Thursday, November 29, 2007

Hotel Chocolat Competition

Thurs 29 Nov 2007

Back in September Eating Leeds hosted a champagne and truffle competition with Hotel Chocolat. We're excited to be hosting another competition and this time the search is on for chocolate recipes.

So ... do you have the best Christmas chocolate-chip cookies in town? Is your Christmas chocolate log simply to die for? Then why not put your recipe to the test against the rest of the country. All you have to do is submit your recipe – the more original the better - and you could win a Christmas chocolate selection box (pictured) AND a copy of Hotel Chocolat's 101 Best Loved Chocolate Recipes. The lucky winner of the Eating Leeds and Hotel Chocolat Christmas competition will also be entered automatically into the Hotel Chocolat Grand Prize recipe competition and could win even more seasonal chocolate goodies! Do you think you’re the finest chocolate chef in the land? Well there really is only one way to find out … and that's to head over to Hotel Chocolat and submit your recipe!
While you're there, you can also stock up on any stocking filler presents you might need ... personally, we've just finished munching our way through a box of the Hotel Chocolat Tasting Club dark selection and can recommend a tasting club membership (available in size from 1 month up to 5 years) for any serious choco-holics in your life!

Can't see the above link? Here's the URL ...

You have until 11:59pm on Monday 10 December ... so get cooking!
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Monday, November 26, 2007

Making Bread

Sun 25 Nov 2007

My mother is a very good baker and she is always making bread. When I was a little girl I used to help and make up my own variations (one particularly heavy, seeded number was called Viking Bread), but for some reason I've done very little bread baking since moving to England.

That's despite complaining rather a lot about the quality of most bread you can buy.

On Friday a copy of The Big Book of Bread arrived (I won it from the nice people at Allinson and their website Baking Mad) and since I was having a lazy weekend I decided that making some bread was far more important than things like cleaning the bathroom.

The book contains 365 recipes - both for breadmakers and by hand (and many of the by hand recipes have the alterations necessary for a breadmaker) - and I wanted to start as close to the front as possible.

Recipe 001 is basic white bread so I skipped on to recipe 002 and made the basic wholemeal bread. As the recipe was for two 2lb loaves I halved it. I just don't have big enough bowls for that kind of mass production.

So, I put 1 teaspoon of dried yeast into approximately 225 mL of warm water with a half teaspoon of sugar and let it do its magic.

In my bowl, I put 4 oz of plain white flour and 8 oz of wholemeal (stone ground) flour, a good grinding of salt and about 15g of unsalted butter. I rubbed the butter into the flour mix and then added the water and yeast mix to form a dough. A good knead, a slick of oil, and into a bowl near a radiator for as long as it took to double.

Bread dough won't rise if you look at it every 30 seconds - you really need to find something else to do. Go down the shop (or even the pub, at a push).

Dough risen, I knocked it back and made one small loaf and four rolls (a little less than I expected, to be honest). I left these to rise before putting the loaf in a fan oven preheated to 200C. After 10 minutes or so I added the rolls to the bottom shelf. After another 10 or so minutes the loaf came out and the rolls went up a shelf to finish off.

The result was near perfect (yes, there's a roll missing because I'd already eaten it!).

The exercise did take the whole afternoon - but most of this was the sitting around between rises, when you can finish off all those chores. And the reward is getting to eat warm bread that has texture, flavour and body.
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Thursday, November 22, 2007

Things I Hate

Sat 17 Nov 2007

I am quite an organised person. I like to know what's going on when. So it's not going to be a surprise when I say I loathe restaurants that don't take reservations.

When some friends visiting from London suggested Salvo's I was keen - it's close to home and the meals I've had at the Salumeria have been excellent. I was less thrilled when I visited the reservations page on the website:

Salvo's operate on a first come - first served basis and we have done so since we first opened our doors. We believe that is the fairest way for people to enjoy Salvo's. We always endeavour to get you seated as quickly as we can to accommodate you in our restaurant.

OK, aside from the fact it should be 'operates', I'm not sure how such a non-policy is fair and the fact that they're endeavouring to seat you quickly might suggest they're aiming for a high table turnover. Anyway, I swallowed my reservations and we hoped to aim for a relatively early start.

Of course, after getting ready and having drinks at home, it wasn't particularly early and we ended up at the restaurant around 7pm. "Could we have a table for 4?". "Of course", says the front of house. In an hour and a half's time. The great irony was that our name would be taken and we could wait at the bar or leave and return at the allotted time. How this isn't a reservation is beyond me.

Worst fears realised, we headed into town in search of a meal. Yes, Leeds, on a Saturday night in the run up to Christmas. Even the friends from London were shocked at how busy it was. We ended up dining at Felicini (we did have to wait but we were able to head to the Radisson for cocktails). This is fast turning into an excellent quick meal restaurant. The service is great, it's cheap and the food is more than OK, even if it's not the most exciting menu you'll ever see. And, if you're organised, it takes real reservations!

We started off choosing wine at the bar, which caused a fair bit of debate. The waitress offered us a taste of one wine under consideration - without any prompting. Our meal ended up consisting of a platter of antipasti, dough balls and main courses (all pasta - I really must go back and try their pizza). We also indulged in some mid-meal bread and olives as, apparently, there had been some confusion in the kitchen about our order. This was picked up before we noticed, and in addition to the nibbles we were also offered an additional bottle of wine! We staggered out, bellies laden, having spent just £45 per couple.

You'll notice that the single aspect of Felicini that has struck me on both visits has been the quality of the service. If somewhere that is essentially cheap and cheerful (and, given its location, probably has to deal with some reasonably demanding clientele) can provide such good service, it's beyond me why so many other restaurants can't.

Oh, and did I mention you can make a reservation?

1. Salvo's, 115 Otley Rd, Leeds, LS6 3PX, phone: 0113 275 5017
2. The Radisson, The Headrow, Leeds, LS1 8TL, phone:
0113 236 6000
3. Felicini, The Cube, Albion Street, Leeds, LS1 6HX, phone: 0113 200 1310

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

McCain Goose Fat Potatoes

Sun 18 Nov 2007

Yes, you read that right - McCain roast potatoes basted in goose fat. And yes, you'd be right if you thought this wasn't quite an Eating Leeds type thing. Still, I'll give almost anything a try and we decided to try these out with some lamb chops, roast potatoes and white cabbage spiced up with caraway seeds.

Since I can't recall eating any roast potato out of the freezer before I have nothing against which to compare these. They are marketed as an easy, quick alternative: a store cupboard stand-by (but in your freezer).

Now, I am a lazy potato roaster (heat oil in roasting dish, put potatoes in, leave for about an hour, turn every now and then - they always seem to come out ok) but I know plenty of people par-boil for a fluffy, rough edged, crisp potato - in which case these will definitely save you time. They can go straight in the oven in their container or (according to the instructions) you will get crispier potatoes if you empty them on to a baking tray.

The potatoes looked impressive (the slightly blurry photo doesn't do them justice!) and certainly they were crispy with fluffy, smooth centres. To me they were almost more like potato croquettes in goose fat. We both quite liked the flavour but found it salty (they get an amber traffic light for salt). Something that is also worth pointing out is that these potatoes do contain wheat (they are actually covered in a batter) - which is not something I expected in a roast potato!

A 400g pack costs about £2. This seems pretty pricey: at the market you can usually pick up 5lb of potatoes for about 50p and a quick search shows that goose fat is around £2.50 for 300g. But then, I don't think these are pretending to be an economical option!

You can probably tell I'm a little unconvinced but I also know that in the real world the enthusiasm with which I approach food preparation is not exactly normal. With Christmas just around the corner, these are no doubt going to be quite a winner. And if you find yourself suddenly, randomly having to cater for extra people having a pack in the freezer certainly won't go astray!

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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Medici Tapas

Mon 12 Nov 2007

After the disappointment of not appearing on TV (still no word on an exact date for that either) there was nothing for it but to go out for a meal. Of course, there was a fair bit of grumbling about what to do ... for some reason curry didn't seem right as we just wanted to 'get home', and in Headingley we suddenly seemed stuck for options (or should that be spoilt for choice?).

We ended up in Medici Tapas - the little tapas place tucked away in the St Anne's group of shops (if you know Headingley, you'll know what I mean). Yes, the name is confusing: big, famous (and slightly mad) Italian Renaissance family and Spanish bar-snack food.

This is a very casual, studenty little place. It only has a BYO licence (we weren't prepared on that count), only takes cash or cheque and only seats about 15 people. The menu states that you must order a minimum of 3 tapas dishes per person, not including bread and dips. This is actually quite a lot of food (we were very obedient, but also very full) so if you're not a big eater it might be worth smiling nicely and seeing if you can get around this!

We started with the bread and dips. It was nice, fat pita bread that was warm, so that's a good start. The dips were taramosalata, tzatziki and hummus. They were actually pretty tasty BUT they did all just come out of large containers in the fridge - and we could see them being served up. Cheap and cheerful is one thing, but knocking together a bit of dip is really something that should be done in-house. Plus, this is a tapas house ... how about some really good olives?

Of course, that casts a bit of a shadow over how much in-house prep is involved with the rest of the food. The kitchen is tiny and there certainly was action so I'll be generous on this count! We ordered boquerones (fat white anchovies), chorizo in red wine, chicken in white wine, tortilla, patatas bravas, and prawns in chilli and garlic sauce.

Apart from really disliking the dressing that was on the anchovies (why, oh why?!) we both enjoyed everything we'd ordered. There were plenty of little nit-picky things I could mention (like the tiny, wee frozen prawns in the really tasty, chilli, garlic laden oil) but the whole experience needs to be kept in perspective. For just under £30 we ate more than we needed to, it tasted good and the service was friendly and efficient. Medici Tapas is a small, cosy restaurant in the middle of student-ville and it's offering very affordable food.

1. Medici Tapas, 2 St Anne's Road, Headingley, LS6 3NX, phone: 0113 274 8500.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007


You're right ... we weren't on Cooking the Books on Monday night ... I'm investigating and hopefully I'll find out when we will be on!

We consoled ourselves with going out for tapas ... but more on that tomorrow!
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Sunday, November 11, 2007

Cooking the Books

6:30pm Monday 12 November, channel 5 ... provided I've not ended up on the cutting room floor you should see a familiar face ...
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Thursday, November 08, 2007


Thurs 8 Nov 2007

Every now and then, someone at work decides we're not being sociable enough and tries to round up people for a couple of beers after work, a drink at lunch, or even some food. It's a sad indictment on us that it usually fails.

I guess the planets have been lined up amazingly auspiciously this week, as yesterday we managed a quick drink at The Grove and today we went for pizzas at brb on Call Lane. We were inspired because, on a Thursday lunch, brb offers a pizza and a drink for £5.50.

The pizza menu offers about 8 different types of pizza (and yes, vegetarians are well catered for), in two sizes: 6" or 12". I thought the lunch deal would be for the 6": it's not and I don't think I'll need to eat for a week! The drink side of the deal is less impressive: Fosters, John Smiths, a house red or white, or a soft drink. I opted for the red wine: a rather light, fruity, non descript number (and that's not the remnants of my cold talking). For the price (essentially free), you can't argue ...

The pizzas were an entirely different ball game. The main dining room features a big pizza oven so you can watch your food being made. My pizza, cappriccioso, was 12" of light, thin, crispy, bubbly base smothered with artichokes, rosemary, black olives, ham and mushrooms. It smelled fantastic and tasted delicious. Other selections looked just as good and included fiorentina (spinach, egg), biana (ricotta, roast squash), americana (pepperoni) and crispy duck (with hoisin sauce). Only one plate had any food left on it at all by the time we were finished.

As you want (or rather, need) for a weekday lunch, the turn around was swift and we left full and happy. So much so, that we've decided we really should go out for lunch more often ...

1. brb, 37 Call Lane, Leeds, LS1 6DT, phone: 0113 243 0315

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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Andalusian Stuffed Chicken

Sun 4 Nov 2007

I know this is heresy but I find a roast chicken a bit dull. So many people just seem to put the bird in the oven and cook it - no stuffing, no basting. If you talk about Julia Child's roast chicken, basted with cream, or a chicken with a proper stuffing and smothered in butter, then it's an altogether different story. And this is how we ended up cooking the Andalusian stuffed chicken from the newly released Spanish cookery bible, 1080 Recipes.

In this recipe, it's the stuffing that's striking. It's not breadcrumb or meat based. Instead it's made with apples, a fruit I tend to associate more with pork. The stuffing is simple and can be made ahead.

Peel, core and chop about half a kilo of tart apples (we used Granny Smiths). Fry them in some olive oil and then add approximately 150g of chopped Serrano ham, 40g pine nuts, 1 tbsp of chopped parsley and a generous pinch (not too generous) of ground cloves. Continue to fry for a few minutes before adding 175mL of amontillado sherry and 50 mL of anisette. It turned out that anisette was inprocurable so I looked at my not particularly extensive liquor collection, closed my eyes and picked ... grappa. I wouldn't do that again. And I'm on a bit of a mission to track down some anisette. Give it a good stir and then cover, simmering, for about 30 minutes.

When you're ready to cook your chicken, stuff it with the apple mixture and secure the opening (I used toothpicks as skewers, in the absence of a meat needle). If there's any spare liquid, reserve it. Rub the chicken with lard and surround with some quarters of onion. Roast in a 200C oven for 20 minutes, turning once or twice, and then pour over another 175mL of sherry. Cook for a further 40 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked, basting occasionally.

And then serve.

I rather wanted to try one of the tempting Spanish potato recipes, but Andy insisted on roast potatoes. We also had steamed carrots and broccoli, and the onions that had been cooked with the chicken. The chicken was stunning. The stuffing helps keep the bird really moist and the sherry (and, I suspect, lard) make the skin golden brown and crispy. This is definitely a dish clever enough to serve up for a special occasion.

Two things to keep in mind: make sure you season the stuffing well. The sweet, nutty flavours of the sherry really intensify during cooking and it can taste quite sweet. Also, I bought the Serrano ham in a chunk and then cubed it. I actually think it would be better to buy it finely sliced and then chop the slices: you'd end up with a better distribution of the ham through the stuffing and a more even flavour and texture.

We drank an albariño with the chicken, but due to rather nasty colds, neither of us can report on the wine in question or whether it was a good match!

1080 Recipes is published by Phaidon and retails at £24.95.

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Monday, November 05, 2007

Round Up

Mon 5 Nov 2007

A round up with a twist this week ... it's not going to be about Leeds but rather all about Eating Leeds!

You may remember that recently we co-hosted a competition with Hotel Chocolat. Readers could win champagne and chocolates for a loved one by providing a good reason for the nomination. The Eating Leeds winner is Frances Lynch and Hotel Chocolat will be sending out the prize for her boyfriend, Dan.

Even further back in time, I mentioned that I was studying for the Professional Certificate in Gastronomy, jointly run by the University of Adelaide and Le Cordon Bleu. It was suggested that I should blog about the experience, but that quickly became something I was loathe to do. Even with a partial scholarship I'd paid a lot of money to do a course which I felt had rather limited academic value. If you are considering the course I'd be happy to answer any specific questions and offer advice. I suspect that there are many people who would enjoy and benefit from the course - I'm just not one of them! Anyway, I did complete the certificate (with a distinction!) and last week my Le Cordon Bleu medallion and pin arrived. I wasn't expecting this at all, and I think they look rather smart!

Having had a couple of months' break from formal study, today I started the Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) Level 2 certificate, run by the Northern Wine Academy. Despite a well-timed cold, meaning I can smell and taste very little, I found the first part of this three day course very interesting. In one day we covered a lot of material (certainly not for the faint hearted) and tasted eleven wines. There's quite a lot of reading to revise and cover before next Monday when, apparently, we'll be tasting 14 wines!

And finally, last Wednesday, Andy and I headed down to London to take part in the filming of a new TV show: Cooking the Books. We'll be in the first episode (screening on 5 towards the end of the month - don't worry - I won't let anyone forget!) and hopefully we come across well! Or rather, hopefully I will, as Andy let me do the talking (and endured a few days of over excitement).

Finally, tomorrow night we're off to the launch of the Charming Armley Cake Calendar. Sales of the calendar will be raising money for the charity Armley Helping Hands, and you can find details of where to buy a calendar on the Armley Tourist Board site.
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Thursday, November 01, 2007

The Gaffel Haus

Sun 21 Oct 2007

Finally we find space to write about the great German sausage extravaganza at the Gaffel Haus in Köln!

Our first evening meal in Cologne ended up being at (of all places) a Greek restaurant called Athens. It was a good, filling and amazingly cheap meal: lots of grilled meat, but we did start off with some pickled octopus and ordered some salad to pretend we were being healthy.

But we weren't in Germany to eat Greek food and as we were having beers in the Gaffel Haus anyway, it was a convenient spot for some dinner.

The staff were really friendly: they peeled us away from the bar and showed us to a table and gave us the sausage-laden menus. As I always think you should eat the local food when you're away (after all, if you're not going to do that you might as well stay at home) so I headed straight for the Köln specialties. As I love black pudding it didn't take long for me to decide on the trio of sausages: blutwurst, mettwurst and leberwurst. Naturally served with sauerkraut and mashed potato. Hmm, all the way to Germany for bangers and mash?

sausages at the Gaffel Haus

As you can tell, the presentation was not frilly, but the sausages all passed taste-test muster. The blutwurst (far left), which I ate first, was probably the best sausage: rich, good flavour and not laden with fat, but I also really enjoyed the other two sausages. While I only ate a token amount of the sauerkraut, the mash was pretty good too.

Andy opted for a huge 250g sausage, complete with very good sauté potatoes and sauerkraut.

After this, we were rather full of sausage and potatoes! However, as a cheap, filling, warming and beer absorbing meal you can't go far wrong with the food at the Gaffel Haus. It's not a slick experience and you're unlikely to be overwhelmed by the variety and sophistication of the food, but you will feel welcomed and well fed.

One final tip: the Gaffel Haus is in the Alter Markt which means it gets incredibly busy. We tried to go on Saturday night and couldn't even get past the door! However, nip in early on a Sunday evening and it's an altogether more civilised experience!

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1. Athens Restaurant, Heumarkt 2, 50667 Köln, phone: + 49 (0)221 24 63 60
2. Gaffel Haus, Alter Markt 20-22, 50667 Köln, phone: +49 (0) 221 2 57 76 92
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