Following on from my Top Food Experiences of 2017 post earlier this week, I realised just how many new foods I was able to discover for myself last year. I thought I’d share some of the ones that excited me the most. So without further ado…
This little, bright green, nettle-shaped leaf packs a burst of anise flavour that is really quite amazing. I had never seen or heard of anise hyssop before visiting Frenchie in Covent Garden where it was used as a flavourful garnish. I’m keen to try growing it this year and seeing what I can do with it in my own cooking. I can see it being a great decoration for fennel or an accompaniment for fish dishes. Watch this space!
We came across mentaiko, spicy seasoned cod roe, when we visited the city of Fukuoka on the southernmost of Japan’s four main islands. Fukuoka is famous for its “yatai” street food stalls and it’s at one of these yatai that we first sampled mentaiko for ourselves. It’s got quite a soft texture and a hint of fishy flavour, with a bit of a spicy kick of course. Since our trip, we’ve found it in the frozen section of the Japan Centre, but haven’t yet been brave enough to buy any. Instead, we get these spicy cod roe spaghetti kits now and again for a lazy, hassle-free dinner. Maybe in 2018 I’ll pluck up the courage to experiment with the real deal…
During our trip to Japan back in May, we spent half a day cycling along the Shimanami Kaido, a famous route across a series of islands connected by huge bridges. As we were approaching Setoda, famous for its citrus, we happened upon a little citrus shop where we stopped for a break. The shop had a range of typically Japanese souvenir boxes filled with citrus flavoured sweets, cakes and snacks, but it was the small kiosk at the front of the store selling fresh juice where we made our discovery. There wasn’t a menu or really much of a choice, just fresh citrus juice and a snack of a Japanese fish cake on a stick (which I love). I have to say, when I was handed the juice, I thought it was a little pale for orange juice, and expected the flavour to be a bit limp too, but it wasn’t orange at all! Instead we were drinking the juice of the Haruka fruit, a paler fruit with a beautiful flavour – perfect to refresh us after our cycle ride on a hot spring day in Southern Japan!
Towards the end of 2017, Mark and I embarked on a bit of a mission to learn more about cheese. Inspired by our cheese making lesson with Cutting the Curd (more to come on that!), we set out to try a new cheese every week until Christmas – you may have seen some of them on Instagram. Our mission was to discover new cheeses, learn more about all the varieties you can get, how and where they’re made, and most importantly to create the ultimate Christmas cheese board! One of our discoveries along the way was washed rind cheeses, these tend to be soft cheeses that are washed regularly as they mature in brine or sometimes wine or even brandy. This “Epoisses La Cave” from La Cave a Fromage, washed every few days in Marc de Bourgogne was described by the cheesemonger as exquisite, and it wasn’t just sales bluster – this cheese is exquisite in every sense.
Speaking of cheese, during our trip to New York in October, we visited the amazing Eataly – a huge space selling all things Italian, including the most humongous selection of Italian cheeses I have ever seen. Next to the practically mile-long cheese counter was a display with various cheese accoutrements such as crackers, jams, balsamic reduction, and mostarda. Mostarda is almost like a jam, but with a hint of mustard just to give the slightest spice. We found a beautiful fig version that has been a huge hit this Christmas and goes brilliantly with creamy cheeses, but works well with others too.
I hope to discover even more in 2018! Were any of those new to you? Did you discover anything new yourself in 2017?