Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Our Daily Bread

Any Night of the Week

Since the arrival of the KitchenAid I've been very very good about making my own bread. Things started with the onion bread tart and since then I've done a bit of experimenting and I've found it really very easy to fit bread making in with all the other activities, including preparation for the Eggs Factor!

My first batch of bread was turned into rolls using the Patricia Wells' recipe which is the base of the tart. These would be brilliant dinner rolls, although they rose a bit too much to be successful for sandwiches (our main concern). I'd definitely revisit the recipe for anything where you need a solid bread base. I think it would even do for pizza base ...

At work, someone suggested digging out a Jamie Oliver bread recipe. As I don't actually own any Jamie Oliver books, I consulted google and hit upon this recipe. I have no idea how true to the original Jamie Oliver recipe this is, but I do know that it's worked for me as a good basic dough.

Start with 1 teaspoon of yeast, 1 tablespoon of honey and 12 fl oz of warm water (this is approximately 325mL). Combine these (don't forget, you can let your stand mixer do the work for you!), and leave for 5 or so minutes until the yeast starts to bubble up.

Mix in a generous teaspoon of salt and 500g of strong white bread flour and knead the dough until elastic. Put in a bowl (I rub olive oil over the dough first, to stop it sticking too badly), cover with clingfilm and leave in the fridge over night.

When ready to make the bread, remove from the fridge, punch down the dough and knead it for about 10 minutes on a floured board. I find that just shaping it into a rough loaf shape and leaving it on a floured baking tray produces a loaf which is just right for making sandwiches. Leave the bread to rise until double (an hour or so) and then bake at 225C for 20-25 minutes or so.

Plain White Loaf: Dead Impressive Effort

You'll find the dough a little easier to handle if you bring it to room temperature, rather than kneading straight from the fridge. If you can be bothered to spray your oven with water just before putting in the bread (and then spraying every two minutes for the first 6 minutes of cooking) that will help you get a good crust. By roughly slashing the top of the dough before putting it in the oven you'll get quite a good look from your loaf, as well as giving it a little more room to rise while baking. And finally - don't tuck into your loaf of bread until it's cool! Sit back, let it finish off its cooking and enjoy the sound of the crust crackling away ...

But the real fun with bread making is experimenting. With this basic dough I've had great success with substituting stoneground wholemeal for half of the white flour, and also adding a teaspoon of carraway seeds to this basic white mix.

Flecked with carraway seeds for extra flavour: fantastic for ham sandwiches!

Because this has turned out to be such a foolproof, and QUICK, method, this is our standard mid-week way of producing bread. I'm hoping to do some more substantial experimenting in the near future ... but in the meantime, I'll be churning out variations on this basic theme.

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Friday, August 22, 2008

Baked Beans

Sunday 17 August 2008

The latest Australian Gourmet Traveller featured the perfect recipe for the Well Seasoned Cook's second helping of My Legume Love Affair: baked beans.

Baked beans are one of those things I won't eat. I can't imagine anything more disgusting than opening a tin of pallid little beans in a sickly tomato sauce, heating it up and slopping it over toast. Andy is only allowed to eat it if I'm not in the house.

However, I do love beans and pulses, and I'm more than happy to eat a lot of them: just not out of a tin.

The recipe in AGT is that of Bradley Main, head chef at the Riverstone Café in Bellingen, NSW. There were more tweeks than usual, so this is my version, with a nod to Bradley.

Quantities are for two people, with left overs for lunch or supper. Make this on a cool day as your oven will be on for a couple of hours!

Preheat your oven to 180C.

Begin by making the sauce. Heat some olive oil in a frying pan. Finely chop an onion (use the food processor for this), and sweat down with a couple of cloves of garlic. Add a couple of finely chopped carrots and a good chunk of chorizo, also finely chopped. Add a couple of bay leaves and a sprinkling of time, and a tin of chopped tomatoes. Leave to bubble away for a bit. Finish by adding a finely chopped red pepper.

Stunning colours! The beans didn't make quite such a pretty photo ...

Take a tin of butter beans and drain and rinse the beans. Pour them into a cassoulet dish and cover with the tomato sauce mixture. Add some water and give it a good stir. Cover the dish with tin foil, put its lid on and pop in the oven.

Give the beans a stir every now and then and, if necessary, add some extra water. I left the beans to cook for about 2 and a half hours. About half an hour before the end of cooking I added a teaspoon of paprika and just before serving I stirred through about a tablespoon of maple syrup (the original recipe called for 1/4 cup!).

We served on toast, topped with poached eggs.

This was absolutely delicious: the sauce was really well balanced both in terms of weight and flavour. It was naturally sweet from the onions, carrot, pepper and tomatoes. The chorizo and paprika added smokiness, the poached egg and toast contrasting textures, and the beans gave the dish weight and something to carry all the other flavours. It was brilliant for lunch the next day too - my work mates all commented on how great it smelt and were amazed that baked beans could smell so good and that I'd bothered to make my own.

Seriously - why would you eat them out of a tin?!

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Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Mill Race

Fri 1 August 2008

I first went to The Mill Race about 7 years ago - before I really cared too much about where my food came from and how it had been produced. The main consideration was whether or not it tasted any good. The restaurant had ticked all the boxes then so I was interested to head back and check out the current state of play.

The Mill Race is in a bit of a funny spot. At the bottom of Kirkstall hill, next to Morrison's, on the corner of a busy intersection: not perhaps the place you'd choose to stick a restaurant. However, once you get inside, you don't really notice the slightly unfortunate location. There's a newly opened courtyard area at the rear which is nicely secluded, and there's a lounge area upstairs. The restaurant is laid out spaciously: you certainly won't feel as though you're sharing your neighbours' meals.

Drinks wise, we started off with organic gin and tonics before moving on to organic Valpolicella. There were a few blackboard specials and the main menu contains something for everyone. Remember - this is an organic restaurant, not a vegetarian one! I started with a special: roast beetroot and blue cheese salad, while Andy opted for the smoked mackerel pâté. The combination of beetroot and blue cheese was never going to fail and the pâté had a good smokey flavour and was served with plenty of bread.

Moving on to the main courses, I chose another special: roast pork with caramelised apples and gravy. Andy again went à la carte with venison served with sweet potato wedges and an orange chutney. The venison was beautifully pink and it went well with the sweet potato, but Andy thought that the chutney was an unnecessary step too far. My pork was delicious. My only criticism would be that it was a little dry, but the flavour was fantastic and the potato dauphinoise, caramelised apples and gravy were all pretty near perfect.

We wrapped up the meal with a tarte tatin (me) and a cheese plate (Andy). Again - a tiny criticism of the tarte tatin would be that the pastry was a little tough, but otherwise we ended the meal full and happy.

The final bill was around £90. However, you can dine at The Mill Race far, far more cheaply. The early bird menu costs just £11.95 for two courses and £14.95 for three. Even better, while this is available before 7pm on Fridays and Saturdays it's available ALL evening Tuesday to Thursday. The restaurant is also open for lunches on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, with 'express' lunches starting at just £4.95. So actually, it was quite an achievement for us to spend so much!

The Mill Race may not be serving flawlessly executed food, but I think it's an essential destination for anyone who is after an interesting meal, with soundly sourced ingredients.

1. The Mill Race, 2/4 Commercial Road, Kirkstall, LS5 3AQ, phone: 0113 275 7555, map.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Eggs Factor

You may have noticed that things are a little quiet at the moment and that is partly due to the fact that, last week, I received the eggs-citing (well, it had to be done!) news that I am a in the Leeds regional final for ... the Eggs Factor!

The competition is being run by the British Egg Information Service and a series of regional heats is being held to find the Face of Eggs. Regional winners receive £500 (in itself not to be sneezed at!) and go on to compete in the national final in London where the main prize is a whopping £5000!

Clearly, this is something worth putting a smidgin of effort into! My first task will be to poach and plate an egg in 10 minutes. After this, I'll be cooking my signature egg dish (which I might keep secret!). This is complicated because we have 15 minutes preparation time, but we have only 10 minutes from receiving our eggs to plating up! Quite a tall order!

Needless to say, we're making our way through a fair few eggs at home and the practising is going ... OK. I'm a bit worried about the egg poaching, as the eggs seem to have quite a mind of their own about the extent to which they want to fall apart! At the moment I'm at a 50-50 split between 'acceptable' and 'a bit of a state'!

I'm also doing quite a lot of other cooking, and I've fitted in visits to quite a few restaurants, so as soon as I stop poaching eggs there should be something of a flood of new material ...

As a taster ... the next post will be our visit to The Mill Race in Kirkstall! Make sure you sign up for our email newsletter or our RSS feed!
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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

WBW#48: Back To Your Roots

Sun 10 August 2008

It's Wine Blogging Wednesday's fourth birthday and the party is being held by Lenn Thompson at Lenndeavours, with the theme 'back to your roots'.

The idea is to choose a wine from your early wine drinking days, perhaps the first wine you ever tried, and blog about it. I imagine, for some people, this might involve revisiting some less than stellar vinous experiences ...

I'm lucky as I can't remember the first wine I ever tried, so that rules that out. And, having grown up a 30 minute drive from McLaren Vale and about a 60 minute drive from the Barossa Valley, my list of seminal wines would probably run to several pages.

Even though I wasn't able to try any of these wines (availability of South Australian boutique wines in Leeds is somewhat limited) I'll give you a taster of what I was lucky enough to cut my teeth on ...

Right up there, Henschke Mount Edelstone Shiraz 1991 (or was it 92?). It probably costs a fortune now! Bought for me over dinner at the Adelaide Casino by a good university friend just before I went travelling at 21.

Post travelling, a 1982 JJ Prüm Kabinett and a 1986 Château Montrose, bought for me by a winemaking student I had met while abroad and who was visiting Adelaide for his university studies. This taught me that Riesling is a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful wine. Oh, and Bordeaux - that's OK too!

Post travelling boyfriend lived very close to an excellent wine shop and one of the highlights was a Bests Great Western Pinot Meunier. It's not often you see PM outside a bottle of bubbly, let alone as a straight red. It was magical!

For this event, the obvious choice was a Barossa or McLaren Vale Shiraz. And that happened to be the Peter Lehmann 2001 The Antiquus Old Vines Shiraz (£15.99 from Latitude Wines).

South Australia has some of the oldest vines in the world: while much of the Old World suffered from phylloxera South Australia's vines puttered along and today they're quite unique. For example, the Henschke Hill of Grace vineyard was planted in the 1860s, and, despite the 1980s vine pull (there was so much Shiraz being grown the South Australian government paid growers to pull up their old vines and plant something different!), there are plenty of old vines around to produce complex, long lived wines.

Peter Lehmann is one of those rather ubiquitous supermarket brands but I wouldn't let that put you off buying some of the label's more expensive wines (such as the Stonewall, or even The Antiquus) and I would certainly suggest visiting the cellar door if you're ever in the Barossa Valley.

So, when you finally get the cork out of a bottle of this wine ... what happens? The wine was ruby in colour, with slight tinges of garnet. The nose was not as pronounced as I'd expected, but with red fruit (berries?), plum, warm spices. The fruit was very ripe, perhaps a touch confected and there are a few savoury notes too, with perhaps a touch of tobacco.

On the palate, the wine was almost vegetal at the edges, but was dominated by chocolate and more very ripe fruit. This was backed up by both good acid and tannin levels, which made me think that this could do with some time lying down in a cool, dark place.

The length was very good and the flavours definitely developed, moving through to stronger warm spice (think mince pie) and loads of pepper.

Although this is a good (to very good) wine, I'm not entirely sure about the hefty price tag. I've been focussing on expanding my European wine drinking, and certainly, a Côte Rôtie would probably set you back at least as much if not (a lot) more. I suspect that built into this price is a little trading on the Peter Lehmann name ...

There was a little left for a revisit on Monday night. The nose was more perfumed and the wine had softened. The wine definitely has some ageing potential, which might be advisable if you're planning on unleashing all that pepper on Old World Shiraz drinkers. At 14.5% abv there is NOTHING lightweight about this wine.

But then, there was nothing lightweight about the massive pieces of sirloin with chips and mayonnaise which it washed down!

Moral of the story - no matter how far you are away from home, nothing will bring back memories of the flat, dirty, dusty land outside Tanunda quite like a bottle of Barossa Shiraz.

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Monday, August 11, 2008

Julia Child's Mayonnaise

Sun 10 August 2008

After the salt and pepper squid we were left with two egg yolks. What to do? Custard? Hmm, that wouldn't involve the KitchenAid ... so I hit upon the idea of mayonnaise. As Champaign Taste is hosting an event in honour of Julia Child's birthday, I thought I should use her recipe, from Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

Mayonnaise is a simple enough thing to make. You either need a sturdy piece of beating equipment or a very strong right (or left) arm. Fortunately, with the mechanics of the whipping sorted all you need is patience.

Child's recipe begins with three egg yolks, and as I only had 2 I adjusted the other quantities down.

Begin by beating your room temperature egg yolks until they are thick and sticky. Then add 3 teaspoons of white wine vinegar, some salt and just under a quarter of a teaspoon of dry mustard powder. Keep beating.

Keep beating. Now start adding your oil. I use a mix of extra virgin olive oil and sunflower oil. If you are using a lighter olive oil, and depending on your taste, you need not use a blend. Add the oil a drip at a time and every now and then pause to ensure the oil is being incorporated.

Basically, you keep going like this and the mixture continues to thicken up. Once it's starting to look like a cream you can add the oils in tablespoon type measures - and, if you're beating by hand, you can have a little rest.

Eventually, the mayo will properly thicken up. At this point, you can add some more vinegar or lemon juice to let it down, and you can adjust the seasoning with some extra mustard powder. Child suggests adding a couple of tablespoons of boiling water to prevent the sauce splitting.

More oil and beating required!

If you're impatient (like me) and you stop the beating in of the oil too soon you will end up with a more saucy version of your mayonnaise. Mine was almost hollandaise consistency, which suited me perfectly.

The mayo was great with steak and chips (well, really, how could it go wrong?) and used as a dressing on a salad was absolutely gorgeous!

Do be careful not to overdo the extra virgin olive oil, as it can give the mayonnaise a very strong taste. Tasting all the way through should allow you to adjust the oil balance as required.

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Sunday, August 10, 2008

Salt and Pepper Squid

Sat 09 August 2008

Joelen's Culinary Adventures is hosting an 'Asian Appetizer Adventure' which seemed like a top notch excuse to make salt and pepper squid.

This sounded like it would be a pretty easy exercise, until I started digging around for recipes. Most of the recipes we could find seemed to involve quickly pan frying the squid and then tossing in a salt and pepper mix. Not what I had in mind at all. I was expecting a light batter, but the internet was not so swift in producing the 'right' recipe.

Fortunately, Australian Gourmet Traveller, as ever, came to the rescue. Thanks to the annual recipe index, I found that the January 2005 issue had featured salt and pepper squid as the month's Classic Dish. And it was exactly what I had in mind.

The article also features a potted history of the dish: I had no idea that this may be Cantonese in origin. I'd have to say that I've eaten it in primarily Thai restaurants.

Prep is very simple. First, take your squid, give it a rinse and then cut into generous bite size pieces. Lightly score the inside of the hoods in a criss-cross manner. Marinate the squid in some lemon juice in the fridge.

The spice mix consists of 3 teaspoons szechuan peppercorns, 1 1/2 teaspoons of black peppercorns (both dry roasted), 1 1/2 teaspoons of ground white pepper and 2 1/2 teaspoons of salt (though you may want to reduce this). Grind these all up using a pestle and mortar and then mix into a blend of 35 g of rice flour (or ground rice) and 75 g of plain flour.

As the squid is deep fried, fill up your wok (or deep fryer) and get ready for the mess. Ideally, use an oil with a hot smoking point (peanut oil is an excellent choice). When you're ready to cook the squid, take it out of the fridge and dry it off. Dip the squid into lightly beaten egg white, then into the flour and spice mix and then straight into the hot oil for a minute or two, until golden and crispy.
Serve immediately. We had plain rice and salad on the side, and washed it down with a selection of international lagers from Beer Ritz. Keeping with the Asian theme, we made sure we enjoyed Beer Lao (from Laos) and Hue Beer (from Vietnam) while we were eating!

This dish does cause chaos in your kitchen and you end up feeling like you've done a full shift in a chip shop. Don't plan to cook this for dinner parties! Unfortunately, here in the UK, the squid ranks 4 on the scale of "fish to avoid" over at fishonline, so it's a once in a while treat.*

However, if you're lucky enough to live near the sea, I can't imagine anything better than a day on a boat, a couple of big squid as your haul, and this for supper!

*If you want to read about why fish stocks are important, read this recent article by Alex Renton.

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Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Roast Beef and Bordeaux

Sun 20 July 2008

A bit of a trip back in time here!

When my parents visited us last year, they bought us a lot of wine, which included a bottle of 1998 Château Bouscaut. I knew this hadn't been a particularly cheap wine so we'd wanted to make sure we made a bit of an occasion of drinking it.

The "occasion" presented itself in the form of Sunday lunch: a piece of roast beef from Yorkshire Highlanders, roast vegetables, and (of course) Yorkshire pudding and gravy.

Yorkshire pudding still in the oven at this point!

However, I'm going to take this opportunity to give you an overview of Bordeaux. Nothing like learning while you're drinking!

The label of this wine proudly announces Grand Cru Classé de Graves, and has Pessac-Léognan in large letters. Nowhere does it mention Bordeaux - so even a little bit of knowledge goes a long way (I think this is more true of Bordeaux than pretty much any other region in France - I'm sure that will spike some debate!).

The label of more recent vintages has had a design change. 'Grand Cru Classé de Graves' is in gold letters across the top.

In wine terms, Bordeaux is the region in south-west France which encompasses the Gironde Estuary, formed by the Garonne and Dordogne rivers. This region is divided into smaller regions, one of which is Graves, and some of those are divided further still - hence Pessac-Léognan.*

Very importantly, the two dominant red grapes are Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, and the dominant white grape is Sémillon.

Usually, wines from Graves would be Cabernet Sauvignon dominant, but the Bouscaut is about 60% Merlot, with the balance made up of Cabernet Sauvignon and a touch of Malbec.

So what did it actually taste like?

The short answer: very good.

The long answer ... well, it was pretty closed to start off with, but unceremoniously sloshing it into our decanter certainly helped open it up (don't worry - it hadn't thrown very much sediment at all!). It definitely developed as we drank it, so if you have a bottle it might be worth decanting it an hour or so in advance of drinking it. On the nose, both red and black fruit developed into definite forest fruit aromas, accompanied by tobacco, cedar and hints of warm spice. Initially, the palate had considerably less fruit than the nose, but here too the fruit flavours developed into definite black fruit. The fruit was complemented by the same cedar and spice notes found in the nose. The tannins were still quite grippy (although nicely integrated - they didn't hit you and dry out your mouth in one hit), so make sure you drink this with a big piece of red meat, or leave it alone for a little while longer. The wine is only 12.5%abv, but did feel slightly warm.

We both really enjoyed this and it went really well with the lovely beef. If you're fortunate enough to have some bottles stashed away, wait until mid-winter, cook up a hearty beef daube and invite me round for supper!

* You can click through to a map pinpointing the Château here - zoom out for the Bordeaux region.

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Tuesday, August 05, 2008


Tues 05 August 2008

The start of a new month and time to take stock of where things are at.

Although not related to Leeds, I was pleased to read this gem on the BBC website: Starbucks has closed 61 of its 85 Australian shops!* As you may know, I grew up in Adelaide, a city with quite a high number of Italian immigrants. This translates into a lot of very superior coffee - and if you're a visitor to the city I recommend you check out either Lucia's at the Central Market or one of the many Cibo Espressos. Frankly, Starbucks' sterile and formulaic environment and not very good coffee have never really done it for me, so I'm pretty chuffed that Australia's bucking at least one globalisation trend!

Cibo Espresso, Moseley Square, Glenelg, in winter

Closer to home, the news of the day is that Oddbins has been sold. It's all over the web today, so you'll find more information than I can offer here by googling it, but it's interesting to note that the small company (two outlets) that has bought the chain is run by Oddbins' founder's son. It will be interesting to see what changes.

And really close to home ... on Thursday 24 July the Leeds heat for the PUDZ Amateur Pudding Chef was held at Thomas Danby College. I found out about this too late to participate but the heat was won by Louise Yankovic of Chapel Allerton, who'll be heading down to London for the final in November. There's time for people in the Glasgow, Birmingham and Bristol areas to participate, but I'm sure that all of us in Yorkshire will be wishing Louise and her mixed berry shortcake tart all the best in London!

Louise Yankovic's Mixed Berry Shortcake Tart

In writing news ... by far the most popular post at the moment on Eating Leeds is our visit to Larocca. Eating Leeds got its review of this new Italian restaurant out before even the Metro! I was a little undecided ... so have you been yet? What did you think?

Finally ... don't forget to subscribe to the Eating Leeds feed, follow me (Alex) on twitter, or join the Eating Leeds Facebook blog network! Adding to the Web 2.0 armoury, if you see a post you like, don't forget to stumble it!

*Thanks to Robert at The Wine Conversation.
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Monday, August 04, 2008

Onion Bread Tart

Sun 03 August 2008

This started off as an excuse to make use of the KitchenAid, but I've now discovered an excellent technique which should mean we can keep ourselves in home made bread for much of the time.

Both parts of this recipe come from Patricia Wells's At Home In Provence.

I started by making her basic bread recipe. The KitchenAid turns out to be a fantastic beast for bread making, because it turns it into a all-in-one-bowl exercise, and also removes from my hands the mucky work of incorporating flour and liquid!

So - in the bowl of your heavy duty mixer, put 1 tsp of yeast (I was using dried, active yeast), 1 tsp of sugar and add to this 11 fl oz (approximately 325mL) of warm water. Set the mixer on to its lowest setting to stir up the yeast and sugar, and then leave for the yeast to activate.

When the yeast has started its bubbling, add 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and a teaspoon of salt. Stir this, and with the mixer on, start adding 500g of strong bread flour. I add it a heaped tablespoon at a time.

Once you've added all the flour, let the mixer do the work until you have a smooth, elastic ball of dough. If, like me, you like kneading, you can pull it out earlier and knead yourself. Place the ball of dough in a large bowl, cover with cling film and leave in the fridge overnight.

To make the topping for the onion tart, take 3 or 4 large onions, slice finely and sweat in some olive oil. Add a teaspoon of salt, a teaspoon of sugar, a sprig of rosemary and a bay leaf or too. When the onions have softened and taken on some colour, add pepper to taste and leave to cool.

Preheat your oven to 230°C. Take your bread dough (preferably already brought to room temperature, but straight from the fridge is fine) and roll it out and shape it to fit a standard baking tray. If your tray is non stick, just place the dough on, stretching it out so it meets the edges. If it's not a non stick tray, grease or line with baking paper.

Mix the onion mixture with a beaten egg and a teaspoon of carraway seeds and spread over the dough, right to the edges. Bake in the hot oven for about 25 minutes - until the onions are golden and the bread is risen. Serve on its own, or with some salad, and (of course) a glass of wine.

Thanks to our enthusiastic fan oven, some of our onion came out a little darker than I would have liked, but fortunately it was not at all bitter. This was absolutely delicious and between the two of us we managed to polish off the whole thing, bar two lunch sized portions.

Of course, you may not be as greedy!

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Sunday, August 03, 2008

Farmers' Markets

Sun 03 August 2008

Back in May I wrote about my trip to the Oakwood Farmers' Market. This has become a quasi monthly fixture on the Eating Leeds calendar, helped along in no small way by the fact some friends live nearby and it's an excuse for a bit of food shopping followed by a coffee.

A Scientist in the Kitchen is hosting a farmers' market blog event, so I thought I'd take the opportunity to cover not only Oakwood (the subject of this photo montage) but other farmers' markets in Leeds.

The markets I have been known to frequent include Headingley (second Saturday of the month, the Rose Garden, on North Lane) and the Leeds' event (first and third Sunday of the month). There are also markets in many of Leeds' suburbs, including Shadwell, Chapel Allerton and Pudsey: the chances are that there's one near you, so there's no excuse not to go along. Check out West Yorkshire Food to find details on your nearest market.

You'll find that many of the stall holders will visit more than one market: Yorkshire Highlanders, for example, are at both Oakwood and Leeds (as well as other markets), as are Woodside Pick Your Own (the lovely asparagus above, and some gorgeous raspberries last month), Lincolnshire Poacher Cheese and Church View eggs. Of course, you can't visit a market with too much of a definite shopping list in mind ... but then, that's half the fun!

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