Thursday, November 30, 2006

Lime Tart

Sat 18 Nov 2006

And finally, the denouement of our slap up dinner. You might think that after our carrot soup and our steak with macaroni cheese we would be full, and you would be right. But being full has never been an impediment to eating, so we ploughed on, valiantly, and ate some creamy lime tart, as featured in the Australian Gourmet Traveller from November 2002. There were complaints from some quarters, as Housemate rather thought it should have been lemon meringue pie. But I was far too lazy for that.

The recipe was for a 28cm tart tin, whereas mine is only 23cm, and I couldn't track down a larger one (that, and I'm under strict instructions not to add to kitchen clutter). So I had a bit of a play with the pastry so that I had about the right amount. Into the Magimix went 150g plain flour and 75g of cold, unsalted butter. Chop it all up. I then added 1tbsp of icing sugar, 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract and one egg yolk. Whizzy up and add cold water as required (as usual, be careful not to add too much). When it is just coming together, make it into a ball, wrap in cling film and refrigerate.

Now, after quite a while of pastry very definitely not behaving itself, I really recommend leaving the pasty to chill for quite a while. Because of the order in which I did things, it got a good long rest in the fridge and rolled out really well. And stayed in one piece, lifted off the bench nicely, etc etc. So don't be lazy or in a rush on this part. Make the pastry and leave it.

I made the quantity of filling specified by the recipe - so I had some left over. The leftovers were poured into ramekins and baked. Because the filling is rich (and this is coming from me - I don't say that lightly) opt for smaller rather than larger ramekins ... you could end up making yourself feel a little ill.

To make the filling you need some grated lime rind. The recipe says 1 tsp - I used the rind of a whole lime, but that depends on how limey you like things. You also need 3/4 cup of lime juice. The recipe says this is about 4-5 limes. I was just on the edge with 5 limes, and ended up adding all the pith that was left on the squeezer as well. I'd be generous in how many limes you have available to use. To the lime juice and rind, add 165g of caster sugar and 1/2 cup of cream (double). Whizzy this all up together (this time, it wasn't the Magimix but part of the Braun stab mixer - if you don't have a stab mixer - you really should). Then add 1 tsp of vanilla extract and 5 eggs, one at a time. Make sure it's all well combined.

If you're not being lazy, by this point you should have baked your pasty case blind and let it cool. I actually did this this time. Have the oven preheated to 200C and line your tart tin, first with pastry, then with baking paper and then with baking beans. Bake for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 180C and bake for a further 10 minutes, without the beans and paper.

When ready to go, pour the lime mixture into the tart case and bake at 180C for 20-25 minutes. The filling should just be set and going golden.

Serve warm or at room temperature. The original wine recommendation to go with this is Horrocks Cordon Cut Riesling from the Clare Valley. Having had this wine, I'm not entirely sure it would be a perfect match, but I also can't think of a suitable suggestion. I just think the lime might be a little aggressive. Perhaps matching the citrus with the citrus found in a botrytised semillon might be good ... or even going for something like a ratafia or a pedro ximenez.

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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Cafe Guru

Fri 24 Nov 2006

Right back at the beginning of the month, we noted that John Longden had dropped into Cafe Guru in Brewery Wharf. And now we've finally got around to making it our turn!

Cafe Guru is opposite Oracle and is the latest incarnation of the original Cafe Guru in Chapel Allerton (now gone). It's a very different feel to that restaurant: it's a lot larger and has floor to ceiling windows - so in summer you can keep your eye on what else is going on around the area.

The first thing I noticed on Friday night was how unbelievably noisy the restaurant is. It's all hard surfaces (floor, windows, furnishings), and there is nothing to soak up the clatter and chatter. I was also struck by how comparatively empty the restaurant was. At about 8:30 on a Friday night I'd expect a restaurant like this to be packed.

We started off with a couple of Cobra beers (only small ones) and the compulsory poppadoms and pickles. The selection was small (only three, including mint chutney) but as the mint chutney was very good, I was prepared to overlook the lack of lime pickle (the others were mango and onion). As we were there quite late we overlooked starters and headed straight for the main courses.

I opted for a lamb turka. This is a curry of onions, ginger, citrus ... it's described on the menu as being very light, which isn't how I would describe it. The sauce was quite thick and very, very tasty, and really rather rich. I really enjoyed the dish, and it was quite different from your standard curry house curry. The portion was a good size, and it wasn't overly oily. At £7.90 it isn't going to win a prize for the cheapest curry in Leeds, but comes in at the OK value pricepoint.

I ordered a paratha to go with it - and I'm pleased to say that the parathas at Shabab remain king! Both Andy and I agreed that the Cafe Guru paratha was better than that at Darbar.

Disappointment of the evening, unfortunately, belonged to Andy, who ordered one of the 'specialities'. He chose 'badshah jhinga', described on the menu as king prawns in a chickpea batter with a tangy sweet chilli sauce. The serving looked tiny when it arrived at the table and he was quite disappointed as the sauce was more sweet and sour than 'tangy sweet chilli'. At £12.90 this is an expensive dish which neither of us felt lived up to its price tag or its description.

We also had a side order of dahl and one of rice. The dahl was very good, although I am tempted to put it a very close third to the Darbar's dahl (with Shabab's dahl makhni still miles out in front).

After drinks, the total bill came to almost £50. This was for 2 poppadoms, pickles, 5 (small) beers, 2 main courses, dahl, rice and bread. I really think that this is a bit expensive for a curry - especially when you compare it with the £30-odd spent at Darbar the week before, which left us feeling truly stuffed.

I also found the service a little bit distracted and impersonal. At one stage we were served by a waiter who was actually looking in a completely different direction while speaking to us! A couple of times we had trouble attracting attention - which is not a great sign as the restaurant clearly was not operating at full capacity.

One very cool aspect of the restaurant is the toilets! The sinks have very funky taps, which have a glass plate in the flow, to ensure that you don't get splashed and that you get an even distribution of water.

On reflection, I think that Cafe Guru is a good venue for groups. It's stylish and, depending on your choice of dish, the food can be interesting and not bad value - but it can also be expensive. It is quite noisy, so a large group adding to the noise will not be intrusive. I very definitely don't think that it's good date material, as you could end up feeling that it's too difficult to talk above the noise. And obviously, it's no good for ear-wigging on your neighbours' conversations!

1. Cafe Guru, 6 Brewery Pl, Leeds LS10 1NE, phone: 0113 2442255
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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Mac Cheese

Sat 18 Nov 2006

A while back I started writing about our latest big feed ... at least we didn't have to wait a week and a bit in between the carrot and almond soup and the second course!

Main was steak with roast veggies and ... macaroni cheese. Oooo, Andy was unhappy ('it's just wrong'), Jenny was thrilled and I was ... well, aside from cooking it ... ambivalent. If I've ever had mac cheese before I don't remember it ...

Of course, at Eating Leeds, we're not just having mac cheese - we're using Neil Perry's recipe for mac cheese, which can be found in the November issue of Australian Gourmet Traveller.

Because we were eating this as a side dish I did muck around with quantities somewhat.

First off, I cooked approximately 150g of macaroni in the usual fashion (salted water on a rocking boil), and then drained it. I forgot to refresh it with cold water (had a glass of cava to attend to instead), but even though the pasta stuck together at this stage it wasn't an issue. It separated relatively easily by hand, and by the time it got to combinining it with the other ingredients it came apart easily.

To make the sauce I diced a couple of rashers of bacon and fried them up, before setting aside on some draining paper. A quick wipe out of the pan, before adding 200mL of cream which I brought up to the boil, before adding 100g of Leerdammer (I know! - it was the only soft, sort of European style cheese the supermarket had that wasn't riddled with E-numbers - the recipe calls for gruyere) that I'd chopped finely, 50g of grated cheddar and a clove of crushed garlic. I turned the heat down and stirred it all until it was melted together. I then stirred in a good heaped teaspoon-ful of Dijon mustard and a dash of paprika and then tipped in the macaroni and the bacon. Stir well, until thick and melthy and eat as little as possible as you go. Finally, a quick sprinkle of parsley, before putting it into a baking dish and topping with a generous portion of dried breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese.

Bake for 10-15 minutes at 200C and serve.

And yes, it is wrong ... but so very, very good! Wash down with a good red - in our case a 2001 Convento Barolo. Mmmmmm!

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Monday, November 27, 2006

Combinations 8: Lamb Stew

Sun 26 Nov 2006

We missed out on last month's Combinations (damn holidays!), but we've just managed to sneak in this month. The task at hand was to find a wine that would go with a lamb stew. Now, my original idea was a cab sav (maybe a cab sav/merlot blend) - something with a bit of fruit, a bit of body and not too tannic. Because my understanding of European wine is so slender, and because I want to learn, I always trundle off to the wine shop and ask their opinion. In this case, I think it backfired.

The first wine suggested was shiraz. I was surprised by this, especially when it was followed with the logic that it was because it wasn't too tannic. Try telling that to most (South) Australians! After a bit of too-ing and fro-ing I was persuaded to opt for a Roger Sabon Chapelle de Maillac Lirac (2005, we paid £11.99). Apparently Lirac is south Rhone and it was sold to me as a shiraz. Research subsequently suggests that this is not quite the case - the Roger Sabon site says the wine is 80% grenache - a grape that both the wine shop man and I agreed was not the way forward.

On to making the stew. We bought a nice big piece of lamb shoulder from the butcher and had intended to marinate it overnight but ran out of time in a very action packed Saturday. So, I studded the lamb with pieces of garlic, as well as applying a marinade made from garlic, rosemary, peppercorns and salt (thanks to Andy for providing the man power for the mortar and pestle). Due to time constraints it was only left to marinate for about half an hour while I prepped the vegetables. A couple of carrots and a huge parsnip were peeled and quartered, and a good handful of shallots were peeled.

Having heated some oil in the casserole dish, I rubbed the marinade off the lamb and quickly browned it. Then, lamb out of the pan, added the marinade and fried it off, before adding the vegetables and giving them a good coat in the marinade and allowing them to soften a little, before adding a spoonful of plain flour and giving that a bit of a cook too.

I returned the lamb to the pan and then covered it with lamb stock and tipped in some (sorry, that's as good as the measurement gets) puy lentils. The original recipe said to use a tin of green lentils. I don't like green lentils and I was a bit confused by the whole tin thing so I just ignored that bit of the recipe.

Anyway, this mix went into a 180C oven for a good couple of hours. I turned it over a couple of times, stirred it around a bit and added some more lentils. And then it was ready to eat! Decorated with a couple of bits of mint!

The recipe, bizarrely, said to add some redcurrant jelly. Well, we did this and I thought it was a complete waste of time. You really don't need the extra sweetness and the jelly proved to be quite tricky to stir in and get to melt.

The lamb was absolutely delicious - the parsnips and shallots had melted into the lentils to make an amazing thick, rich gravy. The lamb was moist and tender and the carrots had held together. It was really tasty!

The wine was poorly matched. In combination with the lentils it came across as incredibly dry and quite thin. When eaten with the lamb it was a bit better, but it was when the wine was drunk by itself that it really shone. It was such a shame, because it was a good wine to drink - just not with the rich gravy and meat.

Next time, I am really going to have to do more research and follow my gut instinct!

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Thursday, November 23, 2006


Fri 17 Nov 2006

Last week was a long week, and despite exhortations for Australia stories we can't ignore the fact that we're back in sunny (not) England and still eating! And so we ended up in Darbar, on Kirkgate, as an experimental deviation from our standard devotion to Shabab. So experimental in fact that we wandered down with the caveat that if it was too expensive we would just go to Shabab instead!

Darbar is a very opulent Asian restaurant. The door is a big heavy glass number, and you wander upstairs, before sitting and inspecting the menu in the bar area. While you read the menu (and make a start on your 660 mL Cobra beers) your table is prepared - so that when you are seated you can start munching on the poppadoms and pickles straight away. That's while you're not gawping at the very elaborate interior decoration! Darbar means 'king's court' - something that was taken seriously when the decorating was done.

I have a tendency to judge an Asian restaurant by the quality of its mint chutney, followed very closely by that of its lime pickle. While Darbar didn't provide a typical lime pickle both the mint chutney and the mixed chilli pickle substitute were very good. The serving of poppadoms was generous and we munched away happily while continuing to read the menu.

As I almost always over-order in Asian restaurants I also try not to order starters, but on this occasion I allowed Andy to overrule (but, can we share? please?) and we opted for a mixed plate: onion bhaji (good), samosa (good), pakoras (good) and a sort of spring roll thing (not so good - I've subsequently identified it as, I think, a chicken roll - we both thought it a bit pointless). What was a bit odd (verging on off-putting) is that the frying for the starters appears to be done at the rear of the restaurant, and it did mean that every now and then you got a rather strong ... well, ... hot oil smell. The portion was a good size for two people - easily enough to share.

The wait for main courses was a little longer than in many restaurants, which I think is no bad thing. I LOATHE having my starter plates taken away and my main course presented within a whisker of each other, so I was happy to have the opportunity for some conversation.

For main courses, Andy opted for the murgh lahori - quite a mix of things, but principally a chicken curry with a tomato and yoghurt based sauce. I went for the mixed dal, and we ordered a pilau rice and a paratha.

Opinion was divided on the murgh lahori. Andy really liked it and I wasn't so sure. The menu does say that it has a very full taste, and, while quite sweet, it also has quite a sour finish. While tasty I'm not sure I could have eaten a whole serve myself. So it was fortunate that I really enjoyed the dal and cheerfully scoffed that, while helping myself to the rice and paratha.

The paratha was probably the only disappointment of the meal. The wholemeal flour seemed to have absorbed a bit too much oil, so it felt and tasted a bit heavy and stodgy. I think it could perhaps also have done with a little (more, perhaps) salt.

After all of this, we were too full to consider dessert (aren't you always after a curry?), but we were presented with a plate of fruit, so I finished off with an orange (rather inelegantly, I have to say) and Andy ate a plum.

And the damage? It worked out at a whole £32. I think this is something of a bargain for a lot of curry, 3 large beers and complimentary fruit. Apart from the chicken roll and the paratha the food was very good and the service was a lot better than you'll find at a lot of restaurants which charge considerably more. At all times the service was attentive but unobtrusive and the staff were helpful and efficient. I don't think you can really ask for much more!

I know everyone in Leeds will have their favourite curry restaurant, but if you do fancy a change - then don't be afraid to visit the King's Court.

Darbar, 16-17 Kirkgate, Leeds, LS1 6BY, phone: 0113 246 0381
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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

A Cautionary Tale

Well, we've had a complaint about the paucity of Australian holiday food stories, so while I could tell you all about my Friday night curry at Darbar in Leeds, or my gourmet macaroni cheese, or even my creamy lime tart, I shall instead provide you with a cautionary tale.

My interest in wine took off at university. I moved quickly from the very cheap nasty beer, to the tasty beer and then on to serious business of drinking wine. Given that I grew up in Adelaide, within a stone's throw of McLaren Vale, the Barossa Valley and the Clare Valley, I guess that's not surprising.

My friends and I spent long weekends in wine country: tasting a lot of wine, buying as much as student budgets would allow (thank goodness for part time jobs in department stores), and then eating and drinking our way through lots of fantastic food and wine.

And so began my cellar. And once you start a cellar, it grows and grows. You discover wine auctions, you discover excellent wine shops, you read wine magazines and then you start work, so hoarding a few bottles turns into a full scale operation.

All well and good. I'm the type of person who has everything catalogued, I knew when things should be drunk and I knew which wines were special. The main problem here being that almost all wines are special when purchased in the company of good friends on lazy holidays.

And then I came to England, so all my lovely wine has been languishing in my parents' cellar, and pretty much everyone is too terrified to drink it.

This means that every trip home turns into a bit of a mission to drink at least some of the cellar.

It's time to admit that it's not holding up that well, and a lot of good wine is going to waste.

So what did we drink and how did it fare?

Well, first out of the block was really quite a disappointment. It was a 1992 Bethany chardonnay brut (sparkling, from the Barossa Valley - I think I bought it at the winery, which is incredibly pretty). It was an incredible golden (not brown) colour - the depth of which did set off a few alarm bells, which were allayed by a great biscuity-yeasty nose. There was a bit of citrus and honey on the palate but it was very subtle and the wine had lost its depth. If I were being kind I'd say we caught it just in time - not 'just in time to appreciate it' but 'just in time for it not to be completely wrecked'. Sigh.

The next session saw us sit down to a 1996 Kumeu River chardonnary (bought for around $AU45 in a wine shop) and a 1995 Turkey Flat semillon (bought at the winery on one of my very first forays for about $AU10). The Kumeu River was, basically, bloody expensive vinegar. We tried a few tricks with it - decanted it, whisked it and then left it to sit - and then drank it. What a waste.

Interestingly, the much cheaper and slightly older Turkey Flat was actually OK. It was, without a doubt, past it, but it was nowhere near the Kumeu River and was actually quite drinkable.

The next session saw us sit down to a 1994 Leo Buring Leonay riesling - I bought three bottles of this at auction. This restored my faith in cellared wines! A gorgeous flinty, mineral-like nose, sound acid and citrus on the palate - drinking well! On a roll, we moved on to a 1996 Evans & Tate Margaret River Merlot, which was a 26th birthday present. This wine had lost a lot of its fruit but still had a good palate structure and was more than drinkable. Nervous that we were pushing our luck, we opened a 1996 Leasingham Reserve Shiraz - also drinking very well. If you have one of these - drink it now!

Quite a disappointment was a 1994 Orlando St Hugo shiraz (a Christmas present from my grandma - I desperately wanted this to be good), which was a very thin, worn wine.

But two wines which were drinking well were a 1998 Howard Park riesling (a present from a friend), and, most especially a Charles Melton 1994 Nine Popes.

Of all the stories behind my wines, this is probably my favourite. I bought this wine, a whole MAGNUM, at auction. It was mis-listed as a normal bottle, so all the interstate bids cut out very early on. It was one of the first wines in the auction and I knew I had a good chance when I heard other people pointing at it ... and saying ... 'oooo, that's a big bottle'. If my memory serves me correctly, it cost me about $AU45, which would have been just slightly over the odds for a 750mL bottle. We decanted it and drank it with roast pork, sitting in the last bit of sunshine before heading back to the UK.

Maybe now I have finally learnt ... no matter how special a wine, no matter how great (or simple) the story behind its acquisition you need to drink it and not cellar it in awe. A wine which will drink well 5 years after bottling will not necessarily drink well 10 years after - no matter how good your cellar is. Be sensible - drink it after four years. Celebrate small moments with good wines - because nothing will be more heartbreaking than sitting on a wine and waiting for a moment that's special enough ... when that special enough moment arrives you could be celebrating it with vinegar.

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Sunday, November 19, 2006

Carrot and Almond Soup

Sat 18 Nov 2006

Time for a big cook up in the flat - if we needed an excuse, it was housemate's almost birthday and one month ... and she felt like some steak. Of course, I can't just cook steak - the meal has to be the full three courses, with plenty of wine to wash it all down.

First course ended up being a recipe I spotted recently on Arts Culinaires: carrot and almond soup. It was a happy coincidence, because Slashfood is also having a nut celebration and I thought this would be something a bit different.

The lazy cook part of me loves soups, because you just welly everything in a pan and maybe you do, maybe you don't, apply the stab mixer at the end. They're pretty hard to stuff up and they're healthy too!

So - to make carrot and almond soup heat some olive oil in a pot and add half a large onion, coarsely chopped. Allow the onion to soften and turn translucent and then add loads of chopped carrot. I used 4 rather huge carrots, which I'd peeled (they weren't organic). Stir this around and add two cloves of garlic - peeled and given a good whack with the knife. Finally add some stock of your choice and cover the soup, cooking it very slowly until the carrots are done.

When you are finally ready to whizz, add 2 tablespoons of ground almonds, and then puree. The almonds do an excellent job of helping to thicken the mix, and because the garlic has been cooked so gently, the soup will smell very fragrant. Serve dressed with a little chopped parsley.

The original recipe suggests stirring in a little soy sauce - but I passed on this. I was worried it would destroy the pretty orange colour and make the soup too salty (I used a stock cube).

We all decided it would have been an unnecessary addition. There was loads of flavour from the garlic and carrot. The almonds didn't contribute an identifiable taste or texture, although they definitely acted as a thickening agent. I think they also served to enhance the sweetness of the carrot.

Very importantly - the soup was served with the pepper grinder on the table, and a bottle of Selaks Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.

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Monday, November 13, 2006


Thurs 9 Nov 2006

All my plans to eat healthily until Christmas have pretty much come to nowt, as I've been scoffing my way through cakes, biscuits, chocolates, pies, pizzas and so on. Bravely, I'd announced that Baking Tuesday would be on hold until 2007 ... my housemate's face fell, and I held out for a whole week and 2 days!

Yet again, it was Dan Lepard's fault ... the recipe for jammy gingerbread, which appeared in a Saturday Guardian, was just too tempting ...

Since this recipe contains both oats and wholemeal flour, it is also ostensibly healthy!

As usual, both recipe and method modified a little ...

Preheat oven to 180C.

Take 75g of unsalted butter and process with 125g of muscovado sugar and 100g of jam. I used raspberry jam, which I don't recommend unless you choose a jam without the pips in it. While the Magimix did a pretty good job of destroying most of them, every now and then the cake-y experience was spoiled by a rogue raspberry pip! Process until smooth and creamy and then add 1 egg and process until light, then add 1 tsp of allspice and 1 tsp of ground ginger.

Take 100g of fine oatmeal (or, 100g of rolled oats which you blitz until fine) and 100g of wholemeal flour, and add in 1 tsp of baking powder. Add this to the processor and follow with 150 mL of milk mixed with 100g of plain yoghurt. If you dump all the flour in at once, before adding the liquid then it will be quite stiff, so I did the oats first, then the milk, then the wholemeal flour, then the yoghurt. I'm sure the Magimix would have coped just fine if I'd just dumped it all in ...

I lined my roasting tin with tin foil and poured the cake mixture in, and into the oven. The mixture was very pale and really quite thin, so I was actually a little worried. The original recipe says to bake for 55-60 minutes. However, after about half an hour the kitchen was smelling good, and on inspection the cake was cooked. I used a slightly larger tin than the recipe specifies, so (as always) you really need to use your judgement. As long as that's NOT how hungry your housemate happens to be!!!

As soon as the cake was removed from the oven I dredged (very) generously with golden caster sugar and let it sit.

The first taste test came shortly afterwards. The cake, still warm, was served with cream and it was very good.

Subsequent taste tests took place on the weekend. Because of the jam, the cake stays nice and moist, and a bit of time allows the sugar to soak in, making it super sticky and rich. It's not a big ginger flavour, but you could beef up the spiciness by adding a pinch of cloves. I actually think a dash of cocoa wouldn't go astray either ... Regardless, the cake itself is very light and was a big hit!

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Wednesday, November 08, 2006


Fri 13 Oct 2006

As tasty as the Korean Air food was it was also fantastic to hit Sydney and eat some 'proper' food!

There'd been a bit of discussion about where we'd go for dinner. As I was catching up with some university friends who live in Sydney the emphasis was very much on 'conviviality'. We did actually toy with the idea of going to Tetsuya's. However, the meal coordinator suggested against it, saying that he personally thought it was overpriced and not quite relaxed enough.

So we ended up at Rengaya, a yakiniku restaurant in north Sydney. Something that very definitely isn't on the tourist trail! Since we were there with two Japanese people and two Japanophiles we didn't even have to entertain the thought of looking at the menu. Amidst the flurry of Japanese that went into the ordering process, we just settled back with our Asahis and waited for the food to arrive.

And when it did arrive, it came in something of a deluge! We started with large plates of sashimi: salmon, kingfish, squid and, of course, tuna. I was informed that the wasabi at Rengaya is the real deal: freshly grated rather than reconstituted from dried. We only received a tiny amount (when divided by six) with the sashimi and we at least tripled the order, so our fish experience was replete with the nose-tingling associated with a good mustardy hit.

Fish devoured we then moved on to the beef. Not just beef but F-1 Black Wagyu. Rengaya is a restaurant which takes its beef VERY seriously - to the extent that even in the ladies' loo there is a poster with a description of F-1 Black Wagyu, and a cow with all the different cuts shown. Wagyu beef comes from cows which are treated EXTREMELY well and is possibly one of the best adverts available for animal welfare in farming.

When you order your beef you order different cuts. I wasn't involved in the ordering process, content just to let the huge plates of beef arrive at the table, the wafer thin slices ready to be cooked on the table top grills. Even though I didn't know which cut of beef I was eating two things were amazing. First, the difference in marbling between different parts of the cow was quite noticeable. This isn't something I normally get to appreciate, as I am normally sitting down to a piece of rump/sirloin/fillet, rather than a whole smorgasbord of beef. Secondly, this beef is so rich, fatty and luscious that even the tiny slices that were really solidly BBQed on our table were still incredibly moist and tasty.

It seemed like plate after plate of beef arrived, and we just ate and ate and ate. It was absolutely incredible and delicious. And has quite possibly shot to the top of my last meal on earth list. I'm not sure I can do justice to the experience. It was brilliant - and if you've never eaten really excellent, solidly marbled, dripping with fat, tender beef - I recommend you seek some out now! I've had wagyu before: usually 'just' as a piece of it, where it makes exceptionally good eating, but doesn't create a whole new experience.

After the sheer gluttony of the main courses, we couldn't even face considering dessert without a little break. By the time we did order dessert, I conceded defeat. That is, until one of our party ordered black sesame seed ice cream. And so I had to have a little taste. And then I had a little taste of the green tea ice cream. And then I ate half of the black sesame seed ice cream.

Now, the person who ordered the black sesame seed ice cream has a rich history of people eating his dessert, so when he wandered off to inspect the sake collection, dessert untouched and unguarded, did he really expect it to remain in tact? Black sesame seed ice cream is, as I found out, delicious, and as soon as I can convince my housemate that extra kitchen equipment is a good idea, I shall make some and see what happens.

While I was eating someone else's dessert, the dessert's owner was busy ordering some sake. We'd been drinking Asahi and warm sake throughout the meal, but now, with our palates jaded by excessive food and alcohol, it was a good idea to order some premium (well, more expensive at least) cold sake. The chosen one was Kubota - and even at that stage of the evening you could tell that it was in a different league from the warm sake. Although, I do think that, at some stage, a structured sake tasting would be an excellent idea.

We rolled out of the restaurant after about 5 hours - totally full, sated and satisfied. And our wallets were only around $AU100 per head lighter. For those of us used to dining in the UK, this was a ludicrous bargain - even though one of our hosts expressed surprise. On a more moderate evening one can get away with spending between $75 and $80 per head!

1. Rengaya, 73 Miller Street, North Sydney, NSW, 2060, phone 02 9929 6169.
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Monday, November 06, 2006

Market Game

Sun 05 Nov 2006

First Sunday of the month means first farmers' market of the month ... but after a holiday, would we still be any good at cooking?! After the success of the partridge we went for more game ... this time in the shape of quail. The recipe was found in the latest Australian Gourmet Traveller, but was a reader request from the Brisbane restaurant, ecco.

This was quite a fiddly dish to assemble, but quail is fantastically quick to cook, and lots of this could easily be done in advance.

We started off by making the sauce, with the recipe carefully adjusted for two (rather than the original six). Coarsely chop a quarter of an onion and gently saute with one chopped clove of garlic. Add a small handful of porcini and a sprinkling of black peppercorns and cook for a bit longer. Then add a good splash of sherry (we used amontillado and it smelled absolutely amazing!) and reduce a little before adding about 100mL of stock. Reduce further and then add about 200mL of single cream, before reducing again. Finish off with a little tarragon (ideally fresh, but we had to make do with dried). Allow the sauce to cool before straining. When you come to reheat DO NOT be tempted (like me) to use the microwave. You really do need to reheat this on the stove - gently. Nuking the sauce made it separate and I should have thought to be a little more careful with cream.

Next butterfly the quail (a brilliant excuse to acquire a pair of kitchen shears - I just need to manage a similar trick with, at least, an ice cream maker and a sandwich press!). Because quail are small you just need to cut them along the breast bone and they open up nicely. Our quails weren't gutted, so we cleaned them out and gave them a rinse before patting dry.

Heat some oil in a pan - get it good and hot and add the quail, skin side down. We didn't season the quail and I definitely would make the effort to do so. Brown for about 5 minutes. In the interim, have the roasting pan, with a splash of olive oil, heating in a good hot oven. Add the quail to the roasting pan, skin side up, and cook for about 5 or 10 minutes, before removing from the oven and resting, covered in foil, for a further 5 minutes.

We served the quail with tagliatelle, and roasted potatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes and turnips. And we washed it down with 2001 La Grola Allegrini. This Italian red was a delicious soft wine with good tannin structure - maybe a little heavy for the dish (the richness of the cream sauce probably could have done with something a little higher in acid), but a very clever wine nonetheless.

Oh - and the quail was absolutely delicious cold for lunch today!

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Thursday, November 02, 2006

Airline Food

The recent Eating Leeds holiday began with two very long flights ... all the way to Sydney from Heathrow, via Seoul. This was actually the cause of much excitement - what would Korean airline food be like? Korean restaurants are thin on the ground here in Leeds, so the food on Korean Air would actually be representing Korean cuisine in general!

Everyone seems to have their own way of dealing with airline food ... one friend advised that he always pre-orders the vegetarian meal but then added that it has backfired on several occasions, when the standard meals have looked more appetising. Another friend, a vegetarian, complained at one point that all vegetarian meals on aircraft are just tofu.

My approach is to always choose the meal option which is closest to the national cuisine of the carrier. The rider here is that most of my long haul travel has been between Australia and the rest of the world, so I've usually travelled on airlines based in Asia. My experiences of food on American airlines (Continental, USAirways) have been appalling, and most flights within Europe you don't get a chance to eat (one notable exception being a very tasty Greek salad on a British Airways flight from Edinburgh to Heathrow - perfect airline food too, as not heavy, stodgy or bloaty!).

The first meal choice on Korean Air proved to be 'Korean fried rice' or 'beef'. Easy choice.

The dish was bibimbap. This quite possibly one of the most inspired and airline friendly dishes imaginable. A bowl was filled with a selection of pickles, vegetables and a little fried mince. It was served with a container of steamed rice (piping hot). You mix the rice in with the 'extras' and top with sesame oil and gochujang, to taste.

Now, wikipedia's interpretation of gochujang is a lot more complex than that served on Korean Air. It was served as a little tube of devilishly hot paste: chillis, garlic, sesame oil and rice wine. Anyone who thinks they can handle spicy food would be put to shame by the Koreans, who were cheerfully mixing in the entire tube. Team Eating Leeds was managing a generous single squeeze ...

This meal has so much to recommend it. It doesn't rely on complicated cooking processes and doesn't contain ingredients which are likely to spoil. The diner gets to control how much rice is added to the vegetable mix (handy on a plane when you are likely to feel twice your usual size), and the diner also controls the seasoning. So - unless you slip, you're unlikely to find the meal too spicy.

It also tastes fantastic - which is, after all, most important! In four flights I scoffed my way through the bibimbap at every opportunity.

The side dishes accompanying the bibimbap were always additional pickles, with varying amounts of chilli. Asian pickles are brilliant - always so crunchy and full of flavour - that they make quite a good palate cleanser.

The desserts were a little indifferent. There was one quite nasty 'zesty lemon cake' which I'd venture to suggest hadn't really been near a lemon, a quite odd vanilla cheesecake (sort of) number, a quite acceptable chocolate cake, and two Korean desserts - yaksik (gelatinous red rice, flavoured with peanuts and dried fruit), and rice cakes, which seemed to be filled with something with the same flavours as the yaksik. The Korean desserts left me a little underwhelmed. But then, dessert is probably the course about which I am most picky!

Other meals available included a beef dish, a fish dish (neither of which I tried, but which did get a thumbs up from Andy) and a very tasty pork dish.

Korean Air certainly did a good job of not only feeding their passengers, but also introducing some novices to Korean food.

One final note ... I was disappointed there was no kim chi but I was able to try this during our stopover in Seoul on the way back. Kim chi is rumoured to have a strong smell ... and I guess if you say 'fermented cabbage with chillis' all sorts of odours come to mind. However, the kim chi I tried did not smell at all scary but it was very, very hot. Eaten with other foods however it was delicious and, like gochujang, I feel it wouldn't go astray on a ham and cheese toasted sandwich!
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