit operates as a butcher during the day, then following a minor set change, the chainmail curtain lifts to reveal a restaurant setting. Vegetarians look away now – the head table is actually a working tiled butchers block. Ironically, one of Miriam’s favourite dishes was meat-free. This chargrilled cucumber with curd, toasted seeds and pickled beetroot reminds Miriam of a cooked cucumber dish her mum used to make, although Hill & Szrok’s version is slightly more conceptual.
Nope, us either. That’s because peackles isn’t actually an ingredient or dish, rather an invention by Bristol’s The Ethicurean of peas pickled in lovage. Barney dined at the experimental kitchen garden restaurant, which serves its fish with a side of lacto-fermentation and food science. Also on the menu were courgette flowers with fennel seed gel and pork belly with brown butter and chipotle crackling – this is no ordinary kitchen garden restaurant.
What is there to say about a festival that celebrates the sausage? And we’re not just talking porcine perfection here, we’re talking veggie bangers, theatre, a cook house, music and Chas & Dave – is this the real life, or is this just fantasy? Cassie’s trip to Jimmy’s Farm Sausage Festival included these turbo-loaded dawgs with chilli, cheese and crispy onion. Who needs music festivals when sausages, by all intents and purposes, are the new rock and roll?
We’re rooting for a big resurgence of the humble cauliflower, and our wishes might be coming true as we’re spotting this beautiful brassica all over the place at the moment. Middle Eastern grill house Berber & Q has commendably backed up its meaty menu with thoughtful, creative vegetarian options, although we’d expect nothing less from former Ottolenghi chefs. Their roasted cauliflower comes by the quarter, half and whole, and it’s seasoned with salt, cumin, pomegranate and rose and tastes truly delicious according to our digital content producer Mariana.
Grown-up ice lollies
Alcoholic frozen lollies have really taken their icy grip on the food scene this summer. POPS ‘premium ice popsicles’ combine two of our favourite things – a refreshing frozen lollipop and our beloved Prosecco. Just the ticket for balmy summer evenings. Our cookery team has been experimenting with their own blends, so check back soon for our take on this super-cool summer sensation.
Our food editor and cake master Cassie excelled herself again this week, and we can’t quite get the alluring image of her tiramisu cake out of our heads. She casually knocked it up on a Sunday afternoon and basically riffed on a sticky toffee pudding by soaking dates in coffee before baking them into a bouncy sponge. The topping is mascarpone frosting, chocolate and a coffee syrup drizzle. She’s such a cool cook that she made it up on the spot and didn’t even write down the recipe. We’ll be pestering her until she does.
Assistant food editor Miriam continued the ‘mash-up menu’ theme by chowing down on Byron Burger’s new ‘Freddar Dawg’. We’re big on burgers at the moment, and this fun new spin is executed with aplomb. The chosen formula for the additional toppings is a mix of crispy bacon, mustard mayo, pickles, lettuce, sauce, onion slaw and a slice of American cheese. The cheese was custom made especially – that’s the kind of attention to detail we like.
You can’t beat a simple grilled lobster, but when it comes to creative serving ideas, we approve of the idea of a lobster taco. Cassie visited B.O.B’s Lobster at Dinerama in East London and sampled them for herself – the soft lobster meat and crispy taco combo comes highly endorsed. Best wishes to the folk at Street Feast who run Dinerama, too – their Shoreditch site was damaged by fire last week. They hope to be back up and running in a month or so. Good luck guys.
Do you like your brunch big? Do you like your brunch with four portions of pork and seven layers of indulgence? If the answer to both of these questions is yes, we highly recommend the super-stacked pig muffin from Hash E8 in East London. We spent our Saturday morning snuffling our way through a monolithic tower of sausage patty, pork belly, egg cake, bacon jam, cheese slice, hash brown, (almost there) toasted muffin and chorizo jam. Before you judge, please take note of the potion of kale on the side (though from the porcine aftertaste I’m pretty sure it was sautéed in something piggy too).
Buttermilk ice cream
We’re seeing buttermilk everywhere these days – it was only a matter of time before the shrinking violet of the dairy cabinet enjoyed its moment in the sun. Buttermilk has a distinct tang and adds a delicious, subtle acidity to bakes like soda bread, scones or sponge. Plus, there’s a reason why you can’t shake a drumstick without bumping into buttermilk fried chicken on the street food scene – bathing meat in buttermilk before breading it gives it a luxurious juiciness. Our digital content producer Mariana enjoyed buttermilk ice cream at The Marksman in East London, which was perfectly paired with tart, stewed gooseberries.
A quick lesson in debunking modish food words – anything that’s ‘pulled’ is basically slow-cooked meat that can be easily torn apart into succulent tendrils. Chef Phil Howard gave us a masterclass in slow-braising lean rabbit by demonstrating that a bath of tasty chicken stock and a low-heated oven can achieve sensational results. He served the delicate wisps of rabbit in an umami-rich pasta dish of strozzapretti, tarragon and Parmesan. Rabbit is in season all year round, and if you can get over the image of Thumper adorably drumming his paw, it’s worth trying it at least once – it’s surprisingly mellow.
Thanks to this year’s bumper crop of super-sized strawbs (see last week's diary entry) we’re sneaking the red beauties in wherever we can before the cruel seasonal shift snatches them away from us for another year. Our baking queen Cassie – fresh from an afternoon catching rays on the Wimbledon terraces – baked up a batch of strawberry & white chocolate muffins to celebrate Sunday’s men's final. Novak and Roger with a side of berry drizzle – what better way to cap off a weekend?
This week, we waved off our utterly fabulous creative director Liz who’s swapping tripods and studio lighting for a career in upholstering furniture. The only thing sharper than her eye for aesthetic is her collection of cacti, so our ridiculously talented, unofficial artist-in-residence Miriam casually knocked up a cactus cake complete with marzipan succulents and biscuit sand (this is a woman who can make truffles in a kettle, so we’d expect nothing less). Liz, the pain of you leaving is like being pricked all over with a thousand cactus needles, but we’re thrilled about your impending adventures in fabric. Fabulousness squared.
Fully loaded Cajun chicken burger
With barbecues blazing up and down the country, food editor Barney set about creating this absolute beast of a burger. Forget gravity-defying cakes, the number of toppings squeezed between a toasted bun in this towering stack is enough to challenge physics as we know it. And if stuffing Cajun-spiced chicken, bacon, cheddar cheese, tomato, onion and lettuce between the bread wasn't enough, Barney even found room to skewer a chargrilled chilli and gherkin on top. Now that's a big bite!
Chocolate porter cake
Assistant food editor Miriam baked up a treat for her boyfriend this week - and what better way to celebrate the birthday of a keen brewer than with a beer cake? A Ballast Point porter made the perfect boozy addition to a rich chocolate sponge. After smothering with a malt buttercream icing, Miriam topped it all off with some raw cocoa nibs, crushed honeycomb and a drizzle of espresso icing, making sure that all the malty, honey, vanilla, chocolate and espresso notes from the dark beer were out and about on the decorations too. Happy Birthday Richard!
If we could spend every afternoon perfecting the art of making pasta from scratch, we’d be a pretty content (if slightly less productive) team. So it goes without saying that Cassie and Miriam were feeling 'in the pink' as they tried their hands at an authentic pasta making class at Venturi’s Table Cookery School, crafting this vividly hued tagliatelle coloured with beetroot. But it wasn’t all rosy – also on the menu were spinach and ricotta ravioli, spinach tagliatelle and a summery pea pesto.
Midsummer Night’s Dream Pavlova
It may be two years since Frances Quinn won Bake Off, but her culinary creations have been setting our hearts aflutter ever since. Deputy mag editor Elaine snapped a pic of this stunning Midsummer Night’s Dream Pavlova at the launch of Frances' debut book, Quintessential Baking. In true British fashion, Frances also whipped up Wimbledon cupcakes complete with shortbread tennis rackets and a fruit-topped Union Flag flapjack cake.
Quick thinking food editor Cassie came up with a molto bene solution to a dinner dilemma this week. If you can’t face another plate of pasta and you’ve half a pan of leftover sauce to spare, this glorious mash up of two of our favourite Italian dishes – Bolognese and pizza – makes for a scrumptious solution. Cassie even cracked an egg in the middle to add a final Florentine flourish. We don't call her the canny cook for nothing!
With Wimbledon in full swing (pun intended) and a relentless heatwave causing us to wither like old rocket leaves, this week has been all about cooling off with fridge-cold, juicy strawberries. 2015 has been a record-breaking year for the British industry, and it promises to be longer and better than ever, as we can attest after we picked up a punnet of mind-bogglingly large strawbs this week. No exaggeration, we’re talking tennis ball-size. If you manage to lay your hands on some, aside from eating them like an apple, we recommend enjoying them first thing in the morning with light pancakes and a dollop of coconut yogurt, as demonstrated by our brunch queen Cassie.
Christmas in July
Stollen in summer? Holly wreathes in a heatwave? Welcome to ‘Christmas in July’, a marketing term for a series of showcases held by companies to show off their 2015 festive ranges. This week, the Good Food team sweltered on the Underground and clumsily ambushed Waitrose ambassador Heston Blumenthal while dabbing at a moist brow, all in the name of seeking out the best products to bring to you later in the year. Highlights included Lidl’s new range of Michelin-approved meat, Waitrose’s admirable cheeseboard and M&S’s novelty dishes. Whoever came up with the idea of a plaited fish wreath and giant salmon mousse balls, sprayed with lamé to resemble pearls, we salute you. Honestly, you couldn’t make this stuff up…
Our magazine deputy editor Elaine visited Azerbaijan this week, and she discovered that their version of the strawberry is loved with a kind of fervour we can all learn from. Pomegranates are a major crop in the former Soviet state, so you’ll find them in salads, dressings, main courses and elsewhere. You can even find them in the sky - to celebrate the 2015 Baku European Games, a giant nars (as pomegranates are known in Azerbaijan) complete with gushing seeds was flown over the stadium during the opening ceremony. Even the logo for the games is a man with a pomegranate head called Nar. Top marks for following a concept through with such commitment…
Crispy duck skin is the kind of thing we’d part an ocean for, so we spent a good ten minutes lusting over senior food editor Barney’s pictorial dispatch from the streets of Paris, zooming in on the golden edges and glistening sautéed spuds in a slightly unhealthy fashion. If you’ve not had the pleasure of trying it, we’re talking duck legs cooked in a bath of oil until butter soft. The legs are then roasted to give the desired crunchy finish. We’d eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner, were it not for the very obvious health hazards, but as an occasional treat it’s true culinary perfection. Is it worth the airfare to France to enjoy the most authentic version? Mais oui mes chéris!
Back to home soil and we’re currently in love with native cherries. Barney harvested his own this week, but you’ll find piles at market stalls at the moment. Our appetite for the red beauties means we import them from around the world all year round, but it’s really worth seeking out British versions. A top tip for making the most of them – pickle them whole in vinegar and serve them with charcuterie, meat or cheese. They should last for up to a year.
What do you think of this week’s eats, and what have you been feasting on?