Friday, September 29, 2006

Round Up 3

Fri 29 Sept 2006

While I'm a little behind with actual entries (stay tuned for news of the York Festival Food and Drink, Georgetown - a Malaysian restaurant in Leeds, and a plum crumble) I figure it's time for a weekly round up ...

Firstly, BabyCream (restaurant and bar) on the Headrow has closed down ... and is to reopen as Wildcats ... apparently this is going to be a venue which is licensed for 'controlled entertainment' ... who knows what this will be?!

On Monday night the Park Plaza Hotel (on Boar Lane) hosts a tasting of Portuguese wines ... tickets are £7.50 (£5 concession) and are available from wine merchants and the tourist office down by the train station. This is also a charity night, in aid of the Jane Tomlinson Appeal.

Continuing on with the charity theme (sorry, not food related), Tom Keeber will be cycling the Great Wall of China in November to raise money for the Princes Trust.

Back to food - don't forget that the Leeds' farmer's market takes place again this Sunday.

Also, a recent comment raised the question of organic food boxes. While I haven't personally used a box scheme, I know that Low Leases Organic Farm operates a one. Their website is pretty comprehensive, but they are also usually at the farmer's market. As an alternative, Abel & Cole run a box scheme which delivers pretty much UK wide. And ... for a proper search, check out VegBox Schemes. If anyone has any feedback (good or bad!) about a box scheme ... let us know!

And finally, random blog of the week is Kitchen Wench. It's a well organised site with piles and piles of recipes and foodie links!
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Monday, September 25, 2006

Using some Plums

Tues 19 Sept 2006

I happened to be having a read through of Nigel Slater's Kitchen Diaries when I spotted a recipe for a plum cake. Despite loving stone fruit as a rule I've never been a plum eater. I don't know why but there you go. No sooner had I seen this recipe than a colleague offered me a pile of plums from her rather abundant tree. I figured that if I was ever going to start liking plums then a cake was as good a place as any to commence an education ...

I didn't mess with this recipe too much - after all, my experience has been that Nigel Slater's recipes are bang on (if somewhat prosaic in their description). Though I did opt to do it all in the food processor ...

Preheat your oven to 180C and grease and baseline a 22 cm round springform tin.

In the food processor, beat 150g of caster sugar (I used a mix of caster sugar and golden granulated, Slater specifies unrefined golden caster sugar) with 150g of unsalted butter. Beat them together until pale and creamy. Add three eggs and mix well. Then 75g plain flour, mixed with 11/2 tsp of baking powder. Finally mix in 100g of ground almonds and finish off by adding 50g of shelled walnuts which you've coarsely chopped.

Tip this into the cake tin - it will look quite flat but don't worry. Top with good handfuls of stoned, quartered plums. I think I used about 10 but it could have handled a couple more. Just scatter them over evenly and then bake the cake for about 40 minutes. A skewer should just come out clean.

Easy peasy and absolutely delicious!

As an aside, I used quite tart plums, parts of which turned a bright green when the cake was cut!

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Sunday, September 24, 2006

Combinations 6: Partridge and Pinot

Sun 17 Sept 2006

Andrew over at Spittoon is hosting this month's Combinations: the challenge to find a wine to match roast partridge, from Sophie's Country Kitchen, by Sophie Grigson.

I've never cooked partridge before, and wasn't even sure I'd be able to get my hands on two of these little game birds (er, sorry, I mean 'on a brace'!). Of course, in this respect I grossly underestimated the Leeds' farmer's market. Last Sunday no sooner had we entered the market than the first thing we saw was oven ready partridges - a snip at £2.50 a throw.

As a slight digression - the farmer's market is, I think, getting better and better. Last Sunday we could have bought a whole hare (and I mean - a whole hare - head, fur and all), a pile of homemade cupcakes (coffee and walnut - very good) and scoff down an excellent pork butty.

Anyway, partridges duly acquired, we also picked up some streaky bacon (from Burtons of Wilberfoss) and headed off to deal with the little birds.

The recipe is lovely and simple. Preheat oven to 220C. Take your partridges and place in roasting pan (pick one in which they are relatively snug). Into the body cavity tuck a knob of butter and a couple of cubes of apple (we couldn't find grapes), and season the birds. Slice the bacon (in our case, in thirds) and cover the breasts with it. Pour over a good 75mL white rioja, and 50mL of good stock (in our case the very good stock left over from cooking the trotter - it was a pretty busy weekend!). Put in the oven and roast for about 25 minutes. Baste frequently.

Eventually the bacon will be looking far too tasty and crispy to leave in the oven, so take it out, baste the birds again, add some more chopped apple and walnuts, and return them to the oven to brown. Eat the bacon.

Once the birds are browned, remove them from the oven and cover with foil, leaving them to rest. Taste the sauce, and boil to concentrate if necessary. Whisk in another knob of butter. And serve with roast vegetables (in our case, potatoes, carrots, onions and some brussel sprouts).

Obviously - you need something to drink with this ... and we opted for a 2004 Balgownie Pinot Noir (£9.99 from Hoult's down in the Calls) from Victoria's Yarra Valley. This was a really lovely wine, with loads of body, and a good combination of earthy and berry fruit flavours. Unfortunately, it wasn't such a smashing match for the dish. Neither Andy nor I had had any idea that partridge is such a light meat. In my case, having grown up on pigeon I pretty much assume any bird smaller than a chicken is going to be a dark dense meat. But partridge is a sort of sweeter, denser version of chicken. I guess partridges tend not to be pumped full of water! So while the wine was fantastic and the dish was fantastic I think if I cooked this again I'd go for a heavy white - maybe even a chardonnay, for a bit of butter and oak to go with the lovely rich sauce. We had a taste of the white rioja we'd used in cooking the bird, but that really clashed with the partridge (which is a bit weird, as the sauce was great!).

This was a brilliant meal. It would be great to serve at a dinner party (easy to prepare, and simple to serve). Be prepared for a lot of mess, as the birds are served whole (one per person is just fine) and they're soo tasty you really have to dig in and clean up the bones as carefully as possible. And the sauce is really tasty, so you need plenty of roast potatoes to mop it all up.

Ultimately, because it's such a feast, even a wine which isn't a perfect match is still, well, a perfect match. This was one of the most complete and enjoyable meals I've eaten in quite a while. I was a bit slack and left out a pudding - but I was still full at 3pm the next day!

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Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Round Up 2

Tues 19 Sept 2006

A busy weekend ahead for food lovers in Yorkshire ... the York Festival of Food and Drink kicks off on Friday with an action packed week of food related events. We're heading up on Saturday - and hoping to enjoy a bit of a pork pie tasting and wander the real ale trail ...

Newby Hall, near Ripon, hosts a craft and food show over the weekend (22-24 September) - it looks to have a strong focus on regional produce as well as providing a (somewhat early) start to Christmas shopping.

Looking into October and Harrogate will be putting on its eating and drinking hat for The Good Beer and Food Show 2006. On the weekend of the 14-15 October the Great Yorkshire Showground plays host to a range of chefs and tastings. Tickets (£8.50 in advance) are already available.

On the Leeds front ... well, North Bar is hosting an Oktoberfest. Rather incongruously this started on September 16 and runs through to October 3. Regulars might find some of their usual bottled favourites missing but there's plenty of new and interesting beer to try. I sampled the Paulaner Oktoberfest Bier and it was very good (though at 6% slightly more alcoholic than I anticipated).

It looks like some changes are afoot down in the Calls ... the Calls Grill has closed down and is to be reincarnated as River Plate - an Argentinian steak restaurant which "open's on 30 September" (according to the sign on the door) - let's hope their steaks are better than their use of punctuation!!!

Changes have already been made to Reclaim. One of my favourite bars and usually home to a good pint of Paulaner. We were shocked to go in and there be no beer on draft. There was a pretty limited supply of bottled beer. After some umming and aahing I opted for glass of Willowglen I could see open in the fridge. There wasn't enough left for a full glass so I was told I couldn't have it (not entirely sure who else they were going to sell it to) and the only other alternative was sauvignon blanc (love the stuff, bored senseless with it being just about the ONLY white wine you can get anywhere at the moment). So I went thirsty. Given that it was a quiet Saturday afternoon, and that the bar is either under new ownership or management, you would have thought they'd be keen to retain customers (remainder of wine for token cost perhaps?). We were both disappointed.

Also spotted - a new Indian restaurant has opened up just off Kirkstall and Burley Roads. Bengal Brasserie is part of a York based group of restaurants and opened up on 6 September.

Finally - a random blog of the week ... let's go for Dessert First. While this blog probably isn't going to sort you out for a three course meal, I have to say that Anita has her priorities in the right order!
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Monday, September 18, 2006

Trotter No 1

Sat 16 Sept 2006

Nothing winds me up quite so much as people who complain that eating fresh, healthy food is too expensive. I don't know where they shop, but if anyone genuinely thinks that frozen pizza and ready meals are cheaper than 'proper' food I think they need their head read.

Quite often when Andy and I are eating something we end up congratulating ourselves on how cheap the meal was - but I usually manage to omit (boring) fiscal details when I actually write about the food.

However, we have just hit upon a new source of very cheap meat. It's a cut neither of us have cooked before, so we're plunging into the great unknown. We splashed out a whole one pound and bought ourselves 6 (we should have only got 5 but the butcher was obviously feeling generous) pigs' trotters. Pity the pig running around on just two legs ...

At 17p a throw, we figured we could afford some experimentation, so we're only cooking one trotter at a time to experience as many pig-trotter recipes as possible. In this first entry I'll also treat you to lots of pictures!

Our first foray comes from the fabulously named Slurp and Burp. MagicTofu recreated a very tasty looking trotter patty, which he came to via another blog and Thomas Keller.

Although time consuming (as you cook the trotter for over three hours) the path forward was simple ...

Trotter No 1 was removed from the freezer and defrosted in the fridge overnight. The foot was then put in the sink with some lightly salted water and given a bit of a soak and a bit of a wash (make sure to clean between the toes!).

I then boiled the the trotter in some water for a few minutes. This did the job of clearing a good lot of scum. I gave the trotter a quick rinse, cleaned the saucepan, and started again with cold, fresh water.

To the water I added a carrot, half an onion studded with cloves, some juniper berries, some black pepper corns, some fennel seeds and a couple of bay leaves. This was all brought to the boil and left to simmer for a good 3-3.5 (maybe 4 ...) hours. Obviously - reserve the stock!

After this, the foot was falling apart. It was very easy to skin and pick out the bones (which are mostly very large - I was quite surprised). It's a very sticky, messy process (and obviously not for those who like to pretend their food doesn't come from animals). I was also surprised by how much meat/fat/tendon/etc came from the one foot. The suggestion was to use the skin in the ratio 100:50 (meat:skin) - this pretty much meant using all the skin from the foot in our case. I just chopped it all up and minced it finely. I then mixed in a couple of teaspoons of Dijon mustard (smooth, not grainy) and some very finely minced onion (which I'd sweated down). I rolled this mixture into a log, wrapped it in tin foil and put it in the freezer.

To reward myself for this effort ... time for an aperitif which came from a bottle of 2001 Pelorus sparkling wine from New Zealand. At £17 a bottle it's a bit cheaper than many champagnes and just as good too ... mmm ...

We also assembled a very basic tomato coulis - onion, a little garlic and fresh tomatoes all cooked up and then blitzed. Andy put together some couscous (equal amounts of couscous and boiling water, mixed, left to sit, with finely chopped red onion and green chilli added, drizzled with olive oil and put in the oven).

Because the trotter meat is so fatty and gelatinous it didn't take long for the log to harden up. I dusted my knife in flour and cut patties from the log. A pan was on the stove, with oil heating up.

At this point, all culinary success ceased. What I didn't consider was that the other bloggers (and Mr Keller) had all used metal rings. Fat and gelatinous things tend to melt when put in contact with very hot things. Those rings were probably to maintain some shape ... whereas within minutes of my patties hitting the pan they collapsed!

Anyway, since this was dinner there was no option but to perservere. So, we decided just to fry it all up, spoon it onto the couscous and top with the tomato coulis. In a rather inspired moment somewhat earlier I'd also made a red onion, apple and lime juice salsa. That sat on the side. And we drank Turckheim 2005 Pinot Grigio.

So - while this ended up not being very pretty on the plate, it tasted absolutely fantastic. The salsa and couscous both went really well with the deconstructed patty, the patty itself was rich and very tasty. We probably could have taken a bit more care over the coulis.

The wine was a fantastic match. While it was had a very floral bouquet it was a lovely dry wine with just the right amount of acidity to cut through the fat of the trotter. Andy, who's normally a little lukewarm about white wine, was positively enthusiastic. And given that as a rule I steer clear of pinto grigio the fact that I enjoyed it too speaks volumes!
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Saturday, September 16, 2006

Cocoanut Biscuits

Tues 12 Sept 2006

Yes, you read correctly - and no, there's not a spelling mistake.

The relative unsuccess of the first experiment from A Handbook for Bakers hadn't put me off, and I moved onto the second recipe in the book. These biscuits are a combination of cocoa and coconut (hence the spelling) and sounded promising.

After the usual rejigging of the commercial quantities and trying to take into account what I'd learnt from the spice drops (I didn't really want a mini-sort-of-hard-but-still-cakey-is-it-a-biscuit-or-overdone-small-cake-thing experience again!) this is what I came up with.

Preheat oven to 180C.

Take 100g caster sugar and mix with 50g of butter until smooth and pale. Add 1 egg and mix. Now add 150g plain flour (this was more like 125g in my case because - shock! - the plain flour ran out!), 1tsp cinnamon, 1tbsp cocoa, 50g dessicated coconut and 1 tsp vanilla extract. Mix it all together well.

The original recipe also called for milk - however, because I couldn't use part of an egg I left the milk out so I could check the consistency of the final mixture. I also omitted baking powder.

The mixture was still more cake batter like in consistency. If I'd had more flour I probably would have added more, but, sadly, that wasn't an option. The mixture tasted great - always very important! I plopped the biscuit mix out onto trays and baked for a good 15-20 minutes.

Almost success ... these biscuits were more ... biscuit like. I still wasn't overly thrilled with the texture of them. I've just been rereading some biscuit recipes and I think that were I to have another go I might omit the egg and opt for milk only - and only just enough to bind the dry ingredients. That way I could make a log and cut the biscuits off it prior to baking.

Anyway, the general consensus was that these biscuits were an improvement on the last lot ... and I've almost convinced myself that I probably really do need a biscuit press!!
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Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Round Up 1

It's been a busy week in Leeds ... I guess that's the excuse for the pauses between entries!

We have been doing a lot of eating ... revisited the excellent dahl makhni at Shabab - but also discovered the very tasty fried paratha ... probably time for a decent review!

At Red Chilli we ventured into new territory, with the chicken with peanuts and peas. I don't even like peas, but it was great! We were a bit disappointed by the prawn crackers though ...

Sunday's sunshine saw us having a roast lunch at the Adelphi - the roast beef was over cooked for me, but frankly, with horseradish, gravy and Yorkshire pudding (not to mention the pint of Budvar) no one was complaining. Their burgers also look good - probably time to try one of them out on a Tuesday night while waiting for the pub quiz!

Washed down the roast with a coffee at The Restaurant in City Square - it was lovely coffee and an almost continental experience - looks like we'll have to fit in a meal there too!

We also sampled Oddbins new own-label white and red. OK - they're only £3.99 a bottle but still not really much chop. The red is pretty tasteless. I guess the white would go OK at a BBQ (if we fit any more of those in!)

It was the inaugural Headingley farmers' market on Saturday morning. It will be running on the second Saturday of the month in the Rose Garden (outside the Arc), on North Lane. The market opened at 9, we got there at 11 - and while the market was packed with people most of the produce had sold out! Personally, I'm really pleased it was so well supported - and I hope I can get out of bed early enough to make the most of the next one!

Bar 88 on Eastgate has closed its doors 'until further notice' - for renovations. We'll have to wait and see what happens, especially given the development uncertainty of that part of town!

On the blogging front, you've got a week or so left to get your entries in for the Combinations event. This month, hosted by Andrew at SpittoonExtra and featuring roast pheasant. Particularly exciting for us, as the Leeds farmers' market is on Sunday morning - that's Sunday dinner planned!!!

And finally ... random blog of the week ... well, with my penchant for baking ... take a look and you can imagine how much of Tartelette I've already tagged!!
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Monday, September 11, 2006

Buffalo Burgers

Sun 3 Sept 2006

The first Sunday of the month means the first Leeds farmers' market of the month, and we usually make an effort to pick up something interesting for our dinner. The problem with Sunday is that it's a pretty lazy day so we try not to pick something outrageously elaborate - so things like crab cakes usually hit the spot.

We hit upon another cracking Sunday dinner with Peak District Water Buffalo burgers. I am not joking.

So - water buffalo - it's lower in fat, lower in cholesterol and higher in protein and calcium - bit of an all round super red meat (apparently) - but is it any good? We didn't dive into this exercise blindfold - the burgers were available to sample and were very tasty - so all that was left to do was source suitable toppings ...

We made our own tomato sauce - heat some oil, dice some onion and sweat it down, add some garlic and chilli, some chopped tomatoes and some red pepper. Cook the sauce so that it thickens.

We also fried up some sliced onion until it was well done and getting black.

The burgers went into a hot griddle pan. A testament to the leanness of the buffalo meat - they only shrank a little!

The tea cakes were split open and we were ready to go ... burger, onion, tomato sauce, lettuce and sliced tomatoes ... that's probably even a healthy burger!

To add to the healthiness of this meal, we opted for some antioxidant full, cholesterol reducing red - 2003 Norman's Lonegum Shiraz Cabernet from South Australia (also available from Oddbins for about £6 a bottle). It was a cracking, full flavoured, jammy complement to the meat - a perfect BBQ red!

While I doubt water buffalo is native to the Peak District it's obviously doing well. While the producers don't have a website you can apparently pick up their products at various farmers' markets as well as from their farm shop. While they're not the cheapest burgers (it was about £3 for 2 6oz burgers - one burger is plenty for one person) they are probably amongst the healthiest and tastiest.

Water Buffalo - Nether Rod Knowle Farm, Eastmoor, Chesterfield, Derbyshire, S42 7DB, tel: 01246 566151

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Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Bradford International Market

Sun 27 Aug 2006

After raving in last week's news roundup about the Bradford International Market Festival, I've left it rather a long time to do a wrap up ... but here goes.

The market was held slap bang in the city centre and I was instantly impressed by how expansive it was. Most of the shops appeared to be closed and the streets were packed full of stalls and pedestrian traffic.

The range of stalls was a bit surreal ... from organic bread from London's Borough Market (you may have heard of it!), to German beer and salami, to sweeties, and - er, all kinds of random stuff that might have looked a bit more at home in Albert Square ...

We did actually exercise a bit of control - and rather than buying one of everything we managed to sample some garlic salami, French goat's cheese with ash rind, and a big quarter of organic sourdough, which came from Flour Power. This was a tiny, tiny fraction of what we could have bought - Morecame Bay potted shrimp? wild boar? more bread and cheese? more salami?

The amount of food available to eat was also impressive - for lunch we had some delicious samosas (2 for a whole £1.70, spicy and not greasy at all) and some venison and stuffing pies - washed down with a pint of Paulaner in the sunshine. A perfect way to round off summer!

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