Foodie Finds #17 with Karen Harvey

February feels like such a short month, it’s only two or three days different to the others, but that’s 10% less time to discover foodie things, and I’ve been so hard at work these past few weeks I’ve not had much of a chance to get out and find things to share. I’ve gathered a few bits and bobs together that I think you might like, and as always, I’d love to hear from you with your recommendations too.

My one proper lunch out this month was at Arabica in London’s Borough Market. It was a real treat, not only because the food was delicious, but because I got to share it with my friend Lynsey and she didn’t bat an eyelid when I decided the grilled Turkish peppers would look better on the floor than on the table.

We ate a mezze of Levantine delights, including: Berber spiced cauliflower with tahini yoghurt and pomegranate, duck and date shish with apple, watercress and orange, stuffed vine leaves, grilled peppers, and drinks, made from rose petal syrup with Hibiscus flowers. Everything was beautiful – to look at and to taste. I’m going back as soon as I can, I’ve already got my eye on the lamb cutlets with Zaatar, Jerusalem artichokes, fried capers, lemon, and watercress. Yum!

The RSPB have launched their first chocolate bars – Gola Rainforest Chocolate is made from cocoa beans grown in the depths of the Gola rainforest in Sierra Leone.

The milk chocolate contains only three ingredients (cocoa beans, unrefined sugar and whole milk powder) whilst the 70% dark chocolate is vegan and boasts just cocoa beans and unrefined sugar. Both are organic and palm-oil free.

Gola Forest is a biodiversity hotspot and home to many endangered species including pygmy hippos, forest elephants and chimpanzees – as well as more than 300 bird and 600 butterfly species. The farmers live outside the park and grow the cocoa amongst native forest trees, on land which they also manage in harmony with the wildlife. Selling these beans help them to build a profitable business without the need to encroach on the rainforest. Cocoa grows best when surrounded by the shade of the other trees, the rainforest itself protecting the cocoa from the harsh sun and providing nutrients through the soil.

Because the beans are high quality and forest-friendly, the farmers can sell them for a premium as a reward for their role in protecting the rainforest and its unique biodiversity. The harvested beans are then sent to Cornish chocolate maker Chocolarder where they are slow roasted to create both a delicious dark and milk bar, with naturally rich and fudgy flavours.

All profits from the sales of these chocolate bars will be reinvested into the Gola Rainforest Cocoa Forest and continue to protect Sierra Leone’s threatened wildlife and support local communities. Gola Rainforest Chocolate can be bought from the RSPB online shop or from RSPB reserve shops.

I was invited to an evening event at the Canadian Embassy as part of London Fashion Week (I know, I think that’s strange too!) and was given a gift of Magnotta Icewine to take home.

Icewine is a type of dessert wine that is made from grapes that have been frozen whilst on the vine. The water in the grape freezes, but the sugars don’t, so when the grapes are pressed the juice is much more concentrated, and therefore very sweet.

It was decadently tropical in its fruitiness, honey sweet and very smooth, and yes, I have no idea how a wine is supposed to be described, but I liked it, a lot.

I’ve also been drinking Ocean Bomb, not for its flavour, but because I was lured by its cute packaging and mistakenly paid £1.60 for a can of strong, cheap squash. I can’t say I wouldn’t do it again though.

In the snacking stakes there have been some very tasty, sticky sticks of fruity goodness from Gregory’s Tree. Organic, gluten free, no added sugar and one of your recommended five a day. The only thing that puts me off is the name… oh, and their blogger pics on Instagram.

Crispy liked dried apple and tasting slightly caramelised, these little red date slices are easy to get through, as are the chewy sweet whole dates. Abakus Foods make all sorts of red date products (also known as the jujube fruit) which are nutritious, vegan, and sugar, sulphite and gluten free, and surprisingly filling.

Apparently, in Traditional Chinese Medicine, the jujube is known as ‘a warming food, and used to remove dampness, nourish the blood, calm the mind, and strengthen the body.’

Are you thinking about Easter already? I am mostly thinking, Why is Easter egg chocolate so good? (Is it something to do with the recipe to enable it to form the egg shell shape? Someone tell me, or invite me to a Easter egg heaven factory to learn more!)

I’ve also been thinking about the traditions of Easter, so I was really pleased that one of my favourite online foodie retailers, Sous Chef, stock a variety of Colomba di Pasqua made by Fiasconaro, a Sicilian bakery known for producing some of Italy’s finest cakes.

Colomba are iced, panettone-like cakes which are a traditional part of the Italian Easter festivities and are shaped like doves to symbolise peace.

This Chocolate Colomba was beautifully soft, with dark chocolate chips that melted deliciously, and a crisp topping of hazelnut paste and sugar icing. It was also beautifully wrapped in pretty paper and ribbons, so would make a really lovely Easter gift – more thoughtful than easter eggs grabbed from a supermarket, and at £11.95, probably a better valued gift for the whole family to share.

And, in other foodie news…

I had my first ever Five Guys. Yeah, whatever. It’s interesting that they cook their fries in peanut oil though.

London based pop-up Monsieur Le Duck, has teamed up with The Cocktail Trading Company to create a unique cocktail – Duck À L’Orange, which will feature Armagnac washed with smoked duck fat, orange marmalade and honey sherbet. Apparently, fat washing alcohol is a ‘simple yet very effective way to infuse alcohol with rich fat-based savoury flavour.’  I can’t imagine much worse, but I’m still intrigued to try it!

A new ‘destination restaurant’ is opening on Richmond Hill, west London. 144 ON THE HILL will deliver robust ‘Turf to Table’ menus made with the finest seasonal ingredients and is set to open in April 2019. I’m looking forward to the interiors as much as I am the food!

I’ll be back soon with some more Foodie Finds to share, until then, if you’ve got something you think we should know about, please get in touch… send Easter eggs!