Wednesday, August 30, 2006

News Round

Wed 30 Aug 2006

Having missed out last week's update this one is a bit on the busy side ...

In the beer drinking arena - we've tried Tusker (Kenya), Peroni Gran Riserva (Italy) and Quilmes (Argentina - site only in Spanish). While Tusker was a bit light on flavour, the Peroni was my personal favourite. Far more tasty than 'normal' Peroni - it was delicious and packs a mere (ahem) 6.6%. Andy did agree, but felt the Peroni lacked a bit of fizz (may have been the individual bottle or the glass) and opted for the Quilmes as his top choice.

Today sees the start of the Leeds Food and Drink Festival. To be honest, I've been pretty disappointed with the marketing of this event - it's been pretty hard to find decent literature, or even a decent website - but let's hope the real thing exceeds expectations.

Last week we made a flying visit to Jino's, the small Thai cafe on Otley Road. Wow! The restaurant is BYO (alcoholic beverages only) and charges no corkage! The dishes are incredible value (3 people, a main course each, £20 in total) - and big servings too. The service is efficient and friendly and you leave well fed.

The long weekend saw us head to Bradford and the city centre based International Market Festival. Full report to come - it was a great afternoon out!

In local news - Ferret Hall Bistro in Headingley is closing its doors - and will be replaced by a Thai restaurant ... not sure how much Headingley needs another Thai restaurant (what with Jino's and Sala Thai), but I'm quite disappointed that I never made it to Ferret Hall (and excited to have somewhere new to try!).

Saturday 9 September sees Headingley get its own farmers' market ... it's the Celebrate Headingley weekend and the market will take place from 9 - 1230 outside the Arc.

And finally ... random blog of the week is Exclusively Food. One look at that chicken pie and I was sold ... and it's a fantastic name!

1. Jino's Thai Cafe, 46A Otley Road, Leeds, LS6 2AL, ph: 0113 278 8088
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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Mmmm ... curry

Sat 27 Aug 2006

Saturday night seems to be a good cooking night for food geeks - probably because it's the only time we get a moment to think and spend some time in the market! The Observer Food Monthly recently published a fantastic looking collection of recipes from the new book, Curry. There was a bit of prevarication, because the pictures make everything look fantastic - but in the end, we had to start with a hot and sour prawn curry from Indonesia, served with a potato curry from Pakistan.

Aside from using a ridiculous number of pots and pans it was all very straight forward, and the prawn curry is absolutely delicious - and you could easily make it with either chicken or fish. Because of the tang of the tamarind I'd stick to white meat alternatives, rather than trying to use beef or lamb.

Take your prawns (we used 8 king prawns straight from the market), shell them and rub with sea salt, 1/2 tsp turmeric and 1/2 tsp chilli powder. Leave to one side while you make the sauce.

Heat some oil in a large pan (or wok), add 1 1/2 sliced red onions and fry until they are taking on some colour. Add garlic, ginger and chillis, all minced and fry for a minute or so before adding 1/2 tsp ground coriander. Then add 4 chopped tomatoes (use fresh rather than tinned ones for better flavour) and a good couple of tablespoons of tamarind water. We didn't really know what this was, but just mixed tamarind paste with water. Cook this mixture until the tomatoes are soft, and the mixture begins to thicken.

In a separate fry pan, heat some oil and fry the prawns for just a couple of minutes on each side, til they are just done. Add the prawns to the sauce and keep warm until ready to serve (don't wait too long!).

For the potato curry ... heat some sunflower oil in a saucepan and add some finely chopped onion. Cook the onion until coloured and add a couple of chopped tomatoes. Stir in some sliced red chillis, 1/2 tsp chilli powder and a 1 tsp of cumin seeds. Add 125mL water and cook over high heat, stirring, until the excess liquid has evaporated. Add a couple of large potatoes that you've peeled and diced. Add another 125mL water and ensure the potatoes are coated with the sauce, before putting the lid on and cooking over a low heat until the potatoes are done.

Serve the prawn and potato curries with rice. Top with a sprinkling of chopped spring onions and some fried chopped spring onions. The prawns have a delicious, tangy, citrus taste, thanks to the tamarind - very moreish - make more than you think you'll need! To drink - well, you could go down the beer route, but I enjoyed a 2004 Jardins des Mailis Jurancon Sec. At first, I was a bit concerned about some rather too fruity overtones, but it turned out that the wine went quite well with curry. I don't know that I'd drink it as an aperitif though - definitely needs to be paired with food. Funnily enough, I've just discovered that it was this same wine that Andrew at Spittoon paired less than successfully with the Combinations spiced flat bread a couple of months ago.

And if you're lucky enough to have some leftovers - mix remaining rice into the potato, heat and serve on toast for breakfast!

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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Spice Drops

Mon 21 Aug 2006

For this week, Baking Tuesday moves to Monday - though I've been planning the recipe for about a week now.

A couple of years ago I bought A Handbook for Bakers, edited by Albert F Gerhard, on ebay. It's a hefty but plain tome that quite seriously advises its readers on all aspects of running a modern (copyright is 1925) bakery. It also exhorts that the recipes are COMMERCIAL recipes and they are most definitely not for domestic use.

Considering the disdain with which I usually treat recipes (and yes, there are exceptions when I do follow them to the letter) this was hardly going to put me off. Turning to the 'Cookie' section (yes, it's an American publication) HouseMate and I have calculated that we have a good year's worth of biccies to go. Time to get cracking.

First off the ranks are 'Almond Bars'. You can see from my photos that the bar part was all too hard - so let's call them 'drops'. Since the flavour of these biscuits comes predominantly from the spices - well, they're spice drops, aren't they?

Preheat your oven to 180C.

Mix 150g of sugar with 1 egg and add 1 tbsp of golden syrup and 50 mL of milk, in which you've dissolved 1 tsp of baking powder. Add 45 g of almond meal, 200 g of plain flour and mix. Finally add 1 tsp of cinnamon, 1/2 tsp of all spice and 1/2 tsp of ground ginger.

Thanks to the golden syrup this is a fearsomely sticky mix, so plopping it onto the baking tray is the only way to go. The mixture is pretty tasty, so be sure not to make yourself feel a bit sick by keeping the spoon clean.

Bake for 10 minutes for soft biccies, longer for crisper ones (I guess - HouseMate deemed the 10 minute cooking sufficient - and the book doesn't give any timings at all).

The flavour is good - and as I've already mentioned, much more on the spice side than the almond side. I think if I were to make them again I'd omit the golden syrup. I'm not sure it adds anything and I think without it the mixture would be much easier to handle - in case you wanted to use a biscuit press or actually make bars.

Using a teaspoon to plop the mixture I ended up with about 2 dozen small-ish biscuits.
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Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Angel Delight

Sat 12 Aug 2006

Sometimes it feels like we never get around to trying the things on our doorstep. For quite a while I've had my eye on Angel's Share in Chapel Allerton. This was based on an appealing interior photograph in a magazine. But I did also check out the menu on the website which was enough to get me to sign up for the mailing list. And that was as far as I got.

The team at Angel's Share is impressive, with staff having been involved in venues such as Oporto, Harvey Nick's cafe and bar and the Malmaison Brasserie. So, does the venue live up to my shiny expectations?

We had a very early dinner reservation, but still managed to arrive early enough to fit in a drink in the bar. Even at just after 6pm, the bar had a good buzz about it, and they offer a very solid range of drinks - from cocktails to wines by the glass, draught beer to bottled beer. The seating is arranged cleverly enough to accommodate everyone, and there are seats both at the bar and outside on the terrace area.

The restaurant is arranged over two floors - the floor immediately above the bar offers smoking dining accommodation while non smoking diners are on the top floor, which also includes a balcony area.

So, after beers downstairs, we were soon esconced at our table, me with a glass of rose in hand. Having already scouted the menu online we were relatively quick to make our dining decisions, and were able to settle down to the bread brought to our table. It was a fresh, warm half loaf of granary, on a board, served with both butter and olive oil. There are so few places that even bother to warm their bread that this makes an immediate positive impression. And, in fact, it is this type of attention to detail that made our meal at Angel's Share so good.

I started with the caramelised fennel with grilled goat's cheese. This was served with salad and a light balsamic vinegar dressing. The flavours were all well balanced and the serving size was perfect. I'm a huge fan of fennel and I really enjoyed the way the creaminess of the goat's cheese complemented the aromatic, aniseed fennel.

Andy's passion for seafood led to a few moments of prevarication as he wavered between the paella and the king prawns. The prawns won out, and he was presented with prawns, shell on, in a garlic, chilli and sherry sauce. The sherry definitely added a very unusual and tasty twist, and wasn't spoiled by overbearing chilli or garlic. He didn't even have to worry about grubby fingers, thanks to the presence of a finger bowl.

Our main courses lived up to the high standard already set. I really enjoyed my smoked salmon steak with lime and avocado salsa and Andy's steak with onion rings, chips (hand cooked, twice fried) and tomatoes was polished off very smartly. The steak was perfectly cooked, tasty and tender - and even went very well with my avocado salsa!

It goes without saying that, of course, the steak was served with a steak knife, and that our waitress remembered which dish was going where. The main disappointment was that I wasn't able to talk Andy into sharing a dessert!

It's probably pointless to say that we'll be going to Angel's Share again - mid week the early bird offer is a main course and dessert (or glass of wine) for just £10. If you make it out of bed before 1 on a Sunday you can enjoy a main course and Bloody Mary for £6.

Our meal (two courses each, beer and wine) set us back just over £40. I thought this was fantastic value - the service was absolutely spot on, attention was paid to every detail and the food was well thought out, well presented and very tasty. The bar downstairs offers the perfect venue for pre and post dinner drinking, and, with its two outdoor areas, the Angel's Share offers a comprehensive night out.

Absolute heaven!

Angel's Share is at Stainbeck Corner, Chapel Allerton, phone: 0113 307 0111.
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Monday, August 14, 2006

Weekly Update

Drinking news for this week involves a welcome return to the North Bar. My mission to drink every one of their beers has undergone a bit of a hiatus, but I did make an effort with an unusually named offering from Belgium: Grottenbier. At over 6% alcohol, it's hardly a session beer, but it is an eminently drinkable, dark beer. It would go very well with food - and, as it's a rich, smooth beer I think it's even got dessert matching potential.

While I enjoyed my Grottenbier, Andy spotted the interesting news that Timothy Taylor has bought the Town Hall Tavern in central Leeds. Looks like another place to put on the ever expanding list!

I'm also busy using up my 60p bunch of beetroot. Last night we put together a proper feast - bangers, mash and ... beetroot and onion. This simple (and very effective) combination was suggested by The Silver Spoon. Melt some butter in a pan, slice and fry some onion. Add beetroot that you've already cooked (I washed, topped and tailed the two small beets, wrapped them in foil and left them in a 200C oven for about half an hour - they were a cinch to peel once cooked) and chopped into batons. Fry it all up. This has serious sausage butty potential! We drank a big Australian red with this - the 2003 Xanadu Secession Shiraz Cabernet from Western Australia. At the moment this wine is on offer at Oddbins - £4.38 down from £6.99. It's not a subtle, complex wine - but it is perfect for the BBQs we're all still trying to have!

This evening's beetroot excursion involved the leaves. Yesterday, I washed them and cooked them off as you would spinach. Tonight, I roughly chopped them and threw them in a frying pan with a load of butter. I added a touch of nutmeg and a load of black pepper before pouring over 2 eggs beaten with cream and milk. Follow with a (not quite generous enough) grating of parmesan cheese and tip out onto your plate when ready. The beetroot leaves tasted a lot like spinach, and I'll certainly be using them again! I can't believe the greengrocer asked me if I wanted them!!!!
And finally, another food blog: Foodie Paradise is a Singapore based blog, who, in a recent posting, posed the question of reviewing a restaurant that's been recommend by friends. It's a doddle when the restaurant is great - but what about when you've been taken to a meal, had a restaurant's praises sung to you and it really doesn't quite come up to scratch? It's a tricky one to get round - my solution is to make sure I've got a lot of things to write about!
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Saturday, August 12, 2006

A Raving Beast?

Sat 12 Aug 2006

Out there in food blog land a lot of people seem to dealing with beetroot. I, on the other hand, have been looking at them in the market and wishing I had something to do with them.

Now - I am Australian so beetroot is pretty much part of my psyche. It's not a burger if it doesn't have (pickled) beetroot and a fried egg on it, and as a child I loved the stuff so much that it ended up being strictly rationed (apparently it was high in salt, though I suspect mum was just trying to prevent the carpet turning red involuntarily).

I've never cooked with beetroot before and I came to this National Trust recipe through Daydream Delicious, who came to it via La Otra Dimension. If you can have a carrot cake, no reason why you can't have a beetroot cake, I guess.

I bought my bunch of beetroot from the market this morning, so I now have 1 large beet and 2 smaller ones to go. Plus the leaves. Larousse Gastronomique says you can eat them too, and I see no point in wasting any of the 60p I spent!

I was terrified that I would turn pretty much everything bright pink - so much so that I wore a black pinny. I thought that everything that came in contact with the beetroot juice would develop an indelible maroon tinge - so everything was plunged into water immediately I was done with it. It turns out that beetroot isn't quite that scary.

With the wonder that is a Magimix this recipe is simple to make. Take just over 100g of beetroot, trim and peel. Finely grate the beetroot (using the grating blade). Melt 75g butter with 75g of dark chocolate over some water. While waiting for it to melt, to the beetroot add 200g self raising flour, 25g cocoa powder, 1tsp of baking powder, 100g caster sugar (or, when you realise that you don't have quite as much as you thought, make up the remainder with demerara sugar) and a pinch of salt. Whizzy up until combined. Then add the chocolate and butter mixture and 2 eggs.

Your oven will have been preheated to 180C, and you'll have greased a loaf tin (2lb/1kg). The mixture was incredibly thick and mousse like, so spoon it into the tin and make an effort at flattening off the top. Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean (mine actually took more like 45 minutes - so keep an eye on it).

Walk in the park. Nothing ended up pink - not even me! The mixture prior to cooking tastes great - not as sweet as a normal cake, but incredibly rich and mousse like. I found the raw beetroot unbelievably aromatic. The smell once I'd grated it was amazing - I'm not entirely sure I can describe it, but it has a dry, dusty, earthy, but at the same time, floral smell, that made me think of summer - hot, dry soil in the garden.

Taste wise - the cake is delicious. Unfortunately, I think I rather overcooked the cake by about 5 minutes. Although it wasn't as moist as I was expecting it was still more than edible, though it probably won't keep particularly well (not that that's ever a problem). I didn't bother with icing (even though I'd planned to make a cocoa and butter topping) - it's a very handsome cake and it rose very well. I'll definitely be making this one again!

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Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Salad Days

Sun 06 Aug 2006

While we at home have enjoyed Baking Tuesday yet again this week's request was a revisit of the previously made Toll House YoYos.

So let's talk about what must be christened Salad Sunday.

It's been pretty warm lately here in the UK (yes, over 20 and NOT raining every day!) - with that kind of weather back home we'd be sitting outside, eating elaborate salads and drinking lots of chilled wine. You never seem to get enough warm weather over here to get into the habit of doing that, but Sunday's visit to the farmers' market finally got me into salad mode.

We bought a living organic salad box which contained a selection of greens, an (organic) fennel, a couple of crab cakes and some peppered smoked mackerel. I had some potatoes lying around at home, and Andy had some red onion. My local Somerfield provided a bottle of 2005 Zonte's Footstep Cabernet Petit Verdot for about £3 (on sale) - a rose that was perfect for chilling.

So ... to assemble the salad ... washed and sliced (but didn't peel) the potatoes. Boil and drain - but leave them in the pot. Add the finely sliced fennel and red onion, put the lid back on and set aside.

Make a vinaigrette - extra virgin olive oil, cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard, pepper and garlic.

When you're ready to eat, set to frying the crab cakes. Put some of the potato mix on each plate and add the vinaigrette. Crumble over some Stilton and then flake the peppered mackerel. Arrange your salad leaves to the side or around the edge. About now the crab cakes might be done ... if not, well, have another glass of wine (which, incidentally, did a very good job of cutting through the vinaigrette and Stilton - it was a top match!).

When the crab cakes are hot, add to your plate and eat. Mmmmm ... and if you're lucky you'll have left over Stilton for pudding (ensure crusty bread to hand).

Now - this is ridiculously simple (cooking skills required: frying), quick and actually very cheap. I think we worked it out at being about £3-4 per person - and that's using 'artisan' and organic produce. See - there's just no excuse for ready meals, takeaways etc etc etc.

And the dish even looked pretty too!

So I guess I should thank the vendors that made this meal so tasty ... the organic salad and fennel came from the Low Leases Organic Farm stall. The fennel was amazing - it was incredibly aromatic and really filled the kitchen with its smell when we lifted the lid off the pot.

The fish and crab cakes came from the Hebden Fisheries stall. They're based in Whitby and had a good selection of piscatorial products. I was most impressed when we got the crab cakes home and I looked at the list of ingredients - it was all food! No E-numbers, preservatives, padding or other weird stuff. And the crab cakes were fantastic. They were big, fat and moist and generated much lip-smacking.

The Leeds Farmers' Market is the first and third Sunday of the month in the outdoor bit of the Leeds City Markets. Apparently the first Sunday is quite a bit bigger than the second. Normally I'm not there early enough to notice!
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Monday, August 07, 2006

News Update

A few bits and pieces to keep you all up to speed ...

Leeds is having its own Food and Drink Festival this year, running from Wed 30 August to Friday 1 September. It will (mostly) be taking place in Briggate (one of the main shopping areas), which has had a recent cosmetic overhaul. I haven't been able to find a website for the event, although the flyer (which I picked up in Spice Quarter) suggested visiting The Leeds Guide for listings. At present, such information seems a bit sparse though the festival is also sponsored by Leeds Live It Love It, the Leeds City Council, and Let's Eat Leeds.

Once you've recovered from that, head up the road to the York Festival of Food and Drink. This festival runs from 22 September to 1 October, so you've got plenty of time to fit in a visit! I went along last year and had a great time, which included sampling an excellent venison and apple pie and checking out the real ale trail.

I've also decided to make a bit more of an effort linking to other food blogs. So ...

Random selection of the week is the Veg Box Diary. Gastropunk and Maths Chick work their way through their weekly (organic) veg box. They've categorised the fruit and vege so you can easily find a recipe for kohlrabi or tomatoes.

A couple of blogs that link here ...

Daydream Delicious is a fellow expat who has posted a beetroot and chocolate cake recipe. I was looking so longingly at the beetroots in the farmers' market yesterday and wondering what I could do with some too!

Extraordinarily Ordinary, while not strictly a food blog, is on the hunt for 'the perfect nasi lemak'. That qualifies the blog for a mention here!
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Friday, August 04, 2006

Two Courses, Two Beers - £10

Thurs 03 Aug 2006

I've mentioned before a few outings to Spice Quarter (or, more precisely, Spice Bar) in Millenium Square. Last week we popped in for a drink after work and noticed the new bar menu. It offers a cut down selection of dishes from the four cuisines represented in the upstairs buffet (Chinese, Indian, Italian and Thai). What was most noteworthy about this was that Spice Quarter offers a starter and a main for the princely sum of £6. Given that bottled beer comes in at just £2 a throw, this means you could have a bit of a night out for just £10.

That's not bad for central Leeds. Actually, it's bloody cheap.

So - investigative hats on, we set off to sample what Spice Quarter had on offer. We both opted for dishes from the Indian selection, so we can't offer a spectacularly diverse view on things. For starters, one serve of onion bhaji, and one of samosas. Both these dishes normally come in at £2.99. I received three large bhajis which were actually pretty good. Andy's serving of samosas was less impressive - 4 small samosas, all rather heavy on the pastry. While we both enjoyed the bhaji and felt we'd be relatively happy had we paid £3 for it, opinion was divided on the samosas. I liked the pastry and not the filling, Andy liked the filling and not the pastry. Andy felt £3 was a bit much. He pointed out that at the market you can buy two large samosas for £1.70 - and said he would have been much happier to have two large triangular samosas (and so more filling) than four small ones. Both starters were served with an odd, spicy BBQ flavoured sauce. I think, especially as far as the bhaji went, I'd have been happier with plain yogurt, had mint sauce not been avaiable.

The main dishes on the menu all come in around the £4, which means you are saving a princely £1 but combining the two. Andy had a biryani and I chose the lamb rogan josh. The portion sizes were quite small (I think I had about four or five pieces of lamb in my rogan), but you do have to remember you're not paying a lot of money. The biryani had a very fresh, green smell that neither of us could quite put our fingers on. Andy enjoyed it, which is the main thing, and commented on how tender the meat was. My rogan josh, served with rice and salad, was also not too shabby. The sauce was actually quite spicy (though I'm not 100% it didn't come out of a better than average jar) and my meat was very tender too.

When it comes to Indian food I'm often lucky to even make a tiny dent in my main dish, so I actually really enjoyed the fact that I could eat, and enjoy, my whole dish. The rice did a great job of mopping up the extra sauce (though I could have done with a spoon) and the salad added a refreshing edge to the end of the dish.

I washed down my curry with Peroni (£2 a bottle) while Andy enjoyed pints of Cobra (slightly over 'budget' at £2.25).

Let's get this straight - for £6 you get perfectly edible food in perfectly adequate sized servings. You're not getting the best curry you've ever eaten, you're not getting enough food to serve a small country - but you are getting some pretty good value. If it's a late afternoon feed, or a bit of a meal prior to some beer drinking you can eat a lot worse and spend a lot more money.

After this - what next? Why, on to Sela on New Briggate, to enjoy some Staropramen and some live jazz in the form of the Jon Scott Trio. What a way to round off a Thursday night.

1. Spice Quarter, Electric Press, Millenium Square, LS2 3AD, phone: 0113 2469241
2. Sela, 20 New Briggate, Leeds LS1 6NU, phone: 0113 2429442
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Thursday, August 03, 2006

Baking Tuesday Returns

Tues 01 August 2006

For a while, Tuesday was known as 'Baking Tuesday' at home. This was because I would come home from work and make biscuits or cakes to take into work. I got out of the habit - a couple of rather elaborate creations wore me out, I went out, the excuses just started to flow.

However, my housemate has been on about a ginger cake for quite a while (yes, I know, it's only taken a month of nagging!), so I finally dug out the cake tin and set to. Much to their disgust, my workmates have missed out on this one, though I've promised to produce another solely for them and soon!

This was made up (from various base cake recipes) to cater for what was available as I couldn't be bothered going to the supermarket.

Take 100g of unsalted butter and melt (in a pan) with 100g muscovado sugar and 100mL of golden syrup. Once melted, remove from the stove and stir in a teaspoon of ground ginger, a splash of rum and mix in one egg. At this point I also added about 50g of chopped glace ginger.

Mix 200g plain flour with 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda and add the butter mixture. Mix in approximately 50mL of milk. It makes quite a runny mixture.

Pour into a baking paper lined loaf tin and bake in an oven preheated to 150C for approximately an hour (yes, it really does take this long!) - or until firm and a skewer comes out cleanly.

If you are going to use the glace ginger and a food processor I'd add the glace ginger last, and preferably stir in by hand. I was hoping for little pieces of ginger actually in the cake but the Magimix was FAR too efficient for that. If you don't like your ginger cake too gingery you may choose to omit the glace ginger altogether - or you could even incorporate it into some icing. I found that mixing the glace ginger into the warm, melted butter mix meant that it did separate out nicely - if the pieces hadn't been processed I'm sure I would have ended up with a good, even distribution of them through my cake.

Either way - the cake is moist, dense and quite caramelly on top (you'd hope so with all that sugary stuff in it!). It lasted less than two days!
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Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Horseradish Risotto

Sat 29 July 2006

Another big dining event on the Eating Leeds calendar. Saturday saw us embark on the somewhat marathon trek to lunch at The Star Inn in Harome, North Yorkshire. This is the gastro-pub that we've all heard about and read about and I personally have wanted to eat there for quite a long time. I finally got my opportunity!

Finding Harome is no easy task. We took a train from Leeds, via York, to Malton and then caught a taxi. At one point I caught myself wishing for an Eating Leeds car ... but to be honest, I think we would have been worse off had we attempted to drive. Our taxi driver took us through some small villages and then across fields and finally hung a left at an apparently random intersection. Not so random after all - a small wooden sign, with letters carved in, showed we were heading towards Harome. I suspect most drivers would miss this and I know in my case would have provided an entertaining barrage of creative language.

The Star Inn is a very quaint pub on the edge of Harome. It has a thatched roof and appropriately low ceilings. Despite Saturday being a hot day, the bar was cool, and we were quite pleased to be able to sit down and have a drink prior to inspecting the menu. I had a glass of Chapel Down sparkling rose, all the way from Kent. I think this is the first English wine I've tasted and I was very pleasantly surprised. The silly pink theme was to continue with the wine - the choice of Charles Melton's Rose of Virginia was made before I'd even looked at the menu!

Actually - that's not quite accurate, as the Star's "Late Summer Luncheon Menu" is available through the website so I had a reasonably good idea of what was on offer. Despite umming and aahing about the grilled black pudding with pan fried foie gras (too predictable a choice for me), the ham terrine (I was put off by the idea of spiced pineapple pickle) or the plate of home cured meats (again, the threat of pickles ...) I opted for the novel sounding fresh horseradish risotto with truffles, pan fried girolles and lovage.

The risotto was absolutely fantastic. OK - the shaved truffles on top were maybe a little superfluous - but the girolles were lovely, the risotto was a good, dense, creamy consistency, the horseradish and lovage gorgeously tangy. The horrors of the train ride to Malton were worth it. No questions. I ate the risotto slowly and savoured every last mouthful.

Actually, I did let Andy have one of those mouthfuls in exchange for a taste of his wonderful ham terrine. The terrine consisted of large chunks of sweet, tender ham and was also delicious. Even the (to my mind) highly suspect spiced pineapple pickle was tasty! Much lipsmacking ensued, although Andy was tempted to say that he thought he had enjoyed a game terrine (eaten a year earlier at a different pub) more. I'm not entirely sure it's fair to compare a game and a ham terrine. In terms of ham terrines that at the Star Inn is a stunner.

We moved on to the main courses - pan fried rump with shallot butter, blue Wensleydale salad and Waldorf vinaigrette for me and, from the specials board, roast lamb stuffed with black pudding and served with white asparagus for Andy.

My piece of rump was huge and perfectly cooked. I don't think you can go wrong with butter on steak, and the butter, steaky juices all ran through into my salad, making the Wensleydale and vinaigrette combination even richer. Presented with such a huge plate of food, I had to prioritise - and so made the steak my priority. I very rarely leave food on my plate - but in this instance I was utterly defeated. Having eaten what felt like half a cow I made a somewhat half hearted attempt on the salad, before realising that the additional salad and vegetables that had been brought to the table had been barely touched. Somehow, I managed to fit in half a potato - they were small, glossy, fluffy and delicious.

Andy made a far better attempt at his lamb - in fact, he polished it all off without any problems. He wasn't sure about the black pudding stuffing - he felt it had disintegrated somewhat, but also commented that it did a fantastic job of enriching the gravy. The spears of white asparagus were generous, fat little rods that disappeared before I got near them. With some space spare Andy also enjoyed the potatoes and the side salad of apple, beetroot and greens.

Needless to say, after all this - we were very full - so we opted out of dessert and retired to the bar with the remainder of our bottle of wine.

As you may have gathered - the Star Inn is worth the effort for the food. The chef, Andrew Pern, can clearly put together a very creative and diverse menu, and make it work. Everything is very reasonably priced - we came away have spent around £90 - and I think you would be hard pushed not to find dishes to suit most people. Simple to novel - all catered for and very well executed.

Service wise - I was not quite so enamoured. While we did have one main waiter who dealt with us throughout our meal, we were also served by a couple of 'random others'. I don't think that additional cutlery should be brought to the table without knowing where it's going - and I especially think this when it comes to the food. Our main courses were delivered while I was in the bathroom (please, NO!) and the waiter didn't know who was eating what. I am also going to complain about the speed of the service - our two courses were over and done with in about an hour! No wonder there was no room for dessert! With food being served that quickly the art of conversation will die out!

But still, there's that whole thing about the horseradish risotto ...

The Star Inn, Harome, near Helmsley, North Yorkshire, YO62 5JE, phone: 01439 770 397
Two courses and drinks for 2 cost around £90. Bookings are required for the small restaurant, although bar meals are also available without reservation.
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