Sunday, 19 April 2015

Review: Shears Yard, Leeds



I'll begrudgingly admit that I might not be completely without fault when it comes to writing about restaurants - Hang about, before you destroy my self-esteem by shouting out guesses I'll just come out and say it: most of the places I get chance to review are pretty casual affairs.  As much as I'd love to write about a different fine dining epiphany each week, my budget dictates that restaurants be separated into two categories.

Mostly I'll visit "Buckaroo restaurants" where even the slightest mention is enough to persuade me to drop everything and visit spontaneously.  If you so much as say a word which rhymes with "MyThai" around me when I'm a bit peckish, I'll have an Uber en route before you finish the last syllable.  And then there are the Main Eventers - destination restaurants that I'll book a week in advance, study the menu for as if it contains a hidden cypher, and daydream about while eating my lugubrious packed lunch.  The kind you can justify going to in the event of a special occasion.  Shears Yard was placed firmly at the top of my Main Eventers list for a while, and when they announced a new Fixed Price menu I felt it was a suitably special occasion for me to find a clean shirt for.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Cauliflower Buffalo "Wings"

Hey guys, are you sat down comfortably?  Good, because I'm about to drop a couple of universal truths on you:

1. Chicken Wings, when made well, are one of the greatest, most fun things you can eat - no question about it.

2. Chicken Wings, when made at home, are an unequivocal disaster of poor seasoning, flabby skin and questionable wet meat.

To make them properly you need a decent quality of chicken that supermarkets generally don't provide, maybe a smoker if you want to get really fancy, and an industrial-grade deep-fryer to crisp that skin up just right and make it taught against the meat - if the oil's not hot enough then they end up half-fried, half-confit, and all bogus.

Bearing in mind all of these obstacles, you might want to consider a different vehicle for transferring hot sauce from a plate to your mouth - that's where cauliflower comes in.  Cauliflower is getting a lot of Buzzfeed/Pinterest love recently for its versatility as a replacement for various things - rice, flour, pizza bases etc - and it also happens to do a much better chicken impression than any of the Bluth family. 

I found a few recipes which just bake the cauliflower as it is, but I found that tossing the florets in a thin batter before baking them gives a pretty faithful but way healthier replica of chicken skin (the most fun bit) which lets the sauce caramelise on the outside rather than just soaking in.  Of course, they're vegetarian by design, and with a couple of substitutions they can be made gluten-free and suitable for vegans if you need to - and the same applies to the ranch-style dip yoghurt dip.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Vegan Shepherd's PIe




I'd been working on this Vegan Shepherd's Pie recipe for a few weeks, ever since my fiancee decided that she was going to be a vegetarian again, which, in the wise words of Jules from Pulp Fiction, pretty much makes me one too.  Since that decision was made for me, I've been trying to find/create meat-free, vegetable and pulse-heavy recipes which are enjoyable to eat rather than comparable to self-flagellation (self...flageolation?)

As unlikely as it sounds, a handful of my friends have "strict ethics" and "a moral code" (whatever that is) which stipulates that they don't eat meat either, so when they came round for Sunday lunch last week I couldn't rely on my foolproof hosting method of cooking a big cheap cut of Beef or Lamb until it becomes delicious - so this recipe was my go-to.

This was the second or third attempt at it and the one that I was most happy with - the combination of mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes and flageolet beans gives a satisfying hearty sense of substance with an umami flavour that gives lamb a run for its money, and the smashed root veg topping is a lot more interesting than regular mashed potato.


Thursday, 12 March 2015

Oat Milk Waffles with Chocolate and Tahini



We should all try and be more like Leslie Knope, and a good place to start is by upping your waffle consumption.  It's all very well going to one of the American Diner type places that have cropped up in every nook and cranny large enough to fit a replica jukebox, but for around the same price as four waffles from one of them, you could buy an entire waffle iron for yourself.  You know what they say: "Give a man a waffle and he'll eat breakfast for a day, but give him a waffle iron and he'll Instagram his brunch for years"

The other good thing about DIY waffles is that you get to call the shots when it comes to the batter.  Milk is amazing, but it's pretty much poison to some people, and altogether not really that great for everybody else, so try replacing it with non-dairy equivalents.  This recipe uses Oat Milk which gives the waffles a slight oaty taste (go figure), and a more noticeable contrast of crispy outside and fluffy inside than with regular cow-milk.

This sauce makes an unusual but brilliant substitute for the usual Maple Syrup when you've got the chance to spend a bit of time on your brunch (Hint: Mothers' Day is this weekend, a Moonpig card isn't going to cut again this year) - use a 70% cocoa bar of chocolate to give it a really rich taste, and Tahini to complement the nutty flavour of the Oat Milk waffles.  Some of the more unusual ingredients like Tahini and Coconut Oil might sound difficult to come across but I managed to find them in my local Coop, so give them a try.

If you're not ready to make the commitment of buying a waffle iron (go on), then you can use the same recipe to make American-style pancakes.

Monday, 2 March 2015

Salt Beef & Chorizo Hash Recipe


Sometimes there's nothing more appealing than a recipe which gives you an excuse to waltz around the market squeezing seasonal produce and talking to butchers about the provenance of their locally-reared pork, before getting all of the ingredients home and spending hours crafting them into a delicate meal - if you're lucky, some songbirds might fly through the kitchen window, tie your apron strings with their beaks and provide musical accompaniment.

Other times you just want to quarantine yourself at home and follow a recipe that requires you to chuck anything edible into a pan and then bung it in the oven - including but not limited to potatoes, fresh/frozen veg, chilled/cured meats, and any songbirds foolish enough to step to you on a day like this.

For the headliners I used Salt Beef and Chorizo because that's what I had lying around, but in a pinch you can use Corned Beef, Spam, Bacon, Black Pudding - anything you'd expect to find in a nuclear bunker.  See it as a vehicle to use up whatever vegetables you've got in your fridge as well, and then supplement them with some frozen peas and peppers to brighten things up a bit.

Recipe and Photos:

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Review: Get Baked Presents The Joint, Leeds



I laughed when my friend suggested it as a brunch destination – not because it was a funny joke, but because I knew he was 80% serious.  “Dude imagine if it turns out to be ace: you’ll be that guy who surprises everybody and gives it a good review despite what everybody else says”

He had a point, I do like being “that guy”, and there’s been an eerie silence surrounding The Joint since it opened.  The only press I’ve seen it receive has been from “Everybody’s a winner just for taking part!” publications who would write a positive review of the influenza virus if it meant the subsequent social media shares bolstered the price they charge advertisers.  With Get Baked/The Joint boasting an impressive sixty thousand Facebook sycophants, a couple of shares of a glowing review could bring enough extra traffic to take down a site completely.

Spoiler alert!  You’re reading this on a screen rather than from a crumpled piece of paper in a dystopian future where CousCousBangBang.co.uk lies in tatters; ransacked by the sudden rush of traffic from Get Baked’s Facebook page.  Obviously this isn’t the glowing review you’re looking for – but it’s not all bad.

Monday, 23 February 2015

Disney's "Feast" wins Oscar for Best Animated Short



Bound to be the most charming thing you watch this afternoon, here's Disney's Oscar-winning short film Feast, which tells the story of a couple's relationship through the medium of food rather than using hackneyed devices like dialogue and that.

If you're struggling to picture what that looks like and you don't have 6 minutes spare to watch it (Sure, like anybody reading this is short of time to kill) just imagine the first ten minutes of Up, but with more meatballs and fewer moments of intense, hopeless anguish.