Taste of London 2014 + Electrolux Secret Ingredient

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Hubs and I were at Taste of London last week – a foodie festival in London’s Regent’s Park, with plenty of summer eating, drinking and entertainment.We’ve been to a couple of Taste events before, namely Taste of Christmas, but never to the one in the summer months. It’s something we’ve always been meaning to do, and so, when Electrolux invited us along to Taste of London so we could view the new Electrolux CombiSteam SousVide oven, I couldn’t say no!

With the dodgy summer weather in the UK, it could have been a washout for this outdoor event, but the sun was shining and hubs and I made our way into London and walked around Regent’s Park whilst waiting for the gates to open, and then, we were in! What we both loved about Taste of London was the fact that it is so huge that it doesn’t feel crowded at all – even though you could see that there were hundreds of people there. We tend not to go to food shows with a game plan, just wander around and see what takes our fancy!

I loved the giant taste sign…sculpture…?! as you walked in, along with the giant fork stuck in the grass! We had to be over at the Electrolux Secret Ingredient theatre at 7pm, so we had lots of time to wander around the stands, sample food and drink along the way and generally have a fab foodie time! We purchased crowns as we went in (that’s the show’s currency, but some stands do accept cash/card).

We found ourselves headed in the direction of Taste of Thailand, which was a huge section devoted to the food of that region.

It started with an area full of exotic fruits, some of which I’d seen before, and some I hadn’t! We marvelled at the amazing fruit and veg sculptures on display, and being created, and was also able to sample some mangosteen, which is known as the Queen of Thai Fruits and rambutan which are kinda of like spikey lychee on the outside.

Let me tell you what these exotic fruits are in the photo below – I thought they were fascinating! Starting top left and working down and around… gac fruit, dragon fruit (you can just see jack fruit behind it), durian (which is the stinkiest fruit in existence and I’ve heard it is banned in hotels and other public places!!), snake fruit, longkong, and finally rambutan.

I know you can buy dragon fruit in my local supermarket – they’re so weird, you expect them to be pink inside, but they’re white with black seeds! They kind of taste like cucumber. Aside from the rambutan which we sampled, we’ve never eaten any of the other fruits before – I’m sure I’ve seen some of them available at ethnic supermarkets though, so may have to investigate! I picked up a leaflet with recipes, so will have to endeavour to give them a try at some stage.

Compared with Taste of Christmas, this event had loads of samples being offered, and of course, when something is pushed under your nose you’re going to try! These prawn skewers where yummy – but very spicy!

I decided to purchase a Massaman Gai from one of the pop up restaurants, which was 4 Crowns. It is a typical Thai curry Southern style with chicken and potatoes, served with steamed jasmine rice. It did have a coconut flavour in it, so hubs did not want to partake! He was quite happy to munch on the freebies available!! I have had a massaman curry before at our local Thai restaurant, and this was every bit as delicious.

The Mahiki Coconut Bar was an ticketed area, which I would loved to have gone in to – but at £95 per person, it was out of our price range for this visit. I’ve got a crazy obsession at the moment with tiki bars, so I think I may well have been in heaven!

There is an awful lot of booze at Taste events, so if you’re a non-drinker it’s a bit hard to find something to quench your thirst. I really should have remembered to bring a bottle of water with me! But, I walked past a stand where a woman was dressed up as a viking and handing out samples of Thor Drinks – a grown up apple based soft drink in four flavours – Original with apple and green tea; Fire with apple, ginger and chilli; Ice with apple, mint and peppermint and finally, my favourite, Thunder with apple, passion fruit and hibiscus. They were marked at 3 Crowns a bottle, but if you tweeted a selfie of of you with the drink, you could get it for 2 Crowns instead…so guess what I did?

Another country themed area was Taste of Korea, where we sampled delicious Korean barbecue burger sliders – they were seriously good! And everyone on each stand showcasing drinks, confectionery and more Korean barbecue was really friendly! We got to try out aloe vera juice in a variety of flavours – lush! Totally bought a few bottles of those – I was so thirsty!

We soon found ourselves outside the Electrolux Secret Ingredient theatre for the demonstration of the new CombiSteam SousVide oven. I should explain what sousvide means…
Sous-vide, which means ‘under vacuum’ in French, provides an totally sealed cooking environment where flavours and textures can flourish for truly mouth-watering results. Combining ingredients, such as herbs and marinades together with fish or meat then vacuum-sealing, creates a flavour infusion and preserves the natural nutrients and textures. The use of slow and low-temperature steam cooking then allows the flavours and aromas to develop.

It was hosted by Masterchef 2011 winner, Tim Anderson, who made all those in attendance feel welcome with a glass of sake (blargh, not for me I’m afraid, so hubs drunk my glass!) and a quick appetizer of watermelon that had been infused with tequila and *choke* lots of habanero chilli! That was quite the secret ingredient – I couldn’t finish my slice, I don’t mind spicy food, but that was just too much for me! It had been created using the VacSealer. It felt quite spaceage to watch the demonstration that he then proceeded with of how to make this spicy, boozy watermelon. The official name of this dish (because I’ve just found the recipe cards!) is Chilli Margarita Compressed Watermelon.

Another appetizer followed called 50° Salmon Poke – poke is a Hawaiian raw salad made with sliced fish. Pokē is the Hawaiian verb for “section” or “to cut”. Cooked on the CombiSteam SousVide oven, at 50° meant that the fish was kinda cooked on the outside but a bit raw in the middle…we are both fans of sashimi, so loved this taster. With ingredients like sesame oil, soy sauce, macadamia nuts, avocado and chilli, it really was a delight on the taste buds. I will have to have a go a re-creating this at home – I just won’t be able to cook it at 50° is all!

The sous vide process allows consumers to prepare food in advance without compromising the on taste.
The Electrolux CombiSteam SousVide oven is incredibly multifunctional. As well as three low-temperature sous-vide settings it can also steam, roast, bake and grill. Combining these cooking methods gives home chefs an unsurpassed cooking repertoire.

With the Electrolux CombiSteam SousVide oven, ingredients are first combined and then sealed in the VacSealer drawer. Vacuum sealing is an extremely versatile process that far exceeds just a cooking method. It allows food to be pre-cooked then refrigerated or frozen, so it can simply be finished off when necessary.

Finally, Tim cooked a Miso-Rum Pork Fillet with Shaoxing Sweet Potato Puree and Lotus Root. This too was fantastic – really loved the flavours, and the lotus root too which is something we’ve never eaten before. Again, I’m sure I could take the recipe and make it work at home!

The Electrolux CombiSteam SousVide oven is an impressive bit of kitchen equipment, this type of cooking was exclusive to chefs in the industry, but it is now available for the home chef…it’s not cheap at around £3000, so not something we’ll be purchasing any time soon – but hey, if we win that lottery!

If you are a complete foodie and have the funds available, I would recommend it, I kinda wished I could have had a go on the VacSealer – just look at the watermelon in the photo below, I want to be able to do that!!

A bit more wandering around, sitting back in the early evening sunshine and listening to the music performances on the stage, before we decided to make our way home. I was shattered after a really busy couple of days!

Our experience of Taste of London was fantastic, I would loved to have been able to revisit over the weekend and visit more of the stands. It really is a foodie’s wonderland, and I have to say, we both preferred it over Taste of Christmas, which feels more like an exhibition, than the festival atmosphere that this outdoors event provides. But we will be heading back to Taste in November, when Taste of Winter is back at Tobacco Dock – we love a food show!

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