Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Combinations #3: Roundup

Combinations #3 matched middle eastern style chicken flatbreads with wine ... did we have any success?

First in was Haalo, from Cook (Almost) Anything At Least Once. Haalo matched the flatbreads with Brown Brothers Moscato and seemed to have the best success. I really liked the idea of using the dish as finger food - something that would definitely work well.

Next, Benito, from Wines by Benito, chose a Traminette (apparently a gewurztraminer hybrid) from Huber Winery in Indiana. This also seemed a pretty good match, although Benito was definitely a lot more enthusiastic about the wine than the food!!!

I fluffed around a bit and got distracted and over-excited in the wine shop and ended up choosing a totally inappropriate verdelho ... though I suspect any one of my original ideas probably would have worked ...

And finally, Andrew at Spittoon paired the dish with not one but two wines (I'm sure that was Andy's idea!). Neither the Domaine Comte de Margon Sarabande Cabernet-Merlot nor the Jardins de Mailis Jurançon Sec was a great match with the food.

We've also had a late entry from Basic Juice who also got creative with the dish's execution. Beau also opted for trying out two wines - a Wolffer La Ferme Martin chardonnay and a Chateau La Roque Pic Saint Loup. The white seemed to enjoy the same car-crash of flavours that I experienced with the verdelho, but the shiraz-mourvedre was a hit.

To be honest, I think a big part of the problem this month was what turned out to be a very under-flavoured dish - we all had a good muck around with ingredients and quantities in an effort to spice it up a bit - with varying degrees of success. I was quite surprised and disappointed, as most Middle Eastern food (that I've eaten) is actually quite complex in its mix of flavours. However, Andy and I also think that the addition of some garlic probably wouldn't go astray - if we have another go we'll report back.

Oh - and full marks to Haalo's friend Paalo, who suggested Coopers Sparkling Ale as a match - it's my favourite beer!
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Bakewell Tart

Tues 27 Jun 2006

Andrew over at SpittoonExtra is hosting a one off blogging event to re-establish the Bakewell Tart.

Up until a few weeks ago, I'd never actually eaten a bakewell tart ... which perhaps doesn't put me in the best position to start cooking one, since I've got no idea what I'm after. And hunting down a few recipes didn't help either ... was it going to be a Bakewell tart or pudding? Was it going to have no almonds, was it going to have a cake-like filling with almond essence, was it just going to have a sugar and butter filling, with ground almonds, with almond essence - PANIC! Someone at work helpfully suggested I go to Bakewell (no time for that) and the more research I did the less clear the picture became ...

I originally had brilliant (and conscientious) ideas about making one of every different type and trying out a variety of bought ones ... however, I ran out of time ... and if I hadn't I might have realised that a diet consisting solely of Bakewell tart is less than varied.

At the end of the day I made just one Bakewell, the recipe for which I found in Elegant Sufficiency: A Taste of Edwardian Times, which I received as a birthday present a couple of years ago (thanks Grandma!). It's a beautiful book, full of gorgeous looking treats - and despite calling for ground rice - the recipe seemed to tick a lot of Bakewell boxes.

So - first the pastry. I even followed their recipe which combined wholemeal and plain flour. I used about 40g of wholemeal flour to 120g of plain flour, added 1/4 tsp baking powder, and 90g of unsalted butter. I food processed it all and added just over 2 tbsp of milk to combine, before wrapping it in clingfilm and refrigerating for around half an hour. While the pastry tasted a lot like the pastry my grandma used to make it was also pretty difficult to handle and I suspect I wasn't patient enough combining the ingredients and made it a bit too wet.

For the filling, combine 125g caster sugar with 125g unsalted butter, 2 eggs, 60g ground almonds and 125g of ground rice. I eat pretty much everything before it hits the oven and the ground rice certainly adds an interesting gritty texture ...

Line your baking dish (20-23cm) with the pastry and spread a good amount of jam of choice over the bottom, before tipping in your almond mixture. Smooth it all out, and decorate with any left over pastry before baking in an oven preheated to 180C for about 40 minutes or until puffed and golden.

I think it looks rather spesh ...
And here's a cross section ...
I'm quite proud, as normally my food makes it from oven to plate to stomach rather sharply and there's never any time to be pretty ... in fact ... REALLY sadly, I've put these pics and some other on flickr - tagged with "bakewell tart".

The proof of any pudding, however, is in the eating ... so how did this eat? Well, the first slice was taken when it was still a bit soft and runny in the middle so I popped it back into the oven for a while longer. I ate the first slice and I thought it was very good - I was particularly impressed with the pastry, which was very crisp, light and tasty. Because the tart filling is sweet you don't miss not having sweet pastry.

Jenny ate the second slice (after the second trip to the oven) and made lots of appreciative noises. We decided it was very good warm and served with cream. It has a good firm, cake-like texture and the ground rice certainly adds an interesting bit of crunch. I'm not sure if all Bakewells are like that or not ...

But this one definitely goes into the baking repertoire!
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Full of Beans!

Fri 23 Jun 2006

Somehow we managed to escape work and find the energy to indulge in some Mexican. We've been planning on going to the Cactus Lounge for what seems like ages and, after a quick beer at the Wardrobe (also on the list), we actually made it.

The Cactus Lounge is tucked away a bit - hidden behind the Wardrobe and West Yorkshire Playhouse, and it's also downstairs, so in summer it's lovely and cool. It is sparsely decorated, with plain wooden tables and some rather odd, bright orange, plastic tub chairs. The service is cheerful and efficient and the menu covers the usual suspects of Mexican food.

I last went to the Cactus Lounge about four years ago, and had really enjoyed my meal. However, I was a bit cautious on Friday night because various people had said that their last meals there had been something of a disappointment.

Happily, there was nothing to worry about. We were at the Cactus Lounge in plenty of time to take advantage of the pre-theatre menu - 2 courses from a pared down menu, plus a drink, for £11.90. In the end, my selection ended up being from that menu quite by accident - starting with a goats cheese and red onion marmalade tart, followed by a spiced pork and bean sonoran. Following the a la carte menu Andy chose the stuffed jalapenos followed by a chicken chimichanga. We drank Lindeboom, which is a bit incongruous in a Mexican restaurant, but was deliciously cold and served in chilled glasses.

The mains were the big winners in the food stakes. Both the starters were nice although not really that much to rave about. Admittedly, it's pretty hard to wax lyrical about stuffed jalapenos ... and I did really enjoy my tart (topped with a round of goats cheese, so it looked very impressive) although the pastry was a bit on the hard (rather than crisp) side.

The main courses were both delicious and massive serves. Both were served with generous salads and the chimichanga came with generous piles of beans and rice. I find it a bit difficult to say too much about Mexican food - some meat, padded out with plenty of beans and a good dose of various spices. It's not complicated food, but should be very satisfying. And it was. We both made very solid efforts at polishing off a large amount of food.

I was very impressed with the salads too - they actually had a lot of flavour and crispness, and a good mix of onions and peppers, as well as assorted leaves.

We didn't stop for puddings - there was no way we could have fitted them in!

So - for just over £30 we had two courses each and four beers between us. That sounds like almost bargain basement material to me. And given the quality of the food and the friendly service it was definitely excellent value for money. The lunch menu comes in at £6.90 for two courses (also from a short menu) - though I suspect you may need a siesta aftewards!

The Cactus Lounge, St Peters Square, Leeds, LS9 8AH, phone 0113 243 6553

How to find it: make your way to the bus station, and cross the road, heading towards the new BBC building.
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Monday, June 26, 2006

Combinations #3: Flatbreads with Spiced Chicken, Pistachios and Roasted Peppers

Sat 24 Jun 2006

Finally back in the kitchen after what feels like a pretty hectic few weeks. I posted the recipe for the flatbreads and spiced chicken a few weeks ago and as usual we played it fast and loose with both quantities and ingredients!

Za'atar and Aleppo pepper proved a bit too tricky to track down (I wasn't organised enough to order from the internet) but the lady at Spice Corner in the Leeds market suggested using garam masala with the addition of sesame seeds as a good substitute for za'atar - and given that it seems to vary a bit by region, I figured that that was good enough for me. And the recipe suggested cayenne pepper as an alternative for the Aleppo pepper.

I have to confess that, despite my best intentions, I also read another contribution before embarking on the exercise myself - so I was forewarned that the spicing of the recipe was not all that it could have been. This meant that we did quite a bit of frying up and tasting of the mixture before we committed it to a flatbread.

My original wine plan had been to choose a rose - a fuller bodied, spicier rose, less berry fruit driven. However, this was stymied by Hoults, the wine shop, not really having anything in stock that matched this description. While I was then quizzing the staff about light reds that could be served slightly chilled but with more spice than fruit I spotted a verdelho and the decision was made. Purely on the basis that I really like verdelho and don't drink it very often (food? what food???).

So - the taste test - flatbreads with spiced chicken et al, served with Deen de Bortoli Vat 5 Verdelho, 2005. The wine was far too strong for the food - and hardly not fruit driven! OK - the wine had good acidity but loads of really rich stone fruit flavours going on - it would probably go really well with icecream and stone fruit or a pav - but not really the spiced chicken flatbreads. I was pretty disappointed I didn't exercise a bit more self control in the bottle shop, because, on reflection, something like a gamay would probably have worked really well. In fact, a couple of weeks ago I had a Mas Macia cava rosado (that's pink fizz to you and me!) that was a really dry and austere wine - and would have gone really well with the food. Basically, I think anything that is relatively light bodied but with good acid and spice would go really well with this dish. We ate it as a main course (served with lightly spiced rice), but it would make good hors d'oeuvres, in which case you might seek to serve it with something bubbly and celebratory.

Over all, I would make this dish again. It was simple to put together but definitely needs some work on the spicing front. I'd be tempted to add more onion and maybe a fresh chilli, and subsitute ground chillis or chilli powder for the cayenne (what on earth is 1/4 tsp of cayenne for all that mixture??). We really loaded our wholemeal tortillas with the mixture and topped them with sesame seeds. We mixed sumac through our yoghurt and served that on the side, and we figure that a sprinkling of chopped coriander wouldn't go astray either!

I'll post the round up tomorrow night (UK time).

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Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Fish Cocktail

Mon 19 June 2006

Leeds' events website new2leeds hosted a 'Sushi Session' at the Park Plaza's Chino Latino, allowing a small group to learn about, make and eat sushi. I really had no idea what to expect - I've never been to Chino Latino before and while a few new2leeds' events have caught my eye I hadn't yet made it along to any.

The evening began in Chino Latino's very funky bar area, with a glass of wine and introductions. There were 13 of us in total: a mixture of couples, friends and people who had arrived alone. Everyone got chatting before being taken through to the restaurant area where we had our own chef and a large table for everyone to sit around. It was a casual enough environment to allow the conversation to keep on flowing, but our chef was also very entertaining so most of us were paying close attention - especially when we found out we'd be making our own sushi later in the evening!

Our chef took us through some different types of sushi - principally nigiri (the fish on rice) and maki (the little rolls). He made it all look very simple and it was all very tasty too! A constant stream of sushi came from the chef's direction, and once we had all sampled the sushi of our choice, professionally made, it was our turn to wield the knife.

We all took turns making a variety of sushi, and playing with the very sharp, very light knife, with varying degrees of success. It was quite deceptive - as the nigiri looked easy but is, apparently, the most difficult to make, whereas the maki (which I made) was a lot easier than I expected!

Mid-way through our sushi making exercise we were presented with a variety of cocktails - down my end of the table we were busy swapping them and comparing notes: the cocktail menu at Chino Latino is quite unusual and the drinks all look very distinctive - and watch out for super hot chilli cocktails!

At the end of the sushi making the chef presented a prize to the best sushi maker and then we moved back through to the bar, where the restaurant had laid on a spread of various starters - including some delicious inside out chicken wings, spicy fried squid, tempura, more sushi and edamame (soy beans) in black bean sauce. All of this food was delicious, and rounded off a very successful and interesting evening.

Chino Latino? Definitely on the Eating Leeds list! And I'll be keeping my eye on forth coming new2leeds' events!

Chino Latino is the restaurant in the Park Plaza Hotel on Boar Lane (opposite the train station), phone 0113 380 4080.

new2leeds runs a variety of events, including a wine club and a monthly event at BedRoom. Details, booking and a mailing list are all found at the website.
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Monday, June 19, 2006

Wine with Stars In It

Sat 17 June 2006

Saturday night was the date of the Yorkshire Wine and Whisky Fair, hosted by Oddbins at the Victoria Hall in Saltaire. We'd bought our tickets (£15 each) well in advance and also managed to snaffle tickets to the Champagne masterclass (only 30 available, at £7.50 each).

The event kicked off at 5pm, but as the masterclass was at 6:30 we were anxious not to spoil our palate, and arrived just in time for a quick reccy before joining the other Champagne tasters.

The hour we spent in the masterclass was definitely the highlight of the evening (weekend, week, month, year and quite possibly even decade) for me. We tasted four champagnes, and had written notes on each of the wines along plenty of water and note paper.

We started with the 1999 Moet & Chandon. Having tried a Moet & Chandon non vintage rose at the tail end of last year I was interested to try one of the more premium wines, as I'd been pretty disappointed by the rose. The vintage, however, was a really lovely wine - incredibly pale with lots of yeast on the nose. It proved to be a really interesting contrast to the next wine, which was the Veuve Clicquot 1999.

The VC had a lot more pinot noir in its mix and has a lot more citrus on the nose. It's a much more complicated wine and would definitely pair brilliantly with food (oily fish was suggested by our guide, and the idea of a simple puff pastry tart with fresh, fat sardines and feta cheese sprang to mind). The VC is a lot more acidic than the very lean M&C - I personally preferred the M&C, which may be partially because I tend to drink champagne without food, but at the same time, if I had to plough my way through a load of smoked salmon I wouldn't say no to the Veuve, either!

We then moved on to the 1998 Dom Perignon. The idea here was to compare and contrast it with the M&C vintage, to see if we could see a house style. The nose on this wine was very distinctive - an almost burnt, buttered toast smell, which at first, I wasn't a huge fan of. The wine did taste lovely (not hugely descriptive, I know) and it's a wine which is a lot smoother and more refined than the vintage. I didn't think this had quite as much or as fine a mousse in the mouth as the straight vintage.

Our final wine was some Krug. Krug has pretty much been my list of wines to try for about 10 years (and the Clos de Mesnil is still there), so I was pretty excited to get to try it and I'm not going to make any apologies for a decade's worth of anticipation probably seriously tainting my objectivity when tasting it.

This had a similar nose to the Dom, though laden with (I think, I couldn't quite put my finger on it) quite a bit of citrus. I'm tempted to say it smelt like lemon curd, but I'm not entirely sure that's accurate. The wine had a very fine mousse in the mouth, and was a lovely tart, lemony wine, with a really persistent palate - excellent length. I'd actually managed to save some Dom to compare and contrast with the Krug and of the two, the Krug definitely won.

However, since I'm not in a position to be splashing out £100 on a bottle of champagne every time I fancy a fizzy drink I have to say that the star of the tasting was the cheapest wine, the Moet & Chandon vintage. At £36 a bottle I'm not going to be indulging after a hard day at work but for celebrations, that is where my money is.

In the hour of the class we drank very generous portions of the four wines and learnt a lot about champagne history and production. When Dom Perignon first made champagne it was called 'wine with stars in it' - and it's quite a shame it didn't stick!

After the class we moved on to the other wines on offer. There was a huge array and we managed to exercise an incredible degree of moderation, focussing pretty heavily on the other bubblies on offer. The Moet & Chandon table gave us the opportunity to revisit the M&C NV, rose and vintage wines (still not a fan of the rose, and the non vintage seemed to have a bit of a harsh finish, so the vintage won on nose, bubbles, taste and length). M&C also produce a wine called Green Point, which is made in Victoria, Australia and retails around £13. The difference between this and the more expensive wines is really noticeable, and I think that if you are looking for a reasonably priced antipodean bubbly you can do a lot better for about the same money (Pelorus vintage, from New Zealand, for a start).

We also tried some Taittinger NV and vintage - we thought the vintage better than the NV but still not a patch on the M&C vintage, at around the same price.

Our sparkling selection finished off with the Canard Duchene NV, the cheapest of the French wines at about £22. We really enjoyed this wine and have marked it down as one to seek out when the extra £10-15 for the M&C vintage can't be found (or if you are going to have to share).

On to some still wines - all whites (it was quite hot and stuffy in the hall so not quite red wine drinking weather).

We'd enjoyed a gruner veltliner a while back so we took the opportunity to try the Salomon Veltliner from Austria, which retails at about half the price of the other, although it would still work well with food and had good length.

We also fitted in a quite sauvignon blanc comparison - the Villa Maria Private Bin and Clifford Bay sav blancs from New Zealand (the cheaper Private Bin the more popular option here) and the Katnook Estate Founder's Block and Estate sav blancs from the Coonawarra in South Australia. We both preferred both the Australian wines over both the New Zealand wines, with the Estate (£12 a bottle) coming out on top overall.

That feels like a really quick roundup of an incredibly interesting evening. We could have easily stayed on and drunk a lot more wine (and probably remembered a whole lot less!), but when you've finally managed to try Krug you don't really want to sully the memory!

The Yorkshire Wine & Whisky Fair was organised by Oddbins in Shipley, who can be contacted on 01274 596391 and found on Otley Road, Baildon.
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Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Oriental Night

NOTE: Japanic has now closed and Viva Cuba has opened in its place.

Tues 13 Jun 2006

Quite randomly we ended up in Japanic last night. I've only been once before, when it first opened, and at the time I was very impressed by the fact that they had Landlord on and that they fed us edamame (soy beans) to munch on with our beers. A bit incongruous, perhaps, but the mixture of Japan and England seemed to work well.

Last night I didn't bother even checking out the real ales on offer as, at present, you can have four large Asahi (brewed under licence, not imported) for £10. That's a beer deal you can't refuse. Japanic also seems to have a lot of other drink offers on, and I guess this is what imbues the place with quite a studenty feel. It's a very relaxed and casual place (we had a variety of angels, corpses and ninjas wander through on their way to the private karaoke room ...), so if you are after a smart bar this probably isn't for you!

The small restaurant area is well screened off from the main bar, and Japanic serves food pretty much all the time - after 10:30 you can still get a big bowl of ramen to help stave off the hangover. The food is served tapas-style, which matches well with beer drinking. All the dishes (in the evening) are priced at £3.30, which means that some dishes appear to be excellent value and others less so. However, it does all even out into a good value meal.

We opted for 5 dishes - karaage (deep fried chicken), Ingen Goma-ae (green beans with sesame), squid yakisoba (squid with buckwheat noodles), aubergine stuffed with seafood and deep fried and pork stir fried with peppers.

The overall winning dish was definitely the stir fried pork, which was very tasty, with loads of fresh, lightly cooked peppers, with both the green beans and the squid very close behind. We thought the deep fried chicken was a bit bland (some soy sauce with wasabi for dipping would not have gone astray!), and the aubergine stuffed with seafood was a bit on the greasy side. The five dishes was enough for us for dinner, though if you're super hungry you might want to opt for either more dishes or a greater selection of rice/noodle dishes.

After we finished eating we took our beers into the bar and indulged in some people watching. The total bill came to under £30 - the food component just £16.50! The service was friendly and efficient and the menu, in combination with the daily specials, provides loads of variety. Japanic is so laid back that even if you don't arrive with the intention of eating, you could well end up doing so!

We moved on from Japanic to the opening night (number 2) of the new (and interestingly named) Club Geisha, on New Briggate. This is part of 'multi-venue' D-Fusion, which includes D-Fusion (the bar, ground floor), Chao Sq (restaurant, first floor) and Club Geisha (second floor). Apart from being a very intimate little club (and therefore one with massive potential, in my books) Club Geisha didn't really leave an impression. It looks sharp because it's new, the music is pretty bland, generic house (and the sound system was judged average) ... there's not really a lot to distinguish Club Geisha ... The beers they have on offer are Fosters, Kronenbourg and Guiness - all served in plastic glassware and coming in at pretty standard prices.

It will be interesting to see if this idea of a multi-venue works (it just sounds scary to me!), and I am tempted to go back to Club Geisha on a Friday night at a later date - to see how (or if) it's evolved at all.

1. Japanic, 19 Queens Square, Leeds, LS2 8AP, phone 0113 244 9550
2. Club Geisha, 28 New Briggate, Leeds, LS1 6NU, phone 0113 246 9997
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Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Back to the Lakes

Another weekend back up in the Lake District and an opportunity to eat and drink a bit more ...

Sat 10 Jun 2006

Which started with an afternoon tea the Graythwaite Manor Hotel in Grange-over-Sands. The hotel certainly laid on an impressive spread, which ended up being rather over-generous for our contingent of mainly elderly ladies! Andy's been sick, so I was having to eat that bit extra to try to cover all the sweets - I didn't manage it. The afternoon also included my first ever taste of Bakewell tart!

I particularly rated the hotel's scones - these were probably the highlight for me. I also enjoyed the sandwiches, especially as the ham was thickly cut. The chocolate eclairs were also very good (and not too laden with cream) but it was really a bit hot to scoff too many. I wasn't overwhelmed by the slice of Bakewell tart I had (but, as I don't know what I'm looking for, that's not necessarily an opinion) and Andy wasn't too thrilled by the sponge. I missed out on eating the shortbread, which was a real shame, and while I didn't have a flapjack Andy's father ate quite a few, suggesting they were pretty good.

The tea (beverage) got a thumbs up all round, which is really saying something, since I usually find tea made by pretty much anyone other than myself or close family members verging on intolerable.

We all sat in the bar, which is a lovely room with a big bay window, which let in a cooling breeze, and we could enjoy the hotel's gardens safe from the midges.

Even after a solid afternoon tea I managed to find some room to fit in something resembling a main meal. This took place in the huge beer garden of the Royal Oak Inn in The Square, in Cartmel. Since I technically wasn't hungry I managed to convince Andy to share the starter of BBQ ribs - something I very rarely eat. I really enjoyed this (and I think Andy enjoyed the one rib he ate!). The meat was really tender and juicy (and plenty of it too!), and the ribs came whole, so you could almost pretend to use a knife and fork. The sauce was sticky and sweet, and afforded me much lip smacking. I was pretty unimpressed by the 'freshly baked focaccia' - they should just get some decent bread from a local baker, rather than whacking some pre-made, pre-packaged stuff in the oven.

I also sampled some of their chips, which were pretty good, and while I eyed off the remainder of some fish I managed to restrain myself. The fish and chips did look very tasty, and the braised beef steak with mushrooms was an impressively sized dish which also disappeared.

Of course, the most important thing at a pub is the beer - no point in having half decent food and rubbish beer. They had (at least) both Black Sheep and Timothy Taylor's Landlord on, and the Black Sheep was in good nick. I've also enjoyed very solid pints at this pub in the past, so it seems the condition of the beer is consistent.

You're hardly going to have to seek out this pub - though negotiating your way home might be a little trickier!

Sun 11 Jun 2006

After Saturday's eating and drinking there was no time for breakfast before heading to Hale, nr Milnthorpe, for lunch at the King's Arms. I had an absolutely cracking pint of Pride of Pendle (though I did think the barman could be a little less horrified by a woman ordering a pint of bitter) and followed it with a huge serving of steak and ale pie with mushrooms. Andy's lamb shoulder was deliciously moist and falling off the bone and all the portions were huge. I was, however, less impressed with my starter of fresh asparagus with lemon butter sauce. The asparagus was a bit sad, small and over-cooked and while the sauce itself was actually very nice the whole thing was spoiled by being rather artistically drowned in balsamic vinegar. Still, you can't have everything, and the beer and pie alone set me up for the rest of the day.

Or it would have done, except the railways managed to break themselves and we ended up stopping for a pint in Skipton, where we found ourselves at the Black Horse. The weather had been hot, people were out and about and apparently their beer garden backs on to the canal - so how on earth can they serve a rubbish pint of Kronenbourg? What a shame!
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Monday, June 12, 2006

Combinations: Food and Wine Matching

Mon 12 Jun 2006

Andrew over at Spittoon asked me if I was interested in hosting this month's Combinations exercise. Although my (obvious) answer was "yes" I also found it quite difficult to settle on a dish. Since last month's dish was a pudding I thought I should opt for a savoury dish (especially as we can all have our Bakewells for pudding!). I've chosen a recipe I've never made before and I think its Middle Eastern overtones should make for some interesting wine choices ...

This is the recipe as it appeared in the NY Times on 7 June. The NY Times notes that it has been adapted from Ana Sortun. And it sounds a perfect picnic or casual lunch dish ... Note that this makes 8 servings so you may want to adjust quantities appropriately! I've also done some research and the sumac, za'atar and Aleppo pepper are available in the UK through the internet, if you can't find them at your local spice shop.

Flatbreads with Spiced Chicken, Pistachios and Roasted Peppers

1 lb chicken breasts (without skin)
3 red peppers - 1 minced and 2 roasted, peeled and cut into strips
1 small onion, minced
3 spring onions, minced
2 tsp of sumac, extra for garnish
2 tsp Aleppo pepper (or 1/4 tsp cayenne)
1 tsp za'atar, extra for garnish
1 tsp salt, extra to taste
1 egg
1/3 cup cream
1 cup lightly toasted, finely ground pistachio nuts
4 large rectangles of lavash or 6 large tortillas
pepper, to taste
1 cup of yoghurt

Cut chicken into chunks and process into a smooth paste, until if forms a ball. Add minced red pepper, onion, scallions, sumac, Aleppo pepper, za'atar, salt, egg, cream and pistachios and pulse until just incorporated.

Preheat oven to 200 degrees C. Cut lavash into large rectangles or tortillas into quarters. Cover each piece with chicken mixture, spreading to edges.

Place on heavy baking sheet (or pizza stone) and bake for 12-15 minutes, until crisp and chicken is cooked. While hot, sprinkle with additional sumac and za'atar. Serve warm with a dollop of yoghurt and strips of roasted pepper.

Perfect hot weather food, but what do you drink with it?

I've been a little slow in posting this, so contributions by 26 June (gives you an extra weekend!).
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Wednesday, June 07, 2006

News Flash

While there's a lot of blogging to catch up on a few pieces of news need broadcasting ...

EatingLeeds now has its own home at www.eatingleeds.co.uk ... if you've got us bookmarked, please update the bookmark!

After raving about the Salvo's Tuscan Dinner, Eating Leeds hears that there may well be fixed menu non themed dinners at the Salumeria coming soon ... so I guess you'd better sign up for their mailing list ...

Thanks to spamnet for mentioning Eating Leeds the other day!

The dates for the York Festival of Food and Drink have been announced ... It starts on Friday 22 September and runs until Sunday 1 October. No other details yet, but last year's was fantastic!
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Monday, June 05, 2006

A Weekend in London

I apologise in advance for things getting a touch out of order here but then again, you wouldn't know if I hadn't told you!

Sat 03 Jun 2006

The big trip down to London left us feeling pretty hungry (surprise) and at my behest we headed towards Busaba Eathai, on Wardour Street in Soho. I first ate at this Alan Yau project back in 2001, and at the time was suitably impressed with the food and value. I like the fact that, as a rule, you sit at large communal tables, and that the service is quick, the servings generous and the price low.

So, when it came to somewhere that was going to be good value in central London, it was to Busaba Eathai that I turned.

We managed to arrive at Wardour Street on foot, in the lovely weather, all the way from King's Cross. We stopped off along the way for a swift and restorative pint at the Northumberland Arms on Tottenham Court Road. A pint of San Miguel and one of London Pride set us back just over £5 but we were able to enjoy the pint in peace (quite a rarity down TCR!), and the pub is lovely, airy with a fantastic feeling of space.

Not quite in the mood for pub food we set off again and arrived at Busaba Eathai to find it relatively quiet - which I guess was not that surprising for a venue which features no outdoor seating on a lovely day. To be honest, on this occasion I was a little disappointed. Andy ordered the sitr fried rice with crab and I opted for the Thai green curry stir fried rice with char grilled chicken.

Hmm ... at around the £7 mark per dish this wasn't exactly bargain basement and to be honest, Andy's dish was tiny - a perfect mound of rice, laced with crab ("you've won as far as food goes"), while I had an identical mound of rice but with some char grilled chicken slices on the side. Mine was OK ... which is as generous as I'm prepared to be ... Andy's was substandard. Service was poor. But at least the Singhas were cold.

Busaba Eathai once had the formula absolutely spot-on but I feel they've really lost the way. Next time I'm in London I won't be seeking them out.

Sun 04 Jun 2006

More food adventures ... this time south of the river in Vauxhall, where I had bravely suggested (this somehow turned into 'recommended') a trip to the Fentiman Arms ... a gastropub, but part of a chain. There was a fair degree of confusion about meeting time and place but somehow we managed to make it to a table just next to the door, so we could enjoy the fresh air and bonhomie of the beer garden.

The pub was pretty chaotic but we secured our table and a couple of beers (San Miguel and Deuchars IPA, although Bombardier was also available so it was a tough chocie) and made our way swiftly through the menu. Online I'd already chosen the grilled chorizo with butter beans and red onions. Andy followed suit, while our hosts opted for the baked salmon with risotto and the roast pork. While the grilled chorizo (yummy, spicy and laced with ... was it? ... fennel) was definitely the winner of the day, the baked salmon looked good too (while overcooked by our definition it was still moist) and I did cast my envious eye over the roast pork more than once.

The wine service was hilariously lackadaisical - the Stelvin capped Western Australian white was, initially, poured into a cracked glass (no excuse, check glasses before they come to the table), and promptly decantered into a whole glass. We were not offered a taste of the wine, a trail of wine ended up across the table and one wallet, and the bottle was unceremoniously dumped into a cooler. Tut tut tut!

But the food was good, and after four main courses, a bottle of wine, a couple of beers, sparkling water and a good tip we escaped for under £20 a head.

And then we headed back to our hosts' flat in Vauxhall, to enjoy some Extra Saucy Kahlua Puddings (strictly fondants), views of the Thames, some New Zealand sauvignon blanc and a bottle of champagne ... roll on summer!
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