A Real Experience!
Owned By A Yorkshire Born Former Army Officer with a Norwegian Granny And A Passion For Food And Drink.
I have been on a bit of 'a roll' this last week! Spent a very special Friday in London with my beloved visiting old haunts. Lunch in the relaxed, fun, atmosphere of Roux at Parliament Square made our day. The staff were incredibly personable and attentive. The food as you might imagine hit the mark. Smoked Duck Egg with Chanterelles and Sourdough and Banana Sticky Toffee Pudding with an incredible Stout Ice-Cream were memorable.
If you have the need to pop to the loo between courses, you can hear service being called through the wall which was atmospheric and quite handy as my other half made it back just in time for his main!
Check it out!
If you are going to do it, do it in style!
Hallowe’en wouldn’t be the same without a carved pumpkin lit in the window ready for little trick or treaters knocking at your door. Put the contents to use by making this warming creamy soup. Go on, dust down your cauldrons and make some magic!
'Chewin the fat' with a good friend who doesn't care whether you have tidied or not is one of life's pleasures. Treat them to a slice of this tempting fruit loaf with coffee. Gorgeous whilst still warm!
Everyone should have a 'Maman Blanc' or similar! This slightly tart but luscious pie is my mother's recipe. Eat within a couple of days to enjoy at its best.
How do You Prefer Yours?
I popped into M&S yesterday and spotted these multi-coloured baby vegetables at £2 a pack for 200g. Drawn by their novelty and tempted by the ‘New’ sticker, into the basket they went.
Anyone who knows me is bound to have eaten this in my kitchen at some time. It has been a favourite for years and still is! Ideal lunch or easy supper.
Cutting up a few fresh fruits and adding to a bowl isn’t ‘rocket science’ but I have noticed that it is rarely prepared well . Making your own is cheaper, healthier, lasts longer and tastes better.
It’s four years since we last visited the beautiful Greek island of Skopelos. I have such vivid memories of its hospitable capital, crystal clear swimming waters, the lingering note of fresh mountain thyme and eating copious amonts of Dakos Salad. I couldn’t resist this clean, flavoursome dish and had it most days for lunch. Having befriended Julia in The Alkistis kitchen, she delighted in showing me how simple this dish was to make. I would like to share it with you.
I make Dakos Salad throughout the summer months. Using only 5 modest ingredients, it takes no cooking and little prep. You will be eating it in 10 minutes!
A few years ago, we found ourselves in need of a tiler and came across Salvatore, who was advertising in the local newspaper. Born in Messina on the north east coast of Sicily, at only fourteen, he was apprentice to his uncle, learning the art of intricate mosaic work in local churches.
After an assessment of work required, he made us an offer we couldn’t refuse and began work the following week. He is now a good family friend.
Not for the faint hearted, Salvatore has big personality and is, let’s say, something of a perfectionist. This meant many breaks for strong coffee, much talking and removing of the few tiles he had painstakingly put up, if they weren’t ‘just right’.
However, there was no doubting his passion for food and he would offer advice, whether asked for or not, on the benefits of a full, fruity Sicilian olive oil, how best to care for my basil plants or the sheer beauty of a freshly plucked lemon, squeezed over grilled swordfish. He raved about the swordfish from the straits of home.
It was in the middle of the job that Salvatore’s van broke down and he ended up living with us for a few days. If we provided the board, he would cook supper. I was duly given a precise list of ingredients to be purchased.
Like his tiling, he took his time. School night or not, he would potter in the kitchen putting a few ingredients together. Thereafter, he would graze with ease for 3 or 4 hours, talking enthusiastically with a remarkable command of English but a pronounced Sicilian accent which demanded our full concentration. Every morsel of good food and every sip of wine were to be savoured.
Sicilian to the core, he reminisced a lot about his childhood and adolescence, describing himself as an expert swimmer and keen to show off the many scars he had acquired from falling off scooters. He dreamt of returning to Sicily in his later years to retire.
Salvatore would make his annual return in early autumn. He would know he was near to his homestead when the fine meaty note of porcini reached his nose, as his father dried those freshly harvested, on their garden table.
At The Table
Anti-pasti was as simple as a few anchovies, olives and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil on a thin slice of bread with a scattering of salt and pepper or Insalata Caprese, ‘Sicilian style,’ with a sprinkling of oregano. Salvatore cooked fresh, easy to prepare dishes which were generally inexpensive such as roasted chicken wings marinated with olive oil, tomatoes and oregano, served with green salad or his sister’s amazing baked aubergines filled with minced lamb. His simple tagliatelle with cooked onion, a little garlic, chilli, a few mushrooms and a splash of wine served with fresh parsley was delightful.
I asked him how he had learned to cook so well and he looked at me with scrunched brow, “everyone enjoy their food where I come from, we all cook and we all like to eat, simple and that”, he expressed.
At forty-something, Salvatore belongs to a generation of which that may well be true but sadly, times are a changing. More supermarkets and hypermarkets are sprouting up and it seems that many Italians are neglecting local markets. According to Angelo Pietrobelli, University of Verona, 20 percent of Italian children are watching 4 hours of television every day and trying to imitate the US diet, (Oliver Thring, Sunday Times, 01/09/13)
Meeting Salvatore gave us a fascinating insight into Sicily and its expressive food culture. Having holidayed there once, we certainly plan to re-visit and will take immense pleasure in eating our way around the island……………again!
‘Seize Your Sizzle’ As Fast Food Takes A New Direction!
Little over a week old, this new and exciting addition to the city of Leeds offers pan Asian food with modern spin and more than a nod to locally sourced ingredients. The aim, to offer a high quality menu using fresh ingredients with little fuss in a matter of minutes. I went along accompanied by my better and hungrier half to sample their ‘bill of fare’.
Thankful of shelter from the ‘monsoon’ downpour, we were greeted warmly and shown to a peaceful window seat amongst a décor of clean grey lines and occasional modern art. The well-staffed kitchen sat discreetly in the restaurant, exuding tempting aromas to expectant diners.
Comfortable with a glass of sparkling, a member of staff gave us guidance on ordering from the ipads at our table, yes ipads and left us to make our selection! This was a first for us. ‘Dip into’ the menu, choose what you would like to eat and send your order to the kitchen. Simple as that. I was sceptical that it would go without hitch, me of little faith.
Our starters arrived in no more than a few minutes.
Mieng Gai;- my choice. This appetizing little gem had a real lightness of texture and flavour. Traditional Thai Betel leaves gracefully dressed with lightly spiced minced chicken, crushed peanuts and shallot. Invigorating notes of fresh ginger and lime with just a little punch of heat. The idea is to roll the ingredients inside said leaf and eat.
Bang, Bang, Chicken;- my guest. A favourite of many,Teppan 260’s interpretation of this traditional street cuisine had plenty of ‘boom, boom’. Torn breast of chicken with peanut butter and a scattering of crispy potato sticks and spring onion. Good flavour and balanced heat of Sichuan.
Our mains;- I would advise a little concentration on this part! Decide on your main dish and then select from a variety of accompanying sauces and rice, noodles or cubed chips. A side salad comes with all. Your choice of sauce will have a big flavour impact on the overall dish.
Aberdeen Angus Rib-eye;- my choice. Sizzling and spitting in a cast iron ‘teppan’, with a disposable cardboard guard, my sliced beef arrived, part cooked ready for me to finish to my liking. That done, I poured my Singapore spiced soy sauce over meat, vegetables and noodles and delved in with chopsticks (optional) not to let the side down. The meat was succulent and well complimented by the sides.
Chicken Tonkatsu;- my guest. After much deliberation he opted for the chicken breast, cooked in a very light batter served with button mushrooms and an accompaniment of egg fried rice and black bean sauce. As he comes from a family of ‘big eaters’, I began to wonder if I should revert to knife and fork before he polished his plate and began to ‘eye up’ mine.
(My only reservation on both dishes was a lack of accompanying sauce, easily remedied by politely asking for more)
Bring a little sunshine to a dullish day.
My Highlights from the Producers' Village!