Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

To the wine guzzlers hoarding that one special bottle

Thursday, February 2nd, 2017 | Food

Let’s face facts: you have already waited too long to drink that bottle.

You know the one. The expensive looking red that was a year or two old when you got it. You put it aside for a special occasion. That makes sense. You might as well chug cheap plonk until you have someone to share it with.

But now it is five years later. Ten years later. It is still sitting there in your kitchen. You have moved house since then. The bottle came with you. You keep telling yourself that you are just waiting for an occasional special enough. But that occasion never comes. You have had major changes in your life since then and the bottle is still sitting there.

It’s not getting any better. You’re not even sure it has a cork in it, and even if it does, you have had it stood upright all of this time. All you are doing is building up expectations that it is going to be great. It cannot possibly live up to that hype anymore.

So, do yourself a favour. Crack it open tonight. This week at the latest. The next time someone suggests wine, reach straight for it. The poor thing has waited long enough.

Spring rolls

Tuesday, January 31st, 2017 | Food

Have you ever tried to make your own spring rolls?

I have tried several times, from several different cookbooks. It is difficult. First, you have to get the rice paper in a bowl of water. Th is hard because it does not bend much without cracking. I usually manage to crack it on the way in. Then, once it’s in, god help you if you put it near another spring roll because they stick together like crazy.

Then you add the filling and try to roll it. I was told to tightly roll it, so I did. The filling squirted out the end. This happens every time, even though I never manage to get it that tight.

Finally, you have to cook them. Keeping your oil at the correct temperature and preventing them from sticking together, leaking filling or exploding all at the same time is an art.

It could be that spring rolls happen to be a weakness for me. However, I suspect it might be that the subtle art of making spring rolls is difficult to communicate in a cookbook.

Does anyone have a more positive experience? What are the secrets?

Baconated kale recipe

Monday, January 30th, 2017 | Food

Have you ever thought to yourself “I wish I could eat more kale, which genuinely is a super food, but it just tastes so boring”? If so, never fear. I have found a solution that will have you eating kale until it comes out of your ears.

The solution: combine it with a second super food. In this case, bacon.

Everyone knows bacon is a super food, of course. It cures hangovers. It comes from a magical animal, one that produces chops, ribs, gammon and much, much more. Best of all is the unmistakable smell that comes down the corridor as soon as someone starts frying it.

I used pancetta, but any type of bacon will do. Start by cutting it up into small pieces. Next, fry it in a pan until crispy. While you are doing this, steam the kale. When they are both cooked, toss to mix.

Or, if you want to get more of the bacon flavour into the kale, cook the bacon first and then toss it with the kale. If you have the bacon crispy before it goes in, it should not go soggy during steaming.

Tapas Revolution

Friday, January 27th, 2017 | Books, Food

Tapas Revolution is a cookbook by Omar Allibhoy. Omar hails from Spain and previously worked at elBulli, which, between 2006 and 2009, was voted the best restaurant in the world four times running. Now he runs a chain of UK-based restaurants by the same name as his cookbook.

Tapas is usually associated with small dishes. However, most of the recipes Omar includes are big meals. Typically, the dishes involve frying a lot of garlic, throwing in some chorizo, and then maybe adding a few more ingredients. We are pretty sure we set a new chorizo-eating record somewhere towards the end of tapas month.

Some of the recipes were a bit lacking on the instructions. A bit of filling in the blanks, and adjusting the quantities to something more sensible. Other dishes were beautifully simple to implement. My favourite recipe in the book is the still lemonade.

Prawns with chorizo, black pudding and fried bread.

Clams with ham.

Chicken paella. I only put half the amount of water in that the recipe indicated. Even then, I was incredulous. “This is never going to work”. But it did; it all came together at the very end.

Creme caramel. The instructions for making the caramel are very unclear, but it turned out edible.

Blackberry cheesecake.

It was a fun book. Most of the recipes were quick to cook. Those that were not, could be left unattended while you did something else. Some of the instructions were frustrating, but there are definitely recipes in here that I will be going back to. If nothing else, it provides simple recipes to cook things like prawns and chorizo in a tasty and uncomplicated way.

Lunch at Bird and Beast

Monday, December 12th, 2016 | Food, Reviews

bird-and-beast

We were not in love with Bird & Beast, Leeds the first time we visited. It was just chicken, and we can go to Nando’s for that.

However, I visited for lunch a few weeks ago and I am pleased to report that they have really upped their game. The chicken now comes with a variety of delicious sauces and toppings, and they have expanded their menu too. I assumed I was the beast on their original menu, but now they have options for red meat-lovers and vegetarians alike.

Birthday at Roast and Conch

Sunday, December 11th, 2016 | Food, Reviews

roast-and-conch

We have previously had a good experience at Roast and Conch, the Hotel Chocolate, Leeds restaurant. Unfortunately, at a recent visit for my sister’s birthday, it failed to live up to its prior reputation.

Service was slow, especially drinks, which were repeatedly forgotten.

My starter, fried whitebait, was well-cooked but needed more sauce. My main, a burger, needed more seasoning. It was cooked all the way through, despite me asking for medium-well. The bun was toasted so much that it had dried out and become crispy. The chips could have done with longer in the deep-frier.

Dessert was a little better, as you would expect from a chocolate shop, but there was simply too much of it. Portion sizing seemed to be an issue in multiple places. Both mine and Elina’s starters were large, whereas Elina’s main was tiny, and really could have done with a side being suggested.

The hot chocolate was nice. However, we asked for the whipped cream on the top, which, when you punched through to the drink, overflowed. This would not have been so bad if the cup had been served on a saucer, or had a handle, but it came with neither.

To finish things off: a fire alarm. Not a quick burst that was easily turned off. It rang from the moment we asked for the bill to the moment we were walking out of the restaurant. You would think that staff would clarify to people whether they should evacuate or not, but such a courtesy was not extended to many patrons.

Definitely not a good evening for Roast and Conch.

Homemade burger challenge

Saturday, December 3rd, 2016 | Food

Last month we tried mincing our own burgers and also tried the prawn cook-off challenge to see if we could tell the difference between fresh and frozen prawns.

What was the natural successor to these two events? A homemade burger challenge of course.

steaks-in-packaging

The premise was simple: two cuts, rump and rib eye. Which would produce the best burger?

Let the mincing begin!

stand-mixer-with-mincer

burgers

The results were good in both cases. Both cuts are fairly fatty when it comes to steak, but the rump produced a slightly fattier burger, making it Elina’s favourite. I preferred the rib eye.

A week later we also tried it with a sirloin. Sirloin is leaner, so produced a more meatier burger.

sirloin-burger

Buffalo worm stir-fry

Friday, December 2nd, 2016 | Food

buffalo-worms

Buffalo worms are small insects that look like tiny maggots. I know, sounds delicious right? I decided to stir-fry them in a fried rice-style dish: garlic, buffalo worms and prawns to start, then I added rice and peas, and finally an egg.

Here is the finished dish:

buffalo-worm-stir-fry

Buffalo worms do not have much of a flavour, so it tasted a lot like a regular fried rice with prawns.

Soy honey fish recipe

Thursday, December 1st, 2016 | Food

soy-honey-fish

One of my favourite ways to cook substantial fish fillets is to dip them in egg, breaded in panko breadcrumbs and then pan fried. This was the plan for a Friday night a few weeks ago when horror of horrors, I realised we had run out of eggs!

Instead, I mixed some soy sauce and runny honey together and used that to bind the breadcrumbs to the fish.

Now, if you are thinking “hmm, wouldn’t that make the fillet taste like the sweetest fish ever?” then you would be right, it does. It was still tasty, but definitely needs something to take some of the sweetness away. I will continue to experiment next time I run out of eggs.

Mary Berry Cooks

Monday, November 21st, 2016 | Books, Food

salt-crusted-fish

This is the second Mary Berry cookbook I have worked my way through, the other being Absolute Favourites.

I have eight recipes that are “keepers” from this book. That is two more than Absolute Favourites, and only beaten by two of the River Cottage cookbooks. It is useful for basics like roasting potatoes and vegetables, as well as some really nice starters, mains and desserts. I highly recommend this cookbook.

mary-berry-cooks