Off-piste with Pasta
Pasta has been part of the UK’s culinary mainstream for decades, yet we still tend to cook just a handful of varieties at home. With each region of Italy famed for its own shapes and sauces — from orecchiette (Puglia) and trofie (Liguria) to gigli (Florence) and paccheri (Campania) — it’s time to get out of your pasta rut and discover what else is on offer.
Why now? Sales of the stuff may be down (thanks, in part, to the low-carb trend), but many restaurants are leading the revival by putting pasta at the heart of their menus.
Try it there: Tuscany has long been a destination for pasta lovers, and UK restaurants are increasingly shining the spotlight on its lesser-known varieties, such as pici (thick, non-uniform pieces, similar to Japanese udon in texture) and pappardelle (a wider, flatter version of tagliatelle), both of which can be found dished up in little trattorias and homes throughout the region.
Try it here: Critically acclaimed London restaurants Padella (Borough Market) and Pastaio (Soho) have fans queueing round the block. Not in the capital? Discover a range of fresh varieties online, or stock up on 00 flour and make your own. Once you’ve mastered the basics, get creative by colouring the dough with cuttlefish ink or beetroot juice. Tim Siadatan’s book Trullo (£25, Square Pegg) features bold pasta dishes, while Antonio Carluccio’s Pasta (£15.99, Quadrille) remains one of the most comprehensive guides on pasta’s numerous shapes and what to do with them. pastaio.london. Lauren Hoffman
Coconut sap in Cambodia
My first taste of coconut sap came from a tree outside Angkor Wat, Cambodia. I came across a crowd who’d gathered beneath a palm tree to watch a man collect the bamboo tubes hidden in its fronds. Sap, tapped from the blossoms that mature into coconuts, is collected in small flasks to be drunk neat or processed into coconut sugar, nectar, vinegar or, when fermented, wine. In terms of flavour and nutritional punch, sap is the espresso to coconut water’s Americano: it tastes sweet, mellow, nutty and faintly boozy and is packed with vitamins and amino acids. It’s also more sustainable, because a ‘tapped’ tree flows for decades. Liz Dodd
Bougatsan in Greece
With its mixture of Greek, Jewish, Slavic and Ottoman traditions, Thessaloniki is home to some of Greece’s most innovative confections — among them, the bougatsan. The brainchild of food blogger and chef Dimitris Koparanis of Estrella Cafe, it’s the progeny of a croissant and a ‘bougatsa’ (Greek filo pastry with custard). What’s more, a London franchise is planned for 2018.
Sandwiches, Peruvian style
A Peruvian take on the sandwich, sánguche is traditionally made with roasted meat in a soft, toasted bun, oozing with salsa and/or mayo, often with chips stuffed in, too. With South America’s history of cultural mingling, it’s no surprise this snack is a tasty hotchpotch.
Why now? While Peruvian food has been on the radar for some time, so far the focus has mainly been on pisco and ceviche. The sánguche is more accessible — and with casual dining so on-trend, it’s time for it to shine.
Try it there: Peruvians visit sángucherias for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and there are also versions in Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay. Beyond South America, Brooklyn’s Llama Inn is about to open a Manhattan sister cafe, Deli Llama, that promises all manner
of sánguches. llamainnnyc.com
Try it there: You’ll find it on the brunch menu at Mommi in Clapham, south London, under the name Mommi’s Boy Burger — a beast of a sánguche with pulled beef, melted cheese and pickles. Also in London, the Brixton branch of bar chain Barrio does a pork belly sánguche, while in Marylebone, Pachamama’s signature dish is pan con chicharrón — beef and pork in a soft roll. If you feel moved to make one yourself, just remember the key is salsa criolla — salt and rinse a sliced red onion, then mix with lime juice, aji amarillo (Peruvian yellow chilli pepper) and fresh coriander. Lisa Markwell
The jack of all fruits
With its knobbly reptilian skin, jackfruit is the Shrek of the fruit world: huge, green and a bit whiffy. They can grow to nearly a metre long, weighing in at up to 35kg. It’s extremely versatile — fresh jackfruit, like plantain, is often eaten underripe, cooked like a vegetable in savoury dishes. When ripe, it’s sweeter and less starchy, so eaten raw as a fruit. Once overripe, the smell is musky, with a hint of rotting onions — not one to leave lingering in the fruit bowl. The fat, black seeds can be boiled in two changes of water, then eaten like chestnuts.
Why now? Veganism is a resurgent trend, and while we’re not all forsaking animal products entirely, many of us are cutting down on meat. Enter jackfruit; the mild, fibrous flesh tastes remarkably like meat, particularly pulled pork, when cooked in a sauce.
Try it there: Originating in the Indian subcontinent, it’s now grown throughout the tropics, especially Southeast Asia and Brazil, and Bangladesh has claimed it as a national fruit. The jackfruit tree’s sap wood is used to make an orange dye, while the seeds can be ground and made into flour.
Try it here: Fresh jackfruit is available from some international shops; for cooking, the underripe fruit is what you want — you can find it in cans in bigger branches of Tesco. Club Mexicana, London’s pop up Mexican vegan restaurant, does a mean jackfruit carnita, or you can always ease yourself in gently with Sainsbury’s barbecue pulled jackfruit ready meal. Xanthe Clay
Pandan: the new matcha?
If Nigella lists something as a trend to watch, you know it’s going to be bigger than Christmas, so when the glossy goddess proclaimed pandan “the new matcha” late last year, suppliers braced themselves for the onslaught.
Why now? More and more people are baking with pandan in the US, where it’s also known as screwpine — and where America leads, we tend to follow.
Try it there: This fragrant leaf lends its distinctive sweet, slightly soapy flavour and vivid green colour to curries and sweets across Southeast Asia. It’s popular in Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and southern Vietnam.
Try it here: Fresh leaves are sold at Asian groceries; pandan essence and paste are also available, and Oriental superstore Wing Yip offers a dazzling variety of pandan-flavoured treats, from coconut jam to bright green Swiss rolls. Felicity Cloake
Laal maas in India
This is a rich, unctuous red curry also known as jungli maas. It combines Rajasthani chillis with tender mutton, garlic, cumin and bouquet garni. A dish that dates back to Mughal times, it’s influenced by the dry landscape and lack of vegetables in this arid part of northern India. Slow cooked, it’s a royal dish that deserves a higher throne here in the UK. It’s best eaten with bread such as roti, chapati or naan. Audrey Gillan
French Bistro classics
It may have been one of the first foreign cuisines we fell for as a nation, but the British love affair with French food has been cooling in recent years, our heads having been turned by more exotic offerings from around the globe. Yet, though we dally with Japanese fast food and Ghanian fusion, we always seem to return to the likes of moules marinière and steak-frites. And we can expect to see yet another rekindling of the old romance in months to come.
Why now? France’s increasingly relaxed dining culture has made these low-key, local restaurants cool again. And several of Paris’ ‘neo-bistros’, among them Frenchie and Les 110 de Taillevent, have made the leap across the Channel, opening up UK branches. Could the imminent prospect of Brexit be making us all feel a little bit nostalgic? frenchiecoventgarden.com
Try it there: Forget haute cuisine and temples to the chubby gods of Michelin: this trend is all about the buzzy neighbourhood bistro. Think chequered tablecloths, wine by the carafe and simple French classics given a new lease of life by enthusiastic young chefs; if you’re in Paris, you could do a lot worse than dining at Les Arlots or
Try it here: Soho House has just reopened Cafe Boheme on London’s Old Compton Street, while Bristol’s Bar Buvette has gone down a storm, and Newcastle’s The French Quarter, Cheltenham’s Petit Coco, Brighton’s Petit Pois and Le Roi Fou in Edinburgh all come highly recommended. Happily, this is also a trend that’s easy to recreate at home. Michel Roux Jr has a new book, The French Revolution (£25, Seven Dials), coming out this autumn, while Rick Stein is rumoured to be filming a new series in France. Felicity Cloake
Why now? Mushrooms’ versatility means they’re cropping up practically everywhere. Little-known varieties are being dried and used as a condiment, or added during cooking for a meaty, earthy flavour — and you can even find fungi in your morning cuppa. Mushroom coffee has a mellow, rich taste and is said to provide many of the benefits of the stimulating bean, but without the negative side effects.
Try it here: Four Sigmatic is the leading ’shroom coffee, sold online and at Planet Organic and Whole Foods. But if you’re not tempted by a liquid fungi fix, try mushroom powder, which adds a touch of umami to everything from soups to risottos. The Mushroom Cookbook by Michael Hyams, and Liz O’Keefe (£15, Lorenz Books) is an essential guide with 50 recipes. Sarah Barrell
Baursaki in Kazakhstan
This Kazakh snack is a puffy, fried bread that’s sort of a cross between a pasty and a doughnut. They’re treated with great respect and are essential at weddings and funerals. At Almaty’s Green Bazaar I tried them dusted with sugar, while at a roadside stall, they came stuffed with potato and smothered with chilli paste. Liz Dodd
Avocado ice cream
Why now? If modish sweet-savoury sensory confusion is your thing, then note: avocado has graduated from being smashed over sourdough to being turned into ice cream. Dairy-free, paleo-friendly, and often made with no refined sugar: this is yet another way to feed your wholesome avo addiction. Yet, it’s not the only new big thing in the ice cream world. In the wake of green tea and yuzu, the latest Eastern arrival to go mainstream here is mochi — a traditional Japanese dessert of plump rice dough. Traditional fillings include red bean, but in this case they’re stuffed with ice cream.
Try it here: Stocked in independent shops in the South West England, Fravocado combines avocado with coconut for its base and comes in three flavours: raspberry and basil, raw cacao and ‘original’. Looking for a mochi fix? Little Moons’ bite-size, chewy ice cream treats are now at supermarkets including Waitrose, Ocado and Selfridges, as well as Whole Foods, and come in flavours such as mango, matcha and black espresso. Sarah Barrell
Chinese soup dumplings
If there’s a dish that sums up the essence of dim sum (meaning ‘to touch the heart’) then xiaolongbao is it. Originally from Shanghai, these steamed dumplings are filled with pork plus a rich pork broth. When done properly, each one is 18 pleats of jaw-dropping perfection — and eating them correctly is an art too. A tip: use a spoon and nibble a bit first to let the steam escape, before sucking out the soup and then putting the dumpling in your mouth.
Why now? Din Tai Fung put xiaolongbao on the culinary map; it opened in Taipei, Taiwan, in 1972 and now has more than 130 branches around the world. This summer it opens its first UK outpost, in Centre Point, central London.
Try it there: Every food-living Shanghainese will have their favourite street corner xiaolongbao maker. It’s all about the thickness of the skin and the quality of the soup. Or visit the Hong Kong branch of Din Tai Fung, which has a Michelin star.
Try it here: Seek out superior xiaolongbao at restaurants such as London’s Royal China, Yauatcha, Hutong and Michelin-starred A Wong. The latter’s ginger-scented broth-filled xiaolongbao is injected, rather ingeniously, with vinegar. Fiona Sims
Takoyaki in Japan
The name takoyaki translates as ‘grilled octopus’, but that rather literal description really doesn’t do justice to one of Japan’s tastiest street foods. Constructed like golf-ball-sized planets — expect a crusty outer layer with a chunk of octopus at its core — they’re served in little trays of six and are typically topped with rich okonomiyaki sauce, mayo, and bonito flakes that dance from the heat of the takoyaki. Great with beer, it’s the ideal late night snack. Jamie Lafferty
The ultimate act of hospitality in Central Asia is to invite someone to share plov, a slow-cooked dish of rice served with meat, eggs or vegetables. Fancy restaurants in Uzbekistan serve decadent plovs topped with a whole animal or two, but I enjoyed a much simpler affair in neighbouring Tajikistan, in a remote stretch of the Pamir mountains. Liz Dodd
Why now: The quest for a meatless patty that tastes like real meat is finally over. The new breed of vegan burgers not only sizzle but have a tender texture and ooze fatty pink juices to resemble — in taste and look — minced, rare beef.
Try it there: American companies such as Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods have pumped millions into researching the perfect meatless patty, and the answer has been found in pea proteins or potato protein, mixed with plant fats, pulverised beets and heme, a meaty-tasting molecule that’s common in animal muscle, but can be extracted from plants too. They’re sold across the US; the Beyond Burger (pictured above), is on the menu at New York City’s organic burger chain, Bareburger. beyondmeat.com impossiblefoods.com bareburger.com
Try it here: ‘Bleeding burgers’ cook pink on the inside, brown on the outside and are preservative-free. What’s more, they’re now available in the UK, thanks to British company Moving Mountains’ B12 Burger. It made its restaurant debut at the Dalston (east London) branch of Mildreds earlier this year. Meanwhile, Beyond Meat is due to arrive on British shores in 2018 too, although it hasn’t yet revealed where. Sarah Barrell
Fried chicken skins
At Husk, in Charleston, South Carolina, these bubbly, crispy bites are served with hot sauce and honey. The fat is scraped away from the skin, which is then soaked in buttermilk before being dredged in Southern spices and deep fried until it puffs up. With zero waste the new mantra, maybe chicken skins’ time has come. Audrey Gillan
Taste the sea
Scoring high in health-giving, omega-3 fatty acids, heavy on the umami, and found in some 3,500 varieties, it’s no surprise seaweed is sustaining its moment in the spotlight.
Why now? Jamie Oliver claims it helped him lose two stone, and Heston recommended it as a healthier replacement for salt.
Try it there: Seaweed sits invisibly as a base ingredient in many Asian broths, notably Japanese dashi.
At an asado in Mendoza, Argentina, I was handed a plate of mollejas — small, lightly charred sweetbread balls — and a slice of lemon. These little darlings had spent just enough time smoking to hone their crust to a crunch. One sharp squeeze of citrus to cut through the soft, rich centre and I had a tapa to die for. And yes, if you want to get technical, mollejas are the thymus glands of the pig, calf or lamb, and some people, though happy to gnaw on an animal’s limb, find that a bit gross. But they’re missing out on some of the best — and cheapest — parts of the beast. Nina Caplan
Chinese roast meats such as Peking (Beijing) duck and char siu pork can be found across the UK but roast goose is a rarity. I ate it at Yat Lok in Hong Kong, where the bird is marinated in 20 different ingredients, including soy sauce, ginger, cloves, star anise and sesame oil. The crispy skin looks almost laminated — underneath is a layer of melty fat, juicily sitting on top of rich, heavy goose meat. Audrey Gillan
Lamprais in Sri Lanka
Created during Dutch rule in the 17th century, lamprais involves meat or veg cooked with Sri Lankan spices and laid on a bed of rice with shrimp paste and chutneys. It then gets wrapped in a banana leaf and steamed or roasted over open coals. Open the parcel and dive in, mixing a little of everything in each mouthful as you eat. Audrey Gillan
The leaves of Eden
The fig tree is thought by some to be the Garden of Eden’s Tree of Knowledge, but who’d have thought the leaves could be as tempting as the fruit? Crushed with olives to make oil, infused in syrup, added to rice or wrapped around fish, they add a delicate coconut flavour.
Why now? Anything with a claim to heal or rejuvenate us is bound to be a winner. Fig leaf tea, made by drying and crushing the leaves and infusing in boiling water, is said to be good for conditions such as high blood pressure. Plus, anyone with a fig tree in their garden can harvest the leaves.
Try it there: For centuries Italians have been using fig leaves to wrap cheeses, including Robiola Fia, a soft, creamy goat’s cheese made in Piedmont. They’re also used to wrap balls of dried figs to eat with cheese.
Try it here: Produced in northern Spain to a recipe by chef Ross Gibbens of Bristol’s Wellbourne, Belazu’s fig leaf oil has started to appear in dishes at UK restaurants. At London’s Gelupo, meanwhile, chef Jacob Kenedy has created a fig leaf ice cream. Xanthe Clay