Our weekly food diary shares on-trend ingredients, fun foodie events, Insta-friendly restaurant dishes and must-try street eats.
This week we tried...
Coffee aficionados might've heard of cascara. From the Spanish word meaning ‘husk’, ‘rind’, or 'shell’, cascara refers to the dried husks of coffee cherries, the fruit which encases coffee beans. It's usually discarded, however, we’re noticing more companies making use of them. Despite being part of the coffee plant, cascara doesn’t taste like coffee, and instead has a sweet, slightly fruity taste. You may have seen, or even tried it, in a tea-like drink (made simply by infusing the dried shells in hot water), but here’s a new way to experience it – in vermouth! Made by Discarded Spirits, this spirit is infused with cascara for a rich, unique flavour. Try it neat, over ice, mixed with tonic water and woody herbs like thyme, or in a negroni with added 'je ne sais quoi'.
Fatt Pundit in London’s Soho shines a beam on Indo-Chinese food, known as Hakka food, a speciality of the Tangra region of Kolkata. Chinese Hakka immigrants settled in Kolkata and married elements of their native cuisine (an emphasis on textures) with their new home (Indian spices and ingredients like yogurt). Examples on the Fatt Pundit menu are the lollipop chicken, a Hakka classic – spicy, crispy chicken wings served with a Szechuan chutney, and momos (pictured) filled with kid goat and Indian spices. Our favourite? The crispy salt & pepper okra – deep-fried for that crackling crunch and tossed in chilli, burnt garlic and pink salt.
XXX mature cheese
We think we’ve discovered one of Britain’s strongest cheeses and it's seriously divided the Good Food office. XXX Mature, is a cheddar-style cheese made by Warwickshire-based Fowlers, a family business making cheese since 1670. Our cheese-loving editor – a judge at the British and World Cheese Awards – brought the XXX into the office commending its robust earthiness and lactic tang. 'It makes your eye-bags sweat, your palate itch and your ears tingle, in a good way'. But other colleagues found it extremely strong and intensly 'farmyard-tasting'. So, what makes it so powerful? The Fowler family’s Abigail says, ‘We first made this cheese by chance. We had kept some cheese for too long and tried it to see if it was something our customers would like. It is now one of our most popular cheeses. It’s aged for four years and has a high acidity. It's very potent’. It certainly isn’t for everyone! But Fowlers has other, milder offerings, including mellow Sage Derby, made with a 100 year-old recipe using dried sage.
Last week we tried...
Nearly 10 years ago, chef Dan Barber of Blue Hill at Stone Barns in New York state asked Cornell professor and plant breeder Michael Mazourek to reinvent the butternut squash, aiming for flavour above all else – a challenge unheard of in the veg growing business, where ease of growth and size tend to be prioritised. This teeny little squash (teaspoon for scale!) is 898, a squash still in progress, based on a honeynut also developed at Cornell (bred from butternut and buttercup squash). 898 matures to the size of a single serve vegetable, with a complex, sweet flavour and delightfully fudgy texture. We’ve seen plate-sized squash at zero-waste Silo in London too, (when your veg taste this good you want to eat every scrap!) This squash was grown in London by Good Food photographer Ming Tang Evans. If you want to try them yourself, seeds are available from Row 7.
Everyone loves a baked good, and, luckily for us, we’ve spotted several new bakeries opening, particularly those with a focus on regional baking, from French patisserie to Nordic buns. This week, we’ve been at Oklava bakery & wine, the new venture by Selin Kiazim and Laura Christie of Oklava restaurant, which specialises in Turkish-Cypriot bakes. Along with well-known favourites like börek and simit bread, we tried this pilavuna – a Cypriot pastry made using pide-style dough, filled with hellim (halloumi cheese), dried mint, sultanas and eggs. Head chef Selin, ‘pilavuna are very traditional Cypriot pastries, perfect for a teatime treat or for breakfast. My mum and her friends often gather of an evening to knock up a massive batch of these. They have a coffee and gossip, and then each person takes home their share of baked goods. It’s classically Cypriot and one of the things that reminds me of my grandmothers baking.’ The dough is bready and studded with sesame seeds for a toasty flavour, while the filling has a good balance between the salty halloumi and pockets of sultana sweetness.
If you’ve seen what Brussels Sprouts look like before they end up in your kitchen, you’ll know they grow as buds on a long, thick stalk with a cabbage-like head. While the stem itself isn't widely eaten, the head, known as the ‘sprout top’, has become a more popular ingredient for chefs and home cooks alike. It could even be argued that the tops are more versatile than Brussels Sprouts, since they're less bitter and slightly softer, a bit like spring cabbage. In season now, we enjoyed ours shallow fried in butter, piled on toast and topped with a poached egg and dollop of Greek yogurt mixed with Dijon mustard (a healthier, quicker alternative to hollandaise!) If you fancy cooking with sprout tops, you can find them in some greengrocers and online at Ocado and Farm Drop.
Earlier this month we tried...
Vegan fast food
In case you’ve missed it, it’s ‘Veganuary’. The campaign, which started in 2014, encourages eating a solely vegan diet for one month. According to the campaign website, more than 500,000 people have registered to take part in Veganuary, but data suggests numbers participating could be ten times that. With the popularity of veganism showing no signs of slowing, supermarkets and fast food chains are cashing in. This month has seen a huge number of new vegan product launches. KFC’s ‘imposter burger’, Subway’s vegan meatball marinara and vegan croissants at Caffe Nero and Pret, to name but a few. Perhaps the most talked about of all? Greggs have done it again. After the colossal success of their vegan sausage roll last year, Greggs have released a vegan steak bake. The verdict? It's a thumbs up from our tasters. If you prefer homemade, check out our vegan sausage rolls, vegan comfort food or for something lighter, try our healthy vegan recipes.
When Silo first opened in Brighton in 2014 it created a lot of buzz, as the UK’s first ‘zero-waste’ restaurant. Brightonians will no doubt be disappointed that Silo has recently moved from Brighton to East London, taking up residence in the White Building, Hackney Wick. But the ethos is still very much the same – absolutely no waste. The menu is projected onto the wall to avoid wasting paper, the counters are made from ex-food packaging and the crockery from crushed wine bottles. The ingredients are carefully sourced, and prepared beautifully. This cuttlefish (pictured) is grilled and served with white kimchi and caramelised butter, churned at the restaurant. Cuttlefish numbers in the seas around the south of the UK have increased in the past few years, making it a sustainable seafood to eat. Look out for it on menus.
Put down that lime and soda. Whether you're taking part in Dry January or not, there’s never been a better time to go alcohol-free. In the past five years, the market for grown-up, booze-free tipples has exploded. We’ve spotted a recent rise in tonic syrups or tonic cordials. These work like normal cordials – add a small amount to soda water and Bob’s your uncle. Plain ones make soda water taste like tonic water (with the added benefit that you can control the flavour the sweetness and bitterness). Our contributing drinks writer Henry Jeffries recommends the ¾ oz Tonic Maison Syrup in his latest review of non-alcoholic spirits and pre-mixed drinks. There are also plenty of flavoured ones, we particularly like Jeffrey’s yarrow, rosehip and elderflower tonic syrup. Still on the booze? These syrups work really well with gin too!
Missed an entry in our food diary? Find out what we've eaten previously...
What we ate in December 2019
What we ate in November 2019
What we ate in October 2019
What we ate in September 2019
What we ate in August 2019
What we ate in July 2019
What we ate in June 2019
What we ate in May 2019
What we ate in April 2019
What we ate in March 2019
What we ate in February 2019
What we ate in January 2019
What we ate in December 2018
What we ate in November 2018
What we ate in October 2018
What we ate in September 2018