The best foods in the world (pt V)
Roses Caramel Kegs
Has there ever been a food item which has such little nutritional merit as a box of chocolates? The Christmas tin of Cadbury’s Roses is the holder of dreams and the deliverer of disappointment. So many rustling wrappers and coloured foils, that every time you open the tin you think that you’re in for a treat, but you’re not. The caramel keg is a banker should you require something sweet, and, look, it’s like a little barrel, awwwww.
Quality Street orange cream
Like ITV to Cadbury’s Roses’ BBC, Rowntree’s Quality Street (they’ll always be Rowntree’s to me) is the Christmas competition, fighting for household tin supremacy. Each have their strengths and weaknesses, the big one Quality Street has is the use of dark chocolate on their orange cream. Wise move.
Terry’s chocolate orange
Shaped like an orange, segmented like an orange, flavoured with orange and wrapped in an orange peel patterned foil. I wonder how they came up with the name? The tag line is ‘Tap it and unwrap it’, but in reality it’s more thump it and pick up the bits. A failsafe stocking filler in the Dakin household.
How do you describe a bagel? Because bread roll with a hole in the centre doesn’t even begin to address the sweetness, the chewy texture or the perfect density of this boiled, then baked bakery item. It’s the perfect vehicle for all manner of extravagant sandwich creations that go to quite a height before collapsing. That said, I’m more than happy with a ham & cheese bagel. Toasted, of course.
Pasta al forno takes on such a different set of flavours and textures from its stovetop brethren. The burnt bits on the side of the dish, the crispy ends of pasta poking through scream out, ‘pick at me! You know I’m way too hot, but go on, have a try’. When the UK embraced the microwaveable ready meal, lasagne became the first name on the team sheet. Despite the years of practice that the manufacturers have since had, not one of them comes close to a homemade version.
Another member of the al forno brigade, this has become somewhat of an American classic, but don’t let that fool you into thinking that it has to lack delicacy and poise. The choice of cheese, seasoning and bacon all affect the final flavour. One thing that doesn’t change is the sheer comfort that comes from eating this, especially when it’s that little bit too hot for comfort!
Despite being deep-fried and often served in paper bags, which inevitably reveal their grease content, these have a vague air of nutritious value about them. They’re made of onion, a vegetable, and coated in gram flour, made from chickpeas, so how can they be bad for you?
I don’t want to like it, but this American-tinged dessert is so goddamn satisfyingly rich that it’s hard to resist, plus it’s a good choice should one have the misfortune to find oneself in any American-themed chain restaurant.
Vietnamese pork rolls
A curious creation featuring a long crusty bread roll, mayonnaise, shredded carrot and cucumber, three kinds of pork, paté, coriander leaves, fresh chilli and a drizzle of something related to soy or maybe fish sauce. Remarkably cheap and a heady combination crispy, soft, flavoursome and piquant.
Seemingly served in all restaurants and at all dinner parties, this food cliché has had some terrible crimes committed in its name. Like all clichés, it’s there for a reason: done well it takes simple ingredients and showcases them brilliantly, done badly and it makes you think the chef is at best lazy, and at worse incompetent.
Undyed smoked haddock
Smoking fish is an art (quite a populist one maybe, with all supermarkets carrying all manner of smoked fish) that transforms the mundane into magical. The haddock, for so long cod’s poor cousin, takes to smoking like a fish to water, putting its grandiose relation in the shade. Associated for a long time with the lurid yellow colour which was shorthand for this preparation, naturally smoked haddock has a much more normal hue and a far superior taste.
Melton Mowbray Pork pie
There’s no pork pie like a Melton Mowbray pork pie, hand-raised with hot water pastry, which crumbles and melts in the mouth with an incredible shortness. Hiding peppery, grey pork innards that furnish this creation with its name, the whole thing has a surprising heft.
I’ve tried but I can’t put it any better than Jay Rayner “with their crisp toasted shells and miraculous mattress-sprung innards and the treachery of the melted butter which could easily end up on your shirt”
Cadbury’s Creme eggs
On sale from Boxing day every year, these eggs contain a fondant filling, which is cleverly coloured white and yellow, inside a thick chocolate shell. Despite a clever annual advertising campaign, the joy is not in eating them, it’s in flattening the foil whilst keeping it in one piece!
Origin-protected cheese from Italy, I have my friend Tom to thank for my love of this unpasteurised wonder. Aged for up to three years (and beyond) this protein-rich staple is best when studded with salty, piquant crystals and eaten thin sliver by thin sliver, over wine and conversation.
A sausage made from – amongst other things – pig’s blood, usually pan-fried and served with breakfast. A surprise promotion from northern breakfasts to Michelin starred gastropubs has occurred in recent history, where it now appears in everything from mash to scallop dishes.
Whether it’s pickles, chutneys, salad dressings or just on your chips, there is a time when only the joys of vinegar will do. I have more than half a dozen on the go at any one time, of which I use at least two!
Potatoes baked in garlic-cream, crispy brown on top, although technically a side dish this elevates the lowly potato to food royalty.
This weird brown mush, popular in Texmex cuisine is strangely hypnotic in its appeal, like beans in general it holds a tremendous sway over people who enjoy it. Plus it comes in a can, which adds an air of mystery.
Meaning fried noodles in Japanese, it was this cheap Asian staple that was introduced to many through Wagamama. Initially at an attractive £3.50 when it first opened (now a rather less attractive £6.80!), it was the cheapest dish on the menu.