Our weekly food diary shares on-trend ingredients, fun foodie events, Insta-friendly restaurant dishes and must-try street eats.
This week we tried...
Savoury croissants aren’t a new phenomenon - the humble ham & cheese has been around for as long as we can remember - but we’ve noticed a growing trend for more daring, bold-flavoured savoury croissants, and this one from Caravan Fitzrovia is a fine example. It may look like a classic pain au chocolat but the filling inside this crisp, layered croissant pastry is not chocolate but nduja salami, and the top is finished with a honey glaze, crushed walnuts and sage leaves. The result? Well let’s just say, we’d take this over ham & cheese any day. Crispy, spicy, salty and with just the right amount of sweetness, this delicious pain au nduja was created in collaboration with blogger and cookbook author Ed Smith aka Rocket & Squash. It’s the first of several charity collaborations with different cookery writers, all of whom will be putting their own spin on a croissant. Get your hands on this one at Caravan Fitzrovia until the end of the month, or if you fancy making your own savoury pastries, try our super simple za’atar croissants.
It’s Easter weekend so we’ve got chocolate on the brain. But forget your standard dark, milk and white, this year we are seriously buzzing about blonde. Made in a similar way to white chocolate but heated differently (for ease, it’s usually referred to as caramelised), resulting in a creamy chocolate with distinctively toasty, biscuity notes. This kind of chocolate flavour isn’t new, with a similar taste to Nestle’s Caramac bar but we’re seeing it around a lot more lately, especially in this year’s Easter egg offerings. We’ve seen ‘blonde’ or caramelised white chocolate eggs from M&S (the winner in our white chocolate egg category in our 2019 Easter Taste Awards), Waitrose and the Chocolate Society and in bars like this one (pictured) from Rococo Chocolates which is creamy with prominent caramel notes and a slight saltiness which takes it to whole new levels of utter deliciousness.
Imagine the best bacon you’ve ever eaten. Now imagine it not as pork, but beef. And not just any beef, but wagyu beef – the most coveted (and expensive) beef in the world. Highland Wagyu bacon is the brainchild of husband and wife team Mohsin Altajir and Martine Chapman, breeders of the biggest herd of Fullblood Wagyu cattle in the UK on their farm a few miles north of Edinburgh. The famous Japanese breed is renowned for being highly marbled, which is what gives the beef its unique tenderness and buttery flavour. And that fat also makes it perfect for making bacon, using the animal’s forequarter flank (or belly), cured in a mixture of salt and herbs, then fried for perfect crispiness that melts in the mouth. Highland Wagyu bacon is still being developed for a wider audience but can currently be bought online (for £7.50 per 100g) here.
Last week we tried...
Like waffles? Then you’ll love this eggciting twist... These bite-sized waffles are cooked to order in egg-shaped iron moulds, before being served, still warm, in an egg carton and slathered with various toppings including salted caramel (our favourite), peanut butter, honey and Nutella, as well as ‘special’ toppings like matcha and Earl Grey custards. These dinky treats are created by Tawainese Irene, founder of Dhan Waffle. Inspired by the waffles found on street food stalls across Taiwan, Irene’s differ in their unique egg shape (dhan meaning egg in Tawainese mandarin). The shape results in a waffle which tastes more like an American pancake but with an extra fluffed-up filling. Dhan Waffles began trading at London’s Maltby Street Market in 2015 but has recently started serving at a pop-up in the food hall at Selfridges, so if you’re in the area and want to experience a different kind of egg this Easter then you know where to head..
Pistachio columba cake
Fancy a change from hot cross buns? How about a slice of Italian tradition instead? An Easter Columba cake or ‘columba di pasqua’ is a traditional offering in Italy at this time of year and is very similar to a panettone. The main differences between panettone and Columba are the shape and topping – a Columba cake is baked in the shape of a dove, has a crunchy sugared coating and is also usually topped with crunchy almonds. Inside, both the texture and flavour are largely the same as panettone but Columba normally contains candied peel only, rather than raisins too. We’ve noticed more of these traditional Italian dove cakes on sale here this Easter including at Waitrose, and Carluccios. Our most recent favourite, however, is this twist by Italian company Fiasconaro on sale online at Sous Chef – light and airy without being dry, it contains not just candied peel but also whole Sicilian pistachios and is topped with white chocolate and pistachios. If that isn't already decadent enough, it comes with seriously addictive sweet pistachio cream for spreading on top. Pure heaven.
Glory to Gloria - the new Italian on the block in London’s Shoreditch is owned by Parisians and is a riot on the senses. Blowsy, over-decorated and 100% Italian looking, it’s the kind of place you might sidle past in search of something more modern in actual Italy. But don’t do that here. Gloria is huge fun: the menu descriptions are sometimes silly, there’s carbonara for two served out of a round of cheese, the brioche toast under the truffled eggs is inches thick and the lemon meringue pie (pictured) defies gravity! If just looking at this has got you salivating (it certainly has for us) and you can’t make it down to the restaurant, try our ultimate lemon meringue pie. Trust us, it’s called ‘ultimate’ for a reason…
Waffles provided by Selfridges, Columba sent by Sous Chef, meal provided by Gloria
Earlier this month we tried...
You may have heard of this unique Japanese ingredient, particularly if you watched the latest series of MasterChef on which it appeared, causing a huge spike in Google searches for ‘umeboshi paste’. We’ve also noticed it popping up in restaurant dishes. Umeboshi refers to Japanese ume plums, which have been fermented in salt, resulting in an extremely sour, salty, tangy and slightly fruity flavour. In Japan, umeboshi paste or the whole pickled plums, are eaten with plain rice but there’s plenty more you can do with it. The paste (which you can find online at Sous Chef, Clear Spring and Japan Centre or in Asian supermarkets) can be used in Japanese-style cooking, for example mixed with soy sauce and mirin to make a tangy dipping sauce or used in a glaze for meat, fish or tofu. However, it has also recently been hailed as a secret weapon in vegan cooking because it provides the salty, sour and umami flavours that non-vegans get from ingredients such as parmesan, anchovies or fish sauce, yet it's completely plant-based. This means it can be added to vegan sauces and marinades, Thai curries and stir-fries for added oomph.
Cheese Easter egg
With Easter less than a month away, we’ve been tasting our way through this year’s Easter egg offerings. We’ve tried the good, the bad and the unusual, this cheese Easter egg being a fine example of the latter. Yes, this is no yolk, ‘Cheese-ter eggs’ are a thing, and they’re not a new phenomenon either. Last year, Butlers Cheeses launched an egg-shaped mould filled with Blacksticks blue cheese, which came with small packs of crackers and chutney. It might have seemed like a gimmick but the trend has caught on. At Sainsbury’s you’ll find one (also made by Butlers) featuring spreadable cheddar cheese in an egg-shaped mould, but by far the most impressive is this one from Wyke Farms. Not only is it a whole egg (unlike the others), the cheese itself is much firmer and more…well, cheesy. Made from mature Somerset cheddar, the solid cheese egg even has a ‘yolk’ inside, made using natural annatto food colouring. Those with more of a savoury than a sweet tooth will be eggcited to crack this one open…
Read any article about 2019’s biggest drinks trends and vermouth will most certainly feature in it. There’s been a huge rise in the popularity of vermouth-based cocktails, evident in bars and supermarkets as well as in Google searches, which have increased by over 30% in the past year. This week, we’ve been in Barcelona drinking vermouth (vermút) like a local. Vermouth, typically red vermouth (vermút rojo), is traditionally drunk before a meal in Spain as an aperitif. This is what you would choose during the day on weekends, either neat over ice with a slice of lemon or orange, or with an olive, perhaps topped up with a squirt of soda from the sifón, which resides on the bar. A fortified wine flavoured with botanicals, the taste varies depending on the brand and you can drink it white or rosé, if you prefer. In the UK, you’ll find it on tap in Spanish bars and restaurants, or you can buy home-grown variations such as Silver Birch from Blackdown.
Earlier this month we tried...
Small batch gin, flavoured gin, colour-changing gin, gin-in-a-tin. Just when we think we’ve seen every gin trend out there, a new one rears its head. The latest? Wine gin. We’ve spotted a handful of gins on the market recently that use wine-making grapes in their distillation process, such as this pinot noir type by winemakers Chapel Down. The grape skins are blended with English wheat spirit to result in an aromatic gin with sweet notes of red berries. While it is believed to be the first pinot noir gin made in this country, wine gin isn’t a completely new concept. Last year, Aussie gin brand Four Pillars launched its Bloody Shiraz, made by steeping Australian shiraz grapes in the brand’s Rare Dry Gin, while Aldi stocked Sorgin, a gin made using sauvignon blanc grapes.
If you haven’t already visited Copenhagen and you’re a fan of pastries, you'll want to add it to your list, because the bun game here is seriously strong. We spent the weekend in the Danish capital and were spoilt for choice. Our favourite? This super-chocolatey croissant-style bun made with twisted, flaky pastry, beautifully striped with glossy chocolate ribbons on the outside, and with a rich chocolate ganache in the centre. We enjoyed it at the very trendy Anderssen & Maillard Bakery in Nørrebro, sat by the window, watching bicycles whizz by. For more pastry perfection, don’t miss the cinnamon buns and croissants at Mirabelle and Meyers bakeries. And buns aside, there are plenty of other foodie hotspots in the city. Check out our guide to the top five places to eat and drink in Copenhagen.
Ever find the crispy bits at the bottom of the pan are the best part of a dish? Us too. That’s why we were so excited about this wild prawn rice (pictured), sampled at Lido Bristol during our latest BBC Good Food Reader Event. There’s been a lot of love recently for rice dishes that feature a crisp crust, whether it's a biryani, paella or a Middle-Eastern take. On Instagram, Ottolenghi showcased a dish from Iran cooked with colleague Noor Murad while Sabrina Ghayour shares a recipe for loobia polow (Persian spiced green bean and tomato rice) in her new book Bazaar. In Farsi they call it tahdig, meaning bottom of the pot. The Lido's Spanish-style version is a riot of flavours and textures, topped with juicy prawns and creamy aioli.
Gin sent by Chapel Down. Food provided by Anderson & Maillard Bakery and The Lido Bristol.
Earlier this month we tried...
Spanish Scotch egg
What’s a pub menu without a Scotch egg? One of the most popular snacks in pubs, bars and restaurants, it has undergone many a makeover lately. In fact, a Scotch egg with a twist seems to be the snack du jour – we’ve seen versions with hen’s eggs swapped for quail’s eggs and traditional sausagemeat replaced by different meats, including nduja, chorizo and black pudding, as well as veggie versions using pulses. But the latest twist is this Catalan-inspired Scotch egg by chef José Pizarro. New to his family of successful restaurants, José has just opened The Swan Inn pub in Esher. Along with classic Spanish tapas dishes like tortilla and his legendary croquettas is his version of the English pub classic. He explains, 'The classic Scotch egg is one of my pub favourites, so I knew we had to have it on the new menu, but with a José twist! Made with butifarra (a Catalonian blood sausage), minced Iberian pork and Jamón Ibérico Cinco Jotas, it’s served with mint allioli.'
If you’ve ever been to Malta, you will be familiar with pastizzi. A traditional Maltese pastry, the pastizz is one of the most popular street foods on the island and we can see why – gorgeously golden brown, super-crisp flaky pastry that is stuffed, most commonly, with ricotta or mushy peas. We tried these freshly-made pastizzi, hot from the oven at Crystal Palace café in Rabat, Malta. The queues out of the door, day and night, were the first clue that this was one of the best pastizzi spots in town. And our verdict? Worth the wait. We loved the traditional ricotta and pea ones, but the café also sells less traditional flavours, including curried chicken and pea, which tastes a bit like a samosa filling.
Ah, the roast potato. Arguably one of the greatest things invented since the humble spud was introduced to our shores back in the 16th century – and something we thought couldn’t be rivalled, until now. This week, we visited Indian-Kenyan pub & restaurant The Regency Club in London's Queensbury where these cassava roasties had us reeling with excitement. Chipped and roasted, tossed in garlic or onions and black pepper, they’re crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside, just as a great roastie should be. Unfamiliar with cassava? It’s a root vegetable, resembling the sweet potato, native to Central and South America, but widely eaten around the world. This dish, called 'mari mogo' is just one of many delicious sharing plates on the Regency Club menu. Another must-try is the harabhara kebab, a.k.a deep-fried mushy peas. Dubious? Trust us, it’s a revelation.
Earlier this month we tried...
Fried guinea fowl
There’s a new bird in town. The nation has always been crazy about fried chicken but Guinea Fowlers are serving up a fresh take, using guinea fowl. Compared with chicken, the meat has a darker, richer flavour but is still perfectly juicy after being gently fried in a buttermilk batter. After launching the enterprise as a street-food stall, Maggie Walker and Lorcan Spiteri are now based at the Duke's Head pub in Highgate. You must try their crunchy, golden guinea fowl strips with pickled chillies served in Little Gem lettuce cups or the moreish fried guinea fowl bun, drizzled with gochujang mayo and sandwiched in buttery brioche. Maggie and Lorcan also make incredible, colourful pickles to serve on the side providing the perfect level of acidity to cut through the richness of the meat.
It’s that time of year again. Skrei season (January to April) is exciting for any keen foodie, especially when afforded the chance to visit the Lofoten Islands in Norway to catch this special fish. Skrei (pronounced skray) is a migratory cod found in the Barents Sea before it makes the long trip to its spawning grounds around the Lofoten Islands. There it is only caught if mature (around five years old). All that swimming builds strong muscles, giving the fish its distinctive firm texture. When cooked, the flavour is clean, delicate and mild and the texture is tender and meaty, so it flakes in large, opaque chunks. Think of it as an amplified version of cod. We also had raw skrei (caught by our deputy food editor Esther, pictured), sashimi-style, drizzled with yuzu dressing and wasabi mayo. Served this way, it has a subtle sweetness that perfectly contrasts with the tangy yuzu.
Finishing a dish with a twist of black pepper is second nature to most home cooks but restaurant chefs are turning to a range of unique pepper varieties. Andaliman pepper, similar to Sichuan pepper, is the main spice of Batak cuisine in North Sumatra and has a citrussy mandarin-grapefruit flavour with floral notes, as well as inducing a slightly numbing tingle in the mouth. Here, it flavours wild Cornish turbot, with smoked beetroot and hibiscus emulsion by Anne Sophie Pic and Clare Smyth (Core by Clare Smyth) who teamed up for an International Women’s Day dinner at La Dame de Pic. Pepper is, to coin a phrase, the new salt and Pic is a huge fan – Madagascan voatsiperifery, Tasmanian pepper berry and red kampot (from Kampot, Cambodia) also appear on her menu. Even the butter is spiced with Andaliman.
Earlier this month we tried...
There's no doubt that we're in the midst of a pasta revolution. Following the huge success of London Bridge’s Padella, a new wave of Italian restaurants focusing on freshly made, well-cooked pasta has been rippling through the country over the past few years. The capital, for instance, boasts options such as Bancone, Burro e Salvia and Lina Stores; this week we headed to Marcella small Italian restaurant offering a regularly changing menu, where we sampled the casarecce with wild garlic and confit tomatoes. Casarecce is a Sicilian pasta, shaped like short, rolled-up tubes – which means not only is it a great vessel for sauces (as the sauce collects in the grooves) but it also has a satisfying chew when cooked al dente. Seeking pasta perfection outside of London? Try Pasta Ripiena in Bristol, Cin Cin in Brighton or Sugo Pasta Kitchen in Altrincham.
London Landmarks afternoon tea
Afternoon tea is the meal of the moment, and London has plenty to offer – although none as on-message for the capital as the London Landmarks menu at Town House Kensington. It's a huge spread, offering three savouries (including a miniature quiche with crisp pastry); sandwiches (with options such as marinated cucumber & crème fraîche and a bridge roll filled with egg mayo); a range of sweet options; and both fruit and plain scones. The clever bit? The pastries are served in the form of iconic landmarks – Big Ben is an excellent, cleverly disguised lemon tart, the Gherkin is made from white chocolate ganache, the Shard is a carrot cake and a classic red telephone box is fashioned from rhubarb mousse. If, like us, you don’t manage to polish off the entirety of London’s landscape in one sitting, the staff will give you a takeaway box for the rest.
Ever eaten dinner in a cable car? Now’s your chance. At Farringdon’s tastefully Alpine-themed pub The White Haus, guests can choose to dine in a ski-lift-style cable car suspended over the restaurant, while snowy ski scenes play from giant screens on the walls. The menu matches the décor, featuring classic alpine comfort foods such as fondue, chicken schnitzel and apple strudel, as well as some less traditional fusion-style dishes, like this kedgeree arancini. Earlier this month, we sampled a dhal-inspired take on Sicilian risotto balls at Farzi Café, so we were intrigued to see another twist on them here. This time, poached haddock and hot haddock stock are added to the risotto rice mix, along with turmeric, curry powder and curry leaves, to mimic the flavour of kedgeree.
Earlier this month we tried...
Last week, we told you Filipino cuisine was starting to infiltrate the food scene here in the UK and now the proof really is in the pudding... specifically the puddings at Mamasons Dirty Ice Cream, a Filipino ice cream parlour and bakery which opened in London’s Chinatown at the end of last year. We tried their signature dish, ube bilog – a scoop of ube ice cream sandwiched in a toasted pandesal (a filippino bread bun). Ube (pronounced oo-bay) is a purple yam native to the Phillippines and is used in many of the desserts there. The flavour is subtle, with notes of vanilla and a slight nuttiness, a little like coconut. Combine this with a soft, buttery brioche-like bun and you’ve got yourself a delicious dessert, not to mention one that’s highly instagrammable (just look at that beautiful lilac hue!).
Cheeseburger gyozas. Those are two words we didn’t think we’d ever see together, but we’re so glad we did. On the menu at American-inspired restaurant Dirty Bones (in London and Oxford), these little babies are the ultimate fusion mash-up. House-made Japanese gyoza dumplings are given an all-American makeover with a filling of burger mince and melted cheese and paired with a tangy burger sauce for dipping. The combination of the cheesy, meaty filling, zingy burger sauce and the crisp finish of the fried dumplings make for a seriously delicious snack. But it’s not just at Dirty Bones, we’ve noticed cheeseburger-inspired dishes on other menus recently, including a cheeseburger pizza at Temper Covent Garden, and cheeseburger samosas at a recent pop up by the Secret Samosa Club.
Ibérico pork presa
This week we got a taste of Lisbon without leaving London. For one night only, chef António Galapito of Lisbon’s Prado restaurant cooked at Portuguese restaurant Bar Douro as part of its guest chef series. Among the innovative dishes on his five-course tasting menu, our highlight was this Ibérico pork presa with cockle sauce and spinach (left). Ibérico pork is common in Portuguese cuisine because the Black Ibérian pigs that it comes from are native to Portugal, as well as Spain. Presa is considered to be the finest cut of the Ibérian pig. Taken from the shoulder, near the head of the loin, it’s a well-marbled cut which should be cooked medium rare to result in juicy, tender meat with a bit of bite to its texture and an extra delicious flavour that comes from the pigs’ unique diet. Planning a trip to Lisbon? A meal at Prado is a must. For more tips on eating and drinking in the capital, check out our guide.
Missed an entry in our food diary? Find out what we've eaten previously...
What we are 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