Sunday, April 30, 2006

Beer, Thai, Beer

Sat 29 April 2006

As you may or may not be aware, my new year's resolution was/is to try every single one of the North Bar's excellent beer selection. This means that while I should be investigating as many different drinking holes as possible I do spend a disproportionate amount of time in North. IT'S JUST TOO GOOD!

So, my Saturday night kicked off in North, this time sampling Andy's favourite, the Lindeboom (their website seems to only be in Dutch, so no link), which is on draught. As far as lagers go I thought it was OK - not something I'd avoid and not something I'd particularly seek out either. I know that's not terribly descriptive of me but there just isn't a lot to say about this beer - a pleasant lager.

The evening's social activities meant there was no time for dawdling in North today ... our next mission was to find something to eat ... and fast! Andy came up with Cafe Thai [NOW CLOSED] - which is somewhere we've been meaning to go for a while and never quite managed. It's located in the Chinatown building which is on Templar Lane, near Vicar Lane and a couple of car parks. The restaurant is very basic - simple bench seats and long tables (I guess when busy there's a bit of a communal eating thing going on), a small fridge and till in the corner and a couple of TVs providing music videos. Hmm, that's probably not the most enticing description but it is pretty much spot on. We were eating quite early (6pm) and there were only two other couples in the restaurant, which is a great shame because it's a fabulously cheap, efficient and good place!

We went for a couple of Chang beers, a serve of Singapore noodles (with chicken) and pork stir fry with garlic and pepper (gratiem prig Thai). The stir fry included jasmine rice, so this little selection was more than enough for the two of us. The food was very good, although it could have been spicier ... However, the Singapore noodles had plenty of the extras (bean sprouts, chicken) and were nicely cooked. The stir fry was very tasty, with plenty of garlic and not drowned in sauce - just enough to make sure there was a bit left over to be soaked up with the rice.

We scoffed it all (which is a recommendation!) and came out spending about £16 which I think is cracking, given that our fish and chips at Bryan's cost almost the same, without alcohol and with discount! Cafe Thai also has lunch and early bird deals, so you could actually eat there for even less!

As an aside - I was particularly taken with the container on the table which held a roll of tissue, so you could just tear off what you needed, rather than messing around with paper napkins!

Given Bar 88's sudden (and stratospheric) loss of form it's fantastic to have found somewhere good, cheap and central to get a noodle fix!

We then moved onto Mook, in Hirst's Yard (off Boar Lane - behind the extremely dodgy looking Duncan pub). I was quite impressed because my mate, who was having birthday drinks here, had an area reserved (it's free), got them to make sangria to her recipe (she's Spanish), had them playing her CD for our area, and had some tapas laid on. Not bad! The beer selection was unexciting for bitter drinkers, so I went with San Miguel. There was some kind of Drambuie promotion, so we all ended up with Drambuie and soda too (I wasn't a fan).

As the night went on Mook got busier and busier and the clientele seemed to become younger and a lot more 'glamorous' (not my idea of glamour, but I'm sure you know what I mean!) - which means I probably won't be heading back for a late night drink but I could definitely be swayed in the afternoon.

1. North, 24 New Briggate, Leeds, LS1 6NU, phone 0113 242 4540
2. Cafe Thai, China Town Shopping Arcade, Templar Lane, LS2 7LN, phone 0800 083 5552
3. Mook, Hirsts Yard, Leeds, LS1 6NJ, phone 0113 245 9967

How to get there: get yourself into the city centre by your favourite means, and then walk!

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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Tuesday's Chips

Tues 25 April 2006

A happy quirk sees Headingley well graced with actual eat in, sit down fish and chip restaurants. Prior to coming to the UK (actually, prior to coming to Leeds the first time round) it never occurred to me that you would sit in a restaurant and eat the same fish and chips that you would get from the chip shop. Fish and chips was something you ate on the beach (in summer) or in the sitting room, in front of the TV (in winter).

My first experience of 'eating in' with my fish and chips was a few years ago in a village north of Leeds on a Saturday night. I think every grandmother within cooee had put on her Sunday best and come out to eat fish and chips, with buttered bread and a cup of tea. It was incredibly surreal.

So - would eat in fish and chips in Headingley offer me the same experience? Fortunately, the Yorkshire Evening Post published a 2-for-1 offer for Bryan's, which is on Weetwood Lane, just behind the Three Horseshoes, and off we went.

There's not really a huge amount to tell ... the menu consists of fish and chips ... Jenny had a crisis at the price (you're eating in so you are paying just over double what you'd pay on take away), I had a crisis as I realised that I hadn't done enough research into what fish I was allowed to eat, and I suspect Andy was having a personal crisis as there was no decent lager (or beer of any type) on offer. Jenny disappeared to sample the takeaway and left Andy & me to our glasses of Coke and milk respectively.

I ordered what looked like the smallest dish on the menu - haddock and chips for smaller appetites, as well as a side order of onion rings. The fish & chips came in at about £7.50. Andy ordered the normal haddock and chips which was about £8.50. So it's not cheap. If you want a cheap(er), quick fish meal you are far, far better off with take away. Andy also went for some curry sauce.

I really enjoyed my fish and chips. The chips, in particular, were very good, and the batter on the fish was crispy and light - and the fish had a good coating on it. Mmmm ... should have remembered to ask for scraps ...

The onion rings - well, I'm not a hugely experienced onion ring eater ... I could have taken or left them, and I didn't really rate the curry sauce. Andy, who knows a lot more about curry sauce than me, felt it was standard fish shop curry sauce. The portions are quite generous - you might be spending a lot of money but you won't be leaving hungry.

After drinks and the discount we came out having spent less than £15 ... which I think is not bad. To celebrate, we nipped into Arcadia for the beer that the meal was lacking.

Although I love fish in pretty much all its shapes, colours and flavours ... we should all try to eat fish responsibly. Please visit FishOnline to find out which ones are fished sustainably and have good stocks.

1. Bryans of Headingley, 9 Weetwood Lane, Leeds, LS16 5LT, phone 0113 278 5679

How to get there: buses to Headingley are many and varied ... the best selection runs from outside Bar Risa on Albion Street. Take a 1, 96 or 97A. Get off at St Chad's Road on Otley Road. Bryans is just behind the Three Horsehoes.

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Monday, April 24, 2006

ANZAC Biscuits

Tues 25 April 2006 - ANZAC Day

ANZAC day commemorates the 1915 landing of Australian and New Zealand diggers at what is now ANZAC Cove, Gallipoli, Turkey. While we have ANZAC day once a year we do eat these all the time. And they're so simple to make there really is no need to buy them (you don't even need a food processor!).

I've cobbled together this recipe from a collection of three I found on various Australian websites - including that of the Australian War Memorial. I really cut back on the sugar - some recipes used as much as a cup which I thought, in combination with the golden syrup, would be a bit overwhelming.

This is how I went ...

In a large bowl mix 3/4 cup of dessicated coconut, 1/2 cup of sugar, 1 cup of rolled oats, 1 cup of plain flour and a pinch of salt.

In a pan melt 4 ounces of butter and then mix in 2 tbsp of golden syrup. Sit your jar of golden syrup in a pan of hot water for a bit before attempting the 2 tbsp manoeuvre and you'll save yourself some grief. Mix 1 tsp of bicarb with 2 tbsp of boiling water and then mix this into the butter and syrup mixture ... it will all froth up and then you can pour it into the bowl of dry ingredients. Mix it all together. You may need to add extra hot water - I did. You want the mixture stiff but not falling apart.

Plop tablespoons-ful of the mixture onto a baking sheet and bake in an oven preheated to 180C for 10-15 minutes. The mixture spreads out quite a bit and the biscuits will have thinned out and be consistently golden when they're ready. This mixture made me 18 good size biscuits.

These are a hard biscuits ... ideal for dunking in your morning tea!

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Headingley Pubs - Part 2

Sun 23 April 2006

To recover from the great Cumberland Rum Nicky baking (and eating) we headed out in the sunshine to investigate a few more Headingley drinking venues.

I was quite excited as Zed (in Chapel Allerton), Arc, Trio and The Box were hosting a real ale festival for St George's Day. As The Box was heaving we made our way to the Arc (a former drinking spot for Andy) and managed to find a spot on a sofa a long, long, long way away from some dressed up students who were obviously on the Otley Run.

The ale for the Arc was from Fernandes Brewery, based in Wakefield though the hand pump was so well hidden down the end of the bar that you'd have never known it was an option. It was also very poorly labelled (a piece of paper with spidery writing that you just couldn't read) so I had to order it as 'a pint of the handpull' - at which point the bar maid looked suitably bemused.

Anyway, pints acquired, the first thing we were intrigued to notice was that my pint was a lot colder than Andy's pint of Grolsch! So quite possibly not cellar temperature ... The beer itself was actually not in bad nick and had a really nice, refreshing and summery taste (once it warmed up). They seem to do a lot of food promotions, and while I doubt I'll be going back for a quiet pint on the weekend I will be heading over to try out their steak and burger deals.

To get a decent beer we headed over to Arcadia, in the Arndale Centre. Although this bar has a non smoking policy (putting Andy in a bad mood before we got there) they are, at present, running a Timothy Taylor's promotion, which meant I ended up winning a free pint! Arcadia is part of the Market Town Taverns group, which also runs the excellent Coopers in Guiseley. The selection of beers is great and I, personally, love the smoke free atmosphere. Arcadia is quite a small bar but it feels cosy and even though there is no outdoor seating the large windows mean you can enjoy the sunshine to an extent.

Arcadia also has an interesting food menu and, to be honest, I'll be eating there before I eat at the Arc.

1. The Arc, 19 Ash Road, Headingley, LS6 3JJ, phone 0113 275 2223
2. Arcadia Ale and Wine Bar, 34 Arndale Centre, Headingley, LS6 2UE, phone 0113 274 5599

How to get there: buses to Headingley are many and varied ... the best selection runs from outside Bar Risa on Albion Street. Take a 1, 28, 95, 96, 97 or 97A. There is a bus stop at the Arndale Centre and the Arc and Ash Lane are a short walk towards the cricket ground.
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Sunday, April 23, 2006

What's For Pud?

Sun 23 April 2006 - St George's Day

Choosing an English dessert for this exercise was a lot more complicated than I thought ... I wanted to do something a bit different but my initial research into English puddings really scared me off (all sorts of jiggling boiled custard numbers ...) and eventually I decided on a treacle and marmalade tart ... predictable, yes, but hopefully tasty ...

However, this morning I read Andrew Barrow's post on slashfood about the top place for tea and ended up stumbling on a recipe for Cumberland Rum Nicky. Andy, being the resident Cumbria expert (although technically from Westmorland rather than Cumberland), had never heard of this dish, and since it looked simple to make, I thought it was the way forward (especially when I discovered some glace ginger in the cupboard ...).

Proceed as follows:

Make some pastry ... my failure proof method is as follows ... 150 g plain flour, 75 g cold unsalted butter, 2 tbsp of caster sugar and 1 egg yolk and a pinch of salt ... whizzy it up and add cold water a spoonful at a time until it all comes together. Wrap in clingfilm and put in the fridge until you're ready to use.

The tart's filling consists of 1 ounce of glace ginger and 2 ounces of chopped dates. Line your tart dish with the pastry and top with the ginger & date mix. Then combine 1 tbsp of rum with 1/2 ounce of caster sugar and 1 ounce of butter. Spread this mix over the top. Decorate with remaining pastry and bake at 180C for about half an hour.

Nothing simpler? As usual, I've deviated from the recipe and (also as usual) I didn't read the recipe quite closely enough as it is only enough for 2! By the time I'd made the pastry and lined my tart dish (which is the 20cm type) I'd also assembled my fruit mix and my topping ... so I ended up making ... um ... half a tart ...

After a taste test (and much lip smacking) - the verdict is that this is an extremely GOOD PUD. The rum/butter/sugar mixture is gorgeously rich and alcoholic and the date and ginger mixture is really spicy ... mmm ... We don't think you need the pastry decoration on top and the next plan will be to macerate the fruit in the rum, spread a butter and sugar mixture over the base of the tart and dust with icing sugar 10 minutes before taking out of the oven ...

Oh ... and if you're wondering how RUM makes an appearance in an English pudding ... apparently some of the ports on the Cumbrian coast were heavily involved in the import of rum, sugar and molasses in the 18th century. Apparently, this Caribbean influence explains why things like ginger, pepper and nutmeg are common in traditional Cumbrian cooking ...

Anyway, it's a beautiful day here in Leeds and it's criminal to be in the (now very hot!) flat ... time to find a beer garden and really celebrate St George's Day!

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Saturday Night Is Curry Night

Alex is busy in the kitchen cooking for the St. George's Day pudding spectacular, so it falls to me to write about last night's curry. There will be more about the pudding later but last night we made a lamb korma pilaf from Camellia Panjabi's Excellent book 50 Greatest curries of India.

We (well I) had been hankering for a curry for a few days and it was agreed that Saturday night was the ideal time, so a trip to Kirkgate Market in Leeds secured some cheap local lamb shoulder from one of the many excellent butchers. We had most of the other ingredients in our cupboards but secured some plump green chillies from Wing Lee Hong's asian supermarket on Vicar Lane.

The recipe is a bit complicated and time consuming but well worth it.

  1. Wash some basmati rice and leave it to soak.
  2. Fry 1 1/2 large onions until golden brown. Add chopped ginger, 2 large green chillies, 3 cloves of garlic, 5 cardomoms, a cinnamon stick and some cloves and fry for 2-3 minutes.
  3. A some cubed lamb and fry for 15 minutes, stirring continuously.
  4. Add one tablespoon of coriander powder and stir for 2 minutes before adding 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric powder, 1 teaspoon of cumin powder, 1 1/2 teaspoons of chilli powder, 1 teaspoon of ground mace, 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg powder and 65 ml of water. Simmer for two minutes.
  5. Whip up 100 ml of greek yoghurt and add to the pot.
  6. Chop 2 tomatoes and add to the pot with 1 teaspoon of salt. Stir and cook with a lid on until the lamb looks done. Check regurlarly to ensure it has not dried out, adding more water if it looks like it's needed.
  7. Drain and wash the rice. Put it into a pan with the same volume of boiling water ad two bay leaves. Bring to the boil and add 1 teaspoon of oil, one teaspoon of salt and a little turmeric for colour. When the water is absorbed, remove from the heat and drain.
  8. Layer half the rice in an oven proof dish, followed by all the meat and then the rest of the rice.
  9. Cook in a pre-heated oven on 160°C for 20 minutes and serve.
Well, it was worth all the effort and was very tasty served with some ice cold beers. The meat was a little dry so next time I would add a lot more water to ensure that there was more sauce. I might marinade the meat in the yoghurt and spices before cooking to make it more tender, too.

All in all, another triumph for Camellia Panjabi
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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Cookie Monster!

Before Easter I had a bit of a baking binge and produced, amongst other things, some very tasty choc-chip cookies. While the recipe is Nigel Slater's (published in The Observer, 19 Mar 06), he seemed to make a bit of a boo-boo - as once you've toasted the hazelnuts you don't seem to do anything else with them!

So here is my version ... which is choc chip with hazelnuts too!

Take 75g of hazelnuts and roast them in a dry pan. Once they are lightly browned you can skin them (relatively!) easily - especially if you have a paper bag to hand and can give them a good shake and a good rub. Then chop the hazelnuts as finely or coarsely as you like (I processed them so I still had quite discernible hazelnut bits but Andy said he would have preferred them finer) and set aside. Also chop, to requisite fineness, 100g of chocolate (whatever you choose - I chose Montezuma's Chilli Chocolate - which, if you live in Leeds you can buy from Out of this World, near the markets).

In the trusty food processor cream 180g unsalted butter with 90g caster sugar and 90g light muscovado sugar. Add 2 eggs and some vanilla extract (that means I used a teaspoon). Whizzy up. Add the chocolate, 180g plain flour, 1/2 tsp of bicarbonate of soda and the ground hazelnuts. Whizzy up to combine (bear in mind that if you are using the food processor the chocolate and nuts will get end up a bit finer).

Place large tablespoon dollops onto baking sheets and bake in an oven preheated to 180C for 12-15 minutes. You'll be able to tell they're done by looking at them. Allow them to cool a little (to firm up) before moving to a rack.

These were quite a hit ... Andy & I scoffed quite a few and the remainder were eaten by my hungry workmates for their Monday afternoon tea!
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Beery News

Wed 19 April 2006

The World Beer Cup 2006 has been announced ... I was a bit sceptical (I thought 'world' might mean USA and Canada ...) but the list of winners does make some interesting reading ... here are my personal highlights ...

Category 4 - American Style Wheat Beer - the gold goes to the Cascade Blonde Lager - an Australian beer - hooray! Cascade is a pretty popular drink back at home in Adelaide and their home brew kits are also sought after amongst home brewing enthusiasts (that would be my dad!).

Category 9 - Coffee Flavoured Beer - gold goes to an English beer - the Meantime Coffee from the Meantime Brewing Company in Greenwich. It looks like it's a bit hard to get hold of north of the M25 though ...

Category 11 - Specialty Honey Lager or Ale - gold goes to another Australian beer - Redoak's Honey Ale, from Sydney - but this looks to be a beer that doesn't make it past the east coast cities ...

Category 41 - French-Belgian Style Saison - Matilda Bay Brewing's Barking Duck from Fremantle took bronze.

Category 49 - English Style Summer Ale - honours were taken by Yorkshire's (and Knaresborough's) very own Rooster's with their Yorkshire Pale Ale, with an Australian beer (James Squires) coming in third!

I thought it quite interesting that Hoegaarden won the Belgian Style Wheat Beer category ... I certainly don't think that it's the best Belgian wheat beer I've ever come across ...

It was good to see an obviously strong international contingent competing and winning, and it's also good to see that there is a pretty vibrant microbrewing industry in the States. My experience of beer in America was that, as a rule, it was pretty bad - until you found a pub associated with a microbrewery ... so the number of small American breweries on this list must be a good sign for American beer drinkers.

As an addendum for my entry on hot cross buns I should point out the recipe is basically Elizabeth David's spice bun recipe, although undoubtedly with a few alterations here and there!
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Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Easter Eating

I had quite a busy Easter and since most of it was spent in the North West I'm going to do a quick run down of activities, rather than a blow-by-blow account of all the eating ...

Fri 14 April 2006

After the hot cross buns we headed off over to Lancaster where we embarked on a rather embarrassing four day eating and drinking binge. We started with an afternoon snack at Red's Cafe and Bar on Church Street. Apart from the mind bogglingly cheap cocktails (and it was too early in the afternoon to indulge) it was just a standard, student-y cafe. We moved on to the Lounge Bar on Marton Street - which was offering Kronenbourg for £2.80 a pint but no real beers ... Dinner was at Etna Pizza Pasta (does what it says on the tin!) on New Street.

Sat 15 April 2006

Fed and very well watered from Friday's antics we moved on to Cartmel, which was base camp for the remainder of the weekend. It looks as though gin and tonic weather has arrived - this was duly celebrated before moving on to the Jumble Room in Grasmere for dinner.

Sun 16 April 2006

Still feeling full from the past couple of day's efforts we managed to squeeze in a cream tea at Holker Hall in the late afternoon. Given my rather nasty experience of a north west cream tea few weeks ago I am going to spend some time doing a 'compare and contrast'. Holker Hall is the ancestral seat of Lord & Lady Cavendish and it appears that a lot of effort has gone into providing an experience slightly different from the usual stately house outing. Holker Hall has its very own food hall. I was a bit disappointed because the hall doesn't have a really strong regional focus - or rather, it does, but it also includes all other sorts of bits and pieces. Really rather incongruous to spot items like crushed or dried chillis alongside Valrhona chocolate and Cumbrian farm produce ... As you can imagine, on an Easter Sunday afternoon, it was also rather packed. Fortunately we timed our arrival at the tea rooms rather better and got a good seat in a quiet corner.

By this point I'd decided I felt like scones - to the extent that even though the scones had sultanas in them I still went for it! While the service in the tea room was nothing short of shambolic (our order went missing, the staff seemed to have no idea what was going on, etc etc) the afternoon tea itself was actually very good. My scone was an absolute monster, served with a very generous serving of clotted cream (which I guess was from the estate) and raspberry preserve (note - not jam!). The scone was warm (and fresh!), the sultanas on the outside caramelised, and it was dusted with icing sugar ... so I managed to make a lovely mess AND misjudge the amount of cream I used (yes, there was some left ...). Absolutely delicious ... and washed down with a very good cup of tea (even if it was only from tea bags!).

There was still more eating to come ... with a visit to the Pig and Whistle in Cartmel lined up for dinner. There was a bit of anxious anticipation ... after a bank holiday weekend with fantastic weather would there be any food left? Well ... there was, but not a lot ... our original choices were somewhat curtailed and the whole table ended up with Templand sausages and mash ... which was not an altogether bad thing ...

After all of this, I rolled out of bed on Monday and somehow managed to get back to Leeds. Now I've finally got my internet sorted out at home I can try to redress a tiny backlog ... and get on with the serious business of cooking and eating!
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Friday, April 14, 2006

Good Friday

It's just not Good Friday if you don't start the day with coffee and hot cross buns ... make these the night before, leave them in the fridge overnight to prove, and bake first thing!

Fri 14 April 2006

Heat 300mL of milk in a pan and melt 60g of unsalted butter in it. Allow it to cool (it should be warm, not hot, or you'll kill the yeast) and dissolve 2 tsp of dried yeast in it. In a bowl (or your trusty food processor) mix 450-500g of plain strong flour with 60g of light brown sugar, at least 2 tsp of mixed spice (allspice, nutmeg, clove, cinnamon etc), then add the milk and butter mix and 2 whole eggs. When all combined (and it's a very soft, sticky dough) add 125g of currants or sultanas. Leave the mixture to prove until double in size - a good couple of hours. Then deflate, scrape out of bowl and knead until smooth. Then split into buns - I find this mix makes about 16 and place in either muffin tins or pans (grease and flour), cover with cling film and leave in the fridge until the next morning.

Preheat the oven to 200C, spray it out with some water, and bake the buns for 15-20 mins until risen and brown. If you want to make crosses on them you need to make a slurry of flour and water and pipe on the crosses before you bake. For a glaze - boil 2 tbsp of milk with 2 tbsp of caster sugar and give the buns two coats when they come out of the oven.

Eat with plenty of butter and strong coffee!

Off to Lancaster and the Lakes for the rest of Easter so plenty of eating and drinking reports next week!
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Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Headingley Pubs - Part 1

While I did an awful lot of cooking on the weekend I have neither (accurate) recipes nor photos to hand so I'll commence my review of drinking establishments in Headingley.

Otley Road is known for the Otley Run - where students stagger up and down Otley Road, drinking.

But just how good are Headingley's pubs?

Sat 8 April 2006

Well fed and ready for a drink we ventured out into the big bad world that is anywhere other than the North Bar. I was hoping that the student population might have gone on holiday but the first couple of places we tried were a bit full for old fuddy-duddies like us. I was keen to visit Arcadia, after my extremely positive experience at Coopers, in Guiseley (also run by Market Town Taverns). However, it was heaving - we even spotted one of the barmen from North squashed against a window.

We peered at the Headingley Taps from the other side of North Lane and made a similar assessment of the Arc before turning our attention towards the ring road.

First stop was the New Inn (68 Otley Road). A University of Leeds information page tells me that famous guests include Monica Lewinsky. Hardly a selling point. However, we got in and found a table. The exciting (ahem) range of bitters included Black Sheep (which was off - at 8pm on a Saturday night?), and John Smiths Smooth and Ruddles County Smooth. Sorry - but 'smooth' just doesn't cut it. It feels like you're drinking post-mix beer and I hate these 'smooth' varieties of perfectly decent beers just about as much as I hate any of my other pet hates (low-fat or out of a packet in particular). So, I went for a pint of Staropramen. The two pints came in at £5 which wasn't too bad ... or rather, wouldn't have been too bad if the beer had been in good nick ...

We found a table (underneath a telly showing some sporting fixture), watched the interesting (in the loosest possible sense) array of people around us, bolted our beers and headed off. Can't imagine we'll be bothering again!

Next stop was the Three Horseshoes - spitting distance from the New Inn and just over the road from Beer Ritz. This is a big open pub and offers you a pint of Tetley's (CASK) for a whole £1.53! OK - it's a bit studenty (possibly a lot so) but we found a table, and got in a round for less than a fiver (thanks to Andy's expensive, fancy, lager tastes - he went for San Miguel).

A few beers and crisps later and we'd even managed to solve most of the world's problems ...
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Monday, April 10, 2006

Too much excitement!

Mon 10 April 2006

Imagine my excitement this morning when I read through slashfood and found my very own mention! Hooray for Andrew over at Spittoon and Spittoon Extra!

Not quite so much hooray for the same Andrew for tagging me because now I have to think up some witty and interesting answers (like fun!). And since I spent the weekend cooking and eating I should really be regaling you all with tales of a rhubarb spice cake, some hazelnut choc-chip cookies, a concoction of mash, bacon, smoked black pudding and cabbage, and some wine/beer/pub stories.

Once I get the internet on at home I might find myself catching up ... in the interim ...

1. Please list three recipes you have recently bookmarked from foodblogs to try: Since I am drowning in a collection of newspaper cuttings, food magazines and cookbooks I try to avoid finding more things to cook on the internet ... however ... Tomato's Apple Frangipane photo REALLY made my mouth water ... a couple of weeks ago I found my custard recipe thanks to James Tanner on the BBC food website ... I guess Keiko's photos over at Nordljus always make me want to cook, and every now and then something interesting turns up on slashfood. Neither a concise nor strictly accurate response to the question, I'm afraid ...

2. A foodblog in your vicinity: Woo! This is pretty tough ... I've had a good hard trawl of the internet for this and come across A Pint of Ale (OK, not strictly food, but beer and food) which has its home in Pudsey - which also happens to be where I used to live. Recipe for Success is based in Manchester and seems concise.

3 A foodblog (or more) located far from you: Well, anything in Australia ... so I'm going to give Tomato another mention because I love the food fascist comments.

4 A foodblog (or several) you have discovered recently (where did you find it?): I'm going for Cucina Rebecca. I found it while trawling the web looking for answers to this meme!!!!! I haven't had a good read yet but the potato gratin looks pretty good. Why do my photos never turn out like that??!!

5 Any people or bloggers you want to tag with this meme? Yep - two I've already mentioned - Nordljus and Tomato.

I'm sorry my answers aren't wildly diverse ... too much time in the kitchen or in the pub ... could be worse!
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Thursday, April 06, 2006

Spice Bar

Wed 05 April 2006

A mid week trip to the theatre (an excellent production of 'A Yorkshire Tragedy' by Icabod Productions, at the Carriageworks) also managed to include a visit to the Spice Bar, just downstairs from the theatre, in the Electric Press.

It's a relatively new addition to Leeds' burgeoning bar scene and I was pretty impressed. It was a Wednesday night and trade was slow, which was perfect for some post theatre discussion.

The single thing which probably everyone will notice about the Spice Bar is that the bottled beer is £1.50. And the bottled beer selection is above average - it includes Peroni, Chang, Tiger, Cobra and both Carlsbergs. Even a hardened bitter drinker like me is more than happy to drink a Peroni every now and then. And the glasses are the nice, stemmed, rounded beer glass type.

In a somewhat sophisticated move the bar doesn't stock the usual array of crisps and nuts - but does have a bar menu including tasty sounding morsels like samosas, kebabs and tikka.

Upstairs is a restaurant too.

Needless to say - I'm already planning on returning to the Spice Bar to try a few more bottled beers and sample some of the bar snacks ... stay tuned!
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Wednesday, April 05, 2006


No ... not the great Australian band but the sauce that goes on pudding ...

Fri 31 March 2006

I've never been a huge custard fan ... most people who know me will know that I screw my nose up at it and never have it. Because I don't eat it ... I don't cook it ... in fact, I've never made custard except when I've made ice cream (which I do like, but I'm extremely picky).

However, earlier in the week I'd announced that I was going to make an apple crumble. Andy responded to this with 'Do we get custard?' so I just had to conquer my fear ...

People tend to make quite a performance out of custard and use the alleged complexity as an excuse to use packet stuff. I hate packet anything almost as much as I hate low-fat anything, so that just wasn't an option (that, and the fact my mother would have disowned me).

I trawled around for a recipe that didn't look too complicated and hit upon James Tanner's very easy little number. Because I already knew the crumble was somewhat overspiced I proceeded as follows:

Beat 2 eggs with 55 g of caster sugar in a heat proof bowl. In a milk pan, heat half a pint of milk to just on boiling. Remove the milk from the heat and pour into the bowl, beating all the time. Return the mix to the milk pan and return to the heat (lower, obviously), and keep whisking until it's thick enough for you.

Wow! That's complicated, isn't it? The whole process took about 15 minutes, nothing split or curdled - it was a doddle! The cool thing about custard recipes is that you can infuse your milk and custard with just about anything ... a vanilla bean, a stick of cinnamon, some cloves ... whatever takes your fancy. I'm looking forward to experimenting with some other custard recipes I spotted that involve combinations of milk and cream or egg yolks only.

And the best thing? It tasted fantastic!
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Monday, April 03, 2006

Agog in Accrington

Although a lot of food related stuff has gone on over the past weekend I'm going to do this out of order and start with my visit to Accrington for the Lancashire Food Festival.

Sun 2 April 2006

Doors for the festival opened at 10am and by the time we arrived around midday things were certainly in full swing. The town of Accrington didn't seem to have embraced the festival entirely - the first town centre car park we came across was closed! Anyway, car parked we headed towards the Town Hall and made our way through the variety of Morris dancers bouncing around in the street. We investigated the food marquee first - there was a pretty solid representation of local butchers, as well as a smokehouse, icecream maker and a cordial maker. Initially we tried a pork pie from Dales Traditional Butchers and a sausage roll from Entwistle's Delicatessen. I really enjoyed the sausage roll (a vast improvement on the monstrosity I bought from Ainsley's a few weeks ago, although not as good as my own homemade ones!) but was a little ho-hum about the pork pie. Andy - who knows more about pork pies than me - preferred the pie. We also invested in a couple of small black puddings from the Port of Lancaster Smokehouse. This stand had a really interesting array of all sorts of smoked goodies and it was actually quite a disappointment that they didn't have a bit more of it available for tasting.

We moved to the Town Hall and wandered around the display. Although this was the Lancashire Food Festival for some reason there were lots of displays of things like olive oil, French wine and other mediterranean goodies. The ballroom was absolutely jammed full of people which made it quite difficult to look at, taste and buy produce. In a pioneering spirit I did manage (on my third attempt) to buy an icecream from Mrs Dowson's - the chunky chocolate. And it was very good. I also picked up some Lancashire cheese from Shorrocks Cheeses (I was not such a fan of their many and varied 'flavoured' cheeses - but I don't like my cheese mucked around with ...), and some little ginger biscuits from Angela's Pantry (I haven't tried them yet).

At this point it was almost time for the cookery demonstration with chef Philippa James, so we shuffled into the council chamber and waited. As an aside, I was pretty disgusted with the woman who parked her child's stroller in front of the (clearly marked) fire exit and rather disappointed that the staff (who had to step over and around the thing) didn't reprimand her. Grumbling about that proved to be the most interesting part of the demonstration.

I'm not sure what Philippa's credentials are but, cooking aside, she should polish up her presentation skills and learn how to operate the cooker!!! To say she wittered on is being rather kind ... she made a Lancashire tortilla (that would be a black pudding, potato, pepper and tomato omelette) and a fruit smoothie - this took the best part of 45 minutes and was totally shambolic. She spent most of her time talking about non food related stuff and turned the cooker on and off about 5 times ... I don't think she realised that the halogen bulbs go on and off to regulate temperature ...

At the first opportunity we hot footed it out of the demonstration and went and bought another icecream (from Huntleys - again - chocolate and nowhere near as good as that produced by Mrs Dowson), a pie from the Weatheroak Ostrich Farm and some Saddleback and Old Gloucester Spot cross back bacon.

And then we decided we'd seen and done enough - so we called into the information office in the Town Hall to find out if there was anywhere interesting to get some food or afternoon tea in Accrington. We were informed that most places were shut on a Sunday. In disbelief we actually found an open coffee shop just a stone's throw from the Town Hall. Unfortunately, Over Coffee was doing Accrington any touristy favours. I ordered a hot chocolate, with cream (well, it was with stuff out of an aerosol can cream) and a plain scone with jam and cream. The fact that I wanted a plain scone caused a bit of kerfuffle (people who own food serving establishments should really insist that their staff learn what is available!) ... but nothing (not even the bad hot chocolate) prepared me for the thoroughly nasty scone. The scone was STALE, stodgy, hard and horrible. The whipped cream had been whipped to within an inch of becoming butter and frankly, tasted rancid. This for £2.25! I was tempted to send it back but left the whole thing bar a mouthful, on my plate. The staff didn't even ask what we'd thought!

So - the Lancashire Food Festival ... so many ideas on how it could be improved ... in its present format it is really just a glorified farmers' market ... the exhibitors should be encouraged to do things with their produce that hungry punters can eat ... where was the Lancashire hot pot? The bacon or sausage butties? What about frying up some black pudding and mash? The cookery demonstration should have been a lot more focussed - using local ingredients (I guess she got that sort of right) to cook some simple, interesting and even traditional dishes. The space used needed to be a lot less crowded and with much more emphasis on LOCAL produce. I hadn't driven from Leeds to Accrington to taste olive oil!

And finally - the town of Accrington needs to get behind the festival ... be open (shops and car parks), have additional and complementary activities, have an information service that knows what's going on ...

Perhaps someone from the organising committee should visit York's Food and Drink Festival later in the year ...
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