This week we tried...
Scarlet elf cup mushrooms
Last week we were excited to see the first glimpse of some of the season’s best wild ingredients. Now, here they are in all their glory! Pictured is a dish by Cumbrian chef Ryan Blackburn, tried this week at the Old Stamp House in Ambleside. A celebration of the best local and seasonal produce, it features Cumbrian Herdwick lamb with artichoke purée and new season wild garlic (wilted and whizzed into a vibrant green oil). That striking red garnish? Scarlet elf cup mushrooms. Although peak mushroom season is autumn, you’ll find these around December-March. Don’t be alarmed by their dangerous-looking hue, they're totally edible (although shouldn’t be eaten completely raw). Found on tree trunks, they're tougher than other mushrooms, so can be washed (more delicate mushrooms should only be brushed clean). Ryan suggests pickling them, as their robust texture breaks down in vinegar. Here they’ve also been cooked a little in butter, resulting in a softer texture and mild flavour. As ever, if you’re going foraging, don’t pick anything you’re unsure of, and go with an expert, or armed with a foraging book for guidance.
Award-winning British charcuterie
Newsflash for all the charcuterie lovers out there! For the first time ever, British charcuterie has won international acclaim, after Cornish-based Duchy Charcuterie topped the Best Country Ham, Prosciutto or Jamon category at the prestigious Charcuterie Masters in New York. We were lucky enough to try owner Marc Dennis’s winning prosciutto and it’s as soft as silk, with a salty-sweet flavour that melts in the mouth. Delicious with pickles, cheese or on its own. Marc has been curing and air-drying meat in Redruth since 2016 after starting out in the back office of a catering butchers. The secrets to his success are, in his words, ‘Salt ... time ... love…the best pork…and a lot of waiting!... for international experts to rate my prosciutto as the highest quality, above some of the best producers in the world, is such an honour.’ Marc’s achievement follows a haul of seven gongs at the British Charcuterie Awards last August. For more information about Duchy Charcuterie, follow them on social media @duchycharcuterie.
In light of Salt Awareness Week (9-15 March), we’re shining a light on one of the most popular kinds right now – sea salt. Research shows that table salt has seen a decline in sales recently, in favour of sea salt, which accounts for 41 per cent of the total salt market. This could be because sea salt is often thought of as more ‘natural’ – it's harvested from the sea and is usually less processed than table salt (which is commonly processed to remove impurities and mixed with anti-caking agents to stop it from clumping together.) The best known British sea salts are Maldon Sea Salt from the East of Essex, Cornish Sea Salt from the south coast of Cornwall, Dorset sea salt from the Jurassic coast and Halen Môn from Anglesey. You may think that all salt tastes the same, but you’d be surprised at the difference in flavour between them! Sea salt is being threatened by plastic, though. With more microplastics found in our seas, it’s no real surprise that scientists are finding them in our salt too. The solution? Reduce, reuse and recycle your plastic. And remember to enjoy salt in moderation.
Last week we tried...
Bread and butter – one of life’s simple pleasures you just can’t beat. Or can you..? We’ve spotted a huge trend for all things butter lately. Once a simple, inexpensive ingredient, butter is becoming the star of the show, with a rise in both artisan or ‘craft’ butters as well as flavoured ones. We’ve been served miso, maple, seaweed and even chicken skin butters with our bread in restaurants recently, and there are now plenty of flavoured versions to eat at home, too. You might've spotted the launch of M&S’s Marmite butter this week on social media, and our team have been loving Sublime’s indulgent truffle, parmesan & black pepper butter – originally created to use with meat (it’s absolutely delicious on steak), it’s also amazing stirred through pasta or mashed potato. The trend isn’t all savoury though, we recently tried this lightly whipped, blossom honey & cinnamon variety from Posh Cow. Good on toast, it’s even better melted onto warm banana bread, croissants or a raisin bagel.
Foraged spring veg
It’s time to spring into action. Although the season might not officially begin until 20 March, and there’s still a few months before we’ll see cultivated spring vegetables like fresh peas and asparagus, for the wild food calendar, spring has well and truly sprung. We’re starting to notice lots of edible wild plants, including wild garlic (spotted on restaurant menus, in grocers and across social media this week), and a patch of three-cornered leek growing near Good Food HQ has just started blossoming its pretty, salad-enhancing, chive-flavoured flowers (pictured). Also on the easy-to-recognise list for this month, you’ll find young dandelion leaves and, possibly the most underappreciated abundant wild food, stinging nettles. As ever, if you’re off foraging, we advise you never pick anything you’re unsure of or without the land owner’s permission and always use a good book for reference – we recommend The Forager’s Calendar by John Wright. We also have plenty of foraging guidance and recipe inspiration on our website, especially for cooking with nettles and wild garlic.
While at first glance these might look like potatoes, they are in fact a type of fluffy, savoury rice-lentil cake called ‘idli’, popular as a breakfast food in southern India and Sri Lanka. There’s even a special day named in their honour (World Idli Day, March 30, since you ask). We had them at Saffron Circle in Swiss Cottage, London. Executive chef Santosh Shah (former head chef of Vivek Singh’s Cinnamon Kitchen) revealed the ingredients: basmati rice, white urad dal and fenugreek seeds, plus sesame oil, water and salt, which is ground, then mixed into a batter. He explains that the key to soft, fluffy idlis is fermentation, the most important step. The batter is then poured into moulds and steamed, producing spongy cakes that are perfect for soaking up tangy tamarind chutney. The idlis were just one of many stand-outs from the menu of the ‘craft’ Indian kitchen from US-based Indian restaurant group Saffron Valley – the first international opening from Lavanya Mahate, founder of five successful outlets in Salt Lake City, Utah.