Our weekly food diary shares right-now ingredients, fun foodie events, Instagrammable restaurant dishes and trendy street eats. Written by Anna Lawson & Georgina Kiely.
This week we tried..
Already fed up of mince pies? Try the latest festive sweet treat: gingerbread s’mores. London-based French restaurant Aubaine has taken the American campfire classic, s’mores (gooey marshmallow sandwiched between cookies or ‘graham crackers’) and given it a modern festive twist. They use peanut gingerbread biscuits that are laced with classic Christmas spices and stick them together with super soft marshmallow. Then, to add a little more luxury (because it is almost Christmas), they’re dipped in chocolate and sprinkled with your choice of toppings. Pick from crushed pistachios and hazelnuts, vibrant freeze-dried raspberries or crunchy cocoa nibs. Find the Aubaine pop-up in Selfridges food hall, London, from now until Christmas. Or, why not have a go at making s’mores yourself – our pumpkin pie s’mores use ginger biscuits and a festive hit of cinnamon.
Gone are the days when plain tonic water was the only possible partner to your gin. Recent years have seen the market for premium, flavoured tonics absolutely rocket with brands like Fentimans and Fever-Tree reporting record sales. These days, you can find tonic waters with flavours like elderflower, grapefruit and Mediterranean orange. Now, just in time for the festive season, Fever-Tree has released a Christmas-inspired clementine & cinnamon tonic water. Available until the end of December, this limited-edition drink uses South African clementines to give a slight sweetness and citrus zing to complement the warming spice of cinnamon. The taste is subtle but enough to make this a delicious drink on its own, or partnered with gin – ideal for the party season. If you want to up the festive flavours, add a grating of nutmeg and a stick of cinnamon. Find it at Sainsbury's and Waitrose.
Sherry has become fashionable again in recent years and this week, our digital writer Georgie has been in Treviso, Italy, discovering her new favourite Italian variety: Elisir Gambrinus. It’s a sweet, spiced elixir based on raboso red wine from the Veneto area of northern Italy. The secret family recipe contains 22 different spices and has an intense aroma. With a blend of blackberry, cherry, prune and figgy flavours, it's a very festive tipple. Try a sip of it with classic Christmas pudding for a sensational fruity pairing. It’s also delicious used to macerate seasonal fruit, or enjoyed with a scoop of vanilla ice cream for a decadent end to a meal. First created in 1847, this unusual fortified wine is aged for five years in oak casks, as the original recipe dictates, enhancing the depth of flavour. If you fancy trying it yourself, buy it online – or better still, book a holiday to Italy!
Last week we tried...
With health-conscious millennials imbibing fewer boozy beverages than previous generations, there is a growing trend for innovative, non-alcoholic drinks and infused waters. No.1 Rosemary Water is worth trying, if only because its key ingredient – the rosemary, not the water! – has been making headlines lately. Far from just being a garnish for your Sunday roast, scientists are gathering evidence to support a theory that, together with diet and lifestyle, the compounds in this Mediterranean herb can aid and preserve brain function. That means incorporating it into your diet could give you a better memory and it's also thought to have anti-carcinogenic properties. Studies have centred around the residents of the tiny hamlet of Acciaroli, Italy, where researchers noted that there is an unusually high percentage of locals who live to around 100-years-old. Discover more reasons why the Mediterranean diet is so healthy and, to get the most out of any health benefits, we advise drinking rosemary water straight! If you're not too concerned, try mixing the sparkling version with Gin Mare, which also contains rosemary among other Mediterranean botanicals. Cheers!
Miso sticky toffee pudding
We love it when a flavour mash-up comes together and this miso sticky toffee pudding from supper club Spirit & Salt is a case in point. In fact, their entire menu is characterised by masterful Asian fusion, pairing classic British pub grub with exotic ingredients from the Far East. Think Scotch eggs with a tonkatsu breadcrumb coating and melt-in-the-mouth short ribs with Szechuan spices. For the pudding, they achieve a perfect blend of syrupy and earthy flavours, with a dash of miso in the toffee sauce lending a similar salty-sweetness to the ubiquitous salted caramel. However, this combination has a more complex flavour profile and it's complemented by a light sesame ice cream that cuts through the super-indulgent sauce and sticky date sponge. Check out their events page for more innovative dining experiences.
It’s pannage season – when hundreds of pigs are let loose in the forest to forage for the fallen acorns and beech nuts that are poisonous to cattle and ponies. The practice dates back to the reign of William the Conqueror. But we forgive you if you've never heard of it; these days, the tradition is only observed by farmers around the New Forest. A few food producers local to the area also still make seasonal pannage pork from pigs fed on the fruits of the forest floor. We sampled this speciality meat in the café at Hockey’s Farm Shop and, we can tell you, it makes the most incredibly tender and buttery medallions of pork loin, with crackling so sweet on the first bite, we mistook it for the baked apple it was served with. Pannage season runs from now until mid-December, with stocks expected to last until January. Watch this space for ham made with pannage pork, apparently comparable to a premium acorn-fed Iberico ham.
Earlier this month we tried...
Suckling pig rolls
In case you think Portuguese pastry begins and ends with custard tarts, we have exciting news... This week we dined at Bar Douro near London Bridge, a restaurant that serves fine Portuguese cuisine that's well worth shouting about. The menu offers an array of delicious dishes, including crispy salt cod fritters, smoked sausage croquettes and of course, the ubiquitous pastel de nata (custard tart), as well as a wide selection of Portuguese wines. Everything we tried was spot-on but the highlight was, without a doubt, a plateful of crispy suckling pig rolls. Featured on the specials menu, these are essentially crispy fried wonton wrappers stuffed with an unctuous, salty mix of suckling pig and spinach. They're beautifully complemented by a side-serving of a delicately sweet, silky cauliflower purée that perfectly offsets the balance between salty, sweet, crispy and smooth. The result is, quite frankly, an epic mouthful of flavour.
While gin has been stealing the limelight in drinks trends, whisky has been creeping up behind it. Suddenly, what was often stereotyped as ‘a bit of an old man drink’ is becoming the last word in cool. Why? Well, it’s thanks, in part, to companies like Whisky Me. This week, we went to the launch of this new whisky subscription service that sends a different, hand-selected whisky to your door each month. Whether you’re a complete whisky novice or consider yourself an expert, this is a great way to try new whiskies and learn about each one. Whisky Me transports the precious contents in laminated pouches, so the booze keeps well and is easy to transport with a screw-cap and durable casing that prevents breakages and leaks. Most importantly, it’s the right size to fit right through the letterbox if you're not in. What a lovely package to find waiting on the doormat!
Earlier in the year, our deputy food editor Miriam Nice went to NYC and fell in love with Mike’s hot honey – a New York wildflower honey infused with Brazilian chilli peppers. Sweet honey with slow-building chilli heat is a combination that works so well that we couldn’t believe it didn’t exist here in the UK. Well, now we’re elated to discover that it has arrived on our shores. Behold, WilderBee Urban Chilli Honey, handmade in London by WilderKitchen. It’s made using raw unprocessed London honey and British-grown chilli peppers. The result is an ingredient with a syrupy smokiness and just a slight kick that works well with so many different foods. We particularly like the contrast with salty cheeses like halloumi and goat's cheese, and it's utterly delicious drizzled over pizza. Hot chicken wings, too, are even more drool-worthy with a light basting of it. And it's not just a savoury treat. A little chilli honey poured over a chocolate dessert, ice cream or parfait works a treat, too. Have we tantalised your tastebuds? Buy it online.
Earlier this month we tried...
We’ve seen charcoal pizza bases, burgers and even charcoal ice cream, but the black stuff has now reached the booze aisle. Kuro gin combines this trend with the current craze for designer gin, using a blend of botanicals including silver birch and spruce needles with activated bamboo charcoal to create – you guessed it – charcoal gin. This Japanese-inspired spirit was designed to evoke the cool alpine slopes of the Hakuba Valley, bringing more of an earthy element than the standard après-ski tipples. Heady with the aroma of 12 different botanicals, it delivers a ‘sensory experience’, say creators Craig Fell and John Thompson. We certainly enjoyed its complexity. If you fancy a G&T with a dark twist, Kuro Gin is available to buy online. And for all your other gin needs, check out our guide to the best gins on the market.
After the invention of the cronut (croissant/donut), cruffin (croissant/muffin) and chouxnut (eclair/donut), everyone has been waiting for the next best hybrid bake – and this may be it. A recent delivery from London’s Israeli restaurant Bala Baya introduced us to babka pretzels among a delicious array of other fusion treats that were sent to mark the launch of their new ‘shook’, or stall beneath the Union Arches in Southwark. It’s a hybrid we haven’t seen before, but boy, does it work. The shape and crispy exterior say pretzel, but the swirled, doughy interior is just like a babka (a type of cake made with yeast). Choose from a Middle-Eastern variety with pistachio, chocolate and rose, dipped in melted chocolate and studded with crushed pistachios; or a more familiar pretzel dusted with cinnamon and sugar; the classic babka-style with a chocolate swirl; or delicious salted caramel and peanut. Pure indulgence.
Forget popcorn, what if the food you ate at the movies was specifically designed to enhance what you were seeing on screen? This Halloween, we attended the Edible Cinema screening of ghoulish 80’s comedy Beetlejuice. The experience works by each audience member being provided with a tray of numbered containers, each with a small canapé-sized offering or mini cocktail inside. Each element is designed to be consumed at a specific moment in the film, in keeping with what you see in front of you. For example, the arrival of Juno, an old woman who enters the scene smoking, is matched with a canapé containing powdered charcoal for the smoke effect, plus a hint of lavender to evoke the kind of perfume she is wearing. Before the action even started we were greeted with this welcome cocktail, ‘The Bombay Beetlejuice’ using Bombay Sapphire gin, beetroot, Chambord, lemon and ginger – a fiery, blood-red drink, befitting of the experience that was to come... Events are hosted at various venues across London – sign up to the Edible Cinema mailing list for details.
Earlier this month we tried...
Salted cherry blossom
You’ve probably admired pretty pink cherry blossom on the trees in springtime, but have you ever eaten it? This week we visited Serge et le Phoque at the Mandrake Hotel, the first overseas outpost for this Michelin-starred Hong Kong restaurant, where this unusual ingredient features on the dessert menu. Finishing an impressive meal, this rich chocolate tart is a signature dish beloved by Hongkongers and you can see why: a freshly baked tart base is filled with a dark chocolate ganache made with Valrhona Guanaja chocolate, cream and butter. The ganache is left to set at room temperature before being sliced and topped with a small piece of cherry blossom that has been pickled in plum vinegar, dried then salted for preservation. It’s an unexpected flavour but one that works well with the intense chocolate, particularly due to its saltiness.
Save your groans, we know it’s not quite that time of year just yet, but here at Good Food HQ we’ve been thinking about Christmas since August (and by the way, our Christmas issue is on sale now)! The latest festive offering to come our way is Yuletide gin, one of the highlights of a very enjoyable gin-tasting with That Boutiquey Gin Company. The team tasted a wide variety of this fashionable tipple with unique flavours from cobnut to chocolate-orange, but it was this Yuletide gin that came out on top. Why? Because it’s Christmas in a bottle! It’s packed with warming seasonal spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and allspice; and here’s the clincher – it sparkles with flakes of gold, frankincense and myrrh… You can’t get any more Christmassy than that. If you fancy trying it yourself, it will be on sale 1 November. Merry Christmas!
Pheasant & trotter pie
Pheasant & trotter pie is as seasonal as it gets and if there’s any theme behind the menu at the new Rochelle café, bar & restaurant at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, it’s seasonality. Besides that, they simply offer very well-made, utterly delicious food in a calm, clean white setting. This is the second Rochelle from Melanie Arnold and Margot Henderson with head chef Ben Coombs at the pass. Pale salmon and whipped smoked cod’s roe comes with crisp radishes while quail arrives looking as if it's nonchalantly sunbathing in its dish, and a slab of pâté is a thing of beauty – perfectly smooth with a generous pile of cornichons (most places don’t give you nearly enough yet here there were at least 10). And let’s talk about that pie: deep golden pastry (just like the lemon tart that followed) cooked to biscuity crispness holding big chunks of meat and plenty of gravy. Perfect.
Earlier this month we tried...
Yam & paneer chaat
If you’re a fan of inventive Indian cuisine, there’s a restaurant in Spitalfields, London, with your name on it. The husband and wife team behind Gul & Sepoy combine traditional Indian recipes with unusual ingredients from international cuisines such as escargot, partridge and jackfruit. We sampled this yam & paneer kofta chaat from the exciting new menu. It's a real veggie delight that's pretty yet substantial, jewelled with pomegranate seeds and equally rich in flavour and textures, finished with dramatic shards of poppadum. The menu is split into two halves; the ‘gul’ are small plates, inspired by the royal courts of northern India whilst the ‘sepoy’ dishes echo the laidback cuisine of the coastal south-west.
When we dine out we want to try it all, so we love the opportunity to indulge in a variety of small plates. The team behind Smoke & Salt are catering to this fashionable way of eating with their interpretation of British tapas. On top of that, they're not afraid to use offal – innards that were once traditional in British cuisine, then reviled and now, downright trendy. And thankfully, tasty, too. Methods like smoking, curing or preserving are characteristic to the menu and deliver real depth of flavour. Their motto is 'modern dining, ancient techniques'. Think PBJ buttermilk fried chicken with grape jam & peanut butter, or our standout dish: molten Gorgonzola roast potatoes with delicate slices of duck heart. A mouth-watering, unctuous plate of food among many innovative dishes.
Blond hot chocolate
A comforting hot drink is just what you need when the weather turns chilly and the nights draw in, so pull on a jumper, cosy up on the sofa and try a mug of this caramelised blond hot chocolate. Crafted by The Chocolate Society, this winter wonder blends Valrhona blond chocolate with cinnamon to create a gently spiced, smooth caramel biscuit flavour that we can’t get enough of. The chocolate itself isn’t overwhelmingly sweet, with notes of buttery shortbread and golden toffee, ideal for pairing with seasonal warming spices. Super indulgent, it's almost like a liquid dose of speculoos. If you can resist drinking it all yourself, the attractive packaging makes it a lovely Christmas gift. (Yes, we said the C-word!) It's on sale at Selfridges from 25th October, so get your mugs at the ready...
Earlier this month we tried...
Pumpkin & yuzu sour
Dust off your hats and scarves and zip up those jackets because autumn is officially upon us. And that means…pumpkins! Here at Good Food HQ, October is another chance to get creative with the squash, whether it’s making pumpkin pies, soups, or even pumpkin hummus. But here’s a new idea that we can really get behind: pumpkin cocktails. Yep, it was only a matter of time before someone put pumpkin in a cocktail, especially since the world is already obsessed with other pumpkin-based drinks (pumpkin spice latte, we mean you…). We tried this pumpkin & yuzu sour at Salon, Brixton, and it was truly delicious. Made using a pumpkin syrup, yuzu and gin, the cocktail is shaken together with aquafaba (the water from a can of chickpeas) to create the foam. The result is a drink with the sweetness of pumpkin, sharp zingy flavours of yuzu and a foam that’s lighter than the standard egg-white version (not to mention vegan-friendly). Salon, we salute you!
If your favourite part of home baking is licking the spoon, then this one’s for you... Eating raw cookie dough has long been a norm in the US and the trend took hold here some time ago in products like cookie dough ice cream. But, years on, we’ve finally gone full throttle on cookie dough. Not only can you now buy pots of the stuff online, there are also cafés selling it in cones or pots, just like gelato. We had this peanut butter & chocolate chip delight at Naked Dough on Old Street in east London. The verdict? Just as you’d imagine – soft, sweet (if not slightly sickly) and moreish. Plus, it’s safe to eat, unlike the raw mixture you get when baking at home, which normally contains eggs. Fancy trying it yourself? Buy Cookie Doe online, find Naked Dough on London’s Old Street, Blondie’s Kitchen in Selfridges on Oxford Street, or have a go at making it yourself with our safe-to-eat cookie dough recipe from Emma Freud.
You’ve all heard of green tea, but what about blue? Yes, it’s a thing. Now taking Instagram by storm, this tea turns a vibrant cobalt blue after just a couple of minutes' brewing. Why? Well, it’s made using blue pea flowers, a plant native to South East Asia, also sometimes known as butterfly pea flowers. Not technically a tea in itself (as the blue flowers aren’t from a tea plant), this particular blend from Yumchaa, named ‘Blue Voodoo’, also contains green tea, goji berries, lemongrass and pomegranate. Aside from its impressive hue (here’s the science bit...), the drink boasts plenty of health benefits from antioxidants to anti-inflammatory agents and is also reputed to have an anti-glycation effect. That means it fights the signs of ageing in the skin, apparently. The important question, though, is: how does it taste? The answer is sweet, very sweet. Thanks to the addition of pomegranate and goji berries, this tea has the taste and aroma of jelly sweets. It’s fruity, sweet and slightly floral, so a great tea for those who want the health benefits of a green tea with a sweeter taste.
Ealier this month we tried...
Barrel aged negronis
We love a recipe that goes above and beyond for flavour’s sake, and these barrel-aged negronis from The Kitty Hawk do just that. We’re familiar with barrel-aged whiskies, but these aged orange-flavoured beauties are our new favourite tipple. A cross between the classic recipe and the American-born boulevardier, these negronis add a splash of bourbon along with the bitters. All the ingredients are then aged in a virgin American white oak barrel from anywhere between 1 week and 1 month until the flavours have intensified. The white oak gives the drink a deep, smooth flavour with just a hint of smokiness from the charring on the inside of the barrel. Letting the ingredients mingle for a while before serving gives the cocktail an intensity of flavour that can’t be achieved without a little time. It’s true that the best things come to those who wait, and that includes amazing cocktails.
You might not normally associate octopus with Indian cooking, but grill king Neil Rankin has taken the eight-legged cephalopod to an ingenious spicy level at his new restaurant, Temper. Served on a bed of dahl that’s been cooked in chicken stock, the octopus is poached in water, lemon, garlic and white wine for an hour, then dressed in black vinegar, chipotle, soy, and green and red chilies. The result is mouth-tingling and tender: as soft as butter with a punch of fiery heat. For us, it was the stand out dish when we visited @frontlinechef’s follow-up restaurant to his hugely popular Soho Temper. We munched (more like, drooled!) our way through crab beignets, mutton rolls, Korean haggis and kimchi lamb skewers. Order one of the curry thali plates and you’ll find a delightful side: Monster Munch. Drinks-wise, gin is in at Temper – a choice of 20 from around the world.
‘tis the season of proper comfort food, so we’re getting stuck into the beautiful pasta hybrid that is, the pastitsio. This bubbling, beautiful, cheesy thing is an Italian-Greek hybrid, originating from southern Italy, although there are delicious variants to be found throughout the Mediterranean. The best way we can describe it is the ultimate meeting of lasagna, moussaka and macaroni cheese. Treat yourself to layers of tubular pasta, topped with beef mince, a seriously creamy béchamel sauce and grated cheese. In Malta, hard-boiled eggs are sometimes added, in Egypt, it’s made with penne and a Mornay sauce, in Cyprus this essential celebration dish is made with pork and grated halloumi cheese. This versatile dish is pasta perfection and ideal for seeing us through those cold winter nights.
Missed the last food diary? Find out what we ate last month, or visit our 12 month compilation to get fully up to speed...
What we ate in September
What we ate in August
What we ate in July
What we ate in June
What we ate in May
What we ate in April
What we ate in March
What we ate in February
What we ate in January
What we ate in December 2016
What we ate in November 2016
What we ate in October 2016
What we ate in September 2016
What we ate in August 2016
What we ate in July 2016
What we ate in June 2016
What we ate in May 2016
What we ate in April 2016
One year of food trends