Our weekly food diary shares on-trend ingredients, fun foodie events, Insta-friendly restaurant dishes and must-try street eats.
This week we tried...
Ever tried a fresh goji berry? We hadn’t either. That’s because here in the UK, we’ve only ever been able to buy the dried form – the small, slightly pointed, deep-red berries with a sweet-sharp, slightly bitter taste and a texture like raisins, often used in granola. Now for the first time, fresh goji berries are hitting the shelves (M&S shelves, to be precise) thanks to S&A Fresh Produce, a British fruit grower that partnered with a Moroccan grower to bring the berry to the UK. Hailed as a superfood, goji berries are high in beta-carotene, calcium and iron – but how do they taste? The answer: very different to their dried form. There’s no sharpness or bitterness, just a burst of slight sweetness, with a flavour that some of the team described as a bit cherry-like, or almost tomato-esque.
You would be forgiven for hearing the words ‘vegan sushi’ and feeling dubious. After all, to most of us, sushi is associated with raw fish, with vegan options in Japanese restaurants often limited to cucumber or avocado maki rolls. But with the rise in popularity of veganism, it’s no surprise that you can now find vegan sushi to rival its fish-based equivalent. Brighton’s Happy Maki takes the basic premise of a maki roll (small sushi rolls stuffed with veg or raw fish and encased in sushi rice and nori seaweed), but makes it bigger (think a sushi burrito), and fills it with all kinds of delicious vegan ingredients. We tried the hoisin ‘duck’ roll, packed with crispy vegan ‘duck’ made from textured soya protein, house-made hoisin sauce, roasted sesame seeds, creamy avocado, cucumber, red pepper, spring onions, wasabi and pickled ginger. Unlike maki rolls, this is a meal in itself – it’s succulent and satisfying, with complementary layers of flavours and textures. Are we still dubious? Absolutely not. Are we planning our next visit? Yep! You’ll find Happy Maki at festivals across the UK this summer, or at the Brighton shop.
While micro herbs are used extensively by restaurant chefs for scattering over dishes at the end as a final flourish, you don’t see them used as much in the home kitchen. Not only are they expensive for a small amount, they don’t have a long shelf life, which is why you won’t often find them in supermarkets. Enter Silly Greens, a novel subscription box that allows you to grow your own micro herbs at home. A Silly Greens box includes three pre-sown micro herbs from a selection of over 20 kinds of greens (chosen for their differing tastes, growing times, and seasonality), and you can choose to have one delivered every one, two, four or six weeks. The compact cardboard box fits through the letterbox and all you need to do is take the lid off and water the herbs to let the greens grow. Micro herbs are like double-concentrated herbs – they’re smaller, but pack a punch in flavour and take less time to grow. This makes them ideal for growing at home, giving you a supply of unique, interesting greens to flavour your meals with, while saving money and eliminating waste.
Last week we tried...
Next level egg bap
An egg-citing new restaurant has just hatched in London’s Notting Hill. The crudely named Eggslut (no, we don’t know why) started life as a street-food truck in L.A. where it gained a mass following that includes several Hollywood celebs, thanks to its simple but finely executed and highly Instagrammable egg dishes. As we’ve seen with poké bowls and sushi tacos, any L.A. food trend worth its salt will eventually make its way to London, so we went to the launch of this hotly-anticipated egg-stablishment to see if it’s all it’s cracked up to be... Eggs are thrust centre-stage, so something as humble as an egg sarnie is elevated with top-notch ingredients. Our highlights are the ‘gaucho’ – strips of seared wagyu beef, chimichurri, rocket and an over-medium egg, in a warm brioche bun; and the cheeseburger (pictured) with ground angus beef, soft, sweet caramelised onions, pickles, cheddar and ‘dijonnaise’ topped with a gloriously golden-yolked, oozy egg. Be warned, it’s not cheap, so if you’re after a cheap eat you may leave with egg on your hands – and face!
We’re nuts about these. We discovered pili nuts at artisanal deli The Camden Grocer. They’re a bit like a cross between a macadamia and a cashew, but are much creamier, (in fact, astonishingly so), light and delicately crunchy, with a buttery taste. In the Filipino rainforests, where they grow on huge trees in the shadow of the mighty Mount Mayon volcano, locals eat them as a deep-fried snack, tossed in sugar. Now they’re available in the UK thanks to a Fairtrade collaboration between the Mount Mayon brand and farmers and experts from the University of the Philippines. The nuts are wild-harvested and then pre-sprouted in purified mountain water before undergoing a 17-stage drying process to produce the smooth-yet-crunchy texture. They’re naturally high in protein and fibre, plus free from gluten, trans-fats and cholesterol. For added oomph, Mount Mayan dusts its pili with a variety of seasonings and flavourings including (pictured here) Himalayan pink salt, Ecuadorian cacao and Kyoto matcha. The nuts have proved such a hit that they’ve scooped no fewer than 10 awards in the last year, including Great Taste Supreme Champion 2018 and Superior Taste at the International Taste & Quality Awards 2018. Again, they’re not cheap at £16.99 for a 130g can (available from the Camden Grocer and Borough Box). Trust us, though, they need to be tasted to be believed!
Arabian-style afternoon tea
Looking for somewhere to celebrate Afternoon Tea Week (12-18 August)? If you want a slightly different take on this British tradition, you can do it Arabian-nights-style at Mamounia Lounge in Knightsbridge, London, where British afternoon tea classics are given Moroccan and Lebanese twists and accompanied by traditional sweet mint tea (alternative brews are offered), and champagne, if you fancy. Date scones are served with clotted cream and prickly pear or fig jam, and instead of sandwiches there are flatbread wraps with various Levantine fillings including falafel and farruj meshwi (lightly spiced baby chicken), along with Moroccan cheese briout (a filo-wrapped parcel deep-fried and served hot, while the cheese still oozes) and, of course, baklava. But our favourite is the mahalabia (pictured) – the Middle Eastern answer to panna cotta. The milk is spiked with rosewater, orange blossom water and mastic (or Arabic gum, from the resin of the mastic tree), which gives it a subtle sweet pine flavour. The quivering jelly sits in a sticky pool of date molasses and is scattered with contrastingly crunchy, caramelised pistachios. Moorish...
Earlier this month we tried...
Pink drinks are so hot right now – and as the same goes for vermouth, it was only a matter of time before this year’s biggest drinks trends would come together. We’ve spotted several rosé vermouths on the market recently – Lillet rose, Regal Rogue wild rosé vermouth, Belsazar vermouth rosé and the newest release from Spanish vermouth brand El Bandarra, to name a few – and it might just be our new favourite tipple. Made using rosé Grenache grapes, macerated red fruits and herbs such as rosemary and thyme, El Bandarra’s rosé vermouth has a sweet vanilla flavour on the initial sip combined with the fruity, floral notes of rosé wine, and finally the slightly bitter finish you’d expect from a vermouth. Light and fresh, it makes a great summer drink served neat, chilled, or with ice and a splash of soda water. It's perfect alongside something salty like olives or charcuterie, which means aperitivo hour is sorted.
Veggie campsite breakfast
Going camping this summer but feeling daunted by the prospect of campsite cooking? Fear not. We cooked this satisfying meat-free brunch on a single camping burner at last weekend’s Port Eliot festival in Cornwall. Using our recipe for soy mushrooms, we were able to whip up a veggie version of a cooked breakfast that’s just as satisfying as the meaty one. The clever combination of soy sauce, smoked paprika and maple syrup tossed through sliced mushrooms before frying mimics the sweet-salty, smoky flavour of maple-cured bacon. We served the mushrooms on quick-cook polenta which we softened in stock and mixed with grated cheese, then topped with a boiled egg. When camping for a whole weekend or longer, keeping meat products cold is near impossible, so veggie and vegan dishes make sense – especially since fruit and veg often doesn't have to be refrigerated, unlike meat or dairy products. Want more easy veggie recipes that you can make on a camping stove? Try curries and dhals, stews, jazzed-up baked beans and any kind of eggs! Plus, check out our guide to the best camping stoves on the market right now.
Tahini ice cream
Ah, tahini, how we love you. The Middle Eastern sesame paste has exploded in popularity here in the last few years as we've come to realise just how versatile it is. Right now, we’re loving it in sweet dishes, like Diana Henry’s banana & tahini cake, our sesame chocolate cookies and, our new favourite use of the trend, ice cream. We tried this tahini ice cream (along with a scoop of mint choc chip for good measure) at last weekend’s Womad Festival. It’s made by Shepherds, which makes its ice cream with whole sheep’s milk, resulting in a smooth, creamy ice cream that contains less fat than cow’s milk ice cream. Here, it’s flavoured with tahini and honey along with black sesame seeds for some added crunch. We love the smooth texture, slightly salty-sweet flavour with notes of honey, and strong tahini taste. The Shepherds truck will be at various festivals this summer, or visit their ice cream parlour in Hay-on-Wye.
Earlier this month we tried...
Meat the new snack on the block. We’ve noticed a rise in ‘meat-based snacks’, with jerky and biltong gaining popularity in the last few years. Ocado reported a 74% increase in biltong sales in 2018. But, for those who aren’t keen on the chewy texture, there’s an exciting new snack on the scene: charcuterie crisps. New in M&S, these salty, super-crispy snacks are made by air-drying thin slices of cured meat (salami, chorizo and serrano ham) until they’re as crunchy as potato crisps, and almost as addictive. While far too salty to eat a whole packet, they're a perfect nibble to enjoy with a cold beer, or great as a garnish crumbled over mac & cheese, risottos, or salads for crunch and flavour. Ahead of the curve with this trend is Made for Drink, who also make meat crisps for pairing with booze.
Whether it's Heston Blumenthal’s famous meat fruit, or French patissier Cedric Grolet’s stunning patisserie apple, everyone loves a dish with an element of surprise to spark a bit of wonder at the table. This dish from newly opened ArrosQD, by renowned Spanish chef Quique Dacosta, does just that. Designed to look like the stones in the garden of Dacosta’s eponymous three-Michelin-starred restaurant in Spain (moulds were even taken from those stones), these dark grey 'pebbles' are, in fact, a mix of cream cheese, parmesan and manchego coated in darkened cocoa butter. How do they taste? Super-rich, incredibly smooth and extremely indulgent. Although they're on the menu as a snack, those who love a cheeseboard might enjoy these at the end of the meal.
You might have tried traditional Turkish manti; parcels of pasta-like dough filled with ground meat and onions, usually drenched in a yogurt sauce and chilli. At The Mantl, a Turkish restaurant in London's Knightsbridge, founder Serdar Demir has reinvented it. He explains: 'Manti is a famous meal in Turkey which takes time to prepare, but is well worth it. The dumplings are served with a delicious homemade yogurt sauce and chilli oil, but it can be heavy. Our version is known as feraye and is crispy and much lighter.' They're not only much smaller in size but also baked, rather than boiled, to result in light, crunchy morsels. The heavy sauce is swapped for a spoonful of smoked yogurt and a drizzle of mint butter, which adds freshness.
Earlier this month we tried...
Last week we told you cold brew tea was trending (see below), but it’s not the only tea that’s hot (or more accurately, cold) right now – we’ve noticed a rise in popularity of other cold, tea-based drinks like kombucha and iced tea, which have both seen an increase in google searches recently. Now, hot on the heels of the trend comes an innovative new drink from Fortnum & Mason: sparkling tea. Made from a blend of Fortnum’s best and rarest teas combined with grape juice and lemon juice, the resulting drink doesn’t really taste like a ‘fizzy tea’ as the name might suggest, but it’s light, refreshing and dry with fruity and floral notes. We took it to a BBQ and it was extremely well received – it makes a great non-alcoholic alternative to champagne or sparkling wine as it’s not too sweet and tastes refined.
We’ve tried cheese sealed in wax, cheese with furry washed rinds, even cheese wrapped in nettles, so how about cheese aged in hay? This is Witheridge, from the Nettlebed Creamery in Oxfordshire – a cheese developed as a solution to a problem. Creamery owner Rose Grimond says, ‘We had been making an Alpine-style cheese for a while but as it needed at least six months to age, we were finding that it was losing moisture before the flavour arrived. Then, our chief scientist Patrick Heathcoat Amory and I both noted that there are few greater aromas in the world than that of baled hay. In northwest France and in the Savoie it is common to age cheeses in hay. This acts like a thatch, keeping the moisture in, but it also imbues the rind with wonderful herby notes. We think we are the first British cheesemakers to do this. As we are in hay season right now we have been inspecting the pastures and leys (grasslands), identifying the myriad grasses and wildlfowers that make up the hay. As with the milk, the hay is organic and comes from the family farm. It is very gratifying to use a processing aid that, like the milk, reflects the terroir of the farm.’ The resulting cheese is incredible: complex and savoury with a minerally rind, and you can really taste the flavour brought by the hay.
Following the success of the world’s first non-alcoholic spirit, Seedlip, which launched in 2014, the number of booze-free alternatives to spirits – especially gin – on the market has now exploded. The latest to impress us is this ‘not gin’ by Sea Arch, tried last weekend at Dorset Seafood Festival. Inspired by the southwest coast of England, it’s made using sea kelp, along with other botanicals more typically found in gin, such as juniper berries, cardamom, angelica root and grapefruit. Unlike so many booze-free gin alternatives, this isn’t trying too hard to taste exactly like gin and has a more unique flavour, thanks to the sea kelp, which gives it a slight taste of the sea (in a good way!). It was the perfect tipple to accompany the seafood delights on offer at the festival, including scallops & chorizo from Jurassic Rocks and soft-shell crab tempura from The Mighty Soft Shell Crab. We had our ‘not gin’ mixed with tonic, lots of ice and garnished with salty samphire, but it would be great with a slice of cucumber too.
Earlier this month we tried...
Cold brew tea
You’ve heard of cold brew coffee, but the latest trend in drinks is cold brew tea – in other other words, tea made by steeping tea bags (or loose tea leaves) in cold, rather than hot water, usually for a longer period of time. Tea giants Tetley and Twinings launched cold tea infusions products last summer, and more have followed this year, including Lipton and Teapigs. Louise, tea taster at Teapigs, explains the trend: ‛The herbal tea market has grown massively over the past few years and people are drinking less black tea. The cold brew trend is an extension of that and perfect for summer. Our infusions are specifically designed to brew quickly in cold water. They use fresh ingredients with no artificial sweeteners, flavours or added sugar so they’re an ideal healthy alternative to some of the more indulgent summer drinks.’ We tried the rose and lychee cold brew bag and really enjoyed its floral and slightly sweet and fruity flavour.
Pear and parmesan
After the realisation that the world couldn’t get enough of salted caramel, chefs began to get more daring with sweet-savoury combinations, using deeply savoury, umami flavours like miso and soy sauce in desserts. The latest example? Ice cream with parmesan. It might sound wrong at first, but in the case of this dessert at Italian restaurant Maremma in Brixton, it’s oh so right. The Maremma is a coastal area of Southern Tuscany in Italy and a favourite holiday destination for Brixton locals Alice Staple and Dickie Bielenberg, who decided to open a restaurant to bring the taste of the region to London. The menu focuses on simple, regional specialities and highlights include stunning wood-baked hake with clams, samphire and aioli and ‘torta di ceci’, a kind of chickpea pancake (the Maremma being one of the main chickpea growing areas in Italy) topped with artichokes three ways (puréed, roasted and crisp-fried), rocket and pecorino cheese. As for dessert, the Maremma is the furthest southern point in Italy where pears grow and here they are often eaten with cheese. In a nod to this, the restaurant designed a refreshing, slightly sorbet-like (yet still creamy) pear ice cream which is perfectly balanced in both texture and flavour with the salty, almost crystalline shavings of parmesan on top. A very pleasant surprise.
If you haven’t heard by now that plastic straws are bad news, then where have you been? The realisation that this kind of single-use plastic is detrimental to the environment has even led to a government ban on plastic straws, which will come into force in April 2020. So, whether at home or in a restaurant, pub or bar, we’re starting to see more eco-friendly alternatives to plastic straws, from paper to metal, but here’s a new one that certainly piqued our interest: pasta straws. Yes, straws made out of pasta, also known as ‘Stroodles’ are the latest to grace our glasses. It might sound a bizarre concept, but they really do have their pros – they’re more durable than paper, lasting for hours in drinks rather than minutes; they’re completely biodegradable and even edible (you could cook and eat them after use if you wanted to) and they’re flavourless when used in most drinks, although we found there was a very slight starchy flavour when we used one with plain water. Founder Maxim Gelmann, aka Mr Stroodle, sells his Stroodles to various bars but you can buy them to try out for yourself online at Amazon, see how ex-straw-dinary they really are…
Earlier this month we tried...
Here at BBC Good Food, we can’t resist a good mash-up, so finding out that a street food truck in London’s Bethnal Green was serving up sushi tacos certainly piqued our interest. Inspired by street food markets in Tokyo (specifically the ever-so-charmingly named Piss Alley) and Latin America (mostly Mexico and Venezuela), husband-and-wife team Felipe Preece and Veronica Silva founded Sugoi JPN (sugoi meaning ‘cool’ in Japanese). From their tiny truck, they make seven varieties of ‘NoriTaco’, which combine Latin flavours with Japanese ingredients. The taco itself is made from a nori (seaweed) sheet which has been tempura-battered and deep-fried to create a shell sturdy enough to hold the generous fillings. Each one has a thick base of sticky sushi rice and fusion toppings. The Latin-and-Japanese flavours are no more apparent than in this Chingon taco (pictured), which combines sashimi-style chunks of raw tuna and salmon with pico de gallo, a Mexican salsa made from tomato, red onion, coriander and lime. We also loved the Señor Crab, topped with light, crispy tempura-fried soft shell crab, shichimi togarashi, coriander and spicy mayo. The only problem? Trying to eat it without making a mess!
A rather shocking report by the World Health Organisation earlier this year revealed that over 90 per cent of British people don’t eat enough fibre – which should be 30g a day for adults, according to NHS guidelines. In an attempt to alleviate the situation, GAIL’s bakery has just launched a new loaf that's full of natural fibre and nutrient-rich grains. The Einkorn & Whey Sourdough is made with red quinoa, soya beans, chia and millet seeds, and einkorn, nature’s oldest farmed wheat. The whey, which is a by-product of the cheese-making process, comes from GAIL’s long-standing partner, Quicke’s. The new loaf, which has 6g fibre per two slices, joins their existing collection of high-fibre loaves – Heritage Grain, 100% Rye, and Hove Wholemeal, all of which contain over 4g of fibre per 100g. And because Gail’s is known for their quality loaves, getting more fibre in your diet just got a whole lot tastier! If you’re still unsure about how much fibre you should be eating and how else to get it, check out our handy guide to fibre or try making one of our high-fibre recipes.
Vegetarian alpine cheese
Many of the world’s most famous (and favourite) cheeses are off-limits to vegetarians because they're made with rennet, an enzyme found in the stomach lining of cows that helps separate the curds and whey. These include parmesan, gorgonzola, pecorino romano, camembert and Alpine cheeses such as emmenthaler and gruyère. But Le Saint Mont des Alpes, a traditionally produced hard cheese from Savoie, France, is made with vegetarian rennet, which means that anyone who follows a meat-free lifestyle can indulge in the buttery, nutty, complex wonder of this melt-in-the-mouth fromage. The 10-month-matured cheese is produced by Sodiaal, France’s leading dairy co-operative made up of 11,800 dairy farmers. Savoie cows graze on the flowers of the Alps, producing incredibly rich milk which is then matured in cheese cellars and turned into 40kg wheels stamped with a floral symbol. We tried it at a cheese masterclass at London’s L’Atelier des Chefs, adding it to a walnut & apple salad as well as a luxuriously smooth and creamy macaroni cheese. To try it for yourself, find it in Waitrose & Partners stores.
Missed an entry in our food diary? Find out what we've eaten previously...
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