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 May...
Our very own furtive forager Barney was roaming verdant pastures once again this week. Filling his sack this time were abundant dandelion leaves. This common weed is the ultimate in ‘freegan’ cuisine – you don’t even need to hit woodland to find it. He served his leaves as a simple side salad, but a word to the wise - if you fancy doing the same, it goes without saying they need a good wash before serving.
An eagle-eye is required to seek out another of May’s forageable seasonal ingredients, the pignut. These nobbly little treats grow underground, so you’ll need your gardening gloves if you're heading out to harvest a bounty. You'll find them beneath small white flowers on one stem of green, and you’ll have to dig a few inches into the soil before you get to them. Once extracted, they need to be scrubbed until their buttery beige skin is free of soil. Serve them finely sliced and expect them to taste a little like hazelnuts. But take a tip from Barney – it’s prohibited to pick cobnuts on common land.
Peas at Petersham Nurseries
Our staff writer Holly attended a masterclass in how to plan a seasonal menu at London’s Petersham Nurseries this week, and there was one thing on everyone’s lips – “peas, please”. It’s time to clip-seal the bag of frozen pods and place them on the backburner in favour of the fresh variety, which are in season and sweet as pie right now. Once you’ve got your podding routine down pat, you’ll be racing through a pile of them in no time.
It’s around about this time of year that herb patches tend to mushroom in size, and if your chives are having a good season, allow them to grow their pretty starburst flowers. These purple blossoms share the same mild allium flavour as chives, so they’re great tossed into salads or used as a colourful garnish, which ticks the edible flower trend box, too.
A cake for a great
Back when spiralizing, Instagram and crab doughnuts were in a pre-embryonic stage and shoulder pads were still super-cool, BBC Good Food magazine was launched. The brains and brawn behind it was a publishing powerhouse named Nick Brett, and this week we waved a teary goodbye as he went on semi-retirement. We marked the occasion in the only befitting way – with a giant cake, made by one of our favourite bakers, Edd Kimber. The hallowed halls of BBC Good Food will never be the same – we’ll miss you, Nick!
The concept of ‘raw food’ may conjure up many images in your mind, but we bet chocolate brownies aren’t one of them. But as health editor Roxy and digital assistant Sarah discovered, raw dining is full of surprises. This week, they enjoyed a breakfast of champions at Tanya’s Cafe in London, where spirulina smoothies, green juice porridge, raw granola and matcha lattes were on the menu, plus the aforementioned raw cocoa brownie that was one of the best we’ve ever come across. And by the way, we think brownies before 10am should become the next ‘thing’.
This week, we attended the launch of April Bloomfield’s new book, A Girl and Her Greens. We’re big fans of April, her being a strong female in food with a great ethos – she’s all about “beauty and simplicity”. She served hearty dishes from her book, which pushes vegetables to the front of the dinner plate. We ate pea crostini, broccoli raab buns and roasted baby carrots with carrot top pesto and burrata – a cheese we'd move mountains for. We particularly loved the hasselback new potato lollipops, draped in melted lardo – basically porky chips on a stick, which receives a hearty tick in our book.
Tributes to the 150-year anniversary of Alice in Wonderland are cropping up all over the food world – but then it did give birth to one of the best tea parties of all time. This year’s Chelsea Flower Show gave a nod to the timeless novel by asking its exhibitors to create displays in ode to Alice et al. Deputy editor Elaine loved the giant teapots, cupcakes made from flowers and foliage and huge fruit sculptures. Curious indeed.
This latest food trend comes from Canada via our northern childhood memories – when we were chowing down on chips and gravy on our way home from school we never imagined that trendsetting gourmands would be serving them up at snazzy events ten years later. Our brand executive Tash experienced the deluxe version at a pop-up in a north London pub this week – triple-cooked chips with fresh cheddar curds and mushroom gravy, with optional pulled pork or spicy aubergine on top. We hope all our childhood dishes experience such a wonderful renaissance – we’re rooting for bear sausage slices to be the hit of 2016…
Pickling and fermenting is a trend we’re keeping a close eye on, and where better to watch how it unfolds than the East London restaurant scene. New fried chicken joint Chick ‘n’ Sours specialises in the matrimonial pairing of sour cocktails and spicy chicken burgers, plus it offers a daily pickle special. Food editor Barney plumped for a side of pickled shiitake mushrooms with three-cornered leek flower, also known as wild onion.
New season artichokes
Globe artichokes are back in season and if you find the gnarly raw bulb slightly unfathomable, take a leaf out of Barney’s book and cook it whole. Once soft, the individual leaves can be plucked off ready to dunk into a melted butter and lemon dip. The consumption method may be a little unorthodox – using your teeth to scrape the meagre amount of edible flesh from the shell-like leaves – but it adds to the theatre of it all.
We're still piling edible leaves onto our dinner plates, and sorrel is a good entry-level pick for beginner foragers – it doesn’t come with the sting of nettles or potency of wild garlic. Use it as a salad leaf and enjoy its velvety texture and mild flavour – we enjoyed it in old school cheese sarnies with cucumber and a stroke of butter.
Our week has been a sugar-coated dream thanks to National Doughnut Week, which culimated in our live Twitter conversation on Friday. Our cookery team talked everything from doughnut burgers (yes, we're talking beef patties surrounded by sugared, fried buns), gorgeous glazes and the ultimate filling. Assistant food editor Miriam's flavour to end all flavours is coconut cream custard with cardamom icing and rosewater. Sweet dreams are made of this...
Brunch for two
We’ve spent many a morning gawping over rainbow porridge, matcha latte and pimento waffles thanks to the creative and beautiful SymmetryBreakfast Instagram account – there’s nothing like congee with youtiao to cast your humble bircher in a drab light. Our food editor Cassie created her own three-course, double-trouble dream featuring fresh juice, fruit salad with granola and perfect-yolked eggs with mandatory avocado slices – after all, it isn’t a modern brunch without a few slices of alligator pear.
Bold claim klaxon: Cassie reckons she tasted the best eccles cake of her life this week. The Lancashire treat came via the streets of East London thanks to the Pump St Bakery pop-up and it faces stiff competition – the legendary St John’s eccles cake (served with Lancashire cheese) is considered by many to don the Best Eccles in London crown. By the by, this raisin-filled puff pastry puck ticked all the right boxes – sticky and buttery with a mean sugar crunch.
Into The Woods afternoon tea
Abundant foliage, fairytale references and petit fours gathered in one place can only mean one thing – an Into The Woods themed afternoon tea. Our cookery assistant Chelsie attended the pop-up at Sketch in London and enjoyed cartoonish morsels including Jack’s Beanstalk cherry tart and Little Red Hiding Hood choux buns. We’re all for ostentatious literary references on our dinner plates this year – it is the 150th anniversary of Alice in Wonderland after all…
Fish bread in Istanbul
Of all the dreamy Turkish cuisine to sample in Istanbul, deputy editor Elaine recommends one must-try dish – ‘balik ekmek’, a fish sandwich that’s served along the waterfront and in the shadow of Galata Bridge lies fish bread central. Here you can expect to pick up a huge, freshly-grilled mackerel fillet stuffed into crusty bread with lettuce and onions for the not-so-princely sum of around £1.50. Congratulations, Turkey – you just trounced every other street food going…