Archive for the ‘Food & Drink’ Category
Thanks to Fuel My Blog and Wish, I have a 6 month subscription to Curry Recipe Kits from The Spicery. My first box arrived just before Christmas, so we decided to cook it for our special New Year’s Eve meal (we never go out).
The box itself arrives in the post, rather like a smaller but more colourful Graze box (use code 3M826CQ if you’d like to try Graze for free, tasty snacks delivered to your door). It contains all the fresh spices – ground, whole, toasted etc – in sturdy and easy-to-open little packets for each stage of the meal. Also included are detailed recipe cards and clear instructions on additional ingredients required. The cards build into a sort of mini recipe book, using a nifty screw fitting to tie the cards and covers together. If you want to cook a recipe again, the website gives details for repeat quantities of the spices.
This month’s curry is the Syrian Christian curry, with side dishes of Kosambari (a salad) and Spicy Fruit Chutney. From the information about the recipes:
The Syrian Christian population in Kerala, Southern India are descended from the arrival of St Thomas the Apostle in AD52. These Christians later intermarried with various other traders and missionaries who’d also settled in the area and a vibrant community emerged with an equally exciting cuisine. The cooking used the local produce such as coconuts and limes, but combined it with flavours, ingredients and techniques from further afield. This simple curry is a perfect example of this style of cooking in that it’s a classic Keralan coconut milk curry with a tangy fresh Kosambari salad, but also echoes back to dishes from the Middle East and Europe with the addition of the sour vinegar and sweet dried fruit chutney.
I like getting a bit of background to the recipe, and cooking things new to me, so I appreciated this detail. No boring standard dishes here. It’s not something I would ever have thought to cook, despite enjoying coconut-based sauces in the past.
The shopping list for the chutney asked for figs or dates. ASDA had a jumbo pack of figs for just £2, and I prefer them, so in they went. It’s quite a sweet, hot chutney and I thought it complemented the meal well. I also intend to have a dollop with stilton and maybe with some grilled aubergine. The method was simple – soak the fruit in boiling water, add salt and the spices, whizz to a coarse puree. So we did that first.
Next I marinated the meat in spices and vinegar – the vinegar being key to the slightly sour taste of the final curry – and got on with the Kosambari. Unfortunately, shopping over the holiday season meant that despite visiting an array of supermarkets, we were unable to obtain white cabbage or a lime. Red cabbage (closest in texture, looks quite festive) and bottled lime juice (no lemons available either) had to suffice. The salad wasn’t entirely successful, perhaps due to the substitutions, it tasted a bit odd. However, a dollop of crème fraîche turned it into a very nice sort-of-coleslaw.
The curry itself was simple enough. Soften an onion, add whole spices, chuck in ginger and plenty of garlic, then the ground and toasted spices, then meat (we used chicken) followed by liquid. Easy peasy. Except the coconut milk we bought was rubbish, not at all thick and creamy even when shaken vigorously. So it required a little more cooking than stated and I chucked in a handful of dessicated coconut for good measure.
Crispy onion, toasted coconut and more whole spices meant that the basmati rice served with the curry was extremely tasty. The final meal was lovely. I really enjoyed the curry, rice and chutney, especially together, and the salad was OK in the end. It all looked great on the plate, too (if you ignore the fact that I didn’t go for poshing up the rice or wiping round the plate in Masterchef style, I was hungry). The recipe and spice quantities served 4. We made a full batch of everything bar the rice so we have another meal to look forward to later. Can’t beat leftovers.
I recommend the kits as a gift, based on this first experience. The ordering process via Wish is simple, as with most of the “experiences” offered on their site – you order from them, an attractive box is delivered with a shiny voucher and instructions and the recipient just has to activate the voucher online and then send a quick email to the very friendly folk at The Spicery with their voucher number and whether they want veggie or non-veggie recipes. The first kit is sent out ASAP. I’m looking forward to January’s box…
Last night, thanks to The Culture Vulture, I headed to Menston for a curry “masterclass” and meal at the 1875 Anglo-Indian restaurant at Menston railway station. Yes, that is a deliberate Raj-era reference.
We split into two groups, as the kitchen is tiny, and after the first lot had a go, my set donned hairnets and a mixture of chef jackets and aprons and headed into the cockpit to meet Delhi-born chef Baljit Singh. We were treated to exciting glimpses of spice boxes, the tandoor and secret masala mixes, before engaging with demonstrations on making pakora, chapati and chicken tikka. I was also able to chat to the beautifully-dressed boss – Bradford entrepreneur Majinder Singh Sarai.
That’s where it got interesting for me. He has some plans for storytelling through food that, if done right, could be very exciting. I don’t know yet. The stories could just end up as titles or basic themes for a night of food, which would thrill me less. Majinder was very focused on his brand, and the historical period that inspired it. I’m just not sure I got any of that from the experience we had in the restaurant itself. Perhaps that was the artificial conditions of the large group and private “bloggers event”.
Due to dietary requirements, I didn’t try the beef masala, which split the diners between love and hate, or pork vindaloo, which was more universally admired and tended towards the original style of the dish over the uber-hot lads’ night out version. None of the curry sauces were too oily. I enjoyed the samosas and naan breads and the rice was pleasant. The Murg Tikka had a decent taste, if a little too much heat for me, but I wasn’t keen on the texture (the menu says chicken breast, my mouth says not). Out of the two vegetarian dishes sampled, several of us agreed that if the sauce of the cauliflower-based Thaji Masala Shabzi had replaced the hot but rather bland sauce given to the paneer dish, that would have been very tasty indeed.
The prices aren’t bad, although diners must order a minimum of two courses each, and the decor is pleasant. The restaurant is aimed at an older and more discerning clientele so there are no lager louts to put you off your meal. I enjoyed myself, because the company was excellent and the host made us feel welcome. The food was fine, though there are more enticing things on their menu than we were given to sample, especially the Christmas choices. I don’t know – I like the idea of a historical journey through India, even though I’m not sure how I feel about the colonial theme. But my experience didn’t tally with the talk, and I’m not sure how much of that was the circumstances and how much was a failure to do more than think about the “brand”. Maybe next year, if 1875 do something really special with the ideas that have potential…
(Photographs throughout via the lovely Mike Wallis)
Thanks to The Culture Vulture, a group of intrepid bloggers were given the opportunity to try the new Leeds branch of “casual dining” steakhouse chain, Cattle Grid, last night. The restaurant is in Waterloo House, the attractive building behind the Corn Exchange that was once Cafe Rouge (and a failed venture or two after that closed).
One of the owners, Steve Novak, was there to greet us. This is not in any way reflective of his business practices, but he did remind me a bit of a cowboy. Plenty of humour, swagger and anecdote-slinging. Thankfully matched by a tendency to be almost too honest about the realities of running a restaurant. Perfect TV show material – yee-haw!
We were treated to a speech and Q&A session before our meal, which was interesting but allowed to run for about twice its natural length. Novak is an ebullient host, and chock-full of stuff to say, but when it’s 9pm before I get to eat anything and the event started at 7.30, I have a tendency to get a bit cranky. As does my digestive system. I’m sure other bloggers will relate the tale better than I, but the explanation of a piece of meat involving the descriptor “sperm” will live with me forever. Entertaining.
We were allowed two drinks plus very generously anything we wanted off the menu, which led us to order a decent number of sides between us in order to try a good range of what was on offer. My companions began with a couple of starter portions of ribs to share, peri peri and baby back, and both went down extremely well. As did Dom’s full portion a little later, which would have been too much for many. I can’t digest red meat, so I missed out, but they certainly looked and smelled pretty great. I would say they’re worth trying and probably the best thing on the menu.
The steaks were next to arrive. The people around me ordered a mixture of ribeye and t-bone, with various different sauces. They let me pinch a couple of chips to try the sauces while I was waiting for my main to arrive. The blue cheese was fine, not too rich, but perhaps a bit mellow in flavour. No bite to the cheese. Maybe it was a mild variety, or maybe the cheese content of the sauce wasn’t high enough to give it punch. The green peppercorn was just right – balancing heat and creaminess without being overbearing. Sauces shouldn’t mask the flavour of the meat. Chips (double-fried, skins on) were a bit pale and floppy and could have done with being chunkier – they fell somewhere between proper chips and fries in size. Neither nor.
The steaks, which are served with with chips and watercress, got mixed reports, but the general gist was that medium-rare steaks turned up medium-well and the meat didn’t rate higher than average. The latter may be acceptable, given Novak’s stated intention to be the Pizza Express of steakhouses. Although a PE pizza costs less than £10 and is often available on 2for1 deals and Clubcard points. I’m not sure you can apply the same principles when people are forking out upwards of £15 in real money – plus extra for veg/salad – and waiting longer than 15 minutes for their meal. The mark-up may be similar, but people’s expectations of a steak at that price versus a family-friendly pizza are quite different.
There was a bit of a problem with one of the fryers, so we were later told, so although it didn’t take long after the steaks for my chicken burger to arrive, the sides of chips and onion strings didn’t turn up, without explanation. Rach and I ordered coleslaw and spinach to share. Novak had told us that he uses different mayonnaise for the coleslaw than is served with the burgers, because quality is important, so we wanted to try it. The mayo was decent, and the coleslaw creamy, however it had insufficient sharpness to tempt me and perhaps a little heavy on the sauce versus the amount of veg. I think that’s a personal preference thing, as it suited others’ taste perfectly. The spinach, chosen as “something green”, was wilted in butter, fresh and well-seasoned.
One good thing about the burgers at Cattle Grid is that all the toppings are available for all the burger types (beef patty – not 100% beef, chicken or flat mushroom). Many restaurants and pubs offer a plethora of options for beefburgers and one or only a handful for other types. The chicken burger is a butterflied chicken breast, unbreaded. The recommended topping was harissa – which we were told was not really harissa but that was the best explanation for it – and buffalo mozzarella, so that is what I ordered. The sauce was tasty, but strong enough to overpower all of the other ingredients, so the generous portion of melted mozzarella might as well have been Tesco Value cow’s milk mozzarella, but never mind. Not as aromatic as real harissa, it was more of a tomato/chilli/garlic sauce that went well with the chicken and a few more stolen chips. The chicken breast was a decent size, cooked well, and juicy enough. No problems at all there.
There was a high level of what I would call redundancy in the burger. I love a dill pickle as much as the next lass, but half a large one split lengthways and a leaf of bog standard round lettuce were a bit lost with the thick layers of sauce, cheese and meat. The soggy red onion soaking the bun under the meat and mayo on the bread was also a bit pointless. The bread, actually, was ENORMOUS. From Anthony’s, rather than their London supplier, it was undeniably good quality but not really the perfect product for the burger. Far too big, too heavy – a brioche or sourdough brioche bun would have been better-suited to the chicken and sauce. The bottom soaked through too quickly and the top of the bun was so over-toasted that you could hit it with a knife and think it was wood. Made a good sound, though.
The worst element of the burger was a massive, rock-hard, tasteless tomato slice, that was mostly core. That said, I must reiterate that the chicken, sauce and cheese were good and worked well together. There was just a load of irrelevant crap in there to plough through/discard and this could easily be improved.
Towards the end of our main course, the fryer problems were explained and I declined the offer of finally receiving my chips, as I only had a small amount of burger left and I was already quite full. I would have liked to try more than the odd chip or two, but it seemed like a waste. We did accept the onion strings, which are actually nothing like onion rings, but more of a South African treat that would go down well with a beer. Cattle Grid serve several varieties of Fentimans, which are always an excellent soft drink option and would also complement the strings. Hot, sweet fried onion, speckled with thin batter – I was actually expecting somewhat more of this, as in this recipe – and choked with salt. They could dial the latter down a touch, but there’s a fairground/childhood nostalgia element to the onion strings that was very enjoyable and I wish I’d had them earlier so I could have gobbled up more of them. Unfortunately, the later I eat the less I can manage. Highly recommended, anyway.
I had no room for dessert, but there was a short menu that was enthusiastically seized upon by my peers. The chocolate brownie looked pretty tasty, the waffle a little dull/processed, the creme brulee was deemed no more than OK and the ice cream got decent reports.
My overall score is 6 out of 10, which would be eked out to a 7 if this was Come Dine With Me on the basis that the atmosphere, hosting and entertainment (via Steve Novak) were cracking, as was the company. The Culture Vulture crew is a jolly one and we all ate loads. Try the ribs and the onion strings, particularly when they open the upstairs room for events bookings early in 2012.
These are the best sweets in the world. Though possibly only if you’re me. They’re Swedish. Shaped like a cat’s face. Soft liquorice. Half violet, half salt liquorice. I am known for loving salt liquorice/salmiakki. I also love floral flavoured sweets, especially violet creams and Parma Violets. AMAZING. But I’m guessing most people reading this will think they are revolting.
COSTINESS: £2.50/100g from Bah Humbugs
So, here we are at the end of August. It hasn’t been much of a summer for me, all told, due to the amount of work I’ve had to do for OU and for my other projects. Here’s a chance to catch up on a few things.
The Open University are having to put their fees up, along with everyone else. Their page on it is here. The current student finance programme is also disappearing for new students, and being replaced with the same loan system used by brick universities. If this had been the case back in 2008 when I started my BSc, I wouldn’t have signed up. Couldn’t have. Having dropped out of two well-respected brick universities in my teens due to mental health and other issues, including my undiagnosed-at-the-time autism, I don’t think they’d have let me sign up for another loan. Getting full financial support meant I felt able to take the risk of starting a third attempt at a degree – even if they had let me borrow the fees, I wouldn’t have felt comfortable doing it based on my past. I’m now three years in, getting excellent marks and hoping to do a Masters if I can get the funding. I have one year left – starting in February, as my modules mostly run Feb-Oct. Wish me luck in my October exams…
Damien Hirst at Leeds Art Gallery… I was lucky enough to go to a preview of this exhibition while it was still being installed. I therefore avoided the crowds and the alarms. I loved it, though those of us present who did seemed to be a minority. Many had problems with Hirst the man, and the fame and money. Whereas I think those things are part of the work. I intend going back to the exhibition soon, when the school holidays end, and writing the more reflective piece I had in mind. It’s funny, when I was younger I was utterly fascinated by his Pharmacy restaurant in London, but could never afford to go even when I lived down there. Now a recreation of it is practically in my back yard. But you can’t eat or sit down or hang out there. It’s like a strange living museum. Reminded me in a way of the Pre-Fab at Eden Camp. More about this later, when I have time.
I am skint, so I rarely go to restaurants without a Clubcard token in hand, but I’ve eaten a couple of interesting meals lately…
Divino in Adel was a strange experience. Along with various other Leeds Guide competition winners, I was invited to try their new Italian tapas-style (or rather size) dishes. The welcome was non-existent, service poor, drinks overpriced (my pop also tasted terrible, off tap) and they hadn’t thought to ask whether or not anyone had any dietary requirements. So I (no red meat) and some others we spotted missed out on one course and were given a dodgy substitute for another. The food itself was a mixed bag. My companion enjoyed his parma ham and what he thought might be duck – at no point were we given a menu or descriptions or even names of the dishes – to start. I had nowt. Then came whitebait with deep fried strips of courgette/zucchini. Ingredients fine, oil not really hot enough, so somewhat greasy and under-seasoned. Homemade filled pasta with pumpkin, sage and chilli was OK if a bit thickly-rolled and uninspired, and topped with too-large and soggy crumbs of amaretti biscuit. I’ve seen Rick Stein do this before, but it was a lot less heavy-handed. My companion enjoyed his freshly-made lasagne. The veggie option was an elderly portion of the restaurant’s usual spinach and ricotta cannelloni, bizarrely topped with Cheddar cheese and bearing the hallmarks of being reheated in the microwave – floppy, far too hot, bechamel sauce coagulating strangely. The final dish was an okay but rather cheap-tasting portion of tiramisu. Nobody asked if we’d enjoyed our meal or said goodbye when we paid for drinks and left, so I don’t feel that bad about criticising a free meal.
I’ve also had the pleasure of visiting Fish&‘s new “beach hut” on Commercial Street in Leeds city centre. I have written about their food before, and last time I tried their fish & chips with a twist, I felt they showed promise but a few things needed tweaking. Now they get a solid 9-9.5 out of 10. Extremely fresh fish, batter not too thick, oil a good temperature and they’ve sorted out the chips. They would get a 10 if they let the chips get a little bit more colour, for aesthetic purposes. Taste-wise they’re great, just a little pale in real life. The hut’s in town from 11-6, Tuesday to Saturday. I had my portion following a tough tutorial session, and it sorted me right out.
As mentioned before on this blog, the independent food space Dock Street Market recently opened in Leeds. Fish & chips “with a difference” purveyors Fish& have a pop-up canteen there at selected times from Fridays to Sundays at the moment. Best to check the website to keep up to date with opening hours. Food is by Fiona Rotheray, who established the award-winning Mill Race organic restaurant in Leeds, among other things. The fish is MSC-certified from sustainable sources, so you aren’t going to get cod – but you can feel better about eating fish.
I won a competition on The Culture Vulture for a free Fish& meal for two, so husband and I dutifully turned up last night – having told them on Twitter when we fancied coming – to find they really had reserved us a table, which was lovely, and we could have anything we wanted. Husband plumped for fish in lemon, lime and chilli batter and I went for the traditional beer batter. We both had chips and crushed minted peas.
These were served at a table with a smart gingham cloth, wine glass of herbs (in lieu of a vase of flowers) and candle, plus wooden cutlery already laid. At a nearby table, an array of condiments and paper napkins could be found. There is table service for those who choose to eat in, but the cutlery is as I have described disposable, and the food is served in a fairly standard takeaway tray. This was slightly disappointing, as I prefer really crockery and cutlery when I am not getting takeaway, but this is a new venture and of course a pop-up rather than permanent canteen at this stage. I’m hoping both cutlery and trays adhere to the environmental awareness hinted at by the fish – natural materials are not automatically more sustainable than polymers. A slightly dull digression there, having spent much of the past year studying product design and sustainability.
Both fillets of non-specified white fish (I suspect Alaskan pollock) were a decent size and meaty, and quite juicy. Not quite as fresh and lightly cooked as I’d prefer, as when cut into the fish mostly stayed put, rather than falling apart in thick white flakes. However, I’m a picky sod and it was still very tasty – local chippies have sometimes served up fish cooked so long it was like leather, and so old that while not actively dangerous, it held together like tough beef before disintegrating into tiny bits.
The batter was thin, as it has been on previous occasions at Fish& tastings, and this is my preference. It could have stood to have been a little crisper, but I do have a sneaky fondness for crunchy crazy curls at either end of the fillet and it was fine as it was, even if it wouldn’t have made for good scraps (I believe elsewhere in the country these are called “bits” – the leftover shards of batter, which should be crisp and not soggy). My beer batter had excellent depth of flavour, and I tried a bit of the citrus/chilli batter, which was zingy and well-balanced.
Both of us loved the crushed minted peas – neither of us fans of the traditional mushies – and husband declared them the best peas of any kind he had ever tasted. Praise indeed. They also gave a welcome injection of colour to the dish. I was musing to myself what they’d do to the humble baked bean. Haricot beans slow cooked in tomato sauce with molasses in the original American style (but no ham hock else I couldn’t eat ‘em), maybe…
The one downside to the meal was the chips. I shouldn’t complain, as it was free, but I’ve had Fish& food twice before so I’m guessing this is not the normal state of affairs. The first time I tried their fish & chips, at their Culture Vultures event, the chips were crisp and golden and skinless. The second time, at the Dock Street Market launch, all I was able to grab was chunky potato wedges, which understandably held up better on the cocktail sticks on which they were served. I was hoping to repeat my first experience, but while the chips were perfectly edible, they were a tad overcooked and I suspect not in hot enough oil. They reminded me of my mum’s. Since about 1988, she hasn’t cooked anything unhealthy or ordered chips out, but when I was little she had a chip pan and wire basket (not deep fat fryer) and made chips on some Saturday lunchtimes. They were darker brown than chippy chips or oven chips or fries, often left the skin on, and were a bit soft and strangely sweet-tasting. They were cut more like slices of wedges rather than chipped (by the latter I mean elongated cubes). These were very similar, down to the skin on. I’m hoping it’s just because we went late on and it’s only the second weekend of the canteen. I still ate ‘em! Plus the nostalgia thing gave them a slight boost. However, to me chips should be golden, crisp on the outside and fluffy inside, and cooked at least twice (a gentle fry to break down the starch and make them fluffy on the inside and coated on the outside with a robust starch layer, and then a blisteringly hot fry to crisp up).
Overall score? 7.5 out of 10, not at all bad for a new venture. Plus I’m excited by the potential if they keep experimenting with flavours (pan-fried masala fish and a herbed breadcrumbed fillet also available, but I’m intrigued by further batter ideas).
Costiness: £5 for fish & chips, 80p for peas. No difference in price for eat-in/takeaway. Portion size – just right for one person, maybe a little heavy on the chips and a little light on the size of the fish.
Comparison with other chippies:
Our local, Daisy Fisheries, charges £3.90 for fish and chips, and a portion serves TWO of us (seriously large) if we also have beans (70p there, but we usually use our own). Their mushy peas are 65p, for them as like ‘em. They get 8 out of 10 for me, 8.5 on a good day (when the fish is freshest and the oil is at its hottest). I always wait and have mine cooked from scratch, I won’t eat stuff that’s been sitting around. Takeaway.
Posh chippy, The Magpie in Whitby, charges £5.90 for takeaway (one fish, two chips usually does us both – the fish are massive) with peas at 90p large and 55p small (same for beans). To eat in, where you get lovely crockery and cutlery and bread & butter and salad and wonderful service in a nice room if you can stand the queues, it’s £9.95 for small (still twice the size of a Fish& fish) and £11.95 for regular (enormous) or £14.95 for large (special order only, would feed a football team). I often end up having the kids’ portion, at £6.95. Their restaurant gets a 9.5 from me (and I love lots of their other dishes) despite the cost, but the takeaway is variable quality from 7 to 9 out of 10 in my experience. The fish is always absolutely fresh and of the best quality, as you’d expect.
Do I recommend Fish& – absolutely, and I think the potential I see now could well lead to an excellent chippy with a twist in future. I’m sure they’ll get a 9 from me in time. If they do me a cumin, coriander, ginger and rose harissa batter…
Sounds like a folk ballad, that does.
Tonight there was a special invite-only bash to launch Dock Street Market at the former site of Simpsons in Leeds. It seemed like half the city was there. Without its racking, bottles of Ecover and freezer containing liquorice ice cream (now, that was good, I’m sure you can get it elsewhere but I don’t fancy trekking for something I can only afford once a year), the place looked very different. Like a canteen or a student union, only with worse lighting. But a bit friskier, and with gaudy, theatrical art (from Yasmina Hamaidia) on the walls.
DSM is bringing together independent food and drink retailers (and a furniture shop, and an artist, and my mate Mike – who is more of a polymath, really) to sell fresh produce (and old chairs, and paintings) in one big room. Big oak trees from little acorns grow, so they’re starting out with a few local businesses sharing the space and hoping to expand from there. It’s all a bit “soft launch” at the moment, which is a term I have previously only encountered when it comes to new rides at Disneyland Paris (I read the blogs and forums, I’ve only been twice as I’m skint). It seems to mean in that context opening limited hours, and letting in a mixture of invited guests and people who happen to be about. So – probably similar, then. As with my Northern Art Prize post, I fancy going back when it’s a bit more established.
Fish&, who I’ve mentioned here before, will be open from Nov 26th every Friday evening, Saturday “lunch and tea” (dinner and tea – if you’re going to be Northern, do it properly, and if it’s not Northern tea it has cakey things and poncey sandwiches and is served a lot earlier) and “possibly Sunday”. Tonight they served their beer battered fish & wedges (I preferred their chips, but I imagine wedges are easier to manage en masse) with minted pea puree, fish cakes (well, more balls, looked like they were coated in coconut but I think it was their sourdough herby crust they did fish & chips with at the previous event I went to, only changed format a bit) with aioli (that’s garlic mayo) and masala-coated fish with sweet potato wedges (they’re fiddling with the recipe, and I reckon that was improved from last time I tried it, though I fancy them doing cajun-blackened with sour cream and lime – they ought to try that). I’m not sure if they were also responsible for the smoked salmon & cream cheese canapes and the various fishy dips/pates that were available, perhaps they are not the keepers of all fish (I think it might have been the bakery lot, see further into this post), but they were dead nice too. Somebody please take me for tea there when I can have a proper, full-sized portion of their fish and real chips, eh? The wedges kept falling off the cocktail sticks and my masala fish landed in the raita.
Right, so that was some food, on with the drinks… The masses golloshed down all the free white wine within a very short time indeed, and the red looked to be on its way out as well (plenty of full pop bottles on the floor, mind), but that’s not what I want to talk about. One of the other big (on Twitter) local names was cafe La Bottega Milanese. I drink coffee a handful of times a year, but when I do I want it very strong, black and creamy and sweet without the aid of milk/cream or sugar. I never achieve this at home and have rarely experienced it elsewhere, and the main reason I drink coffee rarely is because I don’t have an addiction and can’t be arsed with non-perfect coffee when pop from a bottle turns out the same every time and I like it. It’s easier to say I don’t drink coffee, pass the Fentimans or Coke. Alex’s espresso is something I could develop a habit for if I lived closer to town. It’s that good. I’m fussy, and I say it’s great.
Swillington Organic Farm also have a presence, and had some rather fetching-looking leeks and eggs out on display, along with order forms for tempting Christmas meats and treats. Paul Behnke (the excellent chef from Distrikt) had some exciting herbs and salad leaves on offer. The other big foodie name in Dock Street, and fully-resident from 5am to 4pm daily at that, is Riverside Sourdough Bakery. As a bit of an artisan baker myself, I often find the stuff churned out by delis and independent bakers to not be worth the premium over my own time, but their black olive bread in particular was a bit of a treat and worth every one of the 18-hour days the sweating and charming baker had put in this week. I’m interested to know how Leeds’ wild yeast (look up how sourdough starters get going) compares with that found in San Francisco on their research trip, but the various RSB breads I tried were pretty good and apparently their pastries were also gorgeous.
Mike Wallis‘ chocolates have been tasted by me on previous occasions, as I have the great honour and privilege of being his friend (more violet creams please, sir). Tonight it was a joy to see crowds gathering around him (with an interesting array of facial expressions, see photos) as he ducked about the room with trays of fair trade, home-made confectionery.
I might have nabbed quite a few salted caramels, a particular favourite of mine (not being keen on truffles or pralines, which were also on offer), and my better half, who hates orange and chocolate as a combination so much he refuses to eat Jaffa Cakes, actually LOVED the “marmaladey” choc. Now that’s a result.
I took lots of photographs (there in non-mosaic form). I have an inexpensive camera, and hate using flash (it’s intrusive, and produces horrible looking results on my camera), so some pics are blurry and so on, but I feel a lot of them look a little like Impressionist paintings and those that don’t capture how it actually was through my weary yet happy eyes. They give a flavour of the real breadth of people who were there tonight, and you can see conversations, characters, enthusiasm, spark and passion at every turn. No posing, no hipsters or wasted wankery or looking over shoulders to see someone more important, just real people chatting on.
I could murder some smoked tuna carpaccio right now. Curls of orange zest, lemon juice, bit of cracked black pepper, few shavings of parmesan, some rocket and watercress. Maybe a caper or two, some sliced fennel, a little dill…
The thermometer in our (chilly in a heatwave) kitchen says 8 degrees Celsius. Outside it says zero. Metcheck’s forecast for the week promises a truckload of sleet on a day when I cannot avoid leaving the house.
So with Christmas and all its delights some way off, tonight I am comforting myself with thoughts of more clement days and fish & chips, notably those from Fish& that I consumed at an event organised by The Culture Vulture earlier in the year. Yes, the batter was as light as it looks, and the peas were minted rather than marrowfat. I ate them outside in the dying light, needing only a light jacket to keep me warm.