The Reliance

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One of my favourite haunts in Leeds is The Reliance. I’ve blogged about it before and after another very good meal there last week, I couldn’t resist. I won’t blah on too long about the chilled out atmosphere, the great staff (where do they come from?), the superb beers and the excellent food.

But it’s worth a mention, again.

If you haven’t been, go. If you’ve been, go again. And if you’ve been lots of times, tell your friends to go. It’s as simple as that.

What we ate was fairly irrelevant but for the completists out there, I had pigs cheek wrapped in parma ham followed by confit leg of chicken on a pea risotto. My dining colleague had tapas-y style potted shrimp and sardine.

Home made air dried ham

After a previous botched attempt, I decided again to try and make my own air dried ham. Following HFW’s instructions closely from The River Cottage Cookbook, I set about trying to make my own version of the air dried ham I love so much in Italy and Spain.

It’s going to be a long journey too. After buying a full leg of organic Gloucester Old Spot from Swillington Organic Farm in March this year, the leg has been packed in salt for 4 weeks, curing away quietly in the garage under a stack of weights. The idea is to compress the meat into a more rectangular shape.

I opted to keep the bone in (Spanish style) and therefore had to be very careful as this is more prone to going off during the cure and also talkes longer in the drying stage. Anyway, today was the first big day – had the pork survived a month packed in salt? Yes it had. It looked and smelled very similar to bacon I’d cured before so it seems we’re on track.

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First job was to wash off all the salt with cold running water – a LOT of liquid had leached out of the meat, making the salt very wet, then finally rub it all over with a white wine vinegar. HFW recommends that the ham is wrapped in a double layer of muslin and tight tightly with kitchen string.

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The resulting package is rather satisfying to create – and no doubt it would have been much simpler if I’d have learnt how to tie those fancy butcher’s knots when I was at River Cottage HQ last year. Anyway, I thought it looked pretty cool and the added bonus is that my ham will have it’s very own Turin shroud type accessory at the end of the process.

Next I had to find somewhere cool and breezy. I didn’t fancy hanging from one of the trees, even inside some kind of cage affair, as the animals in our garden are sure to devise a method to get past any security. I opted for a hook in the garage which is the best option I’ve got, as I don’t have a barn or similar country style outbuilding.

By my calculations it should be ready for Christmas! Blimey – talk about slow food….watch (or smell) this space. I’ll keep you posted with any developments.

Best starter I’ve ever made.

Whist D was in France with Tess I decided to cook at home for a couple of colleagues because old Chester didn’t want to be left alone. I decided on the starter below, take a look and if you like the look I’ll tell you what it is!

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28 day Rib of beef from Bentleys was shared for mains and was excellent although D, Tess and I had a rib last Friday from Bentleys which wasn’t very good……….BEST RIB WE’VE HAD IS FROM COUNTRY  BUTHCHERS HARROGATE. 

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List of stuff.

Aplogies for just a list but I am going to be a tad controversial……………………we need to make the site more interesting because it’s getting a bit like a food diary…………..

Memorable;

Breakfast at The Wolseley www.thewolseley.com

Fried haggis with duck egg the best breakfast I’ve ever had! Fantastic building with heritage, place to be seen, EXCELLENT SERVICE OLD STYLE. £20 head.

Gaucho,  Park Row, Leeds.

Guacho is a chain of upmarket Argentinian Steak Restaurants which have opened in Leeds. Loads of style, some money gone into this place!! Cow hide(Fresian) almost wall to wall. Got to say the starters were a tad disappointing

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but the steaks were just fabulous. Weights, cuts all brought to your table so you can choose before cooking………

There were 5 blokes so we chose a mixed selection of 6 different cuts. Sublime!!

We stook to a middle of the road Pinot Noir but must admit lots of it. However their selection of special Malbecs means I’ll have to go back for a sample with D(plus anyone else who fancies it).

£368 for 5 but with a choice of tip or not to tip it was mean of me just to add 10% as the service was the best I’ve experienced in Leeds ever!

 

The Star Inn, Harome.

Bank Holiday Sunday and D, Chester and I decided to go to the meet D’s sister Jane in Hutton Le Hole(they were on hol). Country walk and a pint at the village pub, best pint of Black Sheep in a long while. We then went to Sandsend walked the beach in the drizzle and decided the old dog was tired and wouldn’t mind a kip in the back of the car whilst we had a quick lunch at The Star… One of their new staff is an old aqcuantance from Pudsey so we were found a table  in the posh bit even though the place was rammed as usual, despite our protestations of being under dressed. 4 fab courses later which included the deli starter, 5 small portions from their own deli, monkfish for mains and an assiette which included a chocolate pot, rice pudding creme brulee, rhubarb sponge and a ginger ice cream..all delicious..a selection of 5 english cheeses to follow finished with coffee and a cognac fo D, it was getting dark so we set off back to Leeds with big smiles on our faces and Chester gently snoring in the back!

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Notable;

Cross Keys, Leeds.

Twice last month, once with my mate Andy and once with Luke. Great Pint the “Pint”. Pork Chops spot on and Fish and Chips perfect!

The Partridge, Kings Road, London.

Suppliers to Her Majesty no less. Super shop/deli/restaurant. Great to sit outside sip Chablis and watch the Sloanes!

The Terrace, Saltaire.

Best breakfast in West Yorkshire! D, Chester and I on a trip out to Ilkley stopped off. Sat outside on the main Bradford to Keighley road. Full English lots of toasts, brilliant!! Best still just £6.25 each.

Not notable;

Brasserie Blance, Soveriegn Street, Leeds.

D a and I were out with clients of mine. Food ok, company great, value ok. Enough said.

G.

Walk like an Egyptian

We have just returned after a week in the sun in Egypt – a week of 30 degree plus temperatures at Easter is one of the biggest treats of the year, with nothing to worry about other than making sure our pale asses don’t fry in the heat.

We’ve got a fair bit of experience of the big all-inclusive hotels at Taba. It’s a gated complex on the edge of the Sinai desert with all the major chains there – Marriott, Hyatt, Sofitel etc. If you’re looking for a total chill out with no hassles, I can heartily recommend it. We’d previously stayed at the Marriott and the Sofitel (the Sofitel  being the better), so we thought we’d try out the newest and biggest of the hotels, the Intercontinental.

The food story at these places is pretty straight forward if you’re all-inclusive: buffet. Done badly these can be absolutely awful (and I still get the shakes about a previous experience we had in Lanzarote) but I can report that in general the all inclusive packages at the hotels in Taba have pretty much got it right.

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Three meals a day at full board is pretty hard to keep variation going if it’s a buffet approach but in general I think they pull it off. I do think that after a week though, you’d be getting a bit bored by it.

The quality of the food is generally high – salads and fruit are good as you’d expect, with mains being a diverse (and oftend downright bizarre) mix of meat and fish, often drenched in old school sauces which don’t work for me in the heat. Egypt is predominantly a muslim country these days so pork is off the menu, but the things they can do with beef is impressive (beef bacon I liked).

The odd thing I did find is that the food is remarkably under seasoned and I suspect this more about the clientele and not middle eastern cooking in general. I struggled most days to find anything in the buffet that was vaguely spicy and interesting – they seem to be catering for the middle ground.

I think buffets are by their very nature hard to pull off – especially when you’re looking at 500 plus guests, but they do it pretty well. Our overall view of the all-inclusive food at the Inter was it was OK, but not as good as the Sofitel. To be fair, it’s all much of a muchness and writing this, I feel slightly harsh judging them so, but when you compare it to freshly cooked food for the table, there is no comparison.

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The Inter also has a couple of ‘non inclusive’ a la carte restaurants on its site and we decided that it would be a good move to try these out, particularly as one of them had the most amazing outdoor dining terrace, complete with lanterns. Of course, these were of a different class and the food here was absolutely beautiful.

The first was El Mar and the service and food was excellent and around £50 per head including wine, it was well worth the spend. The seafood and beef was of the freshest and highest quality with an assured touch in the kitchen. Special mention goes to the lobster and squid combo and the grass fed beef (a luxury in the parched desert of Egypt).

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On the last night, we ate at The Lagoon restaurant, which beautifully sat overlooking a man made saltwater lagoon (obviously). A lovely setting and we opted for mezze food (middle eastern tapas) which again was full of great flavours and freshly cooked, not served in a tureen, which was a bonus. Special mention to the fried liver – in a word, wow. We ordered lots of plates and it only costed £7.50 for two of us (although I think they charged us wrongly and to be fair, the service was pretty dire there).

Even though a la carte is always going to be good, the buffet food has lots to commend it – it’s fast, there’s lots of choice and everyone looked pretty happy getting stuck in. Even the French. No, scrub that, especially the French. For us, we just found that we needed a couple of nights off the buffet at the a la carte restaurants to keep our food mojo going.

We’ll obviously go again because we love the overall combination of all inclusive, luxury hotel and sunshine. And my view would be that overall, this is the best hotel we’ve stayed at so far – although J and I can’t quite agree on this point!

Rialto Market – Venice

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I think Phil posted some similar pictures last year but if in Venice a visit to the Rialto fish, vegetable and fruit market is a must for the visual experience alone. We found a small street bar close to the market called ‘Al Merca’ where the locals stood outside drinking wine or the bright orange ‘Aperol Spritz’ an Italian favourite.

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We all ordered the refreshing ‘Aperol Spritz’ and some small sandwich rolls and just watched the world go by from the outside of this busy little bar near the Rialto bridge. A simple pleasure which the Italians get so right.

J&L. Mar-10

Don Fernando Ristorante – Treviso

After the launch of Ryanair’s new routes from Leeds Bradford we decided on a long weekend in northern Italy flying to Treviso. Tony and Pat joined us for the trip taking in Venice and then driving up to the Dolomites for some end of season skiing with some memorable foodie moments along the way. This was our first visit to Treviso and we loved the place. Anybody wanting to visit Venice without the high costs should consider using Treviso as a base and taking the regular trains for the short 25 minute journey into Venice Santa Lucia station.

On Friday night we were recommended the Don Fernando Ristorante in central Treviso and  managed to get a table arriving without a reservation. The decor was eclectic with a varied display of musical instruments, Italian dining club plates, local pictures and memorabilia.

There actually was a Don Fernando who came and sat at our table and introduced himself and explained he would be our verbal menu describing the choices. Without the usual written menu the presentation was listened to intently and we opted for a traditional Appetiser, pasta course, main course and dessert in true Italian style as this was our last night in Treviso and we were in no hurry. There was a choice of approximately six dishes per course showcasing local specialties and seasonal produce.

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We mainly all chose different dishes from each course and started with a seafood platter, fresh asparagus, eggplant and tiny shrimps as the picture above to be eaten whole. All the dishes were prepared simply but the textures and flavours were excellent.

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For the pasta course a half portion of a simple fresh garden pea and wild boar spaghetti a local specialty was both tasty and not too filling.

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In the Veneto region Pollenta is just as popular as pasta and found on most menus. Our main course was a suggested regional dish of oven roasted guinea fowl with pollenta and roasted vegetables. The guinea fowl was incredibly salty but again a simple dish with immense flavour. All the courses were washed down with the Vino Rosso della Casa served in a jug and testament to being practically impossible to get a poor local wine in Italy.

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Dessert was a shared fruit platter with cream and biscuits. Service was excellent and all the other diners were local with ourselves being the only tourists but every effort was given to make us welcome. Don Fernando revisited our table several times and told us his stories of a singing career in California, hence the musical instrument collection.

For friendly good value  dining with regional specialties and a talking menu the Don Fernando Ristorante was a great find.

J&L. Mar-10