Sunday, October 28, 2007

Colombo Pork Loin Curry

Sun 28 Oct 2007

Our trip to Germany last weekend meant that we're a week behind schedule with the sample recipe from the Observer Food Monthly. Today, Andy got to choose the recipe and cook it. He had wanted to make a curry during the week, but there had been no time, so it was no surprise when he chose the Colombo pork loin curry, from Babette de Rozières' new book, Creole.

If you've cut your curry making teeth on the long, slow curries of the subcontinent, this recipe is quite a change. It's more like a stirfry with plenty of vegetables and a curry sauce. This means it's quick to put together and, as the recipe includes a lot of spices, it's also very tasty.

Mix together a chopped onion, a few cloves of garlic, a pinch of ground cumin, salt and pepper, some white wine vinegar and some sunflower oil. Cut your pork loin into large chunks and marinade in this mixture for a couple of hours.

For the curry, heat some sunflower oil in a wok and, when hot, add the pieces of pork. Sear them on a high heat but do not let them brown. Dissolve a chicken stock cube in a litre of water, and pour over the pork. Add some thyme, parsley, a bay leaf, 2 whole cloves, a whole chilli and about a teaspoon and a half of jerk seasoning. de Rozières' recipe (which serves six, and we were only making for two) calls for 100g of Colombo powder. We could have made our own, but, it being a lazy Sunday, a shop bought alternative was more expedient. Cover the wok and cook at a vigorous boil for 15 minutes.

Add a chopped potato and a chopped courgette (de Rozières adds an aubergine too), before simmering for a further 25 minutes. When the meat is cooked, remove it from the sauce and keep it warm. Strain the sauce into a fresh pan, removing the herbs. Add a little cornflour mixed with a little water (to avoid lumps) and cook the sauce to thicken. Finally, add the juice of one lime and a dash of oil. Pour the sauce over the meat and serve.
Colombo Pork Curry
The lime juice gives this a very fresh, tart flavour and the addition of unusual spices, like the thyme and clove, means that this tastes very different from other curries. It was quick to make and definitely hit the spot. If you want to surprise any curry lovers in your life, this is definitely the dish to serve!

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Worth Valley Beer and Music Festival

Sat 27 Oct 2007

Yet another delay on the much fêted German sausage story!

Yesterday, a hardy group of three set off on the surprisingly arduous journey from Leeds to Oxenhope. According to google maps this is a journey of just under 25 miles and, had we been driving, it would have taken 42 minutes. Since we were heading to a beer festival driving would have been plain irresponsible so we took the train - a journey which should have taken a little longer, but involved the added bonus of a stop at Keighley and then a ride on a steam train. To cut a long story short, it tooks us almost 2 and a half hours. Had it not been for the bar at Keighley station (serving Old Spot beers from Cullingworth) and the bar on the train we might have arrived at Oxenhope in a distinctly bad mood.

The beer and music festival (which finishes today - so you can always head over if you read this early enough!) is hosted by the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway - a private railway which operates steam and heritage diesel engines between Keighley and Oxenhope. They have a number of events throughout the year, and the train ride takes in Brontë country and one of the stops includes Haworth.

Anyway, not being much of a train buff, I was a bit underwhelmed by the train ride (particularly when we stopped randomly for about half an hour), and a tad bemused by the number of people taking photos and video footage. As entertainment along the route we also had the Craven Flag Crackers. And then we finally arrived at Oxenhope where the exhibition shed was stuffed full of lovely beers, ciders and perries (and some trains).

exhibition hall
There were a few familiar beers - Timothy Taylor was well represented as you'd expect, and I investigated a few stouts before heading on to some lighter session beers. There was a good selection of beers from all around the country, as well as bottled beers from Europe (non ale drinkers catered for!) and it was no surprise that, as the exhibition hall was so busy, by the end of the afternoon, many of the beers had run out. When we left around 7 a good 75% of the beers looked to be off, so we were glad we hadn't decided to make an evening of it.

When we arrived at Keighley on the way back the railway bar was still doing a strong business, and there was even some live boogie-woogie platform entertainment!

This is a good beer festival, with an excellent selection of beers. While not directly affiliated with CAMRA it's definitely a festival worth putting in the diary. Of course, the slightly out of the way location might make it a little tricky to get to!

Finally - cheers to Matt who waited (heroically, beer in hand) an hour and a half for us to turn up!

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Friday, October 26, 2007

Napa ... and Felicini

Thurs 25 October 2007

I know I promised German sausage adventures but in the interests of being cutting edge I'm going to tell you about a new bar in Roundhay (Napa) and a newish Italian in the city centre (Felicini).

Napa, run by the Arc Inspirations group which brings us The Box, The Arc, Zed Bar etc, opens this evening. It's on Street Lane in Roundhay, near the Deer Park pub and sitting exactly where the restaurant Quantro used to be. The opening party, last night, was a very busy affair. We were greated with a delicious raspberry bellini and given corks for free drinks at the bar. The corks had the bar name and date printed on them: very cute!

As you might have guessed from its name, Napa is focussing on wine. There's a wide range displayed behind the bar (don't worry - there's also beer for the non-wine drinkers) and the booth like tables have ice buckets built in to them - with plenty of room for at least two bottles. I didn't get a chance to have a good look at the menu (yes, it was that busy), but they are offering Sunday roasts that feature local meats. Always a good thing.

Despite being incredibly busy the staff handled everything with ease, and we left wanting to go back. And that means we should be able to report on the food and the wine list with greater clarity.

Napa Opening Party

On our way home we decided to stop for some food at Felicini, the newly opened Italian on Albion Street (replacing the Hard Rock Café). This is part of a chain and in many ways I really wanted to hate it. There's something so wrong, so clinical about a restaurant where you can eat the same food in Wilmslow, Didsbury or Leeds. From that point of view, I was quite disappointed. The service was excellent. Everyone we dealt with was pleasant, efficient, friendly. Really, this is not the type of thing which should raise comment but how often do you leave a restaurant not having a gripe about some aspect of the service? As this was a quick meal, it was just one course each: 'paella' for Andy and spaghetti carbonara for me.

I know what you're thinking: paella in an Italian restaurant? This was a sort of Italian take on paella: risotto with chorizo and seafood. And it was very good. Andy was happy with his choice.

The spaghetti carbonara was pretty good too. Not a huge portion, but certainly enough to eat. I'm not sure where the trend for topping carbonara with a poached egg comes from (both Piccolino and Felicini do this), but the egg was soft and squidgy. Was this the best carbonara ever? Don't be daft (mine is!) - but it absolutely hit the spot and ticked all the boxes.

Two main courses, two drinks ... and the bill came to just £25. Not bad really. You won't be going to Felicini for a special, intimate occasion, but for a quick meal after work or before a night out, or as a group celebration it works really well.

Which just goes to show I should be a little more open minded about chains!

1. Napa, 62 Street Lane, Roundhay
2. Felicini, The Cube, Albion Street, Leeds, LS1 6HX, phone: 0113 200 1310

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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Kolsch in Koln

19-23 Oct 2007

We've just spent a weekend in Cologne (or Köln), sampling as much kölsch as possible. As you may know, German beers are all brewed according to the Reinheitsgebot - the purity law that means that German beers, by and large, won't give you a hangover the way that, say, Stella will. This is because German beers, by law, may only contain water, hops and barley. Note that yeast is not mentioned because Louis Pasteur wasn't around in 1516. The really pedantic will note that wheat is not mentioned either, even though Germany produces a lot of that. The crux of the matter is that German beer is (in theory) not polluted by a vast array of chemicals.

Kölsch is the beer of Cologne, and is served very cold, in 200mL test-tube like glasses. Like all civilised drinking experiences, you don't have to rush to the bar every two seconds because the bar staff wander around with large trays of filled glasses. When you've finished a drink, a new one arrives and you end up with another notch on your beer mat. You might think that this is a recipe for a messy night out - but this is not the case. Sitting comfortably, chatting away and not worrying about getting in rounds, you actually end up drinking more slowly and behaving like an adult.

We didn't manage a comprehensive survey of all the kösch available (given that there are something like 40 breweries, that's probably a good thing). Of those we did sample, there was a noticeable difference in weigth and flavour, which suggests that, with a little dedication, most people would be able to find a kölsch they like.

Our first kölsch was the one we liked least. This was from Peters Brauhaus in the Alter Markt. This was a very light beer - it didn't have a lot of flavour or weight, and we were quite disappointed. It also wasn't particularly cold. We moved on to a bar serving Gilden. I think this was my favourite beer: cold, crisp, clean, a bit of weight so you knew you weren't drinking malty water, bubbles and not particularly bitter. Sion was similar to Peters: another very light beer, although we both agreed it was a better drink. Andy's favourite was Gaffel. The Gaffel Haus was probably my favourite bar and we both agreed that Gilden and Gaffel were the outstanding front runners. Our final sample was Früh. This rated behind Gilden and Gaffel but ahead of Peters and Sion. A slightly sweeter beer (and one which is available in the UK, if you feel you need an introduction to kölsch) with plenty of bubbles and flavour, but still a bit light in the mouth.


Beer aside, Köln is lovely city: at this time of year, it's also pretty cold, which means you can fit in sightseeing in the mornings and justify a swift exit to the pub to warm up in the afternoon!

Next up ... I'll be telling you about German bakeries and German sausage (what else!).

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007


Sun 7 Oct 2007

This month's AGT Masterclass took us to Spain (unsurprising in a Spanish issue) and featured a paella. I think 'seafood' when I hear paella and I suspect that food association carried us along to the point that we were faced with jointing a wild Yorkshire rabbit.

Really, the masterclass should have focussed on that exercise, rather than the making of the paella. Despite being taught how to joint a rabbit at a young age, it's not a skill I've exercised so while butchery was definitely involved it was not of the type one might expect. Firstly we had to remove the lights - the easy part. The little beasty was not too eager to split into paella sized parts, and by the time we'd finished (and put a few dings in a not very good knife) we felt we'd been through the paella ringer.

Fortunately, the paella making itself is incredibly forgiving - time consuming, but worth the wait. To begin with, you can substitute chicken for the rabbit. We also found ourselves substituting arborio rice for calasparra and making various small modifications.

What we did do, was vaguely follow proportions. As the dish relies on the rice soaking up the liquids you can't be too happy go lucky (at least, not the first time you make it).

To serve four (so, that's 2 for dinner and to allow for plenty of left overs), boil 1 litre of chicken stock with 1 tsp of saffron threads. Simmer for approximately 5 minutes.

Heat olive oil in your pan and add the meat (2 front, 2 back legs of rabbit) and some chunks of chorizo and brown until golden. At this point you are meant to remove the meat from the pan, but nothing seems to suffer if you leave it in. Add finely sliced onion, garlic and red pepper and cook for about 5 minutes, before adding half a tin of tomatoes. Turn the heat up and cook until the liquid evaporates. Pour in the stock and bring to the boil, cooking for approximately 10 minutes or until your meat is cooked through.

Add 200g of rice and a teaspoon of paprika (Spanish smoked, rather than Hungarian sweet), season to taste and cook, without stirring, for a few minutes before adding peas or beans (or both - our pan just wasn't big enough!).

Now, just let the paella cook until the rice absorbs the liquids and ends up tender. This requires a fair bit of faith, as it will look like there's a LOT of liquid. Allow the dish to stand for 10 minutes and then serve, ensuring you are even handed with the crispy bits from the bottom of the pan.
To cook this from start to finish felt like a long process. However, it's worth noting that you could easily prepare ahead: up until you add the stock there's no reason I can see for not doing so. Taking this approach would make the dish a very viable dinner party option - as after that there's nothing to do but add the stock and wait.

The dish was quite a hit - the leftovers are great for lunch, and it's a casual supper which would work just as well to warm you up in the middle of winter as it would as a late summer supper.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

British Sausage Week

Tues 16 Oct 2007

There was a great deal of excitement in camp Eating Leeds last week when I had a telephone call letting me know I was through to the regional final of British Sausage Week's quest to find Britain's Best Birthday Banger!

I was somewhat daunted to learn that I would need to arrive at Simply Heathcotes this afteroon armed with 16 fresh sausages. Now, a normal batch of sausages for me is around 8, so this represented a doubling of production. I duly ordered 2 (generous) kilos of belly pork from Price's (butchers in Butchers' Row, Leeds Kirkgate Market), and resigned myself to spending a bit longer than usual in the kitchen.

A bit longer ... I spent what seemed like all of Sunday up to my elbows in pork in various forms: whole pieces of belly (to be skinned and chopped), coarse pork mince, fine pork mince, little portions of pork mince being fried up, pork mince and sausage skins AND (let's not forget the best bit!) all the bits of pork mince that need to be washed off the sausage making equipment.

I was a bit tired and cross, but I ended up with 32 sausages (and about a kilo of mix left over for next time!) - so I could choose the most attractive 16.

When I arrived at Heathcotes today I was the only amateur in an event which managed to feature several of Yorkshire's prize winning butchers. Having a butcher for a grandfather and a general interest in eating did not seem to be the overriding qualifications of my competition!!

The best banger in Leeds went to David Lishman, of Lishman's in Ilkley. He's a Rick Stein food hero (and he was also a very nice man), so I was pretty happy just to have my sausages cooked in the same kitchen! His sausages featured Yorkshire champagne and truffles. If you're doing a double take (like I did!), he used dried mushrooms and soaked them in elderflower cordial.

The charity partner of British Sausage Week is the Cystic Fibrosis Trust and the judging is being headed up by Phil Tufnell. The national winner is decided at the end of the week, and I'm sure all Tykes will be wishing David Lishman the best of luck!

Technical issues have prevented me from posting any action shots ... but make do with the medal we all took away for participating!

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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Charming Armley Cake Competition

Sat 6 Oct 2007

I've spent some time over the last couple of weeks inventing cakes and then trialling them on my work mates. I particularly liked my carraway seed cake and I thought my chocolate cake would have been OK had I not over cooked it, but by far and away, the most popular cake choice was my ginger cake. I'll have to post the recipe another time, but Saturday morning saw me jumping on a bus and heading off to Charlie Cake park for the Charming Armley Cake Competition.

I'm not sure what I was expecting, but it wasn't quite so big a turn out (after all, I wasn't expecting any competition!). There was a healthy queue waiting to register cakes and by 1pm the cake marquee was filling up. In all, 82 cakes were entered!

By 3pm, as judging started, the park was busy with children painting spoons and eating cake and by 4 the winners were announced. Unfortunately, from where I was standing, I couldn't hear the actual details - but I did manage to spot that my cake wasn't on the prize winning table.

Personal disappointment aside, the day appeared to be a great success. The winning cake (and cake calendar) are due to be launched at the beginning of November in the Tiled Hall Café - hopefully all cake baking participants will be invited to go and I'll be able to report back on that!

I wanted to put together a mosaic of photos but I'm not patient enough ... however, you can find some more shots on flickr!

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Thursday, October 04, 2007

Viva Cuba

Wed 3 Oct 2007

After being a bit underwhelmed by La Tasca the other week, we decided to head up to Viva Cuba and see how that compared. Viva Cuba's original restaurant is on Kirkstall Road, but Japanic's demise has led to a city-centre venture.

Viva Cuba is part bar and part restaurant, which does mean that it's quite a noisy place. The music was rather loud and lighting is dim ... this makes it a venue great for groups, or kicking on after a meal, but not so ideal for an awkward first date!

Aside from the loud music, the other thing I don't like about Viva Cuba is the very slender selection of draught beer: Carlsberg, Guinness and Red Stripe. Really - there's just no excuse!

But on to the food! There are no deals at Viva Cuba ... just order what you want from the menu. At La Tasca we ploughed through nine dishes, so we decided to start safely and order just six. Lots of umming, aahing and compromising led to the following selection: tortilla, patatas bravas with chilli, cod cakes, Cuban beans and rice, pork medallions and (as always!) boquerones (white anchovies).

While we waited, we munched some bread and drank our beer and before long, the food arrived! The portions at Viva Cuba are far more generous than those at La Tasca, and our eyes were almost too big for our bellies! The slice of tortilla alone almost would have done the two of us as a starter!

The tortilla was described as 'with spinach' but there was hardly any spinach in it at all - which didn't detract from it, as it was packed with potato and onion and very tasty. The boquerones were soft and moist, their sweetness offset by the vinegar. The cod cakes were delicious - crisp exteriors, not oily or greasy, and soft fishy, potato interiors. The pork medallions with garlic and parsley were perfectly cooked - the thin slices of meat just flash fried so that they retained juices and didn't become tough. The patatas bravas chilli was probably my favourite part of the meal - small pieces of potato, fried up and topped with chilli that was packed with beans. The only dish I didn't particularly like was the Cuban rice and black beans. To be honest, I'm not a big fan of black beans (hmm, perhaps I should have ordered it?!) and there were just a few too many in the dish for me. And that's not actually a flaw in the dish itself - I'm sure plenty of other people would enjoy it immensely!

We ploughed out way through this stack of food and agreed that really, we could have managed with just five dishes. If you've got a small appetite, it might be wise to start with just two dishes per person and more if you need or want to.

The service was good: we were seated promptly, our drink order was taken quickly and the staff were all pleasant, polite and efficient.

And the bottom line came to just £30 ... the same kind of money as La Tasca, but with the bonus that we hadn't ordered from a cut-down menu.

If you're in the market for tapas I'd be heading straight to ¡Viva Cuba!

1. ¡Viva Cuba!, 19 Queen Square, Claypit Lane, Leeds, LS2 8AF, phone: 0113 244 9550

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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Round Up

Wed 3 Oct 2007

I've been neglectful with round-ups for no good reason. While I've mentioned the closure of the Cactus Lounge, and even eaten at its replacement, Kendell's Bistro, the restaurant scene seems a little quiet ... maybe I've been spending too much time at home!

I wandered past the old Hakuna Matata (Swinegate) yesterday ... it's been closed for ages, with no action ... but no longer - demolition work (to the interior) is in progress ... what will we be seeing as its replacement?

If you're a keen baker, you've got a few days to put together your best cake effort for the Charming Armley Cake Competition. On Saturday, cake aficionados will be gathering in Armley and judging cakes, with the overall winner having his or her cake sold at the Tiled Hall Café and The Gatehouse in Kirkstall. To be fair, I'll be there (I've been trialling new cake inventions on my workmates, so I'm bound to win!), but there are plenty of other prizes on offer and there are categories for all ages. You can pre-register online or just turn up on the day.

Finally - if you haven't already noticed the annoying flashing text above ... there are only a couple of days left to enter our Hotel Chocolat competition. Someone who has entered through Eating Leeds will win a prize and I'm sure you all know someone who'd love to receive surprise chocolates and champagne!

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