Our weekly food diary shares on-trend ingredients, fun foodie events, Instagrammable restaurant dishes and must-try street eats.
This week we tried...
Cherry blossom raindrop cake
Last year, the ‘raindrop cake’ exploded on social media when it arrived in London at Japanese ramen pop-up Yamagoya. You only have to look at it to see why… we defy anyone to see this unique-looking dessert and not have a flurry of questions – mainly what on earth is that?; how is it made?; and of course, what does it taste like?! This week, we tried this sakura (cherry blossom) raindrop cake at Yamagoya’s now permanent site in Waterloo. Launched for ‘hanami’, a Japanese festival celebrating the arrival of spring, the original raindrop cake has been updated with the addition of a preserved cherry blossom flower. Made from just water, a touch of sugar and agar (a Japanese, algae-obtained substance which makes things jelly-like), not only does the dessert look like a raindrop, but it actually kind of tastes like one too… in other words, like jellified water. Yes, the drop itself is surprisingly water-esque, but flavour comes from the slightly salty, floral cherry blossom in the centre, as well as the sweet syrup and soybean powder that it's served with. The syrup, which has notes of dried fruits, is poured over the raindrop and eaten together with the powder, resulting in a slightly malty flavour which adds a bit of depth to the refreshing jelly. Popular as a palate-cleansing dessert in Japan, we reckon it’s likely to split opinion among British diners…
Not everyone loves chocolate (strange, but true) which leaves an awful lot of us feeling left out at Easter. But delivered to Good Food this week came a possible solution – an Easter egg made of cheese, a 'cheese-ter egg', if you will. Packaged like a traditional Easter egg (actually a little over-packaged – the cardboard box contained two moulds of protective plastic) the idea caused scepticism amongst colleagues. ‘An Easter egg? Made of cheese?’ Cue several wrinkled eyebrows. Unfortunately, what in fact it was, was rather disappointing. Instead of an egg-shaped cheese, what we got was a plastic mould full of spreadable Blacksticks blue cheese with a pack of mini-oatcakes and a sachet of sweet chutney to accompany it. To be fair, the spreadable cheese was delicious (Blacksticks just is!) and it went exceptionally well with the biscuits and chutney. So yes, it might be a great snack for blue cheese lovers, but the fact is... it’s not an egg. If you’d rather tuck into cheese and chutney than chocolate, you’ll find Blacksticks Blue Cheese egg in ASDA and Morrisons from today (£5).
Lemongrass is a flavour that can be used very badly – its powerful fragrance can come across far too industrial cleaner in the wrong hands. In the right hands it is sublime, a breath of flowery citrus that enhances rather than overpowering. The right hands belong to Kieran Morland, head chef of Merah Putih, one of Bali’s most celebrated restaurants. Bali came to 10 Greek Street in London’s Soho for this week for two flavour packed days during a collaboration with owners Cameron Emirali (chef) and Luke Wilson (wine maestro). Lemongrass along with other Indonesian flavours and a healthy dose of garlic danced through the dishes on offer. Esoteric ingredients such as taro, tapioca and banana leaves appeared alongside familiar beef and pork and seasonal razor clams in a series of small dishes ranging from these chive blossom fritters served with a peanut and dried shrimp based bumbu rujak to a shellfish broth heavy with turmeric and packed with noodle-like strips of cuttlefish. Indonesian cuisine isn’t mainstream but it is available in this country and is well worth seeking out. A holiday to Bali might also be in order...
Last week we tried...
Goat’s cheese, fig & honey hot cross bun
Earlier this month, we suggested that 2018 would be the year of the fig, after seeing it appear in several new liqueurs and spirits. This week, we received more evidence that this might be the case. Behold, a hot cross bun with the unusual but oh-so-delicious flavour combination of goat’s cheese, fig and honey. These super-sized buns come from Fortnum & Mason and, although they caused a few raised eyebrows from the team, most of those eyebrows immediately lowered once they tasted them. It doesn’t sound like the flavours would work, but it really does. The dough itself is great – not too sticky and not too dry and with herby notes of thyme and sweet, gooey hints of fig, offset by the subtle flavour of goat’s cheese, which perfectly complements the sweet fig. They’re delicious on their own, or you could spread with something sweet like honey, or pair with something savoury and salty, like Parma ham. If you’re intrigued, you can find them at Fortnum & Mason in-store and online (£6.25 for a pack of four).
If you’ve been watching Netflix’s latest foodie series Ugly Delicious, then you will have heard of Copenhagen’s Baest restaurant. It features in episode one of the series, where chef David Chang explores the world’s best pizzas. Among an impressive line-up of pizzerias from Naples to New York, Baest is up there in David’s list because of its dedication to using local, sustainable and organic produce. They have their own cows and a micro-dairy above the restaurant where they produce mozzarella for their pizzas, a bakery where the local flour is turned into bread and pizza dough and the meat for the charcuterie comes from nearby Hindsholm farm. Our cookery writer Ellie was lucky enough to try one of Baest’s pizzas on a trip to Copenhagen this week. Her verdict? ‘It was the best pizza I’ve ever had’. Apparently, the combination of wood-fired dough, creamy house-made ricotta, salty pancetta, fermented chilli and fresh ramsons (wild garlic) was the stuff of great dreams. The quality of the ingredients is the key to its success. If you’re ever in Copenhagen, a visit to Baest is a must.
New-wave veggie and vegan food continues to dominate the food scene, and we’ve eaten plenty of exciting veg-centric food lately. The problem with some of these foods is accessibility. While ingredients like seitan, tempeh and tofu might be rife on menus now, some, particularly seitan, are still difficult to get hold of and cook with at home. This week, we attended a plant-based banquet (a ‘planquet’, if you will) by Alpro and BOSH! to mark the first ever annual Plant Power Day (7 March) – a brand new national awareness day to celebrate the power of plants. Unlike some of the veggie dishes we’ve eaten lately, the three-course menu at the banquet didn’t contain any extravagant or difficult-to-source ingredients, just seasonal veg was used to create British comfort food inspired dishes. Our highlight was this vegan starter – mushroom ‘scallops’ with apple & parsnip mash and toasted hazelnuts. Trumpet mushrooms were used for the ‘scallops’, sliced to form a similar shape and texture to scallops, although not similar in taste. Served on a satisfying parsnip and apple mash and finished with a good crunch of toasted hazelnuts the result was an impressive, but easy-to-recreate vegan starter.
Earlier this month we tried...
Vegan Mexican food
“If you’re looking for chickpeas and chia seeds, you’ve come to the wrong place!”. Never has a company’s tagline spoken to us on such a deep level. Step through the doors of The Spread Eagle and you're not just entering an east London pub. With vegan 'doner kebabs', fried 'chicken' and all manner of indulgent vegan street food, this is a plant-based paradise. Mexican cuisine is the focus for London’s first 100% vegan pub, with a menu by vegan veterans Club Mexicana. Their tacos, nachos, burritos and burgers are bursting with spice and zing and use popular vegan ingredients like jackfruit and seitan. We loved the ‘al pastor’ and ‘carne asada’ tacos but the pièce de résistance is the Mexican fried 'chicken' burger, dripping with mustard mayo and crunchy pickled cabbage. The texture is satisfyingly meaty and it doesn’t leave you wanting. It is pure filth – in the best way possible. Try it with house twists on classic cocktails like the ‘Eagle old fashioned’. If you want a night out that both vegans and carnivores can relish, this is the answer. Written by Georgina Kiely.
Hot cross buns
It’s here – the annual Good Food hot cross bun taste test! Last week, we ate our way through 21 different supermarket and bakery buns to find you the best… because we’re good like that. Our findings? Well, we were on the hunt for the best traditional plus the best alternative bun, so we came across a wide range of different flavours from the slightly obscure (mango, pineapple & papaya anyone?) to more familiar combinations (apple & cinnamon), but this year the biggest trend is chocolate hot cross buns. Yes, as if Easter wasn’t choc-fuelled enough, we've tasted chocolate & sour cherry, chocolate & fudge and even chocolate & salted caramel hot cross buns, among others. To find out which were our favourites, check out our 2018 hot cross bun taste test, or if you fancy making your own, try our brand-new recipe for chocolate checkerboard hot cross buns.
We’re huge fans of thought-provoking, experimental cooking here at Good Food HQ, and this week we were lucky enough to experience an evening of some of the most awe-inspiring food we’ve ever tried, in a uniquely intimate setting. We’re talking about Aulis – Simon Rogan’s eight-seater development kitchen in the heart of London’s Soho. Here, guests are treated to a dynamic and interactive dining experience by head chef Rafael Cagali and sous chef Sean Sanders comprised of 14 courses, paired with wine and sake from around the world. Expect a level of dining closer to art than food and the rare opportunity to quiz the chefs on the ingredients and techniques used within each course. Our highlights include celeriac cooked in miso with whey and malt flakes and monkfish basted in Marmite butter with Jerusalem artichoke purée and a crispy topping made from the dehydrated artichoke peel blitzed with crispy chicken skin (pictured). This is seriously clever, seasonal cooking that invites you to engage with food in a fresh and exciting way.
Earlier this month we tried...
Veggie 'bleeding' burger
It’s here! The ‘bleeding’ veggie burger. Yes, you read that right – a plant-based burger that ‘bleeds’ like real meat. We tried the ‘Impossible Burger’ in America and the concept now comes to the UK thanks to Moving Mountains. The burger launches on Saturday 24 February at vegetarian restaurant Mildreds in Dalston, London. We’re not sure what kind of genius (and/or witchcraft) is involved, but the bloody effect somehow comes from a combination of oyster mushrooms, peas, potato, wheat and soy proteins, beetroot, coconut oil and added vitamin B12 and makes a burger so satisfyingly meaty, veggies may feel guilty for eating it. That said, it boasts zero cholesterol and roughly a fifth of the calories of a beef burger. Good news for veggies and omnivores who simply want to eat less meat. Mildreds serve the patty with their signature basil mayo, tomato relish and salad in a vegan bun. Delicious! Don’t believe the hype? Try it between 12pm and 2pm for a tenner.
We’ve managed a week without mentioning gin, which begs the question: what’s on-trend in the world of drinks now? Well, the answer is fig. Yep, the drinks industry is getting figgy with it this year – we’ve noticed a rise in the number of fig-based liqueurs and spirits emerging on the market recently. The latest to land on our desks is Esprit de Figues, billed as "the world’s first true fig liqueur". Made in Bordeaux, France, the recipe uses fresh Violette de Bordeaux figs infused in French beet spirit for three months (the same used in other French liqueurs like Chambord and Cointreau) to release their delicate flavour. The result is a unique drink with a deep purple colour (that comes from the skins of the fig) and all the sweet, jammy flavour of a fresh fig. It’s delicious neat over ice, or topped up with cava or prosecco, as the base of a vodka martini or a fruit punch mixed with prosecco and soda water, finished with sliced fresh figs.
Charcuterie is on the rise in the UK, in terms of popularity and quality. This year sees the launch of The British Charcuterie Awards whose winners will be announced at BBC Countryfile Live at Blenheim Palace in August. With this in mind we've already tried some of the most melt-in-the-mouth, umami-flooding flavour bombs we’ve ever had the privilege to taste. With judges including some of the nation's favourite chefs Angela Hartnett, Adam Handling and Ben Tish, it’s bound to be a big event. In the running are succulent salamis, creamy pâtés and fall-apart coppa (pork neck), spicy nduja from Wales and delectable lardo (pork backfat) from Islington. But our personal favourite is the venison bresaola (pictured) from Devon charcuterie Good Game, founded by three friends after a road-trip to Morocco opened their eyes to the delights of cured meat. These snacky sticks of fennel-flecked game salami are beautifully flavoured and soft as butter with a perfect balance of spice and bite. British charcuterie like this deserves to be celebrated.
Earlier this month we tried...
You can wipe those dubious looks off your faces because, yes, chocolate sourdough bread is a thing – and yes, it’s good. Inspired by this chocolate-fuelled time of year, spanning both Valentine’s Day and Easter, the loaf was created by Roy Levy, head baker at Gail’s Bakery last year, and proved so popular that they’ve brought it back. Sourdough is a speciality at Gail’s and this chocolate version is made using cocoa powder and studded with chunks of bittersweet chocolate. Admittedly, we were sceptical at first, but it works – the loaf has the same slightly sour tang and chewy crust of a normal sourdough, but with a hint of cocoa flavour, then those all-important chocolate chunks. We had ours lightly toasted (emphasis on lightly – toasting it properly would cause the chocolate to burn) and slathered with butter. It would be great with marmalade, too. Accompanied by a hot cup of coffee, it makes an indulgent breakfast that’s somewhere between toast and a pain au chocolat. Intrigued? Find it at branches of Gail’s Bakery in London, Oxford and Hove or buy it online (£4).
Just when we thought we’d tried every kind of egg there is, we were served this onsen egg at a special dinner by chef André Jaeger at Sopwell House in St Albans this week. Named after the hot springs that are dotted around Japan, the egg is lightly cooked, in its shell, at 42C (the same temperature as the springs) in natural spring water, lending it a velvety smooth texture unlike any other egg dish you’ve tried. The whites become super silky while the yolks are firm but custard-like. Although onsen eggs can be eaten with plenty of different dishes in Japan, they're most commonly served at breakfast in dashi (a kind of Japanese broth) with soy sauce and mirin. André took his version up several notches by setting the egg in an umami-rich dashi jelly which he then topped with caviar for that extra pop of mellow saltiness.
Has there ever been a more mouth-watering combination of words uttered than ‘cookie pancakes’? Possibly not. This epic amalgamation of two of our favourite sweet snacks was created by cookery writer Sophie Godwin in a battle of the pancakes with cookery assistant Elena Silcock on Shrove Tuesday. Both used the same basic American pancakes recipe, but while Sophie went for the flavours of a cookie – using three kinds of chocolate chunk and a dollop of salted caramel inside (as well as drizzled on top, of course) – Elena was inspired by Elvis’s favourite sandwich. That's peanut butter, bacon and banana, which she then topped with maple syrup, more peanut butter and cream. The results were two of the most outrageous (and utterly delicious) pancake stacks we’ve ever seen. Lots of you tuned in to our broadcast on Facebook Live (which you can still catch if you find us on Facebook) and voted for your favourite. The winner? Follow the link to find out. We aim to bring you more cooking inspiration every few weeks on Facebook Live, so do follow us and keep an eye out.
Earlier this month we tried...
Crispy lamb skins
At a special dinner held for the winners of the 2017 YBF awards, we were amazed by a canapé of crispy lamb skins with rosemary hoisin, soy pickles and goat’s curd. That’s not to say the rest of the menu was a let-down. Far far from it. The main course, Cow of the North, featured a striploin of three-month-aged shorthorn beef with a foie of calf brain wrapped in buttermilk-fried chicken skin, kimchi braised cabbage and a ginger & onion relish. You may not be surprised to hear that chef Luke Cockerill is a protégé of Michael O’Hare from The Man Behind the Curtain in Manchester. Still, among all this outstanding food, it was the lamb skins that had us in raptures; crisp on the outside with a melting middle of creamy goat’s curd and tangy pickles that deliciously offset the richness of the fat. It demonstrates the level of excellence upheld by the Young British Foodies, with the awards now in their seventh year. Entries for 2018 are now open with 10 diverse categories where you can nominate yourself via the YBF website. Entries for Food Writing are open until 17 June and the deadline for all other categories is 31 July.
At this time of year seafood lovers and Norwegians are all skreiming about (sorry)... skrei season. It is a particular type of cod, in season between January and April, and last weekend we flew to northern Norway to try and catch our own skrei. The flesh is firm, very white and flakes when cooked. It’s a favourite among chefs and in Norway every part of the fish, from the liver to the stomach, is eaten in a dish called mølje. The ‘tongue’ (or throat of the cod) is a particular delicacy that is removed with the cheeks and sold separately. Only 10% of the 400 million or so migrating cod (from the Barents Sea to the Norwegian coast) are allowed to be tagged as skrei, and then only if they tick various boxes: They must be fully grown (about five-years-old), caught in the right place, undamaged, packed within 12 hours of being caught and stored at the right temperature. In other words, mighty fresh. Skrei are very lean and much of their fat is stored in their liver, which is cooked quite simply in water and has a texture like butter. We ate it with boiled potatoes. Look out for skrei now – you’ll find it at good fishmongers and restaurants.
Greggs does Valentine’s
Oh yes, Greggs have done it again. Just when you thought they couldn't beat that epic Advent calendar stunt with baby-Jesus-as-a-sausage-roll fiasco, they’ve gone and teamed up with OpenTable to take bookings for a one-night-only romantic dining experience for Valentine’s Day. As you can imagine, it has caused a web sensation with all tables across the country getting booked up in a jaw-dropping 20 minutes! We were lucky enough to attend the press night this week, sampling their special four-course meal which includes firm Greggs favourites like sausage rolls, doughnuts and their signature steak slice (with a special pastry heart on top, obviously). And it didn’t end there – a cheesy cellist set the mood, and the waiting staff were as ecstatic to be there as we were. So, it’s a big “yay!” to Greggs, and for those of you who missed out on tickets this year, we're sure they’ve got more pastry-hyping plans for 2018…
While the idea of eating heart, or any kind of offal makes some feel squeamish, the current shift in the food industry towards zero waste means many restaurants are using the whole animal. In turn, cheap and underused cuts of meat, including heart, are back on the menu. The latest dish to convert our offal-wary cookery writer Sophie Godwin was served at Carousel, London, courtesy of chef Rosie Healey. One of The Sunday Times’s chefs to watch in 2017, Rosie worked at Ottolenghi and Jago before moving back up to Glasgow to open her own restaurant Alchemilla. At Carousel for this week only, Rosie is serving a four-course menu of simple but incredibly well considered dishes with a Mediterranean influence. All four courses seriously impressed, but the ox heart stood out. For the final savoury course, it was perfectly cooked with a rich irony flavour balanced by a sweet drizzle of pomegranate molasses, a hit of punchy green chilli, and a hefty sprinkling of za’atar.
What we ate in November 2017
What we ate in October 2017
What we ate in September 2017
What we ate in August 2017
What we ate in July 2017
What we ate in June 2017
What we ate in May 2017
What we ate in April 2017
What we ate in March 2017
What we ate in February 2017
What we ate in January 2017
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