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 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.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Review: Ecco Pizzeria, Leeds

Trying to review pizza seems like a pretty futile exercise; like Woody Allen says, "Pizza is a lot like sex - when it's good it's really good, when it's bad, it's still pretty good" (he stops short of mentioning the merits of "eating pizza" with your own step-daughter) and a lot of places seem happy to operate using that as their unspoken mantra.  

The fact that it's pretty much delicious-by-design makes it harder to tell the difference between the pretty good and the really good - asking somebody whether they prefer one geometric lump of hot dough, cheese and sauce to another is like asking a Labrador to explain which of his ears he'd rather you scratched behind.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Jalapeño-infused Tequila & Jalapeño Cocktails

I've been pretty hot for the idea of booze-infusions since hitting Rubi Bar in Barcelona last year, trying some of their 100 flavoured gins, and nagging the owner to tell me how it's done.

It appeals to me on so many levels; I actually get chance to use some of the kilner jars I've accumulated; I feel like a 1920s bootlegger without the risk of a Still exploding in my basement (or syphillis exploding in my boy-basement); I get to quote the Beer Baron episode of The Simpsons in my head - specifically "You forgot one thing chief...I filled the balls with a funnel" - and then I get to turn up.

The mechanics of infusing is pretty straight-forward - you put something, anything in with some spirits and the high alcoholic content preserves it for long enough for the flavour to come out and taint the liquor.  Think of it as reverse-pickling - you know when you finish a jar of pickled onions and the vinegar you've got left is the good shit?  Imagine if the vinegar was liquor, and it had been pickling fruit or spices or charcuterie instead of old onions.

If you're really going to get into it then Niki Segnet's Flavour Thesaurus is a really useful resource for infusing - as it is for many other things - in that it lets you pick out individual notes and flavours from a drink (Juniper in Gin, for example) and then find ingredients which complement or contrast with it, letting you make educated experiments rather than expensive misfires.

First-timers could do a lot worse than Jalapeño Tequila, a face-palmingly simple combination of Mexican flavours which is good for sipping on its own, or versatile enough to be used in a few cocktails.  (In true meat-head bootlegger spirit, make sure you spell Jalapeño completely wrong on the label...)

Spoiler alert: The secret ingredient is jalapeños...

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Review: My Thai, Leeds

Rather than stifling my feelings towards My Thai until making a grand reveal, I'm going to say right off the bat that I love it.  Claiming "OMG I could eat there every day and not get bored" could probably be dismissed as hyperbole, but after my first visit I actually did just that.  Fair enough it was technically only every day for three days, but that's enough to make it a statement rather than a coincidence.

Popping up at the end of last year with little fanfare, My Thai's marketing strategy relied on little more than word of mouth, good faith carried over from the reputation of its' Bradford restaurant, and photographs of its folksy interior popping up on Instagram - which they did in abundance.  

They could have flipped the Thai-restaurant-decor coin and gone for a) Post Office ambience and laminated menus or b) "Exotic Palace" themed room in a sex-hotel and been done with it, but instead they went for a unique look which dictates the atmosphere well.  Wooden panelling covers the walls, decorated with campy, vintage Thai cinema posters and strewn with fairy lights - on a hunch I reckon this is what a Full Moon Party beach-hut looks like, but I can't say for sure - My attention span lasts no longer than 3 seconds whenever anybody begins sharing their "litchrally unreal" travel anecdotes.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Recipe: Dark Chocolate Parsnip Brownies

If there's a root vegetable that doesn't work well in a cake, then I haven't found it yet.

It's not that I haven't given plenty of them an opportunity to let the side down either; the realisation that that's actual carrot inside carrot cake - not just sultanas and cinnamon covered in three inches of frosting - got me thinking about what other leftover veg I could sub into bakes.

Sweet Potato & Toasted Coconut muffins have been the biggest success story, to the point where I started buying Sweet Potatoes specifically to to be muffinned; totally going against my baking MO of using leftover vegetables as a way of justifying brownies for breakfast.  After Christmas (hey remember that?) we had a fridge full of rootin' tootin' vegetables bought with unfulfilled good intentions.  As great as Bundobust's sprout bhaji sounded, I was never realistically going to make my own, was I?

The most cake-relevant neglected veg was a bag of parsnips I'd intended to cover in maple syrup and roast.  As it goes, my in-laws bought us a waffle iron as a gift, so we found better things to do with our maple syrup, but in a moment of virtue I decided to let the parsnips fulfil their potential as opinion-dividing brownies.

Parsnips don't taste particularly rooty; they give the brownies a mild, almost nutty sweetness which pairs so well with walnuts, so I chopped a couple of handfuls up and threw them in the batter to add crunch.  I dusted my batch with Matcha powdered green tea, partly (mostly) because it looks dope, but it also brings out the bitterness of the dark chocolate against the parsnip's sweetness.

Parsnips' high water content also helps keep everything moist and forgiving in the event of accidental overcooking, which means you can crank the heat up and get them really crispy on the outside without sacrificing too much of that elusive chewy middle that makes the crowd go wild.

Makes 12 Brownies:
Preheat your oven to 180ºC and line a deep baking tray with greaseproof paper, push it right into the corners, and drizzle with a little oil to make the brownies just slide off after cooking.
Cream together the butter and sugar until light and creamy.  Add the eggs one at a time, waiting for each one to incorporate into the mixture before adding the next.  Fold in the dark chocolate when it's cool enough that it won't curdle the eggs.
In a separate bowl combine the flour, baking powder, bicarb and salt. Gradually sift and fold everything into the chocolate mixture, and then stir in the cocoa powder, parsnips, and walnuts until evenly distributed.
Spread the batter evenly on the baking tray you prepared and bake in the oven for 25 minutes.  Put a toothpick in the centre for 5 seconds, if it comes out clean then they're ready to put on a cooling rack, if not then put them back in for another 5 minutes or until they're done.
Leave to cool before making 3 slices along and 4 slices up (that makes 12 portions), and dusting with Matcha, cocoa powder, or gold leaf if that's how you handle your business.
See the full post for measurements: