A few weeks ago, the chef and restaurateur Thomasina Miers and I set off at 6am from The Harvest at Jimmy's Festival in Sufolk and headed over to Ludlow to judge the British Street Food Awards. Fresh, delicious and reasonably-priced street food is something to be celebrated and this fantastic event, which is the creation of Richard Johnson, is now set to happen every year at the Ludlow Food Festival.
If only just a tiny percentage of our street food was as good as the stuff we tasted in Ludlow. I've attended so many food festivals in the UK where all that's on offer are overcooked rare-breed hamburgers and dodgy paellas.
But thanks to initiatives like the one in Ludlow, the tide is turning in favour of healthy and tasty street food. We can't all afford to eat in Michelin-starred establishments and one of the best things about good street food is that it's there for everyone to enjoy.
I've decided to showcase some of the winning street food creators from the recent awards, so read on to find out more about each of these enterprises, together with a recipe for one of their delicious snacks.
You can catch up with two of the street food specialists I have featured here, La Grotta Ices and Meat Wagon, this weekend at Jason Lowe's Towpath Cafe (52 Whitmore Road, London N1 5QG). Towpath will be hosting a mini food festival and pop-up gig with special cocktails designed by Nick Strangeway, with all proceeds to the War Child charity. Do pop along – it should be fun.
Scallops with celeriac, bacon and seashore vegetables by Healthy Yummies
Healthy Yummies is a creative catering outlet specialising in delicious and nutritional snacks and its director is Nichola Smith, who used to work for me at the Rivington. Nichola had rounded up some fantastic ingredients such as seashore vegetables, dived scallops and fantastic bacon to produce this top-notch snack, served in the scallop shell, on a bed of creamed celeriac. Dishes such as this one represent the sophisticated and imaginative side of street food and demonstrate how a restaurant dish can be transformed into something simple and delicious that you can enjoy while you're on the go. For more information see healthyummies.com.
If you can't get your hands on wild sea vegetables then use a few leaves of baby spinach instead.
Half a small head of celeriac, peeled and roughly chopped
A couple of good knobs of butter
A little vegetable or corn oil for frying
60g streaky bacon cut into rough 1/2 cm dice (or use ready-cut pancetta or bacon cubes)
8 medium-sized scallops, cleaned and the half cup shell reserved
Salt and freshly ground pepper
A handful of sea vegetables such as sea beet, sea aster, sea purslane and sea blite, etc
Put the celeriac into a pan of lightly salted water, bring to the boil and simmer until tender, then drain and blend until smooth in a food processor; return to a pan and add a little butter and re-season.
Fry the bacon in a little vegetable oil for a few minutes until nicely coloured, then remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and keep warm. Season the scallops and fry on a high heat in the same pan for about a minute or so on each side.
Meanwhile, heat the rest of the butter in a pan and gently cook the sea vegetables for a couple of minutes until tender, seasoning with a little pepper and salt if necessary.
To serve, warm the scallop shells then spoon a little of the celeriac into each shell, place the scallop on top, then toss the bacon with the sea vegetables and scatter on top.
Black pudding Scotch duck eggs by Eat My Pies
This fantastic pie and Scotch egg company is the creation of Andy Bates who told me that my layered chicken and ham pie published in this magazine four years ago was the inspiration for him to start making pies. This black pudding Scotch egg, with a slightly runny yolk, was utter perfection. For more information, visit eatmypies.co.uk.
4 duck eggs boiled for 4-5 minutes, cooled in cold water and peeled
175g good-quality Cumberland sausagemeat
175g black pudding, chopped
Flour for dusting
1 egg, beaten
50-60g fresh white breadcrumbs
Vegetable or corn oil for deep frying
Mix the sausagemeat and black pudding together and divide into 4 balls. Flatten them into patties, then wrap the meat around each of the eggs evenly, moulding it with your hands.
Have 3 shallow containers ready, one with the flour, one with the egg and the third with the breadcrumbs. Put the eggs through the flour first, shaking off any excess, then through the beaten egg and finally the breadcrumbs, re-moulding them if necessary.
Preheat about 8cm of oil to 140-150C in a large, thick-bottomed saucepan or electric deep-fat fryer. Cook the eggs for 3-4 minutes, turning them every so often so they are evenly coloured. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on some kitchen paper. Serve hot, cold or at room temperature.
The definitive burger by the Meatwagon
I've had burgers and I've had burgers – but Yanni's burgers are the best I've ever eaten. He is on a mission to serve the best hamburger and as far as I'm concerned he is pretty much there. His regular visits to the States have certainly paid off and he moulds and cooks his amazing burgers to order from his little van, which is based in Dulwich but which also travels all over London – check out themeatwagon.co.uk to find out when he's in your area.
Yanni uses a good amount of fat in his ground chuck steak which is crucial for keeping his hamburgers nice and moist. He also slaps a cheese slice on the burger when it's almost done and then puts a cloche over the top to let it steam a little, which is an inspired extra touch.
Yanni's burger is served with a homemade chilli relish which is a mixture of fresh and pickled chillies. I think the recipe is a well-guarded secret, so for this recipe I have used a mix of 60 per cent ketchup and 40 per cent Tewksbury mustard with slices of dill pickle and beef tomato.
1kg coarsely minced chuck steak with about 20 per cent fat
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
A little vegetable oil for grilling
4 slices of cheese
4 soft burger buns
Mould the mince into round patties the same size or a little larger than the burger buns. Season the burgers then heat a griddle or heavy frying pan and cook for 3-4 minutes on each side, keeping them nice and pink. If you are using cheese, just place on top of the burger for 30 seconds or so to melt it.
Meanwhile, lightly toast the bun, assemble with your chosen relish and serve immediately.
Lemon granita by La Grotta Ices
Kitty Travers specialises in delicious ices which she makes at home and stores in a freezer in her bedroom. Her ices aren't made with commercial ingredients, and the flavours shine through. Her flavours include pumpkin "mini-milks" infused with fig and peach, and this fantastic lemon granita. See lagrottaices.tumblr.com.
250g granulated sugar
The juice of 10 large lemons (plus the zest from 5 of them)
Put the water and sugar into a saucepan with the lemon zest, bring to the boil and stir until the sugar dissolves; simmer for a minute.
Remove from the heat; cool. Stir in the lemon juice; transfer to a shallow, non-reactive container; put in the freezer for about 4-5 hours.
Stir the granita every so often so that it doesn't freeze into a solid lump (you want the consistency to be a little granular). Once frozen, break the ice up into small pieces; return to the freezer, then after an hour break it up again; then serve.