Bonfire Night and Bramley Park

Bonfire night kind of happened on two nights for us this year (don’t ask).

Friday night saw us get stuck in to the traditional pork pie and peas with red wine vinegar pickled onions – which were a first rate treat. The pies were from Bentleys of Pudsey and of the highest quality. The peas were from a tin and very acceptable.

Post Bramley Park firework display we headed back into the warmth (it was blinking cold i can tell you) to enjoy a lovely piece of pork shoulder that had roasted for a good four hours or so. Shredded with forks, it made the perfect bonfire night comfort food.

Chole – Chickpea Curry

My first two dishes from the Prashad Cookbook were relatively simple affairs even for the novice cook that I admit to being. Wanting to push the boat out a little after my modest success, I was eager to cook Chole – a cinnamon spice chickpea curry that I had on my very first visit to their fab little restaurant in Bradford (& shortly Drighlington). This, of course, is the dish that propelled them into the homes of millions after Gordon Ramsay picked this one out as his personal favourite

The cookbook advises that the spice preparations make all the difference to the flavours of the finished dish. Having now made the dish I can report it also gives me an altogether different appreciation of eating it too. Coriander seeds, cinnamon, red chillies, cloves, peppercorns, bay leaves & cumin seeds are all tossed in a pan & fried to create a garam masala for the upper flavour. Unfortunately, on my first attempt, I set the heat too high causing it to burn, having to re-prep & do it all again….not the best start on a tired Friday evening

Cumin seeds cooked with onion form a base note and these are fried separately (Note – 2 pans!) with tomatoes followed by ginger, salt, red chilli powder, turmeric and sugar. I thought this was a simple dish of essentially 3 tins of chickpeas & some other spicy stuff but it is a very sophisticated and complex dish, with layers of flavours

The chickpeas are boiled in a large pan (that’s 3!) & I think this is where my dish went slightly wrong. I added additional warm water (as instructed) to my boiled chickpeas that had been left in their cooking water when adding the garam masala and cumin/onion mix. Ultimately it left the dish overly wet despite the additional cooking time employed

The consistency of the dish failed to live up their restaurant standard but the taste sensation was most definitely on the money. A point worth mentioning here, is this is a super cheap meal to make. With tins of chickpeas 50p a pop or less, it is fantastic food for a low outlay. We also had half left over which we took ‘en-flask’ to our annual salmon jumping expedition the following day. I can’t begin to tell you how wonderful it was 2nd time round, sitting by Stainforth Falls on a cold Saturday afternoon, with the chilli heat ‘warming me cockles’

Mexico, via Leeds

One of our current food obsessions is Mexican.

I thought I’d cover off eating out nd some home cooking in this post as we’re getting Mexican every way we can at the moment!

I’ve written before about the rather wonderful Pinche Pinche in Leeds – the best Mexican restaurant I’ve been to in the UK — admittedly, I’ve not been to many, but it’s still great all the same. This week we popped along to a Tequila tasting and Street Food night and had a rare old time sipping 100%agave tequila (the only tequila you should ever drink BTW) and chomping away on snacks street food taco-style food.

It was all about the tequila to be honest and I was cool with that, the highlight being a deeply flavoursome tequila that at some stage in its making has a smoked chicken (yes and actual chicken) dangled in the cask. Awesome.

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Earlier in the week we were delving deep in Thomasina Myers’ mexican Cookbook. Her food is similar to Pinche Pinche in that it’s all about bright, fresh flavours. We must go to one of her restaurants Wahaca in that there London.

I made a homemade searingly hot salsa using habanero chillis (scotch bonnets) which we found to be completely addictive smearing it on everything. To accompany the salsa, I grilled some fresh seafood from Leeds Kirkgate market – monkfish and jumbo prawns in this instance, marinated in lime and bay along with the essential coriander dressing.

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Mexican food is very simple and not a) stodgy and heavy or b) blisteringly hot.

It’s all about the fresh, vibrant flavours with Mexican cooking. There’s lots of influences in there too – it’s not one dimensional – Spanish, Italian and South American all combine to make exciting food.

I managed to lay my hands on some chipotle chillis (smoked, dried jalapeños) via Simon at Pinche Pinche, so I’m thinking right now they’ll go nicely with some fish or chicken…here we go again!

Asparagus

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A quick run out to Sand Hutton Asparagus Farm netted a few bundles of green joy.

The asparagus season lasts but a few weeks in the UK – and it finishes on the 21st June this year, to be precise. When British asparagus spears are in season they are the best in the world and they really do make a mockery of the imported rubbish we get from Chile and Mexico or god knows where. Fat, plump spears of slender shoots – either way, they’re bloody good.

Usually, we cook it very simply – either gently poached and served with butter and sea salt or griddled in the pan. This time, we opted for a risotto as J is fixated on the Italian comfort food. It was truly lovely and bursting with green spring flavour. I used the unfailingly good River Cafe Easy book as a guide, surely one of the best cookbooks on the shelf.

We will be heading out to Sand Hutton again (it’s about half an hour from Leeds) before too long.

One final thing – apparently asparagus makes 50% of the population’s pee smell very distinctive – just like asparagus in fact. Does that apply to you? It does me (too much information, I realise).

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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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Wild rabbit

Sitting at home tonight, watching the Sport Relief version of Dragons Den, the evening was progressing well. I’d had a bath to ache my limbs from the game of tennis and walk I enjoyed today. Julie was dozing nicely.

Cue a knock at the door at 9.30. My mate Jonathon stood on the doorstep, smiling, with a pick up truck full of wild rabbit he’d just shot. When I say, just shot, I mean about 20 minutes ago. It was impressive stuff. Before all the animal welfare activists get excited about murdered bunnies (not that they read this blog, I’m sure) it’s a job that has to be done to keep the population under control and the benefit to them is they can sell them too at the farm shop.

Anyway, as promised he delivered super fresh wild rabbit from the blue hills of West Yorkshire – apparently this was a small catch by his usual standards.

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Although I was game (sorry) to skin the critter, Jon offered and who was I to turn him down. ‘Like taking off a pair of pyjamas’ he said. Yes, the same pyjamas Carrie wore on her prom  night when she was drenched in blood, I thought. Anyway he made short work of Roger, claiming it was a tricky one, and promptly asked me if I had an axe.

This, by the way, was happening on my driveway in full view of the neighbours. It was truly a suburban gore fest and I hope it put them right off their ready meals.

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Into the garage next  – which I’d just tidied up by the way – for an impromptu butchery session with the bluntest axe in the world (sorry Dad, I promised I’d keep up to it). Jon made short work of the de-pyjama’d rabbit and hey presto it started looking a lot like something you’d see in a butchers and not running around in a field.

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With a flourish, he hacked off the rest of the furry bits including the head and drew out the remaining internal stuff having already gutted them in the field. We stood around talking about bee

Blue Monday

A spot of home cooking was in order at the weekend when we entertained D&G for the evening. I’ve been meaning to get it up on the blog, but it’s very hectic being on garden leave (hard to believe, I know).

We thought we’d keep it simple but indulgent but I always have to fight the temptation to get fiddly and fussy when cooking dinner for guests, but Julie is always right to remind me of the simple stuff that we like the best, and that’s what we should cook.

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In memory of Rose Grey, the starter was a River cafe recipe for Crab and fennel salad. Quintessentially River Cafe I think – simple, easy to make and all about the ingredients. I bought the crabs from Leeds market and picked them myself and had to keep Julie at bay as crab’s one of her favourites.

I tried to keep the portions small as we were eating lots, but I failed miserably and consequently we had a huge pile of tasty crab seasoned with chilli, lemon and parsley served on bruschetta.

Main course was indulgence all the way – fillet steak with dauphinoise potatoes. Julie laughed when she saw the enormous size of the steaks I’d bought and even after I’d cut them down they were still massive and the offcuts provided a further meal on Monday evening!

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The steaks were grilled in the pan and finished off with butter in the oven. I know that fillet has become the most extortionately priced cut of beef but sometimes only fillet will do with it’s velvety texture and subtle beefiness. We served the beef ‘surf and turf’ style, accompanied by gigantic shrimp, butterflied in tarragon and lemon sauce. The combination of flavours worked incredibly well, with the lightness of the seafood and sauce cutting through the richness of the steak perfectly. A few green beans on the side assuaged our guilt for eating so indulgently!

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Desserts was Julie’s domain this evening and she made a deliciously vanilla-fied panna cotta with balsamic berries, which was light, fresh and delicious. The bayleaf ice cream made another appearance it really was as good as I remember it – deeply savoury but creamy at the same time. The usually subtle undertone flavour of the bay brought to the fore. Sorry no pics of these, they came out a bit blurred 😉

We finished off with a selection of cheeses from Anthony’s, the pick of the bunch being Alex James’ Blue Monday (see what he did there) –  a superbly creamy but mild blue that hit the spot. Coffee and home-made truffles (Julie again,deeply chocolaty) finished off a wonderfully relaxed evening in great company. Happy days.

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