Wednesday, July 30, 2008


Mon 28 July 2008

I appreciate that this may be rather like teaching one's grandmother to suck eggs, but the newest toy in the Eating Leeds' batterie de cuisine is a shiny, eggshell blue (and very heavy) KitchenAid Artisan.

Of course, it had to be tried out immediately, and luckily there was a single egg white left over from a batch of brownie baking on the weekend ... and Andy loves meringue and I've never made him one. Not a single one, let alone a whiff of pavlova or lemon meringue pie ...

The real secret with meringues is to let them dry out rather than cook them. To this end, preheat your oven to just 100°C.

So, having acquired your egg white*, weigh out 50g of caster sugar. There are many ways to ensure good egg white whipping and on this occasion I used a pinch of salt. Marcus Wareing (in How To Cook The Perfect ...) directs you to rub a cut lemon over the entire surface of the bowl. Other people will use a pinch of Cream of Tartar, or a drop of lemon juice. The most important thing is that your bowl and whisk are clean and dry.

All of that sorted, egg white in bowl with a teaspoon of the sugar, and begin whisking. Start slowly and build up the speed. When the white has reached soft peaks, keep whisking, adding the sugar a generous teaspoonful (or so) at a time. When you're at stiff peaks - you're done.

Shape your meringue how you please. I used tablespoons to make quenelles, but you could use a piping bag, or just drop spoonfuls of meringue on a tray lined with baking paper.

Place in the warm oven for an hour, and then turn off the oven and leave the meringues in for as long as possible. This way, they'll dry out but should still retain a gooey, chewy sticky centre. Ours did! Also, because the temperature is so low, they'll stay gloriously white.

We just ate them. But, if you have some cream or mascarpone and some fresh fruit lying around, you could coarsely crush them and make yourself some Eton Mess. It may just contribute to your five a day ...

*I've read horror stories about people trying to make meringue with pasteurised egg white (whatever that is) and sugar substitutes. DON'T DO IT! It's a meringue - it's a pudding - it's NOT MEANT TO BE HEALTHY.

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Sunday, July 27, 2008

Another Portuguese White

Thurs 24 July 2008

At the beginning of the month I wrote about a Fernão Pires from Portugal. With summer finally here, it's the perfect excuse to drink more white wine, and, from what I'm seeing Portugal is offering some good value (and widely available) specimens.

I picked up Quinta da Alorna's Portal Da Águia 2007 from Oddbins for £5.79. It's a blend of Arinto and Fernão Pires and comes from Ribatejo. Ribatejo (a little inland and a little south of Estremadura, where the straight Fernão Pires came from) is the fertile region around the banks of the River Tagus. In terms of red wine, the area produces 'international' varieties, such as Cab Sav and Shiraz, as well as the local Castelão and Trincadeira. White wine production is dominated by Fernão Pires.

Arinto (a new grape for me to taste) is decribed, by Johnson and Robinson, as Portugal's "most aristocratic" white grape. You'll also find this grape in Vinho Verde and Bucelas as well as in wines from Galicia (Spain), and it goes by a variety of names, including Pedernã and Pedreña. That's just to keep you on your toes!

The wine itself is a pale lemon yellow colour. It has quite a pronounced nose, with plenty of herbaceous notes, balanced with distinct floral and limey citrus aromas. There is also a touch of tropical or stone fruit - I really struggled to put my finger on it, eventually moving from stone fruit to melon and settling on pineapple. While the palate isn't quite as sophisticated as the nose, there is plenty of pineapple and tropical fruit, backed up by some medium acidity. Although not hugely complex, the wine has pretty good length.

It's a very different wine to the straight Fernão Pires and I'd love to try them side by side. I'm guessing it's the Arinto that fleshes out this wine and makes it a slightly fatter, rounder beast. Seafood and chicken would be natural food pairings for this - something like some marinated chicken on the BBQ would be perfect. You must avoid salty food with this: I didn't and the combined effect was rather bitter and not at all pleasant!

As you can probably tell, I think this is a good, not to mention enjoyable, wine for the money.* Grab a bottle of this and sit out in the sunshine while you can!

*Andrew over at Spittoon tasted the 2005 at the start of 2007 and rated it highly - so it's not just me that likes this wine!

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Monday, July 21, 2008


Sat 19 July 2008

Over at At First Glass there's been a bit of discussion about chilling reds. It's fortunate that, at pretty much the same time Nancy was writing her post, I was cracking open a lightly chilled bottle of Brown Brothers Tarrango.

I'm not going to launch into a lecture on the temperature at which different wines should be served, but let's establish that, when I talk about chilling a bottle of Tarrango (or Beaujolais), I don't mean leaving it in the freezer for so long ice crystals start to form. You don't want it so cold that your glass ends up dripping with condensation. You just want it ... cool. 15-20 minutes in the fridge should do the trick nicely.

Brown Brothers Tarrango is, at present, on sale at Somerfield for the princely sum of £3.99 a bottle (normally retails for £5.99). This is an 'offer' which is repeated often, so you probably will never need to pay the full price for it. This is a light, very fruit forward wine: plenty of red fruit, low in tannin, and when chilled, a very refreshing drink. It's also very food friendly. Something different to go with the melon and parma ham salad? Pair it with cold roast pork. Or even a hot roast chicken with a rich sauce.

But what is really interesting is the grape: Tarrango. Despite its Italian sounding name, it's a grape which came out of a laboratory. A hybrid of Portugal's Touriga Nacional (a black grape) and the mighty Sultana (a white grape, in dried format a staple of school lunch boxes across the Sunburnt Country), Tarrango was developed by the CSIRO in Merbein, Victoria, Australia in the 1960s. The CSIRO does a lot of work around viticulture, and developing grapes* to suit Australian conditions is a large part of this. Unsurprisingly, this means that Tarrango requires very warm conditions and takes a long time to ripen. Perfect for long, hot Australian summers.

So, although we're not exactly enjoying a long hot summer here in the UK, you can beat both the credit crunch and the dire weather by popping a bottle of Tarrango in the fridge. At the next BBQ, as you shelter from rain and wind, you can wow your mates with a little bit of vinous trivia!

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*Brown Brothers also produce wine from another CSIRO baby, Cienna, but I've yet to see this in the UK.
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Sunday, July 20, 2008

Spicy Beef Wraps

Sat 19 July 2008

The latest food show on the BBC is Chinese Food Made Easy, presented by the mildly irritating (according to 4/4 viewers asked, not just my opinion!) Ching-He Huang. It's a shame that she spends a disproportionate amount of time shouting "Wok on! Oil hot!" when she's actually putting together some reasonably interesting, but quick to prepare, dishes. And coming from someone who doesn't eat a lot of Chinese food - that's saying something.

Andy was inspired enough to suggest making the spiced beef wraps which appeared at the end of last week's episode. There was, as usual, a few departures from her recipe, and we came to the conclusion that, while the basic ideas were good, it needed refinement.

The original recipe uses beef fillet, but we opted for (the considerably cheaper) rump. Before heading out to the cinema, I cut up the rump finely (in future, we would batter it with a meat mallet first), and tossed it with ground cumin, chilli flakes, chilli powder, salt and pepper. The recipe on the BBC says to use 2 tbsp of chilli flakes. I would say to ONLY do this if you are very, very sure about how mild your chilli flakes are. I used less than a teaspoon and about the same again of the chilli powder and the final mix had a pleasant warmth about it. 2 tbsp and I'm sure it would have been close to inedible.

I also prepared the dressing by mixing crème fraîche (substituted for mayonnaise) and wasabi paste - all done to taste. This was undoubtedly the star of the meal and definitely a mix we'll be making use of in future for all sorts of things.

On our return from the cinema, Andy heated some oil in the wok (without having to shout anything, at all) and added diced onion. This was cooked until softened and then he added the beef and let it brown. At this stage he added Shaoxing rice wine (substitute dry Sherry if you can't get hold of this) and soy sauce. To finish, he added plenty of chopped fresh coriander and finely sliced spring onion.

The idea is to serve the meat, topped with the wasabi mix, in a tortilla wrap. There was a lot of discussion over dinner as to how we'd do this a second time (if we were to bother - which we've decided we won't), what it (potentially) says about the recipes from Chinese Food Made Easy and (most importantly) how we'd use the wasabi-crème fraîche mix!

Any meal which stimulates discussion is good, and this was a good, quick and satisfying supper. 50% of boxes ticked!

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008


Sun 13 July 2008

On Sunday night, a much overdue foray into Headingley (hmm, that means walking down the road) to check out Dare: a café, bar and restaurant. All things to all people then.

Dare does offer some very reasonable set meals but most of the menu is so cheap that unless you are extremely skint, you will be able to eat plenty and not break the bank.

We opted for wider choices afforded by the à la carte menu, which surprised us by being very Mexican in flavour. Andy started with stuffed, fried jalapeños followed by the taquitos, while I started with calamari, followed by a burrito.

Now, this is not subtle food by any stretch of the imagination, and if we had paid more for our meal, I could be tempted to be quite harsh. So, while the batter on the calamari was a bit heavy, the squid itself was tender, and the dish wasn't oily. Andy had five jalapeños -not overly spicy, but hot, cheesy and utterly as expected.

The main courses were generous portions of simple, tasty Mexican food. My burrito was huge, surrounded by some tasty guacamole, rice and salsa and topped with sour cream. The taquitos were very similar in presentation, although Andy had opted for salad rather than rice. He commented that he would have preferred the dips kept separate (something that I'd normally say!) but that otherwise, he was a happy chap.

There was no way we could fit in dessert, so it was time to assess the damage to our wallets. For two starters, two mains, 3 bottles of Peroni and a small glass of house red ... £32. I can't fault that for value.

Yes - Dare is a little 'studenty', and no, the food isn't haute cuisine. However, the service is not only efficient but also extremely pleasant (how rare to find waiting staff who look like they actually enjoy their jobs!). The food is honest and the whole experience is one of straight forward comfort.

Next time we're too lazy to cook on a Sunday night - we'll be back.

1. Dare, 49 Otley Rd, Headingley, LS6 3AB, phone: 0113 230 2828

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Monday, July 14, 2008

Prawn and Samphire Risotto

Sat 12 July 2008

Going to the expense of buying the dressed crabs for the crab linguine meant that I was able to make a lovely fresh stock from the left over shells. Because crab is quite strong it was very simple: the two shells, water, a carrot, an onion, a couple of bay leaves and some peppercorns.

While most of the stock is now in the freezer in an ice cube tray, the balance was used to make Saturday's supper. We bought prawns and massive scallops at the market, and added a handful of samphire to the mix.

For someone who spends so much time on the internet it didn't occur to me that I should google what to do with this new (to me) green vegetable. So I rinsed it, blanched it and refreshed it with cold water. Quite a result. Sort of like salty asparagus.

I put together a simple risotto: an onion finely diced and sweated off in (unsalted) butter, with a finely chopped clove of garlic. Then I added 150g of arborio rice (enough for two), and after I'd ensure a good coating of butter on the rice, started adding the hot stock a spoonful at a time and stirring patiently.

The prawns (we bought green but peeled and deveined tiger prawns) and scallops were very lightly fried off in butter that had melted with a crushed clove of garlic in the pan.

When the risotto was almost done, the prawns were stirred through to finish cooking, and the samphire was added right at the end. The scallops sat atop the finished dish.

On this occasion, it was not an entirely successful rendition of what should be a lovely dish. We were hungry and rushed the rice, leaving it just a little too toothsome for our liking. We cooked the scallops too early, so they were a little cool (although the hot rice soon warmed them) and I could have been far more generous with the samphire (I was worried about it all being too salty). But these are all just tiny blemishes on an otherwise light and fresh risotto.

To drink: a Torrontés from Argentina, purchased from Leeds' new wine shop, Latitude. Down on The Calls, it's the new incarnation of Hoults. Santa Ana Eco 2007 pressed a lot of buttons for me. A predominantly floral nose with stone fruit which really shone on the palate, cut through with lime. Hints of green fruit at the edges, refreshing acidity and very good length. It balanced nicely with the delicate shell fish in the risotto. Having said that, Andy was decidedly ho-hum about it, so we won't call it a universal crowd pleaser. But for £7.99, it's more than worth a try!

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Sunday, July 13, 2008


Fri 11 July 2008

Last week's poor weather caused problems for Friday's lunch. Everywhere was just too far away from the office for anyone to be bothered. And this caused problems for me because I had no lunch. So I solved the problem by suggesting @Larocca (yes, it has the '@' in its name ... not sure what it's for ...), the recently opened Italian restaurant and bar in Clarence Dock.

It's a very large, shiny restaurant, with very contemporary furnishings and a very large bar. It's very red and brown inside. So it's not really surprising that the menu is ... very long.

Fortunately, for those of us on lunch breaks, the restaurant also offers a £10.95 cut down lunch menu, which will get you two courses and a coffee. For my starter I chose the bresaola carpaccio with a Balsamic vinegar sauce. My companions both chose the very scary sounding deep fried, crumbed mozzarella with garlic mayonnaise. It wouldn't have been my first choice, and they both started to look a little defeated as they ploughed their way through large (and rapidly cooling) pieces of fried mozzarella. First course roundly won by me!

Main course wise, I chose the pork tenderloin in basil and tomato sauce. It was served with some slightly odd mashed potato and a side of tagliatelle with a basil and tomato sauce. The pasta was definitely the star of this show. The portion was quite small, and the glue-like mash just didn't work at all - especially not with pasta too. However, the pasta was cooked almost perfectly, with a good bite to it, and the tomato sauce (which I assume was the same on both meat and pasta) tasted completely different: very fresh and light.

The other dish chosen was a Capricciosa pizza: ham, mushroom, mozzarella and tomato. This was the definite star of the main courses and the verdict was that it was better than the pizzas at brb. High praise indeed.

Overall, on the food front, I am a little undecided. Putting some bresaola on a plate and dressing it is not rocket science, and my main course was not that smart. But then, if the pizza is good the kitchen should be producing good food ...

We rounded off our meal with our coffees - and, while my espresso was good, it was the caffè latte looked most impressive - because it actually had a generous amount of milk in it!

The service was OK - it was certainly prompt and polite, but I noticed that a larger table near us had a few issues with its orders, which makes me wonder how things would go on a busy Saturday evening. I really rated the cloth napkins but I do think they should do away with the comedy oversized pepper mills and the music policy should be revisited.

Normally I come away from restaurants with a quite decided opinion. In the case of @Larocca, I'm going to sit on the fence. I'll be going back for an evening visit to see how the wider menu performs. I'm hoping that the kitchen and service is just taking a while to bed down and that my next visit will demonstrate some consistency.

1. @Larocca, 5 - 6 Armouries Drive, The Anchorage, Leeds, LS10 1LE, phone: 0113 2346000

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Saturday, July 12, 2008

Spicy Potatoes

Thurs 03 July 2008

After the expense of the linguine al granchio, I thought I should offer something a little more in keeping with these credit crunch times ...

Regular readers will be aware that Andy and I do a lot of our food shopping at the Leeds' market. We are fortunate because we both work in town and can pop in as often as we need to (or can be bothered). A side effect of this is that whenever I enter a supermarket I am appalled by the vast expense of the fruit and vege.

But, in Somerfield one day, we spotted a 500g bag of washed baby potatoes, marked down from £1 to 25p ... because it was near its use by date (yes, a use by date on potatoes ... I kid you not). I take next to no notice of use by dates. It's a potato - I'll be able to see and feel if it's alright to eat!

At the time, I thought £1 for 500g of potatoes rather steep, and when I went to the market on Tuesday I spotted the same little washed baby potatoes at 50p for 2lb. I knew it! The supermarket comes in at FOUR TIMES the cost of the market!

Once you have your cheap potatoes ... what to do? A quick, simple, mid-week supper was called for and I headed to Camellia Panjabi and her 50 Great Curries of India for inspiration. The fried potatoes with mixed spices looked like a good place to start ...

I've added to this recipe considerably, as the potato dish was our meal, rather than an accompaniment.

Begin by ensuring your potatoes are cut into roughly bite size pieces. Some of mine were left whole, others were halved. Boil the potatoes with 1/2 tsp of turmeric in the water.

When the potatoes are cooked, heat some vegetable oil in a wok and add 1/2 tsp of coriander powder and 1 tsp of chilli powder, 1 tsp of cumin seeds and a pinch of methi leaves, if you have them. As the spices start to cook, add a large onion, finely sliced, and some garlic and ginger. Allow the onion to go brown.

When almost ready to serve, add the potatoes and give them a good fry, so you not only have bits of crispy onion, but you also have bits of crispy potato.

And when ready to serve, toss through 1/2 tsp of garam masala. Taste. At this point, I added more garam masala.


Simple! With leftovers for lunch the next day, our 25p worth of potatoes did three meals.

And this meal was cooked almost a week after those potatoes had been earmarked for the bin - and not one of them had to be thrown out. Bit for (personal) economy - done!

Finally ... if you're not already a member of the Eating Leeds blog network on Facebook if you join now you'll do a bit for your own economy, as I've linked to a 2-for-1 Pizza Express voucher - valid Sunday - Thursday until 7 August. That's tonight's supper sorted then!

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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Linguine al Granchio

Tues 08 July 2008

Aside from being an opportunity to try something new, WBW also represents an interesting food and wine matching challenge. After all, the fact that it's a mid week event puts some time constraints on the production of a dish. And often we're drinking a wine with which we're not familiar.

Some research suggested (somewhat unimaginatively) that seafood was a good match for Soave. For some reason, I'd been talking about the gnocchi al granchio (gnocchi with a crab sauce) that I used to enjoy at a café on Rundle Street in Adelaide (yes, being a student was tough!). So fate decided our dish - with linguine taking the place of the gnocchi because we seem to have something of a surfeit of dried pasta at home!

This is perhaps not the most accessible of dishes. While the dish is ridiculously easy to put together, many readers may find acquiring fresh crab either difficult or prohibitively expensive. I am lucky in that the market in Leeds has an excellent row of fish mongers. I had a choice of buying whole crabs (the cheapest option, but most fiddly), pots of mixed brown and white crab meat or dressed crabs. While the pots of mixed meat did look quite good value, it was a bit hard to tell what the ratio of white to brown meat would be, so I opted for the dressed crabs. Two reasonably large specimens came in at £8*. Ouch.

Once home, with the linguine set to cook, I heated some olive oil in a pan, threw in some finely minced garlic (two large cloves, one small one) and a sprinkling of crushed red chilli. As the garlic softened I added the crab meat and cooked it gently, adding a good slug of vodka. As the crab meat warmed through in went some cream, a touch more vodka and then I turned off the heat and waited for the linguine to finish cooking. Finish the sauce with a generous handful of chopped parsley.

Toss the sauce through the linguine and serve, with plenty of Parmesan cheese and black pepper.

Absolutely delicious - and on the table in the time it took to cook the pasta!

By luck, I got the crushed chilli balance just right: it had a gentle, warming effect that crept up on you. The Soave went well with the dish - it had enough weight and flavour to stand up to both the full flavoured crab and the warm chilli, with its acidity balancing out nicely the cream and the richness of the crab.

Quite a result, really!

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* The two crabs were more than generous for two people: we had loads of crab meat and I had a very large lunch the next day. If you aren't inclined to be quite so frivolous with the pennies, one dressed crab will serve two just as well. Just use extra cream (and perhaps some white wine) to create a more saucy sauce.
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