Monday, 31 March 2014

OUT AND ABOUT | DORSHI

This is more of a tribute post to some wonderful people who I have spent time with over the past month.
Dorshi, Asian inspired street food from Dorset were in March's round of Trinity Kitchen traders. Interested in their concept they took me under their wing and let me come and see what being a street food trader is all about.


Radhika and Jolly, partners in crime of bringing you delicious dumplings, were my guardians for the past few weekends. Exchanging my dumpling crimping and kitchen assisting skills for great company, knowledge and insight into a passion of mine which is street food.


Feeding the Leeds masses, Dorshi went down a storm with the locals and food-lovers alike with their offering of black pudding and pork dumplings, vegetarian dumplings, kara-age (buttermilk fried chicken) and pearl barley 'fried rice' with superfood salad.


Everything on our menu is freshly sourced and made on site which they pride themselves upon (and so they should). They even adapted this to their stint in Leeds by using local Yorkshire rapeseed oil from Wharfe Valley Farms and sourcing their meat from local butchers.

It was a great experience to meet such lovely people and see their passion in action and hear their stories about starting out as vendors. It has truly inspired me to 

As I say a sad farewell as they make their way back to Bridport, it is encouraging to know that Yorkshire has welcomed them with open arms and that they will be returning for events up North in the future. 

Bon voyage Dorshi!

 

Saturday, 29 March 2014

OUT AND ABOUT | NORD TASTINGS

Last week I was invited to come and try out the new offshoot of Baltzersens, a dining and restaurant concept called Nord in Harrogate.

Understanding that Nord would have a similar style to Baltzersens, taking Nordic inspiration and creating dishes using local Yorkshire produce it was made clear to us that Nord would be constantly evolving and developing. 

Using fresh produce and embracing techniques like curing and pickling they will have a series of 10 seasonal tasting plates available at any time (see their 'working' menu here).


I was invited as an honest taster to give feedback so that they could get the menu at its best for their launch on Friday 4th April. With 10 people, including myself, we were seated at a long dining table and given a series of dishes and wines to match and then asked for our feedback and opinions by Paul who owns Baltzersens and Nord and head chef Murray Wilson.

First up was the salad which was beautifully presented, vibrant in colour and full of various different ingredients and tastes. It was very refreshing and an exploration into fine dining which I have not experienced before.


Next up was a lamb dish with leeks, brassicas, barley and wild garlic. Unfortunately I cannot stomach lamb... a pet hate of mine so I did not sample this dish. However, everyone else said it was very good and one of the favourites from that evening. 


I was very kindly brought out a different dish as I couldn't eat the lamb option and was given a plate of pork belly, herring, cucumber, celeriac and pickle. Again, beautifully presented and a nice combination of flavours and tastes. The herring was raw and could possibly be quite a challenge for some people to eat but it gave the dish a nice variety of textures. 


Finally we were given a sweet dish to sample. Rhubarb with gin, tonka, yoghurt, oatmeal, lavender, bay, verbana and a kale sponge.

This was a real test for me as I found the lavender way too overpowering. The beauty of these sessions though is to provide this feedback to the chefs so that they can tweak and perfect the dish prior to opening. At a taster session later on in the week this dish re-emerged without the lavender and the feedback was significantly better. 


I am extremely excited to see Nord in full swing when it opens on the 4th April. I hope to make a visit towards the end of the month to see how things have shaped out and to watch the restaurant evolve.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

OUT AND ABOUT | LAS IGUANAS

I don't really frequent chain restaurants unless I have to (due to friends birthday commitments, etc) but I was invited to come and enjoy a meal at Las Iguanas in Leeds by their marketing team a few weeks back. Thinking about how many people frequent these on a regular basis I thought it would be a good opportunity to test the waters and to see how I would get on.


Arriving on a Thursday evening around 6.30pm with my cousin, we were greeted warmly and seated in a comfy cornered area of the restaurant. Our host gave us a selection of menus for the food and drinks on offer, including a general food/drink menu, early bird menu, gluten free menu and vegan and vegetarian menu.

Opting first for a cocktail we went for the Caipirinha, Brazil's national cocktail which was priced at £6.20 but just so happened to be in there 2-4-1 happy hour deal. It arrived in a tumblr and was a concoction of whole lime chopped, muddled with sugar, folded with Las Iguanas' own Magnifica cacha├ža & crushed ice.


We ordered a starter to share which was from their tapas menu, my cousin chose the Pato Taquito which was described as rich shreds of roast duck & caramelised onion rolled in a flour tortilla & char-grilled, with a spicy cranberry salsa, priced at £5.60.

I sampled one of the rolls and the sauce. It was moist, fresh and juicy and cranberry sauce was sweet and tangy, but maybe a bit too sweet for my liking. Overall not a bad choice.


On to the mains! This is what I was looking forward to. Eyeing up the menu before I got there I already new what I wanted. I dived straight in and went for the Churrasco Fiasco, a skewered flame grilled honey-glazed rump steak with red onion and peppers in a paprika and cumin marinade. It was served with cassava fries peri-peri sauce and a side salad and priced at £14.50.


On arrival it looked very impressive. On testing the rump steak it was cooked medium-rare and had a good hold to it. It was not chewy and had a nice bite to it with a good texture. The flavours of the marinade and flame grilled vegetables were a nice accompaniment. The peri-peri sauce however was a little disappointing. Quite sweet and would be comparable with something you'd purchase of the supermarket shelf.

The cassava fries were extremely interesting to eat and reminded me of a potato croquette... which instantly brings memories to Napoleon Dynamite and those odd times where I forgot my packed lunch at school and would get a school dinner. Nostalgic as they were, they were also a nice melt-in-the mouth surprise.



My cousin ordered the Chicken Fajitas, priced at £13.90, which are described on the menu as a special mix of coriander, lime, paprika, cumin, onions & peppers with chicken breast strips. All their fajita's are served in a sizzling hot plate with chunky guacamole, soured cream, jalape├▒os, home-made tomato salsa, soft wheat tortillas and the option of cheese.


The fajita's were good but in my opinion nothing jaw-dropping. They were enjoyable and the DIY aspect of it was a nice additive to the meal too. With Mexican food I find it hard to have WOW factor as it has become so commonplace in chain and independent restaurants as well as being easily made at home due to packet mixes and sets in supermarkets.

Overall it was not a bad meal at all and I was thoroughly impressed by what was on offer. Our meal for two 2-4-1 cocktails, a starter, another cocktail, a beer and two mains would have come to a total of £49, however due to the nature of this visit it was covered by their agency.

I would not go running back there as my restaurant of choice, however, if I was in the situation where I needed to choose a chain restaurant to visit it would be my go-to restaurant.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

RECIPE | MOUSSAKA SOUVLAKI

A take on a Greek classic. Moussaka meets Souvlaki.



Approached to enter my first ever 'food blogger' competition I thought I would give it a go. Asked by Villa Plus to do my own take on a popular dish from Cyprus I chose the traditional meat dish Moussaka. Another traditional dish from the region is a kebab also known as Souvlaki. Mixing the two together I came up with a great combination which was light, tasty, cheap and easy to make.

All the ingredients used in this dish were sourced from Leeds Kirkgate Market. Shockingly affordable, for four kebabs this meal comes in at £1.17 per person which would quite happily feed a family of four for a lunch or light dinner.


Ingredients (to feed four):

For each person allow one flatbread or pitta bread.

Meatballs:
200g Beef Mince
200g Pork Mince
2 Cloves of Garlic
2 Spring Onions
1tsp Chopped Mint
1tsp Chopped Coriander
1tsp Chopped Flat Leaf Parsley
1 Egg
Salt and Pepper to season
Flour to dust

Aubergine and Tomato Relish:
4 Tomatoes
1 Aubergine
1 Red Onion
1/2 tsp Sugar
1tbsp Tomato Puree
3tbsp Water

Cheese Sauce:
100g Cream Cheese
50ml Milk
2tbsp Flour
1/2 tsp of Horseradish or French Mustard (Optional)


Instructions:

1. Start with the tomato and aubergine relish by dicing the tomatoes, aubergine and red onion into small cubes. Add to a hot frying pan with a dash of your chosen oil (I use extra virgin cold pressed rapeseed oil). Add the tomato puree and then saute the vegetables for 5-10 minutes util a chunky paste has formed, adding water when needed and the sugar at the final stage of cooking. Leave to cool.

2. In a bowl, mix the beef mince, pork mince, chopped spring onions, minced garlic and seasoning and bind with a beaten egg. Roll into 12 meatballs and coat with plain flour.

3. In a frying pan, place on a high heat and a good glug of oil until the pan is very hot. Add the meatballs to the pan and cook for 10-12 minutes, turning the meatballs regularly until cooked.

4. Whilst the meatballs are cooking, make the cheese sauce by melting the cream cheese with the milk over a low heat in a sauce pan, once the two have melted together, add the horseradish/mustard if desired, followed by the plain flour and stir until a sauce-like consistency appears.

5. Take the flatbread/pitta and spread a generous layer of the tomato and aubergine relish down the centre. Top with three meatballs and then drizzle with the cheese sauce. Repeat for the other flatbreads.


OUT AND ABOUT | THE YORKSHIRE MEATBALL COMPANY

The Yorkshire Meatball Company, fronted by David and Gareth Atkinson, father and son, has been an idea in progress for a good two years. Now the dream has become reality with the pair opening up the UK's first ever meatball restaurant.

Claiming to be a 'speciality' meatball bar, these guys are all about the BALLS... be that in starter, main or dessert form! All their balls are hand-rolled and use only the freshest and tastiest locally sourced Yorkshire produce.


I visited Harrogate on the weekend after being invite to check out a new independent restaurant which opened earlier this month.

Arriving with my friend, we were warmly welcomed and sat down at a table reserved for us, complete with a chalkboard with my name on which was a nice surprise!

Upon entering I was impressed with the decor. A nice wooden and rustic feel that didn't seem to try-hard but had quaint little features and highlights like cheesegrater's for lampshades and  a large black chalkboard wall detailing where all their produce was sourced from as well as the drinks menu.


We were seated and talked through the menu which was laid out on our table on a large A3 sheet of manilla paper - kind of like a diner style set up which I really liked.

The main focus of the menu is to choose the Ball, Bed and Blanket Combo... which means you choose your 'Ball' option, with 6 variations available, including beef and pork, chicken, fish and falafel options. You then choose a 'Bed' option, again 6 variations including linguine, mash potato, roasted vegetables and salad. Then you choose your 'Blanket' option with 6 different sauces to choose from including gravy, home made ketchup and mushroom pesto. 

If you choose this combo you have three size options available, with
Small Balls (two) for £7
Standard Balls (three) for £8
Big Balls (four) for £9

...you can also get a Yorkshire Pudding for free on the side - a nice little added extra!


I went for the Ball, Bed and Blanket Combo with Birdie Balls, Salad Leaf and Gravy and of course the obligatory Yorkshire Pudding. My friend went for the 'Naked Balls' option with Fish Balls on a salad bed of watercress with avocado, raspberries and lime. We also ordered a 'Taster' of the Hot Balls 
with  Yorkshire Terrier Blanket as a starter and shared a side of roasted vegetables.

I wanted to check out their local beer selection and was extremely impressed to see two options for every type of ale all sorced from local breweries and mico-breweries in Yorkshire. I went for a bottle of the Yorkshire IPA from Wharfebank Brewery which was a good meal accompaniment.


Our 'Taster' came, cute and wee and was basically a meatball slider served on a lightly toasted brioche bun. This was really lovely and gave us a chance to sample the beef and pork meatballs too. They were light and fluffy with a spicy tomato ketchup/relish to match.


In come the mains! Slightly confused as several dishes were brought to the table, I was expecting my 'Ball, Bed and Blanket' combo to come all in the same dish. Despite this, my Birdie Balls were served in a mini cast iron skillet on top of a lovely thick onion gravy.

Accompanying this was a plate of salad leaves, a plate filled with our side of roasted vegetables and a lusciously big and crispy yorkshire pudding.


My friends Fish Balls arrived which were made with fresh haddock, smoked chorizo and parsley.


We set down to our meals, both impressed by the food before us. The portions were large but the quality wasn't skimped. Sampling a Birdie and a Fish ball, both were very tasty, light and fluffy, but also filling and flavoursome. My gravy was nice and fresh with a good consistency and was lovely with the roasted vegetables and yorkshire pudding.


We couldn't leave without trying a dessert, and with three desserts on offer we couldn't decide on which one to go for. Gareth kindly said he'd give us a selection of all three desserts as a portion. We had Brownie Balls and Cheesecake Balls but my favourite by far were the Profiter Balls which oozed with a delicious lemon curd and were drizzled with caramel.


Overall a really lovely dining experience and meal at the Yorkshire Meatball Company. I also had the pleasure of having a chat with David and Gareth about their business and you can see that a lot of love has gone into its creation.

A must-visit if you are in Harrogate and want a meatball experience in all manners of forms! It is highly reasonable and offers good quality food and portion sizes. I look forward to my next visit.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

OUT AND ABOUT | BALTZERSENS

After hearing great things about Baltzersens and sampling some of their food at a recent coffee event (see my post here), I knew I had to make a visit to the cafe when I was in Harrogate on the weekend.

A Scandinavian meets Yorkshire cafe based on the foundations of Nordic values - family, food, health, simple functional design and a laid back effortless cool.

Using locally sourced Yorkshire ingredients where possible, their menu is prepared with Scandinavian influence and offered in a relaxed and unpretentious environment.


Upon entering we waited about five minutes for a table as the lunch time rush was finishing. Once seated, I went up to the counter to take our order and managed to get my mits on the LAST cinnamon bun (still feeling very jammy about this!).

A cappucino with a dusting of cinnamon and a cinnamon bun to match were brought to our table and we tucked in. A moist and delicately sweet dough, laced with a cinnamon swirl and drizzled with icing - this was a delight to eat and at a bargain of only £1.50


After seeing the cafe menu and the food being served around me I could not hold back from trying one of their sandwiches. With hot and cold open-faced sandwiches to choose from, available in half portions too, my friend and I opted to share a half of the smoked mackerel, sliced potato, capers and fresh horseradish sandwich on dark rye, complete with Nordic inspired salads in the side.


The plate arrived and was a lot bigger than I had expected for a half portion. A generous serving of toppings to compliment the dark rye bread impressed me too.

The smoked mackerel was firm and not too flaky, it had a good smoky taste and was nice and peppery. Potato's and bread might seem a bit of an odd combination to some but with the delicate refreshing flavours of the salad and the heat of the horseradish it worked very well.


To finish we enjoyed a pot of their loose leaf Earl Grey Lady Blue tea which was a nice palate cleanser to our meal.


I highly recommend visiting Baltzersens - the atmosphere and food were so inviting and welcoming and at an extremely reasonable and affordable price.

Two drinks, a cinnamon bun and a half open-faced sandwich came to a total of just over £10. It is definitely a cafe where I feel I could frequent regularly by myself and spend two or three hours there at a time without feeling burdened to leave.

A heads up also to their new Scandinavian dining concept Nord which will be launching on the 4th April and serving on a Tuesday to Saturday night every week. It will be based inside Baltzersens and provide a new addition to the Harrogate restaurant scene.

I will be attending a preview taster session next week so watch this space!

Monday, 17 March 2014

OUT AND ABOUT | LORE OF THE NORTH BOOK LAUNCH AND EXHIBITION

Last Thursday saw the launch of Lord Whitney's book and exhibition for their exciting new publication Lore of the North at Munro House.


Lord Whitney, a collaboration between Amy Lord and Rebekah Whitney make regular appearances on the Leeds art and culture scene with their work on developing visual ideas and concepts for all manners of bizarre yet joyously canny projects (for example, see previous post here).

This book is the result of a project which started last year. The project was centred around celebrating the heritage and fantasy surrounding folklore and traditions in Yorkshire and the North of England

With funding and support by Grants for the Arts and Leeds Inspired, they have been able to produce a photographic series based on their findings, research and inspiration. The exhibition is on until 25 March.


Dinner was sorted for the evening thanks to the talented Ross over at Food&



Serving up a delicious Spring Vegetable and Rice Stew. I chose for mine to be served with some prosciutto from Friends of Ham and tried some gorgeous sourdough bread from Haxby Baker.

The stew was served on a bed of raw cabbage and was really fresh and uplifting. A nice hint of mint which really brought the dish alive.