From tomato salad in Spain to pumpkin rice: Chefs and writers take on the best things they ate in 2022 | food

Tomato salad and steak

Chet Sharma, Head Chef, Baby, London

I took a couple of days off in June and went back to San Sebastian where I was working [at Mugaritz]. I revisited my regular restaurant, Bar Nestor, for tomato salad and prime rib steak. It’s not a fancy place: small, with a long bar hanging off one side and shirts from local football clubs on the walls. As soon as I ate the first bite of the tomato salad, I was transported back to the time when I was just finding my feet in the world of food. It was a reminder of how wonderful something as simple as tomatoes tossed in salt, olive oil, and a little sherry vinegar can be.

Pumpkin rice

Olya Hercules, food writer and co-foundercook for Ukraine

The other day my husband Joe made a pumpkin rice bowl enriched with pumpkin puree. It was one of the most delicious things I’ve eaten this year. In Ukraine, we eat pumpkin puree for breakfast with honey or sugar and evaporated milk, but Joe has created a delicious version of gingerbread with brown rice. I ate it with pickled chili. It felt very familiar and new at the same time. I haven’t had a big appetite lately, due to stress, but that day – maybe there was some good news coming from Ukraine – I got hungry again, and this dish really did arrive. It was pure comfort and nourishment.

Coconut and red dal

Sarit Packer. Chef and co-ownerHoney and Company, London

We’ve been eating at home a lot this year, trying to avoid anything processed as part of our long Covid recovery. The best thing we made was coconut and red lentils. We didn’t have much in the kitchen: just some onions, lentils, carrots and squash. I usually opt for a lemony Middle Eastern soup, but we fancied something a little different, so we tossed a slew of spices—coriander, cumin, mustard seeds, and fenugreek—with coconut oil. Then onions, garlic and ginger followed by vegetables, lentils and finally some coconut milk, and we let it simmer together for an hour or so. We’ve done it over and over again. You can make it thick like a soup, or thin it out so it’s more of a soup, and change the vegetables around, and it’s always good.

Buy salmon

Merlin Labron Johnson, Head Chef, Osip and The Old Pharmacy, Bruton, Somerset

Newell’s is a restaurant in Sherborne run by an Australian couple – she cooks alone in the kitchen and she runs front of house. They used to run the Giaconda Dining Room in London. Newell feels like a bistro you’ll find when you’re traveling in France, with simple decorations and a chalkboard menu. I took a friend who is also a chef – I’ve been telling him that for a long time. Everything was great, but we had the most exceptional appetizer, the thick smoked salmon which came with a huge blini made with buckwheat flour and fried in butter, a bowl of fresh cream ice cream, trout, shallots, chives and all that nice stuff to build your own pie. it was amazing.

Udon breakfast

Anna Tobias, Head Chef and Co-Owner, Deco Café, London

I was really exhausted one morning, just from the drudgery of opening a restaurant, and thought, I’m going to get out of the house and do something and not just be here on the couch, exhausted. I went to Koya Kou on Broadway Market [in Hackney, east London] And I had udon for breakfast. It was the classic miso with pork, ginger and greens. When I took the first sip of the broth, it was a truly visceral experience, like a new life rushing through my veins. I felt renewed in the strict sense of that word. Obviously, it was delicious – and reasonably priced, too.

Anna Tobias Breakfast Udon. Illustration: Eko Ujala/The Observer

Pheasant sausage roll

Roberta Hall-Maccaron, Chef and Co-Owner, The Little Chartroom and Eleanore, Edinburgh

There is a lovely little cafe on Causewayside in Edinburgh called Kate’s. The woman who runs it makes all her cakes herself but she also makes pheasant sausage rolls. I’ve ordered them every time they’ve been and they’re absolutely delicious. She makes homemade salsa to accompany them. It’s the simplest thing in the world, delicious and delicious, and the perfect mid-morning snack. He is very naughty. We get such a great game in Scotland, so it’s great to see it used in such different ways. You won’t necessarily come across something like this in your average coffee shop.

Fish and chips with curry sauce

Stephen Toman, Chef and Co-Owner, The Ox, Belfast

At the start of the year, my brother, cousin, and a few mates and I took out our Harleys and went for a ride up the North Coast. It was the first sunny day of the year. We stopped in a seaside village called Carnelaw and ate fish and chips and curry sauce from the kitchen facing the harbour. We sat on the wall of the dock and tucked into it. It was a magical moment. I will not forget him.

Challah french toast

Max Rocha, Chef and Owner, Cecilia Café, London

While working in New York earlier in the year, I went for breakfast at B&H Dairy. It’s a kosher restaurant in the East Village that’s been open since the 1940’s, and every time I’m in New York I make sure to have breakfast there. I had french toast with orange juice. They make challah – braided bread enriched with eggs – every day in the kitchen. The French toast is served with a bag of maple syrup on the side and is absolutely delicious. And very affordable too. It was $8 for toast, orange juice, and coffee. Breakfast is my favorite meal but you can have lunch there as well. I saw them make matzo ball soup so I’ll be back for that.

Smooth milk served with cherry on top

Shuko Oda. Co-owner of Koya, London

The General Store is a small deli behind Peckham Rye station. After lunchtime in early summer, I thought, Oh, I might try that smoothie milkshake I saw on Instagram. This was the perfect thing – it was as close as I’ve come to the sweet transmission I love in Japan. The Japanese love soft serve. Wherever we went in my childhood, we would end up eating it. This one wasn’t too milky, with just a few hints of an icy texture. On top, it had pickled cherries in almond syrup. I’m not used to using cherries in desserts, but this was excellent.

Erainleaf peas

Dan Saladino, Radio 4 Food Presenter, author of Eating to Extinction

I went to a slow food event in Copenhagen where they were showing a lot of different endangered foods. I figured a very simple soup made with peas. It is the most humble and humble of ingredients, a dark-colored bean that almost became extinct in the 19th century. The woman who cooked it for our meal had it boiled for a few hours, then pureed and served with olive oil and some seasoning. The flavor really shines through – rich, almost meaty. The bean was rescued by a woman in the town of Errindlev and now seed savers across Copenhagen are giving it back by sharing it with other amateur growers. I love the idea of ​​a kind of underground lentil all over northern Europe, where young farmers and producers are bringing back this lost legume.


B. Wilson, food writer, author of First Bite and The Way We Eat Now

In August I took my two kids on the first vacation I arranged after the divorce, which felt like a huge thing. We went to Slovenia, and in Ljubljana we ate at a Slovenian tapas restaurant called Tabar. Everything we had was amazing, but what really stood out was the bar snack of Adriatic sardines. They were bite-sized and covered in polenta and fried to perfection so that they were completely dry and crisp, then rearranged on a board, cross-cut, as if in a box. They were just so sweet and delicious. Eating it outside, sitting on a warm patio at lunchtime in August, was absolutely wonderful.

Best thing I ate in 20220
Sardines by Wilson in Ljubljana. Illustration: Eko Ujala/The Observer


Noor Murad, Head of Ottolenghi Test Kitchen, Co-Author of OTK: Shelf Love and OTK: Extra Good Things

We have date palms in our family garden in Bahrain. It’s my dad’s retirement project: He’s so proud of picking them and drying them in the sun. He brings dates to London whenever he visits and I keep them in the fridge to preserve them. Every time I’m feeling nostalgic, or I miss home, I’ll come to a date and sprinkle tahini on it, along with a pinch of chili and some salt. It’s sweet, savory, salty, and spicy all at the same time, and it’s just my favorite thing.

Jollof rice

Riad Phillips, food writer, author of West Winds and Belly Full

At the base of Ridley Road Market in East London, I found a golden box of jollof rice that took me back to traveling through Ghana in 2020. Jollof is a single rice dish that has many variations across West Africa but the common thread is a mixture of rice, tomatoes, onions, peppers and spices. The earthy, orange-brown version they serve at KT Restaurant & Bar carries heat so reassuringly calls for a warning on the box. I can’t tell you about any of the other dishes in the restaurant because I’m so hooked with a little extra heat in the form of cheetos, a hot fish paste. Try it for yourself, it won’t cost you more than £7.

Boiled fish

Nevis Barragan Mohacho, Chef and Co-Owner, Sappor, London

I went to Ibiza this year for a holiday and ate a traditional dish from the Balearic Islands called Bullit de peix. It consists of two parts: fish, such as red mullet, turbot or scorpion, in a lovely aioli sauce made with olive oil, garlic and milk. Then a plate of rice cooked in the remaining fish broth with aioli added. I had it at a restaurant called Es Torrent, just a short drive west of Santa Eulalia. It gives me goosebumps just thinking about it. The rice was almost sticky and had squid in it that was so tender it was almost falling apart. I cooked it for Sunday lunch at home, and am working on adding my own version at Sabor.


Awasi Prenya Mensa, Chef Owner, Tatale, London

I went to Ghana for a month at the beginning of the year – it was part vacation, part research before opening Tatale. Waakye is a rice and bean dish that I used to eat a lot as a kid and was really looking forward to having it on this trip.

Beans and rice are cooked in water cooked with sorghum leaves, which turns the water a dark red colour. They are served with a tomato-based stew, spaghetti (for some reason still unknown to me), a protein such as goat or fish, hard-boiled eggs (which Ghanaians absolutely love), cheetos and gari sauce, which is dried and fermented cassava. The food peddler – Anadu Waki ​​from Mukasechic in Osu, Accra – was closed even shortly before I left. I kept texting her saying, when are you open? When I finally got it, it was incredible. I hope to be back at the end of the year.

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